January 23, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 11.16.13

RamblerHappy Saturday, iMonks. A couple of weeks ago in my Sunday homily, I mentioned how I was looking for a certain type of apple called the “black twig.” It was the best apple I had ever had, but that was years ago. Well, I have a new favorite. I stopped at the store on the way home from church last week and found an apple called SweeTango. Oh. My. Goodness. My new favorite. Trouble is, it is an early-season apple, and I got the last bag the store had. I’m not sure if they will get any more in until next fall. I have one left which I’m going to eat for my lunch today. Last night, I used four large Granny Smith apples to bake a pie. Yes, I know the apple gets a bad rap from the scene in the Garden and all, but I love ’em. Now that we have that out of the way, shall we ramble?

Sarah Palin sure stays busy. She has moved from Alaskan governor to vice presidential candidate to media babe to … theologian? Palin weighed in earlier this week on Pope Francis, saying he was a little too liberal for her tastes. Then she backpedaled, saying the liberal media gave her some wrong information. She talked about how the media needs to get its facts straight. So, if you are keeping score at home, does that make Palin the pot or the kettle?

According to the liberal-est of all media, the New York Times, there are Catholics in the U.S. who are unhappy with the direction this pope is taking the Church. Seems everyone wants support for their favorite cause.

And an Italian prosector says that Francis may be in very real danger from the Mafia. Seems the pope is meddlin’ when he should just stick to preachin’. Of course, with many organized crime members who live in Italy being practicing Catholics, that makes it a bit more complicated. Hit men go to Mass before they kill someone? Help me out here. Isn’t that kind of frowned upon?

Rev. Randy drew our attention this week to this article which wonders if the end of Protestantism is nigh. I have never before heard the term “Reformational Catholicism.” Have you?

A Baptist church in Tennessee has un-invited one of the stars of the TV show Duck Dynasty to speak at its school’s fundraiser because the bearded family is now entering the wine business. I guess that kind of makes sense. What doesn’t make sense are the number of people who watch that show. I tried to watch one episode. I think I just live too close to Arkansas. It ain’t funny when it hits that close to home…

I’m not really sure of the significance of this next thing. Maybe you can shed light on it for us. The Mormon Church is set to become the largest private landowner in the state of Florida. Are they just now realizing that Utah gets cold in the winter?

George W. Bush was set to speak at a fundraiser for a group of Messianic Jews, much to the dismay of Jews who don’t believe Jesus to be the Messiah. What are we to call Jews who become Christians? Your thoughts?

Apparently there is only one Jew left in all of Afghanistan, and he is closing up his kebob shop. It’s not that his food is not good. It’s that you take your life in your hands just to go outside in Kabul, and no one’s kebabs are worth that risk. So there is one Jew and no known native Christians left in that country. What do you make of that?

This next story should surprise no one who has ever had to deal with how slow our court system works. It has only taken 2,000 years for Jesus’ trial and execution to be ruled legal. Next up: Was the Big Bang really such a good idea?

Ok, I can’t put this off any more. Stand by for creation war news. First up, let’s see how Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark Theme Park is doing. Hmmm … not so well, at least in the fundraising department. It seems that Obamacare has thrown a wrench in the works when it comes to raising the $76 million needed so you and I (well, ok, maybe you) can take a thrill ride through the plagues of Egypt. Now Ham and his team are planning to make this venture into a non-profit organization for a private bond offering.

Who knew this whole creation business could be such big business? Big enough for there to be even a second creation museum. Thanks to eagle-eyed Adam Palmer, we now know of the Museum of Creation and Earth in San Diego. But what’s this? The San Diego Museum Council won’t give creation a spot on its board? Of course this is just “the old prejudice against God.” Of course.

AP also draws our attention to this new trailer for the upcoming movie about Noah and the Ark. It looks pretty good to me. You?

Happy birthday greetings were sent this last week to Spiro Agnew; Mary Travers; Tom Fogerty; Susan Tedeschi; Claude Rains; Richard Burton; Greg Lake; Mackenzie Phillips; George S. Patton; Jonathan Winters; Grace Kelly; Neil Young; Buck O’Neil; Mamie Eisenhower; Aaron Copeland; and Prince Charles.

Why not celebrate two birthdays with one bonus video today? Here’s Emerson, Lake and Palmer performing Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For The Common Man. Enjoy.



  1. “Hit men go to Mass before they kill someone?”

    Just like the ancient Roman soldiers would make an offering to their household deity before crucifying someone. It’s called superstition: make nice with the gods, one hand washes the other, and then they owe you one. It’s a transaction, a contract, if you get my meaning.

    Hey, the god’s don’t mind a little blood; it’s the lubricant that keeps the world running smoothly. Any self-respecting hit-man could tell you that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > “Hit men go to Mass before they kill someone?”

      Or they just don’t. All the mythology around the mob seems strange, they were [and are] a bunch of thugs, bullies, and extortionists. Today western popular culture has largely replaced them with vast organized [and largely imaginary] ‘terrorist groups’ – who in reality are small, fractured, prone to infighting, and who wrap bullying, smuggling, and extortion in much the same kind of idealism. I guess recruiting stooges is easier with the help of a mythology.

      When will a thug just be recognized as such, a drug dealer as a drug dealer, and not get a TV series make about how fascinating they are?

      • “When will a thug just be recognized as such, a drug dealer as a drug dealer, and not get a TV series make about how fascinating they are?”

        Human beings are in love with lawlessness; that’s why Bonnie and Clyde were esteemed by many as folk heroes. We as a species seem to be fascinated by, and even admire, those who take what they want or need, regardless of the law, and regardless of who it hurts.

        Bonnie and Clyde, Joey Gallo, Billy the Kid, etc., etc., etc., all the way back to Alexander the Great and beyond…..

      • Hey! Don’t malign the Stooges!!! And I mean Larry, Curly and Moe, Not the musical group.

      • I grew up with some such thugs and they are as morally inconsistent as the rest of us, which means thay can love their families, attend mass, and then leave a body in your swimming pool.

    • it’s that movie ‘The Godfather’ . . .

      actually, we spent twelve years in deepest New Jersey during the formative school years of my daughter who went to a private Catholic prep school . . . one of her good friends’ step-father was arrested for mob dealings during that time and this friend had been a guest at our home and was a terrific kid . . .

      I suppose there is such a thing as ‘cultural’ Catholicism that runs deeply in ethnic families, where ‘family’ and the Church are so basic to the identity of a person that it is never lost completely culturally, but for a mob person to justify the taking of a life in a religion that even opposes the death penalty? I think the mob cultural ties are to ‘family’ more than faith, for sure.

      Pope Francis is a joy for many Catholics, but he has placed himself out amongst the people to teach us all something about the mission of the Church, and I don’t see him being fearful or hiding behind security out of concern for ‘self” . . . and I don’t him shrinking from trying to sort out the messes the Vatican has got itself into either. When he asked everyone to pray for him when he was first elected, I think he knew then he would need those prayers.

  2. “Reformational Catholicism.”

    It’s been tried. It’s called Anglicanism.

    Thing is, it seems to result in a very severe case of institutional split-personality disorder.

    And I say this as a committed Episcopalian.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      Yeah, I was going to say that the terms “Reformational Catholicism” and “Reformed Catholic” and such things are not uncommon in Anglican circles. Some of the more Anglo-Catholic elements within Anglicanism often look more traditionally “Catholic” than some modern Roman Catholic parishes. This isn’t really anything new within Anglicanism. While from the time of the Reformation, you had some elements that were heavy on the Reformed end of the spectrum, you also had elements that saw the English Church as an attempt at returning to a more Patristic-Age version of the Catholic faith. Since the mid-19th Century, that has sometimes included medieval elements of both English and Continental Catholicism. At the Anglican parish that has offered me a part-time position, for example, the Altar faces Liturgical east, the maniple is still used, incense always hangs in the air, the liturgy is chanted using the ancient Gregorian tunes and tones (albeit in English), etc. etc.

      • My wife and I once attended a Sunday morning Eucharist at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, in Manhattan, and the liturgy was Higher than any Roman Catholic mass I ever attended. Smells, bells and careful ritual and ceremony. I felt like we had stepped back in time to the medieval era.

        During the Eucharistic liturgy, the three con-celebrating priests appeared to move together as a single person, gliding rather than walking together across the high altar as they moved through their liturgical motions; it was what liturgical dance should be, rather than the pathetic displays that I’ve seen presented as liturgical dance.

        It put me in mind of the eternal perichoresis of the Trinity, and seemed to open up a beautiful, otherworldly, even eerie view into the heart of the living God, breathing and moving, fully present, in the midst of the Eucharistic celebration.

        Nobody does catholic like catholic Anglicans.

  3. “A Baptist church in Tennessee has un-invited one of the stars of the TV show Duck Dynasty to speak at its school’s fundraiser because the bearded family is now entering the wine business.”

    I guess that means the hosts of the wedding in Cana of Galilee should have un-invited Jesus.

  4. I’ve always loved Fanfare for the Common Man. I think of it as a fitting musical rebuttal to Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra, in the same musical idiom.

  5. Jeff – about Jewish beliefs and how various Jewish people (orthodox, conservative, Reform and beyond), you would be better off asking *them* than querying a crew of gentiles like us. (Not joking.)

    I have my own serious problems with so-called “messianic” organizations and groups; individuals are a different story entirely. But the “messianic” people have some odd beliefs and a lot of internal problems. (I could say more but I think it’s better if I don’t.)

    As for the NYT supposedly being the most liberal paper in the US – ???!! Please tell me you meant that as a joke, because the NYT has been bowing to government pressure over the past 10 years re. what it publishes (like backing off from talking with Edward Snowden, publishing headlines about the US fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, rather than insurgents – back when it looked like factional warfare was turning into full-blown civil war – etc.). The Times is pretty moderate and centrist, though I realize that might not be a majority view among some of the readers of this blog. [winking smiley goes here]

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I have always noticed something about the “Messianic Jews” types. They don’t show the characteristics I associate with being Jewish. The sense of humor, the emphasis on living life, the respect for learning. Instead, they come across as some sort of Kosher Calvary Chapel with a lot of Hebrew buzzwords. As in “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED YESHUA HA-MOSHIYAH AS YOUR PERSONAL ADONAI AND SAVIOR?????????”

      • Yep. And relatively few of them seem to come from an actual Jewish upbringing or familial background. They’re properly more Judeophiles than actual Jews. There’s an air of some goyish Bible-thumper dressing up in Tevye drag much of the time.

        • I am a Messianic Jewish believer in Jesus. I look at the New Covenent as being Jewish. I look at my Messiah as being Jewish. I am a natural olive.

          I do go to a gentil church but miss the dancing and hebrew worship of the Messianic church.

          Headless Unicorn Guy- I could bring you to a “church” that is the very opposite of what you are saying. They ARE very Jewish in all things. NOT a Kosher Calvary at all. They are very much like a synogue. VERY JEWISH. In fact to much for my husband. (husband is a gentile) I can envision Paul going to a church just like this one.

          I think that most of christian world need to get back to the Jewish roots. The roots are many times forgotten.

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

            In my Messianic experiences, everyone agreed with your last statement. The problem was that it was Jewish-roots-as-interpreted-by-Rabbis-who-are-hostile-to-Jesus, which led to our congregation making a lot more Gentile converts for mainstream Judaism than bringing people (regardless of whether they were Jewish or Gentile) to faith in Christ.

            Strangely enough, I’ve found that among more traditional, historically rooted forms of Christianity (i.e. the ones that a lot of Messianics are most suspicious of), there is a much greater tendency to understand the Jewish roots. In fact, one of the reasons I landed in Anglicanism after my Messianic days was that I realized that the Book of Common Prayer is everything I loved about the Siddur, but with a focus on Christ. Similarly, I remember at my grandmother’s funeral mass (she was Roman Catholic), my brother (a convert to Orthodox Judaism) exclaimed to me afterward “Dude, this is just bastardized 2nd-Temple Jewish stuff!” To which I replied, “Of course. Where do you think we came from?”

          • It took me a minute, but I assume “natural olive” refers to being part of the original “branch,” not to being something that one puts in a martini, or having a certain tone of skin. OK. Forgive me if I think that sounds like more fundie jargon. Because it really, really does.

            My husband is–I can’t bring myself to call him an olive, funny visuals–a Jewish convert to Christianity. Before he came over, I spent a lot of time visiting synagogues with him, and even in that short time encountered some Messianics who were there in search of some greater authenticity to take back with them. It was…uncomfortable, to say the least. Without fail, it was a group of grinning, earnest Bapticostal goyish types, with the wife covering her head like she was Orthodox, but in a Reform synagogue…that sort of thing…yikes. They didn’t usually make much of an effort to be truly respectful of the actual reality of contemporary Judaism, they wanted to have their Acts of the Apostles meets Fiddler on the Roof fantasy in someone else’s spiritual home. There was one couple who (under dishonest pretenses, it appears) went through the whole conversion process only to finally reveal they just wanted to be “real Jews” so they could be “real Messianics” or something like that. Oy gevalt. That’s quite some dedication–the process took about two years!–but the dynamic of disrespect is what made an impression on me. The Jewish people and the Jewish tradition were just there for them to use as a prop to lend them greater “authenticity.”

            Then there was the local street preacher who used to scream about unbelievers going to hell while wearing a tallit. Like I said, Bible thumper in Hasidic drag. Anyone who made even a cursory effort to understand Judaism and Jews on their own terms would instantly recognize how ridiculous and offensive the whole thing was, but the Messianics don’t seem interested in that, just ransacking the tradition for accessories and laboriously transliterated Hebrew words.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Wow, KvB, that sounds like a South Park episode just waiting to happen.

      • The ones I’ve been in contact with have very current evangelical theology, political and otherwise, of the type bemoaned here on imonk, only with Jewish wrappings. I certainly respect those Jews who have become Christian, and believe keeping their cultural practices of kosher etc is a good thing. The MJs I’ve met are keen on keeping the law, and I just get a Galatian shiver when I hear them talk. Why go back?! Did you not read Galatians? When some are getting DNA tests to prove blood relation to Aaron, so they can be priests, it just befuddles me. Of course, there is a handy service from companies that have popped up to provide said DNA testing, and I suspect there arent that many applicants who don’t get positive results.

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

          I’ve found that such people are rarely those who grew up Jewish, but are rather either Gentiles who want to be Jews or folks that didn’t discover their Jewish ancestry until they joined Messianic Judaism. Two of my three groomsmen for my wedding are Christians who grew up Jewish and still self-identify as both. Neither are that concerned with Sabbath observance, keeping kosher, etc. The one that’s married finds that his wife (who’s a Hispanic Gentile) is the one that insists on various elements of Torah observance!

      • I visited a couple of whateverwearesuppossedtocallthenowers congregations with my Jewish Jesus lover while living in Kansas City. He was actually raised as a religious Jew (as opposed to the converts that are as religious as Woody Allen before their conversion), spoke and read fluent Hebrew and had studied at some pretty serious levels (he was I study physics and higher math for recreational purposes level smart).

        The first congregation we visited for a while was what he said to be pretty much the same as you would get attending synagogue, other than the obvious theological departures.

        The other congregation seemed to be more like the leftovers of the Lamb fanclub: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nScAZwY3nUg

  6. err… “how various Jewish people would articulate their beliefs.”

    Too late for me to be typing, I think!

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Ok, I can’t put this off any more. Stand by for creation war news. First up, let’s see how Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark Theme Park is doing. Hmmm … not so well, at least in the fundraising department. It seems that Obamacare has thrown a wrench in the works when it comes to raising the $76 million needed so you and I (well, ok, maybe you) can take a thrill ride through the plagues of Egypt. Now Ham and his team are planning to make this venture into a non-profit organization for a private bond offering.

    This is that “Noah’s Wreck” link in your bulletin board, right? The one where they blame their lack of funds on Obamacare and Abortion (no Homosexuality?) and are trying to raise the cash through a junk bond issue?

    Here’s what the article has to say:

    In an executive summary sent to its supporters, Answers in Genesis makes the bonds sound like a decent investment. The group is offering bonds with 7-, 11-, and 15-year maturities, at yields between 5 and 6 percent. A 7-year bond starts at $250,000, while an 11-year bond begins at $50,000.

    Tempting as those rates may seem, there’s a small catch. As Answers in Genesis readily admits, the bonds “are not expected to have any substantial secondary market” and are “not an obligation of AiG.” Somewhat alarmingly, the bonds are unrated, an indication that they’re extremely risky—and almost impossible to resell. High risk, higher yield: These, in essence, are creationist junk bonds.

    In addition to their lack of rating and a secondary market, the bonds are callable, meaning Answers in Genesis can collect on the bond at any point before it has matured. (The buyer has no such privilege.) Moreover, the bonds are secured only by the revenues and assets of the Ark Encounter project, not by Answers in Genesis itself.

    “Should the project be unsuccessful,” Yang notes, “AiG holds no responsibility in meeting the interest payments of these bonds and the bonds may default.” If the project falls through, in other words, investors won’t just lose their interest payments: They’ll lose their entire investment.

    Sounds like Other People’s Money in operation. Ham gets the benefits, the investors end up holding the bag. Win-win for AIG, lose-lose for those who put up the cash.

    Was it Chaplain Mike or Jeff that worked in some sort of radio station marketing and if a potential advertiser identified as Christian, it was Cash In Advance ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS?

  8. You had me until the 2nd paragraph…

    Ok, maybe that was too snarky.

    I feel sad for Mr. Simintov, but I really would encourage him to join his family in Israel. (I also found it interesting that he doesn’t advertise his identity to protect his cafe but the article names the cafe. The internet is great for security.)

    As for the Noah movie, I’d be careful about getting too excited from a trailer. As an example, i remember thinking this would be pretty good from the trailer…

  9. Although the gospel accounts of Jesus’s trials (like the gospel accounts of nearly everything) seem distorted–as if filtered through a generation or so of oral transmission, of original impressions which may well have included speculation and misunderstandings–all four record the incident of Jesus’ scourging of the moneychangers. Those who maintain Jesus to have been sinless, and therefore innocent of the charges against him, are faced with a difficult point: how can a physical attack on the first-century equivalent of foreign-exchange booths possibly be excused? If I take a whip out at the bank, and proceed to whip the bankers, what sort of sentence should I get? (Granting that I’m not Jesus, but we should be equal in the eyes of the law, no?)

    Worse yet, the incident seems to have taken place during the Passover feast, a time when Jerusalem would have been thronged with pilgrims. Any outbreak of violence would risk spreading into the general population, much as would happen today at Mecca during the Hajj. In this light, Jesus was truly guilty of rebellion. This is not to say that his civil rights were much respected, or that Pilate was an especially fair-minded judge.

    • “If I take a whip out at the bank, and proceed to whip the bankers, what sort of sentence should I get?”

      Well, it’s altogether obvious that a secretive, midnight kangaroo court decided sentence of crucifixion until death would be the appropriate sentence for you, isn’t it?

    • Those who maintain Jesus to have been sinless, and therefore innocent of the charges against him, are faced with a difficult point: how can a physical attack on the first-century equivalent of foreign-exchange booths possibly be excused?

      Well, the Gospel accounts don’t say Jesus physically attacked people. He flipped over tables, and caused a commotion, that’s for sure. But I don’t think the evidence is there that He was actually harming anyone.

    • Wexel,
      I think you’re employing an altogether too literalistic understanding both of sinlessness and lawlessness.

      We all know how fastidious observance of law can be used, in the secular and religious worlds, to crush and destroy, to control and violate. The law can in fact enforce lawlessness when this happens, and who can deny that it so often has happened throughout human history? I have no know way of knowing if the court that convicted Jesus was juridically correct or not, but even if it was, it was a lawless court, because it had become a tool used by the religious authorities to control and crush rather than protect and nurture.

      In Jesus, God was judging those who use the laws in this way, even as they were trying Jesus, and with the pronouncement of his guilt, the judges convicted themselves.

      The same could be said of Jesus scourging of the Temple. The prophets declaimed the corruption of the Temple; in addition, they proclaimed that God was interested not in the letter of the law, but in the spiritual condition, the heart, of those who brought and offered the sacrifices. Jesus obedience to the law, as even a cursory reading of the New Testament will show, is not a slavish observance of all the ritual laws and purity laws of then existing Judaism. I don’t think the NT can be any clearer that his obedience, and sinlessness, were a matter of following the spirit rather than the letter of the law. This was his consistent position and stance, in line with the Old Testament prophets, who proclaimed that God was more interested in mercy and justice than the blood of animals and the letter of the law.

      Jesus action in scourging the Temple was a rebellion. He was rebelling against the corruption of the law of God, which had been turned into a mechanism that crushed the poor and excluded those most in need, including the Gentiles, who were allowed no further into the Temple than the very court were all the buying and selling was happening. In condemning the moneychangers, Jesus was judging the Temple itself, and its ritual, because Temple ritual could indeed not be done with the presence of the moneychangers.

      In Jesus, God was saying “Enough!” The Temple and its ritual had had their day. They were now pronounced guilty along with all those who had corrupted and perverted them. The religious authorities understood that this is what Jesus was saying and doing in his ministry and in the scourging, and they correctly understood that their privilege and power, not the tyranny of the Roman occupiers, was what was being threatened.

      That’s why they reacted so violently, and decisively. It is precisely because of the fact that neither his rebellion nor his kingdom were of this world, but were spiritual, that they marked him for death. And the best, the only way, to achieve their goal was to present Jesus’ rebellion as a secular one, and to manipulate the Roman authorities, who were not loathe to using violence as a tool of state anyway, into executing him.

      In this way, the spiritual and secular laws and authorities were revealed in Jesus to be under judgment, the judgment of a God who is far more interested in purity of heart, which is true innocence, than in the close observance of law, especially when such close observance is done in the service of lawlessness.

      • That is, could not be done without the presence of the moneychangers…

        • I’m not trying to exonerate the Romans here.

          But it’s clear that Jesus’ protest in the scourging of the Temple, and God’s judgement, is pointed inward toward the corruption of the Kingdom of God, as it was represented and practiced by the religious authorities, rather than outward toward the Roman tyrants and occupiers. Otherwise he would have staged a prophetic action at Pilate’s or Herod’s palace.

          The Romans were undoubtedly guilty of terrible complicity in the death of Jesus, but the secular authorities in this case, as in so many cases throughout human history, were under sway of spiritual realities they could not see, and refused to acknowledge.

          Perhaps this is what Jesus was referring to when he said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

          • Do you think the money changers were just performing a service, exchanging Roman and other forms of money into the approved Temple coinage in a one to one rate? Somehow I think that there was some grievous gouging going on, gouging that was prohibited in the Law, but ignored by Temple officials because they profited from it. Understood in THAT light what Jesus did is understandable.

          • Were they allowed to make a profit by the Law?

          • I’m not going to defend the trials themselves, although the gospel information about them is murky (how did the gospel writers know what happened?) and contradictory (how many were there again?). There was no expectation of due process or human rights–Pilate could essentially rule as he liked, as long as he did so competently, and taxes kept flowing. However, Christians have always maintained Christ to have been innocent of the crime of rebellion. No one says that he waged a just war against the Romans, Temple authorities, etc. which he unfortunately lost. One hears a lot of talk about symbolic actions.

            If Jesus has been given the benefit of the doubt, not so the moneychangers, who stand accused of idolatry, dishonesty, commercialism, and other crimes. I have a similar opinion of many credit card companies, but this does not give me the right to attack their representatives with whips. (Phil M, who doesn’t think Jesus was actually hurting anybody, should note this detail.) The disagreement amounts to a difference of religious opinion–Jesus vs. the Temple authorities, as represented by the moneychangers–which Jesus chose to express through violence.

            To borrow a phrase from Landover Baptist Church (who applied it to the American Indians at Thanksgiving), perhaps Jesus should be considered the first terrorist.

          • Wexel,
            You’ve heard of the wrath of God. Jesus was expressing this wrath toward the corrupt religious authorities of his day. This is part of the shared faith.

            And when we say…”he suffered under Pontius Pilate…” in the Creed, assumed is that he suffered unjustly. You may not believe this, and that’s your prerogative, but we do believe it. We believe it because we have become convinced, for many reasons, that in Jesus we have been forgiven for our sin and restored to right relationship to God.

            If we’re wrong, then he was possibly a kind of proto-terrorist, along with Samson, who after all brought that edifice down on all those innocent-until-proven-guilty people suicide-bomber style; if we are correct, he is the judge of all human systems of justice.

            As Christians, we naturally believe it is the latter.


          • In that case, you can hardly blame Pilate, Herod, etc. for being unaware of his divinity, and treating him like any other rabble-rouser. For all we know, maybe Charles Manson is the Second Coming, and we are all blameworthy for finding him guilty of “crimes” which were actually legitimate expression’s of God’s wrath. I mean, how is anybody to know?

          • I for one am not interested in “blaming” anyone. After all, in the Scriptures my Lord says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do….”

            What I’m interested in is remaining in connection with the one in whom I have experienced and known forgiveness and redemption, new life and hope, the one who still lives today at the very heart of reality and in the hearts of those who have faith in him.

            The things you suggest are all possible, but they are possible in a way that holds no reality or interest for me. There’s nothing compelling in these possibilities, because they don’t speak to my experience of Jesus ongoing presence in the midst of my life.

            And so your comparison of Jesus to Charles Manson can only seem ridiculous to me, or perhaps trollish.

            I don’t pretend to approach any of this from some neutral epistemological ground. In my experience, there is no such ground. And to sever myself from the source of meaning as I have found it in the name of finding such neutrality would be to cast myself into a meaningless and endless abyss.

            And so, to my mind, you are speaking to me from an abyss into which I have no inclination to throw myself. I am in a different abyss, an abyss of grace, and nothing shall separate me from it.

            Once again Wexel,


    • I don’t think Jesus’ actions were a precursor to the Occupy Movement.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      First things first, Wexel, I’m thinking there are some foundational problems with the way that you read and interpreted that story. This event took place in a historical and cultural context that was altogether different from the one in which you exist, so before applying the exact same moral code you would to someone living in a developed country in 2013, maybe it would serve you better to see this story in its proper cultural lens.

      Sure, this was a radical action on Jesus’ part but, as the other commenters (i.e., Robert F) have noted, in its proper context, it has a profound meaning regarding the orientation of the people of God toward commercialism and a lack of holiness.

      • So you’re saying that it was okay for Jesus to resort to violence against moneychangers, whose presence he found religiously objectionable, even at the risk of causing a riot…? By the moral code of the times, do you think this was an appropriate response? Could other people have legitimately resorted to violence to solve their intractable religious disagreements? And are you saying that Jesus really did instigate rebellion (as was alleged of him), but that his rebellion was justified?

        And if we are to be guided by the moral code of the times, then Pilate, Herod, etc. acted appropriately, by the standards of the day, and the crucifixion of Jesus was justified.

        • “Other people” were not God incarnate, with all of the attributes that singular position entails. He did not “find things morally objectionable”…..He had access to the hearts and minds of everyone in the Temple, and knew who was abusing a sacred space.

          • Even if we privilege Jesus’s viewpoint in this way, this would still not explain how Pilate, Herod, and everybody else were supposed to KNOW that he was God incarnate, and therefore right about everything. To them, he would have been just another religious fanatic.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Again, there are some foundational problems with the way you are interpreting this story. You’re also asking the wrong questions. This particular story was part of the Jesus mythology (and by “mythology,” I’m speaking of a set of stories that would permanently shape the culture of the church). As such, the question that should automatically be asked is not, “Was this action right or wrong?” or “Did this story actually happen?” but rather, “Why was this story told?” If you continue to ask whether or not an action taken in a Biblical story was “an appropriate response,” you’re gonna get trapped in a moral quagmire starting with Genesis, and you’ll never get out of it. It’s no different from going to Taco Bell and getting mad that they don’t serve Thai food (or real Mexican food, or real Tex-Mex…or real meat).

          First, you have to accept that Jesus was God in human form and, as such, He had supreme authority to make radical changes and to act in ways that were heavily symbolic. If you cannot accept that, then none of the Gospels will make any sense to you. Second, rather than judge the actions of Jesus in this particular story according to 21st century morality and cultural norms, you really have to put this story in the context of its immediate audience–Jews and Gentiles who were just beginning to orient themselves to this new religion called Christianity. Then you have to ask what this story would have meant to them, in the place that they lived, and the times in which they lived.

          • I agree with you, but I suspect there are a bunch of other people who will resist treating the story of Jesus on a par with the story of Superman. They will want to believe that the story “really” happened (perhaps it did, who knows?), AND that Jesus was innocent of any crime.

          • Marcus Johnson says

            Well, I wouldn’t quite put any of the Gospel narratives as equal with the Superman saga (although there is an excellent argument that can be made that the story of Superman is a myth as well, born from the Great Depression and the threat of Nazi Germany). Rather than ask questions regarding the legality of Jesus’ action, though, which is a really trivial question given its cultural relevance, I would respond to the literalists that the story of Jesus clearing the temple is a story that much be taken on faith, without desperately trying to find a written narrative from a first-century moneychanger that complained about a rabbi going berserk in the temple during Passover week.

            As far as the outrageousness of Jesus’ actions, it’s not like it was the worst atrocity to ever happen in Judea; between the constant skirmishes initiated by Jewish zealots, it would have probably been pretty minor. Also, because this incident happened in the temple, and it did not have any real impact on the Roman governorship, this may have been an incident which the Roman leadership of the time would consider–for lack of a better term–Jewish people problems.

          • The question of whether Jesus was a lawbreaker would not be “trivial” to those who insist, based on faith, that he was not. The myth of Superman, by contrast, has not yet inspired a community of fans who argue over every detail of his story based on the belief (reinforced by group identity) that Superman is real. Thus minor continuity errors in the canon, so to speak, lead to Crises of faith. (Forgive the multiple puns.) No, this would not have been the worst atrocity in Judea, but Jesus is supposed to be blameless and without sin. And while the incident, if it occurred, was “minor” in the sense that nothing immediately came of it, the wider issue of maintaining public order would have been very much a concern of Pilate etc. No, his superiors would not have much cared about how did accomplished this task, as long as he seemed to be doing so competently. (As it happens, he was eventually removed.)

          • Marcus Johnson says

            The question of whether Jesus was a lawbreaker would not be “trivial” to those who insist, based on faith, that he was not.

            No argument there. I’m sure this is not a trivial issue for them, but it is a trivial issue nonetheless, and that triviality is not really based on whether or not someone thinks it’s important.

            No, this would not have been the worst atrocity in Judea, but Jesus is supposed to be blameless and without sin.

            There is a difference between breaking laws and sinning, in which all sinning breaks some sort of law, but not all lawbreaking is sinning. You’re pointing out the incident in the temple; let’s add to that a) healing on the Sabbath, b) ordering disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, c) claiming to be God in the flesh, and d) a few other actions taken by Jesus that we could probably mention. It would behoove us, however, to note that every time Jesus broke a law, his action had a specific intended impact for the witnesses to his action. Which is why I say, again, rather than carry on a conversation about whether or not Jesus broke a law, it would be a better use of our time to explore a) what was the intended message Jesus wanted to send through that action, and b) why the Gospel writers, who had full discretion over what events to include in their writing, would include this particular story in their respective Jesus narratives.

    • Patrick Kyle says


      We believe (and the Scriptures teach) that Jesus is God in flesh, therefore if anyone was capable of being angry and not sinning, it was Jesus. The Law allowed people to be flogged with up to 40 lashes for transgressing the Law. I doubt any of the moneychangers suffered more than a few blows, and these given by the Author of the Law and the Judge Himself. For their part, the moneychangers in the temple maintained that you could not pay tithes with ‘gentile money’ because it was unclean, so you had to exchange it for ‘clean’ temple money at a hefty exchange rate. The OT nowhere commands or authorizes such a system, it was made up for the benefit of the moneychangers and the clergy to skim some cash off the top. This put the crimp on the poor and less fortunate when they came to give their offerings. God Himself was cleaning out the corruption in His own Temple, so there is no sin on His part.

  10. I’ve always loved ELP’s version of Fanfare for the Common Man. (It’s nearly as good as their Pictures at an Exhibition.)

    On the Noah movie, I beg to differ. My thoughts here: http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/noah-on-the-big-screen-a-call-to-thinking-christians/

  11. Oh dear, let us pray that Pope Francis will be safe from the Mafia!

    And for those conservative Catholics who feel put out by Pope Francis, I say, “Sorry, but deal with it. We progressive Catholics have had to deal with the Church overly focused on matters which I believe diluted the central message of Jesus.” I hope Francis will continue to root out corruption and excess and that he will continue to remind the world that God is love, Jesus is love and we know what love looks like.

    • The NYT article demonstrates the anxiety that occurs when a leader (prophet) is redirecting the focus back to the center–in this case to what is means to follow Christ–

      “Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,
      And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.”
      (The Message)

  12. Steve Newell says

    I cannot take anything that Sarah Palin says seriously. Since she was unwilling fulfill her term as governor in the state of Alaska, I cannot treat her as a seriously. What gets me is way so many people trip over themselves for her.

  13. The article about Sarah Palin’s backpedaling begins with this sentence: “Sarah Palin on Thursday apologized for comments that suggested Pope Francis might be adopting liberal positions.” Does that phrasing strike anyone else as weird? Does the Pope “adopt positions”? Is he a politician looking for the right plank for his platform? Is he trying to solidify his constituency? The idea that he might simply be striving to be faithful to a “position” older and greater than himself doesn’t seem to have occurred to the writer of the article.

    • I watched the video. She’s saying that some things the Pope is reported to have said sound “liberal” so she won’t trust the “media” to have reported accurately.

      She’s stuck in the dualism of contemporary categories.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Does the Pope “adopt positions”? Is he a politician looking for the right plank for his platform?
      > Is he trying to solidify his constituency?

      This is probably just a lensing problem; everyone sees [unless they possess a disciplined mind] the world of others through their own lens. So to a politician motivations look like political posturing, to a psychologist motivations seem sexual, to a spiritual-warrior type motivation appear diabolical, to hipster motivations …. yea, I’ve got no clue on that one.

    • Yes, certainly the Pope is and has been since before Innocent III a political position. Of course, the Vatican no longer even has the papal states, so it’s territory is much smaller but I can’t believe the Pope isn’t very much attuned to how large of a flock he has and how many he’s lost in the Western world (including Latin America).

      Some of his comments as Cardinal of B.A. were on political issues, for instance. Advocating against war and for peace is a political act as well.

    • David Cornwell says

      She gives the impression of being barely literate. This was one of her problems during the campaign. She knew nothing about history or current events. Her mode of survival was cute-pithy little sound bites to rally the masses. They played well on television, except when she did an interview, when the cuteness wore thin. Senator McCain probably felt like shooting himself when he realized what he’d done.

      • David – indeed. like the interview with Katie Couric, where she was unable to name a single newspaper or magazine when asked what publications she read… have seen a couple of interviews from Alaskan sources, where she was asked what books she read. the reply was ‘All the books.” when pressed for titles, she skated right past the question.

  14. You “live too close to Arkansas”?? Give me a break, Bro.

    I would say eastern OkieLand is much more DuckDyn than we. ;o)

  15. I’m not sure if I *really* want to read the article… but, the link for the Ken Ham Noah’s Ark story is broke.

  16. Mrs. Palin had a demanding week peddling her latest literary creampuff, attacking the “War on Christmas”. Cheerleading the kickoff to the full-blown, seven plus weeks of Christmas joy, she told Matt Lauer, “I love the commercialization of Christmas, because it spreads the Christmas cheer”. But she wasn’t so busy ringing her own Christmas cash register that she had no time to also lock and load on the Pope, you betcha. The Pope drives an entry-level Ford, washes the feet of women, convicts and Muslims, and lives a simple life of humility as a servant of Christ. “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings,” the Pope said earlier this year. It all leaves me asking, who is leading the real war against Christmas?

  17. Ryan Mahoney says

    I think your Noah’s Ark link is off. When I click it, it takes me to the Jesus trial story.

  18. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    I spent a good portion of my teens and twenties in the Messianic movement, largely in congregations affiliated with the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. A few observations:

    While every congregation I attended had some people who were born and raised Jewish but had come to nevertheless accept Jesus as the Messiah, the vast majority of people in the movement are Gentile Christians who are either disaffected with the mainstream church or are exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity and end up wanting to be more Jewish than the Jews.

    There tends to be serious identity crises in Messianic circles. To those in the movement, they often feel like they’re neither fish nor fowl, neither truly Christian nor truly Jewish. Attempts and really embracing either of those things often results in either becoming a non-denominational Evangelicalism that dresses up in prayer shawls and worships on Saturday or a church-hostile launching point for gentiles to convert to Judaism in which Jesus may be mentioned, but is certainly not the central focus.

    There’s a LOT of mythology and poor scholarship in Messianic circles. I can count on one hand the number of genuine scholars I know of who have self-identified as Messianics. And much of the Messianic movement doesn’t want to accept those guys because their scholarship brings the myths and misconceptions and inconsistencies into very sharp relief, especially when it comes to the issue of history.

    The Forward Association article linked above also suffers from a major problem (aside from its gross oversimplification and resulting misunderstanding of classic Christian theology on salvation and the Trinity): identifying what it means to be Jewish only in religious terms. But you’ve got a lot of Jewish atheists, secularists, Buddhists, etc. You don’t have to practice Judaism to be a Jew, and nobody argues otherwise. But Rabbi Wolpe (the author) claims that if a Jewish person becomes a Christian, he can no longer be considered a Jew. Well, I know a LOT of Jewish Christians who’d take issue with that. Wolpe’s obviously not alone in that conclusion, of course. In fact, his take is the typical one here in North America (in Israel, that’s not as much of a case). I find myself wondering if the Messianic movement would have even arisen 40-something years ago if that wasn’t the case. I.e. why is becoming a Christian the one thing a Jewish person can do to lose their status as a Jew in the eyes of most of the Jewish community? Sure there’s a lot of historic and cultural baggage, but aren’t we supposed to have moved beyond such things in our pluralistic society? The Jewish community tends to lean more socially progressive, especially when it comes to issues prejudice, so the still-prevalent view that becoming a Christian is the one thing a Jewish person can do to get kicked off the island seems very inconsistent to me.

    Most of the many Jewish Christians I know who are… well, for lack of a better term, “spiritually healthy” are NOT in Messianic Jewish congregations; they’re in mainstream churches. But they really miss the fellowship of other Jews. They’ve often spent time in Messianic Judaism and experienced its pathologies. They’ve often been a part of or founded home groups or home fellowships for like-minded folks that end up with the same or similar pathologies as the Messianic congregations. And they’re not really welcome in regular Jewish organizations because their faith in Christ is seen as a betrayal of their people. So, they end up just having to deal with a huge sense of loss and a feeling of never really fitting in. Sure, their churches love them. Heck, it’s quite in vogue for Christians to love Jewish people, which often gives Jewish Christians something of a celebrity status in their churches. But no one wants to be the token fill-in-the-blank, and that celebrity (however well-intentioned) makes them feel like the token Jew.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > They’ve often spent time in Messianic Judaism

      Does just the term “Messianic Judaism” or “Messianic Jew” strike anyone else as deliberately incendiary? Does not that label itself attempt to create a kind of aggressive interregnum? I cannot imagine, if I was a practicing jew that I would not find this label confrontational. And if I were a ‘merely ethnically’ jewish/hebrew/Israeli (???) [(a) I’m probably already annoyed with conflation with the Jewish religion] that I wouldn’t feel the urge to roll my eyes at the label and utter a disgusted sigh.

      Am I a Messianic Pagan as a believer in Christ from a norse heritage? I am a Christian – I can honestly receipt the Apostle’s Creed. But, fortunately, I am no so burdened with my ethnicity as many Jews feel they are [or are made to be so by society]. If I tell someone my original family name was Pulkkinnen or the name of my great grandparents settlement …. it means simply nothing to 99.44% of people. If you say you are Jewish – in comes the torrent of [probably mostly illiterate] preconceptions.

      I agree with this post that the conflation of the Jewish Religion with Hebrew [Jewish] Ethnicity creates an awkward space; including those outside when the topic of Jewishness comes up in conversation.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        Yeah, terminology is a big part of the problem, as “Jewish” is not just a statement of religion or ethnic/cultural heritage, but it’s both. Ironically, the term “Messianic Judaism” was supposed to be the opposite of incendiary, as they found “Jewish Christian” or “Hebrew Christian” to be more offensive.

        • Don’t forget to add “cultural Jew” to the context. There are many people who are Jews but have no direct lineage to past Jewishness because they come from “converted” ancestry. No ethnic link, no genetic link, only a cultural affiliation. It seems that claiming Jewishness is just as meaningless as claiming Christianity.

          • Oscar – ? not sure what you mean… people who were forcibly converted (like many Spanish and Portuguese Jews) were often able to keep practicing their faith undercover. there’s quite a bit of so umentation… and even for those whose connection became more tenuous over time, there are often stories and rituals that come directly from Judaism, albeit sometimes with a Catholic veneer.

    • Just recently there was a symposium on Judaism that had Orthodox (both modern and non), Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative speakers and for the first time they included a Messianic speaker. I think there is a recognition that Messianic Jews (who are ethnic Jews) are still Jewish. I mean is believing the Jesus was a Messiah any different than believing that the Lubavitch was Messiah?

      Of course, I’d have a harder time accepting someone who believes that Jesus was a deity, because I have a strong belief in monotheism (and reject the whole construct of trinity). But if Judaism has room for atheists, Buddhists, etc,(and notice most of these other faiths have no additional deities, either) I can’t see it not having room for people who believe that Jesus was a prophet or messiah.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        Heh, I bet the inclusion of that speaker was very controversial on all sides!

        I’ve seen some Messianic Jewish groups that reject the concept of the Trinity also. Some take a modalist view of God where the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not separate Persons but are different manifestations of the same Divine Person (that can, if needs be be manifested at the same time). Others take that a bit further and see the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three of the ten Sephirot (i.e. “emanations” or “attributes”) of God from the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. Others take a more Arian (not Aryan… stay with me, folks) approach and don’t see Jesus as being Yahweh, but as being a lesser divine being of some sort.

        I should be quick to say that these are not the mainstream opinions in Messianic Judaism as I’ve seen it. Rather, most Messianic Congregations are largely Baptist and Dispensationalist in their Christian theology with a lot of (often contrasting and inconsistent) Rabbinic theology mixed in to one degree or another.

    • Isaac,

      Thanks for these insights.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        I’m admittedly not the most objective voice on this issue. I’ve got a lot of issues with my experiences in Messianic Judaism. On the other hand, I’ve found a lot of the information I picked up at that time to be very valuable in my ministry in mainstream Christianity, whether that’s the overview of various streams of Rabbinic theology and interpretation I picked up in my Torah studies (from Orthodox Jewish sources, largely), or whether it’s an understanding of customs and practices regarding the Levitical Feasts, or just a general better background in Old Testament and Pentateuch studies than most of my fellows.

      • Yes, thanks.

  19. Huh. Liethart’s article describes my Lutheran church to a T.

    • Many Anglican churches also fit Leithart’s description; I feel I fit this description myself as an individual and Episcopalian, when I’m not in the throws of my occasional post-Roman Catholic ill humor.

      But Reformational Catholicism is such a clumsy sounding moniker.

    • But then you have Gene Veith, who was asked whether soldiers should think killing the enemy is fun. “There is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s work,” was his response. When you’re issued a divine license to kill, you can take biblical delight in lawfully dispensing some ultimate justice. You’re not only guiltless, you’re a blessing.

      • Really?!? He said this? I just recently came across this particular blogger and didn’t know he said that kind of ridiculous thing. Could you share a link?

      • I disagree with the whole approach. The fact is, that being in a kill or be killed situation releases a flood of chemicals in the male brain that can only be described as “fun”. In fact, I have read historical reports from both world wars and Vietnam that describe dead soldiers with full erections. I have read that part of PTSD can involve the cognitive dissonance that arises from experiencing this kind of physiological response to a traumatic and hateful experience. Some scholars have compared the psychological effects to rape in this regard.

        • Dr. Fundystan – or maybe it’s “the limbic system takes over” when in combat.

          fwiw, I bet women combatants would have very similar experiences. The amygdala gets going, and then…

        • If it feels good, do it? Living in a military town, I can recount too many stories of soldiers returning from war to the community to commit murder, in some cases very randomly. We need to honor our soldiers but not glorify killing even in the context of war. Otherwise, conservatives are engaging in the same illogic which is used to normalize deviancy like pedophilia.

        • Again, not sure that the “fun” issue is all there is to it, by any means – people often lose control of their bowels and bladder when in combat…

          I think basic training – as it’s practiced now, post-WWII – is intended to remove a lot of the normal inhibitions and reflexes that kick in when people are put in severely dangerous situation and told to kill on top of it. It’s emotional, mental and physical conditioning, and it doesn’t have the trainees’ best interests in mind, to say the least. *Then* the trainees are chucked into battle and there are things that just happen – psychologically, physiologically – partly as coping mechanisms.

          No wonder people come back from war with internal – emotional, mental, spiritual – wounds, whether PTSD or similar conditions.

          I wonder how the men in the trenches during WWI would have answered questions as to whether they experienced “fun,” btw…

        • “The joy of killing! The joy of seeing killing done — these are the traits of the human race at large. We White people are merely modified Thugs; Thugs fretting under the restraints of a not very thick skin of civilization; Thugs who not long ago enjoyed the slaughter of the Roman arena …” – Mark Twain.

    • What degree of separation exists between what Copeland and Barton said, and Mark Driscoll’s recent derision of pacifism? There seems to be an element of blood-lust in both. Perhaps the main difference is that Driscoll belongs to the TGC atta-boy club and Copeland and Barton do not.

  20. Weren’t Paul & the original apostles the first Messianic Jews?

  21. What makes Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” a masterpiece is its spare, un-ornamented, simplicity. What Emerson, Lake and Palmer do to it can only be described as excess. They have taken the essence of the piece and completely changed its very nature. That said, what ELP created was a musical piece that gives a passing nod to Copland’s work, but to say it is a performance of that work is to deny the obvious…it is “Fanfare” in name only. But it IS a glorious bunch of noise!

  22. David Cornwell says

    Stanley Hauerwas also believes American Protestantism has come to the end of it’s useful life. He writes in “The end of American Protestantism” for abc.net.au/religion that:

    “I believe we may be living at a time when we are watching Protestantism – at least the kind of Protestantism we have in America – come to an end. It is dying of its own success. Protestantism became identified with the republican presumption in liberty as an end reinforced by belief in the common sense of the individual. As a result, Protestant churches in America lost the ability to maintain the disciplines necessary to sustain a people capable of being an alternative to the world. Ironically, the feverish fervency of the religious right in America to sustain faith as a necessary condition for supporting democracy cannot help but be a strategy that insures the faith that is sustained is not the Christian faith.”

    He has a wonderful gift for analysis. To understand the context of his comments read the entire article, because in it he critiques modern Catholicism as well as the Protestant church.

  23. RE: Pope Francis

    I suppose this is what happens when your Pope’s behavior doesn’t line up with your a priori conceptualization of how a good and proper Pope should behave. Of course, some conservative Jews in Roman Palestine felt a little put off by a certain itinerant rabbi who made claims of Anointing but did not conform to their pre-conceptions of what a Messiah should look like.

    Of course, they are only following in the footsteps of the Father. As Robert Capon says:

    “We have a God, in Jesus’ proclamation, a God who couldn’t get a union card in the God union, who couldn’t make it because we have set up the rules for God. A God has to be a punisher; a God has to be a judge; a God has to be a respectable God. He has to do all the things that enforce morality, and God doesn’t. On the cross, in Jesus, He drops dead to the whole subject of sin and shuts up about the whole subject of condemnation. It is over. As St. Paul says in the beginning of the 8th Chapter of Romans: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

  24. I admit that I don’t get Duck Dynasty. I’ve tried as I have numerous friends and family members who swear it is the greatest show on earth. But I don’t get it. So they pray at the end of the show. As discussed above, so do members of the mafia.

  25. This has to be the only blog post in history to feature Sarah Palin, Messianic Judaism, Duck Dynasty, Creation Museums, and ELP.

    Nicely done.

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