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My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality
The author writes that it's fine for Christians to take certain biblical condemnations seriously while ignoring others.
May 21st, 2012
10:00 AM ET

My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

Are conservative Christians hypocritical and selective when it comes to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality? With all that the Bible condemns, why the focus on gay sex and same-sex marriage?

Given the heated nature of our current debates, it’s a question conservative Christians have learned to expect. “Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

On its face, it’s a fair question. But it can be posed in two very different ways.

First, the question can be asked to suggest that the Bible’s clear condemnation of sexual sins can simply be set aside. The other way of posing the question represents a genuine attempt to understand how the Bible is to be rightly applied to life today.

In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer.

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An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet.

As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

In other words, there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians are not concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. That part of the law is no longer binding, and Christians can enjoy shrimp and pork with no injury to conscience.

The Bible’s commands on sexual behavior, on the other hand, are continued in the New Testament. When it comes to homosexuality, the Bible’s teaching is consistent, pervasive, uniform and set within a larger context of law and Gospel.

My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage

The Old Testament clearly condemns male homosexuality along with adultery, bestiality, incest and any sex outside the covenant of marriage. The New Testament does not lessen this concern but amplifies it.

The New Testament condemns both male and female homosexual behavior. The Apostle Paul, for example, points specifically to homosexuality as evidence of human sinfulness. His point is not merely that homosexuals are sinners but that all humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The New Testament condemns a full range of sexual sins, and homosexuality is specified among these sins. In Romans, Paul refers to homosexuality in terms of “dishonorable passions,” “contrary to nature” and “shameless.” As New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon has stated, the Bible’s indictment “encompasses every and any form of homosexual behavior.”

Your Take: Rethinking the Bible on homosexuality?

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

Why are Christians so concerned with homosexuality? In the first place, that question is answered by the simple fact that it is the most pressing moral question of our times. Christians must be concerned about adultery, pornography, injustice, dishonesty and everything the Bible names as sin. But when my phone rings with a call from a reporter these days, the question I am asked is never adultery or pornography. It is about homosexuality.

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Christians who are seriously committed to the authority of the Bible have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches, including its condemnation of homosexuality. At the same time, our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing.

In other words, we understand that the Bible condemns all forms of sin because our Creator knows what is best for us. The Bible names sins specifically so that each of us will recognize our own sinfulness and look to Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.

Christian love requires that we believe and teach what the Bible teaches and that we do so with both strong conviction and humble hearts. The Church must repent of our failures in both of these tasks, but we must not be silent where the Bible speaks.

Are Christians hypocrites in insisting that homosexual behavior is sin? We, too, are sinners, and hypocrisy and inconsistency are perpetual dangers.

The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective.

At the same time, this painful failure must remind us that we must not fail to answer rightly when asked what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Love requires us to tell the truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (7,995 Responses)
  1. DJ

    We need to strengthen laws that separate CHURCH and STATE. Fine for you to believe your selective scripture reading hogwash, but please stop trying to force your beliefs on the rest of us. Live your life according to your own rules, and stay OUT OF MINE.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • sl5465

      DJ, are you joking. If there were any more seperation of church and state, services and sermons would be held in secret for fear of being fed to the lions. The gays are the group that is trying to force their lifestyle on us. Just watch tv or go to the movies. There isn't a single show on tv that doesn't have a gay victim or doesn't somehow glorify a gay relationship. Will and Grace ring a bell?. How many tv shows mention God? Geez, the gays are the vocal ones. The are constantly whinning. Have them stop forcing their opinions and selective preaching to the 99% of Americans who are straight....

      May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  2. Imagine NO Religion

    Religion is America's only legal tax scam!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Rugo

      The current Bible is corrupted, only holy book which is not corrupted if the Holy Quran. I don't understand how can human being change word of God and he is not messanger of him, still people believe it.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  3. Tony

    What is failed to be mentioned is that Christ was a practicing Jew and conformed to all the tenants of Judaism including diet. The changes came after the fact and only to "appeal" to the masses in order to convert pagans to this new religion during the infancy. These changes came by the words and actions of men and not GOD. If you are going to use this as a basis to discriminate then at least get your facts correct. History is written by the victors....

    May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. The Notorious

    Who cares what the bible says about this topic? You have to believe in the bible for it to have any credibility and I don't believe.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • malibu123

      And no one cares what you think or believe.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  5. Jesus Christ

    There isn't a single christian who isn't a hypocrite.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Joel

      There isn't a single PERSON who isn't a hypocrite.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Grafknar

      Hypocrite? http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypocrite?s=t

      No, we all sin. If a Christian criticized you for sinning, and claimed they did not sin when they did, they would be a hypocrite.

      Stop whining.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • sl5465

      you are dead wrong...there isn't a single Christian thats not a sinner....some are hypocritical about it, some are not...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  6. oiala

    Take one look at this guy.......I wouldn't and couldn't listen to a word from his mouth!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Grafknar

      I was raised not to judge people on the basis of their appearance.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • justzisguy

      WOW! Brilliant! Did you come up with that rebuttal all by yourself? Too bad this isn't Amazon, I'd mark this as "useful" until my fingers bled.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Hark

      Judging the book by its cover, eh?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • sl5465

      oiala....wow, glad you aren't profiling. Now do you disbelieve people based on race as well?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  7. rob

    Great article Dr. Mohler!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  8. Question

    Can someone explain to me how ho.mo.se.xuality is hereditary? Understanding what I know (and it's not a ton!) about genes, how would a "gay" gene still exist? Wouldn't it have "bred itself" out by now? I know how recessive genes work, but even with recessive genes, there has been too much time for that gene to still exist.

    That being the case, I believe it hom.ose.xuality to be a choice.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • LT

      Agreed! A choice! Not a race.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • DJ

      Your belief is wrong. Sorry.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Question

      @DJ...can you explain then please?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Madtown

      Question, Google is your friend. All the answers are there, if you take the few moments to do your own legwork.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • H in Texas

      If you are born predisposed with a p.enis and an abnormally high level of estrogen then you are going to have male parts and a very female mindset and behavior style. The opposite is true as well. Anatomy and biochemistry are 2 separate things. But I suppose since neither of those are mentioned in the bible I am just quoting wit.chcraft right?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • alejandro ibarra

      Only that gene has never been found.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Joel

      There are many, many phenotypes that are partially genetically influenced. But even if there isn't a genetic influence, it doesn't mean it isn't a choice. And recessive genes hang around a long time, Tay-Sachs is 100% lethal before puberty, and its still around.

      And regardless, the argument about choice or not is completely pointless. It has absolutely no bearing on the debate surrounding this. Just because something's a choice doesn't make it ok just like something immutable is not necessarily good.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • tom LI

      Investigate epigenetics. Many "preferences" are now being linked to genetics. Preferences like what flavors turn you on and off, what smells you like, and the ones you don't, and various behaviors once thought to be a choice are being mapped on the genetic code. But not where they were expected to be when the code was first cracked...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • David

      Question, you're assuming that every person who has ever had children in the last 100 years is hetero. Think about how many people in the past have lived their lives in the closet, but in the light of day, carried on cookie-cutter, white picket fence lifestyles.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Question

      Thanks for all the information...I'll read up on some of this for sure! I still see it more as a choice, but I understand the arguments you all are making on here.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Erik

      "I believe it hom.ose.xuality to be a choice."

      Being gay is not a choice. I hate to burst any bubbles, but science, in fact, is actually not in dispute on this matter.

      All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

      Reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy or reorientation therapy, "counsels" LGBT persons to pray fervently and study Bible verses, often utilizing 12-step techniques that are used to treat sexual addictions or trauma. Such Christian councilors are pathologizing homosexuality, which is not a pathology but is a sexual orientation. Psychologically, that's very dangerous territory to tread on. All of the above-mentioned medical professional organizations, in addition to the American and European Counseling Associations, stand strongly opposed to any form of reparative therapy.

      In my home country, Norway, reparative therapy is officially considered to be ethical malpractice. But there are many countries that do not regulate the practice, and many others that remain largely silent and even passively supportive of it (such as the Philippines). Groups that operate such "therapy" in the Philippines are the Evangelical Bagong Pag-asa, and the Catholic Courage Philippines.

      The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

      On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

      Take this interesting paragraph I found on an Evangelical website: "The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" – meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are 'born that way.'"

      But that's not at all what it means, and it seems Evangelicals are plucking out stand-alone phrases from scientific reports and removing them from their context. This is known in academia as the fallacy of suppressed evidence. Interestingly, this is also what they have a habit of doing with verses from the Bible.

      This idea of sexuality being a choice is such a bizarre notion to me as a man of science. Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

      The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

      Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

      Furthermore, there are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

      Having said that, in the realm of legal rights, partnership rights, and anti-discrimination protections, the gay gene vs. choice debate is actually quite irrelevant. Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  9. derp

    derp

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  10. momoya

    Can you imagine if an alien landed here, and some christian got to him first and told him to follow the god of the bible.. Humanity would be toast within a few days..

    May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • The Alien

      Your chances are better with the Christian than with you!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • justinstl

      Aliens are God

      May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  11. pgrebus

    The article is incorrect – pro-slavery used the Bible to declare slavery morally right under God.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Grafknar

      Specific Book, Chapter, and Verse please. 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • rob

      Yes, people look for support for what they want to do everywhere. But as Mohler said, the Bible contains a very strong anti-slavery motif as God is the one who sets us free. He is the original abolitionist (cf. Exodus).

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Tom

      You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

      Oops, guess the south was right.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  12. Norm

    In respect to gay marriage, the Bible is only relative to those that believe in it and therefore has no place in the dicussion of governemnt policy for the masses.
    If the government didn't award special privedge to married couples, there would be no issue in the first place.
    The separation of church and state has been violated when it comes to special financial considerations made to married couple by the government.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Stacey

      Amen.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Pete

      He leaves out the fact that hundreds of novels were written about Jesus by his contemporaries. Only 4 are accepted by the church...Matthew, Paul, Luke, John. Theres a ton of other stuff out there ...including the one written by Freddie Mercury's biblical ancestor...takes it in a whole new direction...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Pete

      Ha, thats Mark, not Paul. Shows how much church i attend...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • NClaw441

      Whether religion based or otherwise, our morals inform our policies. To follow those morals is not establishing religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  13. ted

    Just imagine the world with all gays – one generation and no more.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • momoya

      Your point?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bruce

      Pregnancy can occur in a population that is 100% hom.ose.xual. It's actually quite easy.

      Just because you might prefer one gender over the other does not make you incapable of going against such a preference, and of course there is always the test tubes...

      Seriously, are you that daft?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • DJ

      Why imagine that? No is trying to make you or anyone else gay. How narcissistic of you.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • wes_mantooth

      we would all be impeccably dressed.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Joel

      So?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • JD

      If everyone was gay then how would there even be one generation...your comment has ign0ant troll statement written all in it

      May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  14. Stark

    "the New Testament never commands slavery" Oh really? Guess he never read Ephesians 6:5: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." Maybe that's in the old new testament.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • NClaw441

      That is not commanding slavery.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Micah

      In reality, this verse is referring to the Christian perspective that whatever situation you are in in life, you can be a Christian Witness. One would expect a slave to look for an opportunity to rebel against their master and hate them deeply, but Christianity isn't about the physical realm as much as overcoming it. That's why Jesus says we should turn the other cheek. Why a slave should wholeheartedly serve their master. Because when people notice we act differently, loving others when they've given us no reason to, they will start to ask what sets us apart. It's an incredibly freeing concept. Not everyone is born into slavery (and thank God most of the world completely opposes it), but those that are slaves have the same capacity to share Christ's love and message as anyone else!
      If you want to look more at slavery and the Bible, look at the book of Philemon which deals with the relationship between a master and a runaway slave.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  15. Darth Cheney

    I'm so happy that God speaks through this man to tell us exactly which of His words were just BS and which ones we should take seriously.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      LOL yet you will so readily believe that god spoke through ancient men and asked them to write the bible?.....HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      But that is how god has always operated, he always finds one person and tells them everything. why not just over a loud PA system announce to the whole world what he actually wants? but i guess its better to let billions of people burn for eternity...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Leslie

      That's what all "christians" do, they pick and choose what they want to follow out of the bible and interpret it to their benefit.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  16. rad666

    "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" -- Even Jesus told his followers to pay taxes. Guess the church just ignore that to profit.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • DJ

      Amen.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Joel

      Nonprofits don't pay taxes in the US. The argument that churches should pay taxes is a hollow argument w/o wanting to get rid of the exemption entirely. Having only religious nonprofits pay taxes IS religious discrimination and illegal under the Establishment Clause.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  17. cons_are_loons

    I QUOTE:

    Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

    WHAT A JOKE COMING FROM A SOUTHERN BAPTIST!

    The Southern Baptist Church was created out of support for slavery. Those liberal yankees from up north opposed it. Southern christian conservatives pointed to the Bible in both the Old and New Testament for proof that the christian god condoned slavery. In fact Paul says if you're slave master is a Christian that means you should obey him more. Anybody who disagrees and is against the idea of slavery knows nothing he says and just wants to cause problems.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • DJ

      Needs to read some slave narratives. Frederick Douglass explains how he prayed for a master who not religious, as they were the worst of all–the most cruel and deceptive, like snakes. Many Southerners' version of Christianity strengthened their resolve that slavery was just fine.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Grafknar

      Book, Chapter, and Verse please 🙂

      And besides, today the origins of the Southern Baptists are as relevant to being pro-slavery as the Republican Party's origins of being anti-slavery; yet for some reason the latter never gets credit for it.

      Quality of the argument > Credentials for making it.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  18. Michael

    Bull:
    Jesus gave us one rule to follow and in doing so answered all the questions of right and wrong.
    Do onto others as you would have done onto to you! I do not believe there is a Christian out there that would want feel the judgment of the condemnation of the righteous were the tables turned. So stop or pay the price come judgment day.
    Unless it is all about money and being right, then buy all means cast the first stone!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  19. Mary Beth

    Separation of church and state! Church should not be dictating law for all!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • whatahit

      My feelings precisely!!! Government needs to get out of the marriage business.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • john jaun

      neither should secular humanism

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Servant63

      SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!!! I love when this is hollered out as an argument... Most everyone who uses this "argument" has no idea what this really means... Let's see – Jefferson wrote in his letter – "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State..
      So now THINK with me... what this means is people CAN exercise their religion and the government cannot establish a religion...and since Christianity is already an established religion (that was not established by government) there is no conflict of law to scream about...
      but we really don't understand what separation of church & state really means – only that we are suppose to holler it when someone talks about what God commands us to share in love with people...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  20. selective reading

    Whatever. In America we still value freedom. I don't care what your book says, or what crazy interpretation you have for it. This is the land of the free and no religion can stifle this equality. We are all gonna laugh at you if we haven't started already.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Scott Allen

      I wholeheartedly encourage you to laugh today and enjoy it. A day is coming when your laughter will be turned to tears. I'm not being flippant but making a point. As a Christian we get so much static for taking stances against what the WORD says is sin. This isn't our opinion. Do you think we enjoy this? Jesus didn't enjoy what he did, but he did it for the fruit of his work. We don't enjoy taking flack for standing up for this, but your future is worth it. Revile us, hate us, kill us. We suffer that for the hope that we'll get through and someone won't perish. Think about that before you just condemn us and what we say.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
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