Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Matt Lauer and Tall Poppies

I like Matt Lauer.

I don’t know him, but I like him. 

I’ve watched him for years on the Today Show on NBC in the mornings while I work out.  I watched him with Katie, then Meredith, and then (painfully) with Ann, and then (gratefully) with Savannah.

He’s a guy’s guy, unlike many on morning TV.

But the last few weeks, he’s been mercilessly roasted with calls for his replacement. 

I’ve never seen anything like it. 

Matt has been so undermined, you would think he was Tim Tebow.

One observer said rival networks were feeding the system to gain an upper hand in the ratings.  Some say it’s the New York Times running articles ahead of a book on the Today Show written by, you guessed it, the reporter writing the articles.

If you are familiar with the drama, so what if Lauer didn’t push for Ann Curry to stay?  She’s a nice lady, but if you watched the show, it was awful.  It simply wasn’t her gifting.

So what if there are rumors of an affair with Natalie Morales?  It’s never been proven, and he’s obviously stuck with his wife and she has stuck with him.  Give someone the benefit of the doubt.

So what if the ratings have dropped?  Staying number one for seventeen straight years is Herculean, and was bound to end.  Also, Good Morning America has been artificially bolstered by Robin Roberts’ illness (God bless her, truly, but they have shamelessly played it up for ratings). 

So what’s going on?

Actually, something on a larger scale that’s worth highlighting.  It’s what my friends in New Zealand and the U.K. call the “tall poppy” syndrome.

The idea is that people who work hard and achieve a certain level of success are often “cut-down” or attacked because their achievements place them above others.

Matt was seen as the “average” guy, but then news came out about a new contract for $25 million a year. 

Not so average anymore.

And as a result, time for the tall poppy to come down.

There is, of course, an irony inherent within this syndrome. 

We are drawn to success, and as a result elevate individuals and organizations for it, but then become the first to cut them down for the same reason. 

Some call it the politics of envy.

But regardless of the motivation, the result is the same.

Please don’t read into this an elevation of Matt to Messiah level, but it does remind me of a Sunday where crowds shouted “Hosanna!”, and then by Friday were crying out, “Crucify!”  Same Person, same week, same crowd.

It’s as if the rising gives us vision and hope, but the fall makes us feel secure and complacent.  So we build them up only to tear them down.

So I’m rooting for Matt.

I’m rooting for him to stay and climb back to the top of the ratings.

I’m rooting that his (seemingly) warm relationship with Christians such as Timothy Dolan, and others he’s interviewed, will affect his heart and faith.  He seems to be sympathetic and open to spiritual things, so I’m rooting that he’ll give his life fully to Christ, lead his family to the same destination, and be a hurricane force for the Kingdom to be reckoned with through his platform in the media.

I’m rooting that this tall poppy won’t be cut down.

Why?

I suppose I’m just tired of it all.  Tired of the bitter blogs, the critics, the gossips, the back-biters, the naysayers….

…just all of it.

Sometimes we need to let tall poppies be tall. 

And I also like my morning TV at the gym just the way it is.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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About Dr. James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.

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