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About James

Single Father / Seminary Student / Pastor / Friend / Frustrated Christian

Homosexuality: Can Christians agree to disagree?

Homosexuality: Can Christians agree to disagree?

Mentors are awesome!!!!

As a pastor, sometimes it’s tough to ask questions because I’m supposed to be the guy that has the answers to the questions.  That’s part of why I started this blog.  Sometimes I need the dialogue and unfortunately I sometimes have to resort to anonymity in order to get that honest dialogue.

My mentor though, is another great resource.  He lets me use him as a sounding board.  He’s somebody that I can ask questions without being judged.  Somebody that I can ask questions that other people would be offended by.

This is a conversation that he and I had last week via text message.  I tried to clean up the text language a bit but it’s still kinda rough.  You should be able to get the idea though.

Me: Okay so I’m trying to figure out where the line is.  Romans 14 says don’t judge one another, especially when it comes to Christian Freedom.  1Cor 5 Paul calls out a guy in sin and says kick him out.  Where’s the line, we are allowed to disagree on the Ten Commandments (sabbath) and on clean food but not on other things.  I’m struggling to see the difference.  Could homosexuality by a “Christian Freedom”? If not… Why?

Him: I think the line is where there is clear do’s and don’ts in the Bible.  Don’t murder is pretty clear.  But no clear teaching on smoking for instance.  Of course, some see the sexuality passages as nebulous but they really aren’t.

Me: So Christians can disagree on food and the Sabbath but can Christians disagree on hermeneutics?  Cause I think that’s what a lot of the sexuality stuff is.

Him: Hmmmm.  How is it hermeneutics?  Do you think it’s a matter of interpretation?  Or do you think that it is an issue of bibliology/authority of Scripture?  Trying to understand.

Me: I think there is a growing group within the church that holds to the authority of scripture but doesn’t see the bible condemning monogamous homosexual relationships.  They are reading the same Bible as me but they are reading it differently.

Him: Well I agree those folks are growing in number.  The issue is what is causing them to read it differently?  What commitments do u/they have that are different?  Those differences are not necessarily just hermeneutic in nature.  Could be value of scripture, theory of inspiration, etc. See what I mean?

Me:  I get what you mean but I don’t know that I see them making a different decision related to inspiration, or authority, it’s cultural context, that is debated.  Namely that orientation wasn’t a thing first century and that homosexuality then was predominantly homosexual rape.  If that’s the case, which I’m not yet convinced of, then I can see how they can argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn same sex monogamy but rather same sex rape.  At the end of the day I’m not convinced by their arguments but I’m also not convinced by Calvinism or Complementarianism.

Him: Hmmmm Interesting but nothing in the Biblical passages speaks of coercion or forced sex.  I think you have to eisegete that into the text.  The OT condemns rape and then separately condemns homosexuality.  It would then follow that prohibitions against homosexuality in the OT don’t assume non consesual sex.  First century Jews were more shaped by the OT than Greco Roman categories.  So as Paul writes he is more likely to be thinking OT than cultural practices.  Their argument requires eisegesis and special pleading and is just thin – nearly an argument from silence.

Me: I agree that the argument is thin but how do we deal with those that don’t agree.  Romans 14 principle seems to say don’t judge, let God deal with them.  1 Cor 5 principle seems to say kick them out.

Him: Well don’t judge doesn’t mean don’t condemn sin.  We are supposed to correct those who don’t repent of sin (Matt 18) even to the point of denying them fellowship (1 Cor 5).  Condemnation/judging seems to be final declaration of eternal death sentence with no intent to further encouragement to repent and return to God.

Me: Any possibility that the issue of homosexuality is the modern equivalent of first century circumcision?  I don’t want to be the foolish Galatian that adds being straight to the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone.  Matthew 18 seems to be someone who has offended and refuses to strive for unity intentionally dividing the body.  Modern homosexual Christians seem to be fighting for unity while conservatives push them away.  Maybe I’m off track but it seems different.

Him: Different categories.  Jesus and Paul base their sexual ethics on creation order.  That is the standard and basis they continually go back to.  This isn’t a unity issue.  My citation of Matt 18 was simply to show that sin is to be confronted.  There is no doubt in my mind that homosexual behavior is sin based upon my exegesis and consideration of the other interpretations as well.  You know me.  I am always open to revisit positions. I have on this issue and I have just not been convinced by the new understanding.

Me:  That’s why I process with you and not somebody else.  1st century Jews were pretty convinced that circumcision was significant.  Also pretty passionate about their view of the Sabbath.  Paul said that neither issue was as important as they thought.

Him:  Because they had been fulfilled by Jesus – not because they weren’t initially important.  Jesus met the requirement of the ritual law.  All believers were still called to recognize the morality of God’s values.  Plus in the circumcision debate at the Jerusalem council gentiles were still asked to abstain from sexual immorality (according to Jewish preconceptions of that category) in acts 15.

Me: Okay that makes sense, so what do I do with someone like Rachel Evans.  Evangelical, holds to biblical authority but is convinced by the new pro homosexual arguments.  Is she still a Christian, is she still evangelical, can I treat her and those that agree with her as brothers and sisters or do I call out sin and then distance myself from those who refuse to repent?

Him: Well her interpretation is wrong and you can recognize that as such.  Is she a Christian?  I would think so.  She is just in error.  And we are called to reprove, rebuke and admonish etc.. (2 Tim 3:16-17).  But here’s reality, she is probably not going to agree with you.  I read lots of authors I disagree with.  But honestly with her I think her doctrine of inspiration might not be just like mine so I recognize that when I read and spit out the bones as I digest what she wants me to hear.

Me: Cause for break of fellowship if it’s somebody in my church?

Him: I need to ponder that.  I would probably preclude them from teaching and sit down and study the issue with them.

So here are my takeaways.

The categorical stuff makes sense to me now but hadn’t been explained before.

Homosexuality is in a different category than circumcision or Sabbath rules because it falls under sexual ethics rather than OT law.  If we put it in the OT law category, then maybe we can throw it out when we throw out the no bacon rule.  But if we put it in the sexual ethics category, which both Paul and Jesus link to the creation order, it’s something that sticks around.

What I loved most about my mentors responses is something that I’ve always respected about him.  When I asked if this issue was a cause for break of fellowship his response was not yes or no.  It was let’s sit down and talk about it.  I think that’s the thing that is missing most in this debate.  There are lots of people talking AT each other or worse hurling insults, but there are very few people that are publicly discussing it and in love, working through the issues.  I’m not saying that it will be easy but I think hearts on both sides need to soften a bit and fight for unity in an attempt to understand and support one another.

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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Bible, church, Religion, Sex

 

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No longer “recently” divorced.

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So I realized today that I am no longer “recently” divorced.  I’m just plain divorced.  I’m not sure why that hit me today but it did and it kind of rocked me emotionally in a way that I can’t really explain. 

 

I’m no longer “recently” 

 

 With this new epiphany, I think that it might be okay to maybe talk about it a bit now.  I don’t think I’ve written a word on this or any other blog since I found out she was leaving cause the only thing that I could think about to write was the “recently” and it was just

still

too

“recent”. 

I’ve used it as an excuse for quite some time and it’s time to put the excuse away.  Here’s the honest truth.  
I’m divorced and it fucking sucks!  It’s hard.  It continues to knock me on my ass at least once a month when I least expect it.  I’ll read an article about a cancer patient that “wouldn’t have made it without their spouse” and just collapse because she wont be there for me if I get cancer.  I’ll see a couple happily walking down the street and just loose it.  2 years later.  No longer “recently”.  Just plain old divorced.  

I write this not to wine or gain your pity because that’s really not something that I or really any divorced person needs but to encourage those that are in the same boat.  You are not alone.  

I also write this less for you and more for me because I’ve just gotta get it out.

Here’s where I’m at almost 2 years later.  

There are nights, and sometimes days that I’m very lonely.  I’m bitter a lot, angry some, and a lot more emotional than I’m comfortable with.  I’m a bit jaded, less of a romantic than I was, and much more cynical.  But I’m not planning on staying here.  

Though the last 2 years have been 2 of the roughest of my life they have still been 2 years of LIFE.  I’ve had much more one on one time with my daughter than I probably would have and for that I am so greatful.  I’ve been surrounded by a freaking amazing church and an awesome group of elders and pastors.  I’ve strengthened friendships and developed new ones that are so precious to me.  And to be honest, I’ve cut loose, had more fun, and been way easier on myself in the past two years. 

I am not my divorce, it is something that happened to me and though I may never get over it, I’m gonna get through it.  

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Religion

 

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Family Ministry

During the time of Martin Luther there was no such thing as youth group.  There was no children’s ministry either and I think it’s safe to say that Luther would not have been in favor of either institution.  Luther’s ministry philosophy was to teach and disciple parents and empower them to teach and disciple their own children. “Abraham had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children… in godliness.” (Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 21-25 (1539)

The idea of Sunday School wasn’t even invented until the late 1700’s by a man named Robert Raikes.  Raikes had a passion to reach out to inner city boys.  Young men that either didn’t have fathers or didn’t have Godly fathers.  Over time this vision spread and eventually Youth Groups and Children’s ministries were birthed with the intent to come alongside parents and “HELP” disciple and train children and prepare them for mature Christian lives.

Now most churches have segregated ministries but back in Luthers time there was no segregation for ministry.  Everyone came to church and everyone heard the same message but there were pros and cons to that approach so newer approaches were developed.  Now many churches are so segregated that they fail to find any type of unity between groups.  HS students graduate and never come back because they were never connected to the church in the first place.  Small churches that can’t afford a college pastor expect 18 year old students to make the jump into either men’s or women’s ministry but they haven’t created the avenues for this to happen naturally.  And to be honest as a young man I’m not really exited about joining the men at 6 o’clock on Saturday morning for Men’s breakfast.  Some of the young women from my youth group have found ways to get involved with our women’s ministry but the events and studies that most of our women do are usually not anywhere near interesting for the young women that graduate from my youth group.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Luther’s vision was perfect but I think the lack of segregation had some benefits.  I think there is a huge need for age specific and sometimes even gender specific ministries but they cannot break away from the rest of the church to do their own thing and with changes in modern family structures, they cannot be designed around the stereotypical mother, father, and 2.5 children ideal of a family.  Many churches have Men’s ministries, women’s ministries, JH ministries, HS ministries, college ministries, single adult ministries (aka meat markets), etc, etc, etc… and what these ministries have become is mini-churches that are almost completely separated from the main church.  A similar problem exists with churches that focus on things like Marriage ministries which leave out those that are single or divorced or widowed.

So should churches segregate their ministries in order to specifically reach targeted groups of people?  I think so but proceed with caution.  There are numerous advantages to targeting certain age groups and there are times where segregating by gender can be helpful, but this segregation must be monitored and kept under control to keep the rogue youth group from becoming completely detached from the body. We also need to make sure that any segregation that we build into our churches is wide enough to accept those that may not fit the stereotypes.

James says that pure and un-defiled religion is taking care of orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27).  How often do you come across an orphans ministry at a local church? How ’bout a widows ministry?  Sadly it’s probably not as often as it should be.

Check out these articles on Family Ministry:

http://david-inrepair.blogspot.com/2012/04/tapping-breaks-on-family-based-ministry.html

http://sojournkids.com/2010/04/history-of-family-ministry-part-1-the-reformation-the-home-as-a-little-church/

http://sojournkids.com/2010/04/history-of-family-ministry-part-2-sunday-school-the-industrial-revolution/

http://sojournkids.com/2010/04/history-of-family-ministry-part-3-the-invention-of-the-teenager/

http://sojournkids.com/2010/05/the-history-of-family-ministry-part-4-the-family-ministry-movement/

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in church

 

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Mery GodDam Christmas

Hey all,

Hope you are all having a great holiday season.  We are having way too much fun with family to post a new article this week.  Check back next week to see what our new topic is for the month of January.  We are looking forward to a great new year at the God Dam Blog.  Currently we are on the verge of 3000 all time views and we are adding new followers all the time. Can’t wait to get back to it after the new year.  Hope you all have a great one.  See you next year.

 

~James

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Religion

 

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It’s time for a reality check!

Well, it’s time for a new topic.  In case you’re stopping by for the first time, each month we pick a new topic to talk about and one of our four authors starts it off on the first week of the month.  Then each author takes a turn adding to what the previous author started.  Our hope and goal is to eventually have a GodDam Book where we turn our “topics” into chapters.   Last month was our first month trying this out and we really got a great response and some awesome feedback so here goes round two.

In the last month or so, the God Dam blog actually got quite a bit of traffic from a site called exchristian.net.  It was really cool to connect with a community of people who have been involved in the church in the past but are now atheist, agnostic, existentialist etc… It was interesting to hear some of the stories and dialogue with some of the people involved in a community that to be honest acts more like the church is supposed to than the church usually does.

With that in mind, as well as my own fascination with naturalism, I decided to make this month’s topic atheism.  I’ve recently started following a blog called the “friendly atheist” and this weekend they posted a video of Greta Christina (check out her blog here) and her speech titled, “Why Are Atheists So Angry”.  It’s about an hour-long but at least for me, it was worth it.

She begins her talk explaining why so many atheists are angry.  She talks about the oppressed women, and the raped children that religion seems to ignore if not encourage.  She talks about stupidity and close mindedness and hypocrisy but about 28 minutes in she makes an observation that I really thought was interesting.

To start off you must know her definition of religion. She gives it at about 26:40. She says that, “Religion is a belief in supernatural entities or forces that have an effect on the natural world. These entities or forces are invisible, inaudible, intangible and otherwise undetectable by any natural means.”  Now obviously we can debate whether or not this is the best definition for religion but that’s really not the point, so for the sake of the argument just go with it.

She goes on to say that because religion is based on invisible, inaudible, intangible, and otherwise undetectable sources, it has the potential to be very dangerous because there is no reality check.  This is something that I noticed my senior year in Bible College.  I saw professors and classmates who were convinced by scripture of certain things that simply didn’t work in real life.  They were rigid and unflinching and even made the claim that if evidence could be found to disprove them, they would not change because of what was stated in the Bible.

The general consensus is that Theology informs reality.  To me, that is kind of silly.  What if you’ve read the Bible wrong?  It’s happened before, just ask Galileo.

I feel like a more balanced approach is necessary for Christians. The bible is important but if what we see in reality doesn’t match up, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate.  If God is logical, and if he spoke through scripture into a logical world, then the Bible ought to work in reality. If it doesn’t then one of two things is happening.  Either we understand reality incorrectly, or we are reading the Bible wrong.

Christians need to start using the brains that God gave them and they need to add the reality check that seems to be missing in theology.

~James

P.S. Please leave feedback below, subscribe via email, or rss feed to the right, and come back next week for more on this same topic.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Atheism, Philosophy

 

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Are you Scared?

It’s one thing to be willing to ask yourself life’s tough questions.  It’s another to be willing to live with the consequences of life’s tough answers.  I might just be equally terrified of both.  I think KR Morris did a good job of opening up the subject for us last week but I’d like to take it one step further.

If you didn’t catch his post, check out Pointing Fingers in the Right Place.  His basic premise, just as a recap, was that many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, blame others for the pain in their life and point fingers in all the wrong places, rather than turning the scrutiny on themselves and having the balls to ask themselves the tough questions.

This week I’d like to navigate away from the original path and follow a rabbit trail for a bit to see where it takes us.

I’m convinced that there are certain ideals in every circle of influence that you just don’t question.  They are debates that have long been decided and it’s just understood that it would be counter productive to continue revisiting them.  I can speak best in regard to Conservative Evangelicalism because that’s what I know.  For conservative evangelicals the list of things that you just don’t question is quite extensive.   The nature of the Trinity, the full humanity and full Divinity of Christ, the Inerrancy of Scripture.

Depending on which brand of evangelical and the severity of the fundamentalism that exists, the list can get longer.  The virgin birth, literal 7 days of creation, biblically defined gender roles and the restriction of women from Church office, alcohol consumption, sex before marriage, and the list goes on.  In these, and countless other issues, you just don’t ask why.  And if you do ask why, you answer it quick and move on.

About a year ago the shit hit the fan and I got pissed. I’d had enough.  I was sick of the stereotypical answers.  Sick of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that raged in the circles that I found myself in.  So I started asking the questions, privately at first.  Why is sex wrong?  Is it really only for marriage?  Can I legitimately back that up in Scripture?  Why can’t a woman be a pastor?  I wouldn’t settle for the typical, “because the Bible says so” answer.  I wouldn’t even settle for finding the answers in scripture.  I began to ask questions of the Bible itself.  Why does Paul not permit women to teach or exercise authority in the church at EphesusWhy does the Bible seem to call Christians to a life of celibacy?

The questioning spread and got progressively scarier.  I started to question the legitimacy of canonicity.  I started to question the doctrine of inspiration as well as inerrancy and I found that they lacked a certain “set in stone” quality that I had just assumed for the last lifetime.  When the day came that I finally began to legitimately question the authority and legitimacy of the Bible, I was terrified.  I realized that the answers to my questions might lead me away from classical evangelicalism.  They might lead me away from Christianity.  It’s a type of fear that’s difficult to verbalize and almost stopped my journey of questions.

I’ve always said that my goal in life is to seek truth and I’ve more than once dropped the line that “if you can find the body of Christ and prove that it’s him, I’ll be an atheist tomorrow.” but did I really believe that?  Was I really willing to follow-through with such a life, career, and paradigm altering switch.  Was I willing to abandon Christianity, if in fact I found that it was not true?  Some might call this a lack of faith and if you really feel that’s what it is then fine.  The relationship between faith and reason is a different blog for a different day.

The honest answer was that I wasn’t willing to walk away, but I felt that an honest search for truth mandated that I be willing to follow truth no matter what that truth ended up being.

Fear set in.  “I work at a church.  If I decide that the bible is not inerrant, that creation actually took billions of years, and that women can and should be pastors… They may not want me to continue working for them.”  I was terrified.

I’m still working through many of these issues so I don’t have the ending to the story yet.  I can say that as of right now I haven’t found anything that will put me outside the scope of evangelicalism or get me fired.  I do however hold several views that are different than those of the leaders at my church and I’m aware that those views may lead us to part ways in the future but for now I strive for unity, for tolerance, for grace, and for love.

I cannot and will not abandon the questions and the potential implications of their answers.  To do so would eat me alive from the inside out.  My conscience simply would not allow it.  Maybe this is where faith comes in to play.  I have faith that the questions that I ask, though their answers may change the way I think and live, will lead me to truth.  That if God exists, and I believe that he does, this truth will lead me to him.

I believe that faith should constantly evolve and grow.  We have done something wrong when we stop asking questions and dealing with the implications of the answers.

So far my journey has been more liberating, confirming, and inspiring that I could have imagined.  I hope that you have the same luck.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in church, Doubt

 

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Is Our Future President Part of a Cult?

Well everyone, welcome to the end of the world.  Ya, I said it.  All of you who have held on tight to your eschatological views and fought the pre, post, or a millennial fight.  It’s time to find out who is right!  And for the others of you who couldn’t care less about eschatology but loved Tim Lahayes, Left Behind series, it’s all starting now.  That’s right, we have a Mormon pursuing the Republican vote in order to run for Presidential office!!! *GASP*

I hope you are all hearing the ridiculousness of my introduction but in recent blog news many have not found these statements so off base.  The pastor of First Baptist Church – Dallas went public about a week ago with his assertion that Mormonism is a cult.  Many others have been encouraging their congregants not to vote Romney because a vote for Him is a vote supporting a cult.  In response, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, wrote an article for CNN defending Romney and explaining that many Mormons are in fact Christian.  (and the fundamentalists shudder)  He states that, “While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.”

Then earlier this week well-known pastor Mark Driscoll entered the conversation with a very lengthy article which basically said that yes in fact Mormonism is a cult.  He does concede that there may be some Mormons who believe in Jesus and disagree with the teachings of their church, a concession that I appreciate, but he goes on to say that, “the Mormon church could never be considered orthodox unless it made some serious and massive changes to it’s theology.”

James Emery White, the author of a blog called Church and Culture, puts forth two different definitions.  He mentions first the popular definition which brings to mind things like poison cool aid and group suicide, and states that with this definition Mormonism is not a Cult.  Then he gives what he believes to be an accurate definition of a cult.  He defines a cult as, “a religious group that denies the biblical nature of God, the full divinity of Jesus Christ, and that we are only saved through His atoning death on the cross through grace.”

Come on James, with this definition the title cult now includes: many Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, and almost all Dallas Cowboy fans. While Driscoll puts forth a much more intelligent definition, I think Mouw, brings insights to the table that are both helpful and intriguing.

Mouw points out several anti-cult characteristics of Mormonism and I have to agree with his viewpoint that in fact Mormonism, as a whole is not a cult.  Sure there are sects of Mormonism that display features of cult-like behavior, but if we are honest, there are Evangelical Baptist’s that make me more uncomfortable than any Mormon I’ve ever met… Westborough anybody?

Cults do not establish cutting edge universities like BYU, staffed by PHD’s from Ivy league schools all over the world.  Cults do not enter into open theological discussions with Presidents of Evangelical Universities to discover similarities and fight for unity.  (Something that Mouw and several from BYU have been doing for quite some time)

Are their things within many Mormon churches that appear cult-like? Sure but do we need to throw the baby out with the bath water?

I am of the opinion that Mormons and Christians can in fact find enough common ground to share Jesus.  My hope and my dream is that both sides can be mature enough to intellectually discuss similarities and differences without choosing sides in an effort to destroy one another. Unfortunately the probability of these two groups finding a way to coexist peacefully is dubious at best.  Christianity has been known for being very close minded to anyone who seems to think differently, and the exclusivity and naivety of phrases like, “they don’t believe in the same Jesus as I do”, is not only condescending and arrogant but unhelpful.

I’m greatly encouraged by Mouw’s efforts to cross the bridge that has divided Mormonism from Christianity and to seek mutual respect.  I had several Mormon friends growing up and to be honest they lived out my faith better than I did.  They had a passion for the poor and needy and we dedicated to fellowship and evangelism in a way that I only dreamed of.  I hope and pray that their view of Jesus as savior is legit and if so, who cares if they ride bikes and wear special underwear.

With all that said, I’m curious to hear what you think?  There is a lot here so feel free to respond to any of it.  I usually try to keep myself out of politics but I couldn’t resist this one.  So here it is… Will you vote, or not vote for Romney based on his Religion?  Or will you do the right thing and examine his politics, his vision, and his ability to successfully lead a country?

Do you feel that there is any possibility for Mormons and Christians to unite? Should we even be seeking such an ally?

For Mouw’s Article Click Here

For Driscoll’s Article Click Here

For White’s Article Click Here

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Politics, Religion

 

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