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Unread 01-19-2005, 01:18 PM   #1
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Why Conservatism is dumb and stupid

First, for those of you who may be worried, no, I'm not liberal (yet), and yes, this thread does have a purpose aside from my ranting. Some of you that I talk to often know what has prompted this thread. Some don't. For those that don't, I want to avoid being disrespectful and making this too personal, so I'll just express my ranting in a general fashion.

In the past couple years, I have gone from being a conservative that only a mother could love to falling somewhere between moderate and conservative, depending on the issue. While I believe there are certainly scriptural reasons for why I have changed my thinking over this time, I think a lot of my reaction (and possibly overreaction, sometimes) can be attributed to the general observations I have made about certain groups of conservatives in certain contexts. To explain what I am referring, let me give you a quick run down on how I view the Church as a whole in relation to its various conservative groups.

First, there are conservatives and liberals in regards to the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Here, conservative essentially means "orthodox", which means that they affirm the infallibiliy of Scripture, the historicity of Christ and His resurrection, the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, etc. I am obviously a conservative here and this really isn't what I am addressing in this thread.

Second, there are what I see as conservatives and liberals in regards to non-essential issues that are still, I guess, "important". These are issues revolving around interpretation of specific passages that deal with, say, women as pastors, the roles of husband and wife, the creation account, etc. Here I am mostly conservative.

Third, there are conservatives and liberals within the above named conservative camp. Here, the line is drawn are issues that have little importance and are generally, at least in my opinion, issues that are not spoken on directly in scripture, such as music we listen to, movies we watch, specific dress codes for modesty, homeschooling vs. private schooling vs. public schooling, etc. I am generally moderate to liberal on these issues.

Having explained that, I come to my rant. I have seen in very little time that conservatives in both of the last two groups have an amazing ability to piss me off. It seems that they idolize truth to the point where Christian love and unity is merely written off as something we affirm, but seem to forget to practice, or at least only have to practice toward those who are "like-minded". And let me emphasize again that I find this attitude in both of the latter two groups of conservatives. Though I may agree with young-earthers, I find many of them just generally acting very uncharitable to those who disagree. Though I may agree that women shouldn't be elders, I find many people who agree with me looking at someone who disagrees and automatically writing them off as someone who really doesn't give a crap what scripture says. Thus, though I may agree with the truth they are arguing for, I highly disagree with the method of presentation and the implied attitude behind that method.
Now, this criticism goes just as strongly against conservatives in the third group, who not only often portray a very uncharitable, elitist, isolationist attitude in their interaction with those who may not be "like-minded", but this in regards to things that have very little importance to the kingdom of God. Here is a quote from an article dealing with this very issue. Keep in mind these are not at all exaggerations (the article, in full, is here: http://www.patriarchy.org/general/le....html#continue):

Quote:
Having laid down my own method of analysis in regard to detecting man-made laws, I now mention that I am afraid that the Old Legalism of no drinking, no smoking, and no card playing is being replaced by a New Legalism in Reformed circles. Lately, I have been hearing a lot of new rules that if they are not binding on everyone else, then at least they claim to demonstrate a holiness that excels everyone else's. To break one of the new rules of the New Legalism is often considered sin, no less than the sinfulness in the Old Legalism associated with drinking, smoking, and card playing. The number of new rules is sometimes astounding. Let me state just a few of them. To vote for George Bush is sin. To send your children to Christian schools rather than home school is sin. To have your children in public schools, even if there may be very unique circumstances, is definitely sin. To bottle feed a baby rather than breast-feed is sin. To limit the number of children in your family in accord with your economic status is sin. To separate children into Sunday school classes according to age is sin. To put your children into a nursery during church is sin. To follow any model but the courtship model is sin. To send your daughter off to college is sin. For a mother to work outside the home under any circumstances is sin. To use throwaway diapers rather than cloth diapers is sin. Here is one more for the record. Believe it or not, I once was told that to play golf was sin for me since I am an ordained minister and it was a waste of my valuable time. So much for man-made laws!
Aside from the issue of whether such things matter or not (I don't believe they do, but, then again, I'm a liberal in the third group), the attitude I have been talking about seems to pop up in every single debate I have seen in conservative circles lately. I cannot think of a single controversy within conservative Christianity that has been pure from unnecessary name-calling, division, elitism, and just general lack of Christian love and unity. Everywhere I turn in these debates I have seen someone being an ass to someone else, who oftentimes was being an ass before or responds by being an ass. So, we end up with group one calling group two sinners for doing X, and group two calling group one sinners for doing Y. Sometimes we are fortunate to only have one group acting his way, but I don't think it's as common as I would like to think it is.
Of course, as I said before, I think this all flows from making idols out of our conceptions of truth and purity. Instead of doing things for the glory of God, and thus, His body, the Church, we do things for our golden calves of Calvinism, homeschooling, CCM-only, KJV-only, or rockmusicisfromsatanism, young-earth creationism, and whatever else we feel like worshipping that day. Instead of doing things for the building up of Christ's body and thinking through the probable results of our methods of delivering the "truth", we believe it to be a sign of real spiritual maturity to be an ass for Christ, provided, of course, that we don't back down from our new level of purity, falling down into the depths of nominal, compromising Christianity. I'm sorry, but that is not a sign of testicular fortitude (to steal one of my favorite phrases I have had the pleasure of gleaning from CGR). Rather, a sign of courage and spiritual maturity is to remain devoted to the true exposition of God's word in the context of love and Christian unity. It is not difficult to tear everyone else down and feel superior. It is difficult to, with patience and love, express our beliefs in spite of disagreement in a way that builds people up and does not make them feel like they are inferior Christian who really don't want to live biblically. There are many manifestations of this, but one I want to pick on is the use of pet phrases to draw distinctions between "strong" and "weak" Christians. To use names to draw distinctions between systems of belief is fine. For example, distinctions like calvinism/arminianism and paedobaptist/credobaptist are perfectly fine because they honestly define differences of opinion. Distinctions like titus 2 woman/worldly woman and New Testament church/wordly church are not because they only serve to divide. Yes, we know you are very conservative in your approach to women's roles, but using the above distinction is essentially name-calling and only serves to alienate the other side, making them feel even more like crap. It's this attitude that turns Christians against each other, turning what should be charitable, honest discussions into a war. When we argue over arminianism, we are not fighting a war against arminians, we are seeking to build up the body of Christ and bring the Church to a greater understanding of the truth. Arminians are not the enemy. Rather, we are to be working together with the arminians through such discussions in love and charity.

So, to conclude the rant and make this thread worthwhile, I want to do two things. First, I want to apologize to anyone who I have personally done the above to in the past couple of years. I know I have done it, and if anyone sees me doing it now, please inform so that I can put a stop to it.
Second, I want to ask for input. Have you seen this sort of thing in the conservative circles you have been in? Do you have the same thoughts? Am I being too hard on people or over-generalizing? Sure, not all conservatives are like this, but conservatism as a whole certainly is quite adept at making itself look stupid and arrogant. Some of this may be true of liberals as well, but I have had no experience in such environment and so I have no basis to say so. I suppose Aaron and Isaac can rant about that; I'll stick to this.

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Unread 01-19-2005, 01:40 PM   #2
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I love the guy's list of stuff in the "new Legalism"...although I find one of my pet issues (children in church) in there.

I need to keep reading things like this Donny+, I was reading Packer the other day in the first chapter of Knowing God where he really rides the idea that we learn about God only to know God better to love Him better. It was convicting to me, as was your post. My orthodoxy, which I treasure so dearly, is often so dead. I stand up to defend God and my interpretation of Scripture because I want to be right...not because I want another person to love Jesus more. I'm trying to learn how to do that.

Yes Donny+, I find this attitude often. In my circles of Reformed Presbyterianism, I see these kinds of things alot. But I have also seen it in Charismatic/Pentecostal and Baptisty churches I have gone to. You see, we all want a God we can control...a tame God. If we have him perfectly boxed into our theology, he's in our cage...and since he is conquered we do not spend our time in (proper) childlike wonder examining the glimpses of his beauty that he gives us. We turn a living God into paper and then run over him and other people (in His name). We turn him into a formula that we can pimp and use when we desire.

And those people that really do love Jesus and want to love other people like Jesus loves? ...I usually look down on them. They sacrifice too much theology in their practice, or they aren't associated with the right group, etc, etc etc. But really, it's just that they are not doing it the way I'd do it, so I'm going to *****. (Even though I'm not doing anything)

So Donny, you're writing about me even if I don't usually line up in the "New Legalism" camp. I still live in a dead orthodoxy so much of the time, even as God breathes more life into me (praise God) by teaching me to love Him and love others as Jesus does.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 02:02 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athanasius
I love the guy's list of stuff in the "new Legalism"...although I find one of my pet issues (children in church) in there.

I need to keep reading things like this Donny+, I was reading Packer the other day in the first chapter of Knowing God where he really rides the idea that we learn about God only to know God better to love Him better. It was convicting to me, as was your post. My orthodoxy, which I treasure so dearly, is often so dead. I stand up to defend God and my interpretation of Scripture because I want to be right...not because I want another person to love Jesus more. I'm trying to learn how to do that.

Yes Donny+, I find this attitude often. In my circles of Reformed Presbyterianism, I see these kinds of things alot. But I have also seen it in Charismatic/Pentecostal and Baptisty churches I have gone to. You see, we all want a God we can control...a tame God. If we have him perfectly boxed into our theology, he's in our cage...and since he is conquered we do not spend our time in (proper) childlike wonder examining the glimpses of his beauty that he gives us. We turn a living God into paper and then run over him and other people (in His name). We turn him into a formula that we can pimp and use when we desire.

And those people that really do love Jesus and want to love other people like Jesus loves? ...I usually look down on them. They sacrifice too much theology in their practice, or they aren't associated with the right group, etc, etc etc. But really, it's just that they are not doing it the way I'd do it, so I'm going to *****. (Even though I'm not doing anything)

So Donny, you're writing about me even if I don't usually line up in the "New Legalism" camp. I still live in a dead orthodoxy so much of the time, even as God breathes more life into me (praise God) by teaching me to love Him and love others as Jesus does.
I appreciate your honesty, Jonathan, and I think this applies to everyone in some way. I still struggle with it toward many people, and even find myself doing it toward the very conservatives I am ranting about.
It really didn't hit me until a time when I was with a group of Christian drummers that get together once a month to make noise. There is a short devotion sort of thing beforehand every time, and I decided, once, to actually try and listen. Instead of trying to find what was wrong with what the guy said, I look for what was good. It was pretty amazing how different my perspective was. Instead of hearing him talk favorably about his family and the importance of it in the life of the Church and thinking, "Silly evangelical, you hate your family. In fact, you probably have used birth control!", I tried to be charitable and actually learned something. Amazing what not being an ass all the time can do.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 02:10 PM   #4
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In the Episcopal Church, it has been the case that both liberals and conservatives have taken dastardly measures to quell opposition to their agendas. I'm not sure that one could pin down one group as more culpable in this or that area. I think that the reality among Christians is that we are still under the curse of the remnant of sin.

However, another reality is that there are many among us who are wolves in sheep's clothing. I could mention a few names of those who would reject the teaching of the Scriptures who would be considered "liberal Episcopalians" but who are not, in fact, Christians. It would be useful to delineate between liberal Christians and those who subscribe to the religion of Liberalism as explained by J. Gresham Machen. If a person does not hold to the essential truths of the Faith, that is the Trinity, the universal depravity of humanity, the salvation of believers by grace alone through faith alone in the atoning sacrifice of Christ alone, and the coming judgment of all, then they're not really a Christian. Unfortunately, that eliminates a great number of people in many churches. On the "liberal" side, we have universalists, and on the "conservative" side, we have modern-day Pelagians. Granted, the former group is much larger than the latter, but they are both forces of heresy within the Church. Neither is true to the nature of their names, and neither fits into the historical formulation of Christianity.

What I see is a lack of charity by all people, Christian or not, towards those who disagree with them, though they often cover their lack of love in a blanket of tolerance. The way Christians ought to stand together is to love one another, defend the faith, correct those in error, and show forth the rich love that God has given us in Christ. Zeal for sound doctrine is necessary, but it must be tempered by a zeal for charity as well. The person with correct doctrine who does not love his neighbor is a heretic, doomed to Hell, just as his neighbor who worships the no-face god of Liberalism. Love, born of the mercies of Christ, is the mark of a Christian.

Does that mean that we don't correct one another with strong words? By no means! Paul proclaims,

Gal 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
Gal 1:7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!


However, Paul's warning was written in love, to warn the Galatians against deserting the Gospel. Likewise, we ought to be zealous of the Gospel for Christ's sake, and not for any sort of self-righteousness.

Among Christians of all sorts, I think that the cure for this situation is nothing more or less than the work of the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ. We should pray that He would enliven our love for Him, and for our neighbors, that we would be faithful in every deed.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 02:27 PM   #5
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Well said, all of you. I notice it too.

I especially liked your comments, Athanasius.

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Unread 01-19-2005, 02:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Adams
The person with correct doctrine who does not love his neighbor is a heretic, doomed to Hell, just as his neighbor who worships the no-face god of Liberalism. Love, born of the mercies of Christ, is the mark of a Christian.
I would argue that saying "the no-face god of Liberalism" seems to be just what Donny is talking about. Considering myself liberal, I could find it offensive to say that because I consider myself liberal (I like progressive...does that make me picky?) then I have no concept of God. There's no basis for saying that.

The thing is that because of our political climate, "conservative" and "liberal" have taken up new, more aggressive forms. I am socially very liberal, but the book of Luke is still my favorite book. I can still love Jesus, know Jesus, and preach Jesus without liking George Bush, or subscribing to an -ism.

This may be too ranty and way off topic, but hey, I figured what the heck. Besides, Aaron is my favorite conservative in the world, and I just had to engage the discourse.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 02:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NSJ0309
I would argue that saying "the no-face god of Liberalism" seems to be just what Donny is talking about. Considering myself liberal, I could find it offensive to say that because I consider myself liberal (I like progressive...does that make me picky?) then I have no concept of God. There's no basis for saying that.

The thing is that because of our political climate, "conservative" and "liberal" have taken up new, more aggressive forms. I am socially very liberal, but the book of Luke is still my favorite book. I can still love Jesus, know Jesus, and preach Jesus without liking George Bush, or subscribing to an -ism.

This may be too ranty and way off topic, but hey, I figured what the heck. Besides, Aaron is my favorite conservative in the world, and I just had to engage the discourse.
Thanks for bringing up that point, Nick. Let me say really clearly that I am distinguishing between liberal Christians and those who believe what J. Gresham Machen calls Liberalism. Since most people haven't read Machen, I'll explain.

The nature of God and the nature of humanity is central to Christianity. The person of Jesus Christ as the sole mediator between God and humanity, as God incarnate, as the perfect sacrifice for the whole world, is central to Christianity. The moral codes that we affirm flow out of our conception of the character of God and our concept of sin as rebellion against Him. The belief in the historicity of the resurrection is central to Christianity.

Liberalism as defined by Machen in Christianity & Liberalism involves the abandonment of these doctrines, which are the metaphysical and epistemological foundation for our ethical formulations, in favor of merely affirming some general moral code and a god who really isn't concerned about sin and redemption, and wherein Christ is not really taken seriously as God incarnate, but as a sort of figure to which we look for inspiration. The death of Christ is seen not as a redemptive act by which God's wrath towards sinners is quenched, but as a sort of prime example of what it means to live a life which exemplifies the ethic previously mentioned.

That's why I called the god of Liberalism (as here defined) a "no-face god." That god isn't uniquely manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, and that god didn't deliberately choose to die on a cross as a ransom for many, and the no-face god is not really distinguished from the gods of Deism or Islam.

This is very widely distinguished from liberal Christians who trust in Jesus for salvation by virtue of His sacrifice on the Cross and NOT by their own works or some denial of the sinfulness of men. A liberal Christian can disagree with Rush Limbaugh and George Bush, support the legalization of marijuana, question the biblical case against pre-marital sex, and may hold to a largely figurative view of the Scriptures, and perhaps a low consideration of Biblical authority. What a liberal Christian cannot do is deny the Incarnation, the Resurrection, or the Atonement. A liberal Christian cannot deny the sinfulness of humanity and the need for Grace. A liberal Christian is still a Christian, after all.

But what of the religion of Liberalism? It lives within the Church, though it is not numbered as Her Members. What of Christianity does it retain? It denies the Biblical concept of God, Jesus Christ, humanity, sin, grace, redemption, atonement, salvation, revelation, and eternity. It retains only some vague reference to Biblical terminology.

So, I hope that I have avoided offense, Nick. I did not intend for you to think I was naming you as someone who believes in a no-face god.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 03:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Adams
So, I hope that I have avoided offense, Nick. I did not intend for you to think I was naming you as someone who believes in a no-face god.
Of course not! Just wanted to raise the point for the sake of clarification, for which I thank you. Keep rockin'. Like Dokken.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 04:31 PM   #9
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I see it all the time, Donny. I take a rather liberal view on many things, but I usually don't allow myself to get into arguments about it so I think a lot of my friends don't know it about me. Within that I think they assume I agree with them on everything they say just because I don't raise a voice of opposition. It's often sad to see how much badmouthing is done against others when people think those around them are in agreement. I dunno, I just see things getting too heated when people discuss things they disagree on, and this seems to be made worse by setting themselves against each other even beforehand when talking with those that they agree with.

Proverbs 26:20
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

I think this applies to talking bad about those dirty liberals/conservatives and how dumb they are with your friends.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 04:58 PM   #10
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I agree with you Donny, i have seen it a lot. Where people get so caught up in being uber-conservative, and try to be holy on their own standing by not doing a lot of things they think are sinful(which in all actuality may not be, like playing golf). yeah. Its is easy to get caught in the those particulars, and miss the fact that we are saved by grace and called to love, which is not evident in some of the said uber-conservatives.

also noting that theres is pretty much the same to say about uber-liberalism. A good healthy galance is in order I think.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 05:12 PM   #11
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Something I've observed recently: "fundamentalism" is not just a conservative phenomenon. Our culture is split between two equally "fundamentalist" groups with opposite viewpoints:

The conservative fundamentalists, for whom unquestioning acceptance of various doctrines and opinions is the highest virtue, vs. the liberal fundamentalists, for whom tolerance is the only, and the highest, virtue.

The conservatives, for whom rejection of abortion and homosexuality and similar issues is the mark of a true believer, vs. the liberals who will attack anyone with the gall to suggest that homosexuality is changable or that the unborn have rights.

Both sides cling to their beliefs and refuse to listen to contradictory scientific information, while simultaneously using science to attempt to prove themselves right (for example, the liberal stance on homosexuality as an inborn trait, despite the enourmous weight of scientific evidence against it).

As I see it, true Christianity consists in resisting the attraction of either of these polar opposites, turning away from the addictive thrill of certainty and self-righteousness and accepting a God Who can only be described fully by paradoxes. It's only when we give up our right to utter certainty and instead rest in the God to Whom all things are known that we are truly practicing Christianity.

It's certainly a powerful feeling to be certain that you're right and to be surrounded by people who stroke your ego by never contradicting you; it's certainly a powerful feeling to be able to dismiss, with self-righteous distain, those who believe differently. But I think that's a temptation that we, as Christians, need to resist.
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Unread 01-19-2005, 06:26 PM   #12
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awesome awesome words Donny.. I find that very true in the circles I run in... there ARE those out there who are very VERY strong concervatives who are NOT like that, and who are genuinly great people.. but that doesn't seam to be the norm. I know what i believe to be the best advice.. but to turn that into a sin is like... Like the Pharasees saying that not washing before you ate was a sin. A good idea, but not of eternal importance.

Anyways.. I think the one thing to keep in mind in everything is that we serve an all powerful God.. and if we truly trust Him, then we can trust that HE can change the lives of those who we dissagree with. It's HIS job to make that person more like Him. If we remember that we are all a work in progress... and that even the cleanest person's rightiousness is as a fithly rag... then we wouldn't have the same attitudes.
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Unread 01-20-2005, 08:31 AM   #13
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heres a perfect example for ya donny. Spongebob is gay.
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Unread 01-20-2005, 08:45 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron
What a liberal Christian cannot do is deny the Incarnation, the Resurrection, or the Atonement. A liberal Christian cannot deny the sinfulness of humanity and the need for Grace. A liberal Christian is still a Christian, after all.
I think for liberal Christians in particular, things like Incarnation, Ressurection and the Atonement all take on an ethical, practical teaching that is wholly missing from conservative/fundementalist thinking. If we are the Body of Christ (God made man/Incarnation) what will the world look like when we die for it (Atonement) and are reborn (Ressurection)? And how do we get there?
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Unread 01-20-2005, 11:23 AM   #15
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Quote:
I think for liberal Christians in particular, things like Incarnation, Ressurection and the Atonement all take on an ethical, practical teaching that is wholly missing from conservative/fundementalist thinking. If we are the Body of Christ (God made man/Incarnation) what will the world look like when we die for it (Atonement) and are reborn (Ressurection)? And how do we get there?
I think you just blew my mind with a single sentence.
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