Humans have always been good at making things. Our earliest ancestors figured out quite early that a rock could be used as a weapon, a tool, and a canvas. Not long after, some of those rocks were transformed into spearheads, wheels, and vessels. Those who have gone before have fashioned objects out of wood, stone, bronze, and iron. Our imagination and ingenuity led to the development of the printing press, steam engine, cotton gin, light bulb, automobile, and computer. In 1963 the US Patent office received over 90,000 patent applications and awarded nearly 49,000 patents. In the year 2011, some 500,000 patent applications were received and nearly a quarter million were awarded (see the full chart here). There really seems to be no limit to what we humans can make.
And, this is a wonderful thing! We celebrate the creative genius that gives birth to innovation and invention. It is part of what makes us uniquely human.
Unfortunately, we humans also possess the proclivity to make other humans into things. We seem to be bombarded by the urge and encouragement to turn a person into an object. The desire to fashion humans in such a way is easy to understand. It is much easier to distance oneself from a nameless thing. It is simple to ignore, walk around, step on, criticize, overlook, misuse, abuse, and even do away with an object. Our own mantras betray our desires in this regard. We learn to "look out of number one" and to "win at all costs" at a very early age. We are taught to use everything at our disposal to get ahead. Anyone who may be in the way is only collateral damage or a poor fool who didn't know any better. And we have the audacity to wonder why our culture can seem so cold, so calculated, and so egocentric.
We even do the same thing to our own personhood. We often view ourselves as objects that can be easily used by others as they make their way through their privileged life. I hear from students over and over again about how they don't feel as though they are worth anything. They feel as though no one sees them, hears them, or cares to have them around. Sure, some of that may be chalked up as run of the mill teenage angst. But children are dying every day because of these "feelings". They will never get the chance to "grow out of it". Far too many others are scarred forever by the wounds suffered during an objectified youth. Perhaps that is the biggest secret of all. There are countless adults who have successfully navigated out of adolescence only to be met face to face with some of the same thoughts of unworthiness that plagued their youth. They feel like nothing more than an object to be tossed aside and forgotten.
There has got to be a better way!
You and I have the opportunity to flip this script. In fact, we are called to do so. We must begin to speak a new narrative into the lives of those around us. A new narrative of hope and personhood. A new narrative of redemption and life. Humanity (all of humanity) was fashioned in the image of the Divine Creator. We were created out of the overflow of God's love, and we have worth as individuals because we are creatures of that love. Because of this, we are called to treat ourselves and one another as beloved human beings not as objects.
The world in which we live will turn if we refuse to objectify our neighbors across the street, around the world, in prison, in the hospital, without homes; those who are sick, dying, diseased, poor, wounded, hungry; regardless of creed, orientation, color, or political persuasion.
It is time for a new narrative. A new narrative of hope and personhood. A new narrative of redemption and life.
May we be the bearers of this good news.