On August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran, killed six people and then himself at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Almost two years later, a white supremacist killed three at two Jewish centers outside Kansas City. He said “he wanted to kill Jewish people before dying of chronic emphysema.”

On a January 2017 evening, a Quebec City, Canada mosque was the scene of six worshipers who were killed and 19 injured.


Dylann Roof, an admitted white supremacist, murdered nine African Americans at the Emanuel African A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.

The most recent are this month’s killing of 26 people in the First Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Truth be told, since nothing (or very little at the most) will be done to tighten our gun control laws and, as gun advocates will continue to argue about the Second Amendment, clearly we cannot stop those who want to commit a horrendous mass killing from obtaining guns. I’m not interested in engaging in this somewhat limited and neglected debate by those who might do something to make a significant difference.

You might have observed that I selected five examples where these horrifying killings took place in houses of worship. As a former pastor, I am inclined to raise this question: Where was God when these innocent, religious folks, who were ostensibly worshiping in a “House of God” were mindlessly assaulted and murdered? If this question has not entered your mind, you have not been thinking through these tragedies.

The wise Solomon reputedly said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6NIV).

For many years, this was my personal motto. The implication is that God will protect those who trust in him.

If there should be any sort of sanctuary from this kind of behavior, it seems to me it ought to be the church, the temple or the mosque. After all, aren’t these the places where folks go to acknowledge the presence of God in their lives? Folks who believe, as the old song says, “God will take care of you.” I repeat, God will “make your paths straight.” Assuredly, in the sanctuary!


I recall from extensive reading on the Holocaust, on several occasions Nazi SS Troops herded entire communities of Jews into their temples, locked the doors, and set those temples on fire.

Whenever I read about these atrocities, I wonder where God was at the time. I was brought up to believe that God is omnipresent, that God is everywhere. I was brought up to believe that God is omnipotent, that God is all-powerful. Why would a caring, ever-present God not stop such carnage before it began? What was God thinking as he observed the slaughter of the innocents in the Quebec City mosque? Where was God when folks at the Charleston, South Carolina prayer meeting were shot to death point blank?


Was God not present at the Sunday morning worship service in Sutherland Springs where little, crying children were shot in the face ? The pastor of the Sutherland Springs church responded, “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”

I respect the pastor’s personal faith but, as I see it, he is either tremendously naïve, or he is failing to ask the larger questions.

[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor and author of three books. His e-mail address is: amsmilt@windstream.net. He is the publisher and editor of Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com). This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on Monday, November 13, 2017.]



Is there a more palatable word to use for lying? It seems to me that calling a person, especially face-to-face, a “liar” is one of the more reluctant, difficult things to do. No one wants to be called a liar; no one wants to call someone a liar.


But, when the truth is discounted, misrepresented or ignored, there doesn’t seem to be a kind or generous way to talk about it. Let’s take Chief of Staff General Kelly’s remarks to the press corps regarding Representative Frederica Wilson and the president’s call to La David Johnson’s widow.

General Kelly totally misrepresented an occasion, during which he was present, when Frederica Wilson participated in the dedication of an FBI building in her district in Florida in 2015. Kelly referred to Wilson as an “empty barrel” focusing “more on her own actions than the heroism of the two FBI agents for whom the new building had been named.”

A conclusive review of the video of Wilson’s speech during the occasion showed that General Kelly was clearly not telling the truth. “Not telling the truth” is a kind euphemism for lying!

The entire subject of the president’s call to Johnson’s widow and the Kelly/Wilson dispute which followed swallowed up at least six days of news cycles. The president responded, according to his practice (tweeting), calling  Representative Wilson “wacky” and denying that he had said anything at all that should have upset the grieving widow.


According to Wilson, the phone call was on “speaker phone,” and was heard by everyone in the automobile when the widow received the call.

The subject matter was not so much centered on “lying,” as it was on the lack of compassion and sympathy shown by the White House. And, it’s notable that no sort of apology for the whole affair was later offered to the Gold Star widow who said the president didn’t even know her husband’s name. Of course, President Trump denied this. The attention to lying came later.

To my way of thinking, the real problem is that the four-star Marine General who is now serving as the president’s chief of staff, publicly lied in an effort to excuse or explain President Trump’s behavior. As a result, until Chief of Staff Kelly offers an apology and/or recants his story before the White House press corps, he is a bold-faced liar–in other words, we cannot believe anything he has to say on behalf of the president.

It pains me, too, that we have a man sitting in the Oval Office who seems not to know the meaning of truth, to put it mildly. To be blunt, the president routinely discounts, misrepresents, and ignores the truth. And, to make matters worse, whenever he is called by the press corps on his obvious lies, he doubles down.


The president is a liar. And there is no more palatable term to describe him. It is most unfortunate that he is deliberately making those around him–especially his spokespersons–liars, too.

The time will come when nothing coming out of the White House will be believed. The time will come when other nations will hold Americans in official positions in contempt.

[(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins. Hankins is the founder, publisher and editor of Columnist with a View. He is a weekly contributor to the Huntington, WV Herald Dispatch and resides, along with his wife Deborah and Jose, their pet Chihuahua, in Ashland, Kentucky. His e-mail address is: amsmilt@windstream.net]

WHERE IN THE U.S.A. AM I? by Milt Hankins

WHERE IN THE U.S.A. AM I? by Milt Hankins

Recently, Deborah and I took a very special two-week vacation.  We flew across the United States from Atlanta, Georgia to southern California. Then we took Amtrak up the Pacific coast and across the northern tier of states to Minnesota. We visited friends along the way and then flew back home to Kentucky.

I have visited forty-eight of the fifty states (all but Alaska and South Dakota).  Below are pictures of ten marvelous places and things I have enjoyed during my travels. Can you study the pictures and determine the city and state I am visiting? The answers can be found at LIGHTER FARE. Scroll down to HELLO, WORLD.












Let’s see how many places you identified correctly:  GO TO “LIGHTER FARE” and scroll down to “HELLO, WORLD” for the answers.



[James Merritt lives in Maryland. He is a teacher, actor and writer of short fiction. His writing can be seen in “Interesting Stories” and a collection has been published by CreateSpace and can be seen at Amazon.com. We are delighted to have introduced James Merritt to a worldwide audience. This collection is a look at death from the macabre perspective.]


James Merritt



Eyes, eyes everywhere watching me. Even as I sleep. No where safe from their prying sight; as long as I am stuck in this meat. The long dead missing me, waiting for my sleep, when once more I will join the eyes that pierce, and shriek.

Eyes in the fields watching me; where most only see ears of corn, fields of eyes from their graves, in my truck, draining me, making me feel weak. Eyes in my head, they call hallucinations, green, brown, blue, and sometimes red. Eyes of the dead watching me. Perhaps they are only in my head.



Fred was a mutt born in a litter of twelve. He was brown and had no remarkable features, except for a single white spot in the shape of Texas on his rump. Born in a shelter, he did not know true human kindness. At the age of six weeks he was adopted by George’s parents.

George and Fred were born at the exact same time, on the exact same day. From the time George’s parents brought Fred home they were inseparable. George had Asperger’s and no discerning marks, except a birthmark matching Fred’s on his butt. Due to George’s social handicap his mom home-schooled him. Fred was George’s one friend, companion. They spent every second together. Fred even followed George in the bathroom and sat perplexed at the human’s daily baths and the strange seat he sat on and marked his territory.

On their eleventh birthday Fred ran off after a bitch. Her owner had treats! Fred loved treats and though he loved George, he did not comprehend the fact that running away would be so permanent.

George longed for Fred…crying constantly and inconsolable for weeks. He stopped eating and his parents took him to doctors, shrinks doing everything they could, but George had simply given up.

One day while George was being pushed in his new wheelchair through the park, looking half-dead, George saw Fred. He saw a future where they could be back together, spending the rest of their lives laughing and playing. So George called to Fred, but Fred refused to come, as he now had a mate, puppies of his own and a new owner with better treats.

George changed that day. He darkened. Out of anger and resentment he swore revenge on every dog owner. He began to eat again, but only foods he disliked. He would live, but he chose to never let himself be happy again. His parents were both relieved and saddened at their only child’s new outlook. Glad that he would survive, but saddened that he never smiled or laughed again.

George grew up to be a dog catcher, sometime snatching dogs from people’s yards–making sure the world felt his pain, and spreading the darkness forth on the world.

On George’s 45th birthday, shriveled and old from despair he decided to end his life. Many believe this would cause him eternal damnation, but instead he found himself in a dog park with Fred. There they are to this day, and forevermore will stay.



The fly found its soul mate from its previous life and buzzed around his head. Landing on the human, sharing his coffee, lightly caressing his hand.

The fly was driving the man nuts! It was buzzing around his head, landing on his coffee cup, and crawling up and down his arm.

The man picked up the bright green tool of death and swatted the fly, not quite killing it with the first blow. Realizing only after the first attack of his loves true form. So he hit it again and again destroying his love in hopes of it coming back in a more pleasant form. Perhaps they could be together in another life. Huzzah! One less fly in the world.



Poor Geoff was such a fool he believed what they taught in school. He worked hard every day and never once played. One step he took in front of the other, something he learned from his father and mother. Always expecting the ground to catch him each step he would take. After twenty years accounting, never missing a day, his boss told him he must take a vacation. So Geoff, always following the rules, went away to Rehobeth Beach to stay for one night and one day. The very first night on a walk down the shore, after the clerk called him a bore, he took a step as people are wont to do, always assuming the earth beneath their feet will catch them. The sand fleas chewed his legs. His 599th step would be his last on that fateful May day. He was swallowed up, right up to his chin. The earth seemed to laugh. The fates knew he could not swim. The waves crashed closer as the tide came in. He didn’t care as he knew he could not win. He didn’t call out or even struggle as there was no way out of his trouble. The first wave hit him and went right up his nose, soaking his face, but not his buried clothes. The second wave hit and he coughed and sputtered.  The ocean was soon above his head and that was the end of gullible Geoff.  

(c) 2017, James Merritt





[Editor’s Note:  Following are personal observations and conclusions I have reached. You may not agree with some or all of them and that’s okay. Think about some of the important observations and conclusions you have come to during your lifetime. Hey, I might not agree with some or all of yours either, but, it’s an informative and fun reflection on your life experiences.]

From infancy I attended Sunday school and church. I went on to college and seminary and was, somewhat simultaneously, a pastor/teacher for 50-plus years. Living life observantly has taught me more about religion, the church and the spiritual life that I could’ve ever absorbed from books. Here are a few serious (and silly) lessons I’ve learned:

♦ Most church signs display either bad spelling, poor grammar or faulty theology. Some, all three!


♦ Churches say they want to grow, but they don’t want to bring in new people with new ideas. They say “We’ve never done it that way before.”

♦ Christians preach generosity and practice frugality.

♦ Faith comes not from knowing; faith comes from not knowing. Faith does not arrive at what we’ll know, but journeys toward what we’ll never know.

♦ In spite of what some Christians believe, not everything in the Bible is demonstrably true.

♦ Atheists spend too much time talking about God.  Think about it. Unicorns and trolls don’t exist, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about them.

♦ Don’t count on tomorrow. It might not come.

♦ Everyone knows the “Golden Rule”; almost no one follows it.

♦ If Jesus returns on a Saturday evening, he won’t be in church on Sunday morning.

♦ There’s absolutely no saving grace in years of faithful church attendance.

♦ Love your neighbor, but erect a sturdy fence.

♦ Treat animals like you believe in reincarnation.


♦ In the long run, it IS true that “what goes ’round comes round.’

♦ It is not true that you can’t worship on the golf course or at the seashore as well as you can in church.

♦ Never make change out of the offering plate.

♦ Preachers who cannot properly interpret Shakespeare (17th Century English) shouldn’t be interpreting the King James Version of the Bible.

♦ Christians say heaven is a wonderful place, but they don’t seem overly anxious to go there.

♦ We humans are just discovering what the Creator has known all along.

♦ Just because a creed is old and oft-repeated does not make it true.

♦ The Ten Commandments do NOT need to be displayed; they need to be obeyed.



♦ According to physics, for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction; for every good there is an equal, opposite evil.

♦ The most abhorrent sin is bigotry. Bigotry thrives on a false sense of superiority. Bigotry is a disgusting form of hypocrisy.

♦ If parishioners cannot remember what the morning sermon was about, then the homily was either poorly constructed, feebly delivered or simply not worth remembering!

♦ Humans believe (and live) too many half-truths.

♦ It is better to be wrong and stand corrected than to be corrected and then take a wrong stand.

♦ If you fall for everything, you won’t believe in anything.

♦ The ways we are alike have a difficult time surfacing through the ways we are different.

Sometime, set aside some time to jot down the general, personal, religious/spiritual lessons you have learned in your lifetime, so far. I suspect it will be a longer list than you imagined. According to phrases.org.UK, Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb: “Experience is the best teacher.”

(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins (all rights reserved)

[L. Milton Hankins is a theologian, former pastor, author and columnist and the publisher of Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com). He lives with his wife Deborah and Jose, their three year old chihuahua, in Ashland, Kentucky. This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. Milt’s e-mail address is amsmilt@windstream.net]