I’ve been thinking this week about Bobby. I don’t know Bobby. I don’t even know if that’s his real name. But I (and over 2 million other people) have gotten to know Bobby through the singer Ben Folds and Chatroulette.
I had never heard of Chatroulette until Sunday. It’s a terrifying concept that allows users to videochat with random strangers. As such it contains inherent problems and dangers. But Ben Folds uses the technology (along with his jazz piano improvisational skills) to create riveting videos that have been posted on YouTube. (Warning: Chatroutette is for mature audiences only—and will be undoubtedly offensive to many. I don’t encourage you to watch.)
Last week during a live concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ben Folds started Chatroulette with his audience cheering. He cycled through a few chat partners, before connecting with Bobby. Bobby held a notebook, turned ninety degrees from vertical, open to a page where in a nearly illegible scrawl he had written, “If you turn your head, I win.” Underneath this statement were dozens of tally marks.
Bobby was playing a game over Chatroulette, and Ben Folds (all the while playing and singing an improvised song) took the bait, turned his head, and (discovering the trap) sang out, “You win!”
Then, instead of mocking Bobby or shaming him for ‘winning’ this contrived game, Ben Folds did something amazing. He asked for Bobby’s name. Up to this point he had only been a shadowy figure holding a notebook. Ben Folds moved beyond the inherent anonymity of Chatroulette and 'human'-ized and 'person'-alized Bobby. Rather than being a random chat partner, Bobby became a real person to Ben Folds and his 2000 fans.
And then, in an utterly unexpected way, Ben Folds celebrated Bobby. He crooned, “We want to sing a song for you.” Bobby was transformed from being a ‘loser’ looking to win a contrived game on Chatroulette to the star of a live concert. The video ends with Ben Folds leading his entire 2000 member audience in singing: ‘Bobby, Bobby.’
I realized that what I was watching was a picture of the gospel. All of us, in big and small ways, have organized our lives so that we can win. Whether through the words we speak to others, the identity we craft in our social group, or the achievements we strive for at work or in school, we are desperately trying to win at life.
The gospel proclaims that we do win at the deepest level, through no effort of our own. It says that God wants to know our name. It says we are celebrated. We win because Jesus, on the cross, lost. We are given the name ‘Beloved’ because Jesus was rejected. We are celebrated because He was mocked.
And just as Ben Folds sang a song for Bobby, so God sings a song for those He loves: “The Lord Your God will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” You win!
I don't often encounter the gospel on YouTube, but this week I did.