|Photo Credit: Thomas Quine|
(1 Corinthians 11:19; NIV)
Now if that isn't "controversial"...Love that picture! "This is the church, this is the steeple. Turn it upside down, and see all the people." OK, the old children's rhyme didn't go quite like that, but maybe one day it will. Turn it upside down and free all the people out of their pews and back into the world where they belong. Hmm, controversial? Maybe.
Recently I was once again called "controversial" because of some of my theological views pertaining to the church and to Christianity in general. Controversial? Who, me? In a way, I expect no less. The accusation happens quite frequently. Unfortunately, the way the word "controversy" is often used is with a negative implication, and not as the dictionary defines the word. Is there a distinction between the dictionary definition and the negative connotation that the word "controversy" often seems to receive? Exactly what does the word "controversy" mean?
When in doubt, I always go back to the dictionary. My dictionary defines the word "controversy" as, "1. the act of arguing a question about which differences of opinion exist; debate; dispute: The controversy between the company and the union ended in a strike, 2. a quarrel; wrangle."
If we hold to the dictionary definition, then it is true that I am controversial. It is also then true, however, that just about every conversation that ever existed is also potentially controversial. Every time any pastor begins his sermon, it is awash in controversy. Why? Because "differences of opinion exist" among many Christian groups. Every time two or more believers get together, their fellowship is potentially controversial. The only way this cannot be true is if you and I are exact carbon copies of each other. Mindless robots are not controversial, but two or more thinking people in the same place at the same time are likely controversial.
It seems to me that people who tend to use the word "controversial" as a negative do so because they don't like controversy. That is, they don't like to debate ideas and doctrines. They are quick to say, "why can't we all just get along?" They don't like to upset the status quo. "We've always done it that way,"they say. "It's tradition," says another opponent to controversy. I've heard others say, "why do you insist on upsetting so-and-so?" Fact is, though, I don't go out of my way to upset anyone. If someone gets upset, isn't it because the discussion forces them to evaluate their own views? Isn't it because, if they see merit in the other person's opinion, then that becomes like receiving the proverbial "slap in the face" on the their own cheek? I would suggest that we are looking at "controversy" the wrong way. I would like to suggest that "controversial" ideas are a good thing, that is, if done the right way.
|Photo Credit: Harbor88|
|Photo Credit: Time Archive, April 8, 1966|
Jesus was "controversial." The prophets were "controversial." The apostles were "controversial." They were constantly being challenged by the religious status quo of their day for being controversial. Yes, and I can proudly say that I too am "controversial" in my own way. I make no apologies for often challenging the religious status quo of the modern institutional church. If some of my "controversial" statements make people to sit up in their pew and think for a minute, then I count that as a positive outcome to my controversy and not a negative one.
"I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in Him" (1 John 2:26-27; NIV). Is that "controversial" too? If so, then I guess God's Word is also "controversial." He said that one; I didn't.
- Do you see controversy in a negative or positive fashion?
- Is there a better word to use when speaking of negative controversy?
- What should our response be to groups like Westboro Baptist Church?
- Are you controversial? How so?