What Charlie Sheen and Rob Bell have in common (and the allure of controversy)

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

Charlie Sheen is the highest paid television actor in Hollywood. Rob Bell is the pastor of what some say is the fastest growing church in American History in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

These two guys don’t appear to have a lot in common. Except for one thing. Both have created a stir within the past couple of weeks.

Charlie’s lifestyle of drugs and prostitutes landed him in hot-water with his employer. Two and a Half Men went on hiatus and now he and every other employee of the show are (temporarily, I assume) out of jobs. This scandal led to a series of interviews on ABC News in which a very old-looking Charlie told us, among other things, that:

  • He’s “extremely old-fashioned.”
  • He “exposed people to magic.”
  • He is “on a drug, a drug called Charlie Sheen.”
  • That he “blinked and cured his brain.”
  • He’s a “bitchin’ rock star from Mars.”
  • And (this is my favorite) he has “tiger blood.”

This whole circus was wildly and widely viewed and talked about. The country ate it up and hung on every word. His words and lifestyle evoked strong feelings from people. Emotions from outrage to pity to admiration to compassion (and everything in between) were expressed about the man.

Rob Bell’s teaching and theology have been a source of inspiration and tension for a long time. However, the frequency and intensity of the challenges from his critics are at an all time high. You see, Rob has a new book coming out. You can view the trailer here. It’s called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Twitterverse erupted with responses to the trailer. The evangelical community is up in arms. One prominent Christian voice tweeted, “Farewell, [from evangelical Christianity] Rob Bell.”

These 2 otherwise unrelated situations got me thinking…

First, who would win a Charlie Sheen vs. Rob Bell steel cage match? It’s hard to say, but if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Charlie (because of the tiger blood).

Second, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find some truths about humanity hidden beneath the surface.

Here’s what I mean…

  • We love controversy, in any form. It doesn’t matter the reason, the source, or the situation, we flock to controversial situations like a pack of wild hyenas is drawn to a wounded wildebeest. Whether it’s an actor addicted to drugs and prostitutes or a pastor teaching things we disagree with, we fill up the front row at Controversy Theater with our popcorn and soda and soak up every scintillating scene. A lot of writers, TV hosts, and radio personalities have recognized this and laughed all the way to the bank.
  • We love to choose sides. Edward vs. Jacob. Conan vs. Jay. Chantel vs. Emily. Sheen vs. Sanity. Bell vs. Hell. We choose our team and nothing can sway our loyalty.
  • We make sweeping judgments about people we don’t even know. I don’t know Charlie Sheen. He’s a funny guy and a heck of an actor, but that’s the extent of my knowledge of the man. But I can fill in the gaps with how he presents himself, and how the editors of the TV stations that air the interviews present him. I don’t know Rob Bell. I’ve met him a couple of times and he was kind enough to give me a reading list that has proved invaluable. I think he’s a brilliant communicator, although I don’t always agree with what he says. But I don’t know him. If nothing else, I admire his marketing savvy. The trailer did exactly what it was supposed to do. It got a gaggle of people interested in reading his book, including me.

These are our tendencies. But is it the best way to live?

Maybe showing compassion is better than soaking up controversy. Maybe trying to find balance and common ground is better than choosing sides. Maybe we should be a little less judgmental, and a lot more understanding.

Or maybe I’ve got tiger blood…

Post to Twitter

About the Author



  1. Rebecca

    We just talked about Charlie in my leadership class and how watching his mental break down on national television is like watching a car accident. You can’t seem to take your eyes off it. I also think our society has this “I’m right and your wrong” mentality rather than seeing something as just being different. Yes, the fastest way to get from point A to C is a straight line, but because I take a scenic route, doesn’t mean I’m wrong and never get there, just different. Never understood when different became wrong, still don’t.

    I also love the fact that your first comparison is Edward vs Jacob. Can tell you work around teen girls! Haha

    • Sometimes different is good and needed. If we all went the same way it would be incredibly boring. However, the Bible does teach that there are certain paths that we need to avoid. Clearly, Charlie is experiencing the consequences of that. But I believe he needs prayer, not criticism or admiration. It’s never too late for anyone on this side of eternity.

      Haha, yes. Actually, I watched 2 of those movies with the Kai Community at Jenna’s house. Never would’ve seen them otherwise ;)

  2. Pierce Nunnery

    This may be the first trailer I have watched for a book. Definitely made me curious about the book

    • It definitely did its job. I look forward to reading it and seeing if all of the backlash was warranted. We’ll see.

  3. Hey Mark, I found your blog via JesusNeedsNewPR.com. I like this post. It’s similar to thoughts I just had regarding the divisions in the body of Christ:


    My final thoughts and your’s seem to be in harmony, “When you’re an adherent to dogma and fanaticism you replace righteousness with being “right” [...] Maybe it’s time to stop the games and get rid of your slogans and logos [...] I’ll bet we’ll find more Christ between different tribes than we will being against them. Stop cheering so we can start talking.”

    Maybe we’re drinking the same tigerblood? (ideally, from that of a beaten Auburn ‘tween the Hedges!).

    • So good to link up with other like-minded people on the journey. I’ve read through some of your writing and I think there is a lot of harmony. I love the concept of a bad Christian, too. Looking forward to continuing the dialogue.

      Hopefully, that tiger blood will be flowing this November in Athens!

      • All credit for the idea of “bad Christian” goes to my wife. It was originally her idea. There’s actually a potential photo project in the works (if we have the time). She brought me into Christianity and helps me broaden my scope on a regular basis.

        I’m looking forward to continuing the dialog as well!

        • Very cool. I’d be very interested in the photo project. Keep me posted.

  4. Hey buddy. Thanks for the post.