By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 5/18/12 in The Madera Tribune
When it comes to influencing people online, I don’t have much clout.
I learned this from one of several free Internet services that estimate the effectiveness of one’s virtual voice via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Those judged as popular receive perks like bargain prices, better customer service, free flights or vacations, and access to exclusive galas and VIP airport lounges.
In response, sponsors expect to receive powerful publicity. Supposedly a score of 50 or higher is enough to attract corporate generosity.
Despite the arrangement’s mild resemblance to prostitution and politics, the lure of freebies and my own curiosity led me to sign up. As I did so, I learned that the average U.S. resident had a “Klout” score of 20. Surely a small-time published writer could do better, right?
Yet while President Barack Obama may rate a 91 and singer Justin Bieber has the only 100, my Klout was a mere 10.
So much for the power of the press.
I fared better on an online dating website. Months ago it notified me that women had actively ranked me as especially attractive. As a reward for my apparently photogenic DNA, I would receive special treatment for free and only shown women on the site deemed to be more lovely.
Presumably those less fortunate than I were quarantined with Morlocks and other undesirables, perhaps in underground caverns, far from the eyes of the fair folk.
My lofty status may have been flattering, albeit shallow and discriminatory, had I not eventually discovered my actual rating: about 5.4 out of 10.
If that were an academic score, I would have flunked, but apparently 80 percent of the men on that dating site were judged by women as meriting a 5 or less on the “ooh la la” scale. Hence my alleged eliteness. My mediocrity beat the norm and, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
How terrible we can be to each other based on the subjective value we set upon them.
An unborn baby diagnosed with Down syndrome in the U.S. has a 92 percent chance of being aborted by the mother, according to a study published in the medical journal “Prenatal Diagnosis.” Rates are also high for other conditions or handicaps, despite the reality that some of these problems — such as heart defects — can be corrected after birth.
Meanwhile another target for abortion in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America is unborn girls. The United Nations claims that up to 200 million women are missing now because of what some call “gendercide.”
While the normal balance at birth is about 105 or so boys for every 100 girls, China’s ratio was 117:100 in 2010, an improvement over previous years. By 2020, China is expected to have 24 million more men of marriageable age than women.
In parts of India, there are fewer than 700 girls for every 1,000 boys. One abortion clinic in India advertised: spend 500 rupees (on an abortion), you’ll save 50,000 rupees (on a dowry).
The principle “every child a wanted child” can be harsh for the unwanted.
In contrast, Judaism and Christianity claim: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Bereishit/Genesis 1:27) This divine likeness is the source of human dignity, and man and woman share it equally. Both as individuals and as a couple, man and woman display God’s image, even to the point of being able to participate together in the very act of creation itself.
While we sometimes claim, “respect must be earned,” scripture insists respect must be given. “For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning… for God made man in his own image” (cf. Genesis 9:5-6). It doesn’t matter if we are unpopular, ugly, handicapped, flawed, man, or woman.
This sort of thinking may offend sensibilities I suspect. We want to be respected because of what we uniquely may be, whether by nature or hard work. Yet what are we if we exclude anything that resembles God? We can focus instead on what we possess or do, but what do we have that cannot be lost?
We should rejoice that our dignity lies in God and cannot be taken.
A journalist watching missionary sister Mother Teresa tend someone with gangrene once commented, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars!”
“Neither would I,” she replied, “but I do it for Christ.”