Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, Free for CAPC Members
Reinke wants to help readers not be manipulated and enthralled by the spectacles of our media age. Instead, he shows that we see the greatest spectacle of all in the Cross.
Say what you will about Twitter (and we could all say plenty), but I’ll tell you this: it served as the launching point for one of my favorite little bits of happiness over the course of the past year. The bit of happiness wasn’t, however, a Twitter account, a meme, or a GIF (though each of those could serve as runners up). Rather, it was a podcast.
It is easy to think of hospitality as merely restricted to those of us who own homes, who have a dining room table large enough for guests. But hospitality is a way of life . . .Twitter was the meeting place for Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe, twentysomethings in Los Angeles, California, who half-jokingly agreed to chat their way through the television program Gilmore Girls, record their ramblings, and broadcast them for whoever may decide to listen. The product of their Twitter-baked plan was Gilmore Guys, a podcast which lasted for three-and-a-half years, ending earlier this summer after rising to #39 of all podcasts on iTunes during its peak of popularity.
Full of silliness, special guests, and skilled analysis made possible by their own budding careers in LA, Porter and Adejuyigbe found the x-factor that so many long to find in creative work—they invited people into a place that felt like home. While their house was built on an existing foundation (Gilmore Girls), the walls and rooms were all their own. And before we, the fans, knew it, their “home” was one of our favorite places to drop by each week. We’d peer around the corners to see who else was there, smile, and stay awhile. In the beginning, we came for the Girls, but in no time at all, we looked up and realized we were staying for the Guys.
When new episodes arrived in our podcasting apps, fans like me felt that little burst of light-hearted happiness, smiling at the hours of enjoyment around a common love to come. I would text my sister (a fellow listener) or head to Facebook or Twitter, enthusiastically discussing the takes presented by Porter, Adejuyigbe, and their guests. If the show’s foundation was Gilmore Girls and the Guys put up the walls and designed the rooms, then the discussions with fellow fans were the hours long chat in the living room, the Guys serving us food and drink in the form of commentary on the Girls’ endless pop culture references, humor-filled character analysis, and an obvious affection for the home they had built and those who wanted to come inside and spend time with them.
While the podcast was not expressly religious, Porter was open about his Christian faith and would often allude to his Evangelical upbringing by mentioning experiences like being home-schooled and listening to Adventures in Odyssey. I remain deeply connected to conservative Evangelicalism, so Porter’s posture and persona on the show gave me great hope. His kindness toward guests and his co-host, excellence in podcasting, and commitment to serving his audience well were a testament to what so many of us want to believe can happen but far too often do not see—Christians glorifying God as they do great creative work alongside Christians and non-Christians alike.
Porter lovingly, and with great effort, co-built the house that I wanted to enter each week. He spoke often of his desire for the podcast to help people form friendships and community, and he did the work it takes to see that happen—creating something of excellence that people want to discuss, interacting with fans on social media in a kind and funny way, and setting up live shows where fans could meet each other and enjoy their common love in person.
Without centering religion, Porter referenced it with ease and at times showed curiosity about the beliefs of his co-host or guests. He never held faith up as a barrier to belonging, nor did he eschew its role in his life as an embarrassment. Whether by personality or professional experience, Porter seemed to know that the key to hosting a podcast is the same as the key to hosting a dinner party—swing wide the door, welcome others in, be unashamed of who you are, and watch what unfolds.
And this, above all, is what Porter’s work taught me, beyond the hundreds of culture-related trivia tidbits and insight into which of Rory’s boyfriends was the least horrible. He taught me that the intersection of hard work, hopefulness, and hospitality is where great creative work can be found, just like it is the place where great friendships can be formed.
In a vision paper for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller wrote, “Hospitality is essentially treating others as family.” Since the medium of podcasting almost fundamentally requires physical distance from the listener, Gilmore Guys could only embody this to a certain degree. Porter, in my estimation, did so as fully as he could. It is easy to think of hospitality as merely restricted to those of us who own homes, who have a dining room table large enough for guests. But hospitality is a way of life, a posture of existing in the world with openness and compassion, of offering what we have to one another that may spark joy or cultivate kindness.
To think of hospitality as a way of life, a posture wherever we may go, is to think of hospitality as it is described in Scripture. When God gave the Law to the Israelites, He commanded them to show hospitality in ways that we may traditionally think of, such as welcoming someone in for a meal, or offering a place to stay for the night. But He also told them to extend their hospitality into the public sphere by, as Bethany Jenkins writes, leaving “edges of the harvest for the sojourner and the poor.”
The New Testament word for hospitality is philoxenia, which can be translated “love of strangers.” We see this love most clearly, of course, in the person of Jesus Christ, Who became flesh and dwelt among us, exhibiting hospitality—deep love of the stranger—though He had no home in which to rest His head. Jesus fed people the words of life, and He fed them loaves and fish, too. And, as Jenkins says, “he left us a family meal, the Lord’s Supper, to remember him.”
While the home will, for many, provide the most natural setting for hospitality, the call to be hospitable does not slide off our shoulders when we walk out of the door of our homes. Rather, it remains just as potent in its essence, while calling us to creativity of expression. For Porter, this looked like a podcast with a posture of welcome and inclusion. What could it look like, I wonder, for you and me?
We are often quick to separate the secular and sacred, forgetting that they are ever intertwined. We find ourselves a bit uncomfortable in the moment of realizing that hospitality is not bound to a home, that forming community is not formulaic, that kindness can look like telling jokes and asking funny questions and writing song parodies to perform at live shows. But in asking ourselves about that discomfort, there’s a treasure to be found—when, for us as for Porter, the posture is hope and hospitality, the resulting product doesn’t merely entertain: it encourages, it serves, it comforts, and it takes on a life-giving life of its own.
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