Sunday, April 16, 2017

Three Columns About The Resurrection From April 1968

I haven't gotten any trolling over whether or not I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus this year, I suspect the people who troll me these days might not know how to spell it.  And, from what I've seen, the blog babble over it has diminished quite a lot.  I wonder if Trump might have lead a lot of them to prayer,  instead.  Oh, in preparing for this I did go to the usual places and the usual people are trying to kick some of it up, one having proved himself to be a total ass in the "nothing is sacred" department last week, in particular (see pertinent posts below).  But it's not much of an effort.

I can report that in the two years since I posted the following, I've read a lot more, both believing and skeptical material and find that I'm having a lot less trouble with the Resurrection the more I think about it, I don't think I'd have expressed it in exactly the same way if I'd written this yesterday.

This month I was harangued over The Resurrection again, though this time the dolts doing it apparently didn't have the "Second Law of Thermodynamics" canard at their disposal.  It was more idiotic than that.

I've confessed that I've got doubts about what is meant by "The Resurrection" when someone talks about that, generally they mean that the body of Jesus was reanimated like Frankenstein's moster or some equally absurd idea, one which doesn't seem to fit with the descriptions, such as those are, in the Gospels and other mentions of it in scripture.   As Richard McBrien points out, the Gospels don't tell us anything about HOW it happened or any clear account of what those who reported meeting the risen Jesus experienced.  Some, such as the account of Thomas's meeting with Jesus report a physical but different body who could be touched, a Jesus who could eat.  But not just a physical body as Jesus could appear and disappear.   Which would be scoffed at, so this reposting isn't for the scoffers who I invite to go elsewhere.

Here are three columns Richard McBrien published in April, 1968.  His understanding of what history and why The Resurrection can't be considered, strictly speaking, an historical event.  Which  will probably be too much for many of the people mentioned above to get unless they can understand what he means by that passage.

Anyway:

There was a time in Catholic theology when the resurrection of Jesus was not regarded as an essential part of the Redemption. The full saving act took place on the cross (St. Anselm again!); the resurrection was a kind of epilogue. Jesus rose from the dead in order to prove that he was truly the Son of God. 

The theological atmosphere in the English-speaking world changed considerably with the appearance of F. X. Durwell's biblical study The Resurrection (Sheed and Ward, 1960). It restored the Easter mystery to its proper place at the center, and not on the periphery, of our Redemption. 

Some older (and not so old) Catholics, and particularly priests, do not like to be told that the Church arrived at some deeper theological or pastoral insight after they finished their own formal religious education, in college or seminary. Significantly, they do not usually resist these insights if you can establish that we really held these views all along, but that now we are simply using different terminology. For some, this conviction has become a theological Linus-blanket. 

But this is not the situation in far too many cases, and we do the Church no real service by pretending that nothing has changed except the words. I am not suggesting here that we should ignore the past, or, worse still, reduce it to scorn. But unless we are willing to acknowledge the inadequacies and distortions of the past, we shall never purge ourselves of these deficiencies. We will have submerged our problems and, in the end, have learned nothing from history. 

I should expect very few Catholics, priests or laymen, to be able to point to any extensive treatment of the resurrection in the theology they learned some years ago. Indeed, whenever the resurrection was a topic for study, it was usually in an apologetical framework: Jesus is the Son of God, and he proved this by his miracles and especially his resurrection from the dead. (For a fuller consideration, see Avery Dulles, S.J., Apologetics and the Biblical Christ, chapter IV.) 

Now that we have rejected the idea of the crucifixion as cultic sacrifice and of the Redemption as the payment of a debt owed to God, we are free to view the resurrection of Jesus in a far richer theological perspective. 

The Redemption is the work of the Father, and it is the Father who raised Jesus from the dead for our salvation (Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:i4; 13:4; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Phil.2:9; I Thes. 1:10; 1:21). This is the consistent tradition of Pauline theology, although it has not always been part of our catechetical formation. (Some evidence of this emerges from the emotional distress manifested by some Catholics when they learned that the newer translations of the Gospels spoke of Jesus being "raised" from the dead rather than "rising" from the dead.) 

We are, in fact, saved by the resurrection of Jesus. It is through his resurrection that he communicates the new life of the Spirit to us (Rom. 4:24-5). We are reborn in the Spirit because Jesus has been raised and glorified (Jn. 7:39; 16:7; 20:22; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Death no longer has a final hold over any one of us. The hope of our own resurrection is founded on our faith in Christ's (1 Cor. 15). 

But if the resurrection is torn from the mystery of our Redemption and is regarded solely as a proof for the divinity of Jesus, then it can have no real meaning for the life and mission of the Church. 

On the contrary, we must see that the resurrection is at the very heart of our Christian faith ("Jesus is Lord!"). We Christians believe that human life and history can and will succeed because Jesus of Nazareth is the risen Lord. The resurrection is the ultimate promise of God that his Kingdom will be brought to perfection for us. 

Jesus has left the tomb and gone into the city. He can and must be found there. It is the Church's responsibility to locate him again and again, and release the Spirit which he possesses. The Church is his resurrection community and, as such, a symbol of hope to the world. This is the essence of the Easter message and the task of the Easter faith

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It is disastrous when matters of faith are posed in black-and-white, either/or categories. Either the teaching of Pope Pius XI on the morality of birth control is perfectly correct, or the Church is no longer infallible. Either Matthew 16:18 is an absolute proof of the primacy of Peter, or the Catholic Church is not truly the Body of Christ. 

The problem of the resurrection of Jesus can yield the same kind of false dilemma: either the resurrection is an historical event, or it didn't happen at all and we are still in our sins (see 1 Cor. 15:17). 

Some Catholics may be accustomed to thinking that the resurrection is an open-and-shut case: Jesus literally and physically got up from the tomb on Easter morning and, with the same body he had before the crucifixion, walked around, meeting his disciples, talking with them, instructing them. If a photographer were present at the time, he could have "caught" the Lord with his camera. Only "liberal" Protestants deny the historical truth of the resurrection, these Catholics believe, because they, deny, in the first instance, the divinity of Christ. 

In this week's essay 1 shall bring to the reader's attention a sample of some recent work being done by Catholic theologians on the problem of the resurrection. It should be pointed out that nothing in these studies diminishes the deeper theological and religious significance of the resurrection, which we outlined last week. 

Do we really have to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is an historical event in the sense that his goings-about on Easter Sunday could have been recorded on camera if one were available? The answer is very probably "No," and the clearest expression of this view has been produced recently by G. G. O'Collins, S.J., of Cambridge University, in an article which would ordinarily not come to the attention of my readers: "Is the Resurrection an 'Historical' Event?" in Heythrop Journal (October, 1967; pp. 381-7). 

Father O'Collins notes the renewal of interest in the resurrection on the part of Protestant theologians. Those of my readers who follow the progress of theological discussion through the pages of The New York Times and the news magazines will know by now that the new "theology of hope," proposed by Jurgen Moltmann and others, accords a central place to the resurrection of Jesus. 

But Father O'Collins finds that some of the newer Protestant thinking, far from being "liberal," insists too strongly on the historical character of the resurrection. It is such an event, they suggest, that an historian could verify it by his own scientific methods. 

However, an event cannot be called "historical" unless it meets certain conditions: (1) its causality must be open to scientific examination; (2) the event must have been witnessed by impartial observers; and (3) the event should bear some relationship to the kind of happenings we commonly experience. 

The resurrection fails to pass this test: (1) we cannot investigate its causality, because the scriptures themselves do not attempt to give an account, let alone a precise and detailed account, of how it occurred; (2) only believers testified to the appearances of the Lord; (3) the resurrection bears no analogy to our common experience. 

In brief, an "historical" event is one that happens in the realm of space and time. On that basis, Father O'Collins concludes that it is not an ''historical" event. By his resurrection Christ entered a new mode of existence of the glorified body, a Spirit-filled existence in which he is the source of life for mankind (2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 15:43 ff.). 

For the most part, his glorified existence is only to be described in negatives: immortal, impassible, etc. "If in fact Christ on the far side of the resurrection continued to exist under the bodily conditions which we experience and within which the historian operates, he would not be the risen Christ" (p. 385). 

The argument here is that the resurrection is central to our redemption in Christ and yet we need not regard it as an "historical" event in the strict sense of the word. How can this be? More next week.

----

The resurrection of Jesus differs from the other raisings from the dead mentioned in the Gospels: e.g., the young man from Nain (Lk. 7:11- 17), Jairus' daughter (Mk. 5:35-43), and Lazarus (Jn. 11). 

First, these events are described in some detail, whereas the resurrection of Jesus took place "in the silence of God" (St. Ignatius of Antioch). Secondly, there was never a problem of identification regarding the risen Lazarus or the risen daughter of Jairus, for example; whereas we have several instances in the Gospels where even his disciples failed to recognize the risen Lord. 

But the major contrast lies in the fact that the daughter of Jairus and the others resumed their lives under normal bodily conditions and would eventually die again. They had not yet entered into the final state of their existence. 

Jesus, on the other hand, does not return to our space-time condition. With his death and burial his historical existence is completed. He has moved into his final state of existence where he is now Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17; "see also 1 Cor. 15:43 ff.). 

Does all this mean that the resurrection was not "for real," that our faith is founded on an illusion? Not at all

Something objective did happen on Easter Sunday and its effects have manifested themselves ever since. The apostles themselves proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus as a real event, because they experienced and understood it as such. St. Paul would even argue that without the resurrection our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17). 

The apostles were convinced that Jesus had appeared to them at definite times and in specific places and to a particular number of persons. These events were not regarded simply as mystical experiences and certainly not as hallucinations. On the contrary, "these appearances are historical from the side of those who encountered the risen Lord, but not from the side of Christ himself" (G. G. O'Collins, S.J., Heythrop Journal, October, 1967, p. 386). 

The resurrection and subsequent appearances are not subject to verification by the objective historian, and yet they are real events. This means that we must believe not only in the redemptive value of the resurrection, but also in the event itself. This is not true, however, in the case of the crucifixion. 

While faith is required to see the cross as the tree of life, faith is not required to accept it as an historical fact. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and an historian can verify this. But this is not so with regard to the resurrection. And yet the resurrection is just as real as the crucifixion. "Reality" comprises more than what is narrowly regarded as "historical." 

In other words, one can accept the resurrection as a real, bodily event, without necessarily calling it "historical." I say "necessarily" because there are theologians today (and they are not all fundamentalists) who continue to insist on the strict historicity of the resurrection. (For these references, see Father O'Collin's' article in Heythrop Journal.) 

While there may be room for discussion on the precise meaning of "historical," it must be clear that no Christian can responsibly deny the reality of the resurrection. It is something that really happened to Jesus of Nazareth and not merely to his disciples and apostles (as Bultmann has suggested). 

Indeed, the reality of the resurrection is the only thing that fully accounts for the faith and proclamation of the primitive Church. The apostles were men transformed by their experience of the risen Christ. No other explanation suffices for the extraordinary events that followed Easter Sunday and Pentecost. 

Now, as then, the only effective proof of the resurrection is a living faith. The resurrection remains an event which transforms and is transforming. A community which proclaims only a biological resuscitation of a corpse which lived some 2000 years ago is, at best, an historical anachronism or a curiosity piece. 

The risen Lord can only be experienced today, as he was in Palestine, in the breaking of the bread -- as men break bread with one another and give hope to those without hope, joy to those without peace, justice to those without rights. The Church, as the risen Body of Christ, must be precisely this kind of community

38 comments:

  1. Funniest sentence in the above:

    "In this week's essay 1 shall bring to the reader's attention a sample of some recent work being done by Catholic theologians"

    Work? Really? Were they wearing overalls and did they all take showers when the work was over? I mean, you can get seriously soiled if you spend all day pulling stuff out of your ass.

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    1. You know, dopey, I went over to Duncan's Daycare for White Collar White Whusses and see that you and lots of other people who never did physical labor in their entire "working lives" are snarking on your witticism. I think it's especially funny for you and Moe, two guys who made their living in the arduous labor of pushing computer and typewriter keys down (did you ever have to struggle under hard labor of a non-electric, or did you start out typing on an electric?)

      I'm especially chuckling at your comment due to the number of times you guys over at the white-collar Baby Blue blog have snarked about the blue collar folk who believe in religion.

      I see you're bragging about the teensy audience your old band tape transfers have gotten on some obscure ratings rating. I'm more familiar with your current group, Steve and the Stupids.

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    2. Oh, by the way, you do know that I didn't write that, don't you, Richard McBrien did, in 1968. Or didn't you pick that up in your skimming.

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    3. Really? That's the best you've got?

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  2. BTW, I started on a Royal manual portable. Had it for years.

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    1. "You're a Christian martyr, yes, that's what you are, a Christian martyr!" Amanda Wingfield: The Glass Menagerie

      I'm sure you bled for every phrase about pop music you typed out on it.

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    2. Used it to pull stuff out of your ass?

      You're still covered in it.

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    3. I'm not finding posting his comments to be amusing anymore, I might just ignore him.

      Duncan's claim that the Holocaust was a suitable topic for stand up did it. The guy is a bored, low-brow neo-Epicurian with an Ivy League degree, one whose tastes are geared to his laziness instead of some more difficult level of pleasure.

      It is ironic that the idea that it's OK to make stand-up jokes about the Holocaust is OK with Steve Simels who seems to believe he, personally, owns it. They have the integrity of rotten, soiled toilet paper.

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  3. "I see you're bragging about the teensy audience your old band tape transfers have gotten on some obscure ratings rating. "

    But of course you never lurk over there. No sirree bob, no way, unpossible.

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    1. I went over there to see what The Stupids would say when, as I knew you would, you posted that comment there.

      You really think I keep track of your..... um..... "musical career"? That's so cute. As in a 4-year-old's fantasies of self-aggrandizement are cute. Calvin and Hobbes without the charm or intellectual content. More like Danae in that other cartoon. No, she was smarter than you.

      If you don't try harder, I'm going back to ignoring you.

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  4. No, as usual, you'll just pretend to respond to things I didn't actually say. Because, as we know, you're not just a liar, you're a GUTLESS liar.

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    1. It's a pity you're so clueless that you can't appreciate the irony of you saying that.

      Simps, no one lies more than you do, as yourself and those sockpuppets you'll never forgive NTodd for outing as being you.

      Duncan deserves you.

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    2. Oh, by the way, do you agree with Duncan that there must be a joke possible about Mengele sadistically experimenting on twins, murdering them and dissecting them in the name of science, science which was accepted as science by his fellow scientists?

      You're such a wit, why don't you prove it can be done by coming up with the side splitter on that topic.

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  5. I don't work on spec, shithead.

    Oh, and BTW, NTodd did nothing of the sort, as even has since admitted.

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    1. So you do agree that there is a humorous side to Mengele experimenting on twins, murdering and dissecting them and that the results are considered science. Unless you specifically say "no" I'm going to have to believe that you're OK with jokes about the Holocaust. Go on, take a brave stand for free speech and nothing being sacred.

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    1. An idiot, a coward, a pig and a copycat. That's you all over, Simps. I used to figure Duncan was better than that but now I know he isn't and never was.

      I thought I was done writing about that but I think this needs more comment.

      I have, actually, read some of the jokes the SS and the Einsatzgruppen told each other about the people they murdered. No doubt you'd figure that was, in your favorite phrase, "comedy gold". So you share something in common with them.

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  7. Says the man who thinks comedy is a tool of oppressive heterosexual hegemony.

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    1. I gave you several chances to say you believed that the Holocaust wasn't a legitimate topic for comedy and you won't say it, it's clear you value the ... um... "values" of entertainment and stupidity more than you do the stand that the Holocaust, the millions murdered by the Nazis should never be held up for the amusement of people, something for them to laugh at. Now that we're clear on that, I have everything I need.

      When nothing is sacred, eventually no one's lives matter and whatever is done to them can be made into "comedy gold" which is fool's gold.

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  8. This is so you, Sparkles. You ask a thoroughly bullshit question based on an idiotic premise, and then when a sane person declines to engage it, you call WINNING!!!!

    Sad, really.
    :-)

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    1. Duncan Black said that he hated subjects being taboo for making comedy out of, he mentioned the Holocaust, he explicitly said that any topic could be turned into comedy. He said:

      "Any Subject Can Be Funny"

      "Sometimes I get annoyed at things which can become "taboo." Putting it simply, making fun of rape victims is not funny, but that does not mean any joke about rape is off limits. Sometimes the press secretary suggests that Hitler wasn't that bad, and you gotta make some jokes. And the Holocaust can be hilarious! If done right, of course."

      If that's true then there must be aspects of Mengele's twin experiments that "can be hilarious!". I gave you a chance to disagree with Duncan Black on that matter, as someone who seems to believe he's the one, true bearer of the flame, I gave you a chance to say that, no, that's one topic that should never be held up as a topic of comedy.

      It's obviously not a "bullshit question" because it's exactly the same question that article I wrote about from Tablet was based in.

      I don't see how you can have it both ways, Simels, either with Duncan Black you approve of holding nothing is sacred and everything is fodder for making into comedy or you don't agree with that and the Holocaust is an unacceptable topic of comedy.

      You want to publicly disagree with Duncan Black on that now, I'll note it in the next piece I write on this topic. You don't and it's gonna feature you, by name, as someone who figures there is something funny about the sadistic, murderous Mengele twin experiments.

      Go on, Simels, make your declaration.

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  9. Okay, you simple shithead -- here's my answer. As a general rule, I don't believe there's any subject that's inherently off limits to comedy, but as with everything else in life, there are exceptions. So it depends upon the joke.

    I have no doubt that eminently reasonable distinction just sailed several miles over your empty noggin.

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    1. Is the Holocaust an exception, is the example of that I mentioned, the Mengele twin experiments an exception? You didn't answer the question.

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  10. Did I say several miles over your head? I was underestimating, obviously.

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    1. You're the one who said there were exceptions, surely you can tell us if the Holocaust and the Mengele twin experiments are exceptions. If those aren't exceptions I'm wondering what you would list as exceptions, things that can't be legitimate objects of comedy.

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  11. It depends on a) the joke and b) who's telling it.

    Seriously, common garden slugs find you insufferably obtuse.

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    1. In short, your answer is that the Holocaust and Mengele running sadistic experiments on twins, murdering them and dissecting them are fodder for comedy. Is his reported practice of removing their organs while they weren't anesthetized something a good joke could be made of? How about if one of the twins died while that was being done the surviving one would be murdered so they could be dissected? Is that something a joke could be made of?

      Your position is that something about that can be made into comedy, yes or no.

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  12. What part of it depends don't you get? Oh wait -- I know. All of it.

    Feel free to declare "WINNING" -- I have no further interest in arguing with a box of rocks.

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    1. I certainly understand that "part of it depends" in this context means that it is possible to make jokes about the Holocaust and the Mengele twin experiments according to you. Funny jokes. Jokes that are legitimately funny. So the Nazis murders of Jews and Roma and others can be fodder for comedy, today.

      If you don't hold that those can never be legitimate topics of comedy, you have answered yes to my questions. If you don't understand that it doesn't surprise me.

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  13. And as predicted, Sparky declares "WINNING!" for the Trifecta of Obtuse.

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    1. No, you're the one who is too obtuse to understand that your claim that "it depends" includes the position that it is possible to turn the Holocaust and the crimes of Mengele into, as you or other of the stunned Eschatots would call it, "comedy gold".

      It's either unacceptable to make jokes about those topics or it isn't and if it isn't unacceptable then who's going to decide what Holocaust jokes and twin murder "jokes" are unacceptable? You are as stupid as can be if you figure once you've opened up that mine of depravity that guys like you can make that decision as to what can't be said and to who and what Nazis and Holocaust deniers and others can make those "jokes" for others of their kinds and for idiots who can be persuaded that it's all good fun.

      Jeesh, Simels, and here I thought you were supposed to understand how show-biz works.

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    2. "No -- YOU'RE the puppet!"

      :-)

      "It's either unacceptable to make jokes about those topics or it isn't"

      A word comes to mind about that remark. It's on the tip of my tongue.

      Oh, yeah. WRONG!!!!!

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    3. That's stupid even for you. If it's not unacceptable then it has to be acceptable. There is no alternative position to have in that situation except to claim you don't know.

      I am finding it interesting that you put a higher value on alleged comedy than you do that issue. I am always finding that no matter how depraved I have concluded you kewl kats are that you surprise me by being even more depraved than that. It's what happens when you strike the pose that nothing is sacred. You don't get to make exceptions and, as you prove, you don't even dare to say that there is an exception in the Holocaust. I wonder why that .... No, I'll have to write that out. You won't like it. Duncan really won't.

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    4. "If it's not unacceptable than it has to be acceptable."

      As the butler says in CITIZEN KANE, "maybe yes, maybe no."

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    5. You probably made the right decision to not go into mathematics or the law.

      Citizen Kane isn't the answer to the question.

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  14. Um, Simps, I'm not posting that last comment because I don't publish alleged jokes about child rape. It's not funny.

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  15. Sara Silverman gets to make that call, not you, you smug self-righteous piece of shit.

    Now just piss off.

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    1. It's my blog, I get to decide what I will and won't post, not that Silverman asshole. Certainly not that Simels asshole.

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