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For about a year or so, Paradise Post readers who attempted to comment on Post articles or opinions pieces couldn't do so. For reasons unknown to me, the comment option had been disabled. Recently, however, the "comments" function is operational again.

giving prayer a bad name

I first began writing this column back during George W. Bush's first term. I'd lived and worked in Butte County for well over a decade, though I had only recently moved to the ridge. I knew that Paradise had a reputation for harboring a lot of conservatives, so I expected there would be disagreement with some of my views.

My column ran for a few months without my picture appearing next to it, and I was glad my image wasn't next to those opinions when the first reactions began coming in.

My column ran for a few months without my picture appearing next to it, and I was glad my image wasn't next to those opinions when the first reactions began coming in. I was truly surprised and taken aback by how nasty some of those reactions were. When the editor called to tell me he wanted me to stop by the Paradise Post building on Clark Road because he wanted a picture to run next to my column, I said, "are you nuts? I have to show my face in public to shop in this town."

But they took the picture, and I began to be recognized in the market or at the post office. I could see it when it happened, could read the expressions that conveyed the look that says "don't I know that guy?" Perhaps I've just been lucky, but in all the years since then, the only strangers who have approached me to say "aren't you the guy who writes that column in the Post?" have all been people who wanted to thank me for saying things with which they agreed. Nonetheless, I'm still a bit wary when anyone approaches me with that question, never knowing if the questioner might be one of the people who has written threats, posted our address, insulted my wife or my daughters, or invited me to meet them at the Magalia reservoir for a confrontation.

I have been called a "whiner" and a "coward" more times than I can remember, always by people who did so from the safety of pseudonyms like "Magalia Patriot" or "Lone Wolf" or "Friend of Johnny M," a particularly virulent troll with a pathetic hunger for attention. In a response to my recent column about the nearly year-long battle with cancer my wife has undergone, this gargoyle wrote:

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"Our best wishes to Karen for a speedy and complete recovery from her cancer. I would also mention our prayers for her, but since Jaime hates God and Christians so very much, I'm sure it would just anger him further. One has to wonder if second-hand smoke from Jaimie's cigarette smoking for so many years of their relationship may have been a factor. Or, maybe it was the constant exposure to the putrid stench of rabid Liberalism that surrounds Jaime. Noticeable in the above 'column' is the ever-present hatred for President Trump—(as always) included by Jaime—no matter what the topic. Also included is the weak attempt to blame Trump (or Conservatives, or both) for the 'mercy killing' of the self-destructing Obamacare that Jaime ranted, raved about, and praised- despite being horribly flawed and incompetent from the very beginning. Amusingly, Jaime actually admits he and Karen were covered under Medicare and 'an expensive supplementary insurance.' Obviously, NO Obamacare was involved in any manner, way, shape, or form. Why he still praises that miserably failed system is beyond comprehension. Again, our best wishes to Karen. She has already suffered way more than enough by being married to Jaime."

Another guy made similar comments, actually attaching his name to his sentiments. I won't repeat his name here because, in my view, he shamed himself when he wrote:

"Ah, yes 'the ever-present hatred for President Trump—(as always) included by Jaime—no matter what the topic.' Indeed many examples of that penchant over the years have led to some awesome (unintentional) humor. This use of a serious family illness as a platform for propagandizing his hatred confirms a great deal of what many of us have suspected for years. I am praying for Karen even though he will do his best to bat them away."

It's true. I do bat such prayers away. I find them loathsome in their fake piety, reprehensible in their hypocrisy, even blasphemous in the way they denigrate the meaning of the act of prayer. I don't want prayers from such "Christians." They befoul the name of their faith in the creepiest possible way.

It is, alas, the reason why so many Americans have come to think the word "deplorable" fits Trump and his supporters all too well. With their help, Donald Trump has left an indelible stain on the Republican Party, and left an even uglier stain on the evangelical Christians who continue to support him, often with such un-Christian viciousness toward those who disagree.

Jaime O'Neill