If your minister, imam or rabbi is absent from religious services this weekend, it's because more clergy will take vacation days after Christmas than they will at any other time of the year. Unfortunately, my editors don't allow this clergyman such a respite.
Maybe, though, I can take a bit of a mental break by submitting this fairly easy piece of writing. I say "easy" because it's an opinion piece and opinions are the easiest thing to write. But, in sharing my views, I also want to solicit yours. So, let's begin.
Is Edward Snowden hero or zero? Originally, I wasn't sure whether Snowden should be extradited for immediate execution or whether we should simply send the executioner to him. Now, maybe not so fast. Extradition yes, but maybe he should appear as a material witness as to how our fear of terror has caused us to relinquish so many rights. Hmmm. Not yet sure. Singing fat lady is sequestered.
Yes, that was a shameless segue to government sequestration. All I have to say is when our country was in trouble after 9/11, our military reported for duty. Now, where is Congress when we need them to watch our back? That same Congress proposes a budget that will take from the retirement of these same brave servicemen and women.
Did you play the recent $648 mega millions jackpot lottery? Professor David Just didn't play. He's an associate professor of behavioral economics at Cornell who criticizes the lottery for the same objections most economists raise, namely, the biggest percentage of lotto players live in poverty and spend a large percent of their income to play. That's why I encourage people of faith to avoid the lottery and to recognize it for what it is, a tax on the poor.
Would you have voted to acquit George Zimmerman? Given the piece I wrote in April about "White privilege," I wasn't sure I'd have any readers by year's end. To my remaining readers, I will say that the jurors weren't given any other option but to acquit. Thankfully for Zimmerman, a guilty verdict requires reliable witnesses and irrefutable evidence. Too bad Trayvon wasn't afforded the same. I stand by the final paragraph of that column: "Zimmerman is the product of the same racist society to which we all belong."
Were you shocked by Miley Cyrus' MTV performance or the controversial remarks that sidelined "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson? I have no favor for either celebrity, but both have a right to expression. It shouldn't surprise us that Phil believes as he does or that Cyrus can twerk anymore than it should surprise you that I pray and believe in God. (Although this never stops emails from the occasional atheist reader trying to persuade me otherwise.) People who watch these entertainers find something in common with the values expressed in their venues. My guess is that critical press just fattens the personal bank accounts of Cyrus and Robertson.
Finally, will you be in religious services this weekend? Church growth experts predict that, like your pastor, you will duck out this weekend. Just don't tell your pastor I said so.
And with that, I exit the year. I pray you have a happy New Year.
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave me a voicemail (843-608-9715) and let me know what you think.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He is a board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains and works as a chaplain for both the Sacramento VA Hospital and the Air National Guard.