Christianity,  Culture

Evangelical Bigots?

Carl Trueman notes that for Americans under 35 years of age, homosexual marriage is not even an issue. That figure indicates a great generational divide over attitudes toward homosexuality. The trend lines in our culture are moving decidedly in the direction affirming homosexuality as normal. Trueman predicts, therefore, four challenges that lie ahead for Christians. Here’s the fourth challenge that Trueman mentions:

“Those evangelical leaders, academics and evangelical institutions that prize their place at the table and their invitations to appear on `serious’ television programs, and who enjoy being asked to offer their opinion to the wider culture had better be prepared to make a choice. As I have said before in this column, we are not far from the place where to oppose homosexuality will be regarded as in the same moral bracket as white supremacy. Those types only appear on Jerry Springer; and Jerry generally doesn’t typically ask them their opinion on the ethics of medical research, the solution to the national debt, or the importance of poetry to a rounded education.”

Of course, evangelicals who are faithful to biblical teaching aren’t really bigots, but that won’t matter. We will be maligned as such, and we need to be prepared for difficulties ahead. The encroachment upon religious liberty will be real and acute. But it will also be an occasion to bear faithful witness to Christ. Let’s pray that we do just that.


  • Charlton Connett

    I think homosexual marriage is more of an issue than some pundits want to admit. Assuming that Trueman, and whatever pundit originally made the claim, are correct though, I think that evangelical Christians will not only need to be prepared to deal with the fact that we will be called bigots, but we will also need to be prepared to deal with the fact that we will need to do more teaching from our pulpits than we have done in the last couple of generations. The further we move culturally from the biblical understandings that influenced culture, the more we will need to address those very issues in our churches.

    Imagine 50 years from now when you (or some future pastor) preaches on a passage where “marriage” is part of the text. would you ever have imagined you would have to clarify that what the biblical writer was talking about was a marriage between one man and one woman?

    If we are maligned though, it would do us well to prepare ourselves now by teaching our people the truth before persecution comes. We must also steel our minds to the fact that, historically, the church persecuted is not an anomaly, but the rule. The church persecuted has also been a great tool used by God to purge the heretics and deceivers that cling to the church in times of ease. We can only pray for his blessing whether we see revival in our culture, or persecution, or both.

  • Ryan Phelps

    It is of course true and wise to point out that “[speaking the truth about homosexuality] will be more difficult than most people have even dared to think up to this point.” But, as I know you know, it is much more complicated than just presenting truth. I’m sure it will get to the point when any presentation of truth, even when tempered by grace, will be used to persecute. But we’re not nearly there yet, and there are still too many of us who speak only the truth and miss all of the grace.

    In other words, the battle is not just against those who would abandon biblical truth. It is also against those who would present that truth unbiblically.

  • Jow Blackmon

    It’s a simple black and white issue–if someone affirms that homosexual activity is sinful all the time without any exceptions whatsoever, that person sffirms what the bible clearly teaches.

    If a person says that homosexual activity is not sinful and that the bible doesn’t mean that it is then that person is not a Christian and any church that proclaims that is not a Christian church. Period.

    There is no gray area. There is no discussion. You are either right or wrong on this. Making the choice to proclaim what the Bible says will mean standing against what the world says is ok. Real Christians will stand with what the bible teaches. Pretend christians will compromise on the clear teaching of scripture.

  • Denny Burk


    I disagree. Evangelical egalitarians are going to be particularly vulnerable on this point. That is why William Webb’s book Slaves, Women, and Homesexuals was so well-received by egalitarians. The whole book is an attempt to define a hermeneutic that simultaneously upholds egalitarianism while holding homosexuality as sinful. Egalitarians need books like this one because they often adopt hermeneutical strategies that–if applied consistently–would lead to the normalization of homosexuality.

    So Trueman is right on the money (in my view) with point 3.

    Thanks for commenting.


  • Strider

    The US may be becoming a Mission field sooner than later. Strategies will have to change and change quickly. Up until now Evangelicals have been trying to keep society conservative and in line with the culture they have always known. Under this strategy the reasoning has gone, ‘I don’t want my kids growing up in a place where gay marriage is accepted.’ This message is being received as ‘We have the political power to keep you perverts out. You are unwanted.’ But the situation is changing. You all now live on a Mission field similar to my own. I live in a Muslim country and I must not approach Muslims on their turf by insulting them. I do not denounce Mohamed. I proclaim Christ. I proclaim my love for Muslim people. In this context I am heard and have seen hardened Muslims soften and turn to the Jesus they never knew before but now see clearly in me. In the homosexual debate this is not currently possible. Homosexuals do not know that God loves them and we have shown very little interest in explaining it to them. Up until recently this was no big deal as they were marginalized community but what if they are mainstream and we are marginalized? Who will hear our message? We must get past protecting our own culture and get back to proclaiming Christ.

  • Donald Johnson

    The hermaneutic that I try my best to use and promulgate is the historical-grammatical-literary method seeking to find the original meaning. This is the method claimed by most evangelicals I know.

    Always, always, always seek the truth in love. There is often not enough humility in seeking what the Bible actually teaches.

    The homosexual issue is too often used as a bogeyman by non-egals, it is used as a scare tactic which is not a way to seek truth.

  • Nathan

    I think Christians can be bigots if they try to force those outside the church from living up to biblical ideals.

    I think forcing biblical ideals is a completely unbiblical idea in and of itself. No law is going to coerce someone in acting Christian.

    I want to know why there isn’t a push from Christians to outlaw the adult industry outlaw bad language. Both are sin. Both are spoken of negatively from pulpits. Neither is allowed among church members. BUT you don’t outlaw them — you let those wanting to participate to do so.

    Why is there special vehemence against homosexuality? I think this is where the bigotry lies.

  • Denny Burk


    I accidentally deleted an important sentence:

    “That is why William Webb’s book Slaves, Women, and Homesexuals was so well-received by egalitarians.”

    I corrected my comment above.

  • Ali

    Yeah…I think that evangelicals can soften the impact of persecution by presenting their position in a more culturally sensitive way. I look at that in a blog post of my own here.

    I think Strider is right. Evangelicals – especially in the US – are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they are in a non-Christian culture and start to work hard at speaking in a way that the culture doesn’t mishear.

  • Nate

    Nathan said, “I want to know why there isn’t a push from Christians to outlaw the adult industry” and “Why is there special vehemence against homosexuality? I think this is where the bigotry lies.”

    You are wrong on both counts. In many cities, the only reason there are not adult book stores is because of believers who have opposed it. They sat on city councils, they pushed to have zoning laws in place that would not allow these types of establishments. Then the ACLU and others brought suit against these municipalities and cities claiming that the smut industry’s free-speech had been violated.

    So, just like homosexual marriage, judges re-interpreted the Constitution and the will of the people went out the door. You need to study history a little better Nathan.

  • RD

    If, in 50 years, most Christians and most churches do not hold to the view that committed homosexual relationships are sinful (and I think this is going to be the case much sooner than 50 years!), can evangelicals not at least consider the possibility that this is because of the moving voice and direction of the Holy Spirit? I don’t mean any disrespect, nor do I mean to insult anyone when I honestly say, I still don’t see how Christians can doggedly hold to the notion that the Church interprets the Bible to mean the same thing, in all instances, in all cultures and for all times.

    Jesus himself showed us that Jews historically misinterpreted the law regarding “love your neighbor as yourself”. This is simply one example. Jews of Jesus’ day read the Levitical law to mean that they were to love their fellow Jews as they loved themselves. By reframing the context and definition of the neighbor to include despised, unclean, less-than-human Samaritans, Jesus clearly delivers the message that the common understanding that had held for literally thousands of years, was an incorrect reading of the scriptures.

  • Joe Blackmon

    If, in 50 years, most Christians and most churches do not hold to the view that committed homosexual relationships are sinful (and I think this is going to be the case much sooner than 50 years!), can evangelicals not at least consider the possibility that this is because of the moving voice and direction of the Holy Spirit?

    Nope. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the word of God. Not once. Ever.

    I still don’t see how Christians can doggedly hold to the notion that the Church interprets the Bible to mean the same thing, in all instances, in all cultures and for all times.

    Ok. You’re lack of being able to see it doesn’t change the fact that it does mean the same thing, in all instances, in all cultures and for all times.

  • RD


    You wrote in comment #15: The Holy Spirit will never contradict the word of God. Not once. Ever.

    Did Jesus not contradict the written word of God when he re-defined the idea of who our neighbor is?

  • Donald Johnson

    Jesus never contradicted Torah, he always correctly interpreted it, which is not the case with some of the Jewish sages/teachers, as he opposed SOME of their teachings.

  • RD


    Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Jesus expands the actual written definition. In fact, goes so far as to depict the Samaritan as the savior in the story. It’s about re-examining written law against the law of the spirit. We simply do not adhere to the complete written law, and never have (see Leviticus 19:27…”Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” which condemns the goatee….or Lev 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dea or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” which dondemns piercings of any kind and tatoos.)

  • RD

    I can’t tell you how many youth pastors I know who have at least one tatoo. I’ve got a couple of buddies who are lead pastors that have tatoos. Are we to say that they are condemned by God because they are in violation of the Levitical law?

  • Donald Johnson

    Tatoos are only prohibited in the Mosaic covenants and were apparently pagan things.

    Neighbors are people you come in contact with. There were Hebrew “ger”/gentiles in Israel.

    It is true in the new covenant, we are to follow where the Spirit leads us.

  • RD

    Joe @ 21

    I admire your conviction. I don’t agree with your assessment, but I admire your straightforward response LOL

    Actually, I think we are seeing evolving theology play out right here on Denny’s blog. Most people here agree with Denny’s assessment and would never change their view that committed homosexuals are not sinning. BUT, there are a few of us who have different views (not merely different personal opinions, but different views of what scripture is and how it should be interpreted). I see this changing view becoming more the norm among evangelicals. This is how theology changes over time (how protestantism devloped and how the many, MANY different protestant ideas and denominations sprung up out of the reformation). In years past you’d have been hard-pressed to find serious evangelical Christians who were NOT complimentarians, creationists or anti-same-sex marriage on this blog. Now the number is growing month by month as Christians continue to seriously pray, study and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These are exciting days!!

  • Joe Blackmon

    there are a few of us who have different views (not merely different personal opinions, but different views of what scripture is and how it should be interpreted). I see this changing view becoming more the norm among evangelicals.

    II Thessalonians 2:3

  • Chris

    RD if you mean the number of evangelical Christians abandoning the word of God month by month than yes you are correct! Exciting for no one but the Enemy!

  • MRS

    You guys are prattling on about biblical truth and you fail to acknowledge that huge numbers of evangelicals under 35 simply know more gay people than do those who are older.

    Whether it’s a close friend, coworker, favorite barista or bartender, hairdresser (not making fun) or what have you – the issue isn’t so much biblical fidelity as it is how we deal with the real life people we know who are also gay, and then what to do when socio-political matters like Prop 8 show up.

  • Nathan

    It has happened and it is still possible for real Christians to misinterpret a part of Scripture. I am not saying that is happening in this case, but to say the notion is utterly absurd is absurd.

  • Nathan

    In the original blog post, Carl Trueman said:

    …we can no longer assume that the cultural bias will play our tune…

    Since when does a worldly bias play God’s tune? Is he really saying that we’ve allowed a worldly viewpoint to stand? If it is of the world, it can’t be good, and yet it was allowed to fester around and among us because “it played a tune” that sounded right…


    In a post a while back Denny said that Christian men should interact with boys based on the boys’ whims. And now Trueman reveals that we can’t ride on the coattails of a worldly bias against homosexuality.

    There have been tens of thousands of boys growing up disenfranchised in churches because the leaders let the boys set the standards. And not only that, the leaders let worldly vitriol masquerade as hating sin. Most of those boys had no hope in that kind of climate.

    I know people will answer back to this comment saying that it’s just anecdotal, or that I’m trying to play a get out of jail free card. Whatever. This is my life. I can see these things as plain as day now. It’s like waking up from the longest dream and discovering proof of how things worked against me instead of for me. I’ll be shocked as fill-in-the-blank if someone scratches their head, agrees with me, and actually wants to change this and move forward for the tens of thousands of boys out there now needing real male relationships and a genuinely biblical response to this sin and other issues facing these kids.

  • Kelly

    Nice to see this article talked about Dr. Burk.

    It is hardly news to anyone I know under 40 or so though…with the exception of my really conservative evangelical relatives, but, those are hard to find among the young, which is part of the stories point.

    In the mind of most people under 35 or 40, no, there is NO difference between the conservative stance on gay rights and white supremacy, or Islamaphobia, or misogony.
    MRS was (largely) right when she pointed out that younger people, even evangelicals, but even mores so the majority, know more gay people, and don’t experience the 1) “ick” factor that seems to RADIATE from so many of you on this topic, and I would point out, they 2) grew up with not just “Will and Grace”, but gay pastors, gay welcoming denominations, and a common culture, from TV to movies to entertainment and the vast majority of the academy, not discussing this topic at all. But rather, looking at conservatives and wondering, just like they wondered on the other issues, how long it will take conservative evangelicals to adjust to this.
    They have on everything else, given time.

    Think it will never happen Joe? Trust me, our (mine at least…southerner here) great, great, great grandparents in the mid 1800’s who quoted scripture “which never changes” about the right way to buy and own slaves as justification for slavery and racism would have never believed that in million years that in 1995 (I think I have the year right…It was the 90’s I am pretty sure) the Southern Baptist Church would make the statement it did on slavery and racism. I could they, since “the word never changes”?

    It may not. But how we interpret and understand it does. Even conservatives. It just takes a long, long time, but, the examples are there, and time will do the same thing with this topic to.

    Good article on a Fox News commentator talking about this very topic on Truthwinsout. Might make some interesting reading, as he approaches it from a political, not a religous standpoint. Just mentioning it if anyone is interested.

  • Chris

    “In the mind of most people under 35 or 40, no, there is NO difference between the conservative stance on gay rights and white supremacy, or Islamaphobia, or misogony.”

    What a tragedy if that’s true. A whole generation mislead! The question is “what now?”

  • RD


    Is an entire generation really misled? Perhaps the entire generation has been enlightened (I know, I know, that irks some people SO much when I say that; and I don’t say it to irk you, I promise!!). Someone wrote a comment earlier about how their great-grandparents stood on the “unchanging word of God” to support their views on slavery and, later, segregation. As the culture changed and as Christians (primarily younger Christians who spent time socially with people of other races) began to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit with regard to some of the biblical texts regarding slavery, ideas changed. The SBC did make a statement of apology. It’s how the Spirit works in and through lives and cultures and different eras. Some folks don’t want to see that. They refuse to see that or accept it. They are like the early church that refused to acknowledge the scientific truths that Copernicus and Galileo were discovering. They insisted on holding doggedly to their literal interpretation of certain verses in the bible.

  • Chris

    RD, in a word… yes! And it does not irk me at all however it does sadden me if it means that a generation are moving away from God’s principles. People have at different times used the bible to justify many things that are unbiblical by picking and choosing their biblical beliefs. Other people have realized this and change has happened. Sometimes even culture moves in step with the truth of God. Sun/rain just/unjust kind of thing.

    People are inherently selfish and they will always try to conform God’s word to the way they want to live their life and are resistant to conforming their life around the unchangeable truth of God. This has and will always happen. It’s happening now around this issue.

    To assume that just because there has been in the past a correction of a selfish misreading of scripture that it must mean that any open current issue that we have disagreements with also needs correction is really the height of hubris.

  • Kelly

    Even greater hubris was exhibited by those who took decades and generations to change how they look at issues out of a deep seaterd sense of self comfort with the status quo.

    Just like with this issue.

    It’s odd you mention selfishness. Shirley Guthrie, one of the giants of contemporary theology, prior to his death, had said that it took bravery and boldness to accept a new understanding of this issue based on honest Biblical scholarship. Especially for someone who was really very comfortable with the previous understanding. Many of those who now work for inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the ministry and life of the Church fit into this category Chris.

    They are not few, and, being heterosexual in the main, this has nothing to do with “the way they want to live”. It comes from conviction, and years of Biblical research and scholarship (Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, UCC, Etc., and yes, more than a few Baptists I know) backing them up.

    Respectfully Chris…and, I really mean this, and am not trying to score a point, or pick an argument, but true hubris is assigning motivations to people when you do not know what truly moves them, and assuming they do/think what they do from selfish and hedonistic motivations.

    Most of the men and women I know who put careers and friendships on the line years ago to support gay ordination and full inclusion in the church paid quite a price for it. But, they did it anyway, because they see it as following Gods call of working for justice.
    They were not conforming Gods word to fit their lives, but taking the hard route and putting their comfort/societal approval/careers at risk. And the younger members of the church and society saw such people, heard them preach, and saw how they treat people, and were convicted. Over and over I have seen this.

    You are right that not “any” current issue will be reassesed in this manner.

    But this one will.
    It began, decades ago, and even in the conservatives churches, has reached a point where the younger generation is reassessing the issue. It is not selfishness. Just a new understanding. It has happened before. It will happen again.

  • Jerome R

    Many evangelicals assume they are required by the Bible to make laws for the nation conform to Scripture. That’s the same mistake Muslims make when they codify their holy book into Sharia Law.
    Can anyone tell me where Jesus or the Apostles said to do this? The New Testament church did the opposite. The converts did not run off and join the local political party to legally force the nations around them into their way of believing and living.
    And while the Bible clearly condemns some homosexual practices (like rape in Sodom, temple prostitution in Romans), it never addresses the topic of lifelong, loving marriages by gays or lesbians. There was no such idea for the Bible to disapprove of. To say it does is to make an anachronistic value judgment.
    Young people understand that, and even the US Supreme Court will likely end up granting gay citizens the same rights to marriage as all other citizens within two years.

  • David Vinzant

    Trueman is right that most people under 35 see those who oppose same-sex marriage as bigots. I would add that many of us over 35 also see anti-gay marriage folks as bigots.

    I think the following quote from Albert Einstein is relevant:

    “A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant, and he is unable to be tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.

    “In the case of a Christian clergyman the tragi-comical is found in this: that the Christian demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of love will be eaten up.”

  • Chris

    “Even greater hubris was exhibited by those who took decades and generations to change how they look at issues out of a deep seated sense of self comfort with the status quo.”

    No Kelly, they both reek of hubris!

    The harder path, the narrow path if you will, is NOT to sacrifice something to try and justify a lie but rather sacrifice your self to live in truth!

    Kelly no matter what, I see you will try and justify Gods word to how you want to live your life and the people who want to do the same will agree with you.

    BTW you are probably right that this will in the future become a non-issue for many. That however in no way supports the truth or rightness of it! Afterall divorce and abortion are perfectly legal and accepted by many! Usually once the world accepts it as status quo we can be sure that its not of the Kingdom of God!

    David I am not sure quoting an agnostic supports your position.

  • MRS

    I should briefly note – I am a guy, though the initials suggest otherwise.

    I take the orthodox view of homosexuality, but when we start looking at evangelical attitudes about it, you guys are missing the point – most young evangelicals might agree with the Scriptures but in their heart they have a hard time believing the truth…and that’s because they know and are friends with gay folks. Often times they knew them before they came out of the closet. They’ve seen their struggles and they know their value as people and regardless of how sinful they may be – and I agree that homosexuality is a sin! – they are not comfortable joining a movement that will inevitably castigate their gay friends.

  • Chris

    Good point MRS! I think their hearts are in the right place and it’s a fact that the church/Christians as a whole have treated homosexuals unfairly with a judgment they are not willing to apply to themselves. This also I think comes into play.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

  • Kelly

    actually, I agree with much of MRS and Chris’s last posts. Except the in their heart of heart part. I really do not believe that is the case.

    Chris, you seem astute and to be trying to truly get a better understanding of this issue, and I admire and respect that. One thing you REALLY need to get your head around however. For the umpteenth time, those of us working for an inclusive and welcoming Church for GLBT people and their families are NOT trying to justify Gods word to satisify ourselves. Did you NOT read what I wrote about the many theologians and hetero lay persons who find themselves really uncomfortable when their scholarship, prayer and study lead them to see the validity of a gay relationship affirming theological position? Or of the costs they often had (have) to pay for it?

    Until you accept what must seem unfathomable to you; that very well educated Christians, from the seminaries to the laity, are working for an inslusive chruch because we believe it is the right, and just and God called thing to do, you will not understand us.

    One one level, this does not hurt me, because I know that your inability to accept this only helps my cause, especially when talking to the young…but not just them.

    But, you are obviously a Christian of strong faith, probably a good person I guess, and, well…someone worthy of respect whom I hope to spend eternity with, and whom I own both honesty and kindness. For those reasons, I really wish you would just step back and let what must seem, due to an upbringing I suspect I would understand (I had one like it) very odd to you; That these people are gay affirming because they believe God has called them to be, and that they see it as the morally right thing to do…not for selfish or hedonistic reasons.

    Not understanding that about us prevents you discussing this issue properly in the same way that someone who thinks all Christians are snake handling, Bible thumping secret wife beaters is prevented from intelligently discussing the Christian community/religion/people.

    And when you talk to the non churced or even the churched who really DO know a lot of gay people and have heard the other side of the arguement, that will come through.

  • Chris

    Kelly I thank you for your words and I hope you understand that I view someone who has same sex feelings as no different than me. Deserving of Jesus’s love, Christians love and the churches love! We all have struggles and my struggles and sins are no better or worse than a LGBT persons struggles and sins! This is something that ALL Christians need to understand. This is something the church needs to understand!

    That does not change the fact that the bible is clear that heterosexual relationships and heterosexual marriages are what God intended for humanity. That gender is God assigned! I know you disagree with this and you are not alone.

    That being said, truth be told even most of the heterosexual marriages are not God honoring! So the reality is that most sex happening today even in Christian marriages cannot be affirmed in good faith!

    I do believe that the church should be welcoming LGBT folks. We should be loving them and everyone unconditionally! So I work and fight for inclusion as well but I cannot and will not lie to them saying a homosexual lifestyle is Gods best for their life. No more that I would say lying, being ruled by money, unforgiveness, lack of generosity etc… is Gods best and what Christ calls us to do. There is a better God honoring choice! Yes it can be difficult, yes it often requires a sacrifice, sometimes a big one, but we must give up our life to gain new life! We must carry our crosses, we must understand that we live for eternity not for now. What we lack and/or sacrifice in this life will exponentially be given to us in the next if Jesus is Lord and Leader of our lives!

    So it’s not a matter of me stepping back and recognizing the fight for justice and equality! I recognize it! It’s long overdue! But to take it a step further and contradict the word of God is unacceptable! Always!

    That all being said MRS is correct! Much of the support of younger evangelicals of LGBT lifestyle is that its very real to them because it’s more public. And because its public people know, love and care for gay people in their lives. Couple that with a reaction to the lack of justice, love and equality that has been demonstrated in the past this explains the attitudes. Another factor is that our culture encourages sexual experimentation! More and more young people are experimenting and so it just seems natural to the. As they mature they will see the truth of it.

    It may take another generation to play out but it will eventually be clear that heterosexuality IS Gods best!

    Thank you Kelly for continuing to put this issue in the forefront because there is A LOT more work to do! We may have different goals but I do believe that if we approach this issue with an open heart and allow the counterbalance each side provides to fuel the discussion, Gods will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

  • Rowena

    As I am reading these comments, what strikes me is that most of you are speaking about these things as if they are something we need to get ready for, when in fact it is clear to me that all these things are very prevalent at this moment.
    We already are perceived as being bigots. I had a conversation recently in which I was scoffed at for saying anything against homosexuality followed by ‘well why don’t you go commit a hate crime now?’ As far as I can tell this is the prevailing attitude among today’s youth toward homosexuality. My point is, if we are not ready for that yet we are in big trouble, because we have already reached that point.

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