What does “Influence” Mean?

So, Time Magazine (yes, it’s still being published) has come out with its annual “100 Most Influential People” list.  Their goal, they say, is to identify “the people who most affect our world”.

Certainly there are many, many appropriate choices on the list.  But it also contains, shall we say, some idiosyncratic choices.  Ben Stiller, for instance, is cited as a “hero”.  Funny guy, but a “hero”?  And Conan O’Brien?  Also a funny guy, but he couldn’t even stop his show from being canceled in favor of another funny guy who’s not on the list.

Anyway, guess who is missing from the list?

If you guessed Lady Gaga, you’re wrong — she’s right there at the top of the “artist” list.

But if you guessed that Pope Benedict wasn’t on the list, you’re right.

In a way, this is not surprising.  By the standards of our secular culture, the Pope certainly cannot compare to such titans as Ashton Kutcher.

Forget for a second that the Pope leads an institution with over a billion members, wrote a major encyclical letter on social doctrine, had an impact on debates over international aid and HIV, drew thousands to his speeches and sold thousands of books, has presided over a major reform of the Catholic liturgy, works to foster reunification with the second largest component of Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy), strives to improve relations with Jewish people, has shaped the philosophical debate over the relationship between faith and reason, is the most consequential theologian of the last half-century, selects religious leaders (bishops) on every continent, visited the Holy Land and call for peace and reconciliation, influenced the debate in international institutions on major policy issues, or challenged an entire continent (Europe) to confront their relationship with their cultural history.

Compared to putting sparklers on your bra like Lady Gaga, what does all that count for, in the eyes of the world?

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One Response to “What does “Influence” Mean?”

  1. Mary Greene says:

    Let’s not forget Barrabas was the people’s choice over God.