Milt HankinsUpset by a column of mine concerning religion, a woman threatened to cancel her subscription to the newspaper for which I contribute a weekly column. She wrote: “I think he [me] is a person who likes to shock people or who likes to get a rise…by writing things about God and Christian values that insult us.”

Though I rarely respond in print to personal criticism, which, by the way, does not upset me, I felt this reaction deserved attention.

I’ve been a columnist for many years. I never write “to shock people” or “get a rise out of others.” I write about subjects which come to mind from current events, religious topics that capture my imagination, and everyday topics about interesting or curious things, i.e. a recent Yellowstone Park piece about how some scientists believe the volcano beneath the park may soon erupt, creating a disaster of enormous proportions over most of the continential United States. I like to believe I encourage readers to think. Writing a weekly column and publishing/editing a webzine requires too much time and effort to waste for insensitive or tactless purposes.

Naturally, since I have a history/political science/social studies/theology background and loads of experience in the fields of ministry, teaching and theology, I incline toward those subjects. I do love a good discussion on religion, history and/or politics, and I enjoy researching and writing. A lifetime interest in the American presidency also fuels me.

For purposes of this column (to illustrate), I’m going to bring up an unsettling issue for some folks who interpret the Bible literally.

My former pastor frequently says, “I don’t take the Bible literally, but I take it seriously.” I agree, for the most part, with him. However, there are substantial sections of the Bible with which we disagree. Here’s my example. I do not take the story of Noah’s Ark literally, but I take it seriously. Here’s why:

First, there are two different versions of the story (Gen 6:19-22; Gen 7:1-5). Second, since the flood supposedly covered the entire earth (6:17), Noah needed to gather flora and fauna from around the world!

MODEL OF NOAH'S ARK IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY

MODEL OF NOAH’S ARK IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY

Noah had access only to animals native to his environment. No animals indigenous to North or South America, for example, would have been on the ark. No kangaroos, no penguins, no polar bears. Many species would have completely vanished from the earth! Third, common sense informs me in that prehistoric time (true of today, as well) of the impossibility of building a boat capable of provisioning earth’s animals, birds, and insects, Noah’s family, and “food which is edible for you and for them” for a period of 40 days and nights (actually, nearly a year!).

The story of Noah’s Ark is a parable which teaches us that God punishes the disobedient, while the righteous are saved by grace, or God’s “ark of safety.”  On the other hand, we need only look at today’s natural disasters which take the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of innocent people, to wonder whether God provides much of an “ark of safety” today.

The Deluge

The Deluge

Do I mean to shock you? No. I am sharing an important lesson about how we can read and better understand scripture. My columns and articles only reflect my well-researched and thought-out opinions. Actually, that’s what opinion-editorial pieces are. I am a liberal; I write from a liberal perspective. I would never deliberately hurt someone’s feelings, try to undermine their faith or cause them undue concern or anxiety.

I’m NOT the anti-Christ, as I have been accused. I hope readers won’t be upset, but if you are, please don’t judge me or the venues I write for. Simply skip over my columns and my articles. I certainly wouldn’t give my time to mere “pieces of opinion-writing” that cause me considerable anguish.