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A Response to the “Defense” for Karen Swallow Prior

News Division

A blog we haven’t heard of from a person we haven’t heard of (Chris Bolt), was tweeted to Pulpit & Pen by ecumenist, Eric Teetsel (who we’ve written about here and here) and provided some “explanations” for some of the quotations and citations made in our first piece about Karen Swallow Prior. Currently with more than 1k shares on Facebook (which isn’t necessarily a lot for P&P, but still sizable), we would hope someone would make a defense that wasn’t cloaked in unhinged emotionalism. After several long days, finally someone was making an attempt. So, this is good.

After quoting a number of verses, including 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (clanging cymbals – you get it – that verse is almost obligatory as it is predictable at this point), the author gets to his argument.

Several of my friends pointed me to an article written by J.D. Hall (hereafter JD) that raises concerns about Karen Swallow Prior (hereafter KSP).

The title of the article is “Gay-Affirming Research Fellow at ERLC, Shocking Liberalism.”

“Gay-affirming” is the label given to churches and sometimes individuals who do not consider homosexuality a sin.

KSP makes it quite clear that she considers homosexuality sin.

Well, I’ve no doubt that some limit “gay affirming” to those who say homosexuality is not a sin. For me, I think it’s “gay affirming” to take a selfie at a pro-LGBT film festival and fundraiser with the student who came out of the closet it to you. That seems pretty affirming to me. As a matter of fact, I think that everything that was presented in that article seemed pretty darn affirming. Honest question: Do you think these homosexuals felt affirmed or rejected by Swallow Prior?

A "selfie" with Karen Swallow Prior at the LGBT Film Fest.
A “selfie” with Karen Swallow Prior at the LGBT Film Fest.

Forgive the disagreement on what “affirming” means, but I’m thinking that these folks wouldn’t be asking for a selfie from Dr. White or Dr. Brown (not that they would be invited to speak at an LGBT fundraiser – or that they would accept the invitation).

“Gay-affirming” is the label given to churches and sometimes individuals who do not consider homosexuality a sin.

Sometimes. Sometimes it’s given to “Third Way” proponents who want to be affirming but still give lip service for the sinfulness of homosexuality. You know, the same “Third Way” that Swallow does not reject – at least not in 2014 in these screenshots with Ken Fryer…

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Question: “Does this mean you disagree with @AlbertMohler that there is no third way”?

Answer: “It depends on how first two ways are defined. Postmodernity means the old dichotomies don’t work, like it or not.”

In other words, “yes.” But of course, like always with the intelligentsia it’s complex and nuanced and anything but straightforward. But yeah, you can say “I believe homosexuality is sinful” and still be gay-affirming, in the same way that a church may say that extramarital cohabitation is sinful and never deal with the cohabiting couple in the pew; like it or not, it’s affirming their lifestyle. And frankly, showing up to speak and galavant at a red-carpet LGBT fundraiser is affirming their lifestyle. Anything less, and she wouldn’t have been speaking. Give me the audio of her presentation, and I’ll happily reconsider.

Thomas Road Baptist Church, which currently holds KSP’s membership, also considers homosexuality sin.

Well…we’re not sure if she has a membership where she doesn’t actually attend (which could be the case, we suppose) or if she just recently changed her membership from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church, but she was attending there at least as late as Easter of this year (2015).

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.09.52 PM

Notice that she’s a reader in the “Celtic Worship service (by the way, here’s a post from Russell Moore back in 2000 on why the CBF is dangerously liberal and he also addresses the Celtic Worship service stuff). You can see the bulletins at her CBF church going back a good ways, and there she is. The CBF – which split from the SBC over female ordination and liberal politics – by the way, doesn’t have an official stance on homosexuality (**shocker**).

JD goes on to write of, “Swallow Prior, who chose to not take a side on the gay marriage issue in an article by New York Magazine.”

Let’s be very clear. The article in question was not written by KSP. She did not have final say on what was included or not included in the article. She was apparently asked questions regarding Liberty University’s response to the SCOTUS decision on same-sex “marriage” (hereafter SSM).

The bulk of quotes from KSP in the article are about the school, not her. In fact the only comment from KSP that references her own views on SSM is as follows.

Prior said she had nearly posted a status update on Facebook about the same-sex-marriage debate recently, but decided against it.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into whether or not I should post something and what it would be,” she said. “But social media isn’t a productive way to engage.”

Could we name the title of that article in New York Magazine? The title of the article (context, right?) was, “At Jerry Falwell’s College, It’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on Gay Marriage.” The entire article was written to convey the point that Liberty has backed way off of homosexuality as a sin issue. Don’t get mad at Pulpit & Pen – that’s why the article was written. And to substantiate the point of that article, the author – Kevin Roose – cites Karen Swallow Prior. When asked why she or other Liberty faculty members have posted nothing in social media about the gay marriage debate, Swallow Prior says “[Liberty University’s] character and emphases are changing over time.

That’s the facts. That’s the context. I would argue, Swallow Prior is a part of that character and emphases changing over time, because one could hardly imagine Liberty personnel speaking at an LGBT fundraiser when Jerry Sr. was alive.

The manner in which JD links to this particular article and attempts to describe its contents leads readers to believe KSP committed some great wrong in not explicitly condemning SSM in an article she did not even write. He implies she refused to provide her views on SSM. That she said something like, “No comment.” Not true.

Nope – not true (maybe I should cite the 9th Commandment, here, like the author of the rebuttal did). No one said she should have condemned homosexuality in that article (as in, to the journalist as a quote), but that when writing an article about why Liberty personnel were utterly quiet on the gay marriage ruling entitled “At Jerry Falwell’s University It’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on Gay Marriage,” Swallow Prior explained that she chose to remain quiet in social media (and frankly, everywhere else that I’ve seen).

Easy to see JD went great lengths to provide links to articles involving KSP.

Not as easy to see he knows how to read them.

What was that about clanging cymbals again? I’m feeling the love from this guy. But, yes – you’re welcome for my citation of articles.

JD writes, “The Atlantic ran an article entitled ‘Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University’ and alleged that Liberty University has backed away from vocal opposition to gay marriage. As he ‘came out,’ he lists Karen Swallow Prior (a professor at Liberty) as one who was sympathetic and supportive of his decision.”

The “he” refers back to The Atlantic in the previous sentence, which is not a “he” at all. Apparently JD meant to refer to the gay author of the article, Brandon Ambrosino.

Now, again, the reader likely believes, after having read what JD wrote, that KSP affirmed Brandon Ambrosino in his decision to be gay. But that is not at all what happened. Go read the article for yourself.

First, KSP called the student into her office because she apparently noticed a number of signs that her student was homosexual. Second, the student “came out” to her in the sense that he claimed he was “struggling” with homosexual temptation. Third, KSP wept with the young man, told him that she loved him, that it would be okay, and that he was okay. Fourth, she suggested the young man meet with a counselor.

How would JD have handled that differently?

Hey, great question. I would probably stop short of saying that him coming out would be okay, because it’s not okay to let sin become a part of your identity (likewise, I would encourage someone struggling with adultery to confess the sin to God and whoever it has affected, but not to start identifying themselves as a proud “adulterous Christian”). I would also not say that it is “okay” to be a homosexual because they cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (without repentance and penitent faith) – 1 Corinthians 6:9. I would encourage the young man to repent. But it doesn’t turn out that this young man repented…because she’s taking a celebratory photograph with him at an LGBT fundraiser. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking that the type of “comfort” Swallow Prior gave wasn’t a “that’s okay, Jesus came to forgive sinners” type-comfort. Again, I think showing up to a function celebrating his sin at the Level Ground event might just give us a clue as to what kind counseling she provided (or calls to repentance she didn’t give).

Would he notice any signs that his congregation struggles with temptations to sin?

Would he avoid asking them into his study?

Would he weep at all with those who weep over their sins?

Would he ignore the opportunity to tell them he loves them?

To tell them that everything will work out for good?

To tell them they are no less human than anyone else?

And no more sinful?

Would he refuse to offer counseling?

Keep in mind KSP is in a university setting. Not a church.

KSP is not a pastor. JD is.

Should he be?

Again, feeling the love here. My sobs aside, (1) I think common sense would indicate the problem is not that she invited him to the study (I didn’t complain about that), (2) weep with those who weep over their sin (I didn’t complain about that – but I don’t think that’s what happened…do you know why? People who weep over their sin don’t show up to big gay red carpet events to celebrate their sin. No doubt there was weeping, but anyone who thinks it was “over sin” and not over the church’s “mean attitude” toward homosexuals and repercussions of his “coming out” would have to explain how this led to an embrace of his lifestyle on that red carpet and Swallow Prior’s photographic embrace of him while he was doing it). (3) Why would I tell someone they were no more sinful than anyone else? How would I know that? Homosexuality is given in Scripture as an example of the depths of depravity. I can’t say things I don’t know are true. (4) I counsel plenty of folks, some with sin issues relating to sexual immorality and yes, even homosexuality. I wouldn’t pose on the big gay red carpet with them for sure. I wouldn’t speak at a fundraiser for their gay organization for sure. Almost makes you wonder what kind of advice Swallow-Prior gave the man that day. (5) What does Liberty U not being a church have to do with anything? As a Christian – and like it or not, as someone who is called an “evangelical leader” and a research fellow for the ERLC, I’m pretty sure she should know that being paraded around by the LGBT community as one of their homegirls might be taken as being “affirming.”

In a guest post entitled “Finding Common Ground on Abortion” at Patheos (if the title doesn’t turn your stomach, just read its content) in March of 2015, Swallow Prior desires to drop labels like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” (in the context, this is an interview with Charles Camosy) and seeks to cooperate with Camosy to get a “fresh perspective on the abortion debate [to] help reframe the conversation around reproductive technology, and inspire more helpful responses that address concerns with prenatal life while also addressing the great pain that such technologies aim to alleviate…” Swallow Prior calls Camosy’s book, “refreshing and hopeful ” – and the book argues that “abortion is radically complex” and there is no “conservative position and liberal position.” Swallow Prior gives glowing accolades to the book whose author says that using the term “anti-life” to refer to abortion is a “rhetorical hatchet job.”
How many Southern Baptists would agree with those positions?


Again, let’s be clear. KSP did not write this article. Ellen Painter Dollar wrote the article. Since she wrote the article, she probably chose the title as well. You know…the title that turns JD’s stomach. You know…the title KSP in all likelihood did not write.

Uh…..about that last paragraph^^

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.45.57 PM


You might have noticed the “Guest Post by Karen Swallow Prior” in bold. Under the title is Ellen Painter Dollar’s name, which is whose blog this is and who is actually posting it online (the same thing happens at the P&P blog). Painter Dollar (what’s with these two last names thing?) adds some commentary. Karen Swallow Prior does indeed do the post and conducts the interview with Camosy on behalf of her “pro-choice friend,” Painter Dollar.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.51.31 PM

So, basically my friend (whoever wrote this defense of Swallow Prior), you’re wrong.

JD objects to the “common ground” language. However, finding “common ground” from which to discuss any topic is crucial. Christians disagree within their own ranks, and non-Christians certainly disagree with Christians, as to where this common ground is found. But we must find common ground in order to have any discussion. The alternative is discussing nothing at all. Kind of like they do at Pulp…never mind.

That is correct. I do object to “common ground” language. I have no common ground with people who kill babies and sell their body parts. I have no common ground with terrorists. I have no common ground with Nazis. The temple of God has no common ground with idols (2 Corinthians 6:16). The people of God have no common ground with the baby-sacrificing demon-god of Molech (Leviticus 18:21). I suppose that’s a genuine philosophical, theological agreement. I have no common ground with such people, even if that common ground is a red carpet.

Note that KSP is not necessarily endorsing the view that these labels are “outdated.” She is addressing the topic from the perspective of the author to whom she is speaking.

But even if KSP agrees that the terms are outdated, what does it matter? The terms are extremely broad. Are AHA and the GOP both pro-life? Perhaps that question illustrates “the shortcomings of these labels for the abortion debate today”?

That’s fine. I take Swallow Prior saying to the author that he “recognizes the shortcomings of these labels” that the shortcoming is a statement of fact that the author recognizes, not that the shortcoming of these labels is hypothetical. I’ll happily concede the ambiguity on that point.

JD raises concerns about KSP’s article for Relevant Magazine regarding the “It Gets Better Project.” And yet, KSP never denies that homosexuality is sin in that article.

In fact, her focus is on bullying and suicide.

Even though I can—and do—disagree with Dan Savage’s recent attack on heterosexual monogamy as the gold standard of sexual behavior (despite the fact that too many of us fall far short of that ideal), I can—and do—support any campaign that fights death and gives hope.

She is encouraged that the videos from this project are “all sharing a pro-life message geared toward young people.”

The Church should be thrilled—but it isn’t.

Perhaps I should explain that by “pro-life,” I mean “anti-suicide.” And by “young people,” I mean “homosexual young people.” That just might explain the Church’s less-than-enthusiastic response.

The fact is, like it or not, Swallow Prior lauds the pro-LGBT “It Gets Better Campaign” (which is not an attempt to bring young people out of their sodomy, but affirm them in their sodomy) and chastises the church for not being on board. Facts are facts, folks. Read the post for yourself.

When Swallow Prior lauds the It Gets Better Campaign that affirms homosexuality, you’ll have to forgive us get over it for accusing Swallow Prior of affirming the LGBT agenda.

In fact, her focus is on bullying and suicide.

Even though I can—and do—disagree with Dan Savage’s recent attack on heterosexual monogamy as the gold standard of sexual behavior (despite the fact that too many of us fall far short of that ideal), I can—and do—support any campaign that fights death and gives hope.

First of all, I want you to notice the subtle “heterosexual monogamy as the gold standard of sexual behavior” – people are going to be shaking their heads, but pay attention. This is the language used by those that capitulate on this topic. It begins with (as we’ve heard waffling evangelicals say in the last few years), “Homosexuality is not what’s best for you.” But I digress… Swallow Prior supports “any campaign that fights death and gives hope.”

Right. Yep. Including socially progressive, gay-affirming, “It’s okay that you’re gay, don’t mind those Christian haters” speeches from Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other social progressives.

So how can KSP be so, well, non-affirming there, and yet write the things she does about the It Gets Better Project?

Were you paying attention?

Her focus is on bullying and suicide.

She explains.

Concerns about the project’s affirmation of homosexuality can be tempered by the fact that words of encouragement, not condemnation, are necessary in life-or-death situations. My own Baptist pastor agrees. “If you have a jumper on a ledge, you try to talk him down, calming his fears. That is not the time to lecture him on his lifestyle,” he argues. Besides, it’s a lot easier to share the Gospel with a live kid than a dead one.

Here we have more disturbing reasoning. This isn’t helping Swallow Prior’s case. While she admits that the projects does affirm homosexuality, she approves of it because it’s “encouraging” and not “condemnation.” That’s right. Homosexual youth don’t need to hear about how they can be free from their slavery to sin in Jesus Christ because “it’s not time to lecture him on his lifestyle.”

Socially progressive, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Anything less than President Obama affirming youths in their homosexuality is “lecturing them on their lifestyle” and might get them killed by their own hand? For crying out loud, this woman works for the ERLC. God help us.

Just so you know, KSP did not affirm homosexuality in that comment. She grants the concerns of those who complain that the project in question is affirming of homosexuality. But that is not what her article is about. That is not what she is pushing the Church toward.

So, who wants to split hairs, here? She didn’t technically affirm homosexuality, she only affirmed a major advertising and LGBT propaganda campaign that affirms homosexuality. No biggie. Move along, Southern Baptist. Nothing to see here.

JD’s strongest “argument” is in the form of…well…pictures. KSP is seen smiling between several gay men at an LGBT film festival. The pictures seem to convey that KSP was at the film festival, and that she is capable of smiling while being near and even touching(!) gay men.

Yep, including the gay man that she “counseled” when he came out of the closet to her and who wrote about how warm and accepting she was of him. Now she’s on the red carpet with him at an LGBT fundraiser. Do the math, people.

Now, here’s the thing. I’m well aware that many people (typically, we would call them “social progressives”) have a “Jesus” who they think would dress up to speak at an LGBT fundraiser and propaganda film-fest and grab his selfie stick and hug on some sodomites because, after all, he ate with sinners (while calling them to repentance). Then…they killed him. I don’t think Swallow Prior, from these pics, demonstrate she’s in danger of crucifixion. It seems that there’s not much calling to repentance going on. And frankly, yeah…those photos are atrocious, sad, compromising and telling.

So why was KSP there? For one thing, she’s an English professor, the type you would see at film festivals.

I hate the acronym, but it’s fitting…”lol.” Yeah. She’s there because she’s an English professor. They spend their time walking the red carpet at LGBT film festivals, right? I mean, like, that’s part of the job description, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

More importantly, she was there because she was invited to speak. Even more importantly, she was invited to speak because she loves homosexuals, yet publically professes homosexuality is sin.

How naive. Dr. James White loves homosexuals and thinks homosexuality is a sin. So does Dr. Michael Brown. I wonder if they were invited to speak. How far down the rung of the ladder of qualified scholars who both love homosexuals and speak against it do you have to go to get to a college English professor who’s precisely the person you’re looking for? Provide the audio. It’s out there somewhere. In the mean time, forgive the incredulity.

JD asks, “Oh, and guess where Swallow Prior’s membership is? Is it in a Southern Baptist Church? No. It’s in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church.” Well, actually, Thomas Road Baptist Church holds her membership. TRBC is Southern Baptist. Not CBF.

Again, refer above. Ah, what the heck. I’ll give you another bulletin to look at just because.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.23.07 PM


So less than a year ago, she was at a liberal CBF church. Again, we’ve addressed this.

JD could be a force for good, but he goes well out of his way to assign labels to people when they just don’t fit. His labels don’t fit, that is, unless you buy into his conspiracy-laden world where sophomoric Truther arguments wrapped in zeal suffice for Scriptural proof of wrong doing. Categorizing people as “gay-affirming” and “socially progressive” and “liberal” can, sometimes, be helpful. It can also shut off critical thinking. It is also a handy tool for poisoning the well or dismissing someone out of hand. JD’s complaints here are full of misquotes, inaccuracies, quotations ripped from their contexts, false accusations, guilt by association, and the like.

If there’s a point of agreement anywhere, it’s here (not all of the above, obviously, but most of it). The fellow is astute on this. I wrote on the unhelpfulness of the terms “conservative” and “socially progressive” at this post last night and in this podcast episode. Some people (like, I presume, the author of this rebuttal), defines these terms in light of the status quo. Compared to folks down at the Episcopal church, both Moore and Swallow Prior are conservative. My grad degree is in history, and that’s my passion. Historically – even just ten or twenty or thirty years ago, Moore and Swallow Prior would definitely not be considered a conservative. In reality – and I don’t think someone could argue against it – faculty at Liberty University would have been fired for going and speaking at an LGBT fundraiser and film festival. In reality – and I don’t think someone could argue against it – Russell Moore would have been run out of the SBC on a rail for saying he would attend gay wedding receptions. These terms truly are not the best.

At the time I write this, JD has not retracted any of his comments even though they have been corrected by KSP herself, as well as many others.

Actually, we did notify the readership that her membership had recently changed to Thomas Road Baptist Church in an editor’s note at the bottom of that original post. The rest are accurate, and furthermore, Swallow Prior has not corrected any of these things. She has only said, “read my work” and “Google me” – and that suggestion, more than anything else, has caused more and more concern from the rank and file. Saying “she’s not a social progressive because she’s pro-life” isn’t a defense what’s been presented.

The fellow then attacks Apologetics “Discernment Blogs” for a while…

Discernment bloggers are okay I guess. Kind of like watching NASCAR wrecks. Frankly though, most of them are not very smart, and they are usually not very good writers. They must have lots of time though.

Discernment bloggers dig and dig and dig and dig to find dirt on people. They wind up with lots of guilt by association and other fallacies. They strain at gnats.

It makes me question whether they notice the sin up close in their own lives. Their lack of grace toward other sinners would lead me to say no.

Their lack of tact is an indication of their immaturity, and a general lack of experience in dealing with other sinful people.

In the South discernment bloggers are called “blowhards.” They undermine their importance, credibility, and persuasiveness by being shrill.

With so much out there to write and warn people about, why do discernment bloggers pick the targets they do? That’s worth thinking about.

Witness, for example, JD’s Moore Derangement Syndrome.

It appears – and I am only calling it an appearance – to stem from jealousy, envy, or the need for attention. Sometimes self-righteousness.

Another serious flaw with discernment bloggers is their failure to persuade the people they so desperately despise.

Instead of doing the hard work of coming across as loving, gentle, and reverent (which they must first be), they come across as abrasive.

That turns people off rather than wins them over. Then the discernment bloggers complain (or boast) about how many people they have angry at them. (Especially if those angry people are celebrities.)

Hypocrisy, harshness, fallacies, presumption, jealousy, self-righteousness – these are a few of a busybody blogger’s favorite things.

Then they assume, if you point these problems out, that you don’t see any problems anywhere, that you’re evanjellyfish, and you must not have read the 1689.

Oh, and [take a deep breath] some more about discernment blogging…

To say nothing of “the sky is falling” Dispensationalist brand of “discernment” blogging mixed as it is with pseudo-confessionalism and celebrity worship (the celebrities who rail against celebrities).

But I’m not supposed to say that.

People have blind spots. You have them too. I know you do not think you do. You cannot see them. That is why they are called blind spots.

That’s why I’m actually thankful for watch bloggers.

But who watches the watch bloggers?

They have blind spots too.

So do those who prop the discernment bloggers up on platforms, apparently not realizing they will soon be getting way too close to the edge for comfort.

There really will be people calling themselves Christians who are out to deceive or destroy other Christians.

Oh discerning blogger, just what does your righteousness rest in?

A whole lotta love I’m feeling right about now. What was he saying about clanging cymbals again?

And then the obligatory mention of Caner…

Look at the mess that happened with Ergun Caner. We should be wary of those who are known for everything they are against, but not what they are for. An apologist who is always warring but never resting is an apologist who does not believe what he is defending. We should be wary of those marked by narcissism, abusiveness, obsession, jealousy, manipulation, deceit, and anger. These are traits commonly found in pathological liars.

Yeah. So let’s talk about discernment blogging, shall we? It’s such a terrible thing, as you mention what “happened with Ergun Caner.” How about “discernment blogging” demonstrating the biggest, fattest, loudest, “I told you so” in the history of the Internet? We warned you. We warned you over and over and over again. We warned them at Brewton-Parker. And now, the man is gone after a sexting-scandal, overt racism, and the things we said a year and a half ago about his personal life have come true in a terrible divorce. Brewton-Parker has been left in a ruinous heap, with Caner gone to preach youth revivals in the deep south (somehow) and Lumpkins retreating to his son-in-law’s church. Like, “if only we had someone warn us” couldn’t be any more true.

We were right about Rick Warren when we warned you ten years ago (you laughed at first). We were right when we warned you about Beth Moore seven years ago (you laughed at first). We were right when we warned you about Driscoll six years ago (you laughed at first). We were right when we warned you about Furtick and Noble five years ago (you laughed at first). People always laugh. And yet, “discernment blogs” have an uncanny ability at being right.

Pulpit & Pen was right in our investigations into Louisiana College, and our information brought SACS down on them with a fury. We were right in our calling out of Joe Aguillard and David Hankins, and now there’s a split convention in Louisiana to show for it. We were right with Lifeway when they lied and said they didn’t know that Alex Malarkey’s book was not true and continued to sell it (we released emails from Justin Peters saying otherwise). We were right when Lifeway lied and said they didn’t sell Osteen or Meyer (and we released audio in which they did – all the stores did).

And you know what, we’re right here, too – even if you think Jesus would attend a gay fundraiser or think transgender accommodation restrooms are commonsensical. We’re ahead of the curve. That’s alright. That’s why people read our blog.

Oh, by the way…this “defense” for Swallow Prior, amazingly left out perhaps the most damning piece of our presentation…

The book also addresses some trickier issues with wisdom, humility, and gen­erosity. For example, Stanton’s call to accommodate transgender persons in their use of public restrooms is as commonsensical as it is refreshing.

Hmmmm. No defense for that one? Yeah, I think we know why. It’s indefensible.

[Contributed by JD Hall]