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Ken Bone: Why is he an internet sensation?

Credit: Rick T. Wilking via APHe came to the debate undecided but he left decidedly the winner. Ken Bone has taken the Internet by storm. Not since we debated the color of a dress has the online community been so consumed with a topic (it was blue). This father of one that works at a power plant asked a question at Sunday's debate, but he left the debate causing Americans to question, "Who is Ken Bone?"

The thirty-four-year-old Bone is from a steel town right outside of St. Louis. He works at a power plant, hence the question about energy to both candidates. Wearing the now famous comfy, bright-red sweater over a white-collared shirt with his black-rimmed glasses perched above his full-bodied mustache, Bone asked: "What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?"

Very few remember the answer each candidate gave (or elusively maneuvered around), but we all are talking about Kenneth Bone two days later.

The Internet immediately exploded in excitement over Bone, though the debate had yet to finish. As the debate ended, former President Clinton reached out to Bone to talk with him briefly. This only served to place kindling on the bone fire. Then, in his final moments, Bone was caught taking pictures of the debate venue with a disposable camera, thus causing the Internet to erupt and it has not stopped since.

"When I got back to my car at 10:30 and turned it on," he said to the Washington Post. "I had a few thousand messages on Facebook and Twitter, and text messages from my friends, voice mails from people who don't like text messaging." People were not only wanting to talk to Bone, but were talking about him as well.

Two types of memes surfaced concerning Bone: ones that denigrated him and others that elevated him. Some mocking his appearance and demeanor. The others likening him to the "human version of a hug."

But why?

Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch on Fire, notes six principles that make things go viral.

• Social currency, making people feel that they are insiders.
• Triggers, a type of everyday reminder of an idea or item.
• Emotional resonance, causing people to want to share the experience with friends.
• Observability, a highly visible item advertises itself.
• Usefulness, something to share with friends that is helpful information.
• Storytelling, a narrative teeming with power.

Ken Bone has gone viral because he embodies the American underdog story. His homely attire reminded audiences of a bygone era when modesty reigned and life did not seem so complex. He was chosen among thousands to attend; he was selected among many to give voice to a question that the populace was asking. Despite the scarce odds of being selected and chosen, he won and voiced a question, thus introducing himself to the world.

Research has shown that individuals who are viewed as the underdog arouse people's sense of virtue, fairness, and justice. And if context is king, his virtuous appearance stood in stark contrast to two candidates whose virtue has been questioned.

America was the underdog that continues to root for the underdog. Kenneth Bone is that reminder. We were the underdog during the American Revolution. We cheered on the underdog in Rudy. We wait transfixed this postseason to see if the Chicago Cubs can overcome the curse and no longer be the underdog despite their current record.

Today, we could even go so far as to say that the Christian is the underdog—according to the logic of the world. Our attendance numbers are dwindling, the hostility of the culture is increasing, and this election season has revealed that our divisions are glaring. We may be the underdog to the world, but if God is for us, who can be against us? With God, we are never the underdog—despite appearances.

Since God is with us, may his likeness be apparent through us. Walking humbly with him (Micah 6:8), may our meekness (Matthew 5:5) stand in stark contrast to a world that is driven by a Nietzschian will to power. Understanding that we have been blessed by him (Philippians 4:19, Ephesians 1:3), may we find joy in the truth that it is better to give than receive (Acts 20:35).

Kenneth Bone did more than ask a question; he reminds us of the answer to how to follow Jesus this election season.

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