It takes two to tango, and that doesn’t even include the band.
Our choices, our behaviors, are rarely as discreet as we think they are. Not only do our decisions bleed into our other decisions, they touch on other people’s lives, more often than not. No man is an island; neither is any man a peninsula.
First, consider gossip.
If gossip is spoken in the woods and no one hears, does it still make a mess? Guarding our tongues is important.
But we need to guard our ears as well. Without an audience, gossip dies on the vine. It isn’t gossip when I know something you don’t. It isn’t gossip when you find out what I knew first. It’s only gossip when I get to be the one telling you.
Ego and pride drive the tongue and open the ear.
The same is true of controversy.
In the prototypical schoolyard fight, there is typically the victim, the bully and the cowards. While we rightly cheer for the victim and hiss at the bully, the cowards, too, deserve our opprobrium.
They haven’t even the willingness to risk what the bully has, and worse still, they provide the audience he craves.
The Internet has not helped.
Cyberbullies hide behind proxy servers and false names. Victims slowly learn that fighting back only encourages them. And there is no vice principal patrolling the hallways and breaking things up.
Then there are the cowards. They create the page views, and some even input their own comments, usually anonymously, yelling, “Fight, fight,” while they sit three rows back. They create the audience that is the real raison d’être of the controversy to begin with.
Internet controversy gives us the liberty to play theological video games. That is, it is vicarious, faux drama, exciting enough to keep us tapping away at our keyboards but not so exciting that we lose sleep.
We read an attack site (discernment blog, as they like to call themselves), and find that the kingdom is crumbling because Joel Osteen’s book is being carried in some LifeWay store somewhere, or because a guy in our camp invited a guy in their camp to speak at a conference. We head over to our favorite guru’s blog to get the straight skinny on just what the respectable ones are saying about this issue or that.
In all this reading, all this key-stroking, what we are really stroking is our egos.