Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you've heard about the Starbucks holiday cup controversy. I'm not going to re-hash it, mostly because it's boring, but it has really caused me to think. It seems like there's always something to be outraged over and I think we like it. I think we are obsessed with outrage.
There are really, impossibly difficult problems in the world today. We are facing the worst refugee crisis since World War 2. According to International Justice Mission, nearly 2 million children are being exploited in the commercial sex industry. According to the US Department of Justice, only 46% of violent victimizations were reported to police. Even the church is not immune to abuse of its most helpless members. The world is absolutely full of things that are worthy of our outrage and we are wasting our time on a disposable red cup.
Why the cup? (Or yoga pants or courtship vs dating or whatever the latest controversy may be.) Because it's easier. It is so much easier to expend a lot of internet outrage about Starbucks red cup than it is to address any of the many difficult problems we're really facing. We love easier so, of course, the easier focus of our outrage gets the attention.
But I think it's more than just that. I think we're also looking for a shibboleth. What's a shibboleth, you say? A shibboleth is an easy way to identify someone. The story is in Judges 12. Jephthah was leading the Gileadites against the Ephraimites. There was no obvious was to tell who was an Ephraimite and who was a Gileadite so if a person was captured they were asked to say the world "shibboleth." Ephraimites pronounced the word "sibboleth" so, there you go, an easy way to recognize who was part of which group.
Don't we all want that? Aren't we all looking for an easy way to identify who belongs with us? I think that's what we think these crazy controversies are about. If someone else is upset about the same red cup that I am then they must be on my team, right? And, boy, aren't we all looking for more people who are on our team?
2 Timothy 2:23 says, "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels." I have to repeat this to myself almost daily because I love me a foolish, ignorant controversy. But the author is right, they only breed quarrels, quarrels that distract from the real problems of our world.
But, then, how will we know who is on our team? Jesus said, in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Easy peasy, right?