TIME 100 Most Influential?

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TIME 100 Most Influential?

TIME just released the top 100 influential list, their fifth annual list of the world’s most influential people: leaders, thinkers, heroes, artists, scientists and more.

As with all such lists the compiler gets to decide who has influence, which in the case of TIME means the media is the message. Study this list and it seems influence is actually a factor of how often the person appears in the media.

How is such a list compiled? Not as simply as Joel Stein’s suggested formula for ranking the top 100–combination of Google hits, adding their YouTube hits and then adding the number of words in their Wikipedia entry, but it is, I think, true that media exposure is disproportionate to inclusion in these lists.

Having been in the media I am more than aware of the seriousness with which the industry takes itself. If a tree falls in the forest and the media is not there, did the tree actually fall in the forest?

Spiritual/Religious leadership is not even a category (Their categories are: Leaders & Revolutionaries, Heroes and Pioneers, Scientists and Thinkers and Artists and Entertainers). Evangelical leaders take themselves as seriously as the media and they aren’t even on the list–Pastors Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John Maxwell, Rob Bell aren’t there–they will have to wait their turn for the CT top 100 list. Religious broadcasters Pat Robertson, Paul and Jan Crouch, James Dobson, Charles Stanley and Hank Hanegraff aren’t there.

With the Chinese Olympics coming up the Dalai Lama is on the list, as is Bartholomew I, the Eastern Orthodox leader included because he “defines environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.”

Having been established with the stated purpose of “engaging the culture,” evangelicals ought to be concerned that for the most part they aren’t a blip on the cultural radar. (Except Richard Cizik of the NAE because he “defines environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.” Remember how I said the media is the message?)

One would be tempted to write off the importance of the list because it includes world shakers and entertainers Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock and Judd Apatow. But in a superficial age influence need not be defined by depth, thoughtfulness or the rich artistic tradition on which it draws–it just needs to be popular.

The problem with a list that weighs “popularity” so heavily is that it is by definition of little consequence. Richard Hamilton, early pop artist defined the genre as follows: “mass-produced, low-cost, young, sexy, witty, transient, glamorous, gimmicky, expendable and popular.”

I’m reminded of a conversation with David McFadzean (co-creator of Home Improvement) a few years ago a when he critiqued an idea I had for a proposed nationally syndicated radio show. “Dick,” he said, “you and I both know the electronic media has severe limitations. It does certain things well–entertain, inform, create awareness, BUT”, David went on to say, “in my experience, transformation happens local, grassroots, in community…”

I suspect the truest influencers today are parents raising their kids, school teachers educating them, pastors in local churches where souls and spirits are nurtured, coaches of kids sports teams and countless others making a difference locally. You won’t see them on TV–they won’t make the news–they are the backbone of civilization.

I’m not saying these TIME 100 newsmakers aren’t important–it is just that those drawn to the big stage and driven by ambition and a desire for notoriety seem like the influencers, but are really just the widely known–the rest labor in obscurity.

Joni Mitchell captured the distinction well in “For Free.”

I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood
And he played real good
On his clarinet, for free.
Now me I play for fortune
And those velvet curtain calls
I’ve got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free.
Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony…
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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