First Principles

(no time for a proper edit, sorry if its unreadable)

To all, a blessed Easter Sunday. Resurrection Day. All squabbling about dates and times and lunar cycles and whatnot aside, it is after all our faith’s  defining moment. Without it we have a cool self help program and a lifestyle.

What the heck are you blogging about early on an Easter Sunday Empath?

First principles.

Most of us upright Christian Americans would like to imagine ourselves adhering to some first principle. What set me thinking about this was the tiny bit of exposure I had to the recent rift among some of the participants in our little square dance of a manosphere. Aleman left and dosey do. This one’s in that one’s out, he said she said round we go.

Won’t say I have no interest in the details or that I have no opinion regarding the factions. Doesn’t matter. Because I am not going to go into it. However from a higher view, like satellite photos where the skirmish details are blurred and fail to reveal individual human suffering but the overall troop movements can be discerned, it is disturbing on another level.

I was at The Masters a week or so ago. I watched the crowds moving from hole to hole, the flow controlled by men with vests and rope lines. I imagined what it must look like from the air, all these people shuffling, large groups moving together, but so very many groups moving, and so many directions, that it would look like a microscopic view of some infected tissue and the bacteria swarming. There is a comparison there to the manosphere and ancillary blogs.

There is a more troubling thing revealed in the faces of the individual spectators at The Masters. Folks are sold out and bought in to this life. The wide eyes awe on the faces of the men milling about watching golf, snippets of the conversations, it all points to a people craving a distraction. Sports radio, talk radio, all of it distracting man from first principles. before I dig myself in I am not even trying to make a point about more focus on spiritual things, though one could be made. I am making an analogy.

If you follow the collective “us” around the blogs we visit it would look like a cyber version of The Masters. You’ve got your professionals, the large blogs we read and comment on, you have your plethora of amateurs like me, and you have your niche players who are very focused and sometimes unusual. You have a women’s tour with the same cast of characters.

Someone made a comment on Cane’s blog saying he noted that reading around the sphere was like reading the same things over and over with slightly different cheer leading sections at each location. That is brutal truth, though there are exceptions. I may be the worst offender. I wanted to tell him about first principles, but I struggled to articulate.

Thinking about that, I read UK Fred’s comment here where he said:

To revert to the original purpose of the posting, there are two legitimately held Christian views on divorce, one laid out by John Piper in his personal Position Statement on Divorce and the other best described as a more liberal

approach.

Original purpose…..first principles. I read Pipers position statement and its accompanying write up. I got some clarity. Maybe some conviction. Even some pleasant confirmation.

I’ve been writing a great deal from the high view. Though originally motivated by the individual human carnage of divorce, I think I’d drifted away from that and focused on the low hanging fruit of pointing out the proclivities of women. I have no problem with doing that because its just not done outside of our little 9 hole par 3 course we frequent. But consider, is the first principle what women do or the consequences of that and many other things that rain down pain on real people.

Piper frames it like this:

Divorce is painful. It is emotionally more wrenching than the death of a spouse. It is often long years in coming and long years in the settlement and in the adjustment. The upheaval of life is immeasurable. The sense of failure and guilt and fear torture the soul. Like the psalmist, night after night a spouse falls asleep with tears. Work performance is hindered. People draw near or withdraw with uncertain feelings. Loneliness can be overwhelming. A sense of devastated future can be all consuming. Courtroom controversy compounds the personal misery.

And then there is often the agonizing place of children. Parents hope against hope that the scars will not cripple them or ruin their own marriages some day. Tensions over custody and financial support deepen the wounds of years. And then the awkward and artificial visitation rights can lengthen the tragedy over decades.

I remember it like yesterday. When I was almost divorced, when I thought I was to be divorced, when I lived alone with my small dog in an apartment with my family back min our large house on acreage against a lake front, huge pool and just paradise for kids…..I sometimes fell asleep on the floor beside the computer desk. I’d spend time reading alternately family law and Christian opinions.

So I’d sit there until I was so tired I’d lay to the side, on the floor, and wake there at 3AM, start another day. I realized, deeply, profoundly, then exactly why God could easily hate divorce. He must hate divorce. because He hates human cruelty like child abuse and murder and torture and the like. And there I lay like a victim chained in a basement  I knew right then that there were men like me all over the country that did not want to be cast out from their families and were clenched in the rigor of excruciating pain…pain so bad one doesn’t scream so much as exhale loudly and moan loudly like an animal that’s been brought down by a pride of lions, alive as it is eaten.

That is where my first principle comes from. And Ive been off it for awhile.

One of the things I had written 11 years ago during those sleepless nights was a letter to a pastor. It was hypothetical. In it I asked, “How would you react if I asked you to drive me to the motel where I’d meet my mistress, so that my car needn’t sit there at risk of being seen?” I pointed out that he would find it absurd. But, then he’d go organize food delivery and child rides for the women who were tossing good men.

That example came to mind when I happily read Piper’s version:

Because of these and many other factors people with sensitive hearts weep with those who weep. They try not to increase the pain. And sometimes this care is confused with compromise. People think that loving care is incompatible with confrontation—that the tenderness of Jesus and the toughness of his demands can’t both be love. But surely this is not right.

 

Divorce involves sin that is more destructive than many others. The hurtful impact of a broken marriage on the spouses and the children and the web of relationships surrounding the marriage is immense.

 

Divorce falls into that group of acts which when they are committed are very hard to undo. The words, “I’m sorry,” can make right many sins against another person. But divorce and remarriage cannot be made right like that.

He addresses a major problem that the church is blinded to, that being rooted in the following question asked by those who want to protect their escape hatch:

When divorce begins to be discussed in this way it is common for someone to ask whether divorce is the unforgivable sin.

He has powerful answers:

The only unforgivable sin is the sin that we refuse to confess and forsake. We commit unforgivable sin when we cleave to a sin so long and so tenaciously that we can no longer confess it as sin and turn from it

And gets very specific:

Therefore marital sin is in the same category as lying and killing and stealing when it comes to church discipline and church membership. If someone has lied, killed, stolen, or illegitimately divorced, the issue is not, can they be forgiven? The issue is do they admit that what they did was sin? Do they renounce it? And do they do what they can to make it right?

 

If a person in the church was known to affirm lying, killing or stealing as appropriate behavior for a Christian, that person would be liable to the discipline of the church. Not because they have lied, killed or stolen in the past and cannot be forgiven, but because they go on affirming NOW that sin is not sin.

 

Or if a person was openly planning to lie, kill or steal with a view to receiving (cheap!) forgiveness afterward, that person too would be liable to church discipline.

 

In all these ways illegitimate divorce and remarriage are NOT in a class by themselves. They are not the unforgivable sin. When it comes to church discipline and church membership they should be treated the same way other public sins are treated.

 

What makes divorce and remarriage seem to be a special matter of concern in the church is that very seldom does someone affirm the rightness of lying, killing, and stealing. But people often affirm the rightness of divorce and remarriage.

 

In other words what usually causes the conflict is not whether divorce and remarriage are unforgivable sins, but whether they are sins at all —to be confessed (from the past) and to be avoided (in the future).

 

If a person has stolen things in his past and wants to join the church, no one would say that we are treating stealing as the unforgivable sin if we insist that this person confess his sin and begin to make amends to those he defrauded. A sin is not unforgivable because it must be confessed as sin, renounced as an option, and its effects made right (as far as possible).

 

So it is with illegitimate divorce or remarriage. It should not keep anyone out of the church nor put anyone out of the church any more than a past life of robbery. But there must be a heartfelt confession of the sin committed and a renouncing of it and an affirming of what is right, just as with all other sins of the past.

Begin chorus:

He said what I said, or I said what he said because he wrote this in 1989.

How many folks do you imagine are sitting in the pews bursting with compulsion to renounce the sin of their past divorce and boldly claim it was dead wrong to have done it? Why would anyone? After all, reading Pipers words are like being in some fugue state where reality is real and what God said is real and He meant it and the church is not afraid to say it.

Imagine, leaving me personally out of the imagining, a man wallowing in pain for weeks on end, expected by day to be the worker, the father, the man, and by night barely able to hold his head up. he watches from a distance as people line up to take the sting out of the divorce the wife filed. the church goes all mealy mouthed on it. Even all but his most core friends are afraid to render an honest opinion. And the wife sits in the pews on Sundays and holds her head high. The whispers in the hall are “what did he do?”. After all, the wife is righteously lathered up about those textbooks with chapters about two mommies. She volunteers at the divorce recovery group….and those kids….they are so lucky to have a mom praying for them and seeing that God in his mercy will see them through the divorce.

This is disgusting. Sickening. An abomination. Its why I write this little blog. It forms my prayers.

Can you conceive of an offense so grievous, man to women, that would make what happens to that man seem right? If he had an affair….alrighty then? If he yelled, or looked at porn….he had it coming? Sure, there are things bad enough to make the human heart have difficulty finding sympathy for the guy. But are those things the things that define divorce in the church?

Now, imagine that man, after a couple years of suffering, more intensely in the beginning, but suffering all throughout, and imagine his offense was so pitifully insignificant when compared to the pain he endured at her hand. Then try and see a time when she approaches and says, “lets give it another try”.

Its easy to say he’d be a fool to do so. But I did that.  I forgave her and I let it go and I reconciled. I will state unequivocally that I did that because God would have me do that. Lest you find me flirting with sanctimony…..not so….that is the single thing of any import  in my life where I have taken God’s will and placed it intentionally over my own and followed. I did not want to. I was afraid, I was angry, I wanted revenge. I wanted to pursue more of the sin I’d been tasting too! My faith was rocked badly. But had I not prayed endlessly begging God for reconciliation? Now….he shows up and I say…..nah, just kiddin? So,  I took the hand of the one who flogged me and I said OK, lets work this out for once and all.

That’s why I cannot muster instant sympathy at the mention of the single mom or simply the newly divorced woman. I. Just. Can’t.

This is first principles for me. Not what happens in the manosphere and who is popular and who earns a few bucks selling trinkets on a blinking website and so forth. In fact, pox on those who would sew discord into even the most reserved blogger that has as a part of their mission communicating the truth about divorce in the church. i’d like to think that is why we are here.

 

 

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34 thoughts on “First Principles

  1. Excellent.

    I assume Piper is against marrying anyone in the church if it would be a remarriage after a divorce, and that church discipline would likely excommunicate those that wanted to divorce for living in sin.

    Many Christians just “game the system” so to speak. If their current church won’t let them divorce they’ll just divorce and then move to another church where they can get remarried. This is obviously a problem. Should the second church accept the remarried?

    I think there is a good case in the Scriptures for forgiveness and repentance if it’s genuine as stated in Piper’s article. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to be the judge in this instance as that is God’s role. But it’s still a very nebulous circumstance where you can’t tell if they’re sincere or not because of the history of church hopping and poor actions.

  2. Deep Strength, Id be willing to accept an avalanche of insincere repentance so long as it was done out loud for all to see. At this point i will take any outward sign that divorce was a crappy deal and not to do it.

  3. Great post for Easter. The Resurrection as the reconciliation of the Body and the Spirit.

    It’s not been my experience that most church women divorce while brazenly still attending church faithfully. Instead, usually what happens is sometime after the divorce she returns after having left for a while, or more likely as Deep Strength suggested she “returns” to a different congregation or even different denomination.

  4. It is refreshing to see a church that actually has a written policy statement on divorce and remarriage.

    I am sorry to say that none of the churches I have been a member of have had such a statement.

  5. I’m not going to lie. I’ve looked at the divorce in similar fashion. In the beginning there was no divorce. I’ve looked into Exodus where Moses wrote the first bill of divorce and how easily it was to commit adultery. Remarriage after a divorce isn’t green. God/Moses lays out strict rules on remarrying after a divorce.

    I believe God intended Marriage to be a one time deal.

  6. jf12

    It was my experience that church women do not only attend church faithfully, they become more pious. It fits my basic premise about empathy. Women crave experiences of empathy. The church….for the women in mid divorce….is like a mine where the mineral empatholadium is mined. Only women can mine it, and even then, only women like divorcing women who have the ability to process high levels of empatholadium rays.

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  8. Re: churchian divorce trajectories. It may depend on the denomination. If the man is a faithful member, I think it’s usually the Jenny Erikson type of divorce in which she leaves the church. Also it seems as often as not that what precipitates a congregational schism is a divorce and people taking sides.

  9. Empath, agree.

    The issue of living post divorce for us guys is difficult because most of the women are quite happy to be righteous and judge — even when we know that they are shacked up with the metaphorical pool boy or rockdrummer.

    Piper’s statement on divorce and remarriage is about as balanced as you can get on the Protestant side. To quote

    he remarriage of the aggrieving, divorced spouse may be viewed as severing the former marriage so that the unmarried spouse whose behavior did not biblically justify being divorced, may be free to remarry a believer (Matthew 19:9), if he or she has confessed all known sin in the divorce, and has made significant progress in overcoming any destructive behaviors and attitudes.

    Recognizing the honest and devout differences of conviction in the church, those of us with more limiting standards for remarriage consent at this point not to make them normative for the whole body. Others of us, who regard this fourth statement as fully Biblical, respect those among us with a more limiting interpretation and do not require or expect them to act in any way against their consciences in attending, supporting or performing enactments of marriage they regard as contrary to Scripture.

    All of us urge every member who contemplates remarriage to struggle in prayer and study with all the relevant Scriptures, with the sole aim of glorifying God through full obedience to his word. Consider fairly the arguments against remarriage and those for it.

    This takes years: It may never be completely done.

    What would be interesting to see is how the church handles it when some divorced woman sues the church demanding remarriage within it and against these principles. I think Piper would stand firm on this. But many do not.

    One point of hope: the parent who is decent is the one who ends up in a relationship with their adult children, parental alienation or not. The one who does the remedial parenting post divorce and gets the kids semi intact to adulthood. The one who does the least damage.

    And those of you without a divorce should note the words of Judgy Bitch: your wife has a loaded gun pointing at your head and she can pull it at any time. You have to pray that she does not, You have to pray that she chooses to remember her vows in the difficult times.

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  11. Empath:
    I’d like to throw in a tangential thought on this: I think that part of the reason women divorce so with so much caviler stems from the same reason they are intolerable and unfaithful before marriage. That has to do with demographics: the sheer numbers favor women. They can break up with a man at any time for any reason and treat men like complete garbage because they know that they can always get another man anywhere. Men don’t have that option. Hence men can become expendable, while the SMV of females remains constant, simply because there is a shortage of them.

  12. Eric you give too much credit. yes there will be another man available. But a woman’s awareness of that is an odd thing. She is so saturated with that awareness that its almost as if she isnt aware. Its almost like the fish and water thing, having another man available is not an awareness its a state of being.

    The reason, no….not the reason…the alure for divorce is the automatic support and empathy they receive from all directions

  13. Amazing post Empathalogism – and Elspeth I liked your Hard Reset 🙂 Just wanted to say hi to you both, and may God richly bless you as you endeavour to do His will.

    Blessings in Yeshua, x Hannah

  14. The sympathy differential, I think, is based on the tendency to see bad in men and good in women, which is a central part of our culture – [i]as men[/i].

    In a divorce, usually neither side has “clean hands”. There are very few perfect or close to perfect people in the world. Most of the time both people in a divorce situation had some degree of unclean hands, even though it is only very rarely an “equal fault” situation. Because of this, whether the man has the higher degree of fault or not, his hands are rarely completely spotlessly clean, and so whatever problems he did have in the marriage will be cited as the “reason she divorced him”, and even “the reason she had an affair and then divorced him”. In other words, even if she has clearly sullied hands herself, the unclean hands of the man will be seen as being the ultimate cause of the divorce, in its root.

    This is an attitude enforced primarily by us, as men. The biggest attackers of husbands in marriages are men, not women. The men are the ones blaming the other men for their wives cheating on them or leaving them and, as I say, because few people are perfect, some sullied hands can usually be found to hang that hat on, even if the actual, you know, adultery was being conducted by the wife. We tend to hold each other to account much more than we hold women to account, probably because we are more comfortable holding each other to account, it is easier for us to do so with full social approval, and, frankly, it feels good for many of us to put another man in his place in terms of exercising the ultimate social dominance over him.

    I don’t think this can be overcome, really, by pointing at women and their proclivities. We know what is happening, and it is not good – we know that. But the reason why it is permitted to happen and be endorsed, de facto, to the degree that it is has as much, if not more, to do with the culture of men vis-à-vis other men as it has to do with the culture of women. The culture of men vis-à-vis each other is currently not working.

  15. Elspeth I liked your Hard Reset

    Thanks Hannah.

    I find that I have to reset more regularly than I should have to, frankly. Husband says it’s because the holes in my filter are too big. Too much gets in. He is as usual, absolutely correct.

    I do pray that all if well with you and yours.

    Reciprocal blessings in Yeshua, sister!

    -Elspeth

  16. Glad you found the Piper Position Paper worth reading, Empath. I came across it when my wife and I were contemplating divorce. Fortunately we came to the conclusion that we really had to try to fix our marriage first, and only if it was beyond repair would we take that drastic step. What we found out was that I did not recognise the acts of love that my wife was presenting to me nor she the acts of love I was presenting to her.

    My experience has been that Eric’s thoughts on another partner in the wings prompting the divorce is generally true, and that other person seems to be so much better than the existing partner.

    Rachel Clark,a journalist on Psychology Today explains how she divorced her husband, became reconciled and eventually remarried him when she realised that relationships are, at times,hard work. I think her story is worth reading. The problem arises with so-called friends who encourage one to move down the slope to divorce which can cause so much hurt that often the divorced partner is more afraid of being hurt again than of reconciling

  17. Re: filters. The better the filter, the more often they need cleaning i.e. more “hard resets” are needed.

  18. Nova you are painfully correct. I did not explicitly mention that pointing out women’s proclivities is not at all part of any corrective action, but it fits with what I am getting at about repeating the ways the feminine is aligned in ways that are not pro family.

    Its also as you intimate more than just the overt man on man man-up stuff. Its the ether we live in. Its an inflected voice and a shrugged shoulder, its a man who prefers to take any and every conversation, no matter the topic…..if it heads to anything serious….a man or some men want to do the Planes Trains Automobile thing saying “What about those Bears” , preferring to fall back on sports than listen to someone even barely scratch the surface of something real. This is Christian male apathy

    Its Christian alpha-ism, this putting men in their place., tossing out “weaker vessel” in response to anything headed towards female accountability.

    Its doing no good to write about its manifestations. Not helpful at all. it is cathartic but not a change agent.

  19. Elspeth you went and done it. That article is off in some way. I want to say its off simply by180 degrees, but that’s too blunt a description. Most men in this group would scoff at the notion women are placing too much value on family. I have to think on this

  20. I’ll just leave this survey report here, since Dalrock is currently on hiatus.

    Barna Group performed a randomized survey:

    The study on which this report is based included telephone surveys with 603 women who are ages 18 or older who describe themselves as Christians and have attended a Christian church service within the past six months (excluding holiday services or special events).

    Many results. This set stands out:

    62% of women surveyed said their most important role in life is “mother” or “parent”.
    13% of women surveyed said their most important role in life is “Follower of Jesus:
    11% of women surveyed said their most important role in life is “wife”.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/churchformen/2013/09/the-1-idol-christian-women-worship/

    https://www.barna.org/culture-articles/585-christian-women-today-part-2-of-4-a-look-at-womens-lifestyles-priorities-and-time-commitments

    Years ago I could not understand how a couple could divorce in their 40’s or 50’s, right after the last child left home, unless someone had engaged in an affair. Now I see how that can happen – if the child(ren) is/are the center of the family, when they leave the center can collapse in various ways.

    The survey results also explain some of what drives churchianity, in my opinion.

  21. My divorce was the alleviation of suffering and the renewal of the desire for life. I don’t mean to make light of the suffering of other men, however it’s damn hard to repent from something that restored your life

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  23. Re: “hard to repent”. It ought to be easy to repent from something that feels wrong, the same way it is easy to spit out poison that tastes yucky. Does one get an extra gold star for the extra degree of difficulty of attempting to repent from something that feels right?

  24. Emp, the article is off based on how you, as a man, define the importance of family. Typically when a woman says her family is the most important thing, she does not mean their well being, health or happiness but how compliment her family is toward her goals of maximizing her happiness, well being etc etc. It’s not about her husband, kids or kin but her.

    You, as a man, read a statement about family being the highest priority and you think of your duties, obligations, etc and what is required of you for them. A woman thinks the opposite. And the church’s primary mission these days is assisting women in achieving their highest level of happiness regardless of the cost to men and children

    Re the gold star… who knows? A friend of mine says he cannot repent from per martial sex because it produced his daughter, his one point of joy in his life. Some questions, while interesting, seem pointless.

  25. Excellent piece here, Empath. It reminds me, again, of how problematic such ease of divorce is; there are no tests, barriers, deterrents to divorce. If either of the spouses want a divorce, they can easily have it. Even after several years of separation, I didn’t want or need a divorce. In my mind, my marriage was a once-only deal; and if God said that only death could separate me from my wife, then I would be single for the remainder of it, as painful as that is. My now ex-wife wanted the divorce so that she could remarry; she obviously has different values to me. That was just over 10 years ago. I protested the divorce (to no avail) based on first principles.
    Your article reminded me of pain/scars I still carry, though it doesn’t hurt as much these days. I’m sure I’ll have it till I go to be with my beloved Jesus Christ. The ease of divorce stuffs things up really badly. Your piece strengthened your case for a woman craving empathy; they are drawn to the option of easy divorce because not only will it draw empathy from those willing to give it, but the ease of divorce also facilitates an easy avoidance of responsibility; there is no compulsion to take a good look at oneself, one’s contribution to the problems, one’s responsibilities. Easy divorce also contributes to the ease that women appear to have with playing the ‘victim’. The victim of what, I ask?

    Easy divorce:
    • Allows women to avoid responsibility (taking a long, good, hard look at themselves).
    • Play the ‘victim’ role they seem to play so easily, and to a tee.
    • Draw empathy from those willing to give it.

    As you say, they may well be attracted to easy divorce for the potential they see for receiving empathy from those who would see them as a victim. Your theory on empathy certainly helps explain why women file for divorce far more often than men (I think I’ve seen figures stated of 80%/20% or thereabouts). And again, it seems that women have more of a proclivity to not accept responsibility, or even the notion of responsibility; hence the ‘victimhood’. For women it seems a simple black and white case of well, because the option of easy divorce is always there for me, then I have no responsibility to try to avoid taking that option.

    Really good post, Empath.

  26. Elspeth:
    I looked at the Patheos article, but I don’t know as I agree with it. I think it reverses cause and effect: the Church has become more feminized and that is leading women (at least so they say) to put family over faith. But the high divorce rate among married Christians and non-stop thug-chasing among singles seem to belie that family is any more important to them than faith.

    I suspect the real cause is female narcissicism, i.e. the ‘sin of pride’.

  27. Sftcon:
    Feminism is an abnormal social state and it twists everything normal into abnormal. The reason you felt relief from a divorce is because the femihags have made modern marriage more agonizing than even divorce, singleness, or INCEL. The way to avoid these kinds of problems is marriage to a normal woman, but you have to look outside the Anglosphere to find one.

  28. I looked at the Patheos article, but I don’t know as I agree with it.

    I’m going to look at the survey more in depth before I comment any further, Eric. My e-girl friends read the study in addition to the article and came away with a much more positive view than I did at first glance.

    After I have a chance to do that, I’ll see what I think and reply further.

  29. Some perspective:

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:18-19 (NIV)

    Is that a promise from God?

    Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
    through eternal ages let his praises ring;
    glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    standing on the promises of God.

    Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
    when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    standing on the promises of God.

    Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
    bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
    overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
    standing on the promises of God.

    Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
    listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
    resting in my Savior as my all in all,
    standing on the promises of God.

    Text: R. Kelso Carter, 1849-1926

  30. @RichardP, smiling sadly and taking a step back may not leave enough room. Lot and his family had to run for the hills.

  31. Hey, I played one of those shrunk down, chip and putt, par 58 courses once… I was driving balls off the embedded adobe houses in the development right and left!

    The greens were both wet (morning dew?) and sandy, so a putt would get wet, accumulate a coating of sand, and just grind to a halt.

    The Master’s (et al) is like fantasy league golf compared to real golf, which is neither very interesting nor very much fun IMO.

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