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Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#90 Being pro-life while simultaneously supporting the war

posted by Stephanie Drury

One of the tenets of Christianity is that life is sacred. Because of this Christians oppose abortion. They could talk about it till the cows come home.

By and large, people in Christian culture also support the war in Iraq. The considerable loss of innocent life during war doesn’t seem to strike them as any sort of inconsistency.

Christian culture isn’t big on entertaining the notion that their political views could be anything other than what God has decreed. Abortion and war aren’t very savory subjects in the first place. They become more palatable when we form black-and-white views on them (from either political side) and cling to them unflinchingly. This often happens at the expense of relationships with whom we disagree. But Jesus taught that relationships and love are a priority, and that politics aren’t of much consequence.


It’s a lot easier to place issues in a box (whether they’re liberal or conservative) and deal with them remotely, without engaging the people who hold them.

**This post originally aired on July 19, 2009, and warranted reposting after reading this from Bush’s memoirs.



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noah

posted November 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm


I go to a Mennonite church. We are pacifists. We don’t support war or voilence, however many folks are pro-choice. How do we get around that one?
Reading this article, I was like, “Hell yeah! Hell yeah! Those people are hypocrites, oh….wait, flip the issues and I do the same thing”. Doh!



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Stephen Charles

posted November 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm


That’s why I think there is a difference between “pro-life” and “anti-abortion.” If you’re pro-life then you have a lot more work to do to be consistent to ex-vitro life as you are to in-vitro life than if you’re merely anti-abortion which is really only concerned for in-vitro life.
Catholics seem way better at being pro-life than Protestants (of the evangelical variety). When these Prot’s say they’re pro-life they really mean they’re anti-abortion, but since they’re so vulnerable to political strategery they succoumb to spinning things into a sunny-sounding terminology, and out pops “pro-life.” Then there’s the whole question of what do particular politics (of sex or war) have to do with religion in the first place?



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Dennis

posted November 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm


There’s also the notion that, while fetuses are completely innocent as they haven’t had time to sin yet, the adults we’re fighting against clearly have done wrong, or else we wouldn’t be fighting them. Also, war is presented as a perfectly viable option in God’s eyes in the Old Testament for getting rid of people who do bad stuff.
It’s a tough balance sometimes… should we go to war to help people who are suffering? Either way, people will die.



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Dennis

posted November 17, 2010 at 2:29 pm


My last post was of the “devil’s advocate” sort, btw. I tend to believe we should stay out of other countries’ business as much as possible. “Do unto others,” remember? Would we like other countries invading the U.S. just because they think we’re doing something wrong, or to “help out” against a perceived threat? No, we would not.



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Brent White

posted November 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm


Noah, I wish everyone could see the contradictions in their own religious tradition as clearly as you. Don’t most Christians select a church that reflects their own political biases? Why wouldn’t they think that God is on their side? You ask, “How do we get around that one?” They would argue, I’m sure, that making abortion safe and legally available ensures the health and welfare of the mother. So their pro-choice position, they would say, is also in the interest of life.
Stephen, I agree about Catholics to some extent, except that nearly every election cycle, we hear about bishops threatening to deny Communion to this or that (Democratic) Catholic politician who supports a legal right to abortion. I have a leftward leaning Catholic friend who no longer votes for Democrats because they generally support legal abortion. On the one hand, that seems very principled, but what about all the other un-Christian and anti-”life” stuff they end up voting for? Why don’t Catholic leaders also go after Republican politicians who support the wars in the Middle East and capital punishment—both of which are opposed by the Catholic Church? Why do they pick and choose? Why is abortion uniquely evil that it should be singled out the way it has been?
In the realm of politics, especially, war and capital punishment seem equally worthy of Catholic disapprobation. After all, the government (to my knowledge) doesn’t force women to have abortions. Abortion is a private decision, and if there weren’t already a demand for it, doctors wouldn’t supply the service. It’s certainly true that abortion will continue to some extent whether it’s safe and legal or not. By contrast, only a government (which is led mostly by elected officials) can choose to wage war or kill people through capital punishment.
So if you’re Catholic, I would love to know the answer to that. I fail to see the logic.



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ransacker

posted November 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Having certain pro-choice leanings makes me a pariah in the fundy camp often. However, after having been the scrub technician on “procedures”, I am pretty revolted by it. I’ve witnessed decapitations, eviscerations, all matter of gore, and this was the only time I ever threw up in my mouth. It really bothered me. What do I do with that? I won’t work those anymore. I am opposed to the two current wars because they are tactical blunders, not because I am a true pacifist. I am not that pure. Sometimes violence is the last resort. On the other hand, I am against the death penalty for a complex set of ideas. I’d rather have killers here where they can have consciousness of their misdeed. Why rush the tearful reunion w/ the Hereafter? And if there is indeed a hell, it’ll still be there when they come around.
Conflicted. Complicated.



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Stepehen Charles

posted November 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm


Brent, I’m confessionally Reformed. I couldn’t explain the logic. I don’t get it either. I ask the same questions you do. I just think that Catholics, though, can be better than evangies at being consistently pro-life. That said, I really don’t get the pro-life outlook no matter it being Catholic or evangie. It seems resistent to the reality that people die, sometimes due to sickness, sometimes due to human policy. I always sense an underlying pushback against Jesus’ own words to lay down our own temporal lives in order to gain eternal life. It flirts with an idolizing of that highest temporal good, life. When it comes to abortion, it’s almost as if pro-lifers think the unborn are special creatures who are somehow entitled to be exempt from the pains and injuries of life that the rest of us aren’t. My own political views are what I’d characterize as anti-abortion, but not because some people have a so-called special “right to life” but because others don’t have a right to take the life of some at will or whim on the grounds that the former house the latter.
And I still don’t get why anybody thinks anybody’s politics should be grounds for ecclesiastical bullying. Th eonly way I think that works is to say that to act politically is the same as behaving personally. It’s one thing to say what Christian Jane may/’nt do with her unwanted pregnancy, quite another to say what she may/’nt do in the voting booth.



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Brent White

posted November 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Stephen,
I hear you. Another inconsistency: Why do Catholic and Protestant pro-lifers endorse candidates who routinely believe in exceptions to their position in the case of rape or incest? That human life growing inside the mother doesn’t know from rape or incest! Why shouldn’t that life be protected if life is truly sacred?
Of course we already know the answer to that question: Because it’s incredibly unfair. It’s unfair to demand that a woman carry a child to term under these circumstances. And guess what? That’s just a few baby steps away from a pro-choice position that says it’s incredibly unfair for the state to demand that a woman to carry a child to term against her will, especially considering that the father (who is at least 50 percent responsible for her predicament) gets off scot-free. At least potentially. Maybe, if the state identifies him, they can make him pay money or child support; maybe they can even make him wear a scarlet letter on his shirt for the duration of the pregnancy identifying him as one who carelessly impregnated someone out of wedlock; but that’s hardly the same emotional, psychological, or physical cost as carrying a child to term.
And never mind other factors—economics and education—that contribute to a woman’s making the choice to have an abortion. Never mind that in some way I imagine most of us contribute to our sex-worshiping culture that tells us we should have as much sex as we please and with whomever we please, and there are no consequences. (Do we buy movie tickets and watch TV? Not to mention pornography!) Unwanted pregnancy is the unhelpful reminder that sex isn’t free of consequences. It’s as if pro-lifers are asking women with unwanted pregnancies to pay for the sins of us all—literally making scapegoats of them in the biblical sense.
And notice how pro-lifers always vilify the doctors, as if doctors would perform the service if there weren’t a demand. Why don’t they go after the women who choose to have the abortion—who are far more than 50 percent responsible for the decision, since doctors aren’t exactly going door to door selling women on abortions, right? No supply without a demand. (Note: I don’t believe in supply-side economics, either!) The problem is primarily on the demand side. After all, would any doctor perform an abortion if a woman didn’t want them to? Why don’t any of these pro-lifers say we should throw the women in jail?
Because they sense that doing so would be an unfair overreaction—the same reason, by the way, they permit abortion in the case of rape or incest. It’s a weird combination of hypocrisy and sentimentality.
All that to say, as Stephanie implies in her post, these kinds of issues are NOT clear-cut and black-and-white. I am still against legal abortion. I say that in spite of the inequity and hypocrisy, women should still be made to carry pregnancies to term—with as much financial support as necessary to make that happen. But if “my side” wants to be credible on the issue, they better get clear on the inequity and hypocrisy.



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pete

posted November 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm


Good repost, Steph……
I have voiced that incongruity a number of times myself. But the ‘faith’ of most cannot handle incongruity. Everything, to them, must have been perfectly preordained.



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Kevin

posted November 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm


So I have this long running problem with the terms of the abortion debate and I hope that nobody will mind my brief rant about it.
I am pro-choice, meaning that I don’t think that the government has any right to tell a human what medical choices they can and cannot make. I find the entire matter to be utterly sexist, by the way, an artifact of centuries of the domination and problematization of women’s bodies, and the tacit assumption that women are incapable of moral decision making. But that’s beside the point, at least for now.
But when I tell people that I am pro-choice, staunchly pro-choice even, I also have to say that I would prefer to live in a world without abortion. All of the data on abortion shows it to be a symptom of several huge problems; lack of health-awareness, rape and sexual abuse, differential access to contraception and health care, the feminization of poverty, etc. But these things are not relevant to a conversation in which one can either be a pro-choice baby-killer, or a pro-life woman-hater.
Ok, rant over.



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Alex

posted November 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm


This is probably going to seem like a trivial point to most people, but just to expand on what was said above about how the majority of people who consider themselves ‘pro-life’ really mean that they are only anti-abortion, and have no problem with the killing of people who have already been born, it’s also true that nearly all of these same people and indeed most other people are only concerned with human life, and are not that concerned about whether or not humans have the right to kill animals for food. I am not a militant vegetarian, or even a vegetarian at all for that matter. But it is not at all self-evident that we have the moral right to kill animals purely so that we can eat them. As far as I can see, the only right we have to kill animals is derived from the plain fact that, in the Western world at any rate, we have always let ourselves get away with it – and that’s an essentially Nietzschean argument. A Christian who believes that abortions ought to be illegal on the grounds that an unborn child is free of sin, but who also eats meat without worrying about the fact that the cow who died for his/her steak was also free of sin, is at best occupying an untenable moral position. Unless of course the concepts of ‘sin’ or ‘innocence’ don’t apply to animals, in which case the burden is on Christians to explain why that’s so. If the answer relies purely on religious tradition, as I suspect it does – well, that’s an untenable moral position too, but for other reasons.



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Gaypet

posted November 18, 2010 at 12:39 am


Alex, I don’t find your point trivial. But I am a vegetarian. I have a bumper sticker that says “A Hamburger Stops A Beating Heart”. So I don’t really count.
I have no problem with individuals believing whatever they want. You can get all your friends together in a corn field and wait for the mother ship if you like. But you can NOT make a law that requires me to do the same. Abortion needs to remain safe, legal and rare.
And if you want to use the bible then Exodus would be the go to book on this one. If you curse your parents you should be put to death. But if you beat the crap out of a woman and she miscarries then you should pay a fine. Bless.



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Stephen Charles

posted November 18, 2010 at 11:33 am


Another inconsistency: Why do Catholic and Protestant pro-lifers endorse candidates who routinely believe in exceptions to their position in the case of rape or incest? That human life growing inside the mother doesn’t know from rape or incest! Why shouldn’t that life be protected if life is truly sacred?
Bingo, Brent. My anti-abortion view makes no exception for sexual assault because it makes no sense. And yet, I’m not “pro-life” enough for pro-lifers because I don’t get all giddy about the sanctity of life.
But if “my side” wants to be credible on the issue, they better get clear on the inequity and hypocrisy.
Bingo again. But you have to remember as well that it’s all very much about identity politics and cultural power. When it’s about power then integrity of reasoning doesn’t count quite as much. Sigh.
But these things are not relevant to a conversation in which one can either be a pro-choice baby-killer, or a pro-life woman-hater.
Kevin, while I am not sold on your argument that abortion should be legal because it’s a big bad world (people are also impoverished, should we legalize bread stealing?), but you nail it with this sort of respective caricaturing of “the other guy.” I hate that. Choicers don’t want to kill babies anymore than lifers want to oppress women. C’mon, people.
A Christian who believes that abortions ought to be illegal on the grounds that an unborn child is free of sin…is at best occupying an untenable moral position.
Alex, to my Calvinist mind which holds that even the smallest of us are children of wrath and deserve death, this sort of reasoning on the part of Pelagian and semi-Pelagian Catholics and evangies indicates just how far apart anti-abortion and pro-life outlooks can be. My Calvinist-anti-abortion views aren’t given to emoting over babies as if they are angelic beings who are different from the rest of us blokes. And having such an errant view of sin is enough to keep these kinds of pro-lifers out of Reformed communion, which is actually more important than finding membership with others over reproductive laws. Ouch.



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Truth be told

posted November 18, 2010 at 11:55 am


“I am still against legal abortion. I say that in spite of the inequity and hypocrisy, women should still be made to carry pregnancies to term—with as much financial support as necessary to make that happen.”
This reveals the lie behind the ‘I want LESS government’ crowd. Like any government – Democrat OR Republican – is going to seek more money for this particular ‘project’ when it seems like all of America is looking to downsize/de-fund government initiatives.
A little more thinking on the topic please.
When men can get pregnant, maybe then we should give them a voice on the topic.
P.S. To Stephen Charles, re our post of November 17, 2010 1:59 PM, surely you meant “in utero” and not “in vitro”!?!?!



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Kent

posted November 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm


Dennis said “There’s also the notion that, while fetuses are completely innocent as they haven’t had time to sin yet, the adults we’re fighting against clearly have done wrong, or else we wouldn’t be fighting them. Also, war is presented as a perfectly viable option in God’s eyes in the Old Testament for getting rid of people who do bad stuff”.
Dennis, but that would be from a biblical and sensible perspective.



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Kevin

posted November 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm


Thanks for the shout-out Stephen. But to clarify my thoughts,
“I am pro-choice, meaning that I don’t think that the government has any right to tell a human what medical choices they can and cannot make.” In other words, I am pro-choice because I think banning abortion would violate the rights of the individual to control their body and to make private medical decisions. Banning abortion, in my opinion, can only be seen as coercion.
But, insofar as the abortion DEBATE is concerned, my opposition to coercion takes a back seat to the fact that there are things we can do to decrease the need for abortions. It is one thing to say that the world is scary, but world scariness is not a political problem. Systemic poverty (and the fact that women endure the worst poverty), the replacement of medical science with partisan opinion, the marketization of medical choices, and the lack-luster response of our public officials to rape and sexual abuse are, however, correctable and addressable political problems. The faster and more thoroughly we address them, the faster the abortion rate will fall.
The fact is that these ideas are beyond the limits of the abortion debate today, and because we do not address these problems when we talk about abortion, we ensure that abortion will always be more frequent than it needs to be. This is the larger point I wanted to make.



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Stephen Charles

posted November 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm


No, I think we really need to consider inherent individual rights of glass test tubes. Seriously, yeah, oops.
Kevin, fair points, but I still think the argument is weak. Who could oppose working to improve the environments that are conducive to abortion? Not me. But I fail to see the logic in letting one segment of the human population decide at will or whim the life and death of another segment of the human population simply because the former houses the latter, or because the world is conducive to abortion frequency.
Also, when you say “I am pro-choice because I think banning abortion would violate the rights of the individual to control their body,” I think this shows how both sides of the debate frame their arguments in terms of individual rights, one side applies it to a group called “women,” the other to “the unborn.” I find that very American. Yeah, I know, we’re in America, but that framing doesn’t get us very far because, like I suggested above, excpet for the fringe members on either side, choicers aren’t against babies being able to live and lifers aren’t against women’s rights. So, to my mind, in the American debate, it’s really about states’ rights. RvW is really about the rights of states to govern themselves. Contrary to what most lifers seem to think, to “overturn Roe” doesn’t mean outlawing abortion in every nook and cranny of the Union the way RvW legalizes it everywhere, it means going back to letting states decide how to regulate themselves. So, in a word, I’m not much for the individual rights of either women or babies, I’m more for the rights of states.



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Kevin

posted November 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm


Stephen, thanks for your response, though you still aren’t seeing what I’m saying.
I never said that “the world” is conducive to abortion. I do not take the specific, systemic, man-made organization of political and social life to be “the world.” I call those things that I mentioned (the feminization of poverty, marketization of health access etc) “political problems” because they are decidedly un-natural. They are the real outcomes of real people making political decisions, not the natural processes one brings to mind when they say “it’s a bad world” or that “the world is conducive to abortion.”
Now, of course both sides, myself included, frame the debate in terms of “rights”. This too is exactly what I was saying. It is just as much a problem that I enter the abortion debate with my statement about rights as it is that you take my other comments as being some sort of rationale for abortion. Neither side attempts to see what is being said, and what is being excluded. Certainly an argument that said, “abortion should be legal because there are x, y, and z problems in our society” would be “weak,” but that is not my argument (though you seem very eager to say that it is). My argument is, stated simply, that putting all of the emphasis on abortion is paying too much attention to a symptom, it prevents us from looking at those things that we can do to dramatically decrease the abortion rate. I would love for there never to have to be a need for another abortion, and I’m willing to entertain any idea that would get us there.
And while you personally wouldn’t oppose working to change the environments that engender abortion, many people are. The entire notion of teaching scientifically accurate sexual education ( what I was referring to when I moaned about partisan ideas supplanting scientific truths) has been a political issue for over 20 years now. Addressing poverty on a national level hasn’t been a political issue since the days of LBJ. Public health has been systematically defunded and replaced by “market based solutions” that are only accessible to those with money. Ensuring that women get the same pay for the same work, as a political right, STILL has yet to be taken seriously. (As a matter of fact, such a measure was just this week shot down in the legislature. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-17/pay-discrimination-bill-opposed-by-business-fails-in-senate-vote.html ) Access to medicine, not to mention family planning, is just as tenuous as it was before Obama’s reforms. Jumpin’ alligators man, it is now a political question as to whether women should or should not have to pay to prove they were raped. Minimize them if you want, but there really are people who actively try to prevent the kind of reforms I’m talking about.
None of these problems are a “natural” part of the world, they are the results of deliberate political decision making. Their exclusion from the abortion debate is what I have a problem with.



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Stephen Charles

posted November 19, 2010 at 11:13 am


Kevin, sorry if I haven’t understood your arguments.
You say, “My argument is, stated simply, that putting all of the emphasis on abortion is paying too much attention to a symptom, it prevents us from looking at those things that we can do to dramatically decrease the abortion rate. I would love for there never to have to be a need for another abortion, and I’m willing to entertain any idea that would get us there.”
Ok. I think I get this, and I think you make a fair point, which is to say that, just like any other political question, there are various complexities to consider beyond moral questions, or at least the moral questions one way or another most seem fixated upon.
Still, I don’t see how this couldn’t be applied to just about any other political question. Again, poverty is a social constant, and it’s a symptom of wider, complex problems. But I don’t see the logic in legalizing the stealing of bread simply because it might focus too much on symptoms. Stealing and taking lives is wrong.
The poor we will always have with us, and I don’t indulge fantasies that we can ever construct a world where there would never be a need for another abortion. It’s just unrealistic. And when I look at things from the perspective of the unborn (you know, compassion and all), I only have about nine months to go here, so I don’t have time to wait for the world to get its shit together so my mother has the resources she needs to reasonably bear me. IOW, sure, work on getting things that help prevent her from being in this situation again, but right now I’d kinda like to keep my life, so a law that keeps her from ending it makes a lot of sense to me. And, yeah, I know, a law won’t prevent her from doing something she’s convinced would be best, but it would only help my situation if you’d please make it that much more difficult for her.



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Kevin

posted November 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm


Now I think we’re seeing eye to eye. I’m not sold that poverty can’t be dealt with, especially in an advanced western nation. Nor am I convinced that it is a “social constant” in a universal, natural way. But, I will grant that solving poverty universally is probably not going to happen soon.
But, in terms of abortion, I would rather do all of those things that can be done to drastically decrease the abortion rate, following Sweden, France and the Netherlands, all of whom have legal abortions, all of who have dramatically lower rates of abortion. I don’t like abortion, and would do a lot to make sure that it doesn’t happen, stopping of course at outright coercion. I think the severity of the debate will decrease dramatically if our abortion rate drops to the levels of other western nations.
Compassion goes both ways, and not to open a whole new can of worms, I reserve mine for the living. Thanks for the generosity in figuring out our respective opinions.



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Rich Kennedy

posted November 20, 2010 at 11:40 pm


If you want to know why some pro-lifers concede rape and incest (and are villified by more doctrinaire pro-lifers), it is because such a concession would exempt 2% of all abortions. That is a compromise weighted extremely to the side of the pro-lifer while negating a misleading emotional argument. Most folks not wanting to illegalize abortions decline this compromise precisely because of the numbers, but many then still use the emotional argument to paint over typical reasons for abortions.



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Sarah

posted November 26, 2010 at 10:01 pm


Kevin, Stephen,
Great thread. Kevin, I’ve thought for a long time that all the arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal is fueling the existence of the practice, because people aren’t tackling the reasons abortion exists to begin with, which are all the reasons you covered.
And you’re right too that not many people actually want to change the conditions that make abortion a viable and even necessary option for many women. My dad is a staunch fundie, and in one debate/discussion/argument, I told him that no one LIKES abortion, that pro-choice people would like there to be no need for abortion, and that if both sides could stop fighting about whether or not abortion should be legal and address issues like sexual abuse and poverty and work to give women real CHOICES (because the choices that exist for a woman in crisis pregnancy SUCK — keep the baby and remain in poverty/give up education; carry the baby to term and adopt it out and cause emotional scars for self and child; or abort — what’s good about any of those options?) abortion would phase itself out.
His response? “I don’t know about that.”
He went on to mumble something about my idea being good but no one buying into it, and I about cried in frustration because so many people want to fight over the sympton but not heal the disease.



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Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus Who does not take His eye off the Righteous!

posted November 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm


AND THE LIGHT SHINETH IN DARKNESS; AND THE DARKNESS COMPREHENDED IT NOT.

Kevin says:
Compassion…I reserve mine for the living.
Mr. Incredible asks:
How does that – what you say is your “compassion” – square with Matthew 9:36?



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