From the RevGalBlogPals leadership: Black Lives Matter

We are deeply grieved by the shooting deaths of the past week. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile reveal the urgent need to dismantle white supremacy in the United States. The deaths of the Dallas police officers and of Micah Xavier Johnson point toward that same urgent task, exposing the moral and physical injuries that generations of thinking and practice have caused. As a ministry with members around the world, we stand against racial injustice everywhere.

We are committed to the truth that Black Lives Matter.

This is more than a slogan or a hashtag. It is the song of our hearts, our hands, our sermons, and our daily lives. The Son has made us free, but there are those who refuse to recognize that freedom.

The poet Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Regrettably, RevGalBlogPals’ efforts toward anti-racism and full and safe inclusion of our black colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family has not always been our best effort. For this we are most heartily sorry.

We know better. We will do better. And we will not rest until we are all free indeed.

Rev. Martha Spong, Executive Director – United Church of Christ
Rev. Julia Seymour, President – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Sarah Howe Miller, Ph.D., Vice-President – United Methodist Church
Rev. Liz Crumlish, Secretary – Church of Scotland
Rev. Amy Haynie, Treasurer – The Episcopal Church
Rev. Jemma Allen – Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Rev. T. Denise Anderson – Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ms. Mary Beth Butler – The Episcopal Church
Rev. Teri Peterson – Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Sharon Temple – United Church of Christ
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11th Hour Preacher Party: Where were you?

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This evening, as I soaked up this view, accompanied by the lapping of waves and the call of oyster catchers, the words of God to Job were ringing in my ears: Where were you when?…as God lists the marvels of creation and lends some kind of perspective to Job’s suffering. Creation – and the God of creation is beyond our imagining, full of mystery and majesty.

And then the  evening news brought details of another shooting , this time in Munich. The world is so filled with violence and hatred, with racism and injustice. We want to turn that question on God: Where were you God?…when black lives are being assassinated, when families celebrating festivals are mown down, when countries are caught up in the aftermath of a military coup, when …the list is endless.

And God turns the question right back to us. Where were you? What are you doing to bring God’s justice? What are you doing to show love and compassion, to make a difference in a broken world?

Where is your preaching going this week? Share your struggles here as, together, we attempt to find God’s word of hope and peace and justice for our world today.

Reflections on the RCL can be found here. And resources for the Narrative Lectionary are here.

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Liz Crumlish is a Church of Scotland Minister currently working on a National Renewal Project. A Board Member of RevGalBlogPals, instigator of Spill the Beans and contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, Liz blogs at journalling

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Friday Prayer: Feast Day of Mary Magdalene

Holy Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles, Friend of Jesus, Soul Freed from Seven Demons, pray for us.

Brown-skinned prophetic sister, comfort those who are grieving and exhausted. Bring the consolation of company, rest, and return for their labor.

Watcher at the foot of the cross, give us the strength to bear witness to those falsely imprisoned in jails or by systems. Grant us the willingness to speak against a culture of fear-mongering and death.

Weeper at the tomb, strengthen us by your example and knowledge to keep walking, keeping speaking, keep singing, and to demand, still, that we want to see Jesus. And help us to radiate joy when he speaks our name.

Holy Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles, Friend of Jesus, Soul Freed from Seven Demons, pray for us.

 

 

The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, Alaska. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com.

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Friday Five: Sound

Our family is spending a few days at our nearest beach. With a new place come new sounds. Here are some questions about sound for your consideration. Answer at the RevGalBlogPals blog, in the Facebook group, or on your own blog (be sure and leave a link in the comments. You can just cut and paste the address).

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(not my beach). Photo from rgbstock.com

  1. What sound is soothing to you?
  2. What sound do you find irritating?
  3. What sound makes you happy?
  4. What sound immediately gets your attention?
  5. What is your favorite sound to make?

 

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Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as a pulpit supply preacher in South Central Texas. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Thursday Prayer

Sweet Jesus,
Today I got so busy trying to love you, and love people for you, and live and breath your love in the world and do it right and well and of course, lovingly, and I almost forgot… how much you love me.
Thanks.
I needed that.
Amen.

 

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The Rev. Erin Counihan serves as pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in St. Louis, MO and blogs hardly ever at all these days at http://www.somewhatreverend.wordpress.com.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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RevGalBookPals: Good Christian Sex

We are all facing the need for hard conversations these days. There are conversations that must be had about race, about social structures, about power and privilege, about insectionality, about culture, about values, and about how to be in the world. One (only one) of the topics to discuss in the giant wheel of “how to be in the world” is about sex. I say that as though sex itself was a simple thing. Either you are having it or you aren’t. Either it’s good or it isn’t. Either it’s consensual or it’s rape. Either you’re thinking it though or you’re using the other person or people.

I realize some of you are wondering what else needs to be said on the topic of sex, especially in the Christian arena. However, the reality is that we have not closed the circle on the conversation on healthy human sexuality as experienced in solo and partnered activity. In trying to demarcate virginity, purity, and time/place/tab/slot, we have missed a whole range of conversations on the beauty, diversity, and holiness of sex as a means of grace in our lives and in the world. So writes Bromleigh McCleneghan in her new book, Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option-And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex.

51tw-fztofl-_sx326_bo1204203200_McCleneghan writes the book that seminarians will want to discuss, campus pastors will discuss, and young adults in faith communities will be glad to read (and should ask their partners to read as well). Her chapters on a theology of intimacy, vulnerability, faithfulness, and other pertinent topics make the ethical discussion that has happened elsewhere accessible to the parish, campus, and community reader. She writes, “The experience of good sex—and the delightful things that lead up to it—is one of risking showing and sharing oneself with another, of giving and receiving care and attention, of connection and delight. It tends to require a partner, and an enthusiastic, sensitive one as well. ”(48f)

 McCleneghan dares to put out (ha!) the idea that the God-given gift of sex (and sexuality) are not to be packed away until some future when a switch will magically be flipped via a ring and certain phrases and then all will fall into place with no awkwardness and mutual orgasms for everyone. Instead, she argues that there is a real discipleship in approaching sex with thoughtfulness and care for one’s self and one’s partner. “Sex—intimacy—opens us up to change. It asks us to trust and let go, to relax and experiment. It draws us into play and pleasure, but also the work of communicating with another person who cannot get inside our heads. Through sex we can practice attention, invitation, hospitality, and the means of grace. “ (150)

 This is the conversation starter that many pastors, parents, godparents, confirmation sponsors, grandparents, and peers are longing to have. This book provides structure for having a conversation that is between “Sex is horrible, but you save it for someone you love” and “Sex is great. Have fun!” That ‘and’ covers a multitude of sins, but also of grace moments and ways of learning about one’s body, mind, and soul. The author carefully covers the reality that marriage can be an unsafe place for sex. She also discusses the reality, often overlooked, that sex within a shorter-term partnership can still be holy and fulfilling.

I recommend this book for all pastors’ shelves (to read and to share), as well as for anyone I’ve mentioned above. If you have several books on sexual ethics that you’ve wanted to read or you’ve only read a bit of, this may prove to be a good synopsis of those books or that larger discussion. That is not to say that the author makes the conversation simple, but rather that she makes it more accessible.

I received a free proof of this book for review. No promises were made in exchange for that copy.

The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, Alaska. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Wednesday Prayer

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For all those who are hurting, wondering, doubting, crying, grieving, questioning, lonely, discouraged, despairing, wailing, crawling, stumbling, tip-toeing, stressing, anxious, unclear, and more,

We pray “Lord Have Mercy!”

We pray  “pour out your Holy Spirit upon them from the crown of their heads to the souls of their feet.”

We pray “in Jesus name, for God’s sake.”

We pray “Amen.”

 

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Rev. Karla Miller is a UCC pastor serving as Minister of Community Life at Old North Church in Marblehead, MA, one of the most quaint and lovely places on the North Shore of Boston.  She really loves all kinds of dogs, and longs for a goat and a flock of chickens.  Once in a while she blogs at
do. love. walk. what more can I say?

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Wednesday Festival: more challenges, more grace.

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Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.  Christ Jesus, come in glory!

 

It has been another rough week in the world.  Violence, terrorism, political unrest.  Hunger, disease, suffering. Situations in the world, in our nations, our denominations, our homes, our own bodies…

And still we testify to the One who is gracious and merciful; longing for the day when justice and mercy kiss, and peace is known in every place.

If you haven’t seen it already, please read the statement by the RevGalBlogPals leadership about our commitment to the work of repenting from and dismantling  racism, both in our own organisation and in the communities, churches and countries of which we are a part.

Martha reflects on the Anglican Church in Canada’s General Synod last week: the tumult around the decision to change the marriage canon and what it is like to worship as one body even in the midst of pain and division.

Wil gives some guidelines about what to preach when blood is running in the street.

Diane wonders how to preach in the face of the news of our world.

Cindy writes about the experience of parenting young adults and sharing their burdens (and unexpected joys).  She shares one of her family’s sayings: hard isn’t bad, hard is just hard.

When times are tough, how might we take stock of the day?  Jan makes some suggestions.

Martha writes a ‘Come to Jesus’ prayer for pastors – calling us to hear Christ’s word to come and be transformed.

And perhaps you need Jan’s Blessing When the World is Ending.

 

Jemma Allen is a priest in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.  She is a part-time member of the staff team in the parish of All Saints Howick, Auckland and is also a counsellor and spiritual director.  She serves on the Board of Trustees of RevGalBlogPals.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Revised Common Lectionary – Can You Hear Me Now?

“How long, O Lord?” — it’s a biblical lament many of us have found ourselves asking, even crying, in these past few weeks. Here in America, we are weary with the extra judicial killings of black and Latinx people and cold-blooded executions of police officers. The world weeps for Turkey, France, and every place where violence and unrest have become too common. Sometimes despair takes hold so strongly that prayer can feel futile. Theologically, we know better than that, and yet we’re tired. We groan inwardly. In a weary form of prayer, we ask,”How long?”

For RCL preachers wrestling with this week’s texts, perhaps there is some balm for that hurt and words for that lament.

If you are taking on the Genesis text, you have Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (and, by extension, his nephew and his nephew’s family). Abraham wants to know if the righteous will be swept away with the wicked, which isn’t dissimilar to the questions we ask. “Why do the innocents suffer?” He bargains with the Lord, bargaining, by the way, being a stage of grief in the Kubler-Ross model. Perhaps there is some potential in this reading to engage grief in your congregations.

If you’re one of the courageous souls preaching from Hosea, you’ve got a difficult task. Problematic sexual politics, harsh naming of children and judgment upon Israel — you’ve got it all. We don’t even get a glimpse of restoration and redemption until the last verse in the pericope, verse ten. What implications might there be for God’s propensity toward restoration in this text? How will you engage and interrogate the sexual politics in the text?

The 138th Psalm offers hope in the declaration that when the psalmist called, the Lord answered (verse 3). In times when prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, the psalmist reminds in this song of thanksgiving that God is listening. I’m guessing this would be great to preach from or weave into the liturgy as a way of soothing despair and reassuring the worshiper of God’s provision.

The potential in the Colossians text, as I see it, is in its instructive on the fullness of Christ and complete provision in him. Religious observance — “philosophies,” as they were — should not obscure the assurance that Christ is enough. We’re coming off of Paul’s assertions of all things being in subjection to Christ. Play with the language of enfleshment here — the talk of Christ’s body, his life, death, resurrection, the “spiritual circumcision,” the talk of “substance.” There is a sense here that the body matters along with the spirit. There is “meat on the bones” of our faith. When we talk about whose lives matter, can this text instruct us?

And, finally, we have the Luke text with the Lord’s Prayer followed by Jesus’ admonition to continue praying. Christ assures the listener that, on the strength of God’s love alone, our petitions are heard. Perhaps a way to use this familiar text in a particularly resonate way means that we concentrate on this promise, particularly because it’s incredibly therapeutic. If your people are looking for resolve to keep going, there is potential for that here.

Our world wonders if God is hearing us as we pray for peace and unity in a time that often seems devoid of those things. Preachers, we have the important task of renewing the resolve of believers to keep holding on. I’m praying for and with you!

Where do you feel led so far with these readings? What is challenging you? What are the needs in your ministry context to which you hope these texts will speak? What’s stumping you? 

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Our Feather

And the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. And he replied, “keep it light…”

Our Feather,
one small brush of the grand and lifting wing,
holy are all the names of God.

Your kindness come
and your kiss be felt warm
on every lump of soil,
gust of wind,
lapping of salt sea and fresh water.

Give us today
and let us recognize it
as a gift —
the bread and beauty of it —
and that it is like no other.

Forgive us all the love
we owed but hoarded,
and our careless or angry trespassing
on the lives of your children,
even as, with unbearable effort,
we forgive
the taking and the trampling
of what is precious to us.

Draw your hush across our lips,
and pull us back
from what we would regret.
Find us an escape or stay with us
when there is none,

for yours is the place our hands are held,
yours is the courage of the sequoia
and the broken atom,
yours are galaxies of starlight,
and the hum of bees —

Now … and when we come to sing
all our todays
into your tomorrow

by Maren Tirabassi

Thanks to Maren, and to Pat Raube for sharing.

Mary Beth Butler is an Episcopal layperson in North Texas. She is a retired university administrator and occasional blogger.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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The Pastoral is Political: I Am Racist

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Dear white sisters, brothers, siblings:

I have a very difficult confession to make.

I am racist.

I wish so much that I wasn’t. I try so hard not to be. But I am.

I think this is such a difficult confession to make because we often think people who are racist are “bad” and are intentionally hateful. Yes, there are many people who say and do overtly racist things. But the truth is, most people who are racist are good and well-meaning people, who don’t want to be racist, try their hardest not to be, and don’t even realize they are.

You see, I don’t belong to extremist groups like the KKK, call people racist names, or say things that are overtly racist. I even shut down jokes and call out comments that I recognize are racist. And yet, I am still racist.

I grew up in a diverse town and went to diverse schools. I currently live and work in a diverse community, and I have friends, colleagues, parishioners, neighbors, mentors and even a family member who are persons of color. And yet, I am still racist.

I follow people of color on facebook and twitter, read books and articles about racism and white privilege, attend anti-racism workshops, preach and teach in my churches about racism and white privilege, and participate in marches and rallies that address systemic racism.

But despite all of this: I am still racist.

Why?

Because my entire life I have been socialized to be. I have been conditioned to see the world through my eyes (the eyes that belong to a white body, which is the kind of body our society has supported, deemed the “norm,” and uplifted as superior for 400+ years.)

My school textbooks have been written from a white perspective. My television shows, movies, and books have been dominated by characters who look like me. The media I follow often perpetuates harmful racialized stereotypes and biases – no matter how progressive it might be.

Despite that my family taught me that all people were created in God’s image and deserve to be treated equally, I am still racist.  When I first see a person of color, I still sometimes fail to see her as an individual and instead see her as a stereotype. When I hear people of color share their stories of being racially profiled or denied upward mobility in their workplaces, I still sometimes question if their experiences are valid. There are still times I say, think, or do things that I don’t even realize are racist and that perpetuate systemic racism. There are still times when I worry too much about ticking off my white friends or accidentally saying something that is offensive to my friends of color that I don’t speak up when I should. There are still times when I am in the virtual or physical spaces of my siblings of color and I end up wanting to center myself. And when people call me out on any of this, there are still times I feel defensive and focus more on my own discomfort than on the fact that black and brown lives matter more than my feelings.

You see, as a white person who was raised in a country that was founded on white supremacy (the belief that white people are inherently superior to people who are not) and that throughout its history has continued to reinforce this white supremacy through social and political forces (slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipeline, glass ceilings, racial profiling, racialized policing – to name just a few), it is extremely difficult to shed myself fully from my own racist views, biases, thoughts, and ways I believe the world should function… No matter how hard I try.

I am stuck in this 400 year old deeply engrained racialized system that not even the activists of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s could completely free us from.

And I benefit from this system. My whiteness is a privilege in it.

For example, as a white person, people look at me as an individual, not a stereotype. I will never be denied a loan, housing, or job interview because of my skin color. A store clerk will never follow me closely to ensure I don’t steal anything, and I will never be taken advantage of by a car salesperson because of my whiteness. I have always had access to quality education and upward mobility. My white body is not seen as a threat. People will not call the cops if they see me taking a walk in their neighborhood past sundown or quickly move to the other side of the road when they see me walking on the sidewalk where they are walking. I will not be pulled over in my car for no reason or on my bike because I look “suspicious.” And if I do get pulled over, I will never have to worry that if I reach for my ID in my pocket, make a quick move, or even mouth back, I could get shot.

Among many things, racism denies the humanity in God’s beloved children and fails to see that God created all God’s children good, in God’s image, and beautifully and wonderfully just the way they are.

Racism is a painful and deadly sin.

And I am racist.

I live in a racialized society dominated by racist systems that were founded by white supremacy. And I benefit from and contribute to these systems.

Now, this may sound incredibly hopeless.

But it is not.

Because as Christians, we believe that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he freed the world from its bondage to sin. Does this mean we are no longer sinners? Of course not. Because we are human.

But this does mean that we no longer have to be bound to sin. When we confess our sins in the presence of God and one another, our sin loses its power over us. Confession leads us toward repentance, where – by the grace of God – our hearts, minds, and thoughts begin to be transformed and we start to turn away from our sins. And whenever we turn away from something, we also turn toward something in the opposite direction. In this case, when we turn away from our sins of racism and white privilege, we turn toward a life of being anti-racists. But we cannot just turn away from our sin, turn toward a new way of life, and then pat ourselves on the back and go on our merry way. We must continuously and actively move toward this new way of life.

Since the sins of racism and white privilege are so deeply engrained in us and in the racialized systems we participate in and are conditioned by, we must actively check our privilege and racism, confess it, repent of it, and be moved to take action. We must do this over and over and over again.

While I am still racist, I choose to not let racism and white privilege dominate who I am.

I choose to be actively anti-racist.

I choose to learn about and become more aware of my white privilege and how I can work to dismantle it and the harmful racialized systems of which I am a part. I choose to listen to and learn from the voices and the cries of my siblings of color, to show up, and to grieve and stand with them in their pain and anger. I choose to speak with my white friends, neighbors, parishioners, and family members about white privilege and interpersonal and systemic racism. I choose not to allow my discomfort, embarrassment, guilt, defensiveness, or the mistakes I have made (and will make) to take over me and hold me back from doing this important work.

While this new way of life is really difficult, in the Christian tradition, we believe that we do not pursue this way of life alone. We do this with the help of God and with one another.

So, fellow white siblings, will you join me in this holy anti-racism work of calling out and dismantling our white privilege, white supremacy, and the racialized systems we are conditioned by and benefit from? Will you support me and encourage me? Will you help open my eyes to the ways in which I am still blind to my own white privilege and racism?

I need you. We need each other. So let us do this holy work together.

And as we begin this work through confession, repentance, and action, let us hold onto the beautiful gift we have: that God, who is rich in mercy, loves us even when we were dead in sin, and made us alive together with Christ.

In Jesus Christ we are indeed forgiven! So now together let us act!

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Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran.  Some of her sermons and reflections can be found at Musings from a Bricolage.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com. Check out our growing list of Anti-Racism resources here.

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Categories: Racism, The Pastoral is Political | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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