By Doug Newman
This is a reworking of something I originally wrote in 2008.
Posted on Facebook.
If I could preach a sermon on the Sunday before Election Day, this would be it:
Today’s teaching is entitled “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Godliness”. The subtitle is “The Theology of America.”
While I will touch on numerous contemporary political and social issues, a few things will be off limits. Specifically, I will not be mentioning the name of any candidate, party or contemporary political figure. And I will not talk about voting.
I will be making a brief reference to the current president, as well as to one of the 2016 presidential candidates. However, I will not mention their names or go into any detail about either of them.
Christianity is an intellectual exercise. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37) We come to church to glorify God. God gave us each an absolutely incredible brain that does 20 trillion calculations every second. We glorify God when we engage and stimulate our brains, not when we turn them into apple sauce talking about this year’s election.
I am going to begin the way the senior pastor of my old church used to begin: with a Scripture reading, a prayer and a story from history.
Let’s go to work.
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:13-16.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Heavenly Father: Thank You for this day and for this fellowship. I pray today that people understand that this is not about politics, but about our call to be light in a world of darkness and salt in a world of decay. I pray that they understand that the example we set with our daily lives is far more powerful in influencing our society in a Christian direction than whatever they might do in the upcoming election.
In the name of Your Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
On the evening of July 4, 1776, in London, England, King George III made the following entry in his diary: “Nothing important happened today.” Telecommunications would not come into existence until 1836 and no trans-Atlantic cables would be laid until 1866. Hence, he had no way of knowing what had transpired that day in Philadelphia.
On that day 56 courageous men pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to support a declaration that read, in part, as follows:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The importance of this event was profound, not only in a historical and political sense, but also in a biblical sense. Some of the signers were Christians. Some were not. However, the ideas set forth in the Declaration of Independence, as well as our Constitution, represent the closest attempt in the modern world to institute a biblical form of government. These ideas have a profound biblical basis.
Our Founding Documents severely limit the size and scope of the federal government. Why should Christians care about this? Because hope in the state and hope in kings and princes and presidents is a false hope. (Psalm 146:3-4)
Jesus had no political agenda. He wasn’t a left-winger or a right-winger. He wouldn’t join your party or my party. He wouldn’t vote for your candidate or my candidate. Any attempt to fit Jesus into your political box trivializes His Name.
Moreover, Jesus was neither a “liberal” nor a “conservative”. Liberalism and conservatism are not biblical concepts. They are worldly philosophies and therefore doomed to failure. (Isaiah 29:14; I Corinthians 1:19-20; II Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 2:8)
Jesus was offered political power three times and each time He rejected it. (Matthew 4:8-10; John 6:15; Acts 1:6)
I see so many Christians so enamored with political candidates and so obsessed with getting certain candidates elected. Why? Where do we get this idea that if we elect the right people and if they pass the right laws we will eventually arrive at some optimal kind of Christian society? Where do we get this idea that Jesus would take sides politically?
Gregory Boyd, who pastors a large church in Minnesota, has said that the more Christians entangle ourselves with the kingdoms of the world, the more we become like the world in the very worst way.
The kingdoms of the world operate through brute force and the threat of force. Do as the state says or its agents will fine you, jail you or kill you. As Mao Zedong, who was very proficient at killing people, put it: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Jesus’ Kingdom, on the other hand, is not of this world. (John 18:36) Jesus did not operate by means of force. Instead, He taught with authority. (Mark 1:22)
The philosopher Hannah Arendt differentiated power and authority this way:
“Power is the ability to force compliance with one’s demands; authority is the ability to command voluntary obedience.”
Jesus only initiated force one time: when He kicked the moneychangers out of the Temple. There was no political or social aim here. He just wanted to rid the Temple of people who had used it for ungodly purposes. In recent years, I have seen numerous churches and ministries poisoned by political partisanship. And it is not just THOSE churches OVER THERE that have been influenced by the slimebuckets in THAT PARTY. It is also these churches over here that have been influenced by folks in this party.
You have heard it said that “we should never discuss politics in church.” Really? Where do people get that idea?
About 20 years ago, my pastor delivered a series of teachings entitled “The Theology of Everything.” He covered some apparently absurd topics. He talked about the theology of the music we listen to, the movies we watch, knowledge, science and the game of baseball. One sermon dealt in part with some lyrics from Alanis Morrisette.
I guess that would be the theology of ornery chick music.
The pastor’s point was this: God’s Fingerprint is on everything.
The Bible contains the word “king” as well as variations on it almost 2000 times. The Bible begins with the Creation story and ends with predictions of all sorts of cataclysmic End Time events. Do these subjects not find their way into our contemporary politics?
I can understand pastors who say they are uneasy talking about how Christians ought to view their government. There are lots of subjects I am uncomfortable discussing. This does not mean they are not important.
To say, however, that “we should never discuss politics in church” is at best a wimpy and pathetic cop out and at worst a damnable heresy.
We can talk about Oprah and 50 Shades of Grey and whatever little Hollywood strumpet just went into rehab for the fourth time in as many months. But we are paralyzed when it comes to talking about our government. And we have paid a great price. We are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)
Consider these two quotes from R.J. Rummel, professor emeritus of history at the University of Hawaii:
“Power kills. Absolute power kills absolutely.”
“During the 20th century…170 million men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners.”
When people run wild, you get Woodstock. But when governments run wild, you get Auschwitz. Is there something Christian about eight-digit body counts? The most prolific mass murderers in history have always been those who held political power.
That is exactly why Christians need to care about government in general and to keep a watchful eye on their own governments regardless of who is in power. Some of Hitler’s biggest support came from Christians who were seduced into giving him unlimited power.
So what is the connection between the Scriptures and America’s Founding?
First, let me give you a grotesque oversimplification of the philosophy inherent in our Founding documents.
- There is a God. And He is not the God of the Deists, who believe that God made the world and then just moseyed on His way. The Declaration of Independence speaks of a “Creator”. It speaks of “Nature’s God” who takes an active interest in human affairs. They appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world.” The relied on the “protection of Divine Providence”.
- This Creator endows us “with certain unalienable Rights”.
- Government exists to protect these rights.
- The powers delegated to the federal government are, in Madison’s words, “few and defined.” When we let government overstep its bounds, we place ourselves in grave danger.
The biblical roots of the principles set forth in these documents are profound.
The concept that we are created equal is found in Acts 10:34. The Law of Nature is found in Romans 2:14-16. The right to life is found in Genesis 2:7. That liberty is a gift from God, and not a privilege to be granted or revoked by government is found in Leviticus 25:10, II Corinthians 3:17 and Galatians 5:1. The pursuit of happiness is found in Ecclesiastes 3:13.
The separation of powers into three government branches is based in Isaiah 33:22.
The First Amendment has its roots in at least 5 places. (Daniel 3 and 6, Acts 4:19 and 5:29 and Proverbs 27:17)
The immunity of churches from taxation has its roots in Ezra 7:24.
The Second Amendment has its roots in at least 4 places. (I Samuel 13:19-21, Proverbs 25:26, Luke 11:21, 22 and Luke 22:35, 36)
The Bill of Rights, which is actually a bill of prohibitions on Uncle Sam, is really the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) applied to politics. Its protections apply to both citizens and non-citizens. (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 24:22 and Deuteronomy 1:16, 24:17, 27:19.)
Consider the Fourth Amendment and its requirement of search warrants. Do you like people reading over your shoulder or asking you too many personal questions? Then don’t give your government license to barge into other people’s lives!
Consider the Fifth Amendment and self-incrimination. Would you like to be forced to testify against yourself? Then why should people be forced to testify against themselves? When Jesus was before the high priests, right before He was crucified, He even said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil.” (John 18:23) See also Luke 23:9.
Consider the Sixth Amendment, which deals with jury trials and the rights of the accused. Have you ever been falsely accused? Did you enjoy it? (Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 19:18-19, Proverbs 24:28 and 25:18 and Matthew 18:16) Deuteronomy 19:15 requires multiple witnesses to establish a fact and obtain a conviction. (See also Numbers 35:24; Job 31:35, Isaiah 50:8 and Acts 25:27) Your right to face your accuser is based on Acts 25:16.
The Sixth and Seventh Amendment guarantee the right to trial by jury. (See Numbers 35:24) When the Constitution was written juries had the power not only to judge the facts but also the laws relevant to the case. And if even one juror thought the law unbiblical, unconstitutional, unjust or just plain stupid, he could vote to acquit and the defendant would walk. This is the ultimate check on bad laws. It has a basis in the Bible. (Isaiah 10:1, Luke 11:46)
Consider the Eighth Amendment. What is Christian about cruel and unusual punishment?
Consider the Ninth Amendment, which protects your right to do all kinds of things as long as they do not harm another. Smoking marijuana – a plant that God gave us in Genesis 1:11 — and home schooling your children – come to mind. You don’t have to like what another person is doing. However, Scripture tells us to leave them alone. (Proverbs 3:30)
Christians are some of the biggest control freaks and busybodies in today’s world. This is just not biblical. (I Thessalonians 4:11, II Thessalonians 3:11, I Timothy 5:13 and I Peter 4:15)
Colossians 2:20-23 is a wonderful passage on the folly of so much moral legislation we see nowadays. It may look like we are instilling morals, but such laws do not – and cannot – curb our carnal appetites.
Morality cannot be instilled by force. Jesus will never force His way into a person’s life. (Revelation 3:20) A truly wholesome and godly life is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and nothing else. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
Consider the Tenth Amendment, which forbids Uncle Sam from engaging in any activity not especially authorized elsewhere in the Constitution. This is another way of saying “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25)
Too often I talk to people who think this Scripture means that we should just give Caesar everything he demands and then sit down and shut up. This is a recipe for tyranny and godlessness if there ever was one. Remember all those Christians who gave up their liberty to Hitler?
I want to talk for a minute about something we have rendered unto Caesar that we never should have, i.e. the government schools. If you are a public school teacher or employed there in some other capacity, I thank God for you and I pray that you are being a godly witness there.
Some of you are not going to like this. The reason the government schools are so messed up is that they have no basis either biblically or in any of our Founding documents. The idea of state education goes back to Plato and is a policy plank of the Communist Manifesto.
It cannot be made Christian. I don’t care how hard you try to reform it or how many Christians you elect to school boards. In just one or two election cycles the secularists will again get the upper hand and undo everything the Christians have done.
Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4 direct parents and no one else to raise their kids.
Let’s look at just a few other aspects of the Constitution.
Consider the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Is there anything Christian about arbitrary arrest and indefinite imprisonment on the basis of an accusation without Due Process?
And then there is the prohibition on Bills of Attainder. This means that you cannot legislate punishment. The clearest examples of this are the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the forced relocation of various Indian tribes throughout history. I ask: what is Christian about this?
Consider the power of Congress “To coin Money, regulate the value thereof … and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures.” There are at least six Scriptures relating to this issue. (Leviticus 19:35, 36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 11:1, 20:10, 23; Ezekiel 45:10-12; Amos 8:4-7 and Micah 6:11)
Money units are means of measurement, just like ounces, feet and gallons. Indeed, if you look at other currencies, such as the British Pound, the Mexican Peso and the former Italian Lira, their very names refer to weight.
Biblical money is always a specific fixed weight of a precious metal. (Genesis 23:15-16; Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 25:27; Numbers 3:47 and 18:16; Deuteronomy 22:19; I Kings 10:14; II Kings 5:22-23, 6:25; Nehemiah 5:15; Jeremiah 32:9-10)
Our American dollar was originally defined so that twenty dollars would purchase one ounce of gold. We started moving away from this with the advent of fiat currency in 1913. Money could then be created at will out of thin air.
Do you know why we have the inflation we do and that so many other societies have so much more? Do you know why America has over $19 trillion in debt? The answer is simple: we have rejected biblical money. Since 1913, our dollar has lost 98 percent of its value.
I am not going to get into great detail about the Federal Reserve – which is not federal and has no reserve. However, it is godless and corrupt to its very core core. I will give you a quotation from Henry Ford, and then move on:
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our Banking and Monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a Revolution before tomorrow morning.”
Let’s talk about another economic issue: a market economy versus a socialist economy. With the Eighth and Tenth Commandments, God ordains private property and a market economy. Theft and covetousness are the very basis of socialism.
America became the mightiest economic machine the world has ever seen because – more than any country – we heeded to the Eighth and Tenth Commandments. In fact, we did not have a personal income tax until 1913. An income tax gradually turns us into slaves – i.e. involuntarily laboring for someone else’s benefit. It violates I Corinthians 7:23.
We have had prosperity and abundance like no other nation in history. We are the only nation on earth where people can drive their car down to a rally, protest that they are not getting enough food stamps, drive home again and watch that rally on their color TV set that evening.
The first 14 verses of Deuteronomy 28 promise great material blessings to those who obey God’s laws. The last 54 verses spell out great curses for those who ignore His laws.
Our current economic turmoil is a direct result of departing from biblical teaching on economics. We walked away from sound money backed by gold and silver and turned to paper money. We allowed ourselves to be taxed as aggressively as people in Britain, Sweden, France and so many countries that we deride as being socialist.
And if you don’t believe we are socialist, ponder this: Social Security and Medicare have $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Those are monies promised to you and me that they do not have the resources to pay out. We are headed toward an economic wall for a lot of reasons. The main reason is that we have forsaken God’s teaching about economics.
What about the poor? Shouldn’t we be helping the poor? Yes, WE should be helping the poor voluntarily. As II Corinthians 9:7 tells us:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
I can put a gun at your head to pay a tax, but this is not charity. It is extortion. True charity is voluntary. Like any Christian virtue, it cannot be forced.
At the end of Acts 2 and Acts 4, we see communities of Christians who lived together in a very communal fashion. This was not the result of a progressive income tax, but of the Holy Spirit.
One other thing about economics and let’s move on.
People often say that a free market leads to huge economic disparities that are incompatible with Jefferson’s statement that “all men are created equal.” The best answer I have ever heard to this comes from Malcolm Muggeridge, a British author who was a very outspoken Christian.
“Only as children of God are we equal; all other claims to equality — social, economic, racial, intellectual, sexual — only serve in practice to intensify inequality.”
Let me illustrate. One percent of the people in the old Soviet Union were equalizers and the other 99 percent were the equalizees, 80 million of whom were killed by the equalizers. If you don’t like inequality under a market economy, try it under a Marxist economy.
There are many more subjects here that I haven’t covered. But time is short this morning, so I will now transition from Christian thinking into Christian living.
So what are we to do with what we now know? How shall we now live? How shall we influence our society for the better if not through politics?
We opened this morning with a passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus did not preach this to a group of politically and economically powerful people at some imperial prayer breakfast or Values Voters Summit at some Taj Mahal of a megachurch in Rome. Rather, he preached it to common simple people in a forgotten backwater of the Roman Empire.
There was no doubt all kinds of sin and vice and debauchery in Jesus’ time. Moreover, Christianity was an outlaw religion for the first few centuries of its existence. Yet, we never hear Jesus or Paul or anyone else talking about “mobilizing” Christian voters to “take back Rome.”
Yes, I believe Christians should vote and that they should keep a vigilant and discerning eye on their worldly governments. However, all this talk about “mobilizing” Christian voters to “take back America” is worldly talk and not godly talk. That is not how you change society in a godly direction.
The first three words of the United States Constitution are “We the people.”
Just in case anyone is confused, that means US!
It also means everything that emanates from us.
Again, Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) As Christians, our citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
The kingdoms of man operate from the top down and from the outside in. They compel behavior through brute force.
The Kingdom of God influences our lives through the Holy Spirit. It works through moral conviction. It changes our lives individually. (Hebrews 4:12-13) While it lacks the allure of the kingdoms of the world it has a far more powerful influence on human behavior.
And it has had profound results in society.
A century ago, it was perfectly legal for a ten-year-old to walk into a corner drug store, plop down cash and buy heroin. And we didn’t have one percent of the drug problem we have now with a veritable police state! Why? Because parents had a far stronger presence in the lives of their children and preachers had no inhibitions about preaching about sin and Hell!
Slavery was well on its way out in the 1850s. It was only a matter of time before it went away. One of the great lies in American history is that we needed a war to end slavery. Yes, economics and technology played a part. But far more important was the conviction in the hearts and minds of Americans that slavery was just plain wrong.
I believe that the real victory in the civil rights revolution of the 1960s was, again, the growing conviction in the hearts and minds of Americans that segregation and discrimination and racism were just plain wrong.
The movement to end slavery as well as the civil rights movement a century later had profound Christian roots. These things did not happen top-down out of Washington, DC. Rather, they happened from the bottom up.
In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus tells us not to exercise self-righteous power over people, but to be their servants. In John 13:5, Jesus, i.e. the King of the Universe, washes the disciples feet! Imagine calling your city councilperson and asking him or her to wash your feet!
The Christian life is not glamorous. The real dirty-fingernail work of Christianity is not going to make headlines. It is not about electing people to office and elevating them to totally undue levels of power and glory. In Hosea 8:4, God rebukes the nation of Israel saying:
“They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not….”
In the First Century, a Roman official said this to the Emperor Hadrian about the Christians he had encountered.
“They love one another; they never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them; if they have something they give it freely to those who have nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home and are happy as though he were a real brother.”
Even though Christianity was an outlaw religion, this did not stop Christians from setting a noble example with their lives. To paraphrase this Roman official: “These Christians sure are cool. They are different in a good and positive way. They live their lives in a way that we should aspire to.”
What example are you setting with your life? Are you actively in the pursuit of godliness? Does your life radiate the fruits of the Spirit, i.e. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23) Do people see you as just a cut above others? Do people see you setting an example that they want to emulate? Do people even like you?
I am no better than anyone and I am not saying this to brag. I have set a pretty rotten Christian example many times in my life and I am really struggling with some spiritual issues as I speak. However, I can tell you that I have a lot of secular friends who like being around me because they know I am a Christian and they just see something different. I am very convinced that someday some of these people will become Christians.
This is how we influence our world. From the bottom up! From the grassroots! It is not glamorous, but this is how God tells us to work. He tells us to live such godly lives that secular people cannot help but notice something profoundly different about us. (I Peter 2:12) We will need to do much more of this in the days and years ahead.
Consider Jeremiah 8:20: “The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”
As we used to say in the Navy, prepare for some heavy rolls. The intensifying turmoil that we see around us is just part of the storm that I have seen gathering since the early 1990s. These events are part of what I call the Big Ramp-Up to the End Times prophesied so often throughout Scripture.
I once received an e-mail from a friend counseling me and others to do the following:
“Shut off the TV and radio, turn off your computer (check e-mails only as absolutely necessary), throw away the worldly newspapers and mags, and sit down with the Holy Bible and read that for a while and let God speak to your heart. Do that for a month and see how much clearer your thinking will be.”
Get back into your Bible and get a grip on things. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. (II Timothy 1:7) Courage is not the absence of fear, but stepping forward and doing what you are called to do in spite of your fear. You were made for a time such as this. (Esther 4:14) God put you here at this place, at this point in history and in your current set of circumstances for a reason as part of His Divine Plan. Jesus promised that we will have tribulation, but told us to be of good cheer, as He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Revelation 13 prophesies a world economy, a world religion and a totalitarian world government. Do not be deceived! The Antichrist is going to look so good in the world’s eyes. And he will be a political figure. Do not fall for this. Do not take the chip or any other “mark”. Do not be conformed to the world. (Romans 12:2)
I know this might be scary. I know you want rest for your soul. But I am just trying to be a watchman on the wall. (Ezekiel 33:6)
I have been struggling with some issues lately and some friends have reminded me that our current circumstances might seem insurmountable, but they are microscopic against the backdrop of eternity. They are just a zit on a whale’s butt. How’s that for a profound theology?
Just remember that as a Christian, your King is radically different than any earthly king or prince or president or dictator. Jesus had no blueprint for society or plan for humanity. He had no Great Society, Great Leap Forward, Five-Year Plan or Thousand-Year Reich. (1)
However, He does offer us a New Deal. This New Deal has nothing to do with government programs. But rather, if you will just place your faith in Him, you will have everlasting life.
He sends us out like sheep among wolves and instructs us to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. And if we just stand firm in our faith until the end, we will be saved. (Matthew 10:16, 22)
So let’s be torchbearers for Jesus. Let us carry His light into a world of darkness. When you turn on a light in a dark room, it instantly defeats the darkness. Let us have that effect upon the world. (John 1:5)
Our next president can tax us into the pavement, micromanage our lives with all manner of incomprehensible laws, imprison us for all manner of victimless offenses and bomb the crap out of countries around the world. Under a new law, he can now order anyone imprisoned indefinitely on a mere accusation without any due process whatsoever.
However, he cannot change your heart and he can’t change mine. The only way for true change to occur is through an abiding, daily reliance upon the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.
I know our president would have us think that change is affected by an omnipotent government. Just so you don’t think I am dropping political hints, there is some guy running around out there with a funky red ball cap who is asking us to put him in charge so we can “make America great again”.
He is just as wrong. Expecting any one person to make a country great is in no way biblical. It is a totally false hope. True national greatness comes from from praying, humbling ourselves, seeking God and turning from our wicked ways – II Chronicles 7:14.
Dear God, let this national heeling start with me.
I used to get e-mails from someone who would sign off with his name and with the following recommendation: “Save a kid. Shoot your TV set.”
This might sound somewhat raw and probably not very tactful. But it is exactly the kind of personal responsibility and rigid self-honesty we so desperately need if we seriously want the kind of society that so many of us say that we want.
Heavenly Father: Thank You again for this day and this fellowship. I pray that people heard this not as some anti-government rant or as a subliminal pitch for a particular candidate. Rather, my prayer is that people have been reminded about the importance of having a biblical worldview and of being light in a world of darkness and salt in a world of decay. And that no matter what happens on in the November election, the real work of influencing our society consists of the examples we set in our daily lives. So let’s just leave it where we found it in Matthew 5:16. I pray fervently that, as we go forth from here today, we let our light so shine before men that they see our good works and that one by one by one they too come to glorify You: our Father in Heaven.
In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, all God’s people said Amen.
(1) I did not think of that last sentence myself. I wish I knew who said it, so I could give credit where due.
A Handbook of Bible Law – mindblowing stuff.
The Biblical Foundation of Our Constitution – more mindblowing stuff.
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