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How To Tell The Sheep From The Goats

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 9 Feb 2023

I wrote an article last August titled How To Tell The Sheep From The Goats?  The title is a rhetorical question from the chorus of a song I wrote in 2011.  It was intended to make people think twice before they assume the righteousness of somebody based only on their surface appearance.  As someone who has made every mistake in the book at least twice, but who has never turned his back on God (except once*), and who has been the recipient of ridiculous quantities of overwhelming mercy that can't be attributed to anything but God Himself, while almost never fitting in to any religious setting of any kind, whether Christian, Burning Man, or otherwise, and who has always been at the receiving end of copious amounts of judgment from people who only look at the surface, and reject everything that doesn't resemble themselves (whether Christian, Burning Man, or otherwise), I thought it was a good question.

How do you tell the sheep from the goats?

Of course, that was 12 years ago.  Apparently, there once was a time, not so long ago, when it wasn't so obvious.

But I don't think it's a question anymore.  These days, if you can't tell the sheep from the goats, you're one of the goats.

Madonna's hair at the Grammys was literally done up in braids intended to resemble Baphomet horns.  It's no longer enough for award-show participants to simply be rich, licentious libertines; now they have to wear red latex and horns and dance around with transsexual demons in cages to some ridiculous backdrop of pyrotechnic hellfire.  For people who claim to be all about "moral relativism" and assorted grey areas of various kinds, there isn't a lot of debate going on in the hearts of the goats that populate modern day Babylon.  I don't see a lot of "grey area" in the actions of these people.  They're about as dogmatically black & white as it is possible to be.

It's as though the "moral grey area" is really just a gradual poisoning of the well of holiness to which all of us are called, and there's really nothing grey about it.  The only thing grey, perhaps, is the last, fading traces of conscience that prevent our hearts from turning completely black.  Which is perhaps a process we can't actually control.

A harrowing consideration, indeed.


“Follow peace with all men, and holiness,
without which no man shall see the Lord:”
Hebrews 12:14


So, how to tell the sheep from the goats?  There is no longer any need for a question mark.  The answer has become clear.

It's a semi-tangent, but while we're on topic of sheep, goats, and obvious demons.... The gender neutral language that the Church of England wants to ascribe to God, as bad as it is, is a GOOD THING in disguise.  I mean, inherently it's bad, but the silver lining is obvious.  Though many goats will simply continue to dress their self-righteous goatness up in religious garb and faux-holiness, as usual, thanks to this obvious move by the Church of England toward the dark side, THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE who might otherwise have been sitting on the fence (or who may have been totally indifferent) will now stay completely away from the place.  Which, since the Church of England has surely been a luxury hotel for demons since its inception, is a good thing.  Of course, there will be many goats of the base humanist variety who see this attempt to neuter God as yet another excuse to avoid "organized religion" altogether (there is no need to invent excuses to avoid organized religion; the obvious reasons to avoid it should suffice), but there will also be many who become true sheep as a result of this demonic madness.  People who would never have become sheep in our formerly-reasonable and civilized society, will now see the truth of our fallen spiritual condition as a species, thanks to this abhorrent nonsense.

And anyway, it isn't 2011 anymore.  It's 2023.  If you're still going to church, you deserve what you get.

So, how do you tell the sheep from the goats?

In 2023?

How can you not?


*     *     *


*After my first divorce in 1998, I intentionally walked away from God, like Gary Oldman after his wife's suicide in Bram Stoker's Dracula.  If I had known what a favor my first wife did me by leaving, I would have pursued a career in liberating happiness, instead of wallowing in disconsolate heartbreak, like an idiot.  But at the time, I was beside myself with nihilistic grief.


I turned my back on God for the first time in my life, and pursued a lifestyle of licentious hedonism.  Within a year, I was lying on a steel table in an emergency room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, overdosing on ephedrine.  I had begun to sweat profusely in a Chinese restaurant, and my heart was racing, so we went to the hospital.  I was obviously dying.  While I was on the table, my vision became dark and tunnel-like, and my hearing was muffled.  Sights and sounds were far away.  Every time the tunnel vision narrowed and my hearing became quiet, the machine I was hooked up to went crazy.  I knew I was dying, and so I repented out-loud and apologized to Jesus Christ point-blank for my obvious rebellion and sin.

It was the only thing that saved my life.

A lot of people believe that once you say a prayer of salvation you are saved forever, regardless of how you live your life or any spiritual fruit you may or may not bear, but ODing in Milwaukee always gave me doubts.  I was at the gates of hell itself, and I am telling you, a peaceful place it is definitely not.  I now believe that my doubts about my permanent salvation were founded.  I am now certain that if I had not repented openly in the emergency room that day, I would have died and gone to hell.  It took me a long time to come to that conclusion, and I made a lot of mistakes in later years that were at least as stupid as the ones that led to my OD in Milwaukee, but unlike that season of rebellion, I always had a genuine fear of God that I never dared to deny again.

If you're there, lost somewhere in the angry grey area of hedonistic nihilism and moral ambivalence, let me encourage you to step back into the light.  There perhaps once was a time when it was harder to tell the difference between the sheep and the goats.  But those days are winding down.  If not completely over.

Thanks for listening.

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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