The value of popularity
I am slowly learning to know the worth of popularity of unpopularity–both worthless.
-Father Alexander Schmemann, Journal, April 2, 1974
Ours is a culture particularly attuned to popularity. Political candidates perform semantic gymnastics in order to appeal to the largest number of voters who are most likely to cast a ballot. Ultimately the most popular candidate will win. Writers perform their craft, but it is only through becoming popular and building a platform that they are able to get published and sell books.
We’re also increasingly attuned to the reality of being unpopular. Bullying is drawing more and more attention from the mainstream media. The internet and social media has supercharged bullying–making it possible to perform the act of bullying with an audience not of five or ten, but of five thousand or ten thousand. It turns the stomach to contemplate.
Alexander Schmemmann reminds us that for followers of Christ, we perform (as it were) for an audience of one. All things being equal, I’d prefer to be popular and for my actions to be judged as good or wise. However, those of us who are in leadership positions will often draw sharp criticism from those around us. In light of this reality we have to be deeply rooted in our relationship with Jesus.