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Thoughts from a nonagenarian

link Wendel Sloan

Local columnist

Retired Portales math professor Vern Witten, 90, and I recently spent an afternoon chatting about him knowing his multiplication tables by second grade ... his “mathematical proof of God” ... “busing” to his Missouri high school in a pickup bed for $3 per month ... being a 92-pound high school valedictorian ... serving in Greenland during World War II ... making $4,000 from 30 acres of Missouri corn, $4,100 his first year at Carlsbad Junior High where he taught future astronaut Drew Gaffney, $7,500 his first year as a college professor ... courting and marrying grain elevator secretary Ida Lou (now 90) ... producing three daughters, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren …

That barely scratches the surface of the self-described Christian.

Here is a tiny selection of Witten’s thoughts:

• “I don’t worry about dying, but I assume this will be my final decade. I hope I out-live Ida Lou so she won’t experience the grief of losing your companion.”

• “Junior high is when you have a great influence on kids.”

• “Mathematics had a great influence on my religious beliefs. You start out with an undefined term, make assumptions, and search for contradictions. You have to have faith in the system.”

• “The virgin birth is not one of my postulates … I don’t believe in a physical resurrection.”

• “The Bible was written by men who thought they were inspired. Some of it may have been true, and some not. I don’t think God wanted to wipe out entire tribes and animals. Christ didn’t oppose slavery; what Christian today would support slavery?”

• “Some people, especially abused women, may find better companionship in gay relationships.”

• “Your concept of God is based on your culture. Man created God in his image, and has limited power to understand unlimited power.”

• “I’ve lived 90 years and I’ve disliked people, but I’ve never hated anyone. When you show love for others, you show love for God.”

• “The Bible gives me a good guideline for life. If just a small element of Christ’s teachings live in me, my life has been a success.”

Contact Wendel Sloan at:

[email protected]

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