WHO IS GOD? WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? WHAT IS THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS?

22 thoughts on “WHO IS GOD? WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? WHAT IS THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS?

  1. Tom, tsalmon

    Tom you said,

    “Seriously! Nothing happens without God either causing it or allowing it to happen. So why would God allow COVID-19?”

    You are not the first to make this statement according to this verse written a couple thousand years or so ago..

    Job 11:11
    Surely He knows the deceit of men. If He sees iniquity, does He not take note?

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SW

      That is a great argument, for what exactly? That God is omniscient and omnipotent? I don’t disagree. I also believe that God has a plan and that this Pandemic, like the action of every particle in the universe, is part of it.

      But you must realize the difference between saying, “Everything is part of God’s plan”, and saying “I happen to know that the Pandemic is God’s punishment to the world because of our electing the narcissistic promoter of vice that is Donald Trump”. One is a statement of faith and the other is pretentious wishful thinking that God punishes everyone because some people disagree with my opinion. Still the latter statement makes more sense than scapegoating gays and women who legally choose abortion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TSalmon,

        I don’t disagree with your comparison. I believe if we combine the beliefs of Job and King Solomon on this conundrum, it may help to serve a more palatable answer for your concern.

        In their heart’s humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Proverb 16:9)
        As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come. (Proverb 26:2)

        In relation to these three specific “curses” there appears to be an element of choice and consequences of risks for engaging in choosing “where to land.”

        STD, a risk of contracting a disease, or fornicating will lead to a pregnancy which may leads to a choice of abortion.

        Coronavirus, while we don’t seem to know the exact cause yet, we do now know how it is transmitted. If we choose to take a risks being in public, we are planning in the same manner “our own courses in flight”.

        In other words, while we do not know for certain why an innocent becomes a victim, we have faith that God loves all he has created and as Job stated, “take notice” and reward the innocent and/or have a penalty for the choices we make where to land.”

        The above is my opinion of how best to try to understand the Job verse and live in a world King Solomon described as madness and folly based on his observations of human behaviors and his faith.

        I could choose an number of other verses in the Bible all relate to the same two main words we all should consider about faith, love and wisdom.

        I hope this explanation might help explain my beliefs and understanding of the Job verse, I believe your experience as a pilot, you can relate better than most because you had to make many choices because of winds or weather etc., how or where to land safely in your lifetime.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.
        .
        .

        .

        Liked by 1 person

        1. This is very illuminating SW. Thank you.

          I got sidetracked on outrageousness of Tom’s post alleging that God caused the suffering of the innocent in the Pandemic exclusively to punish two specific supposed sins perpetrated by a tiny subset of the entire population of the planet. As such, we lost sight of the underlying age old questions about all suffering. I think that your scriptural insights here are on point, especially as the their logic is fullfilled and transcended by Jesus through His parables in the Gospels. I esspecially relate to the “safe place to land” metaphor.

          Let me contemplate what you have written. I may have more to say later if Tom indulges it. Here is a beautifully written and sung utube clip that expresses that concept:

          Liked by 1 person

          1. @tsalmon

            I got sidetracked on outrageousness of Tom’s post alleging that God caused the suffering of the innocent in the Pandemic exclusively to punish two specific supposed sins perpetrated by a tiny subset of the entire population of the planet.

            You are not part of a tiny subset, and you are using the government to promote abortion and various sexual perversions. Then, while you castigate and condemn those who disagree with you, you are selfrighteously congratulating yourself for being loving and tolerant.

            Is abortion good? You have yet to explain how it could be. The ridiculous thing about abortion is that people usually use extreme cases such as rape or incest to justify abortion, as if two wrongs could make a right.

            Are the behaviors we call sexually perverse good? You have yet to explain how that could be. We call such behaviors perverse because that is what they are.

            You are at the point where to continue your argument you must call what is bad good and what is good bad. There is a verse about that in Isaiah. Look it up.

            If only we were talking about a small group of people. At one time the number of people supportive of abortion and sexually perverse behaviors seemed small, but I guess they never really were. They just seemed small because they were silent.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Tom,

            Did you know that there are millions of refugees from war and famine living in deplorable conditions in just Turkey alone, many of them women and children? Did you know that there are millions more just in Lebanon? But Bruce loving Steven is what you think has provoked God to influence the Chinese diet in ways that let loose a Pandemic? I think you need to get a grip big brother. You seem more than a little obsessed. And when does the obsession with judging OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS become more sinful than the sins you’re judging?

            I don’t have an absolutist view either way on either of these topics. I can understand the point of view of both sides, but I don’t claim to know God’s judgement. However, even if I thought, like you, that gay sex in a loving married relationship were absolutely a sin, and even if I thought, like you, that aborting a fetus one second after conception is absolutely a sin, then I would still think that it ludicrous hypocrisy to blame this Pandemic specifically on those two sins when I have so many of my own sins worth punishment and humans are doing so many much more awful things to each other all over the world and have been doing awful things since the beginning of human existence.

            Given the Catholic Church’s absolutist stance of abortion, I can understand people’s sense of holocaust (just as I can understand a women’s privacy rights too). However, this constant obsession with gay sex is just weird. On any given day there are probably far more heterosexuals commuting adultry (something Jesus had much to say about) than people having gay sex (something Jesus never mentioned), and yet you think an infinitely merciful God stays up all night cooking up devistating natural disasters in tgr attenuated punishment of gay sex? Seriously?

            Maybe you should move on big brother, focus God’s wrath on porcine ingestion or women who leave their tents during their menstrual cycle. If you don’t enjoy gay sex, don’t have any. (I was going to give it up for Lent, but because I don’t have gay sex the rest of the year, this seemed like cheating). 😉

            Anyway, I’m kinda bored with being your designated “foil” on these two issues. It seems to me that the foilee ought to actually be foiled by the foiler for this whole “foiling” thing to work out for you. Sorry, I’m just not feeling very foiled – maybe if you pretended God did something like hitting San Francisco with a giant arsenic lobster, then it might actually foil my evil plot for Gay World Domination. Ah, but the world would be so much less interesting and colorful if you did. Good times.

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          3. @tsalmon

            So you finally realized you have been reduced to whataboutisms, nonsensical ridicule and explaining the great superiority of your feelings. And you are bored.

            You never deal with any issues. You just try to shame and and shame and shame, and you don’t even make sense. Because you are so shameless, you just sound like you must know what you must be talking about.

            We have a Democrat governor and Democrat majorities in both houses here in Virginia. It is their obsession with abortion and sexual perversion (in addition to yours) that I have responded to. If the Democrats didn’t have an agenda, I would have any interest in these subjects? That is hypocrisy.

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  2. As I’m sure that you know, the Prodigal Son Parable is one of Jesus’ three parables explaining God’s mercy in Luke. The focus of the protagonist (which one can only assume is meant to symbolize God) in all three parables is one of rejoicing and love at the return of the beloved rather than one of a demand for praise, discipline and scorn. Let’s look at the Prodigal Son again in particular:

    1. When the Prodigal Son returns, even before he has a chance to repent to his Father, the Father runs and embraces and kisses the son with unconditional pity and affection, even before the son has a chance to repent and beg for forgiveness.

    2. As much as he may deserve it, there is nothing in the Parable about the Father disciplining the returning Prodigal at any point. To the contrary, the Father directs the servants to bring the son “the best robe” and to “put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet”, and then the Father launches an elaborate feast party in celebration of the son’s return.

    3. Was the Loyal Son really “arrogant” or was he naturally miffed at the injustice of the Father’s unconditional mercy to the Prodigal Son when the Elder Son had been so loyal (and rule following)? Isn’t the Loyal Son’s desire that the Father rain down contempt and discipline on his brother eerily similar to the modern Christian’s desire in your last post that this Pandemic should somehow be seen as God’s discipline on all sinners, but only for specific things you consider the worst sins? Don’t you think that it is kind of dark and sick minded to scapegoat homosexuals and women’s difficult choices for a natural disaster? Why don’t we burn some witches at the stake while we are at it?

    I remember upon reading the story of the Prodigal Son as a child thinking how unjust the moral of the story was. it actually seems to reward waste and sinfulness with unconditional love and mercy. However, throughout the Gospels this is a common theme that seems like a complete contradiction to the traditional story line of God as the angry disciplinarian that you and many Christians continue to imagine. Quite frankly, Jesus’ words only make sense if we realize the profound moral change in our understanding of God that Jesus (as God incarnate) was attesting to, a new moral covenant which seemed as incredulous to many scriptural Law loving Pharisees (who are essentially Jesus represented as the Elder Son) as it seems incredulous to many Christians today. And this is not the only place that this seeming contradiction occurs. it is quite apparent throughout the Gospels that Jesus does not envision His church as an exclusive club only for the supposed good rule followers. Remember, Jesus was always most critical, not of those who recognized their sins, but of those who thought that they were blameless, and judged others.

    If you don’t mind, I will quote Father Richard Rohr at some length here to explain:

    “Jesus’s most consistent metaphor and image for this final state of affairs [meaning God’s trajectory in material reality] was some version of a wedding feast or banquet. In all four Gospels, Jesus refers to himself as the host, or “bridegroom,” for an open and inclusive banquet, available to “good and bad alike” (Mathew 22:10). He seemed to know that people would not naturally like that, however. So there is already pushback included in the text: guests angling for a higher place at the table (Luke 14:7-11), hosts insisting that all the guests wear wedding garments (Mathew 22:11-14), or wanting to offer the wonderful event only to those “who could pay them back” while rejecting “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:12-14). We have always made it hard for God to give away God – for free!

    “The fragile ego always wants to set a boundary, a price, an entrance requirement of some sort. Many Christians sadly prefer to read these passages from a worldview of scarcity instead of the Gospel of divine abundance, and this constant resistance to Infinite Love is revealed in the biblical text itself. The problem is tied up with the solution, as it were, the pushback included in the resolution. There seems to be a necessary villain in every story line, and the villain is almost always found inside the biblical text. I know no other way to make sense of the Bible’s many obvious contradictions and inconsistencies about God.

    “The ungenerous mind does not like the wedding banquet [or a feast for a wayward son]. It prefers a dualistic courtroom scene as its metaphor for the end of times, which is why Matthew 25’s sheep and goats are the end-times parable that most people remember, even though they do not follow its actual message about care for the poor, and remember only the scary verdict at the end. In other words, Matthew 25:46b is allowed to trump all of Matthew 25:31-45. Scared people remember threats and do not hear invitations.”

    “The Universal Christ” by Richard Rohr pp. 172-173. [brackets mine].

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    1. @tsalmon

      1 and 2. Why didn’t the Father punish the prodigal? Because the prodigal had come his senses, because he was coming home. The prodigal had already punished himself with his foolishness. He had learned his lesson. He had always been a son, a child of the Father, He had been a wayward sheep. Now he was returning home.

      When we, His children, wander from home, our Lord chastises us. When we come to our senses, yearn for our Father, and return home, He showers us with mercy and grace.

      3. Was the elder son being arrogant? Check out Matthew 20:1-16 and John 21:20-22.

      I think I now understand something about your confusion.

      Isn’t the Loyal Son’s desire that the Father rain down contempt and discipline on his brother eerily similar to the modern Christian’s desire in your last post that this Pandemic should somehow be seen as God’s discipline on all sinners, but only for specific things you consider the worst sins? Don’t you think that it is kind of dark and sick minded to scapegoat homosexuals and women’s difficult choices for a natural disaster? Why don’t we burn some witches at the stake while we are at it?

      This is curiously ironic. You think it fitting to rain down contempt on me because you think I am raining contempt down on people whose sins you apparently support. Yet I am condemning the sin, not the people who commit the sin.

      Look at Romans 1. Those sins you defend are punishments, not members of some innocuous identity group.

      Think about this. God sets rules. He says that if we love Him we will obey Him. Genesis 3 is all about the consequences of not trusting God and breaking a rule. The Bible tells the story of how Jesus redeemed us from rule breaking.

      Is love a theme in the Bible? Yes, but we are saved by the grace of God, not the love of God, and God bestows His grace and mercy on those who love Him. God sets the boundaries, not us. That is the arrogance of the elder son, thinking he knew how the boundaries should be set, not respecting his Father’s choice.

      Matthew 25 contains three parables, not just one.

      How did Jesus save us? First He had to become the perfect sacrifice. He had to live the perfect life. The required Him to obey God’s rules.

      To be saved, we have to repent of our sins. Do we have to obey the rules perfectly? No. In fact, we don’t have the capacity, but we do have to love God, and we demonstrate our love by obeying His commandments.

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      1. “When we, His children, wander from home, our Lord chastises us. When we come to our senses, yearn for our Father, and return home, He showers us with mercy and grace.”

        Where does the Father in the Parable chastise the Prodigal Son? I agree that the Father created a situation where his son could punish himself by HIS OWN CHOICES. In other words, the Father (like God with Adam and Eve) set up the construct where the son could make choices between good and evil and learn consequences from those choices. However, to say that the Father actually “chastised” the Prodigal Son (or that God’s gift of free will itself is some form of punishment) is to read something that rather purposely and consistently is the opposite of the message that Jesus was giving in the Gospel, not only to the lost children which He constantly surrounded Himself with (to the chagrin of the Pharisees), but to the Pharisees who would have seen the Elder Son as themselves.

        “This is curiously ironic. You think it fitting to rain down contempt on me because you think I am raining contempt down on people whose sins you apparently support. Yet I am condemning the sin, not the people who commit the sin.“

        Nonsense. These conveniently are not YOUR SINS you think your God is arbitrarily punishing with a cruel plague – they are the SINS OF OTHER PEOPLE. You are obviously scapegoating them and imagining an infinitely merciful God as your cruel avenger FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS. Look to your own sins, and find unconditional mercy, love and forgiveness waiting from God. In other words, we are actually all the Prodigal Son even if we think we are not. The Elder Son’s sin was exactly in his failure to love his brother and welcome him back with love and affection, but instead in wishing to confer the Father’s wrath upon him (just as you are with gays and women who chose to abort). The moral of the Parable isn’t just not to be the Prodigal Son (as you say, we can’t help it) – it’s not to be the smug, unloving and jealous Elder Son either.

        “How did Jesus save us? First He had to become the perfect sacrifice. He had to live the perfect life. The required Him to obey God’s rules.
        To be saved, we have to repent of our sins. Do we have to obey the rules perfectly? No. In fact, we don’t have the capacity, but we do have to love God, and we demonstrate our love by obeying His commandments.”

        I don’t think Father Rohr is disagreeing with this, but instead expanding on it and demonstrating that our emphasis should be on appreciating the unconditional and inclusive gift God offers TO ALL through Christ’s example rather than the Pharisaic emphasis on our own exclusiveness and superiority.

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        1. @tsalmon

          Okay, the plague is all my fault. Instead of congratulating people for killing the unborn and reckless fornication, I have sinned by hypocritically suggesting that God frowns on such self destructive behaviors. Instead, I ought to adopt a more scientific solution that you could approve. I should slyly encourage the unfit to eliminate themselves through abortion and STDs. Since that would be “scientific”, God would approve. It is just the survival of the fittest.

          Seriously! Nothing happens without God either causing it or allowing it to happen. So why would God allow COVID-19?

          Many believe the great sins of our nation are abortion and sexual perversion. You say I think of these as other people’s sins. I think you are too deep into identity politics.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. “Okay, the plague is all my fault.”

            So rather than seeing the fallacy of the harm that your proposition does to others, this is where you get defensive?

            You’ve attributed the Pandemic to God punishing OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS, not me, and now you want to play victim by accusing me of doing the same to you? It’s just a bug Tom, not a thing that EITHER ONE OF US gets to assume for God as God’s punishment on anyone’s sins.

            Could the Pandemic be the rational result of some people’s bad choices, whether those bad choices were intensional or just negligent? Probably. It sounds like a cultural dietary relic in which a Chinese superstition believed the consumer could obtain certain powers from certain wild exotic animals. This lead to wet markets that created a unique environment for a contagion to jump species and then get to us. One’s logic and morals have to be pretty attenuated, however, to claim either some atheistic Darwinian moral logic, or proclaim God’s wrath on OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS. Please excuse me if I don’t wish to be your straw man or persecutor in advocating either the rational or the theological fallacies you present.

            We’ve reached the point where our points are made and where defensiveness just becomes an excuse for a lack of introspection. I certainly think about what you’ve said here.

            Thanks for taking up the underlying issue (the meaning of human suffering), and for letting me tell you truths that you so obviously don’t want to hear or yet appreciate. I always learn something.

            I’ll be happy to respond to anything that concerns the actual issue, but the whole Elder Son anger and hurt feelings thing both misses the point and makes it for me without the need of my actually being your imagined oppressor, something that would run counter to exactly the point that I think Jesus was making.

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          2. @tsalmon

            You have a narrative. Abortion and sex perversion are not sins. Condemning those sins are sins is just unloving, offensive and mean to those who engage in abortion and sexual perversions. And how do you know? You are a Christian. Sin does not matter. Only love matters, and what the Bible actually says doesn’t matter.

            Do I think of you as my oppressor? Foil. Look up the word, foil.

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          3. “You have a narrative. Abortion and sex perversion are not sins. “

            That’s not MY “narrative” because I never said that. Neither do I think that the Pandemic is God’s judgement on those who think their sins are somehow inferior to the supposed sexual perverts, who in this case don’t think that they are actually perverts, or the sins of women who legally choose abortion who in this case don’t actually think that they are murderers. The actual “narrative” I’m presenting is the Parable of the Prodigal Son where the Father’s love was abundantly inclusive of the both sons – the one who’s sin was actually in part intentional perverse debauchery and the son who’s sin was exclusion and envious, unloving judgementalism. And yet the Father actually punishes neither sinner (although you should not miss that Jesus’ greatest critique appears to be for the hypocrisy of the Elder Son who wished the Father’s punishment for the obvious sins of his brother while failing to recognize that the failure to love and celebrate his brother’s safe return from death in itself was a worse sin).

            Please don’t make up for me narratives and straw men that I didn’t advocate. Just applid God’s narrative in the Parable to your contention that God sent a plague as punishment specifically aimed at the supposed sins that OTHER PEOPLE COMMIT. It doesn’t jibe does it? In fact, under Jesus’ narrative, your contention is refuted specifically in the Father’s correction of the Elder Son. Can you address the actual narrative rather than making stuff up for me to have said?

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          4. @tsalmon

            I have not made up anything.

            Abortion. Sexual perversion. You have nothing to say about these sins. Instead, you attack me for saying these sins are sins.

            The Parable of The Prodigal Son does not say God excuses sin. The parable does not say God does not punish sin. The Prodigal comes to his senses when he is starving. That is not a state I want to be in.

            What the parable says is God generously forgives those who repent. Yet here you are complaining that anyone should call for repentance. Wonder what you would have thought of John the Baptist.

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          5. Nope Tom. Just the opposite – for the sake of the discussion, I’m willing to assume that abortion and homosexuality are sins. It still does not give us the right, for God, to presume and then proclaim God’s punishment for on OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS even if they are actually sins. In this case, we aren’t even talking about the natural consequences God allows that we bring on ourselves for our sins (as it was with the Prodigal Son) but instead a natural disaster which has no obvious causal relationship to the any particular sin, much less to the two specific sins you deem to proclaim God’s punishment for.

            Really, honestly, you don’t see the Elder Brother in this attitude? You don’t see any theological or rational error?

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          6. @tsalmon

            You think abortion and homosexuality are sins? Who knew?

            In this case, we aren’t even talking about the natural consequences God allows that we bring on ourselves for our sins (as it was with the Prodigal Son) but instead a natural disaster which has no obvious causal relationship to the any particular sin, much less to the two specific sins you deem to proclaim God’s punishment for.

            Identity politics is extremely devisive, and the LGBTQ movement, in particular. The issue of abortion is the single most devisive issue in our nation.

            See =>
            https://familyallianceonline.org/2020/04/03/why-covid-19/#comment-1176

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          7. “You think abortion and homosexuality are sins? Who knew?”

            For the sake of this discussion, it matters not if they are sins. You are presuming to proclaim God is punishing us with this Pandemic. Don’t you see that this is an outrageously presumptuous and dangerous accusation even if these two activities (one’s that you are conveniently incapable of or disinclined toward) are sins. Do you really have no better argument than just to twist what I say to vet and over again?

            “Identity politics is extremely devisive, and the LGBTQ movement, in particular. The issue of abortion is the single most devisive issue in our nation.”

            Hardly. However, I think you may think too highly of your own ability to figure out God’s priorities on punishing OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS.

            If you want to change the subject, from the actual issue at hand, I don’t blame you. If you want to actually consider this issue, then perhaps it would be illuminating to you if you took the other side.

            Let’s suppose, again for the sake of this discussion, that I proclaimed for God that this Pandemic is actually God’s punishment on us for allowing a few people in the world to rape God’s creation in order to control most of the wealth. Exotic meats in wet markets actually exist for the Chinese rich – the poor can’t afford this luxury. Deforestation and loss of habitat due to carbon produced climate change have forced bush meat hunters deeper into the jungles to find these creatures exposing humans to novel viruses that may have lain dormant in wild animals for centuries.

            There is actually more “but for” and proximate causality between the sin and the Pandemic in my hypothesis than in yours, but wouldn’t you make my same argument that I am making – it’s not up to me to presume how God punishes OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS, and you’d be right in THAT argument.

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          8. @tsalmon

            I twisted what you said? I said I did not know you thought abortion and homosexuality are sins. I didn’t. It is called sarcasm. The Bible is clear that both abortion and homosexuality are sins. But you are the Christian expert on love.

            I changed the subject? No. I answered a question.

            Am I being presumptuous? I can be full of myself, but I did not write this post. I agreed with it. Is COVID-19 punishment for our sins? The Bible says God cursed the earth for our sake, and God sure doesn’t much care for either abortion or sex perversions. Both involve child abuse.

            Abortion is child abuse in the womb. The sexual perversions that adults engage in eventually lead to the abuse of children. We are at the point where counselors cannot even help a child get over confusion about their sex. “Experts” even want to start administering sex hormones to children.

            Read Romans 1 starting at verse 18 again. If you don’t think our society is disintegrating along the lines Paul describes, then pause a while. Try to remember what it was like when we were boys. Compare the content of entertainment with the crap we can see today. Think about the nonsense you are putting into you head.

            Philippians 4:8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
            8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [b]dwell on these things.

            Whatever we want to say about the American Civil War, we must admit the people of that era fought with dignity, honor, and courage. Now many fight with none of that. No respect for God, Truth, or tradition. They just want what they want and how they get it matters less than so called success, getting what they want.

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          9. Oh dear brother. Don’t you realize that you are just projecting your own shadow, your own anger and hatred, on to God? Oh well, you are not alone. Humans have been doing this since the Pharisees thought they were carrying out God’s law by crucifying Jesus. It’s a good thing God does not punish all of humanity for this specific sin, or God would have wiped us out long ago.

            Like

          10. @tsalmon

            You want to portray my words as some sort of libel against abortion and the LGBTQ crowd. That’s nonsense. Abortion is wrong. Sexual perversions are wrong. When we complain that bank robbery wrong, do we libel bank robbers?

            If I am in error, then I am in error because I despise abortion, and I detest what the perversion of our sexual appetites can do to us. If I am in error, then I am guilty of using COVID-19 as an opportunity to protest sins we should not be committing in any case. Heaven help us! Tom has libeled COVID-19? What could more absurd than to complain about that? Yet here you are.

            What if you are wrong? What if you wrongly voting for people who use our government to promote abortion and various sexual perversions? Frankly, I don’t want to be in your shoes. You are the one who should be explaining yourself, not me.

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