God's Politics

God's Politics


Diana Butler Bass: The Rebirth of Irony

posted by gp_intern

Monday night I attended Sojourners’ presidential candidates forum on Faith, Values, and Poverty, featuring Democrats John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. I expected to hear how their faith informed their policies, but I also longed to hear something of the candidates’ stories and their perspectives on theology and ethics. They met my first expectation. But the conversation buoyed me with surprise as to my second hope.

Although all three are Protestants, they represent three discreet traditions. Edwards, born Southern Baptist, left and returned to personal faith; Barack Obama articulated the prophetic hope of the African-American church, himself an adult convert; and Hillary Clinton has been a mainline Methodist all her life. Edwards spoke easily of Jesus (even extending the syllables “Je-ee-sus” in that particularly southern way), Obama extolled the vision of “the beloved community,” and Clinton confessed that she is “private” when it comes to faith (I, too, learned in Methodist Sunday school that faith is “private”) and finds it awkward when others “wear their faith on their sleeve.” In one short hour, they modeled the three great families of American Protestantism: evangelical, African-American, and mainline.

Yet, the differences did not obscure a greater commonality. All three made surprisingly modest claims about faith, stressing the limits of human knowledge of divine things. Edwards spoke of how often he sinned (“several times a day, every day”) and said that he often prayed to know the difference between his own will and God’s. Obama ruminated about Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War meditations on the ambiguity of faith. And Clinton confessed to the superficiality of some of her prayers while asserting the importance of “doing the best with what we know to be true at a given time.” All three extended these perspectives into the realm of politics and policy, articulating a desire to move away from the politics of hubris to a politics of humility.

Clearly unscripted and unplanned, what emerged was a re-articulation of a great American theology: the ironic strain of Protestant faith. In 1952, Reinhold Niebuhr described this part of American religious-political character in his book, The Irony of American History. Irony, as Niebuhr described, is not humor. Rather, it is an understanding that American history was full of unexpected twists, that the most innocent political intentions had often undermined virtue.

“If virtue becomes vice through some hidden defect in the virtue; if strength becomes weakness because of the vanity to which strength may prompt the mighty man or nation; if security is transmuted into insecurity because too much reliance is placed upon it; if wisdom becomes folly because it does not know its own limits—in all such cases, the situation is ironic.”

Irony runs deep in the Protestant soul, finding its original voice in St. Paul, who said, “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

In recent years, Protestant irony has been in short supply. From both the Religious Right and the current president we have been subjected to a theology of victory, that which Martin Luther once called the “theology of glory,” a triumphal Christianity. No self-reflection, no sense of “I do the very thing I hate,” no anticipation of wisdom turning into folly.

Contrasting the theology of glory, Luther identified “the theology of cross.” Like Niebuhr’s irony, the theology of the cross understands human limitations, recognizes suffering, and acts in humility. It is the way of grace-filled risk, of trusting God—not armies or policies or ideologies or our own righteousness—to bring peace. St. Paul, Martin Luther, Reinhold Niebuhr—all voices of the cross.

These strains—triumphal or ironic, hubris or humility, of glory or the cross—have competed for the soul of American Protestantism since its beginnings. And, as expected, the more modest voices have often been less heard, perhaps because they represent the deepest place of Protestant spirituality. After nearly two decades of certainty, no wonder the Democrats sounded that note on Monday night—and it was refreshing to hear it. I was not only surprised by how well these Democrats spoke about faith, but that they sounded like Reinhold Niebuhr while doing it!

The irony of American history is clearer than ever. As Niebuhr wrote, we are “involved in irony because so many dreams of our nation have been so cruelly refuted by history.” Iraq? New Orleans? The gap between rich and poor? Will we have a political theology of triumphalism or irony? A theology of glory or the cross? Thank goodness we may well have a choice in the next presidential election.

Diana Butler Bass (http://www.dianabutlerbass.com/) holds a Ph.D. in American religion from Duke University and is the author of the award-winning Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper SanFrancisco, 2006).



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Wolverine

posted June 6, 2007 at 6:45 pm


And all this time I thought the President was a political leader, not a theologian. Look, I think its interesting to hear about our political leaders and their views on God. But my interest in their religion is only to the extent that this affects their policy decisions. And that link must be shown, not assumed. Wolverine



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 7:16 pm


I too am interested in a candidate’s religion to the extent that it affects policy decisions. But I think we need and deserve to know more than that. While we don’t vote for a theologian when we vote for president, all presidents HAVE been theologians to an extent; some of course more than others. Lincoln expressed theology when he said that he was less concerned about God’s being on our side than he was with our being on His side. Reagan was acting as a theologian when he described America in biblical terms, as a “shining city on a hill.” And after all, we have certainly witnessed where the theology of glory, hubris, and triumphalism has led us over the past six years. The next election will probably be our most crucial and momentous election in my voting lifetime, and I’ve been voting for presidents since 1972. If the next President–whoever he or she be; whichever party he or she is from–can articulate a theology of the cross, humility, and irony, he or she will be that much closer to getting this voter’s support, I can say that for sure. Peace,



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Payshun

posted June 6, 2007 at 7:46 pm


Luther is an example of Protestanitism. He was a staunch cultural warrior, a deeply spiritual man, an author of genocide and a racist. The parallels between him and this president are striking. I don’t know if Bush is a racist or not. But they share some startling similarities. Both disliked the underclass and favored the aristocracy. Both heard from God and would twist it to their own selfish and broken ends. Both men have extemely strong egos.Bush’s spirituality and religion have already shown a link to his policy decisions. Look at the faith based initiative or his decision to invade Iraq, his faith informed and confirmed what he felt to be right. Either one of those show a level of foolishness that are hard to ignore. Faith should not just do that. It should destroy what we think and build us into the immortal godly people that we are. Unfortunately Bush does not necessarily demonstrate that. p



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canucklehead

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:16 pm


Right on, Diana. Your thots represent Christian theology from an American perspective as opposed to American theology from a Christian perspective that some of us outside the U.S. have come to disdain.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:26 pm


Presidents are not called to be, nor should they necessarily aspire to be, theologians. However, thoughtful Christians act out of theological worldviews, how each of us handles our callings in the world from certain spiritual and intellectual predispositions. In the last six years, we have witnessed a disposition of theological certainly being expressed in policy, international affairs, and domestic politics. Although no theologian, George Bush has acted in theological ways that have undermined the credibility of both the nation and the Gospel. These candidates, who are also not theologians, expressed a Christian disposition of irony and human limitation, almost a mirror opposite of President Bush’s theology. I hope that means they will enact policies, international affairs, and domestic politics from a perspective of humility and ironic incompleteness rather than spiritual hubris.We aren’t voting on theologian-in-chief–nor do I want to cast such a vote. But we will be voting on both the policies and the character of a person, including his or her most deeply held spiritual and ethical commitments. And these Democratic candidates reveled that they are, indeed, incredibly thoughtful and committed Christians–open and theologically nuanced ones–by their behavior, answers, and demeanor on Monday night. And all that said, presidents do sometimes act in theologically iconic ways–Lincoln being the exemplar–that help to define national character and vision at important moments in history. We’ve not had Niebuhrian irony in the White House since the Ford-Carter years of the mid-1970s, when each of those men demonstrated a kind of quiet grace and human limitation following the imperial presidency. Although neither of those presidents will be remembered as great, they were certainly good–and goodness was much needed as a leadership quality at the time.



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:40 pm


“Luther is an example of Protestanitism. He was a staunch cultural warrior, a deeply spiritual man, an author of genocide and a racist. The parallels between him and this president are striking. I don’t know if Bush is a racist or not. But they share some startling similarities. Both disliked the underclass and favored the aristocracy. Both heard from God and would twist it to their own selfish and broken ends. Both men have extemely strong egos.” I usually don’t disagree with you, Payshun, but this characterization of Luther is shallow at best, blatantly inaccurate at worst. Luther certainly didn’t author genocide. Some of his ideas, taken out of their contexts and twisted by others, led to genocide, but that is hardly his responsibility. Comparing Luther to G W Bush is certainly a false analogy. They’re as unalike as two men can be. Luther *was* a theologian and a scholar; Bush is, well, you know, anything but scholarly. I don’t know where you get this kind of information, but you might want to read some more balanced accounts of Luther’s life and times. Peace,



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splinterlog

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:42 pm


And all this time I thought the President was a political leader, not a theologian. Hey, the religious righties with their god appointed Presidents made these rules. Now that the Dems are clueing in, I guess it’s only natural that they (or maybe you) don’t like the fact that there is no longer a monopolgy on political God talk. Should be interesting to see how this next election plays out. And good on Sojourners for giving the Dems the push they needed to get this into the Dem mainstream discussion.



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Sue Badeau

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:44 pm


Excellent reflection, Diana. In line with your comments, I felt that one of the most powerful aspects of the forum on Monday night was the understanding that everyone, even a spiritual person looking to God for guidance, can be and often is wrong. Each of the candidates said this in different ways, often with a touch of humor – such as Edwards’ chuckles when asked how he knew if he was hearing God’s voice or his own in response to prayer, or Clinton’s acknowledgement that she sometimes imagines God rolling His eyes at her requests. This sentiment was further captured by Obama without humor when he noted the danger in using “evil vs. good” imagery – in that it makes us less critical of ourselves. A great leader needs equal parts of chutzpah and risk-taking self-confidence on the one hand and humility and sense of his or her own “smallness” in the world on the other. I think we witnessed a glimmer of both Monday night and that gives me hope.



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Payshun

posted June 6, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Umm Don, Luther actually did say that the lower German classes should be killed by the ruling elite and when they took his ideas and ran w/ them many poor Germans were killed. What’s innacurate about that? He was a racist and a staunch cultural critique. Granted he was smart as a whip but that doesn’t excuse his role as a checkered spiritual leader and an author of thousand of German poor people being killed. I don’t understand how his words were taken out of context when they were applied to their logical conclusion. He is responsible for that whether you want to agree w/ that or not. p



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Payshun

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:09 pm


Don, His ideas about the german underclass were not taken out of context. He wrote that they should be exterminated if they did not support the rich. They were acted on and a bunch of poor people were killed.I got my information from reading his ideas, watching really complex stories about his life and reading more of his ideas. Not only that but he was openly racist against the Jewish population. How is that innacurate when we actually have his writings on the subject? I can respect his democratization of the Christian faith and his destruction of the idol of the Catholic church. I can agree w/ his decentralization of power in the church. I can even get behind his individual approach to seeking God ( not completely as he was not a fan of Christian mysticism or contemplative practice.) I can even get behind his prophetic role for calling the Catholic church out on its many excesses and corruption but I can’t ignore how much damage he actually did to the poor or Jews. I just can’t do it. Sorry. p



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Payshun

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:20 pm


His ideas about the German underclass were not taken out of context. He wrote that they should be exterminated if they did not support the rich. They were acted on and a bunch of poor people were killed. I got my information from reading his ideas, watching really complex stories about his life and reading more of his ideas. Not only that but he was openly racist against the Jewish population. How is that innacurate when we actually have his writings on the subject? I can respect his democratization of the Christian faith and his destruction of the idol of the Catholic church. I can agree w/ his decentralization of power in the church. I can even get behind his individual approach to seeking God ( not completely as he was not a fan of Christian mysticism or contemplative practice.) I can even get behind his prophetic role for calling the Catholic church out on its many excesses and corruption but I can’t ignore how much damage he actually did to the poor or Jews. I just can’t do it. Sorry. p>



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:39 pm


“Luther actually did say that the lower German classes should be killed by the ruling elite and when they took his ideas and ran w/ them many poor Germans were killed. What’s innacurate about that?” It’s totally inaccurate. Luther’s response to the peasant revolt was rooted in their notion that they could build the kingdom of God on earth by their own efforts. They got those ideas not from Luther, but from the extremist ideology and theology of Thomas Muenzer, who was convinced that the Reformation was the launching pad for God’s kingdom on earth. Luther felt that the authorities had no other option but to put down this rebellion ruthlessly. He saw the danger in the kind of theology they were espousing. That doesn’t mean he favored the aristocracy–his concern was primarily theological, I think. We can take issue with that, surely. By today’s standards, this action was horrendous. But it wasn’t genocide–he was responding to what he thought were extremely dangerous ideas and the actions that were resulting from those ideas–in what he thought was the only way possible; he was not trying to eliminate a class of people. “He was a racist and a staunch cultural critique.” Calling Luther a racist is more than a little anachronistic, it seems to me. I don’t think anyone in his time thought in those kinds of terms. In fact, in what way was he a racist? With what racial issues did he contend? Yes, he was a cultural critique. But weren’t most of his criticisms aimed at the corruption in the Roman Catholic church? He would probably be the first to admit his spiritual career was “checkered.” In that, he would follow in the footsteps of St. Paul and many others. He knew he wasn’t a saint. (He said all Christians were saints and sinners simultaneously.) He was a flawed individual, just like we all are. But he wasn’t a monster. “I don’t understand how his words were taken out of context when they were applied to their logical conclusion. He is responsible for that whether you want to agree w/ that or not.” When you wrote that, I thought you were referring to his anti-Semitism, not to the peasants revolt of 1525. His writings about the Jews, coupled with his theology of the “two kingdoms” (about which I wrote extensively on a thread last month), were certainly twisted and taken out of their contexts by later German anti-Semites, the National Socialists in particular. (And I’m not trying to excuse Luther’s anti-Semitism, though in fact he didn’t actually start out that way.) But again, regarding the peasants revolt, the ideas they were responding to were Muenzer’s, not Luther’s. I think we should be able to discuss both the good and the bad in Luther’s career without demonizing him. Peace,



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neuro_nurse

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:43 pm


The Democratic candidates appear to have taken their script straight out of God s Politics (the book) by bringing religion into the conversation. Frankly, I find wearing Christianity on one s shirtsleeve rather contrived and insincere, no matter whom the candidate is, her or his religion, or party. This country has some serious problems that need to be addressed and window dressing is a waste of time, but then, I guess that s the way people get elected to office. Hey, isn t it about time for an attack from you-know-who? Come on, tell us how it s impossible to be a Christian and a Democrat/liberal/progressive we love that broken record! Peace!



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:52 pm


“Luther actually did say that the lower German classes should be killed by the ruling elite and when they took his ideas and ran w/ them many poor Germans were killed. What’s innacurate about that?” It’s totally inaccurate. Luther’s response to the peasant revolt was rooted in their notion that they could build the kingdom of God on earth by their own efforts. They got those ideas not from Luther, but from the extremist ideology and theology of Thomas Muenzer, who was convinced that the Reformation was the launching pad for God’s kingdom on earth. Luther felt that the authorities had no other option but to put down this rebellion ruthlessly. He saw the danger in the kind of theology they were espousing. That doesn’t mean he favored the aristocracy–his concern was primarily theological, I think. We can take issue with that, surely. By today’s standards, this action was horrendous. But it wasn’t genocide–he was responding to what he thought were extremely dangerous ideas and the actions that were resulting from those ideas–in what he thought was the only way possible; he was not trying to eliminate a class of people. “He was a racist and a staunch cultural critique.” Calling Luther a racist is more than a little anachronistic, it seems to me. I don’t think anyone in his time thought in those kinds of terms. In fact, in what way was he a racist? With what racial issues did he contend? Yes, he was a cultural critique. But weren’t most of his criticisms aimed at the corruption in the Roman Catholic church? He would probably be the first to admit his spiritual career was “checkered.” In that, he would follow in the footsteps of St. Paul and many others. He knew he wasn’t a saint. (He said all Christians were saints and sinners simultaneously.) He was a flawed individual, just like we all are. But he wasn’t a monster. “I don’t understand how his words were taken out of context when they were applied to their logical conclusion. He is responsible for that whether you want to agree w/ that or not.” When you wrote that, I thought you were referring to his anti-Semitism, not to the peasants revolt of 1525. His writings about the Jews, coupled with his theology of the “two kingdoms” (about which I wrote extensively on a thread last month), were certainly twisted and taken out of their contexts by later German anti-Semites, the National Socialists in particular. (And I’m not trying to excuse Luther’s anti-Semitism, though in fact he didn’t actually start out that way.) But again, regarding the peasants revolt, the ideas they were responding to were Muenzer’s, not Luther’s. I think we should be able to discuss both the good and the bad in Luther’s career without demonizing him. Peace,>



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 9:53 pm


Sorry for the double posting–we seem to be having technical problems again.>



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Carl Copas

posted June 6, 2007 at 10:05 pm


Diana, One of your finest pieces IMHO.Certainly, Niebuhrian irony has been absent from the American political arena for far too long. I worry, however, that our politics have been so infantilized (both parties share blame)that irony can’t find a place. Irony is grown-up stuff; to appreciate it, to learn from it requires maturity and requires humility. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions that Christians can make is, when preaching the gospel, to underscore human limitation. Praise God, with whom all things are possible.



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Doug

posted June 6, 2007 at 10:08 pm


The Dems are playing you for fools. They could care less about your faith and what you believe. The Dems who care only about power saw a poll that said 40 percent of the people who actually vote go to church. The same poll said churchgoers overwhemily vote republican as well. I am not stupid enough to not think that Rebublicans do the same things. It is just that Rebublicans in my view share the same the values as I do. An interseting note is that none of the three dems could say or name Jesus. That is a big clue as to what they believe. Sure they have faith, everybody does but in what? It would be hard to conclude based on actions and words of the three Dems that they are talking about the Jesus of the bible. Just like typical Libs they believe in a watered down Jesus. Please I implore you open your ears and eyes before it is too late. Please do not throw your support behind such Godless people.



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jesse

posted June 6, 2007 at 10:51 pm


Diana, I think you read too much into the candidates statements and neglect the context in which they were given. The truth is that if you put Bush or any Republican candidate in such a setting and asked them several questions about their theology, they would likely give the same scripted soundbite answers. I hate to burst your bubble, but this is politics we’re talking about here.



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 11:50 pm


“Hey, isn t it about time for an attack from you-know-who? Come on, tell us how it s impossible to be a Christian and a Democrat/liberal/progressive we love that broken record!” Neuro_nurse, I think your wish was granted, though not by the one you had in mind. Still, Doug’s comments on the same topic will do in a pinch. By the way Doug–be careful who you label as “godless.” Remeber the Scripture about not judging another’s servant? Who are we to judge the heart of another? And you might want to read Diana’s blog a bit more carefully. You wrote: “An interseting note is that none of the three dems could say or name Jesus.” Diana wrote: “Edwards spoke easily of Jesus (even extending the syllables Je-ee-sus in that particularly southern way) …” Peace,



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Don

posted June 6, 2007 at 11:58 pm


Carl wrote: “Irony is grown-up stuff; to appreciate it, to learn from it requires maturity and requires humility.” It also takes critical thinking ability to even *recognize* it. Something that’s sorely lacking in our sound-byte age. Thanks for your comments, Carl.



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neuro_nurse

posted June 7, 2007 at 12:17 am


Doug, The Republicans are playing you for fools… …and if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain t gonna make it with anyone anyhow, that is; do you expect me to give you much credence when you start your post off that way? It sounds like the beginning of a diatribe which, in fact, your post is.They could care less about your faith and what you believe.How much less could they care? I could *not* care less how much you think they care.The Dems who care only about power saw a poll that said 40 percent of the people who actually vote go to church. The same poll said churchgoers overwhemily vote republican as well. (sic) Which poll? Cite your source.An interseting note is that none of the three dems could say or name Jesus. (sic) Were you there? Did you read a transcript? DBB wrote, Edwards spoke easily of Jesus (even extending the syllables Je-ee-sus in that particularly southern way) It would be hard to conclude based on actions and words of the three Dems that they are talking about the Jesus of the bible.Which actions? Be specific, because I have no idea what you are talking about. I could just as easily say that gw bush has done nothing remotely resembling Christian behavior since taking office, but you would want me to give you specific examples for us to begin to have a discussion about it. I can only conclude that you either a) believe that what you are referring to is a priori knowledge, or b) you don t want to engage in a conversation about your opposition to the Democratic candidates.Just like typical Libs they believe in a watered down Jesus. I do not consider myself to be a typical liberal, and I hope you do not consider yourself to be a typical conservative.Why don t you try to talk about specific behaviors of specific people rather than generalize your negative feelings about those behaviors to everyone under a particular umbrella? Would it be fair for someone from another country to generalize her or his feelings about a specific U.S. citizen or group of citizens to all U.S. citizens? Would it be fair of me to generalize my feelings about a particular group of people who identify themselves as conservatives – say, the Ku Klux Klan, or the members of the Westboro Baptist Church – to you? Peace!



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Don

posted June 7, 2007 at 12:51 am


“This sentiment was further captured by Obama without humor when he noted the danger in using “evil vs. good” imagery – in that it makes us less critical of ourselves.” I totally concur with Barak Obama on this point. The constant us vs. them, good vs. evil that we’ve been hearing has always made me nervous. It precludes necessary self-criticism (the parable of the speck in another’s eye and the beam in one’s own comes to mind), and it’s bad theology. Thanks, Sue. Peace,



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Al Shaw

posted June 7, 2007 at 1:35 am


I really appreciated the insights in this article and found them very helpful. Thanks. Perhaps you might like to do a similar piece on political leaders here in the UK where the range of theological positions would be considerably broader!



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 2:41 am


It’s totally inaccurate. Luther’s response to the peasant revolt was rooted in their notion that they could build the kingdom of God on earth by their own efforts. They got those ideas not from Luther, but from the extremist ideology and theology of Thomas Muenzer, who was convinced that the Reformation was the launching pad for God’s kingdom on earth. Me: well that’s not entirely true. Luther felt a very strong tie to the rich and said in his own words that the peasents should be destroyed not just because of the percieved threat they represented but also to solidify the power the rich already had. He exhorted the rich to completely destroy them and they did, man, woman and child. Sorry there is no justification there. The German aristocracy went overboard in their defense and they did that seeking Luther’s approval and he gave it. He’s accountable for that.Don: We can take issue with that, surely. By today’s standards, this action was horrendous. But it wasn’t genocide–he was responding to what he thought were extremely dangerous ideas and the actions that were resulting from those ideas–in what he thought was the only way possible; he was not trying to eliminate a class of people. Me: You are absolutely right. Poor choice of words. How about massacres? his words condoned massacres of the German poor armed or not, and the destruction of the Jews. His words included calling the Jews “the devil’s people,” “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” “venomous beasts, vipers, disgusting scum, canders, devils incarnate. Their private houses must be destroyed and devastated, they could be lodged in stables. Let the magistrates burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them force to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs in order not to expose ourselves to incurring divine wrath and eternal damnation from the Jews and their lies.” Those comments make him racist because he believed that they were beneath him on nothing more than their religion and ethnicity. Does that answer your question? Don: I think we should be able to discuss both the good and the bad in Luther’s career without demonizing him. Me: I am sorry but I don’t think calling him what he was demonizes him. He advocated killing innocent people and the German government agreed. He advocated destroying Jews and the people agreed. He is partially responsible for much of the Christian theology that supported the persecution of thousands of people. He won’t get a pass on that from me. I don’t understand why you are so eager to give him one especially when he advocated belief in the saving grace of Christ alone.p



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 3:13 am


Just like typical Libs they believe in a watered down Jesus. Me: Isn’t this more true of Conservatives? *winks* I think everyone wants a watered down version of Jesus because each of us are afraid to live out all the aspects of the gospel. All of us are afraid to be naked infront of God and see the brokeness that characterizes our humanity. Most are afraid to find out that more persecution would come from the socalled religious elite then the actual world just like it did for Jesus. p



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JimII

posted June 7, 2007 at 5:13 am


“Just like typical Libs they believe in a watered down Jesus.” Libs like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly did not believe in a watered down Jesus. I did a little searching, it turns out the Bible talks more about poverty than homosexuality and more about peace than abortion. Is anyone surprised? Prophetic Progress: Something entirely not scientific



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HASH(0x129873f0)

posted June 7, 2007 at 6:09 am


“Libs like Abraham Lincoln….” Lincoln was a Republican. “I did a little searching, it turns out the Bible talks more about poverty than homosexuality and more about peace than abortion. Is anyone surprised?” Not really. According to Jesus, we will always have the poor with us; and homosexuality is a modern concept, so it is hardly surprising that the Bible doesn’t talk about it (although it does condemn acts of that sort). The Bible does talk about peace more than abortion, which is a very specific violation of peace. The aborted unborn experience no peace during their short time on earth. That’s a peace & justice issue, is it not?



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Bill R.

posted June 7, 2007 at 6:16 am


Thank you, Diana. Edifying review of the candidates forum. This is a good thing, to hold the candidates to a vision of their values inspired by religious belief and a daily practice of faith. I think it was unnecessary that John Edwards be asked what his greatest sin was, and irrelevant. Jim’s question about their commitment to the Gospel of justice and healing for the poor was excellent. It is notable that the MSM didn’t focus much on that but rather on the personal dilemmas of the candidates, such as, Hillary’s marital crisis, or John Edward’s sins. That said your comments about the sense of irony and humility that the true exercise of a faithfilled life brings us, as John Edwards says, the continuing discernment to know the difference between God’s will and self-will. Sadly we have a president who conflates the two, and has said publicly (last election cycle to a group of Amish) that he is the instrument and voice of God.



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Robert Bennett

posted June 7, 2007 at 9:40 am


First, values. Niebuhr wrote of virtue and vice, not values. The reason? While merely being values themselves, virtue and vice are pegged to absolute standards. Consequently, it is absolute standards that transform virtue and vice from mere values to moral commands demanding loyalty and commitment. This is why when the word “values” is used to describe Christian moral commands, my stomach churns. Apparently, Christians no longer believe that God’s moral commands enjoy an absolute source or character. Sad. Next, since values serve all purposes, being first derived from purpose themselves, I fail to see how any set of values supports social justice more than any other. Isn’t it true that one’s values permit him to argue that society is just now, even if his purposes for doing so are greed for power, social status and money? And since this is true, isn’t just as permissible to argue that society is unjust now, even if his purposes for doing so are greed for power, social status and money? In sum, I see no logical support for any absolute definition of social justice in values. Consequently, the term “social justice” serves all purposes. Finally, isn’t it irreducibly arrogant to imagine that there’s a political, i.e. an entirely man-made, fix for poverty? Given the weight of scripture, science and history, which show that no such thing exists as a political fix for poverty, doesn’t humility counsel abandoning this ridiculous crusade? The west is the world’s richest region, yet Christianity is dying out here. Africa is the world’s poorest region, yet Christianity is blooming there. This dynamic implies that Christ’s reasons for ministering to the poor were twofold: A higher probability for success and compassion. So why not follow Christ’s example and minister to the poor instead of enlisting them as cannon-fodder in a doomed political cause? Peace (is not a political construct).



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jerry jurries

posted June 7, 2007 at 3:29 pm


i see that butler bass has put on the sojo mantle of bush bashing. and…embraced the leading democratic contenders. leaving out the possibility that republicans might also be good leaders with spiritual ideas acceptable to both God and butler bass. i wonder why so many republicans get elected? do they represent a majority of americans? looking for historical clones will not produce the political leadership we are all looking for. how can these liberals wax on about the past when we know they want to change everything away from what made this country great. what obama, clinton and edwards said was what we all expected them to say. we have no idea what they will do based on what they said. i see no love for jesus in what obama says.



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm


Jerry, Liberals want to change the things that are destroying this country. We want to see the gap between rich and poor diminish. Your side doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the poor but you see the gap between the three classes as something to enforce and support. That’s something we liberals just can’t get behind. p



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Chuck Cosimano

posted June 7, 2007 at 4:38 pm


Politicians will say anything that they feel that they need to get votes. Ignore their words, see what they actually do.



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moderatelad

posted June 7, 2007 at 5:29 pm


Anonymous | 06.07.07 – 12:14 am | # The Bible talks more about how to handle money than murder…your point being? There are many things that the Bible address with a few statements but they are direct and to the point. Others take more print to give the full story about the Almighty desire on how we should handle some things. I personally would like to get past the abortion – homo issues and on to something that is more in dealing with the majority of the people. But – when it is bring brought to court, gov’t bodies etc. so that they can fulfill their agenda – you want people like me to shut-up. Sorry – we have just as much right to have our say as they. But then I think you might be someone like Hillary Clinton where faith is ‘private’. You would like us to be ‘private’ too so that others can have their say without us. Not going to happen. So I will deal with educational issues and helping legal immigrants learn english and assisting in at risk children in our schools. But I will have to devote less time because there are other issues that are important to me and I need to spend sometime in those areas. My community needs me and others to do our part. Have a great day. .>



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Don

posted June 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm


Payshun: “I don’t understand why you are so eager to give [Luther a pass] especially when he advocated belief in the saving grace of Christ alone.” Not trying to give him a pass. Trying to put his life and legacy in perspective. Think it’s wrong to judge the life and work of someone who lived 500 years ago by current standards. That’s all. “i see no love for jesus in what obama says.” jerry jurries Jerry, you might want to read “The Audacity of Hope.” I think you might be pleasantly surprised. At any rate, and I’ve said this before, who are we to judge the heart of someone who claims to be Christian? We don’t really know our own hearts, let alone someone else’s, especially someone we have never met personally and only know through media reports. Having said all that, that doesn’t mean I will vote for Obama. It’s way too early to know which candidate will earn my vote. But I like what I’ve seen in him so far. Peace,>



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 7:12 pm


Not trying to give him a pass. Trying to put his life and legacy in perspective. Think it’s wrong to judge the life and work of someone who lived 500 years ago by current standards. That’s all. Me: but the standards I am judging him by are the standards that are universal and timeless. Saying he was racist and judging it from a Jewish perspective is the right thing to do. The other way reeks of respective the antisemitic, classist paradigm he lived under. But I can see your point. I will just agree to disagree and leave it at that. Mod said: The Bible talks more about how to handle money than murder…your point being? Me: Focus on spending money and loving the poor over worrying about same sex stuff. p>



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Sarasotakid

posted June 7, 2007 at 7:13 pm


i wonder why so many republicans get elected? do they represent a majority of americans? JERRY Well, based on the last round of Congressional elections, they don’t. That doesn’t mean that the Dems have a monopoly on being the majority party either- if they act in a corrupt manner, they too should be booted. As for seeing the love of Jesus in Obama, I don’t know what you’re getting at. I have not seen much of Christ in unjust and unjustified wars either.



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Sarasotakid

posted June 7, 2007 at 7:15 pm


Good point, Chuck



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Mikail

posted June 7, 2007 at 7:21 pm


Diane Butler Bass proposes a politics of humility rather than a politics of hubris. Humility, humus (the earthy kind), and humor all come from the same root. So a politics of humility would be one that is grounded. A political approach that does not take one’s self or the world too seriously in dealing with truly serious situations. I find that to be something I could support. Mikail>



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm


Correction: THe other way reeks of the antisemitic, classist paradigm he lived under and I can’t support that. p>



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jerry jurries

posted June 7, 2007 at 8:26 pm


thanks paysun. the problem is who gets to decide what needs to be changed. and should government change it? i don’t think Jesus was a social engineer. he pretty much asked people to change, sorta like individual responsibility, not forcing change. in good old u s a we do this with representative government abiding by the rules set out by our representatives. right now the conservative side seems to prevail. much to the dismay of the liberals. you wanna make the rules using sojo renewal philosophy, tell your representatives to stop taking bribes and change the rules.>



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Payshun

posted June 7, 2007 at 8:35 pm


Jerry said: thanks paysun. the problem is who gets to decide what needs to be changed. and should government change it? Me: Isn’t that what your side has been doing since it got power. They have consistently decided to choose the rich over the poor leaving them in lurch at every turn. So to answer your question we all get to decide how things are changed and it is our responsibility as citizens and Christians to make sure that the poor are taken care of by any means necessary. THe conservative side is now loosing decisively and yes as hippy green party activist that little part makes me a little happier but at the same time the Democrats are no better and I wish to God we could nuke both parties. It would make things a lot more interesting and actually force the apathetic, overworked American citizen to place a higher value on civic discourse and civics in general. p>



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 7, 2007 at 8:36 pm


neuro_nurse Could you bring me up to date here . I for one am glad there is a strong faith among liberal politcal candidates , but your right it is window dressing . I am guilty of believing Faith was not important to most democrats , Not just from their positions , but have you looked through liberal politcial blogs . They are dominated not only by unbelievers , but those who really have a problem with religion in general . So people like myself who only are involved in liberal politcs from a far , get the impression that they really have a small value for not only Faith , but those who have it . Question one my liberal friend , do you ever have conflict with these same people , or is their like an unwritten truce ?>



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mick Sheldon

posted June 7, 2007 at 9:19 pm


Payshun
You actually believe this when your wrote it ?
“We want to see the gap between rich and poor diminish. Your side doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the poor but you see the gap between the three classes as something to enforce and support”
I am sure liberals want to make the world better , liberal Christians anyway . But your self serving view of people you disagree with is a sure sign to me that your not some one that can understand the issues, if you can not even understand those who disagree with you .



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neuro_nurse

posted June 7, 2007 at 9:55 pm


Mick Sheldon, do you ever have conflict with these same people , or is their like an unwritten truce ? Good question. I ve been very offended by some of the things I ve read on liberal blogs. A lot of people seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of Christianity, and some have generalized their feelings to religion in total. I m Catholic, and even on this blog I ve some times come across the attitude that the Church has lost its moral credibility because of the sexual abuses. Those were tragic and criminal, but really don t have any effect on my relationship with the Church or with Christ. The same goes for other Christians who have used the pulpit and the gospel un-lovingly and insensitively. Even on this blog, we see people at both ends of the political spectrum generalize their feelings about the behaviors of some people on the other end of the spectrum to all people of that political leaning. The right condemns the left, the left condemn the right, and nothing gets accomplished but a lot of finger pointing and name calling. There are two points I would like to make, and this pertains to both liberals and conservatives: 1) One of the primary reasons voluntary-response surveys are not considered scientific is that a large percentage of people who respond do so because they have strong feelings about the subject. I seriously doubt most people sitting at home watching CNN call in to those opinion polls. There s one that I ve seen in the Internet, Do you like George Bush? Yes or no? The point being that the most vocal people are the ones who have strong opinions or feelings about the topic. They do not represent the majority by any means, but they d like us to think they do. 2) For the most part, blogs are anonymous, so people write things to and about each other they would not dare say to the other s face. A lot of posts I have read on any blog I have visited are people shooting off their virtual mouth. In a public forum, that kind of behavior would be considered extremely rude. I don t think any of us would be spending the time we do here if we didn t have strong feelings and perhaps, an agenda of our own. Would any Democrat really want to exclude a Christian from the party? Not if she or he has a working knowledge of basic math and wants to see a Democrat elected to office. If 70% of U.S. citizens identify themselves as Christians, then it takes a significant number of Christian voters to get a Democrat into office. There just aren t that many atheists/secularists/whatever-you-want-to-call-them in this country. Would some of them like us to keep our mouths shut? Sure, but aren t there conservatives who would like to silence certain voices within the Republican Party? So, in answer to your question, outside of cyberspace, I rarely have conflicts with non-believing liberals I can t really say I know that many. But then, I also associate with a lot of conservatives, and while we have disagreements, for the most part, we keep the tone civil. Peace!>



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neuro_nurse

posted June 7, 2007 at 10:13 pm


jerry jurries i see that butler bass has put on the sojo mantle of bush bashing. In the ten paragraphs of DBB s post there was a single mention of the current president. In the response posted on this thread she made two critical observations about bush. When did criticism become tantamount to bush-bashing? I also did not read any thing in her posts that either a) endorsed a Democratic candidate, or b) inferred that a Republican candidate could not be effective and acceptable. in good old u s a we do this with representative government abiding by the rules set out by our representatives. right now the conservative side seems to prevail. much to the dismay of the liberals. Did you forget about the 2006 election? Does that not dismay you? Were you dismayed when Clinton was in office? Were you critical of him, dare we say, bash him? Sauce for the goose, my friend. Peace!>



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 8, 2007 at 1:06 am


Thanks neuro_nurse , I have often wondered about that . In the state I live in , after the Pat Robertson deal there was a big split among Conservative Christians and what is called Mainstream Republicans . The Mainstream was outnumbered by this surge of in experienced political Conservative folks , and really resented it . I don’t see it really on this side of the state anymore , I live near Seattle and its very left leaning . This is great to me that there are Christians in the democrats getting a voice . I just hope they change some of the focus groups from the left . I wish some of the leaders of this Sojourners organization used more tact in how they depicted Christians on the Right side of issues . It will back fire , the right does that and ended up just singing to the choir . True the choir is large , but its not that big . You forget , bigot , racist , etc are often implied or directed when people are promoting equality , honesty , and integrity from this side of the debate also . We tend to see our own offences I guess, the Body of Christ has got to get past the offences . Christ taught us that taking the offence when someone mistreats us is actually a sin . John Bevere wrote a great Book called the Bait of Satan . Quite good , first I did not even realized how many times the Lord spoke of it , and when someone insults us we do not look Like Christ giving him or her the old back at you . Especially hard in politics these days . Many of the Conservative talk shows and religious shows had FDR’s D Day prayer yesterday . I would love to have a lefty in office who saw Praying to God as an important part of his life . At least I knew he was listening to Someone “God” I knew if not me . Also I have seen many polls that have seen those who attend church regularly do vote republican . I take that because it is Bibically understandable to be pro life , The Pope is , most Evangelical Churches promote it. Marriage between a man and women is seen as an important aspect of our family units that promote the Best home for kids . Most Christians do believe that a man and women was designed by God with important characteristics that are important to children . Thats not unusual or is it hatefull. The person with a different orienation in my Bibical understanding would be better off receiving love from a Mom and Dad . I suggest the intolerance is also from the other side of this issue depicting hatred instead of Bibical common sense. It has become a big issue because the left supports it . The aspect of the left that is Christ like is for promoting homosexuals to be not mis treated or shown intolerance . But allowing the debate to get to marriage is indeed not about tolerance anymore , its about what is best for all of us . Including homosexuals . But the fact , your one of the first liberal democrats I have found on a blog that makes much sense . Hope you don’t mind me picking on you to translate for me . Thanks , In Christ , Mick>



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Paul Gillis

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:25 am


Great posting.
You hit the nail on the head by recognizing that we are now moving away from the theology of glory that gave us Jerry Falwell and George W. Bush and towards the theology of the cross which recognizes God’s solidarity with us in suffering and hopefully will help us to approach the world with humility rather than arrogance.



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Sarasotakid

posted June 8, 2007 at 8:57 am


Well said, Chuck.



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Anonymous

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:18 am


Mr. Jurries, I supposed you missed Republican Pat Robertsons’ business (Christian Broacasting Network) take on the event: Clinton, Obama and Edwards helped themselves last night. These faith conferences further the discussion about religion and politics and that’s always a good thing.”
To answer your question about why so many Republicans get elected it is mostly because their candidates usually have more money, they are supported by the most powerful elite, and they certainly have superior marketing skills.



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Payshun

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:29 am


So Mick,
Please explain what you think about the gap between rich and poor instead of questioning my intelligence because I find the rhetoric and concern for the poor lacking on your side. But then again I find it lacking on the democrats too. Please defend yourself and your side on the poor.
p



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steve

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:48 am


Mr Jurries: Your words seem harsh but I will answer your valid question. But first, did you not see Republican Pat Robertsons’ business (Christian Broadcasting Network) comments? They are: Clinton, Obama and Edwards helped themselves last night. These faith conferences further the discussion about religion and politics and that’s always a good thing.”
Republicans win because their candidates usually have more money to campaign, they are backed by the most powerful and elite in most any given community, and they have superior marketing skills, by far.



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Payshun

posted June 8, 2007 at 11:55 am


Mick:
I am sure liberals want to make the world better, liberal Christians anyway. But your self serving view of people you disagree with is a sure sign to me that you’re not some one that can understand the issues, if you can not even understand those who disagree with you.
Me:
First your premises about my comments being self serving are patently false. I gain nothing from what I wrote. It doesn’t justify or make me righteous or superior to your side, just different. Second questioning my intelligence and ability to “understand” the issues reveals the flaw to your Republican Party and its ideology. Mick you just did what you accuse me of doing. Not only that but I have no faith in the Democratic Party either. There is very little difference between those two parties and I find both of them disgusting for different reasons. But a lot of my disgust comes from the spinelessness of the Democratic Party. They are weak and that’s never attractive. The Republican Party is clueless and I have no problem saying that when it comes to domestic issues. They only seem to focus on the rich and getting richer, creating legislation to always support their true base while ignoring the needs of the middle class and the urban poor and everyone that fits in-between. So you can get offended all you want, question my intelligence or whatever and you can slam the non Christian community but I don’t see how your party is any better.
p



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grubedoo

posted June 8, 2007 at 12:51 pm


Call my view less optimistic, but I think politicians will use any means necessary to get a vote. If Druidism was the fashion of the day they would be sharing their personal reflections about their life as pertains to their beliefs in it. As it is, “Christianity” is the hot ticket so that’s what they’re talking about.
The religious right got hood-winked the last two elections now it seems that the religious left is about to take the same bait.



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 8, 2007 at 1:46 pm


Why republicans get elected , the same reasons democrats get elected .
Some people see government’s role as protecting us , fixing the roads , making sure the water gets to your home and is clean Basic functions . . Some people see the government’s role as providing that and more , some see the governments role going beyond the safety net for people .
To try to say my Christ is better then your Christ because of either of those views is redundant . HOW you debate those views certainly will have something with your view and relationship with Christ .



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Stacia

posted June 8, 2007 at 3:14 pm


Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?



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grubedoo

posted June 8, 2007 at 4:17 pm


Call my view less optimistic, but I think politicians will use any means necessary to get a vote. If Druidism was the fashion of the day they would be sharing their personal reflections about their life as pertains to their beliefs in it. As it is, “Christianity” is the hot ticket so that’s what they’re talking about.
The religious right got hood-winked the last two elections now it seems that the religious left is about to take the same bait.



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moderatelad

posted June 9, 2007 at 8:48 pm


Of all the people on stage if I had to vote for one is would have to be Wallis – the only one I could trust.
Have a great day -
.



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Luther Butler

posted December 7, 2007 at 12:36 am


I pick a president the same way I do a surgeon. The surgeon I pick must have skill and knowledge rather than correct theology. The president I vote for must have the wisdom to know when to use violence wisely and not get us into war without a good reason. The president must have the ability to analyze any situation and act in such away that it will help all the people and not just a few. If the president that meets my criteria is a believer that is good, but I will not pick a leader on his or her theology.



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