Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Mephibosheth Before David

Image in the Public Domain

Hesed

APRIL 29, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-13a

Psalm 68:17-20

Revelation 19:1-10

Mark 8:1-10

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The reading from 2 Samuel 9 contains a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, which can mean “faith” or “kindness.”  For example, in 9:1 we read,

David inquired, “Is there anyone still left in the House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the other translation:

David asked, “Is there anyone left of the House of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Kindness is not always a simple matter.  Treating Mephibosheth, the self-described “dead dog” and crippled son of Jonathan with mercy and prestige is easy enough.   Furthermore, the miracle (the Feeding of the 4000) in Mark 8 is an example of extravagant and unambiguous kindness.  But what about the contents of the other readings?

Babylon (the Roman Empire) has fallen in Revelation 18.  The regime based on violence, oppression, and economic exploitation is no more.  Those who benefited from relationships to the empire mourn its passing.  We read of rejoicing in Heaven in Revelation 19.  But what about the innocent victims of the fall of the empire?  Might they also mourn the passing of the empire?

In Psalm 68 (a liturgy for a festival celebration in the Temple), taken in full, we read of God’s judgment and mercy.  Yes, divine hesed is present, but so is God crushing the heads of his enemies (verse 21).  As I have written repeatedly, good news for the oppressed is frequently catastrophic news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Perhaps the enemies whose heads God crushes were harming the widows and orphans mentioned in verse 5.

There is more than enough divine hesed to go around, but each of us has the individual responsibility to practice hesed toward each other also.  Furthermore, we have the collective responsibility to practice hesed institutionally, including as nation-states.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/hesed/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Shepherds

APRIL 22, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:25-31

Psalm 28

1 Timothy 4:6-16

Luke 15:4-10

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On the Revised Common Lectionary the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday.   David Ackerman’s Beyond the Lectionary (2013) continues this custom.

Shepherd is a sufficiently common metaphor for monarch in the Hebrew Bible that serious students should not be surprised to encounter it.  In Ezekiel 34 the bad shepherds are Kings of Judah who have ignored the Law of Moses, practiced and condemned idolatry, presided over economic exploitation, and generally harmed the people.   Toward the end of the lifespan of the Kingdom of Judah some of the last kings are about to experience the just desserts the author of Psalm 28 sought for his enemies.

In contrast to the bad shepherds of Ezekiel 34 we find Jesus in Luke 15 and St. Timothy in 1 Timothy 4.  Pastors are shepherds too, after all, and sound teaching matters greatly.  In the temporal context of 1 Timothy 4, when certain doctrines we Christians of today take for granted were developing and others did not exist yet, the definition of sound teaching depended more on oral tradition than it does today–on written sources and established creeds.  Some of the particulars of 1 Timothy are culturally specific, but one can identify timeless principles behind those examples.  As for Jesus, he is the good shepherd who seeks everyone, although not all lost sheep will repent.

May leaders seek and effect the best interests of the people, by grace.  These might be political, institutional, or religious leaders, but all of them are shepherds.  May they be good shepherds.  Whenever any are bad shepherds, may they repent and become good shepherds.  If, however, they insist on being bad shepherds, may good shepherds replace them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/good-and-bad-shepherds-2/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

Difficulty

FEBRUARY 25, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:18-27

Psalm 39:4-8a

Titus 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-42

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Some of the readings for this Sunday are difficult.  Genesis 9:18-27 gives us the misnamed Curse of Ham (“Cursed be Canaan,” verse 25 says).  This curse follows a euphemistic description of either the castration or the incestuous and homosexual rape of Noah by his son Ham.  As one acquainted with the shameful history of racism, slavery, and institutionalized racial segregation  in the United States knows well, the misuse of this passage to justify these sins is an old story.  I know that story well, due to reading in both primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources include back issues of The Presbyterian Journal (founded as The Southern Presbyterian Journal), a publication by and for ardent defenders of racism and institutionalized racial segregation in the 1940s forward, some of whom went on to found the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), schismatic to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or, informally, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, in 1973.  (The events of 1942-1972 are not ancient history!)  I have index cards from which I can cite many examples of quoting this and other passages of scripture to criticize efforts to work for the civil rights of African Americans, so nobody should challenge me regarding the facts of this objective matter.

Titus 2:1-10 is likewise troublesome.  Insisting upon submissive wives and slaves is indefensible.  If one thinks that Jesus might return during one’s lifetime, one might not argue for social reform.  God will take care of that, right?  Maybe not!  Besides, do we not still have the moral obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The epistle dates to the first century C.E.  I am typing this post in  2017, however.  The passage of time has proven the inaccuracy of the expectation that Jesus would return in the first century C.E.

David Ackerman summarizes these two readings as focusing

on ways in which God calls Christians to repent of misusing the Bible to the unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), pages 37-38

The lack of faith of certain scribes and Pharisees is evident in Matthew 12, for they request a sign from Jesus.  (Faith requires no signs.)  Our Lord and Savior replies in such a way as to indicate

rejection experienced in death yet God’s victory over it.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1768

The possibility of death is evident in Psalm 39.  A sense of awareness of one’s mortality and vulnerability pervades the text.  The author turns to God for deliverance.

Sometimes deliverance from death does not come.  Yet, in God, there is victory over death.

May, via God, there also be an end to

unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/difficulty/

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Amos

Image in the Public Domain

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 2:4-8, 13-16

Psalm 25:16-18

Galatians 5:2-12

Matthew 23:27-36

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The author of Psalm 25 was an observant Jew contending with enemies who disapproved of his piety.  He trusted in God, to whom he appealed for help.

That piety was sorely lacking in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  (Aside:  I recommend reading all of Amos 2, for doing so makes the designated passages thereof more meaningful than they are otherwise.)  That lack of piety, made manifest in ritual offenses and violations of human dignity (including the infamous selling of the poor for a poor of sandals in 2:6) YHWH was most displeased.  Dire consequences ensued.

Although Amos supported the Law of Moses, the attitude of St. Paul the Apostle in Galatians was different.  For St. Paul requiring a Gentile convert to Christianity to become a Jew first was wrong.  The apostle had written earlier in that epistle that the Law of Moses was like a disciplinarian or house servant who performed his or her work until the arrival of Christ (Chapter 3:23f):

The distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised is irrelevant in Christ.  What counts is faith that expresses itself in love, because love is the fulfillment of the Law (5:14; Romans 13:8-10).

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 2087

That love was absent from the attitudes and actions of certain scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-36.

In all fairness I feel obligated to defend the motivations of the Judaizers, of whom St. Paul was critical.  Although I am grateful for St. Paul and his work, from which I, as a Gentile, benefit, I acknowledge the pious motives of the Judaizers, defenders of tradition, as they understood it.  I think of them as pious folk who took to heart passages such as Amos 2 and Psalm 25.  Nevertheless, their error, I perceive, was on of which I have been guilty:  maintaining barriers God has knocked down.

We humans like boundaries, literal as well as metaphorical.  They tell us who falls into what category.  There are divinely established categories, I affirm, but they are not necessarily ours.  Furthermore, we might not know where the differences between God’s plan and our definitions lie.  This fact complicates one’s quest to lead a holy life, does it not?

I offer no easy answers regarding how to read God’s mind, for nobody cam read the divine mind.  I do, however, suggest that trusting in God’s grace to treat each other selflessly and self-sacrificingly is a fine spiritual discipline, for love is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, which contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/love-the-fulfillment-of-the-law-of-moses/

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Devotion for Ash Wednesday (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Jeremiah, by Lorenzo Monaco

Image in the Public Domain

Idolatry and Social Justice

FEBRUARY 14, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-5

Isaiah 29:9-10, 13-16

James 1:12-16

Matthew 6:7-13

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David Ackerman has selected a cohesive set of readings for Ash Wednesday.

In Jeremiah 7 the prophet, delivering his Temple sermon, grouped social injustice, violence, economic exploitation, idolatry, adultery, and false oaths together.  Abandon these practices, Jeremiah decreed, and YHWH will return to the Temple.  The prophet’s words were immediately for naught, of course; the public did not repent–turn around.  A prediction of renewal of that divine-human relationship after the Babylonian Exile came in Isaiah 29, after the condemnation of a skewed view of that relationship, one in which one mistakes the potter for the clay.

The author of Matthew and James reminded their audiences that God does not tempt anyone.  Those writers also encouraged repentance before God.

I do not know anyone who opposes the idea of social justice.  I do, however, know people who understand that concept differently.  Invariably, somebody, acting in the name of social justice will commit social justice and probably be oblivious to that fact.  We humans do, after all, have social and personal moral blinders.  I like that Jeremiah 7 defines social justice in concrete terms. Nevertheless, even those standards are subject to disagreement regarding how best to avoid committing them.  So, of course, someone will invariably support an economically exploitative policy while genuinely opposing economic exploitation.

May God deliver us from being either oblivious to the demand for social justice, defined as how we treat each other–individually and collectively–or from our blind spots regarding how best to effect social justice.  May God also deliver us from all forms of idolatry, such as those that stand between us and social justice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/idolatry-and-social-justice/

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year D)   2 comments

figs

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

And Pour Contempt On All My Pride

MAY 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 9:23-24; 24:1-10

Psalm 115

Mark 11:27-33 and 12:35-37 or Luke 20:1-8 and 20:41-47 or John 21:20-25

2 Corinthians 10:1-17

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Boasting is overrated.  It is a pastime for many and a profession for others, but the fact remains that hubris will go before the fall.  The only proper boast is in divine grace and the merits of Jesus Christ.  A vocation from God is a cause to reflect on one’s responsibility and one’s total dependence on grace, not on one’s greatness or virtues.

Part of the Law of Moses is the reality that we depend completely on God, whom we have an obligation to glorify and to whom to return in repentance whenever we stray.  Nevertheless, many of us stray repeatedly and without the habit of repentance.  We might, as in the case of the scribes in Mark 12 and Luke 20, engage in or condone economic injustice–in violation of the Law of Moses.  More mundanely, we might question the authority of Jesus in our lives.  He will win that argument ultimately, of course.  We have the gift of free will; may we, by grace, refrain from abusing it often.  None of us can use free will properly all the time, but we can, by grace, improve over time.

May we say, with Isaac Watts (1674-1748),

When I survey the wondrous cross

where the young Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss,

and pour contempt on all my pride.

And, consistent with Matthew 25:31-46, may we care for the least of Christ’s brethren.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/and-pour-contempt-on-all-my-pride/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Ascension (Year D)   2 comments

home

Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

The Idol of Public Respectability

MAY 10, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-idol-of-public-respectability/

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