STRASBOURG, France — History’s first pope from outside the West traveled to the heart of secular Europe Tuesday and delivered a sharp wake-up call, warning European leaders that the continent risks irrelevance if it doesn’t recover its founding values, drawing in part on its Christian legacy.
Pope Francis delivered back-to-back speeches to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe that amounted to a strong call to Europe to get both its social and its spiritual house in order.
Before roughly 750 members of the European parliament, Francis bluntly said today’s world is becoming “less and less Eurocentric,” that Europe often comes off as “elderly and haggard,” that it’s less and less a “protagonist” in global affairs, and that the rest of the planet sometimes sees it “with mistrust and even suspicion.”
Despite being on the ground just four hours, Francis’ presence seemed historic since, in a sense, the New World was meeting the Old Continent.
Speaking in Italian, Francis argued that many of the specific political problems facing Europe, from immigration and extremism to rising youth unemployment, have a spiritual core. He denounced what he called a “cult of opulence which is no longer sustainable,” based on exaggerated individualism that breeds violations of human dignity.
“A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life,” Francis said, “is a Europe which risks losing its own soul.”
Francis said that despite his sober diagnosis, he wanted to deliver a message of “hope and encouragement” that Europe can dust off its original vision, based on the post-World War II founders of the European Union who were often inspired by Christian ideals, including the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
The European Parliament is the lone institution whose members are directly elected by the 500 million citizens living in 28 member states of the European Union, while the Council of Europe brings together 47 countries whose combined population is more than 800 million. Francis’ appearance marked the second time a pontiff has addressed these two institutions, after John Paul II in 1988.
(On that occasion, the late Ian Paisley, then-leader of Northern Ireland’s Protestants, had to be dragged out of the parliament chamber while denouncing the pope as the Anti-Christ. No such disruption marred today’s speech, as Francis drew strong applause at several points and an extended standing ovation at the end.)
Heading into the trip, Francis was expected to engage the hot-button questions facing Europe’s political class: rising immigration and youth unemployment, gains posted in May by far-right nationalistic movements, and backlash against austerity measures imposed by many governments as part of the ongoing Eurozone crisis.
The pope did raise several such issues. On hunger, for instance, the pontiff said “it is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying … while tons of food are discarded every day from our tables.”
On labor, Francis said “the time has come to promote policies which create employment,” and to “restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions.”
“What dignity can a person ever hope to find,” the pope asked the parliament, “when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival, and worse yet, when they lack the work that confers dignity?”
Some of the pope’s most passionate language came in a call for “fair, courageous and realistic” immigration policies, especially on behalf of waves of poor migrants from Africa and the Middle East who often try to reach Europe by making perilous crossings over the Mediterranean Sea.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” the pope said, referring to the estimated 20,000 people who have died over the past two decades attempting to make the journey.
As other victims of what Francis once again denounced as a “throw-away culture,” Francis cited “the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.”
Francis also delivered a strong ecological message, saying “our earth needs constant concern and attention” and insisted that it must not be “disfigured, exploited and degraded.”
Francis took up one of the standard complaints lodged against European political institutions, which is that they suffocate diversity under a bland bureaucratic uniformity. Resentments along those lines have been credited with fueling the rise of far-right Euro-skeptic parties, including the National Front in France and the “Five Star” movement of comedian Beppe Grillo in Italy.
“Unity does not mean uniformity of political, economic, and cultural life, or ways of thinking,” the pope said. “Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up.”
On most of those points, the pope drew strong applause. The heart of his argument, however, seemed to cut deeper than a laundry list of specific political concerns.
Francis rued what he called a “great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West,” including “forgetfulness of God.” In place of a humanistic vision, he said, what Europe breeds today are “uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires.”
Francis insisted that recovering Europe’s Christian history and entering into “meaningful” and “open” dialogue with its religious traditions “does not represent a threat to the secularity of states, or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union.”
Instead, he said, it’s the basis for “a humanism centered on respect for the dignity of the human person.”
The 2,000-year history that links Europe and Christianity, he said, “isn’t free of conflicts and errors, even sins,” but at its best, it’s driven by “the desire work for the good of all.”
Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was often accused of being “Eurocentric,” in the sense of focusing excessively on European culture. To date, Francis has faced the opposite charge, often being seen as neglectful of Europe in favor of focusing on zones of greater growth and dynamism for the Catholic Church today, such as Asia and Africa.
Yet Francis’ twin speeches on Tuesday suggested that substantively he’s got much the same agenda for Europe as his two predecessors, and both texts frequently cited John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
In fact, his Strasbourg speeches were arguably the most “Ratzingerian” texts of Francis’ papacy, featuring references and vocabulary often associated with Pope Benedict: The risks of “dictatorships of relativism,” as well as a philosophical tendency to see human beings as radically isolated “monads.”
In other words, this may have been a pope from the New World, but the message for the Old Continent hasn’t changed: If Europe wants to save its soul, it needs to make room for values inspired in part by its Christian past.
The answer of course will be "you and whose missionary army will help us European atheists and agnostics recover our Christian beliefs and praxis?"
It's one thing to call on others to "make jobs" and quite another to spell out how exactly that is to be done.
There are quite a lot of "therefore" consequences for calling countries to change the status quo. Some are counter-intuitive. For example, one can reduce poverty by simply promoting chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage. That social change alone would - without anything else changing in the law, tax code, federal spending - eliminate 33% of all poverty across the board.
But that sort of revolution would require us to shut down the sexual revolution's various industrial complexes (porn, drugs, feminism, the LGBTQ, etc.). And unfortunately letting go of vice is much harder than letting go of virtue.
So, what is the opposite of individualism? Collectivism. No thanks. Nothing to see here folks. Same old Euro-Third World socialism masquerading as Christianity.
On one hand, the pope has a point about Europe's lack of vigor and their need to reclaim their Christianity, but the emphasis on Christianity, at least as this story tells it, wasn't there. When I read this, I hear the pope walking into someone's home and insulting them. The idealism that ennobled their history was Europe's aspirations to become Christendom and their willingness to defend Christendom from Muslims and convert the barbarians. This speech was filled with Francis' typical oblique language and abstract ideas. All this envirocentric fluff doesn't get to the heart of what is wrong with Europe or the rest of the world. Sure, Europe has its opulence, but Europe is also largely socialist. What is the pope complaining about--that they're not socialist enough? No wonder no one lined the streets to welcome him. Based on what I've read here, i'd rather listen to a motivational tape by Zig Ziglar. The seventies are over. How long do we have to wait for those holding positions of authority to get it?
Wonder what the Pope---and Father McDonald---have to say about the current unrest in Ferguson (Missouri) after the "no indict" decision of the grand jury yesterday? I see a lot of barricades 85 miles to the north of Macon around the Georgia State Capitol in anticipation I suppose of nearby demonstrations tonight. Sad situation when the rioting mainly harms minority-owned businesses.
To expand a little on Gene’s uncanny ability to see through the smoke…
He denounced what he called a “cult of opulence which is no longer sustainable,” based on exaggerated individualism that breeds violations of human dignity.
Wrong Francis. It's a spirit of collectivism that helps to secure opulence for a privileged class that claims to pass laws to help the less fortunate. Those policies condemn the less fortunate to a hopeless fate. The sooner that Francis figures out that the power of the state and God's Church have moved in the inverse for the past 250 years the sooner we will all get on the road to restoring the importance of faith in peoples' lives. The state is of this earth, and its king is the devil. The corrupt state’s solutions exploit the human weaknesses of pride, anger, sloth and envy to promote the fundamentally dishonest goal of taking from those who have worked for something and to give it to those who believe they are entitled to it. The author of the manifesto known as “The Joy of the Gospel” lecturing Europe on bad public policy inspires about as much enthusiasm as Obama telling China how to reform its economy. Unfortunately there is nothing in his speech that makes me feel one smidgen better about his understanding of how to address public and private behavior to achieve God’s desire for his children.
Anonymous at 2:08: The Pope would say, "who are we to judge." Fr. (God bless him) would make excuses for the Pope.
Funny thing, I thought that Pope Francis was supposed to be very popular. It tweeted by Tweet of the day, by the main religious correspondent of French daily Le Figaro, Jean-Marie Guénois:
"Never before seen: nobody, or almost nobody, in the streets of Strasbourg to welcome Pope Francis between the airport and the [European] Parliament.
"Strasbourg [is] empty... The Pope did not wish to see the Alsatians. The Alsatians did not wish to see the Pope. A visit [that was] as short as it was... sad.
"[I have] Over 50 papal trips of experience: I have never seen such a popular emptiness. Nothing puerile in this striking observation."
That is rather odd - I have never heard of anything like that before with a papal visit either anywhere ... but then would I go out to see Francis? ... no.
In theological circles, the opposite of individualism is communalism (or the Common Good), not collectivism
"Collectivism" gives priority to the group at the expense of individuals. In Marxist/Socialist thinking, collectivism means state ownership of land or the means of production.
In communalism, the good of individuals is not subordinated to the Common Good, nor does the State take ownership of land or means of production.
No one says, "Gene, you must die for the sake of the 56 others on the ship." There is a balance struck between the two which is lacking in the kind of radical individualism which is tearing our society apart.
When Francis was elected the media and "visionary" leaders like Cardinal Mahony were falling all over themselves to suggest what an overdue improvement Pope Francis would be, a not-so-subtle implication that nobody like Pope Benedict and that somehow, his pontificate was a failure.
While I do not have the numbers at hand to compare with Benedict, I think it should be pointed out that when Benedict was pope, he drew larger crowds and audiences at the Vatican than any pope before him, including Pope John Paul II, who was immensely popular.
Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Ignotus, That is a fair assessment…I am not sure I completely agree, but I need to think it over.
Although he has much to say to Europe that is true, his continuing to support the destructive invasion of the continent by Third Worlders --the same disease infecting the churches here in North America-- effectively makes him, and the Christian religion, the enemy of the native peoples of Europe and their North American descendants.
The Church shares in the responsibility for all the crimes --including rape and murder-- and social dislocation that the insane policy of trying to make Africans and Muslims into Europeans has caused and will continue to cause, as the Old Continent turns into The Camp Of The Saints.
It is a civilizational crime, one that has, more than any other, erased the moral credibility of Catholicism in my eyes.
Are you able to provide an example of "radical individualism"? that is destroying society? Your distinction of communalism vs. collectivism is good but when Francis is talking the lines get blurred. That's why Communists like when he talks about economics. When he explains the need for providing for the poor he mixes the spiritual with what he thinks is good public policy. Example: he doesn't like trickle down economics.
Anonymous 1:48 - I find nothing blurred in Pope Francis' comments.
Radical Individualism is exhibited in many ways: Wall Street executives severely disrupted the world economy when, acting in their own self-interest, they manipulated markets; Men and women seeking abortions because the child they have conceived doesn't fit their personal plans; Politicians who do not act for the Common Good, but for the "personal" good of remaining in office/having power.
The list goes on and on.
Now, there's nothing wrong with taking care of "Self." In fact, we have to do it to honor the gift of life we have been given. So, enjoy a vacation, eat food that is good and good for you, clothe yourself decently and comfortably.
It's when the wants (and sometimes needs) of individuals become the most important goals that individualism becomes "radical."
One example I often cite of this trend is the popular X-Every single one of them is an individual sport - no teams. I think this is emblematic of the kind of individualism that is shredding Western society.
Pope Francis' talk about economics is very Traditional Catholic teaching - and there's nothing blurry about it.
Ignotus, I agree with what you are saying, but I don't call that "radical individualism." I call it self-indulgence/narcissism. This is an interesting discussion…
Individualism is not a bad thing, but let's try to put it in perspective…Jesus taught a highly "individualistic" ethic based upon personal encounter with Him. He called people out from the cities and from their professions and told them to stake their lives upon belief in Him and his mission. Jesus' encounters with people were highly individualistic (Woman at the well, woman taken in adultery, woman with issue of blood, Zaccheus, rich young ruler, Centurion's daughter, etc). Christ founded His Church upon Peter's most individualistic and unique confession…BUT, in these individualistic encounters, He always pointed those He encountered back to the community, to serving others (Zen has a similar paradigm of the Buddah returning to the marketplace).
Western culture developed and grew, based upon the Christian individualistic ethic and the belief in using our talents and resources to the Glory of God and to create a "good" and productive society wherein people could thrive and live in peace (it is another argument as to how well we have pulled this off). So, in this sense, individualism is a very positive and Christian thing IF it is based upon an orientation toward Christian community.
I do not like terms like "communalism" because it is just another word for communism. Christianity has become highly politicized in too many areas and that is bad. Jesus never talked politics, scorned world rulers, and the NT is pretty anti-government from the git go. Koinonia is a nice term.
So, the Gospel is based upon individualistic encounter that becomes oriented toward community. The implication, theologically, is that the only proper orientation toward, and understanding of, community is one that has come through this individual encounter with Christ. This immediately gives the lie to all human collectives…whether communism, socialism, capitalism. democracy, republicanism, etc. We must pick and choose among them in order to have a functioning society, but we cannot presume that God gives His blessing to any of them. I would like to think that God prefers capitalism and the Republican party, but I know that is wrong and constitutes a sin of presumption.
Now, I don't know what "radical individualism" might be…is it Daniel Boone, Thor Heyerdahl, or some Hollywood archetype like Clint Eastwood or Bogart…I rather think it is more like John Paul Sartre, which is essentially nihilism. (cont'd)
It does seem to me that our problem is not individualism but, rather, the monolithic, totalitarian, technological society we have created. This has destroyed individual identity, forced egalitarian collectivist governments upon us, and destroyed individual initiative an hope. We have created a false community based upon things like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs in which there is no true individual encounter, anonymity allows us to live any lie and be whoever we like, and we avoid personal encounter on a daily basis by keeping our heads buried in tablets, iPhones, and other digital devices. The techno-consumer culture keeps us distracted with toys and we are bombarded every day with pseudo-news about pseudo events and pseudo-personalties. We are obsessed with sex, drugs, and violence, and the powers and principalities know this and feed us more of it to keep us subdued and focused on the wrong things. The true Church, the true Faith, is an enemy of these things and must be compromised in every way possible. That is why "progressivism" is bad…it aims to destroy the Church and then our one dimensional, monolithic society will be complete. "…not with a bang, but a whimper."
Ignotus, Yes x-games. Do you and I finally agree on something?
I think Gene covered all the bases on the subject. My comments about my concerns about Francis are:
He denounced what he called a “cult of opulence which is no longer sustainable,” based on exaggerated individualism that breeds violations of human dignity. Not sure what he means here. Europe is falling behind economically. They drive little cars, have little refrigerators and live in little apartments. There is a higher degree of concentrated wealth created by ridiculous policies to equally distribute wealth. They have a cult of laziness that will return them to 3rd world status.
Francis said “the time has come to promote policies which create employment,” and to “restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions.” Does Europe need more laws to protect the worker? The first part of his statement is okay but then he ruins it by suggesting that there is rampant disregard for the worker by placing him/her in dangerous working conditions. Is that really a modern day problem in Europe?
Francis also delivered a strong ecological message, saying “our earth needs constant concern and attention” and insisted that it must not be “disfigured, exploited and degraded.” So what ails Europe is a lack of environmental controls and laws? Here Francis sounds no different than the foolish tree hugger who has made ecology his religion.
Best "conversation" I have seen here between PI and Gene. Miracles do still happen!
Those were some good insights and observations Gene:
Where you say:
"I would like to think that God prefers capitalism and the Republican party, but I know that is wrong and constitutes a sin of presumption."
I'm not sure about the sin of presumption. I agree that a Catholic should not align themselves with a particular political party as one would (or should) adhere to the Faith itself. I know that in recent decades, it has been Republican candidates for the most part (there are exceptions of course) whose views and positions have been more in consonance with Catholic teaching. I say that acknowledging that one rarely finds a candidate in line with Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching on every issue. There are those, such as Catholic Advocate that keep up with voting records and provides a guide to help a voter in making a decision..
Things can change though. Sixty years ago it could have been said that the views positions of most of the members of the Democrat party were in line with Church teaching.
Our political and legal institutions have become too secular and corrupted and so they are failing us and leading more and more people to lose whatever hope and faith they have in them.
Jdj: I agree – an excellent conversation indeed! It leaves me hungry for more.
George, Of course, you know I agree with you. But, we cannot assume that any human government or institution, other than the Church, has God's blessing or approval. Although governments are almost always established for good reasons…to protect citizens, provide essentials, establish peace, create a perfect society, reach to Heaven…nearly all are established by violence and the displacement or disruption of other people and other social structures. This is unavoidable in a fallen world, but it is still not pleasing to God. Sinful humans must choose which they believe to be the most benign form of government, doomed to failure from the start for theological, not political, reasons.
If the conversation is so damned interesting, where is everybody?
Pin/Gene - "Outside the Church there is no salvation." Outside the ecclesia, the assembly, there is no salvation. Or, outside the "qahal" there is no salvation. (Where the masoretic text uses the term qahal, the Septuagint usually uses the Greek term Ekklesia, which means summoned group. and literally means they who are called out.
Salvation is not based on a "highly individualistic ethic based on a personal encounter with him." The sinner encounters Christ only in the context of the Church/ecclesia/qahal. The sinner cannot be saved through an individualistic encounter, since "Outside the Church/ecclesia/qahal there is no salvation."
Peter's confession was unique, but it was not individualistic or even personal. Christ's response is, first and foremost, a description of why Peter was being so chosen - the be the foundation of the Church/ecclesia/qahal. His, and the individual encounters of the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, the Centurion, the Samaritan woman at the well, do not simply point back to the community - they make no sense apart from the community.
Peter accepted the role of pope. The encounter with Zacchaeus aroused the anger of the community, the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well led to her becoming an evangelizer of the community.
It is not "FIRST, personal encounter with Chtist and THEN encounter with the Church." They happen concurrently.
In fact, any personal encounter with Christ can happen ONLY after the action of grace in the heart of the individual. And grace, the means of our salvation, comes initially and finally from the Church/ecclesia/qahal - the community.
Ignotus, You are, again, wrong. Christ's encounters with people in the NT are what the Church was ultimately based upon. The encounter came first, then the Church...get it? Every theologian, every theology professor (Protestant and Catholic) I had in both grad schools emphasized the individualistic ethic and personal encounter (the libs said"existential" encounter, but there is nothing more individualistic than existentialism) that Jesus preached. (You may want to read Ellul, Macquarrie, Gilkey, even Barth on Christian ethics…or, if you prefer more Biblical scholars, Cullman, Furnish, Crenshaw, or even Bonhoeffer).
In today's world, we may say that the encounter with the Church and the encounter with the Church are simultaneous, although that depends upon your understanding of ecclesia. So, you are then excluding those who encounter Jesus in unorthodox ways? Or are you saying that any encounter with Christ by anyone, anywhere is automatically the Church. Sounds pretty universalist/indifferentist to me.
Pin/Gene - The Holy Trinity came first, not the Church, get it? The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are, throughout eternity, the perfect community. It is the Trinity, not Christ's encounters with individuals, that the Church is ultimately based upon.
In the Trinity is the very foundation of the Church, the foundation of Christian families, the source of love and sanctity. The perfect love in the Trinity is what we are called to reflect in our own lives.
Any encounter with Christ is, yes, an encounter with the Church. As Edward Schillebeeckx wrote, Christ is the Sacrament of the Encounter with God. No, the Church is not fully present in each and every encounter with Christ. But in each and every encounter the Church is present.
My line should have read,"..we may say that the encounter with Christ and the encounter with the Church are simultaneous…"
The Church is based upon Peter's Confession, Ignotus. I am not disputing the eternity of the Trinity, but the Trinity was not embodied in the Church until Christ's Incarnation and His establishment of it. And, I have no use for Schillebeeckx's liberal, unbelief, existentialist interpretation of anything.
Pin/Gene - The Church was contained in the Trinity from all eternity.
Peter's confession is possible only because of the grace Peter PREVIOUSLY received from the Holy Trinity via the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness. (Rom 1:4)
Schillebeeckx, who denied the True Presence in the Eucharist...instead of "transubstantiation" he call it "transignification". .ARRRGGHHHH!
I was really into this discussion...
Sorry you were on your own, Gene. Maybe now someone else will jump
Sorry, watching GA-GA Tech overtime...
Ignotus, you are arguing obliquely. The issue is not the Trinity or Grace. The issue is when, specifically, Christ established His Church on earth…it was at peter's Confession. Quit being evasive.
Jdj, it is much more than some protestant rejection of the Real Presence in Schillebeeckx…he does not believe in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus or of Christians after death. He believes that the empty tomb is "an unnecessary hypothesis" and that the disciples belief in the resurrection was merely their self-renewal and good feeling that Jesus' death was not meaningless because he still lived in them. So, Jdj, Jesus' bones are still out there somewhere in the Holy Land waiting for someone like Ignotus to go dig them up and go forth "even to the marketplace" waving them over his head, crying "Ha, I told you so!" The people Ignotus has chosen to quote on this blog are a pretty good indication of why he would not answer direct questions about his belief in the Real Presence, etc.
So, there you have modernist theology…the Church is nothing more than a social organization where the ignorant flock are to be trained into good collectivists and social workers.
Now, one may ask, where did Schillebeeckx get his notion that the empty tomb is an unnecessary hypothesis and that the disciples' self-renewal; is what resurrection is all about? It is not Biblical, it is not Gospel, it is counter to Paul and the rest of the NT. He pulled it steaming hot right out of you know where….same place Ignotus gets most of his theology.
Yeah, the fact that Pater would quote Schillebeeckx says all you really need to know about PI. 'Nuuf said. What a shame...
I've known since the mid-60s that priests can be the first and foremost "cafeteria Catholics".
Kinda puts renewed emphasis on James 3:1 --
"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
Of course, we know that Sillybleats had a large role in Vat II, wanting to de-emphasize the Pope and have Priests chosen by local congregations…can you say "Baptist." What a complete embarrassment to theology and the Church. He was up for disciplinary measures but, typically, the Church yielded to pressure from outside groups to allow him to continue his war against belief. I read his, "Jesus:An Experiment in Christology," and was totally disgusted. There was absolutely nothing new in it that could not be found in Bultmann and Tillich. Garbage, in other words.
Pin/Gene - I don't think the issue is "When did Christ establish His Church on Earth" - at least, that's not what I was discussing.
The issue, as I understood it, is your insistence on an understanding of salvation that is too far removed from the community of the Church.
"Outside the Church there is no salvation" is the equivalent of "Apart from Christ there is no salvation." As Pope Benedict said in, I think, Deus Caritas Est, while the Church and Christ are not identical, they cannot be understood apart from each other.
Jdj - Whether you find citing Schillebeeckx objectionable, his thought on Christ as the Sacrament of the Encounter With God is very much a part of the Church's official teaching. For example, CCC 775 "The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men." The Church's first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men's communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues"; at the same time, the Church is the "sign and instrument" of the full realization of the unity yet to come."
No one is saved apart from the Church, without the ministry of the Church, through any medium other than the Church. Dominus Iesus made this abundantly clear, as did the Second Vatican Council.
Ignotus, well it is what I was discussing. Typically, you tried to divert the conversation. My understanding of salvation is not removed from the Church at all.
Sillybleats use of there word "encounter" is suspect…Christ is the Sacrament of the "encounter" with God…
This is existentialist theology gobbledygook…the disciples' belief in "resurrection" was about their new "encounter" with the "risen" Christ in their lives. We already know Sillybleats does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, so what would an encounter with the "risen" Christ be? It would be some BS self-awareness based upon a new understanding of ourselves based upon Jesus' teachings and life example. If that is what it is, then the Church is a joke, the Priesthood is a joke, and Jesus is, as Flannery O'Connor's character says, "a joke on ni**ers."
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