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Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian. His Name Was Jesus



Brian Normoyle – 
Actor, Producer, Commentator
Posted: 02/23/2012 2:02 pm

Buzzfeed reported Tuesday that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum claimed in a 2008 interview for the Oxford Center for Religious Life that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian. He was and is wrong.

Every election cycle, we see more of this callow silliness whereby the Christian right and conservative politicians contend in one way or another that Republicans may claim moral superiority as the party of Jesus — (R-Nazareth), apparently — while “liberals” are godless and dangerous.

But while many political opportunists cynically pander to an evangelical base by half-heartedly nodding to socially divisive issues they only cursorily believe, I don’t doubt the sincerity of Santorum’s beliefs or the strength of his convictions. Of course, that’s precisely why he’s not only out of touch with the views of a majority of mainstream Americans, but with many fellow Christians and the principle teachings of Christ himself.

Even if Santorum could make a credible case that American civil law must “comport with God’s law” (he can’t) he doesn’t get to have it both ways. The Bible is replete with passages condoning polygamy, slavery, the subjugation of women and all sorts of outdated or unsavory tenets Santorum and conservatives like him so selectively disregard. But the issue isn’t just that evangelicals cherry-pick scriptural precepts they like and turn a blind eye to those they don’t — or that the Constitution explicitly proscribes the establishment of a religion (any religion) — it’s that Republican Jesus doesn’t square with the version of the man depicted in the Bible.

Was Christ a war-friendly, pro-death penalty, pro-assault rifle, pro-corporatist, anti-environmentalist who walked among the dinosaurs? Or he was he the compassionate, charitable man who saw love and acceptance of others, tolerance, and generosity towards the poor as the principle paths towards an enlightened, God-like life?

To be clear, I don’t believe Jesus follows or cares about American politics any more than he’s invested in who wins the Super Bowl or an unprovoked war. But if we must perennially engage in this futile, neanderthal exercise of trying to divine a deity’s personal positions on a nation half a world and two millennia removed from where and when he lived, then we can’t ignore the countless references in his Gospel to social justice, welfare, and tolerance while inventing words he absolutely didn’t say about gays and abortion, despite their prevalence in his time.

And whether championing the right to affordable health care, nondiscrimination, and social justice or fighting to protect basic welfare, living wages, and the earth we tread and air we breath — liberals and their standard-bearers have traditionally favored policies distinctly more geared towards the very issues about which Christ spoke and for which he was marginalized and condemned: the poor, the sick and those suffering from injustices of unfair systems.

I’m not a Christian anymore. But given Santorum’s selective use of the Bible and his clear misunderstanding of the overall message of Christ, neither is he. At least — to use Rev. Franklin Graham’s evasive innuendo about Obama’s faith — I can’t “categorically say” he is. Perhaps, like his own statement on Obama’s faith, Santorum just subscribes to “a phony ‘theology’… based [not] on the Bible… [but] a different theology.” Either way, it has no place in American civil law and certainly no place in a serious presidential political discussion.

Besides, Santorum was wrong. There is such a thing as a liberal Christian. His name was Jesus.

Follow Brian Normoyle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrianNormoyle

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About tenthltr2u (1046 Articles)
A child of the 60's I often feel out of place in the world as it exist today. Too much excess, too much materialism, too few people who genuinely care or give a damn. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

39 Comments on Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian. His Name Was Jesus

  1. Hegetarian the Vegetarian // February 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm // Reply

    Jesus was a liberal Jew – Christianity was invented after his death.

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  2. Tracy McCarthy // February 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm // Reply

    Agree with everything you say but have to say it makes me sad to hear you say you are not a Christian anymore. I hope that you find your way back!

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  3. i agree wholeheartedly with most all of your comments. HOWEVER christ didnt outright condemn homosexuality but he did say anyone who follows him will want to live in the sprirt of the law. Now as far as the charity u speak of it is true of christ. as far as the love and tolerance of others this is also true. But to go as far as to say that christ believed homosexuality was ok would be the same as saying murder, lieing , bearing false witness, were all acceptable. Yes to love the sinner but hate the sin was exactly what christ taught. Sorry you would put your angle on it just as santorum did. But then again santorum and the orthodox jews dont really believe in christ.

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  4. Rev. Paul Traver // February 27, 2012 at 11:54 pm // Reply

    I find it very interesting sir that you are guilty of the very thing that you claim Santorum of. In my understanding, that is hypocrisy.
    To suggest in any way that Jesus would represent any political station is an absolute biblical mis truth.
    I do not believe that Jesus would choose the far right any more than He would choose your stance. To suggest that he (Jesus) aligns more toward your “political position” is heresy.
    Considering your articles content, you and would not be the two to sit and converse any time soon.

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  5. Thank you for stating what to us “bleeding hearts” liberals is fact:Jesus is the model for a liberal NOT a conservative (a heart of stone?). What is it with conservatives? They are people of little or no faith and their actions confirm this every single time they open their mouth. Republicans are always better than Democrats:morally, ethically, “family values”,always on “high ground”. Really…really? I believe they should remember the religious statement..if your house is made of glass…get it?

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  6. While I agree with your premise, and have been saying much the same for years, including as a founding staff member of Hope for Peace & Justice, an organization founded to spread much this same message, technically, Jesus was a Jew.

    ; )

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  7. Important words, Brian. I’m sorry that Christianity is something that you’ve rejected precisely because we Christians have failed to truly live as followers of Jesus. There are some of us out there who in small ways are trying to make this right, and hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future we’ll succeed.

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  8. As a Woman, who has devoted over a decade to deep study of the Bible, in the Hebrew, Greek, cultural, and myriads of other contexts, I can only disagree with the claim made here that “The Bible is replete with passages condoning polygamy, slavery, the subjugation of women and all sorts of outdated or unsavory tenets…” Because of Jesus’ teachings, I am treated as an equal amongst my peers, male, female, boss, employee, children, people from other cultures worldwide… we are all “brethren” with the common cause of caring for those in need. No other religious figurehead ever taught that.

    Jesus was the first figure to stand up for equality, particularly in his treatment of women, children, races, the suffering, and the “minorities”. He called for those who ‘could’ to ‘provide’ for them – self-sacrifice. The Word of God neither condones polygamy, slavery, nor the subjugation of women… it ADDRESSES them. Jesus provided the only functional cure for society’s constant problems, then, now, and future. Jesus was RADICAL. He addressed not only the problems of “religiosity,” but ALSO of self-pleasures and false ideologies that are “categorically” destructive to oneself, others, and nations who practice/condone them, consistently throughout Scripture. He successfully addressed both sides, both boundaries of what is good and what is not, throughout His entire ministry, concluding with His willingness to take the punishment for our sin. He stood up so strongly for what is right that He shook His own religious leaders up so much that they killed Him. Name another religious figurehead who did that. No, the rest took the titles and the benefits of supposed authority for themselves. I choose Jesus’ model, even knowing that it is the hardest path to follow and I will fail… Yet the fruit of godly living is the best for everyone around, including self, if you know God’s LOVE. Now, can or should that be legislated? I’m not sure Jesus would have stood up in the polls, but He did stand up in the Temples. He did preach everywhere He went. I’m not sure He would have taken a leader’s side – He wasn’t here to be led by man, He was here to LEAD BY EXAMPLE, and He didn’t do what any man wanted Him to. But here, in this country, while we still have the right to “vote our conscience,” I will vote for the leaders who Stand With Jesus. No one is perfect, but at least Santorum lives his faith and isn’t bought by public opinion. That’s more than I’ve seen in politics for the many decades I’ve been here. And the centrality of his faith? The GOD OF LOVE. What I do know is this: God has always honored nations who turn to Him and live by His decrees. So as a concerned citizen for the people of America, and with LOVE, I would vote for those who openly, unapologetically follow Jesus. It’s about Him, not ME, MYSELF, or I.

    People keep trying to come up with ways to make self-elevation, self-pleasure “okay” but every form of study, including the psychology which people lend highest credibility to today, prove repeatedly that all the things people turn to in order to “make life better by pleasing oneself” end up becoming destructive addictions that ruin relationships at every level. I, personally, have lived most every one of them out to their natural, empty, conclusion. The only full satisfaction of every selfish desire has been to overcome them through the propitiation and total forgiveness granted by Jesus. Again, no other leader ever did that. Jesus, by giving His own life to set us free, gave us the way to turn to God and no longer be trapped by the empty pleasures of this world. We are set free from the foolish notions this world keeps thrusting upon us as “answers,” from which the slightest intellectual involvement decries their illogicality.

    From one of those in a class you describe as “terribly subjugated” by the tenets of the faith I have in Jesus, I can tell you I am filled with LOVE and JOY to be able to tell you that the key tenets of your discourse are, when actually living them out, totally wrong. 🙂 I have more LOVE in my life now than ever in any of those other “belief structures.” And I do care about sharing that LOVE that stems only from a knowledge of and relationship with Jesus, so I will vote accordingly, and I am willing to bear the scorn and criticism and attacks from those who don’t share my beliefs. That’s the LOVE of God.

    A note from my husband,
    “WWJD is a great slogan for those who understand the scriptures as a whole. For the unbeliever who wants to believe in a god of their own making it is a mantra for pointless grace. The grace of Christ is offered as a way to bring man back into alignment with the God of the Old Testament. The God who destroyed entire societies for condoning homosexuality. The God who established marriage as an institution between one man and one woman (the two shall become one). The God who crafted scripture in such a way that it can relate to the new believer of any culture on Earth by addressing issues which arise from every culture on Earth (which is not the same as condoning them). Christ was neither a Democrat or a Republican, He was Emissary of a Righteous God who’s laws naturally collide with the natural destructive desires of humanity. Jesus did not condone the oppression of the poor by the wealthy and powerful. Since we are told in almost every epistle of the New Testament that the wrath of God is held for those who practice all forms of lawlessness (or even just tolerating every form of personal pleasure which are expressly forbidden in the Old Testament) it is obvious that Christ was not a tolerant Liberal either. He paid the price of His own torture and death to free us from the mindset of self-pleasing sinfulness not to free us to embrace it. Grace is a path to a godly life which pleases God, not a Godless life which pleases man. Christ would have been compassionate, but he would have been very conservative (He is the one that said to even think on a woman with lust was considered adultery).”

    In conclusion, there is a difference between knowing what God says is right and wrong for His creation, and trying to use that knowledge to control, manipulate, criticize, or force others to do things “your way.” The difference is LOVE. God is Love. Not what we define as Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Tea Party… LOVE. When that is lived to the fullest, THEN we have leadership to follow, now don’t we?

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    • while i agree with most everything u have said and while i agree with the fact that no one is without fault. i have a BIG concern with any christian that supports preemptive strikes against countries either by themselves or an ally. I believe because of christian history most enemies of christian nations are afraid of them because of their greed. One only has to look at the history of the SO CALLED christ followers to see that they have done everything they could to wipe out or destroy other cultures of people to get what they want (their land,riches, resources,and in the case of the crusades even converts). Until this really stops and christians really hold their leaders accountable for their actions. The world and other nations have reason to be concerned with a christian religious fanatic controling the most powerful military in the world. If you cant agree on that issue then u are just as fanatical as the leader you would elect. I am a christian and i dont believe threatening force on an enemy that is already scared of us only forces them to try to increase their defenses for the inevitable. Now ron paul is a christian and i do believe that his philsophy is not only good for this country but also would do much to alleviate the fears that other nations harbor about us. It gets us back to the constitution that is what made us great and sets us apart from everyone else in the world. I do believe in taking care of the hungry, poor,weak. But i beleive there is a better way then just handing them money. IE more availability to food banks, Drug counseling (as a recovering alcoholic for over 24 years i know the single biggest problem is drugs and alcohol addiction in this country) But one big thing i agree on with u is LOVE it conquers all things. NOT WAR and HATE

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    • While grace is a dominant theme in Paul, there are many more references in the Bible to justice–doing justice. Yes, God’s grace is important to us, but so is how we truly love each other by creating a just society where the hungry are fed, the sick cared for, the stranger (immigrant) welcomed, the prisoner treated fairly–greed and serving wealth denounced. These are Jesus’ teachings that we are instructed to spread throughout the world in Matthew 28.

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    • Well said… and Amen!

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  9. Yes, Jesus was a radical liberal, but technically he was a Jew. But I shouldn’t nit pic. Love the post!

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  10. Hmm, I suppose that Santorum neglected to court large numbers of Afro-American Christians who are Democrats, not a good strategy at all.

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  11. Spot on….even from an unbeliever. The words he shares are on target…and I am a believer.

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  12. Depends on what you mean when you say that Jesus was a liberal. If you mean that regardless of where people were at, He loved them and wanted to minister to them, then you are correct. If you mean that He felt sin in people’s lives was irrelevant, then you you are wrong.

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    • Question, are you saying that to be liberal is to be a sinner?

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      • Again, it depends onwhat you mean by liberal. Condoning sin is sinful. Being willing to minister to the sinful never is, because all are sinful – Christians would most cetainly be included in the sinful.

        Jesus was the very image of compassion to the sinner, to whom He said, “Go, and sin no more.” And He was most derisive of those who thought themselves above sin.

        In fairness, I hear the term most often used as an example to condone sin, under the poor guise of “not being judgmental,” a position I consider morally… limp. Also in fairness, I think terms like “liberal” and “conservative” have had their meanings hijacked by people who want to justify their own half thought out positions by demonizing someone else.

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    • I believe you make the mistake of defining sin solely as the weakness of individuals (possibly largely sexual) and ignoring the “weightier matters of the law,” the larger sins denounced throughout the Bible by Jesus, his brother James, and the Hebrew prophets Jesus came to fulfill.

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  13. God destroyed societies for condoning homosexuality? I would ask Mrs. S to return to the very book she claims to be truly familiar with. Ezekiel 16:48-49: “This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but DID NOT HELP OR ENCOURAGE THE POOR AND NEEDY. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God’s eyes.” Jesus denounced some of the same purity laws found in Leviticus, chastising the Pharisees for “ignoring the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23-24) What we Christians do too often is focus only on the sin of individuals when the sins of institutions–e.g., Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah condemning the negligence of the kings of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) to act justly on behalf of those living in poverty; Jesus calling the nations to judgment on whether or not the hungry were fed, the sick cared for, the stranger (immigrant) welcomed, etc. (Mt. 25:31-45)–are ignored.

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    • Thank you for your comments.

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    • I’ve heard this rebuttal before in relation to Sodom. First of all, it’s out of context, and not specific to the topic. Second, truly the Bible does record as you note pride, or arrogance – but it goes on to list other offenses against Sodom et al, one of which is “They were haughty and did detestable things before me,” verse 50. Third, and the reason that pride is listed first is because all sin is pride and arrogance.

      Using this as a justification for the practice of homosexuality is mental gymnastics to the point of absurdity.

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      • I take issue with this reply. My comments aren’t making a statement one way or the other about the “practice of homosexuality” but to point out that you have to subjectively interpret (i.e., define the words through your own prejudices) “haughty and detestable things” as being sexual when there’s no indication that that’s what those words mean. Ezekial is the one place where the sin is spelled out more specifically. And as to the word “salvation,” which is unfortunately a mushy term as it’s used today, I would simply point to how Jesus defined it: “Zaccaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10) Salvation here is the act of justice, of making things right. Much of the Biblical references to salvation have to do with literally saving people from oppressive situations, yet it’s become something completely unrecognizable as a concept just as much of Christianity has become more “in-group” and “clique-ish.” These days too often the justice message has been completely abandoned and replaced with “personal salvation”; i.e., reducing Jesus to a self-help guru.

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      • We’ve had such an overwhelming response to our post – “Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian. His Name Was Jesus” by Brian Normoyle that I felt compelled to repost a contribution from our old friend Miles Thirst from 2006. We had and counting over 3,500 hits and the conversation that it has generated is quite interesting. As we pit ourselves one against the other and debate who is the most righteous and “what would Jesus do” maybe we should listen to what Miles has to say. Here’s Miles….

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    • u are absolutely right about the scriptures Kim and while all u said is true u decided to leave out the wickedness of homosexuality as a factor in the destruction of Sodom. There is much more evidence of the sins of both sodom during the digs of the city they unearthed ceremonial vessels that had dismembered infants sacrificed to other gods. It is believe that this was a way to have their massive orgies and when an unwanted birth occured to be rid of the unwanted child. But alas u are right and there were many issues that caused gods wrath to fall upon sodom. Can u recognize any of them in the USA

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      • Well, Gary Baker, I have several friends who are authorities on Biblical excavations and I’m sure they will be quite surprised to hear of this. They will most likely be surprised because I suspect this is information put out by malicious snake-oil salesmen with a clear political motive as opposed to neutral scholars.

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      • garybaker // March 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm //

        actually the archeological digs and findings are older than your friends.

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      • garybaker // March 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm //

        also kim im sure their are some snake oil salesmen among so called scholars also having their agendas. But im sure u only agree with the ones who put forth what u would like to hear. The facts i referenced is in the haleys bible handbook. Get u a copy its older than u are and was written by scholars.

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      • Kim – I have difficulty adding some of your statements together. In particular, your comments on grace and justice, while clearly important topics, are not germane to the discussion. Bringing it back on topic, the article – I believe – attempts to test Santorum’s view that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian. I initially responded by pointing out that not everyone has the same understanding of the word liberal. I believe Santorum and the blog auther are two that have separate understandings, and neither one of them have the slightest chance of altering the view of the other until they mutually get past that.

        To be honest, I think the blog author gets a couple of things right and I think he clearly misses a few things.

        Somewhere along the line, the discussion in comments moved more towards the morality of homosexuality. It seems to be something upon which you have strong feelings, but I don’t want to make any assuptions about what you believe. Can you articulate your understanding of Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:27?

        Just so we’re clear, my understanding is that you believe you are Christian, and I do not question that. Take none of my statements or questions, though honest and sometimes pointed, as an offense. Such is not my intention.

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      • Corey, help me understand your role on this blog. You seem to be a self-appointed moderator and I’m not clear on why you believe it’s appropriate to take on that role on someone else’s blog. My comments are in response to some troubling remarks in the comments, some of which came from you. I have also chosen to share some of my concerns about the form of Christianity that is in vogue nowadays and what contributes to the rejection of Christianity by so many people, and a direct response to a statement in Brian’s post..I’m not sure why I need to explain myself to you, but there it is.

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      • Well, I was trying to have a conversation with you, Kim, not moderate. You don’t have to “explain” to me or anyone else, but you did open the dialog with me when you said, “I believe you make the mistake of defining sin solely as the weakness of individuals (possibly largely sexual).” You started talking to me, so I thought, you know, that maybe you wanted to talk. That’s how brothers and sisters operate, not get all snarky. I don’t know, maybe that’s not how it works in your circles. That’s fine though, maybe we can talk when you’re feeling better.

        Cheers!

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      • This is just one phrase that supports my concern that you are moderating: “your comments on grace and justice, while clearly important topics, are not germane to the discussion.” I’m fine having a conversation. If you would like to point out what I have said specifically that you consider snarky, I’m happy to consider that assessment.

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      • If “actually the archeological digs and findings are older than your friends,” and my friends with expertise in archeological digs can’t currently see them, then they are clearly made up in somebody’s head.

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      • garybaker // March 5, 2012 at 10:19 am //

        very typical of a material person but even a material person with any sense would reason that just because she or her LITTLE circle of so called experts havent seen something first hand doesnt prove its non existence. The book i refered u to is older than ur friends. Where did ur EXPERTS get their education totally on their own or did they get a formal education. DO they still believe the world is flat im mean really have the experienced a personal view ot the earth themselves or are they relying on something made up in the head of somebody else. Your reasoning is as slanted as those u accuse of the same thing. So u believe ur truth be dam with the facts. You clearly dont want to believe SO U DONT. No basis for a factual conversation here Good LUCK!!!!

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      • Gary, I think your comments about the expertise of some unknown author speak for themselves so I will just let them stand.

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      • From my perspective, I believe that the article author has missed Santorum’s point, regardless of whether or not he agrees. To me, to posit the arguments the way they were, what I take away from the article is that Jesus did not care about sin, and that somehow social injustice is being ignored by Santorum, and the larger GOP body.

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  14. I’ve made a number of replies here, but I have not fully made my position known. Truly, I have no issues with homosexuals. If someone doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, then I say it doesn’t make a fig of difference if that one then is gay or is married to a harem dolphins. Nothing matters in the absense of salvation.

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  15. Thank you Brian, very well said!
    You’re speaking better for Christians than we are for ourselves.
    Peace

    Like

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