Controversy: An American Addiction

Although I love to write and record my thoughts and observations, I'm not exactly the reading enthusiast that I want to be. Picking up a book is thrilling at first, but unless it just wows me beyond measure I often struggle to trudge through to the end. I've never been diagnosed with ADD or anything like that, but I do believe that my attention span is severely hampered by my overactive brain and imagination.

I know some guys who spend what seems like hours each day reading blogs. Theological blogs, political blogs, social-commentary blogs, whatever they can get their hands on. As a blog writer myself, one would think that I would take great pleasure in perusing the blog landscape that is so vast and dynamic. But I don't. I rarely read blog posts. Yet everyone once in awhile when a controversy arises and I see all of the related blog entries linked on social media sites, I will take a detour to enlighten myself with the opinions of man.

It seems to me that the more controversial an issue is, the more blogs will be written by those who want to cash in on the controversy. Take for instance the whole Ducky Dynasty drama from a couple of weeks ago. As a fan of Duck Dynasty and a follower of Christ as Phil Robertson is, I took to the blogosphere to uncover the varying points of view that were sure to follow after Phil aired his opinions in an interview for GQ magazine. The results were rather predictable.

Those blogs written by men and women of faith were quick to point to Phil's dedication to Jesus and integrity. They did not excuse the coarse language that he uttered in his interview, but they stood by the truth in what he said. On the other side of the aisle was a smaller yet very vocal group who lambasted Phil Robertson for words that, in their opinion, were offensive at least and bigoted and racist at worst. I lost count of the massive amounts of blog posts relating to the subject.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on the Duck Dynasty controversy, the blog world has grown a little more quiet and subdued. That will all change when the next controversy hits the front page of the news, but for now we have a bit of a reprieve. Which brings me to my big question:
Why is controversy so appealing to us?
Admit it - you pay attention more when the stories are a bit more daring and scandalous. We all do! That's the only way that news stations can stay in business. If your local newscast was filled with nothing but happy stories of people living normal, healthy lives, no one would watch for very long. Why is that? I believe it's because we thrive on controversy.

Think about it. If someone messes up big time, you have the opportunity to be a social or political or religious critic from a distance. From the comfort of your computer screen, you can follow all the banter and unceasing gluts of information while remaining anonymous if you choose. Then, when you meet the ladies for coffee or grab lunch with the guys, you feel empowered to join in the conversation when it inevitably rolls around to the latest controversy that's been stirred up.

If you are gifted at writing, controversy fuels your stories and blogs. Just read the editorial section of any newspaper. Just how pithy and crass can you be without sounding too arrogant or hostile? And it doesn't matter if the popular controversy directly affects you or not; throwing your opinion out there is the American way. 

We often feel the need to feed the beast of controversy, especially when the facts surrounding it are scant. This is especially true if you disagree with the philosophy or ideas of the person embroiled in controversy. How bad was a presidential decision? That all depends on whether you voted for him or not. Is there a controversial issue out there that stands in stark contrast to your values and beliefs? Then feel free to demonize the opposing side as much as you can in spite of the facts or lack thereof that are out there. If you continue to feed the beast, you will have more time to take it out for a walk.

I have a suggestion for all of us when it comes to controversies that plague our headlines daily: Pray for those who are struggling under the weight of poor decisions or ill-advised words. Before you type that blog or post about it on Facebook, pray for them. And then do something else: Consider whether or not your input is truly needed in the matter. Sure, you have an opinion - we all do - but will your opinion make things better or only invite more controversy? If you can't wait to see how many people comment on your post, then you already have your answer.

One more thought on the whole controversy issues. What if you were the one at the center of the controversy? How would you want others to respond to you? Would it delight you to see animosity and ill-informed opinions posted at your expense? Probably not. While those who act or speak poorly should be held accountable, it's probably not your or me who will get to do the rebuking. So when you pray for those who are embroiled in controversy, make sure to extend to them the grace that you would so desperately want if you were behind the bulls eye. When we refuse to feed the beast of controversy, it's funny how quickly it dies and goes away.

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