A Better Response to the Homosexual Debate: Preston Sprinkle

So my response to Jen Hatmaker has received a LOT of traffic since posting it Thursday night. Because of that, I want to offer, what I think, is a better response to the issue of homosexuality. And this is where I will refer to someone else who has researched much on the topic, who is smarter than me, who did his PhD with my husband, and who, I think, talks about the issue with nuance and grace while holding to a traditional view of marriage. Preston Sprinkle has written (and continues to write) on the issue of homosexuality. You can check it out on his blog here.

What I like about Preston’s writing is that he engages with real people who have same-sex attractions or who were formerly living in an active homosexual lifestyle and then places the conversation within a biblical context. I don’t feel like the authority of Scripture is in question or that Scripture cannot be trusted. Rather, it seems to me that he takes a posture of submission and grapples with the text and issues of hermeneutics in a responsible, mature way.

What do you think after reading his blog?

 

 

A Response to Jen Hatmaker

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” — Mark Twain

I hesitate to criticize the words of someone who is very popular and has a huge following in evangelical circles. First, I don’t want to criticize; it’s not fun. Second, critiquing someone’s work takes away time from my own work. Third, when critiquing you run the risk of offending many people who are faithful followers of that person as well as hurting the feelings of the person you are critiquing.

But with that said, there was so much wrong with the following post that I will venture a few words. I will offer a response to Jen Hatmaker’s blog post yesterday, World Vision, Gay Marriage, and a Different Way Through, and I hope that it will be heard in love and truth.

I don’t know Hatmaker personally nor can I claim to be a faithful follower of her ministry. I do, however, appreciate Hatmaker and her ministry. I enjoy her sense of humor and her passion for Christ and His Church. In this post in particular, I commend her for her heart and desire for unity and peace. I agree that as Christians we must learn to rope in our tongues and speak in love to one another.

However, in Hatmaker’s pursuit for unity and peace she walks the thin line of compromising truth. Hopefully this was not her intent, but I believe what she wrote yesterday basically undermined the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. And if not careful, her words can lead people down a dangerous path of interpreting Scripture how he or she chooses with no regards to hermeneutics or orthodoxy.

Here’s what she said and the issues I have with it:

First, she basically says that if there is a plurality of interpretations we are hopeless. We might as well throw our hands up in the air and allow for an “anything goes” attitude. Hatmaker says, “Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.” To expect to have complete unanimity on any issue of Scripture is an unrealistic goal. It is usually the case that on secondary issues no one tries to reach for complete unanimity. This is the first of several bad arguments on her part, which I think she is saying that homosexuality is an issue of one’s own interpretation. In other words, Scripture is not clear on the subject; therefore, we should allow all interpretations or at least accept them. Because we disagree on what Scripture says therefore means that Scripture isn’t clear or doesn’t speak absolutely on a subject.

Second, Hatmaker in her rant fails to distinguish between primary (Trinity, deity of Jesus, salvation) and secondary (baptism, spiritual gifts, role of women) issues of faith. She flattens them out. Here’s an example: “There has never been “one way” to interpret scripture. There has never been “one way” to be a biblical church. Even the early church leaders had severe and lasting disagreements about the nature of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Salvation, Faith, Works, etc.” Hold up. First of all, it is not true that the Church has been divided on the issue of homosexuality throughout history. Actually, this is only a recent, Western issue. Secondly, the issues she mentions that the early church dealt with were primary issues not secondary issues. One of the ones who disagreed with the early church was Arius; he argued that Jesus was not fully God. A second person was Marcion. He argued that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the One of the New Testament, and he wanted to cut out half of the New Testament. The early church called these men gnostics and heretics! The church responded with creeds that outlined the basic orthodox beliefs one must hold to in order to be Christian. So should we accept the interpretations of Arius and Marcion simply because they had a different opinion? Should we include them in the tent of legitimate Christianity? Absolutely not. But if you follow Hatmaker’s argument to its logical conclusion, then people like Arius and Marcion would have to be taken as part of the orthodox church. To the extent that Marcion denied the deity of Christ, we find the correlation today with Jehovah’s Witnesses. So would Hatmaker consider Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of orthodox Christianity?

Third, Hatmaker, in her attempt to make the homosexual debate a non-issue, puts Scripture and Christian theology on the stand. To someone who is a weak believer or non believer they might have walked away from their computer or smart phone with a schizophrenic view of Scripture. How can Scripture be trusted when there’s “no one way” to interpret it, and when Christians have always been divided on its interpretation from the beginning? She says, “Historically, Christian theology has always been contextually bound and often inconsistent with itself; an inconvenient truth we prefer to selectively explain.” Later, “Rather, it is simply a reasonable assessment of the trajectory of the kingdom as God has interacted with each new generation of the church.” And, “Reason and humility occupies too small a place in the analysis of the historical church and the progressive interpretation of Scripture.” I fault her for making provocative, pithy statements with half-truths and then not explaining them.

Incidentally, respected author William Webb in his book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, takes a progressive trajectory hermeneutic. Webb says that the trajectory of Scripture never gets you to the place of acceptance of practicing homosexuality. So here’s a work done in the spirit of what Hatmaker is saying about progression but concludes differently than her with the issue of homosexuality.

For Hatmaker to throw out words like “trajectory,” “progressive,” “inconsistent,” in a blog post like the one she wrote yesterday without really explaining the argument is very unhelpful and unwise in my opinion. Instead of walking away feeling like I should be more accepting or respectful or loving of others, I walked away from the post asking myself, What is Scripture? Can it be trusted? What does all this mean in regards to other issues? Where does the progression stop?

Here are some wrap-up thoughts:

1. A big pet peeve of mine is when I read blog posts from well-intentioned, very popular people (especially women) who get in over their heads when it comes to what they know. As the saying goes, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Unfortunately, many of these authors have no theological education, no background in biblical studies, and yet they want to engage in theological/biblical issues without the knowledge to do so. By God’s grace, I have been able to attain a masters degree in seminary. But if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me how little I know. In fact I hesitate to write on issues unless I do so after thorough research because I don’t want to mislead people. I say this because the arguments used in Hatmaker’s post, especially in regards to the early church and issues of biblical hermeneutics, tell me that Hatmaker is speaking on issues that she really does not know much about. It doesn’t impress me that she says Scripture “was written across several cultures, 40+ writers, 1500 years, 8 genres, and an entire worldview shift once Jesus hit the scene.” That is very basic. The fact that she flattens primary and secondary issues and doesn’t differentiate between the two OR that she doesn’t argue from a particular hermeneutic but rather from a logic that says because we all disagree it means there’s no absolute truth on the subject tells me she is lacking the knowledge needed to talk about the issue in the way that she does. I’m not trying to be hurtful or prideful in this point. God can, does and will use her despite of (probably) no theological training. However, I would urge her to either stick with what she knows or go to seminary and spend time learning more about church history, biblical theology, etc.

2. If you, after reading Jen’s post, are left confused about Scripture — can it be trusted, is there absolute truth, is the Bible inconsistent — then please e-mail me. I will be glad to help in any way possible. Or, I will point you to resources that will help you.

Prayer with Pops

Prayer with Pops

Just had to share this moment with you all today. We visited Pops at church earlier today as he led chapel for the Mother’s Day Out children. At the end of his lesson, my dad invited his grandson to come stand by him while he prayed. Philip mimicked his Pops and together they led the children in prayer.

A Church History Resource for Women Called to Ministry

My post on 3 Things Girls Called to Vocational Ministry Want to Hear From Their Pastors & Churches really hit a nerve and resonated with many women. As I continue writing some coming posts on this topic, I wanted to share a link I came across this morning.

It doesn’t matter where you fall on the women in ministry debate, I think this site is very helpful in understanding how God has been using women in church history to further the gospel.

The site is called, Alabaster Jar: Stories of female leaders from church history.

I haven’t read all the stories, but it is definitely flagged as a resource I plan to use. What I hope the site will do is encourage women today that God is in the business of using women for His Kingdom. I am not a fan of advocating women for being female or for promoting a gender for the sake of gender. (I also don’t advocate that women seek to be lead pastors of churches.) Rather, I hope this site helps us to remember these women of the past and what they did for the Kingdom of God and to allow their stories to encourage us and thereby the women serve as role models in our own calling.

Lenten Devotional: A False Fast

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For the first six months after my son turned 2 I felt like all I was doing was disciplining my son and all he was doing was disobeying my commands. It was during this time that we left Chick-fil-a after eating lunch without going to the playground because he would not obey my telling him to sit in his chair and stop touching the sign hanging from the ceiling. Some days I felt like Philip was in timeout more than he was not in timeout. It was exhausting and all I wanted for him was to obey so he didn’t hurt himself or our belongings.

Around the 2 1/2 mark something happened. I remember that day perfectly. He stood up on the kitchen chair and began playing with the light fixture. I said, “Philip sit down right now.” He signed and said, “I’m sorry.” I was so excited! He was sorry that he disobeyed. Two minutes later I looked over and Philip was standing up again in his chair hitting the light again. Before I could get out a reprimand, he was signing and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

For about 4-6 months after that time, Philip believed he could still disobey as long as he said he was sorry. He would say, “I’m sorry,” but not mean it. I knew he didn’t mean what he was saying because after apologizing he would turn around and do the act again.

Watching Philip do this cycle reminded me of God’s people in Scripture. The Hebrews would disobey God’s commandments, repent and then go back to doing what they were doing before. Consider this particular example from Isaiah 58:

“‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”

This generation, like many before it, had forgotten that YHWH discerns “thoughts from afar” and that even before a word is on their mouth God knows it (Psalm 139). They also had forgotten that there is no place they can go away from the Spirit of God (Psalm 139). Yet, despite knowing that nothing is invisible to God, including the desires of one’s heart, they thought they could trick their God with false worship. “Why won’t you accept our fasting, God?” they asked. God responded saying, I won’t accept your fasting or worship because you are living in disobedience to my commands. Not only are these people oppressing their employees, quarreling, and fighting, but they are also not sharing food with the hungry or caring for the homeless (v. 7). The problem is not that they should change one work (fasting) for another (social justice). Rather, God says one’s worship and repentance should match up with how one lives life. The real issue, here, is a heart issue. Someone whose heart is not rendered to God will act unjustly and not love his or her neighbor. Then, when he or she tries to worship through acts like fasting, it is false worship because his or her heart is not given to God as revealed in how he/she lives.

I have been following the Lectionary daily Scripture readings this Lent, which has had me in Jeremiah. Here the people of God again are professing one thing with their mouths while disobeying God with their actions.

“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. Though they say, “As the Lord lives,” yet they swear falsely” (Jeremiah 5:1-2).

“I’m sorry,” they say to God, yet they continue to disobey. “As the Lord lives” I will do this thing, they say. Yet, they swear with false intentions. “I’m sorry!” the people of God continue to say over and over, yet they worship false gods, intermarry with foreigners who worship false gods, murder, cheat and steal. And this wasn’t an issue that stopped with the Old Testament. This was still a persistent problem that even Paul addressed in his letter to the Roman believers.

“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. … For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:21-23, 28-29).

And now, you would think that after all this time we would not do the same thing that the Hebrews did in the Old Testament and the Christians did in the New. Yet this is a sin we still commit today! We, too, are guilty of trying to trick God with a false repentance. Especially during Lent it is very easy to fast without rendering our hearts to God. We think we will somehow please God by giving up food, Internet, or drink while we continue to disobey Him in our daily lives. We, like Philip who thought he could appease me by saying sorry while still disobeying, think we can appease God by saying, “I’m sorry,” but not truly mean it. We think we can substitute loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves with a false fast or a false “I’m sorry.”

During this season of Lent let our fasting match our obedience. Let us turn our hearts over to God so that our worship will not disgust the God whose Son died for us. Instead of being quick to say, “I’m sorry,” let us learn true repentance and what it means to honor God with all our lives.

God, I’m sorry for being quick to apologize without truly repenting. Help me to face my own disobedience so that I can turn from it to obedience and honoring You, who died for me. May your Spirit help me in my weakness, and may I not be quick to worship with acts like fasting while dishonoring You in my daily life by not loving my neighbor. May my worship match my life and may you be pleased and glorified in all that I say, think and do. Amen.

My Reward: What Philip Teaches Me About God’s Love

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Last night Philip, our 2 year old son, had trouble falling asleep; so he brought his blankets and lovies with him into the living room and asked if I would rock him. How could I say “no” to that? So I gathered him up as well as all his soft things into my arms and rocked him. He fell asleep within 5 minutes but I held onto him for much longer staring at his sleeping face and his little hands and long fingers.

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I experienced the indescribable gift and blessing of a child. He’s my son. I don’t deserve him. Although he can drive me crazy at times and will do things to spite me, he is my great reward. Solomon says this in Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Reflecting on this last night brought to mind another son I didn’t deserve. “For God so loved the world (which includes me and you!), that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

I am constantly reminded when I look at my son the great sacrifice God made so that we might find forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with Him, our Creator through the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. Just like I don’t deserve my son Philip, I don’t deserve what God’s Son did for me on a cross. Just like Philip is my great reward, even more so and greater is the reward I have in Jesus Christ.

I cannot imagine giving Philip up for anyone in this world. I simply would not. In fact, I would give myself up before giving him. So the truth that “God so loved us, the world, that he gave his Son” blows my mind. It’s an even greater love than I know personally through being a wife and a mom. It’s a sacrificial love. And it’s a love that Scripture tells us that Jesus agreed to as well. Philippians 2 says that Jesus humbled himself by leaving the throne room of heaven to become man so that “for our sake” he would be made “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Christians have used this time of Lent historically as a time of preparation for Easter. We remember our sins that cost Jesus Christ his life; we repent and reconcile with our brothers and sisters; we spend time in reflection and meditation on Scripture; and we fast. God has given me a gift in Philip for many reasons too numerous to list here. But one of the best gifts is that Philip serves as a daily reminder to me of God’s sacrificial love in sending his Son for me as a propitiation for my sins.

I have been given the gifts of two sons: One who died for my sins and who is the Son of God and one who I get to hold and comfort in my arms at night. During Lent I want to encourage parents and non-parents alike to reflect with me on God’s Son, on our sins which he came to take away, and on the great, sacrificial love of God.

I want to mention that I was honored to write a blog post for Mommybites.com, which will eventually also be featured on Happy Family’s website, that went live today. I don’t write much on the topic of motherhood, so it was a joy and a challenge to reflect on something deeply personal and to share it with the world. It was in writing the blog post for Mommybites and reading a post by my very good friend, Leslie Ann, called 5 Things Parenting Taught Me About God, that encouraged me to reflect on my own experience as a mom and what God is teaching me about Himself through this experience.

3 Things Girls Called to Vocational Ministry Want to Hear From Their Churches & Pastors

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When I felt the call to full-time ministry at the age of 15, I remember asking myself the question, “What now?” I had felt that tug on my heart years before; I had a sincere passion for God’s Word and discipleship. I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do but to serve Him. But I hesitated from surrendering to the call for several years prior to the age of 15. Why? Because I thought the only two full-time ministry options for a female were being a pastor’s wife or a missionary.

When I finally did surrender it wasn’t because I had heard there were more options for me than these two vocations, but because I couldn’t deny the call any longer; to continue to do so was disobedience to God on my part. So I committed to ministry believing that God had a plan for my life but not knowing what it was. All I knew was I did NOT feel called to be a pastor’s wife or missionary.

If it weren’t for my parents’ guidance, I don’t know if I would have followed through in obeying this calling. Published materials about vocational calling for women were nonexistent (and still are to a big degree!) to help me, nor were there any female full-time ministers to mentor me. The church, though not unsupportive, did not play a major role in getting me prepared for vocational ministry. In fact the same 6 year old girl who had literally cried “I wish I had been born a boy so I can be a preacher,” was still crying out, this time on the inside, “Why hadn’t I been born a boy so I had many options of full-time ministry?”

Since then I have had countless conversations with other young women who share similar stories with mine. My husband and I just returned from a trip to my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, where I spoke to a group of girls who feel called to the ministry. Listening to them describe the process of discerning their calling and how to follow that call brought to mind someone walking in a pitch black room with her arm out trying to find the light switch.

Even if a church holds to complementarian beliefs (that is, women must be subject to men and not teach or hold authority over man), I still believe it needs women who are theologically trained to serve on staff. And larger than the local church, the Christian community, the global Church and the World (i.e. secular/unbelieving) need women who are theologically trained, who know how to interpret and explain the Bible in a faithful, orthodox way.

It is my opinion that churches have an important role to play in encouraging and supporting its girls who feel called to vocational ministry. The goal is that by the time they are in college or beyond they don’t feel alone, confused or abandoned.

So to all you pastors, church staffs, and church members, here are 3 things I suggest you tell your girls who feel called to full-time ministry.

1. “We affirm God’s work in you.” Every person longs for affirmation. So it is no different that both male and females who feel called to vocational ministry long to be affirmed by their church body. So often churches don’t or won’t recognize young girls who feel called to the ministry in front of the church. Or, churches will recognize a young girl’s call on a Sunday morning during the invitation but then she will never hear anything else from her youth pastor, pastor or any other church leader. As the body of Christ we are called to recognize and acknowledge what God has already done and is doing in these individuals as well as affirm the work of the Holy Spirit. I think some churches are afraid that if they affirm a young woman’s ministerial call they are affirming an egalitarian view of women in ministry or they are giving her permission to become a pastor. Here’s some news: Most young girls have no desire of becoming a pastor of a church. Especially if your church is complementarian, then most likely she will think the same way you do. So putting those fears aside, what a girl who feels called wants to hear from her church is: We affirm the work that God is doing in your life; we affirm the calling He has placed on you; and we SUPPORT you as you follow this calling on your life. Pastors, youth ministers, deacons, and lay leaders, consider writing personal notes, e-mails, making visits or phone calls to communicate your affirmation. REJOICE over this young girl who is willing to commit her entire life to ministry and to sacrifice worldly things and desires in order to do His will. Perhaps throw a celebration once a year for all the young people (both male and female) who have surrendered to full-time ministry. Acknowledge these girls in front of others, as much as your young males, and continue to check-in on them every so often. Make sure they have people purposely walking with them down this new journey, mentoring and encouraging them along the way! Sometimes we think that following God’s call won’t start until college, so we let them be during middle and high school. This is an incorrect assumption. These are formative years that will provide a foundation so that when they go to college and are perhaps tempted to abandon God’s call and substitute it with something that will make them more money or that is more appealing to mom and dad they will hopefully not waver. Be intentional in AFFIRMING your young girls who feel called to ministry; it will make a world of difference.

2. “We want to give you more opportunities to serve and to use your spiritual gifts.” One of the best things a church can do for its young people who feel called to ministry is to give them more opportunities to serve in the church. Since these people will be church leaders one day, the best thing you can do for them (and the best way you can affirm them!) is to plug them into more leadership-type roles. This includes your females! Find out what are their passions and spiritual gifts and use them accordingly. Do you have a girl who is gifted musically and has a heart for music-worship? Allow her to be part of the worship leadership team that makes decisions on what songs will be sung or the order of service. Give her more opportunities to be part of the worship team on Sunday mornings. Have a girl who feels gifted in teaching? Ask her to teach a Sunday School class of those younger than her. Or, encourage older women’s Sunday School classes to allow her to substitute teach when its teacher is absent. (I remember having this opportunity when I was young teaching a senior adults lady class. They were very encouraging to me.) Assuming she’s in the youth group, involve her on the youth leadership team that makes decisions about discipleship, events, etc. Do you have a girl who has a heart for missions and feels called to be a full-time missionary? Encourage her to be involved with local as well as foreign missions. Suggest that she help plan and lead a mission trip, especially by the time she is a senior in high school. Encourage her to find a summer internship working under the supervision of missionaries. You get my point? Even if your church cannot pay for internships, give these young people, and especially your young girls, non-paid ministerial internships as a way of preparing them for future work. And by the way, here’s one thing NOT to tell your girls: Do NOT assume what the girls in your church are called to do. We have a tendency to immediately want to place our females in children’s or women’s ministry. We assume that is where God would have them. We are NOT the Holy Spirit nor do we want to misdirect them based solely on their gender. I remember when my call was made public to the church, people came and asked me if I wanted to do children’s or women’s ministry. I said, “Neither. All I know is I have a desire and gift to teach and speak.” Then they would respond, “So you want to be the next Beth Moore!” Instead of helping me, their limited understanding of what vocational ministry opportunities there are for women left me feeling frustrated and unsure. My desire was not to become “the new Beth Moore” as if she were my idol, but rather to give my life to a gospel-centered ministry even if I didn’t know how that would look.

3. “We want and support you to receive theological education.” When fellow male peers make known their call to ministry, people immediately talk to them about seminary. Churches and associations give scholarships to their young male members to receive theological education; it is expected of them. But, when it comes to females, the expectation is not the same. Why is that? (Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post about this very question!) In my mind, it doesn’t matter if women are leading children’s ministries, youth ministries or women’s ministries, writing Bible studies or Sunday School material, speaking, blogging, serving as missionaries, or teaching Bible classes at a private Christian school, she NEEDS theological education. The spiritual maturity of our church members, our bodies of Christ, will depend much in part by the kind of teaching they are receiving as children, women, families, young people, etc. What they hear taught and read about Scripture will give them the framework from which they do their own exegesis. You want strong children’s ministries and children who have a firm grasp on the gospel? Train up your women. You want women who are strong pillars in your church and who are not spreading false gospel? Send your future women’s ministers to the best seminaries. Want solid, theologically sound Bible studies for women, youth and children? Then encourage your girls to take Greek and Hebrew and biblical theology at a sound seminary. Just because you might believe that women cannot be pastors of a church does not mean that they cannot receive a theological education. Your churches will be better and stronger if both your boys and girls are trained theologically. And your girls want to hear from you, pastors and church leaders, that you support them and encourage them, just like your boys, to get a theological education.

So affirm and train up your young girls for full-time ministry. Recognize that God is at work in females too and that they have a place in this vocational ministerial world. Join in what God is doing. I do not believe a girl is better or worse than a boy because of her gender. I believe that because God’s image is both male and female, females are important to God in displaying His image. I also believe that the Bible shows that God has used women in salvation history to bring about His purposes. He has raised up women to be leaders among His people from the Old Testament to the New. Why, then, not continue to affirm that God uses women today for His Kingdom work?

Girls and women who have had surrendered to a vocational call: What else would you add? Would you disagree with anything I’ve said? Do you agree that young girls in churches who feel a call to full-time ministry want to hear these 3 things from their churches and church leaders? I’d love to hear what you think!

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