This Facebook/Twitter obsessed world where success is judged by “likes” and “favorites” is confusing popularity and competence. Yes, Obama is leaving office very well liked – but by any reasonable measure of competence to fill the office he is an utter failure. He has failed the Democrat party. He has failed to work with the legislature. While his personal conduct has been exemplary, his administration has been scandalous. Popular the man may be, but he is far, far from a competent POTUS.
By contrast, Donald Trump is taking office with very low approval ratings – not exactly Mr. Popular. Yet the transition has demonstrated more competence in weeks than Obama has shown in years. There is every reason to be optimistic about the incoming administration, even if one finds Mr. Trump a somewhat distasteful character.
Popularity and competence often do not coincide. Genuine competence and accomplishment can threaten those who are just trying to sneak by on minimum effort. Such people often declare the competent unpopular in an effort to guard their own ego. This is not always the case, but it is a scenario I have seen played out time and time again. Social media has exaggerated this phenomena. In social media popularity is all that matters. The problem with “fake news” is its popularity, not the “news” itself. It gets “favorited,” “liked,” “shared” and “retweeted” all over. It remains fake, but like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, once news spreads far enough it is very hard to undo.
The most significant figure in human history, Jesus Christ, was pretty unpopular. Sure, He had followers, but let’s be honest – He was crucified on trumped up charges. His competency as God’s messenger threatened those that laid claim to the same role, and they used their popularity with the prevailing powers to promote His death.
Such raises serious questions about the church’s quest for popularity. One must wonder if we sacrifice some of the less popular parts of our message for the sake of filling pews, filling plates, and media success.
Conversely, it may say that the general decline in Christianity’s societal influence and popularity presents an opportunity. I think there is every reason to be optimistic about the future of faith in America. I just hope we are prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.