Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Ark Encounter:  An Encounter of Faith?

Recently, my wife and I, along with another couple, set out on a thirty-five-day camping trip.  We spent weeks planning the trip carefully orchestrating every stop around a theme of music and nature.  The music trail would take us to Mountain View, Arkansas; Hurricane Mills, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Meridian, Mississippi.  Blending those stops with time to enjoy nature at Mammoth Cave, Tennessee; Cumberland Falls, Kentucky; Smoky Mountains, Tennessee; Desoto State Park, Alabama; and Dismal Canyon, Alabama seemed like a great trip, and when we added The Ark Encounter in Kentucky, we figured the trip was perfection.  Despite a couple of days of rain, the trip was everything we hoped it would be except for one stop – The Ark Encounter.

Our visit to the Ark left me (I will not speak for the others) not just a little dismayed but uneasy about my experience.  Granted, the Ark replica at 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 50 feet tall is a spectacular feat of modern engineering and construction.  To think Noah and his sons built such a vessel 4,000 years ago with crude tools, and unlike the modern replica, their boat could float is absolutely mind boggling.  Of course, there are those who say the original Ark was a fairy tale not to be believed, but I choose to believe based on my upbringing and faith.  However, some of what I found inside the Ark was puzzling and faith rattling.  It pushed my faith in the Biblical story of the Ark to its limits.

First, there is little doubt The Ark Encounter at $48 a head to enter, $10 to park, a gift shop around every corner, zip lines that range in price from $49 to $99 per person is a money-making endeavor.  Bills must be paid, and someone must make a profit, so money-making did not surprise me.  Besides, remarkable detail prevailed throughout the interior of the vessel.  There was nothing cheap about the modern-day Ark – the structure inside and out is beautiful.  How the animals were housed and cared for in the Ark was logically presented although the designers freely admit they took artistic license with the beautifully designed displays to explain how things may have worked on the Ark.  Considering no one alive was around during Noah’s time, taking artistic license to explain such as waste removal and ventilation makes perfect sense.  However, what made absolutely no sense was the kinds of animals displayed inhabiting the Ark.

As would be expected, there were crates, cages, and clay pots to hold insects, birds, small animals, and large animals.  But, did you know Tyrannosaur was on the Ark?  Yes, you read correctly!  According to the folks who developed The Ark Encounter, Tyrannosaurs and Sauropod dinosaurs as well as many other dinosaurs had tickets on The Ark!  The people behind the development of the modern-day Ark say there were as many as 80 kinds of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.  Now that I look back on my visit to The Ark Encounter, I realize I saw very few cages that held anything other than dinosaur-like creatures.

I am a Christian, but as I walked through the Ark, I began to feel uneasy.  If I had done more research before boarding the Ark, I would have known the present-day Ark is not simply a pilgrimage for Christians to marvel at the glory and miracle of God.  It is a tool to turn all credible science related to evolution upside down, and solely promote creationism.  Maybe my problem is I don’t see evolution as a threat to God’s power and love, but it is clear through their exhibits the creators of The Ark Encounter do.  They believe the world is only 6,000 years old, and that is okay if that is where their faith leads them but changing or misconstruing proven science to influence others to embrace their point of view is, for me, unsettling.

I hesitate to say I felt as though someone was trying to brainwash me, but that is exactly how I felt.  To be fair, some of the science presented seemed almost plausible, or was that the brainwashing?  What did not come across as plausible were such assertions as fossils did not exist before the flood 4,000 years ago, mountains and all contained within them were created by the flood 4,000 years ago, and the earth is only 6,000 years old.  I could have probably taken all that as well as the paintings of men during Noah’s time battling a triceratops with a grain of salt.  However, when I came face to face with a tyrannosaur and other dinosaurs populating cages in the Ark and a sign that stated 80 kinds of dinosaurs were on the Ark, not even my faith could save me from doubt.

I am sure there may have been some who left the Ark with a sense of renewal in their faith, but what about those who came seeking faith and a reason to believe?  Did dinosaurs and pseudo-science muddy the miracle of the Ark for them?  I hope not.  As a Christian, my faith helped me recover from my initial shock, but I can’t help but wonder the impact The Ark Encounter might have on those with less faith?  Will they leave the Ark believers in the miracle of God, or will they be turned off by what unfortunately comes across as a fairy tale authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs?

JL

©September 30, 2018

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Saturated and Burned Out

The congregation squirms uneasily, but not so much from the preacher’s words as a tired tailbone.  Including announcements, offering, prayers, music, and the ongoing blistering sermon, the Sunday morning service is approaching ninety minutes.  Brother David has made his point at least six times and has started on round seven.  Hungry stomachs are growling.  Exhausted brains are begging, “Please shoot me – enough is enough.”  It is time to stick a fork in the congregation, they are done!

Unless you have been chastised relentlessly by an ordained Southern fire thrower waxed in the glow of the Holy Spirit, you know nothing of long-winded preaching.  If your eyeballs have not bobbed and surfed the tides of the second Great Flood in hour two of a Southern sermon, you know little of praying for deliverance.   Unless you have the t-shirt, Saturated and Burned Out, you are not a survivor of a soul cleansing hell, fire, and brimstone tongue lashing.  I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church – I have the t-shirt!

Why does it take preachers so long, especially in the South, to say God loves you and if you can’t accept that, prepare for an eternity in a rotisserie oven?  Why does the preacher feel compelled to make his point multiple times when once maybe twice should be enough?  The answer is simple – once or twice is not enough!  Southern DNA makes massive doses of overkill a necessity.  No one – not the preacher or Jesus Christ can tell a blue-blood Southerner what to do and expect to get it done – at least not the first or second time.

Growing up in Mississippi, my family was in church every time the doors opened: Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening worship, Monday evening Royal Ambassadors, Wednesday night Training Union, two weeks of summer Vacation Bible School, and two weeks of fall revival meetings.  My pastor, a devout man, preached long fiery sermons with a vengeance against the evil he saw in the world or he inferred from the scriptures.  Like his sermons, he was intense, unwavering in his crusade against Satan and his followers.  His prayers, he called them mini-sermons, were rhythmic sing-song dances of thanksgiving laced with healthy doses of pleas for mercy culminating with skin-curling warnings of fire and damnation for anyone not walking the walk of Jesus Christ.  In a church of maybe one-hundred members with regular attendance of sixty or seventy, people walked the walk, or at least, we did around Brother David.

Before cable and Internet, there was little to compete with church on Sunday.  People literally had nothing better to do than go to church.  So, it didn’t matter if Brother David raged from the pulpit for two hours or Deacon John’s prayer bounced here and there for twenty minutes before he asked for God’s mercy and healing and said “Amen.”  It was the best show in town – take it or leave it, and if you lived at home with mama and daddy, there was no choice but to take it.  The only negative was church ran long – really long – and lay waste to the best made plans for Sunday lunch.  As a boy, I often witnessed parking lot grumblings and short straw lotteries to decide who would tell Brother David to buy a watch, but to my knowledge, no one ever said a word to him.

Brother David did not need a watch.  He was determined to convert every soul in his congregation to Christianity, and to that end, a watch did little but get in his way.  He understood there are only two ways to convince a Southerner to do something: you convince him it is his idea, or you scare him into doing it.  Both take time – a lot of it!  A Southerner is inherently born with the notion that everything is his idea, so convincing him an idea outside his own is his idea is extremely difficult.  In his mind, he is the center of the universe, and the only worthwhile thoughts or ideas are his own, so why listen to anyone else?  Therefore, most preachers opt for scary motivation.  To bring their people to the Lord on their knees, they scare the living hell out of them.

In the South, preachers who dwell on death, graves, and things that go bump in the night usually have little trouble preaching to full houses.  Southern boys and girls are as brave as they come but talk about something dead they didn’t shoot while hunting, especially if that something is them, and they get creeped out.  A smart preacher uses this to his advantage.  To keep his flock coming to church regularly and dropping a few bucks in the offering plate periodically, he cultivates fearful uneasy souls.  The only drawback is such a process is time consuming, especially with laidback Southern temperaments.

For this reason, Brother David set the pews on fire.  He ignited a flame of urgency under his people fueled by hell, fire, and brimstone.  “The fires of hell are full of Christians who do not go to church and tithe regularly,” he scolded his congregation Sunday after Sunday.  He brewed a pot of fear seasoned with doom and gloom.  He pounded the podium and walked the pews warning of human barbecues while teasing his congregation with firefly bits of hope he promised would grow if they attended church regularly and tithed generously.  He scared the hell out of his flock, and he did not care how much time it took to do so.

Brother David has long departed this world, and his brand of hard-ball preaching has given way to holy roller spectacles and preaching almost exclusively the love of God rather than offend or upset anyone with the rage of a jealous God.  However, to this day, his practice of battering congregations into holy submission is alive and well in many churches across the South.  Many pastors still tend to be long winded with little concern for rumbling stomachs, but is it necessary?  Why can’t they say what they need to say, and be done with it?  Why must they repeat themselves at least seven times before they give up the ghost and take a seat?  The reason boils down to Southern DNA and the Rule of Seven.

There is a pinch of a boiled peanut shell in Southern DNA that makes good ole boys and girls a tad thickheaded, or maybe, decades of wearing tight fitting baseball caps twenty-four hours a day has resulted in hardening of the skull.  Whichever it might be, a preacher best repeat himself often if he wants to get a point through dense Southerner heads.  The more a Southerner hears something the better the chances it will sink in and the more likely he will believe it.  Researchers in Atlanta, Georgia have found there is a direct correlation between Southerners reacting positively and badgering.  They discovered if you tell a Southerner something once, he might not hear you; tell him twice and he might think you are talking to someone else; tell him three times and he will try to tune you out; tell him four times and he will think you are trying to cause trouble or mess with him; tell him five times and it agitates him; tell him six times and he becomes passively interested; but if you tell him seven times, the chances are good he will not only remember it but believe it as well.  This process known as the Pester into Slow Submission Technique or PISS Technique is a strategy used by Southern women for countless decades to manipulate their men, and with the assistance of WMU (Woman Missionary Union) groups, early Southern preachers learned to use this same badgering or nagging technique to get through to their congregations.

In the Twentieth Century, the marketing world adopted the PISS Technique and called it the Rule of Seven, which is nothing more than a modern makeover of the old Southern recipe.  The Rule of Seven states people, especially men, must hear something at least seven times before they remember it, accept it, or engage in it.  It works great; however, if the preacher is not careful, a disgruntled congregation is capable of mutiny, especially if the Methodists and Catholics are regularly beating them to Mary’s Cafe or KFC for Sunday fried chicken.

The real danger though occurs when desperate preachers, experiencing a decline in attendance and tithing, change the rule to the Rule of Seven X 3.  This well intentioned though controversial practice means sermons and prayers include three times the number of repetitive keywords and phrases than the standard Rule of Seven.   According to the medical community, such an overload can be unhealthy for church-goers.  Doctors specializing in Devout Hypertension Syndrome warn that such practice can result in compulsive absenteeism and static tithing as the result of Repetitive Sensory Overload (RSO).

There are people who will argue that within the fleeting time continuum of life none of this really matters, and maybe, they are right.  A Southern prayer may be as long as a television sitcom, and a Southern sermon as long-winded as a two-day hurricane, but what if they are?  Do Christians have more important things than church on Sunday?   A prayer or sermon in the hands of a well-trained articulate Southern stump jumper can be an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles and sweet tea; isn’t that worth a tired tailbone or a table with a window at Cracker Barrel?  But, I admit, at times I also grow weary and impatient.  Sometimes, I wish there was an off switch under the front lip of the pew to push to let the preacher know the time has arrived to shut up and go home.

Saturated and Burned Out!

JL

©Jack Linton, September 16, 2018

911 – The Fountain of Unity

As we remember the horror of September 11, 2001, it is important to recognize belief in the preeminence of one human being over another remains a threat to our nation.  The difference is today the monster is not only external but internal as well.  We have forgotten how we rallied together as one in the days after the senseless attack on New York City and the Pentagon.  We have forgotten how for a brief moment we stood together as brothers and sisters and defied evil.  No American was superior to another on that day or in the days that followed; all Americans drank from the same fountain of unity.

As we remember and say a prayer for the lives lost on that tragic day, let us not forget to say a prayer for ourselves.  From the ashes of 911, America found itself briefly, but lately, we have lost ourselves again.  To have differences of opinion is common; to debate those differences is healthy; to be unwilling or incapable of working through those differences is foolish and dangerous.  We should not be a nation ruled by hate and mistrust or divided by conservative and liberal ideas, religious beliefs, lifestyle choices, or racial tensions.  As a nation we are united by a Constitution, philosophy, common sense, and decency that says all men and women are created equal and have the right of expression and personal pursuit of happiness.  In America, to believe otherwise is oppression.

The destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City is a reminder of the destructive power of hate and a warped sense of superiority.  It is a reminder that such evil can bring the greatest of nations to its knees.  It is time we drink from the same fountain of unity once again.  It is time we tear the tags, labels, and dialogue of division from the fountain and welcome all to drink – if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and the future of America.

May God bless America and the freedom and shining good she represents for all people.

Jl

©Jack Linton, September 11, 2016

Are You a Rude and Disrespectful Cell Head?

Definition of a Cell Head:

noun
  1. short for cellular head or empty head

(1)  A person obsessed with his cell phone.

(2)  A person who lives with his eyes or ear glued to a cell phone

(3)  A person with a stronger relationship with his cell phone than with people

(4)  A person whose life is dominated by his cell phone

(5)  A rude and disrespectful person

If you are guilty of any of the following 10 cell phone behaviors you are a CELL HEAD.  Your use of your cell phone is often RUDE and DISRESPECTFUL:

  1. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone at the dinner table;
  2. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone in a restaurant while dining with others;
  3. You are rude and disrespectful if you constantly check your cell phone for new messages in the presence of other people;
  4. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone to message, text, tweet, or surf the web while visiting in someone’s home;
  5. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone in your car to message, text, tweet, or surf the web while stopped at a traffic light and it causes you to hold up traffic when the light turns green because you are not paying attention;
  6. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone to message, text, tweet, or surf the web in a movie theater during the movie;
  7. You are rude and disrespectful – but primarily disgusting – if you use your cell phone in a public restroom while sitting on the pot or standing at the urinal;
  8. You are rude and disrespectful – as well as obnoxious – if you carry on a cell phone conversation while walking down the street. walking in the mall, or doing your business in a public restroom loud enough for those around you to hear;
  9. You are rude and disrespectful if you use your cell phone while engaged in a face to face conversation with another person.  Few things are more rude or disrespectful than having a conversation with someone and in mid-sentence or story they take out their cell phone to check for messages; and
  10. You are rude and disrespectful if you cannot turn your cell phone off, leave it in the car, leave it in your purse, or place it on silent when visiting or engaged in a conversation.  Instead of being RUDE and DISRESPECTFUL, why not pleasantly surprise everyone and join the conversation?  It might surprise you to discover all the endless calls and messages that titillate and inspire your life will be waiting for you after the visit to grandma’s house or the face to face conversation with a friend.

My Advice to Cell Heads:

  1. People first – Cell phone second!
  2. If dealing with a major emergency or health issue that you must closely monitor by phone, let people know, put your cell phone on silent/vibrate, and excuse yourself politely to take a message when it buzzes. Other than that, turn your phone off and forget it for a few minutes while visiting in someone’s home or engaged in face to face conversations;
  3. Always be present for the people you are with by focusing on them rather than someone floating in cyberspace;
  4. When you enter a public restroom, put your cell phone away while doing your business. When finished with your business, wash your hands before reaching for your cell phone unless you don’t mind nasty toilet microorganisms transferred from your hands to your phone to your face;
  5. If your cell phone is the first thing you hold in the morning and the last thing you hold at night, you have a problem.  GET A LIFE!

People, there is no other way to say it . . . .

IF YOUR CELL PHONE TAKES PRIORITY OVER PEOPLE (especially family and friends), YOU ARE A RUDE AND DISRESPECTFUL CELL HEAD!

You have the power to control your cell phone!  Of course, if you are a CELL HEAD, the cell phone controls you.  IT’S A CHOICE!

If someone must play second-fiddle for your attention, it should be the person on the other end of your cell phone.  There is an old adage that says “Love the one you are with!”  So, why not start a new one that says, “Be attentive to the one you are with!”  Who knows, with a little more personal interaction, we might actually break down some of the barriers, such as HUMAN DISCONNECT, that plaque our world.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 31, 2018