Controversy is crazy.
We have a few friends here who work as paparazzi here in Los Angeles, and one of the things they have said is that it is not uncommon for celebrities to tip-off paparazzi about something crazy or stupid they will be doing later that day. That creates a controversy which creates pictures which creates attention which creates fame and money.
But, celebrity culture is an odd thing. In some ways, controversial figures and opinions always have a bit of allure. I don’t know how many people I met in college who would self-describe as Anarchist, Marxist, Socialist, Communist, etc. There is something sexy about being an anarchist, I guess (I have friends who are anarchists and they all tend to be quite nice, and very well-organized, people).
There is something about controversy that is tainting and permanent. Controversy and scandal doesn’t go away – even if rumors turn out to be unfounded, confessions and apologies are made, or clarifying remarks are made. There is little room in our society for forgiveness and a fresh start.
Controversies in theology tend to be interesting and fairly severe at times. There are so many different camps with a lot at stake in their positions, some more vocal than others. Matters of secondary importance are often elevated to primary importance. Unfortunately, there is often far too long a memory and far too little grace offered.
What brought this to mind is a book I’m reading. The book is quite good. I’m going to recommend it to friends and think that it may lead to some important dialogue. But some would label it as controversial or write it off as heretical – not so much for what this book says, but what the author has said and been accused of saying in the past (despite attempts to clarify the position).
I believe people need to be careful with their words. Words create and shape reality, and one cannot be careful enough with the words they choose. Yet, there needs to be space provided for disagreement, recognizing that disagreement does not always mean unorthodox or heresy. Far too often there is not nearly enough space and grace given for disagreement. And there also needs to be room for clarification, forgiveness, and a fresh start.