Windows and Doors

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Carrie Prejean, Queen Esther and Evangelical Christians

posted by Brad Hirschfield

David Gibson’s piece on Carrie Prejean, Queen Esther and American Evangelicals was an eye-opener for me, and I am not even entirely clear about his conclusion. But the fact that the conflict-embroiled Miss USA wannabe is being touted by many Christians as a contemporary Queen Esther is pretty interesting. And in some ways, they have a point.
Like Queen Esther, Miss Prejean seems to be caught up in a controversy that is beyond either what she ever intended or even fully comprehended. Like Queen Esther, and totally unlike the current mis-reading of the story by Prejean’s Evangelical supporters, this is a story with many players pulling at, and pushing on, the heroine to get her to do what they want as much as her acting based on her own deeply-held beliefs.
Contrary to the quoted Boston University professor in his piece, Esther never asserts the belief that she has become queen in order to save her people. Those are Mordechai’s words when he pushes her to speak out on their behalf. In fact, Esther is only able to carry out the mission on which she is sent because she resigns herself to failure and even death if she disappoints the king.
The most interesting thing here about the comparison to queen Esther is that for the parallel to work, we would need to presume that Evangelical Christians are being persecuted by a government which seeks their physical destruction. Is that what they believe? Now that’s something worth exploring….


What does it mean when a community that is as much as 100,000,000 people strong in America alone, portrays itself as a victimized minority? Is that kind of victim status ever the ground of the most responsible decision-making? How often is the mantle of victimhood worn as insulation from asking questions about our own communities and their behavior?
This is not an Evangelical thing or a Jewish thing, it’s a human thing. But given the size and power of the American Evangelical community, they need to be especially cautious about assuming that they play the role of Esther in the Biblical story.
At the very least, they need to ask themselves what other characters in the narrative they may be. The Bible, which portrays Haman as the ultimate bad guy, reminds us that he is from the Amalekites, which means that he is from Esau. Esau was Jacob’s twin brother. So we are all each of the characters in the story, at least a little bit. Let’s hope Miss Prejean and those who imagine her to be a modern-day Esther can remember that.



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Paul Oakley

posted May 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm


What does it mean when a community that is as much as 100,000,000 people strong in America alone, portrays itself as a victimized minority?
What about a bit more than 50% of the world’s population being portrayed as victims, as the women’s movement did mid-20th century, with some justification. Or what about the Roman Catholic majority in Ireland under Cromwell’s Puritan “Protectorate”? Or the masses of Indians and Pakistanis under the British Raj? And so on… Numbers or ratios aren’t, in themselves, the defining feature.
That said, American Evangelicals have over and again displayed what they mean when they say they are the victims. Plain and simple, they mean that their power to lord it over people not in their camp has been diminished.
May their “victimhood” increase!
Peace,
Paul



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Steve Marx

posted May 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm


I was going to comment on that same sentence when I saw that Mr. Oakley had done so ahead of me. His first paragraph about numbers and ratios is undeniably correct. It is quite possible for a minority to persecute a majority (or a larger minority); indeed, history is replete with examples.
I’ll allow that Mr. Oakley’s next paragraph is correct, as well, but I think it’s more complex than that. I know many religious people, whether Christian or not, whether Evangelical or not, who see all too much evidence that religion generally (mine, yours, everyone’s) is being denigrated, delegitimized, and sidelined by a secular left that views religion as both an “opiate” and an opponent of its various agendas.
I am a Jew who is very sympathetic to this point of view. Modern-day revisionists have taken the simplicity and specificity of the Establishment clause and have re-worked it into a phenomenon they call “separation of church and state,” language the Framers could have used but did not. Having changed the words in that way, the revisionists then pursue their mission of finding more and more ways to “separate” religion (or what they believe is religion) from state, from the public square, and from every debate over issues of public importance.
Increasingly, the baby is tossed out with the bath water. With every hint of religion delegitimized, gone too are the values that came to America directly from our Judeo-Christian religious heritage. Those values have created an extraordinary nation, and as we push away those values and the people who propagate those values, we undermine the foundation of this nation’s greatness. We become Europe.
I don’t want to see that. Neither do Evangelicals. While there surely are some Evangelicals who want to “lord” it over the rest of us, many others do not. Indeed, many Evangelicals have more respect and appreciation for the importance of and the values first established in the Torah than do a great many Jews.
Steve



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Paul Oakley

posted May 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm


I can sympathize with Steve’s position. Indeed, as a seminary student on path to become a clergy person, I am anything but anti-religious. But the cultural issues that Evangelicals as a group have made the most noise about are issues on which no one is trying to get in the way of their living according to their faith.
No one is telling Evangelical young women that they should get abortions. They are not victims on this cultural issue.
No one is telling Evangelical teens and young adults that they should be sexually active before or outside of marriage. They are not victims on this cultural issue.
No one is telling Evangelical men that they should be gay and marry a man. They are not victims on this cultural issue.
Almost no one is even ridiculing Evangelicals for refraining from sex outside marriage, abortion, or homosexuality or for living their lives in committed marriages to an opposite-sex spouse and raising children in a loving and protected environment. They are not victims on these cultural issues, for example.
But some highly visible and vocal Evangelicals are very active trying to force their opinions on such issues onto others, using the law to prevent others from living according to their own consciences. (This is a very different matter than those who try to convince others to change their lives.)
If people live according to their beliefs, that is good, so long as they do so without forcing others to kowtow or suffer the consequences. If they communicate with others the reason they believe as they do, that is good, though of little lasting value outside a truly equal interchange with those they disagree with.
If Carrie Prejean believes that gay marriage is contrary to God’s law, then she definitely should not marry another woman. And it would be completely legitimate for her to try to convince others that their lives would be better if they similarly refrained from same-sex marriage. What is not legitimate is for her and people in the same belief camp to use their beliefs to maintain a legal distinction that, using the apparatus of state power, prevents others from living according to their conscience.
Peace,
Paul



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Steve Marx

posted May 26, 2009 at 11:10 pm


Paul,
Your very well-expressed comments are valid only to a degree. You fail to recognize (at least in what you have written here) that the live-and-let-live philosophy you describe has broad implications for society.
A society that casually terminates a million or more pregnancies is one whose values have changed, not simply one whose practices have changed.
A society that redefines marriage from what it has been, not just since 1776 but since the dawn of humanity, is one whose values have changed, not simply one whose practices have changed.
A society whose public conduct is coarse, crude, and licentious is one whose values have changed, not simply one whose practices have changed.
A society whose Judeo-Christian values are sidelined and even delegitimized is a society in which it is increasingly difficult for those who wish to retain their values and pass them along to their children to do so.
It is well accepted that, in any organization, its values are defined not by what its leader proclaim, but by the worst conduct its leaders tolerate… by the lowest common denominator. The same is surely true for our entire society. The weak values espoused by or tolerated by the secular left have a pernicious effect on all of us: We all are moving, slowly but inexorably, toward the lowest common denominator. To maintain otherwise is, I believe, naive.
I think that is why many religious conservatives (and some not-so-religious conservatives) are so concerned… and feel “victimized.” It is facile for others to tell them that they have no basis for their feelings of victimization. Indeed, it is disrespectful. And it is especially curious when such statements emanate from those on the left, who otherwise claim to have such compassion. Where is their compassion and understanding for religious conservatives?
My own personal feelings are not nearly as conservative and settled as you might believe from what I have written here today. I continue to support the right of a woman to seek an abortion, but I am incensed by how common and casual the practice has become. Shame on the left for not saying and teaching and preaching that abortion is a sin. By any value system I know, it is. Paul, have you learned differently at the seminary?
Steve



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Rolf

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:10 am


“Indeed, many Evangelicals have more respect and appreciation for the importance of and the values first established in the Torah than do a great many Jews.”
And if you were to disagree with the writer on this, Rabbi, he would feel you were persecuting him, thus proving he was right. That is what non-Evangelicals don’t get about Evangelicals. They have to be right about everything, and you mortally wound them if anything you say or do suggests otherwise.



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Rolf

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:12 am


I should briefly explain that the reasoning goes like this:
Jesus was perfect in every way and was persecuted.
If I, an Evangelica Christian, am persecuted, then this proves I am like Jesus. And to disagree with me is to persecute me.
For real. This is what they believe. Scary, isn’t it?



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Your Name

posted May 27, 2009 at 1:48 am


Rolf, that’s not what we believe at all–the Bible tells us that being persecuted, reviled, or hated should be no surprise because the world hated Christ also, because Christ said He alone was the Way,the Truth, and the Light, but when we proclaim that Christianity is correct and the only way, we are not the instigators of that righteousness, only Christ is–we are His followers, so we recommend everything He says. Don’t be misled into thinking that being disagreed with is persecution. Having one’s church burned to the ground, being labeled at school and work as a radical, having few friends because one lives in an area where fellow Christians are few and everyone else treats one like a leper because one believes that the vices of this world are wrong (drinking, smoking, drugs, fornication, &c.) is no fun though, you should try it sometime. And yes Jesus was perfect in every way–you should try getting to know your Creator sometime also, but that is an infinitely more pleasant option than the former. And let me remind everyone that the reason the Wester World advanced so much is because of Christians who tried to make the world as pleasant a place as possible while we were on it. Most of the great artists, authors, scientists, educators, scholars, and reformers of society were *gasp* Bible-believing born-again Christians. And just a side note to the confused, one cannot be born or baptized a born-again Christian–it’s spiritual rebirth. There are many scarier things about being an atheist, I might add, in particular that you have no hope for life after death, and for that I truly feel sorry for you.



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New Age Cowboy

posted May 27, 2009 at 7:46 am


“What does it mean when a community that is as much as 100,000,000 people strong in America alone, portrays itself as a victimized minority?”
It means they’re paranoid.
I don’t know if Jews keep them close as in ‘keep your enemies closer to you than your friends’. But, sooner or later, Evangelicals are gonna catch on to the fact that most Jews don’t live like Puritans in the U.S.A.
Evangelicals aren’t just a strange ally for Jews, they’re a dangerous one. Most any Evangelical will admit that any Jew that does not accept Jesus Christ as their sole savior and mediator will burn in hell for eternity.
Evangelicals support Israel because they think its re-creation heralds the coming apocalypse.
Recent national surveys reported by CNN show that Evangelicals condone the use of torture more than any other demographic. If Evangelicals feel persecuted by Hollywood or betrayed by non-Puritanical Jews, that 100,000,000 figure could prove to be very grave.
I grew up Evangelical. There are a lot of ways the Evangelical program could twist and turn, especially in tough economic circumstances. Just consider the mentality of folks in Bible-belt country.



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Zevulun

posted May 27, 2009 at 9:03 am


I find myself bothered whenever Evangelicals claim the characters and stories out of the Hebrew Bible as their own. It feels like they are taking over our history and turning Jews into Christians. I do enjoy your open-minded exploration of the topic though, Rabbi. You are more forgiving than I.



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New Age Cowboy

posted May 27, 2009 at 9:24 am


Zevulun,
You wrote: “I find myself bothered whenever Evangelicals claim the characters and stories out of the Hebrew Bible as their own. It feels like they are taking over our history and turning Jews into Christians.”
You were spot on. Just read Beliefnet’s Crunchy Con on “The American Patriot Bible.”
Also, I have a family member that’s part of a fringe Christian fundamentalist group. This group’s title is “The Church of Israel”. They think anglo Europeans are the real Jews and that the Jews occupying Israel are psuedo-Jews.



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Tina Stefan

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:19 am


Queen Esther (i.e., Carrie Prejean – hehe) is out there promoting the importance of marriage on Fox & Friends. She seems like a beauty queen for traditional marriage at the very least.
Miss CA talks Prop 8 victory and hosts morning show – http://tinyurl.com/orf67l



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Paul Oakley

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:23 am


Zevulun,
Given the history between Christians and Jews, your discomfort at the Christian claims on the Hebrew Bible is understandable. I would be a fool to tell you how you should feel.
Stepping out of the emotional minefield for a moment, though, Christianity was first established by Jews who did not reject their Jewishness. Naturally they brought their Bible with them and taught it to their converts. Certainly Christians have interpreted the Hebrew Bible much differently than Jews have. But Christianity did not steal the Hebrew Bible – alongside Judaism’s inheritance of the Hebrew Bible, Christianity also inherited the Hebrew Bible.
What is more problematic in my mind is the teaching of the Greek (New) Testament, stressed by some Christians and, thankfully, abandoned by others, that Christians are the true Jews.
I was raised fundamentalist Christian. The particular variety of fundamentalism was one that did not view the historic lands of the Bible as particularly special places because they viewed it as idolatrous to treat even land connected to their narrative of salvation at sacred. But I was raised knowing the Hebrew patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets as my spiritual ancestors. Their stories were my ancestral narrative.
At age 30 I visited Israel. By then I had long since rejected the Christian fundamentalism of my upbringing but had not yet found any new religious home. If you had asked me at the time, I would have comfortably stated that I was an atheist and had no religion. Nevertheless, my EXPERIENCE of Israel was an experience of return to MY ancestral home. This sense of connection was far, far greater than any sense of connection I felt visiting England where many of my actual and more recent ancestors came from.
This fact is not without its problems in Interfaith relations, to be sure. But it is a fact. Without any act of cultural theft, many Christians and cultural descendants of Christians experience the heritage of the Hebrew Bible as their heritage as fully as Jews do. They READ that heritage differently than Jews do. But they EXPERIENCE it at a very basic level.
The task for those of us who are concerned with Interfaith understanding is to learn how to honor the validity of both experiences while together working through the fraught history and the disparity of readings.
Peace,
Paul



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Your Name

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:30 am


The last time I checked, the Bible wasn’t written for one religion or another. The characters in the Bible teach lessons for all people, regardless of their faith.



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Paul D

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm


I’m not sure I see the problem. Esther stood up for her faith, at great risk and peril. Do we not then teach our children to do the same? When someone does this- at the peril of their job, their “crown”, their standing, or even their lives- is it wrong to say “That’s like Esther”? I hope my children value the blessing of God more than the blessing of man, and the story of Esther- and pointing out modern-day Esther types- is an important part of teaching that.
I think trying to stretch the point to say then that 100,000,000 people feel victimized refers to the way that culture is general does look down on people of faith right now. When Paul comments that no one is telling young Christians to act in ways contrary to their faith, that is simply not true. There are many forces today pushing the society- including young people of faith- into acceptance of and participation in a lifestyle contrary to their faith. We need modern day Esthers to life up as examples- along with teaching the original story itself.



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Homo Mysticus

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm


“What does it mean when a community that is as much as 100,000,000 people strong in America alone, portrays itself as a victimized minority? Is that kind of victim status ever the ground of the most responsible decision-making? How often is the mantle of victimhood worn as insulation from asking questions about our own communities and their behavior?”
They have learned some bad habits from us?
Homo Mysticus



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Rolf

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm


“And just a side note to the confused, one cannot be born or baptized a born-again Christian–it’s spiritual rebirth. There are many scarier things about being an atheist, I might add, in particular that you have no hope for life after death, and for that I truly feel sorry for you.”
I’m very much a theist and speak with God every day, thank you. Your response, while milder than many, is a good example of what I was talking about. And for that matter, doesn’t the New Testament counsel against “you have no hope of life after death” pronouncements as bringing Christ down? Can God not act in ways greater than your understanding? And didn’t Paul say that?



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Al Eastman

posted May 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm


“What does it mean when a community that is as much as 100,000,000 people strong in America alone, portrays itself as a victimized minority? Is that kind of victim status ever the ground of the most responsible decision-making? How often is the mantle of victimhood worn as insulation from asking questions about our own communities and their behavior?”
Victimhood has long been a tactic used by the political left to garner special treatment for their “pet minority of the moment”. Now these same people are expressing outrage when those on the political right use their tactics. Rabbi, your politics are showing, quite brazenly, I might add.



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Paul Oakley

posted May 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm


Paul D,
I did not say temptation does not exist. But temptation does not turn the tempted into a victim.



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Your Name

posted May 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm


I must be too stupid to understand why I, as a Jew, should fear Evangelicals because they believe I am heading straight to Hell when my time on Earth is up. As a Jew, I know they are wrong. And I also know that their belief has no power to hurt me. So I just chuckle to myself and don’t raise the issue with Evangelicals I know.
In doing this, I am applying a very Jewish paradigm: I judge people by their actions only. I cannot ever know the breadth or depth or character of their beliefs, so I just ignore beliefs (even my fellow Jews’ beliefs). I judge everyone by their actions. Until Evangelicals grab me from my home and walk me to the fires of Hell, I am not concerned… because their beliefs do not translate into actions.
(By the way, it was less than 100 years that people were indeed grabbing Jews from their homes and transporting them to the fires… but they were not Evangelicals. They were Godless Nazis who never claimed to be carrying out Jesus’ prophecy. Jews have more to fear from the Godless in our midst than from the Evangelicals.)
Perhaps a Jewish reader of this dialogue can explain how I have this all wrong. I really do want to hear from you.



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Rolf

posted May 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm


“(By the way, it was less than 100 years that people were indeed grabbing Jews from their homes and transporting them to the fires… but they were not Evangelicals. They were Godless Nazis who never claimed to be carrying out Jesus’ prophecy. Jews have more to fear from the Godless in our midst than from the Evangelicals.)”
There is a subset of Evangelicals, large enough to have swayed the last two Presidential elections, that would have you make aliyah, Israel bomb Iran, and begin the final war that would force God to transport them magically to heaven. I don’t think Evangelicals have that kind of pull with the Divine either, but do be concerned about any group that wants Israel to burn in fire so they can go to heaven.



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Dan

posted May 27, 2009 at 5:58 pm


The difference was Queen Esther won the SEX contest to become Queen at the urging of her guardian Mordechai. How sad…



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Steve Marx

posted May 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm


Thanks, Rolf. I make my own calculations about Israel’s foreign policy. I don’t listen to Evangelicals. But when we find ourselves in agreement at a particular time and on a particular issue, I welcome their support and their influence in Washington.



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Josie

posted May 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm


Personally, I don’t see how that woman, Carrie Prejean (sp?), can call herself a “christian” the way she struts around half naked. And she can’t compare to Queen Esther. IMHO Josie



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Gary Schrag

posted May 31, 2009 at 10:21 pm


This is a very interesting discussion. I want to comment on the way the word evangelical is used. There is a great variety of evangelicals. For example the difference between Jim Walis of Sojourners and James Dobson of Focus on the Family are stark. For me, a mainline Protestant, the word evangelical has lost all meaning. Fundamentalists would more accurately describe the evangelicals characterized in this discussion. Years ago, I heard a Mennonite theologian describe fundatmentalists as a psychology and not a theology. That pretty much descriges how I have experienced them as a pastor. It is pointless to enter dialogue with a fundamentalist. And yes, fundamentalist like to be victims. They need to be victims.



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Magic

posted June 1, 2009 at 4:04 am


My daughter died in my arms, of a rare liver cancer. There is nothing worse to a mother? To anyone actually if they are human? The torture was horrifying, and it tore my soul out of my body, and shattered my spirit? Made me feel like the Black Hole. However I survived and life goes on. I still gasp for air for the emptiness in my heart throbs, and you never really get over it as they say? But she is with God. No question, but that is the only thought that helps me get through the days of the rest of my life. So think people how rotten it is for these 3rd world dinosauers to torture and sacrifice children? Or child molesters? These are sub-humans, not nearly human?
the only thing that is to do with them is to leave them behind! In the dust, Dust in the wind that is all they are! So treat them as such for they are the enemy. May God Bless



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Steve Stockton

posted June 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm


A previous poster commented on the fact that Carrie had no problem sashaying around with her breasts hanging out and an expression that said, yes, lust after me! you quivering slimeballs! I grew up in a fundamentalist family so I am very familiar with how many of them take the Jewish culture and make it their own (badly). So a fundamentalist boy might grow his hair and imagine he is mighty Sampson, with the strength of many men! Of course, to the neighbors in his suburban neighborhood he is either a rebellious creep or cross dressing wimp. My point is that people with no culture of their own (what ever happened to it?) have glommed on to another cultures history etc and tried to make it their own. Therefore, Carrie can be seen as the great Queen Esther instead of someone you never heard about who must have a gigantic ego and would probably like to turn her 15 minutes of fame into a conservative political career like Sara Palin is trying to do.



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Carrie Prejean

posted June 25, 2009 at 2:01 am


Carrie Prejean should be rewarded for speaking her mind, liberals want to shut out the truth and human trash like Perez Hilton should be the ones quieted.



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Diane

posted October 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm


Carrie is likened to Queen Esther simply because she was willing to stand up for what she believed though it cost her. Queen Esther took a “chance” with the king by exposing her true identity and thus perhaps it costing her life. We see that God intervened, the king had favor on her, was willing to truly listen and so her life was spared. It’s sad because it is hypocritical that so many would malign Carrie for her forthrightness. Years ago, this would be the kind of person with gumption who would be appointed a leadership position. So I conclude that like any other American, she is permitted to have her own viewpoint yet like Haman, who wanted to stealthily kill Queen Esther’s people, much of the media and those at the pageant very apparently appear to want to trap her into answering politically correctly instead of honestly from her heart. It isn’t Carrie we ought to be concerned about but those who choose to force, by their intimidation, everyone to be like robots…to have to accept the popular instead of stand against the tide. Don’t we all have to stand against personal obstacles at one time or another so that we can push through to success? Maybe our mother encourages us or a friend gives us the encouragement to push on through. Why should we deny another human being the same advice just because they don’t agree with the vocal ones? Their intimidation silences many (much to many people’s delight esp. when one sees how they have hurt Carrie), but the Lord will come through for His people one day. We may be shushed here below, but one day, there will be no one to shush our praises to the One who knows all our sorrows and has given His truth in His Holy Word.



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