TF: Sign my yearbook?

Tribulation Force, pp. 169-172

To kill time waiting for Chloe to arrive, Buck Williams browses the bookshelves of the "sitting area outside Bruce's office." There he stumbles across "a church photo directory dated two years earlier."

Tribulation Force-typist Jerry Jenkins fumbles this, but let's first commend what we can here. First, Jenkins decides to take this moment of downtime before Chloe's arrival as an opportunity to explore some sorely neglected character notes. That's a positive step — particularly in a series of books in which the authors usually sit around waiting along with their characters. And the device of this photo directory — a kind of yearbook — gives Jenkins the chance to make up for his failure thus far to tell us what his characters actually look like. More than 600 pages into this series, readers wouldn't be able to sit down with a sketch artist and provide even the broadest sense of our core heroes' appearance.

Buck turns to the picture of:

… a younger, longer-haired Bruce Barnes. He looked a bit fuller in the face, wore a pasted-on smile, and surrounding him were his wife and children. What a treasure Bruce had lost! His wife was pleasant looking and plump, with a weary but genuine smile.

So now we know that Bruce has shorter hair and a leaner face than he used to have. We know that he had three children (unnumbered and unnamed here) but, despite the captioned photo on the page Buck is reading, we still don't know their respective names, ages or genders. And we've now learned that the undead former Mrs. Barnes doesn't tempt Buck to violate the 10th Commandment. (I'm trying to recall the last time I heard someone use the term "plump" to describe anything other than a Ballpark Frank or a Thanksgiving turkey.)

On the next page was Dr. Vernon Billings, the now-departed senior pastor. He looked at least in his mid-sixties and was shown with his petite wife and three children and their respective spouses. Bruce had already said that the entire family had been raptured. Pastor Billings had a Henry Fonda-ish quality, with deep crow's feet and a crinkly smile. He looked like a man Buck would have enjoyed knowing.

It's odd to read of Buck's first visual impression here of Billings, since he spent quite a bit of the previous book carefully watching a long video of Billings' In-Case-of-Rapture sermon, but Jenkins seems to have belatedly realized that despite the prominence of that video in Book 1, he neglected to offer any description of the man on the tape. This is one of the most detailed descriptions we get of any character in this book — probably second only to that of Nicolae Carpathia. Neither description is really all that detailed, but most readers will have an idea of what "a young Robert Redford" or a 60-something Henry Fonda (think Once Upon a Time in the West, not The Grapes of Wrath or On Golden Pond — and if you haven't seen all of those, you should) looks like and that gives us a clearer picture than we have of either Rayford or Buck.

Uleesgold I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of describing characters in terms of famous actors or other celebrities. This is something real people in real life do all the time. It can be a useful short-hand starting point — a common reference from which we can go on to qualify the description. But we need to go on and qualify the resemblance or else we leave people with the mental image of a celebrity impersonator rather than a useful description. "A Henry Fonda-ish quality" isn't, in itself, a bad phrase, but without more than Jenkins gives us to go with it, I'm now picturing Pastor Billings as Ulee Jackson.

Buck looks up the Steeles in the church directory:

There was Rayford in his pilot's uniform, looking pretty much the same as he did today with perhaps slightly less gray in the hair and a little more definition in his face.

So now we know what Rayford looks like: He looks two years older than he did two years ago. And he's the kind of guy who poses for family and church photos in his uniform from work, but we already knew that about "Captain" Steele.

Irene Steele, Buck sees:

… looked bright and cheery, and if you could believe the faddish study of photo-psychology, she appeared more devoted to her husband than he did to her. Her body leaned toward him. He sat rigid, straight up.

I've never before seen it referred to as "photo-psychology," but the "fad" Jenkins refers to goes back to those trendy pre-photographic painters who believed they could create what they called "portraits" of their subjects — images that conveyed character and personality, not just what someone looks like, but who they were. I actually believe in this faddish notion — as does every photographer who doesn't work for the DMV or the glamour shots place at the mall.

Portraits that capture the character of their subjects are what photographers and painters are supposed to produce. They're also what novelists are supposed to produce. And Jenkins here shows us something like such a portrait in the last two sentences of the paragraph above: "Her body leaned toward him. He sat rigid, straight up." But Mr. Tell-Don't-Show can't let that evocative glimpse of character stand alone. He has to smother it with an explicit interpretation telling us what it means — "she appeared more devoted to her husband than he did to her." And he can't help but further squelch its impact with an awkwardly dismissive, mocking introduction — "if you could believe the faddish study of photo-psychology."

This is Bad Writing, of course, but note again that it's a very particular kind of Bad Writing. It's distrustful of metaphor, preferring explicit, singular meaning over implicit and dangerously open-ended or ambiguous visual symbols. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the reader can't be trusted to find in that picture only the particular, official, authoritative thousand words intended by the authors, so it's safer to tell rather than to show.

In other words, Jenkins' Bad Writing seems to be a consequence, or at least a corollary, of his "literalist" hermeneutic. If you can't read a parable without reducing it to a single, linear, propositional "meaning," then you probably can't write a parable either. And vice versa. Parables (parabolas) defy such linear thinking. But to Jenkins the idea that a story or a poem or a portrait or an allusive, symbol-ridden apocalyptic vision might mean and contain and entail more than a single, propositional meaning is "faddish" nonsense, just like the "study of photo-psychology."

So poor Jenkins, theologically and philosophically unable to tell a story as a story, rushes onward to reach the Message of Buck's interlude with the church's photo directory:

Also in the picture was Rayford Junior, identified in the caption as "Raymie, 10." He and his mother had asterisks by their names. Rayford did not. And neither did Chloe, who was listed as "18, Freshman, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California (not pictured)."

Buck flipped to the legend, which explained that an asterisk indicated a church member. The rest, he assumed, were me
re attenders.

Do you see, dear reader, what becomes of those content to be "
mere attenders"? Irene and Raymie were members — real, true, Christian members — and they were whisked off to paradise, freed from the suffering, wrath and judgment to come. But proud Rayford and his egghead daughter were mere attenders. They were left behind to face all the torments of the end of the age.

This is the focus of the series' evangelistic message, such as it is. That message isn't aimed at the "unsaved," but rather at those who may be worrying about the sufficiency of their own passionate sincerity. You go to church every Sunday and you say you're a Christian — but are you really? Can you be sure? That sort of thing. Not a call to conversion, but a call to re-conversion, or to the recertification of a pre-existing conversion. In the parlance of evangelical altar calls, an invitation to "re-dedicate your life to Christ."

Such "re-dedications" are the bread and butter of a great many professional evangelists working and reworking the Burned Over District of the evangelical subculture. That may account for the curious fact that the number of evangelical Christians in America has been more or less constant for years despite the many millions who have "come forward" at evangelical altar calls.

Anyway, speaking of altar calls: Mere attenders were left behind, the authors warn. Now, with every head bowed and every eye closed, we invite anyone who may be less than 100-percent certain that they are more than mere attenders to come forward. As the worship band softly plays "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," ask yourself: If the Rapture happened right now, this very day, is there any chance that you might be left behind? We're going to keep our heads bowed and our eyes closed and the band is going to keep playing that song over and over and over and over until we get a respectable head-count up here in front of the podium. …

Jenkins was so determined to get to this Message that he trampled all over his story getting there.

Consider Buck's alleged state of mind when he picked up that church directory. He's just rushed halfway across the country with only one thought in mind — Chloe. He's smitten. He's only just realized this himself thanks to his first-ever non-bathroom epiphany which came, inconveniently, in the middle of his life-or-death conversation with the most powerful man on earth. It hit him so hard that when the embodiment of pure evil offered him a job, the only response he could think to stammer was to stipulate that he would need to be based somewhere near Chloe.

Now, if someone so love-besotted were to find, while waiting for his beloved to arrive, a photo directory of her church, there's no way he'd waste time turning to look at pictures of Bruce or Billings before flipping directly to the one face he longs to see.

Mercifully, Chloe was away at school on photo day, so we're spared the creepy sight of Buck reacting to a picture of her as she appeared six months after her prom. But everything about his scrutiny of the Steeles' family photo is all wrong. He studies Rayford, then Irene, then Raymie before even noticing Chloe's absence from the photo. And upon seeing Irene and Raymie for the first time, he doesn't think of Chloe's loss and the pain she must be feeling. Less nobly, he doesn't scrutinize the first photo he's ever seen of Irene, looking for traces, good or bad, of what Chloe might come to look like in a few years. I suppose Buck doesn't have to worry too much about that, since he knows his new girlfriend is doomed never to age beyond about 27, but still, one wonders how he might have reacted had it been Irene rather than Mrs. Barnes who appeared a bit "plump."

Instead of feeding his supposed infatuation with Chloe, Buck's discovery of this old yearbook elicits from him only a reverent meditation on the wretched state of the mere attenders who were too foolish to heed the One True Gospel of LaHaye until it was too late. People in love don't act like this.

Buck sees Chloe's car arrive and he races to the front door of the church to greet her and walk her in. His overeager enthusiasm hadn't gone over well on the phone, but he thinks it might work better in person.

As soon as Buck stepped out the door, Chloe emerged from the car and hurried toward the church. "Hey!" he said.

"Hello, Buck," she said, clearly without enthusiasm.

"Flowers still in the trash?" he tried, hoping for some clue to what was up with her.

"As a matter of fact, they are," she said, brushing past him and opening the door herself. He followed her up the stairs, through the foyer and into the offices.

I can't help but wonder how Buck expected that line to go over. After his rehearsed half-witticism flops, he's finally able to notice that Chloe seems upset.

Obviously Chloe would rather be anywhere but there and looking at anything but him. She had been crying, and her face was red and blotchy. He ached to reconnect with her. Something told him this was not just a mood, a part of her personality he would have to get used to. Something specific was plainly wrong, and Buck was in the middle of it.

Buck is so insightful and sensitive that he instinctively recognizes when "something specific" is upsetting a woman — as opposed to when it's just one of those silly moods those silly chicks have for no reason at all. And Mr. Sensitive, recognizing that she's been crying, decides he has just the thing to cheer her up:

"Look what I found," Buck said, thrusting the old church directory under her nose.

Because nothing cheers a person up like having a picture of their recently departed mother and kid brother shoved in their face.

  • Emcee

    I think I had two reasons for thinking MG was a guy. One, and I have deleted three different wordings on this, thinking I could make myself seem less like a schmuck, and realized it just isn’t possible, is that I assocciate the word “gastronomer” with people who like to use large words for simple concepts to make themselves look smarter. And those people tend to be male. (Please understand, I do not think MG does that. And I love the word “gastronomer” myself. But if someone I was not very familiar with used it in a casual conversation? Yeah, I would think they were full of themselves…)
    The second reason is, I think in a previous thread, MG and Pius were involved in a conversation (whether they were on the same side of an issue, or on opposite sides, I don’t remember…), and I know Pius identified specifically as male in it. And I think my brain screwed up and got the two of them mixed up. Or rather, I knew Pius said he was male, and since MG was in the same conversation, I assumed she was male as well? That’s not right either, but not coming up with the right wording…the point is, my mind is playing tricks with me, as it sometimes does, and it often leads to confusion and/or embarrassment on my part. C’est la vie…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5ec953d970b Cat Meadors

    Man… just this morning, my husband took our baby to the pediatrician. It’s one of those practices where you might be seen by any of the doctors; today he drew the old guy, who walked in, looked at the two of them, and said, “oh, are we waiting for Mommy to get back from the bathroom?”
    Gah!
    (Although my husband is a polite person and wouldn’t actually say it, the first thing that popped in to his head was, “Could we see one of the female pediatricians, please? They are so much more nurturing, you know, the baby never cries when she sees them.”)

  • lonespark

    OMG what a tool! (The Dr.) Assume, making an ass, etc.
    I take my friend’s kid to the Children’s Museum sometimes. Once he got lost and they kept asking him if he knew where his mom was. He just said “at home.” I hope they didn’t ask him where his deceased father was. Eventually I did get him back.

  • http://wenzersaddictions.blogspot.com Wenzer

    Similarly, it’d be a strange church that made one of its non-members a deacon or an elder or something.
    I’m on my congregation’s council. Have been for a couple years.
    I didn’t get around to actually becoming a member until about a year ago. It was just an oversight on everyone’s part – we all (myself included) thought I was actually a member, until the pastor got around to looking at the rolls and realized I wasn’t on it.
    So here I was, voting on council decisions (and voting in congregational meetings) when I wasn’t supposed to…

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net The Old Maid

    @Daughter: Tithing … technically, giving to the poor is “charity,” not “tithing.” Tithing (whether or not you give the actual ten percent) is to be given to the worship community where you are being spiritually fed.
    Says who? Jesus? Nope.
    That’s my point. Tithing is a command of the Hebrew scriptures, and is one of many such commands dealing with economic issues that was meant to ensure that the Jewish sacrificial system functioned and that no members of the community became too impoverished. So why has tithing become a Christian teaching, to the exclusion of the other Hebrew commands related to finances?

    That’s why I mentioned it was Telushkin, a rabbi who was answering a question from his congregation. Christianity has a lot to say about charity and charitable giving, but doesn’t give specific figures. But I agree with him that a “tithe,” regardless of its percentage or regularity, is only a tithe if it’s going to the worship community where one is being spiritually fed. Christians are supposed to support their pastor and worship community, and also to help the poor and the human community.
    You or someone else might have addressed this already, but I haven’t had time to get to the end of the comments yet. :)

  • Tonio

    I found it especially odd that he questioned his assumptions about my gender rather than his assumptions about my sexual orientation.

    The latter is much thornier on an interpersonal level. I agree that the assumption that the person is straight can stem from heteronormativity, or can have the effect of enabling that mindset.
    But the opposite assumption can also be seen as offensive. It arrogantly implies that one has flawless gaydar. It also wrongly equates masculinity or femininity with heterosexuality. Is there a word for that concept, where a homophobe would automatically made assumptions about Ellen DeGeneres and Clay Aiken because they don’t fit the homophobes’ stereotypes about the genders?
    I remember being disappointed when those celebrities came out of the closet, even though I supported them for doing so. I suppose I wanted them balanced by, say, Heidi Klum and George Clooney also becoming public, just so people would learn not to make assumptions about orientation based on appearance or personality.

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net The Old Maid

    And I have decided that I REALLY need to make a cheat sheet with everyone’s screen name, and explicitly ask everyone’s gender, because apparently everytime I make an assumption about it, I am completely wrong.
    I just assume everyone’s a person until they tell me otherwise. “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Or a killer death sheep.
    BTW Daughter I’m not disagreeing with you on the curious attitudes of Christians toward tithing, charitable giving, and the confusions and misuses of the concepts. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that the churches that talk the most about “give more to the church” are saying it because they’ve mentally already spent it, and not in the good way of needing to buy heat and electricity for the children.

  • lonespark

    I’m trying to write a response to Tonio but I just end up sounding like an insensitive idiot.
    Rock Hudson, etc.
    I do feel that way about the movie In & Out, though.

  • redcrow

    >>>I’m trying to write a response to Tonio but I just end up sounding like an insensitive idiot.
    I’m trying *not* to write a responce to Tonio because I’ll end up sounding irritated at best, and I don’t want him to think that I’m attacking him, because *I understand* that he doesn’t imply anything bad about butch lesbians and femininenot overtly masculine gay men. But this topic makes me want to rant, and I really shouldn’t.

  • sharky

    I blithely read it as a comment on people being forced out by suspicion and rumor rather than passing successfully and outing themselves. We still haven’t had an A-list celebrity voluntarily out themselves, AFAIK. (Lady Gaga voluntarily outed herself as bi, but her songs still focus, quite candidly, around men. Even on neutral songs to “you” she mentions, er… distinctive parts.)

  • Denizen

    Jenkins was so determined to get to this Message that he trampled all over his story getting there.
    Get used to it now, it will happen more and more and more until future chapters will just be Ben-Judah telling the reader directly to become Christians now as they read these words.

  • Tonio

    I do feel that way about the movie In & Out, though.

    The tone of that movie was very uneven. Perhaps the screenwriter wanted to lampoon homophobia but the studio wanted a prestige movie, or vice versa. The scene with the self-help tape could have come from a Farrelly brothers script. I was expecting his former student to have been mistaken, or worse, to have been advised by his handlers to turn his teacher into a suffering hero, because it wasn’t clear why the student thought the teacher was gay. The setup implied that the teacher was in massive self-denial about his orientation. I would have used a different ending, where he was straight but giving into that side of his personality that came out during the self-help tape scene.

  • Tonio

    *I understand* that he doesn’t imply anything bad about butch lesbians and femininenot overtly masculine gay men. But this topic makes me want to rant, and I really shouldn’t.

    My apologies. What makes ME want to rant is when homophobic assholes hear about Aiken or DeGeneres coming out and say, “Well, duh! Who didn’t know that?” Lonespark mentioned Rock Hudson, but he was shoehorned into an older stereotype that’s grounded in male resentment, that of the romantic male lead being in the closet. (That stereotype crops up in the original Godfather novel.) Both sets of stereotypes are why I sympathize so strongly with gays and lesbians fighting for equal rights – no matter what their individual personalities are like, their public reputations end up being variations on stereotypes that have nothing to do with them. It reminds me of how reality TV ends up being a parade of artificial archetypes, with every African-American woman expected to be a conniving Omarosa.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a6452705970c Ruby

    Tonio: The tone of that movie was very uneven. Perhaps the screenwriter wanted to lampoon homophobia but the studio wanted a prestige movie, or vice versa. The scene with the self-help tape could have come from a Farrelly brothers script. I was expecting his former student to have been mistaken, or worse, to have been advised by his handlers to turn his teacher into a suffering hero, because it wasn’t clear why the student thought the teacher was gay. The setup implied that the teacher was in massive self-denial about his orientation. I would have used a different ending, where he was straight but giving into that side of his personality that came out during the self-help tape scene.
    Indeed. I much preferred the subplot of the movie, about the fiancee/her weight issues/the former student’s crush on her. I liked the moment where she cries about how much torture she put herself through to lose weight for her wedding, only for him to respond, “Why?? I always thought you were so beautiful.”

  • Tonio

    I blithely read it as a comment on people being forced out by suspicion and rumor rather than passing successfully and outing themselves.

    I wasn’t consciously thinking of that, but yes, it’s not right and it’s not fair that anyone should be treated that way. And there have been cases where celebrities were dogged by gay rumors that either turned out to be false, or where the celebrity never discussed the matter publicly. In the latter case, I respect the celebrities’ silence on a personal issue that is no one else’s business, including mine.

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    Lady Gaga voluntarily outed herself as bi, but her songs still focus, quite candidly, around men.
    well, two things. first, some sexual roleplaying can involve gender switching. Pardon the TMI, but one of my lesbian sex books has an oral sex position that involves blowing your partner’s strap-on (told you it was TMI). The witty little caption/description with this position is only: “Suck her cock.” It works for me.
    I think Lady Gaga refers to male body parts, but I don’t always hear that as referring to men.
    I’m not saying you’re wrong as obviously, hetero sex sells better and it’s not like you’re way off base on the songs. The heteronormativity is probably the reason for no A-list celebrity outing themselves voluntarily, and I’m sure there’s a lot of encouragement for artists to make it sound like they’re promoting that (the heteronormativity, I mean). On my end though, I just think that there’s more than one way to hear something.

  • Tonio

    I have a personal stake in fighting homophobia, since during high school I was picked on by people who thought I was gay. I never doubted my orientation, because my crushes since kindergarten were always for girls. The issue was simply that I felt bad because I was being treated badly. It was a scarier version of the treatment I got from the classmates in elementary school who thought I was mentally retarded. What mattered to me was that they had reached what they saw as a negative conclusion about me and this was causing them to treat me negatively. Years later, when I heard about Matthew Shepherd, it was like my worst high-school fears come true.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Tonio,
    My experience was similar in Junior High/High School.
    I like to think my anti-homophobic beliefs are because “It’s the right thing”, but might come from my own early experience.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer

    And, shocked at myself, I have just realized why “MadGastronomer” always sounded female to me, even before the confirming evidence– it’s the “Mad” part! Apparently, I’ve been more impressed by the various Mad women of song and story– Mad Maudlin, the Mad Woman of Chaillot, etc. — than by the Mad Hatter and his brothers.
    AWESOME! I used to use the handle MadMaud in certain places.
    Or maybe it was just because the person who writes “Bad Astronomy” is a guy, so I just assumed equal time for Mad Gastronomy.
    I keep running across the BadAstronomer. If you search for BadAstronomer on Twitter, you apparently find me, as well. And, in fact, I chose the construction Gastronomer to go with Astronomer — my father used to be one, before he got into business.
    MadGastronomer at first, although once corrected, it stuck quickly – I tend to picture the priestess-chef of Genua on Discworld, equally brilliant at creating jambalaya or the avatar of a god of blood music.
    Mrs. Gogol! Not at all a bad comparison, although as I don’t live in a swamp anymore, I’ve switch the duck feet on the house back to chicken legs.
    You’re in Seattle, MadGastronomer? And you know Jilli? Small world! (I mostly internet-know her, but I’ve met her in person a couple times.) We’ll have to try your restaurant, though it’d be tough for us to come in after 11:00–thanks to the need for babysitting, our evenings out are A) rare and B) usually over by 10:00.
    It’s hard not to know her at this point! I’ve just hung out with goths too long, and she’s too well-known. Most of them love her, a few hate her, but EVERYBODY knows who she is. And she’s giving a reading on April 15 at NK. Should be done well before 10pm.
    Oh, awesome. I’ve been looking for more extreme-late-night dining options in Seattle for a while now. I’ll have to come by the next time I’ve got friends visiting.
    Do! We’re open all night, every night but Monday.
    One, and I have deleted three different wordings on this, thinking I could make myself seem less like a schmuck, and realized it just isn’t possible, is that I assocciate the word “gastronomer” with people who like to use large words for simple concepts to make themselves look smarter. And those people tend to be male.
    Well, you can associate it however you want, of course, but a) “gastronomer” is not, as far as I have been able to determine, an actual word in the sense of being in the dictionary anywhere, and b) gastronomy doesn’t mean “cooking,” it means “the organized study of food and cooking,” or “the art or science of good eating,” which is not actually such a simple concept and deserves its own word for the sake of parsimony if nothing else.
    I remember being disappointed when those celebrities came out of the closet, even though I supported them for doing so. I suppose I wanted them balanced by, say, Heidi Klum and George Clooney also becoming public, just so people would learn not to make assumptions about orientation based on appearance or personality.
    How about Neil Patrick Harris?

  • lonespark

    But it was really, really nice TMI, Jessica. I think I need a cigarette or a Real Sex marathon or something. (Trip to the store?)

  • lonespark

    I live under a rock and listen to podcasts and old country music, so I don’t know about Lady Gaga’s music, but it seems to me that a woman being straightforwardly rauncy is still a pretty subversive thing. Not that it’s necessarily empowering, but it can be. And wasn’t she on the cover of some magazine wearing a strap-on?

  • redcrow

    Yes, she was.

  • Tonio

    I like to think my anti-homophobic beliefs are because “It’s the right thing”, but might come from my own early experience.

    I can say that about myself. Because of your experience, do you feel slightly uneasy around men who you suspect may be homophobic?

    How about Neil Patrick Harris?

    I’ve never seen any of his work.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer

    I’ve never seen any of his work.
    He plays a sportfucker on How I Met Your Mother, a neurotic supervillain wannabe who makes it in Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog, he was some sort of weird cult icon for the eponymous characters in the Harold and Kumar movies, and once upon a time he played a teenaged doctor on Doogie Howser, M.D. He is not even a little been femme or flaming, even if he’s not usually as hypermasculine as Rock Hudson.
    Here, have some youtube: Harold and Kumar, How I Met Your Mother, Doogie Howser, M.D., Dr. Horrible, and, because NPH is too good of a comedian to not occasionally do something like this, NPH’s Sesame Street appearance as the Shoe Fairy

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Re “the meat rap” – it seems to me that, by a certain species of logic, a person who ate meat on Friday when that was defined as a sin would still be liable for their Hell/Purgatory sentence even if the Friday meat rule were later repealed, not because of anything inherent in the activity but because a Rule had been Broken. Even if the rule is changed after the incident, the fact remains that you ought to be punished for Disobedience.
    I don’t happen to agree with this. But I can see how certain churches would.

    Except that the Church does not, generally, say “This used to be a sin and now it’s not.” but rather “We used to make claims which may have caused you to think that it was a sin. It isn’t, and it never was, and in the future, we’ll be more clear on this to avoid confusion”.


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