Regular columnists often use their year-end column to remind readers of their dearest and most treasured columns of the year. Because I’m not often accused of being a “regular” columnist, I thought I’d use this space to recap my four most controversial columns of 2010.
Think of them as holiday leftovers. If you didn’t forgive me the first time I wrote it, you’ll get another chance to practice holiday grace today.
January started with a column about Tiger Woods and his sexual addiction. Ministers aren’t supposed to think about sex, so I knew this column would likely “wind up in weeds,” as golfers say.
Without making excuses for bad behavior, I referred readers to organizations such as Sexaholics Anonymous (sa.org) or Sex Addicts Anonymous (sexaa.org).
“If you have the addiction,” I wrote, “treatment cannot begin without acknowledging the common adage: ‘The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem.’ ”
The column acknowledged that Woods is a legendary golfer, but posed the question: “Can you imagine how truly great he can be if he gets the treatment he needs to free his mind from this sand trap and really play golf?”
I think the same can be said for many of us with addictions.
I got in more serious trouble in a February column when I encouraged the faithful to inject a little doubt into their lives.
“Faith cannot exist apart from doubt, because if you don’t doubt, you will become certain. And certainty may even be a greater temptation than doubt, because when you’re certain, you merely create a god in your own image.”
The column was a bit contentious because a lot of people interpret faith and doubt as opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum. I think they are both essential elements in our faith journeys.
On a lighter note, an October column highlighted a miraculously peaceful meeting between my new pound puppy and a neighborhood cat.
I was inspired by their mutual tolerance and curiosity and saw it as one of the “many miracles of daily life that contain wonder and awe.”
I admitted to often missing these miracles when “sprinting down the path of least resistance, that neat path we’ve memorized and analyzed. Soon, the miracles lose their power to mesmerize.”
If I’d have stopped there, the column wouldn’t be included here, but I couldn’t resist concluding with this playful poke to cat owners: “If you were to ask me whether this ‘epiphany’ has improved the way I feel about cats, I’d reluctantly say — ‘a little.’ But still, at the end of the day, I’d guess that if Jesus ever had a pet, it wasn’t a cat.”
Obviously I got a little scratch back from cat lovers on that one.
But my most controversial one came in March when I wrote about talking heads from both sides of the media.
Always combative and coercive instead of coherent and cohesive, these guys need “to stop promoting causes and start prompting conversations.”
The column asserted that “pundits such as conservative Rush Limbaugh may be ‘right,’ but there are more righteous ways to be right. Liberal Bill Maher may be brilliantly clever, but there are smarter ways to bring change than labeling your opponents ‘stupid.’ ”
While that 2010 column brought some complaints, I still think it concluded with the best advice for entering 2011. The words came from the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:6.”Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (The Message).
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You also can follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook.