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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (XII)

Rejecting the Religious Right

There is a decided movement within what has historically been called evangelicalism to disassociate itself from the so-called Religious Right. This isn’t totally surprising for a number of reasons, not least of which is that evangelicalism has been moving to the left theologically and politically for a while. In addition, most Christians agree that neither the Democrat nor Republican parties represent Christianity. Unfortunately, there are some Christians that tend to identify being Christian with being Republican, but the two are not identical.

Christians do, however, have to make decisions with regards to certain public policies. For example, as a Christian, do you vote for a candidate that is pro-choice? Do you, or should you, vote for a candidate with poor foreign and economic policies? Is it wise to cast your vote for a candidate who is for big, ever-expanding government? How big of an issue is universal health care? Of course, we discuss these types of things all the time and Christians make decisions regarding them.

I preface my remarks this way because there is, among some who call themselves Christians, an aversion to the politics of the Religious Right. The phrase has almost become anathema in certain Christian circles. As a reaction to the RR, some who call themselves Christians have jumped on the global warming bandwagon, drive a Prius, and are in favor of “flex-fuels,” notwithstanding the fact that it takes a gallon-and-a-half of gasoline to produce one gallon of ethanol. That’s funny.

The reaction to the RR is producing its own brand of political animal under the guise of caring for the poor, destitute, and marginalized. In addition, they have formulated definite views on issues such as illegal immigration, “patriotic idolatry,”[1] drilling in ANWR or offshore, homosexuality, mysticism, universal health care, the death penalty, just war, no tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other matters dealing with the redistribution of wealth. My point here is simply this: These are all liberal, left-wing, typically Democrat Party issues, along with their two other favorites: evolution and abortion. You need to know this as a Christian in your decision-making process about political and economical factors.

A few names need to be mentioned here. In 1972, Eerdmans published John Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus.[2] Ron Sider has been a fixture in the cause for the poor and Third World countries for a while.[3] In the more recent past, J. Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh co-authored The Transforming Vision,[4] Glen Stassen and David Gushee co-authored Kingdom Ethics,[5] Jim Wallis wrote God’s Politics,[6] and has a new book entitled The Great Awakening,[7] with the Foreword written by Jimmy Carter, and Brian McLaren published Everything Must Change.[8] As another point of interest, I would mention the late James McClendon’s first volume of his systematic theology entitled Ethics.[9] Finally, Tony Campolo has written Letters to a Young Evangelical (Basic Books, 2006).

No doubt, young evangelicals will pick up Campolo’s book and find it “cool.” While McLaren, Wallis, and Campolo rail against the Religious Right, I would like to add a disclaimer and postscript to Campolo’s book that reads: Warning: you are being indoctrinated in Socialist/Marxist ideology. You see that is precisely the problem with these compassionate theologians. They demonize the RR without explaining to you that they are truly the RL (Religious Left). In one sense, this is an unconscionable approach. It’s fine to warn against the dangers that they believe are lurking in the RR, but they should be up front enough to be willing to lay their ideological cards on the table while they’re explaining life and their worldview to you.

By his own admission, Campolo desires to bring about God’s Kingdom by “progressive politics” (p. 3). Campolo and Wallis are in league together and Wallis even wrote a blurb on the jacket cover that reveals that Campolo is his favorite evangelist. That’s fine. We all have our favorites as well as those of whom we are less fond. Campolo and Wallis are joined by Sider and McLaren in their efforts. The net effect of the merry band’s “advice” is worse than the cure. If the Religious Right has embraced the Republican Party wholesale, this group has done the same thing with Socialism/Marxism. Unfortunately, in their zeal to demonstrate just how bad the RR really is and to convince young evangelical minds that it is their sworn enemy, they conveniently forget to mention that they are liberal, left-wing theologians whose views definitely have a profound impact upon our current political and economical structures. All of them seem to have let that little tidbit slip through the cracks, so I thought I’d bring it to your attention.

Like others in this camp, Campolo ostensibly uses the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) to give us the ethics of Jesus. This is a ploy used by many of these so-called “neutral” theologians/political commentators. One clear example will suffice. Old Mr. Starbucks with Birkenstocks himself, “Good Guy, Bri” gives us an explanation of the Sermon on the Mount that is completely bereft of exegesis, but is big on left-wing creativity. After introducing some select verses from Matthew 5, the Beatitudes, Bri opines that if Jesus were in a conversation with someone about the pervasive human pull towards war—what?—“I think he might say something like this:”[10] (Hold on, because this is going to be a bumpy ride in the imagination of the emergent church! What follows is only an excerpt of the whole page of fabricated words that Bri puts in Jesus’ mouth so that Jesus becomes a charter member of

“My message of the kingdom of God is intended to replace the drugs of nationalism, tribalism, partisanship, ethnocentrism, and religious elitism—and the war addiction they support.”[11] Translation: America really isn’t as great as you’ve been led to believe. Moreover, some Bible-thumping Christians believe that Christianity is the only way to be saved. Finally, America is a war-mongering nation, delirious with the joy of inflicting as much civilian collateral damage as possible—unlike our peace-loving enemies, who go out of their way to avoid such casualties, with the exception of millions who were raped and tortured—, and addicted to building empires for the sake of self-aggrandizement.

But the Jesus of Bri’s imagination isn’t finished yet. He continues, “Instead of resorting to violence for national or other lesser interest, my kingdom invites you to defect from all war making and invest yourselves in peace-making for God’s global interests and the common good of all God’s creations on the planet.”[12] When you stop and think about it, this sounds just like the Sermon on the Mount, doesn’t it? Right. Then WMJS (What Might Jesus Say) ends on this high note: “So replace your craving for security with a passionate hunger and thirst for justice, and you will be immune to the temptation to snort the tempting white powder of war, or shoot the mysterious yellow syringe of war, or swallow the sparkling, bubbling, golden champagne of war.”[13]

Wow. There are only a couple of small, insignificant details that need to be ironed out and this might qualify as an addition to the canon. First, old Bri is already on page 178 and his readers don’t have a clue precisely what constitutes “justice.” It might have been somewhat helpful if Bri would have let us know what he thinks justice is. He could have given us some biblical references, but that would be asking too much because you simply cannot quote Scripture while wearing Birkenstocks. It’s so uncool. Besides, Bri might be mistaken for a Bible-believing fundamentalist, which is a fate worse than death for a theological liberal.

Second, he might have given us some specific information about who, exactly, is the war junkie. Is it the Republican Party? Is it Republicans in general? Does his definition include Democrats who voted for the war? We’re just not sure.

Third, Bri could have explained why when Jesus and the apostles dealt with those in the military that they never told them to go AWOL or otherwise to get out of the armed forces. At the very least, he could have told them to stop snorting and shooting up the opium of “rape, pillage, and plunder.”

It’s stylish to write books to people as if you’re just having a casual, neutral, and non-tendentious conversation with them. Or, like Bri, you can get your point across through a character in your book like Neo. If a person on the RR used such a name as Neo, it would have to be a nickname for Neo-Neanderthal. When Bri uses it, it means Neo-Cool-Cutting-Edge. Campolo’s characters are Timothy and Junia. Listen to what he instructs these two young mushy-brained evangelicals on page 265: “There was no question in our minds that in the struggle for justice, God sides with the poor and oppressed against the strong and powerful. For the first time, these students understood liberation theology, and they supported it—if by ‘liberation theology’ we mean the declaration that in the struggle to end injustice God sides with the poor and oppressed against their oppressors.”

We can only wonder why Campolo found it necessary to mention liberation theology and then try to weasel his way out of it. He could have simply stated that Scripture provides the true liberation man needs, both in terms of the doctrine that the Bible teaches and in terms of the ethics that flow forth out of that doctrine. Instead, Campolo conjures up images of Moltmann and Gutierrez. Their brand of “liberation theology” is thoroughly Marxist and it would take a Junia and Timothy with a lot of discernment to decipher what Campolo really means.

It seems that much of what Campolo writes is mere window dressing and a smoke screen to get unsuspecting young evangelicals, who have little or no spiritual discernment, to believe that all he is doing is unveiling the obvious errors in the RR. He isn’t. He, Sider, Wallis, McLaren and others like them have a definite agenda that pretends to usher in the Kingdom of God via left-wing politics.

[1] That’s Brian McLaren’s term.

[2] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972). The 2nd edition appeared in 1994.

[3] Ron Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 19842).

[4] J. Richard Middleton & Brian Walsh, The Transforming Vision, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984).

[5] David Gushee & Glen Stassen, Kingdom Ethics, Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

[6] Jim Wallis, God’s Politics, (San Francisco: Harper, 2005).

[7] Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening, Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America, (NY: HarperOne, 2008).

[8] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, (Nashville: Tom Nelson, 2007).

[9] James W. McClendon, Jr., Ethics, Vol. 1 in his series Systematic Theology, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002). What is striking about the order of McClendon’s work is that before he addresses the doctrines of Scripture and God, he begins with ethics.

[10] McLaren, EMC, 178.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.



Blogger Randy said...

Oh Ronny,
I was liking the first half of the post, and then you began to get upset. You reminded me of old people whose fishing stories get bigger with every passing year.

If you want to use correct political terms, you shouldn't call the 'left' Marxists and the 'right' the Religious Right.
The far right in terms of politics would be fascism.

So, if Moltmann is a Marxist, then Calvin was a Fascist? Yea, I believe neither of those to be true.

You call Ron Sider a socialist and Jimmy Carter a peanut? Those are two men who walk the gospel, read the gospel, and share the gospel openly.

So, while you begin this post saying the gospel has nothing to do with politics, your politics and your gospel are interwoven more than you can ever see.

I'm sorry and saddened that you are so unwilling to see your own weeknesses.

Don't preach things you don't support. Don't preach that you are for smaller govt. & the democrats (aka communists) will create more social programs.

Your own administration created a one trillion dollar program over the past seven years - it's called the Iraq war. It also caused tens of thousands of deaths.

And please don't tell me this is the way passionate followers of Jesus run this planet when they get in power.

11:24 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


I think you need to go back to school. Seriously.

As for theology, well. If you want to know Jimmy Carter, read Paul Tillich. That's Jimmy's favorite theologian. Tillich is a heretic from the word go. These guys use plenty of Christianese, but in true Alice-in-Wonderland fashion, what they mean by their words is often different from what orthodox evangelicals mean (not to mention the biblical writers).

8:21 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

How much of Moltmann have you actually read? His theological methodology is heavily dependent on Ernst Bloch. His theology of hope remains eternally future and it is a well-known fact that he has strong leanings towards Marxism. Where have you been?
Your response is typical, though. You knee jerk without investigating, not wanting your liberal views to be called what they are.
Yes, I call Sider a socialist because I've read him along with Sowell, Kirk, Williams, and Hayek. Since Carter was president before you were born, you only know how bad he really is from books and they don't tell you anything. He was the worst president ever.
I didn't say that the gospel has nothing to do with politics. You're hopeless.

9:32 AM  
Blogger wordsmith said...

You know, if these guys want to believe this swill, that's one thing, although I wish they'd quit co-opting terms to suit their own fantasies. But what really irks me is the blatant, holier-than-thou hypocrisy of these pied pipers. They blast conservatives for being dogmatic, while they pontificate how they've got the answers regarding how the rest of us peons are supposed to act. Oh, and they're oh-so humble, too, don'cha know?

Truly humble people don't run around reminding everyone else about how humble they are.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...


Have you studied much liberation theology? Do you know the impetus behind it?

11:27 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Kyle, I've studied liberation theology in seminary as well as during my political science undergrad degree. I've also learned from Catholics while in Costa Rica.

Much of liberation theology stems from Western theology oppressing the poor. So, they find little hope in the present in terms of the gospel having value for this lifetime.

Ron - I very well recall Jimmy Carter winning an election over my hometown man by the name of Gerald Ford. While he had issues as a President, he's probably been the best carrier of the gospel following his presidency.

He loves people, cares for the poor, speaks and teaches the gospel message.

Even if he were a socialist... many socialists will make it into the eternal presence of God.

8:59 PM  
Blogger jazzact13 said...

I've long noticed that liberals will accuse and condemn conservative for doing the things liberals themselves are doing (I heard that it was Clinton who first started stressing Obama's middle name, for example, though Cunningham gets blasted for it).

I agree, I could at least have some respect (a small amount, maybe a bit above microscopic) if the Sojournor-types would at least fess-up to their inner (and ill-hidden) Democrat, and confess that their economic rhetoric is simply class warfare with a pseudo-biblical basis.

But I won't hold my breath for that confession. It's far more effective, I guess, to pretend to be going McLaren's "third way", even if there is no such thing.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Please define the words "poor" and "poverty" for me. Then, after you have given me the "Webster" definitions, tell me what Scripture says about it.
How can a man, whose favorite theologian is Paul Tillich, take the gospel to anyone. That's like saying Charles Finney did a lot of good.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Much of liberation theology stems from Western theology oppressing the poor. So, they find little hope in the present in terms of the gospel having value for this lifetime.

The whole idea of "Western theology oppressing the poor" stems from the Marxist critique of capitalism. The driving force behind liberation theology is Marxism dressed up in Christian drag. In distillation, liberation theology essentially teaches that the actualization of human potential (both on individual and communal levels) is part of God’s purpose for mankind, and therefore any obstacle to such actualization is an injustice which must be resisted and ultimately eliminated; in this role Christ serves as exemplar and vindicator of the oppressed. The Marxist critique becomes the hermeneutical principle by which Scripture is freed from the manipulations of the "oppressors."

7:26 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Ron said:
"How can a man, whose favorite theologian is Paul Tillich, take the gospel to anyone."

Are you kidding me? In other words, we need to hold to particular theolgians in order to follow the God of Abraham?

If this is your arguement Ron, then you've slipped into your own cult.

As for the poor, I'll leave that to the biblical text to define rather than Webster's or Wikkipedia. Jesus talked about those who were without food, water, shelter, and clothing. Paul writes about orphans and widows. That's probably a really good start.

Then again, I am no longer sure it matters since I'm no longer convinced you love the God of Scriptures.

To question the faith of a man such as Jimmy Carter is beyond explanation. Are only democrats fair game, or is Richard Nixon's fine charater enough for you to keep him in the gates of your heaven?

10:25 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


Do you know what Paul Tillich believed and taught?

Do you know that terms -- including "Gospel," can be redefined and recast from their biblical moorings?

Jimmy Carter's theology has serious problems. When you look at the division he's helped sow in the Southern Baptist Convention, that tells more about the man than anything else. From a geopolitical standpoint, he always displays a soft spot for leftist thug dictators and butchers, but only finds harsh words for his own country on foreign soil. The man is a joke, no matter how much he hides behind Habitat for Humanity hammers.

The shoe you're throwing is boomeranging back at you. Perhaps you need to take your eyes from behind your liberal lenses to see the forest through the trees. Those of us who hold to biblical orthodoxy are not neophytes who know nothing about feeding the poor or clothing the naked. Our rescue missions do it all the time. We just don't advocate government-run confiscatory or redistributionist schemes. Your ongoing inability to see that -- or to see the difference -- is amazing.

8:49 AM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...

For the record, I have never believed GOP stood for "God's Own Party." One can be politically and theologically conservative and yet not sold out to a particular political party. I have voted for Democrats on occasion when the Republicans were running someone I found problematic. In those cases, the Democrat was more conservative.

Believe it or not, Scripture actually informs and forms my conservatism. As an aside, it might be beneficial for you to look up "conservative" and see what it really means. It doesn't always mean "radical right" as is often the claim of mischief-makers and imps who love to distort and obfuscate.

A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2)

11:52 AM  
Blogger Randy said...


Please don't tell me that you take that bibilcal text to mean the political right.

As for Jimmy Carter, his actions speak loudly. I believe it's the Apostle John who tells us that we will be known by the works of our hands.

And for the record - the gospel cares not if one is a socialist, marxist, or lover of democracy. We also oppress many people in this nation under the guise of church and religion and 'free enterprise.'

12:04 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Every time you write you go deeper and deeper off the charts.
I truly cannot understand how you can criticize me about Carter in one breath and then question whether I love the God of Scripture or not. Which is it? You cannot have it both ways.
I asked you my questions to attempt a discussion about the poor and poverty. It is essential to define terms at the beginning so that we don't end up running down rabbit trails.
Narrowing down what "poor" means biblically can be helpful. Can we settle on this: "the poor are persons who do not have and are unable to obtain the means for sustaining life. If they are to survive they are dependent upon the resources of other people."?
As I read Scripture, I see the following divisions of people with regard to wealth: 1) the wealthy ("plousios"), 2) those who must work for a living ("penes"), & 3) those who are truly poor ("ptochos").
The last group, according to the NT, are objects of charitable giving simply because they are poor.
This being the case, how do we apply this truth to our culture and how do we apply it globally? Do you ever find any instance in the NT (or the OT for that matter), when money was taken from Christians forcibly in order to give to those who were truly poor? I ask this because this is what your left-wing darling want to do.
Now, Randy, man up and answer the questions and stop bringing in your grandparents and getting us to believe you have read, studied, digested Marxist liberation theology and find nothing wrong with it.
Let's have a discussion. Once you answer the questions I've asked you, we'll proceed because there is a great deal more to discuss biblically.
Shoot, Randy, you might even discover that I understand almost as much as Jimmy Carter does about Scripture.

3:05 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


No, I don't think that the Scripture I cited refers to political persuasions. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, as usual.

Having said that, I do think such a statement is a pretty accurate maxim for political philosophy.


5:09 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


Perhaps people of Randy's political persuasion would profit by reading some Scriptures that discuss "sluggards" and people who don't work for a living by design, gaming the system.

I knew some welfare queens and kings in my day and they were quite open about it. They didn't want to get a job because that would get their welfare benefits cut. I kid you not.

There is no excuse for generational welfare. But what friends like Randy won't admit is that these types all add up to votes for Democrats and liberals. Give them enough benefits to keep them dependent, but no encouragement to be self-sufficient and reliant over time with help. If the left's government-mandated and coerced benefits are no longer needed, the left loses its power.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

to answer the question: I'll go with your definitions. Yet, I also believe some people who can care for themselves, have times when they need help.

i.e. In America, somewhere around half of bankrupt people are in the position as a result of medical issues. Many of them also had health insurance. So, someone like this is perhaps temporarily poor. Their circumstances are not the result of decisions of their choosing.

As far as taking money from Christians: The Roman empire did it on a daily basis for whatever reason they so chose.

It seems followers of Jesus have bought into the American Dream too much. As a result, most Christians are caring more for their own desires than the needs of others.

Perhpas we should stop complaining about taxes, and believe that justice - even if applied by our govt. - is better than no form of justice at all.

i.e. The McCain idea that leveling the tax rate is fair? Those who receive much as the result of its govt. should also be willing to contribute much.

Without a doubt, wealthier people are protected to a higher degree. They have businesses that are protected. They have infrastructure they use to conduct business. They benefit more by being citizens of this country.

To suggest that leveling the tax rate is a form of justice and fairness? It isn't.

I too would benefit from McCain's tax rate leveling in terms of dollars in my pocket, but it wouldn't be justice.

10:02 PM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...


1. Would you rather that our government did things in the manner of the Roman Empire instead of "we the people?"

2. "Buying into the American Dream." What is wrong with that? Believing in freedom, democracy and the potential for prosperity for everyone is hardly evil. If things are done solely for self-aggrandizement and "robber baron" sort of wealth-pursuit, then yes. I would call that a moral problem. But pursuing economic well-being in and of itself is not necessarily wrong.

The problem comes in when wealth redistribution is done by government confiscation and coercion. I am not willing to live under an emperor. The Founding Fathers had good reasons for structuring our system of government the way they did. I suggest you read some books by David Barton on the Christian heritage of our nation and how biblical values informed what they did (and yes, I am aware that some of the Founders were not Christians. There was still largely a Christian consensus).

5:28 AM  
Blogger C. Wess Daniels said...

I guess I was curious as to how Yoder, Stassen and McClendon showed up in this list - when you bone to pick was clearly with Campolo, Wallis and McLaren. Yoder and McClendon are dead and have been for years, neither of them knew McLaren or had any interest in the kind of RR bashing you claim that these other guys do (and what about the bashing the other way around? Is that okay?). I don't mind people disagreeing with these guys but it's weird to see theologians like Yoder, Stassen and McClendon put in league with these more pop-theologians. I guess I just don't see the connection.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Hans Frei is dead and so is Karl Barth, but they still influence modern thinkers--including pop guys. Sartre was able to peddle his brand of existentialism precisely because he put it on a popular level.
The influence of Yoder, et al. on the modern emergents is clearly discernible; thus the connection.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

We may not want to live under an emporer, but if you ask some of the people in the middle east... we are certainly in the business of empire building.

We are making people swallow our brand of govt. regardless of their choice on the matter. We have invaded two countries over the past decade simply to gain a position of power within the world.

8:30 PM  
Blogger IceDawg said...

Wow Randy. Don't you think that is a little harsh? We lost more people during 9/11 that at Pearl Harbor, so doesn't that justify a response other than: "We don't like you. I wish you would stop flying our unarmed civilians into tall buildings?"

11:40 AM  
Blogger jamie said...

Obviously Wess (and anyone with a brain) is aware of the fact that dead people influence the present and future. His point was that the post hardly does justice to Yoder's and McClendon's sophisticated theological analysis.

E.g., if one of your criticisms of Campolo regards his thin exegesis, then this criticism clearly doesn't apply to Yoder (or Stassen).

Overall, your argument is mostly ad hominem, which has its uses of course, but you don't really do this in a theological way. You clearly don't like their politics, which is fine, but you offer no substantive theological reasons for doing so. If Campolo (or Yoder or Stassen) has bad exegesis, then offer an alternative.

To say someone like Jimmy Carter can't be a real Christian because he likes Paul Tillich would be laughable, if it weren't flatly unChristian. Perhaps you need to be reminded that we aren't baptised into Paul, or Campolo, or Tillich...but Jesus. Further, one's "favorite theologian" is never all there is to say about that person; especially when that person is not himself a critical theologian. It is likely that a politician like Carter has a fairly undeveloped understanding of a theologian as complex as Tillich. And though it does matter that he names a problematic figure as a primary influence, ultimately it is by their fruits that we know them. Once again, you need to provide a theological rationale against the fruits of Jimmy Carter, not hysterical name calling.

11:35 AM  

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