Josh Duggar; Saint with Banged Up Halo, Or Scoundrel Imposter Defaming the Beautiful Gospel of Christ?

About the time I had almost forgotten the Josh Duggar scandal the action ramped up again. This time not about child molestation charges, but rather an affair scandal disclosing that Josh had an account on the notorious Ashley Madison affair site. Explicit details are easily found online, and are disturbing for a man who promote(d) family values while holding such an account. And that is true whether he ever consummated his intentions or not. In this there is double hypocrisy. And the troubling reality, quoting his sister Jessa, is that ‘he was (…) just a little too curious about girls, you know’….except that she excuses it somewhat by the fact that he was in puberty. He isn’t any more, and yet is still experimenting in ways and places that are not appropriate.

Presumably it is true, with all the ‘evidence’ they’re including…. and with the public apology issued on the Duggar website this afternoon. At first the apology included a line about Josh’s secret addiction to porn and infidelity, but, alas, it has been edited out…. This editing out of parts of a confession, particularly under the circumstances, doesn’t build confidence in the least. Rather, it confirms what some of us have believed since the  previous scandal’s interviews, that truth is edited for the public eye, at least by some of the family. ( If the link above does not work, or if the apology is removed, please contact me so I can remove the link.)

The whole thing made me sad and sick, when a friend sent me the initial  link. Sick because I wanted to believe Josh was forthcoming in May…. And sad because it’s the same broken song I hear sung often in Christian circles when sin is discovered and the church everywhere is encouraged to forgive quickly, celebrate God’s grace and move on. And then too often the tune repeats itself, like an old record with the needle stuck, as the cycle continues, because we don’t get to the next level of consequences and accountability. So to feel better and make things go away, we push everyone to forgive and forget and believe the best in everyone.

Heck, I want to do believe the best. Because I want abusers to be ‘for real’ when they say they are sorry. I want to know that a quick miracle of grace and moving on will guarantee that every child is safe with that person. I want to believe that they are trustworthy and are making good moral choices. And I want to believe that they are not just sorry they got caught. However, to accept such idealism as reality, without boundaries to protect the vulnerable and hold the offenders accountable, is irresponsible. Especially based on the realities playing out all around. Still, one can’t be faulted for desiring it. Who doesn’t want a safe world?

Even now I believe in hope, freedom and restoration, and celebrate the beautiful Gospel of Jesus. But I don’t believe in turning a blind eye to the blatant and glaring truth. And it certainly isn’t appropriate to push a grace and forgiveness agenda, to make Christians seem squeaky clean, when things are seriously messed up. And right now they are.

duggar google search collage

What troubles me most, is that the scandal in May came and went with nary a peep of a confession about affairs and affair sites. And before anyone says it was a private matter, I’ll inject that it wasn’t and it isn’t; it is a wide open public matter. Just like the sins of King David who was in the public eye and God exposed him so the whole nation saw it. The minute someone is in the public eye that way it’s best to be transparent, or eventually be exposed for public failure. It’s that simple. And I’ll add that it’s especially true of Christians, and even more so those who fail morally while promoting family values and sexual integrity, whether pastors, or others who advocate in the name of God, because of the damage done through hypocrisy. Ironically, according to the data, while we didn’t hear any confessions in May, it just happens to be when the account was shut down, after two-years. I’m thinking that it would have been wise to admit to the hypocrisy at that point and get some serious help.  A public disclosure and confession might have made a few extra ripples back in May, but they would have been worth it because it would have built trust and credibility. This public disclosure isn’t causing ripples; it’s causing tsunamis.

It’s this ‘not coming clean part’ that breaks down trust as much as the moral failures themselves. Maybe more so; sincerity and authenticity, even after failure, are the foundation of trust. (Not talking only about Josh here, but in general). It’s a disgrace to God, to the Christian community and to families to have an opportunity to be forthcoming, and waste it on self-preservation. It is one thing to fail and sin. We all sin. No, we don’t all molest children and we don’t all have affairs, but we all sin. And inevitably sin breaks trust when it involves using, betraying or hurting other people. But the level of trust broken by the initial sin does not compare with adding insult to injury, and hiding another scandal for later trauma. This does near irreparable damage, relationally.

And it isn’t really about Josh. I mean, there are nearly 40 million people who were reportedly making use of the site, out of our 7.3 billion world population. And 95%, approximately, of those are male. At first this posed a question or two, for me, starting with where they find the women for the affairs…. Or were the 5% of women on the site just very busy. But then I discovered the company allegedly made up fake female profiles and it was all just a money grab that exposed a lot of men’s willingness to cheat on their wives, and a few women as well. (Then again, 5% of 40 million is a substantial number of people…. certainly more than just a few. )

With numbers that high, there are a lot of marriages in trouble. And, like Josh who could have made his confessions in May, there are presumable a lot of people holding their breath and playing Russian Roulette, of sorts, with their marriages and taking their chances that they won’t get found out. That’s a dangerous gamble. Quoting the God of the Universe, it is safe to say this: ‘Be sure your sins will find you out!’ They will, sooner or later.

And of course the ‘hey, let’s attack all Christians with sarcasm, because one was hypocritical’ blogs are popping up, and our faith in general is under attack because ‘one of ours’ seriously misrepresented God. I won’t bother to link to any as the language and disrespect isn’t worth it. At the same time I can’t blame the unbelievers and atheists; if I was still there, I’d be having a hay day too. Especially after all the preaching against immorality… We really can’t blame them…

When I think of recent scandals involving prominent Christians and hear the defences from within Christian communities, trying to protect and cover up, and then listen to the Christian outcry against Planned Parenthood and selling baby parts, I cringe. It is embarrassing. I look around at the moral failure of those claiming God’s name, and see the damage done to God’s name. But it’s not really the failure that does the damage. It’s the hypocrisy. It’s the not being honest about that failure, while pointing furiously at the world around.

But for all the hypocrisy, and whether these men and women are saints with halos that look like a train wreck, or whether they are scoundrel imposters defaming God, the one thing that doesn’t change is my faith in God. God is good. He’s not too excited about protecting His name. He simply is God; the very essence of love and goodness. He is interested in making us whole and will go to great lengths to have our darkness exposed so that the light can shine in. And He’s a God of consequences, so wherever the chips may fall on this one, it probably won’t be as harsh as Achan’s death in the book of Judges. He is also a God of mercy and doesn’t write off the fallen messed up lot that we are.

So to all 40 million Ashley Madison users, the Christians in particular: there is still grace and mercy for your sins. Consider this your opportunity to come clean and not make excuses. Your sins have brought shame on Christianity, but then so have my sins. The aftermath and consequences of your sins will play out over time, and will be used against people of faith for many years to come, but even that God accounted for when He chose the way of love, the way of the cross, and died for you… for us.

To Josh, I pray you get some real help, whatever it takes. (And, yes, I actually have prayed for you, your wife (especially your wife!) and your family, and will continue to do so. Those are more than words.) I’m all about the grace and mercy of Jesus. I am also all about not writing things off with the line ‘it’s under the blood’. You have disappointed many of us who tried to believe you were sincere in your repentance, and have proven to be untrustworthy. Clearly your conscience kicked in when the first scandal broke loose, and you closed down your Ashley Madison account, but you still chose to protect your image rather than admit you are a very broken and disturbed man. (I was one who chose to believe you were sincere, and encouraged forgiveness with boundaries….)  I pray this breaks you to a place of genuine humility and repentance, so that you understand any grace coming your way is just that; undeserved…which is why it is called grace. And whatever consequences that come are the result of sin and your choices, not because your sweet wife didn’t give you enough… or any other excuse. Own it, without blame or excuse, and repent before God. And as for image, it’s gone, so that’s the good part; you can be real and lose nothing but gain everything.

We all face the music and bear the consequences of our sin and choices, but there is always hope through repentance  and faith in Jesus. That is the gospel that does not change, and therefore deserves to be shared and preached in every situation, even while going through those consequences.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… and God loved the world so much that He chose to come–Emmanuel, God with us–to die for those sins, so that whoever believes in Him–including Josh Duggar, and including me–would not perish but have everlasting life. He didn’t come to condemn the world, in spite of our sins, but to offer us salvation. (based on Romans 3:23; John 3:16-17.)

Thank God for Jesus. I needed Him, and 40 million Ashley Madison users do as well, as does the whole world.

That’s why Jesus came.

Love, Grace and Peace,
~ T ~

Dear Beautiful Naked Lady…

Dear Naked Lady,

When it first occurred to me to write to you, in a passing thought, it seemed a crazy idea. But the more I let the thought play in my mind, as an option, the more I realized that I want to do it… it matters.

I’ll start with an introduction, so you know who I am, in advance. I love Jesus. That’s the first thing about me. (And who wouldn’t love Him? A kind man, who heals, forgives, brings hope and love to all… yes, even to naked ladies… and Bare Naked Ladies too. He loves the whole lot of us, equally, whether we love Him or not.) Yes, I love Jesus, and I love naked ladies too, in the same way Jesus loves you; I care about your heart. And I even love the Bare Naked Ladies, but not so much their music, but that’s just my personal preference. The second thing about me is, I love my family. I have a husband who means everything in the world to me, and five children I love and am proud of. They’re amazing children, and if I can say that when they are teens, and have desire to strangle them, that’s pretty good, they tell me. We do human things like get frustrated with each other, treat each other with less love than deserved, and hurt each other. But we forgive and we keep loving.  Finally, I am surrounded by family and friends who love me, and whom I love. I consider myself to be one of the most blessed and lucky women alive. I work with victims of sexual abuse and violence, rebuilding the broken places, restoring lost identity, and offering hope. Anything else there is to know about me is probably fluff. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. Either way, none of it defines me.

The reason ‘knowing me’ matters, is because it influences the ‘why’ of this letter to an unknown naked lady. You see, I try to be an affirming and loving influence and presence in the lives of the people I mentioned in my previous paragraph. But I find myself in some cases having to first spend some time with you, before I can even get close to their hearts. You have come between some of us, not because I’ve stopped loving, or because I judge those who spend time with you, but because it is an inevitable barrier of shame and guilt, when people spend time with you. Not only does it makes us–the real live, non-airbrushed, and a bit wrinkled and imperfect ones…not to mention fully-clothed–seem imperfect, it also robs our sons, daughters, husbands and wives of innocence and intimacy.

Let me tell you the story of how it first touched our family… At age eight, one of our children was exposed to Triple-X Porn, when an older neighbourhood child suggested going into his house while his parents were away. Oblivious to what had happened, we observed changes in our child’s behaviour. A once affectionate child–generous with hugs and offering occasional kisses–suddenly resented me, but continued to accept both from Daddy. (As a female, I represented the violation that video imposed on my child. It was only women, no men.) For years we struggled, watching our child go from sweet, affectionate and carefree, to lying, deceptive and distant.

Those years I grieved and prayed. And every now and then, when my heart felt heavy, still not knowing what happened, I would go to my child’s room, sit on the edge of the bed and speak truth… “You are God’s child, full of integrity… I believe in you… I’m proud of you…” And then I would keep on praying.

One day, through a bizarre set of circumstances, the truth spilled out. Our child had gotten into trouble–pretty big trouble, really–and we had a conversation. We weren’t angry, and offered no scolding. It was a calm affair of walking through it, to help our child find peace and take ownership. As we wrapped up the conversation I asked if there was anything else, anything at all… we’d get it all out in the open and start fresh. And that’s when the story tumbled out…. and the ugly things witnessed at eight–things no child, or adult should have to see or know, things so unnatural and perverse the mind can hardly fathom it…

That day we got our child back. The lying stopped. The distance was gone. Just like that. But we lost years of closeness because of one careless moment, two naked ladies, and a child in our neighbourhood.

A few years went by and one day we discovered that another child found your picture using a Nintendo DS, after hearing about you at school. We caught it by accident, soon after our child met you, so we didn’t lose years of our life  together because of it. But I’d like to tell you how that conversation went.

I picked up our child at school and announced we’d be going for coffee. We went to a nice little place in a local city and said to order anything… anything at all. One strawberry shake, a chicken quesadilla and a piece of New York style cheesecake later, we seated ourselves and I shared what would be the topic.

“You know, Mom,” my child said, “you’re not very good at tricking.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, as soon as you said we’re going for coffee, I knew why,” my child answered.

I explained that I wasn’t trying to trick or surprise anyone, but wanted to give a bit of space for quiet contemplation on the ride, rather than diving in immediately. (At least let’s get some food in front of us, for a distraction if nothing else, before we tackle this!)

The appetite was a bit lacking at first, until I explained there would be no scolding or ‘correction’. It would be a conversation about how to get through this, and how Daddy and I could help. I told my child how natural it is to be curious–same gender and opposite gender–and that curiosity is not something to feel badly about. It is God-given. And then I talked about managing it well, with honour and integrity, and saving the fulfillment of that desire and curiosity for marriage. (Yes, I’m old fashioned that way. More importantly, I care enough about my children’s hearts and minds to not wish them the scars I carry. And they know I wasn’t much of a saint, that way. In fact, I contemplated at seventeen doing what you do–exposing my nakedness to make money, but my self esteem was so low I was sure no one would want to see my body. Thank God. In a way. Though it would have been so much better had I known I was too valuable to go there. But back to my story…)

My child listened intently, eyes wide, and heart troubled, as I explained these things. We taught our children about sex, body and that uncomfortable and awkward stuff that happens when we become adults. They know. Even so, when I asked if it ever occurred to come talk to Daddy or me, I was greeted with a shaking head.

“So what did you do with it?” I asked. A shrug was all I got. “Did you talk to God about it?” This time a nod. “Do you know you are forgiven? Do you know He loves you?” More nods. “What else did you say?” I asked.

“I asked Him to help me stop!” Big tears welled up, lips quivering.

“And how did you feel when He didn’t answer, and you kept on struggling?” I asked. (Remember, this is a child not yet a teen, at the time of the event. This is a child, begging God for help to stop looking at your naked body, because it feels so violating.)

The tears, they just got bigger, and the lips quivered more, then pain spilled down my child’s face, landing on my heart like sharp little knives, cutting places no mother’s heart should be cut… “I got impatient.” The words, spoken softly, almost desperately, broke what was left in my inner place.

“You do know God answered that prayer, right?” I asked.

Quizzically, almost doubting, and then it connected, “With you and Daddy?”

“Yes!” I said, “We’re here for you now. It wasn’t a mistake that Daddy found the pictures. It was God answering your prayer!”

The nodding continued, between bites of quesadilla and tears bubbling over to wash them down, and I could see something good happeneing. “God makes something beautiful out of everything,” I said. “Do you believe that? Even this, He will make something beautiful out of it.”

Doubt, head tipped to the side, “I don’t understand.”

“You know,” I said, “I think He already has! We’re having this conversation and Daddy and I could have not known, and you could have struggled for a long time. And now we’re walking with you through these years in a way we maybe wouldn’t have, because we like to think our children are innocent, and we want you to be, and sometimes we miss the struggles. So this is already beautiful, isn’t it?”

“I guess,” was the answer, but my heart heard something deeper, as the last of the quesadilla disappeared and the cheesecake extended its invitation. We chatted awhile about other things, and my little one was visibly at peace. We agreed that if temptation hit, a device would land in front of me, or in my hands, with no explanation–if there were no words or desire to talk–and I would take care of it, and ‘know’. And it is the knowing that makes all the difference.

So, you see, my naked lady friend, we’ve had you in our lives for some time, off and on–many years, already–and I thought it was time to write and introduce ‘us’. We are not angry with you. We do not hate you. We don’t resent you, or look down on you. We would prefer to hang a towel or blanket over you when you visit, but not because you are disgusting and thoughtless.

canstock_lady in towel

We think you are beautifully created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made–and that is what I tell my children. And we think you don’t understand just how beautiful you are. We think that the desire to ‘know’ you and see you, is blessed by God, in the context of His plan, so we are not repulsed by you, or that desire. I am writing to remind you of who you are: beautiful, precious, loved by God, and worth so much more than the ‘thing’ you have become on screen–an object of lust. An object. Your heart… somewhere in your heart, I hope you grasp that. 

And just as I told my child, I tell you now, “God redeems everything, my naked lady friend. Everything. If you let Him. He is a gentleman who will not force you, or abuse you. But if you let Him, He will redeem your life, your nakedness and lewdness. He makes all things beautiful in His time. He’d do that for you. If you let Him.”

I hope you never visit my family again as an object. I hope the next time we see you, it is in human form. And preferably dressed. Until then, my heart will continue to love, care and pray for you. Yes, I pray for you.

Here are two of my favourite songs… I didn’t pose naked for the camera, as you do, but I was no different than you…. And the only thing that makes me different today is that I know Jesus loves me: I’m still human and sinful, but redeemed. When you know that, my sister and friend, it will change everything. You will feel beautiful. God wastes nothing. You are beautiful! You are loved! You are precious! You are worthy… because of JESUS…

Nothing is Wasted

~ T ~

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Jeremy’s Journey: From Abuse & Addiction, to Freedom & Hope

The formal office setting could have been a bit intimidating, at least a little, if had come to be assessed by the young medical professional, and if he had not been so warm and welcoming. It isn’t every day I sit in the office of professionals, interviewing them and hearing stories of childhood abuse, sexual addictions and struggle.

It’s happened before, with a lawyer, my age, who simply needed to share his journey, and weep, and several other medical professionals, but still, it is rare. Whether that is because they have done so well, that pulling a painful story to the forefront is too overwhelming, or the fear of what clients, patients or customers might think, if they were to discover it.

Whatever the reason, it’s not because these hurts and traumas don’t exist there…. it’s just rare that I am the one sitting across from them. When I do, they simply become human beings, without title or position, who need someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to care. Or, in this case, to hear their story, and share it with the public. I’ve been criticized, mostly by one or two people, for sharing these painful stories publicly, as if I am wrecking people’s lives by doing so. On the contrary, I share stories because those who tell me theirs, and ask me to write about them, or give me permission to, want to have a voice, without exposing their identity.

I am careful what stories I choose. There are many I have heard that you will never see in black and white, unless the individuals choose to tell them themselves. They are powerful stories, but the telling of some horrific truths I simply cannot enter into, at least not at this time in my life. I can hear, and have compassion, but retelling makes my mind stop, and the words refuse to come. But the one thing I have hoped for, is to share the story of a gentleman, or two, who suffered sexual abuse and overcame….

Some months ago, in blog post, I asked if any men would be willing to share their stories, and eventually this gentleman contacted me. He would be willing to share his story and ‘tell all’, he said, as long as I don’t disclose his real name. I could come to his office and even record the interview.

After driving almost two hours, I was greeted by a short and slightly stocky, balding gentleman,  with friendly eyes, a big voice, and a ready smile. To break the ice, we chatted, casually for a few moments, about his work and how successful he has become, and to establish boundaries in the discussion. Anything was fair game, he said.

To lead into the interview, I asked if he has ever shared his story with anyone before, in its entirety, and he had not. And so I began with early childhood memories…


Raised in a Christian home, his parents gave him the best that they could, both physically and spiritually. They were firm, yet loving, in parenting. They were involved in church, but not to the neglect of their children. They had a good and safe home, but they also had their work cut out for them. Jeremy was a high-energy, rambunctious boy…

It all began when Jeremy was babysat, as a very young boy, by ‘nice’ young man next door, in his mid to upper teens, and the babysitter helped him shower before bed. The babysitter joked with him about their bodies, and led into touching each other, covering it with laughter, to make it seem innocent. Beyond that, he said, he had no memories of anything happening.

While there seemed to be no obvious consequences that Jeremy would have recognized, it clearly set life patterns. Now a psychologist, Jeremy says it was studying that helped him understand how this impacted his life.

By age eight a friend introduced Jeremy to pornography, opening a door to a whole new set of problems and confusions. That introduction led to an addiction that would take many years to break.

Initially it amounted mostly to excessive time spent in the Sears catalogue, because there was no other easy access to porn. This lasted until his parents found a ‘home made’ porn book, of pictures glued into a lined subject book, and questioned him. He blamed it on his sister, who was only a year younger than he, but after a through investigation, they didn’t buy the story.

With time Jeremy introduced a boy in the neighbourhood, who was a year or two younger, to porn, and by age eleven he started mowing lawns to bring in money, and used it to buy candy and pornography. Being too embarrassed to purchase the magazines himself, he conned his friend into going into the store, in exchange for candy, to buy topless magazines

Jeremy was diagnosed ADHD at a young age–and it affected him to such an extreme that he was kicked out of preschool before the end of the first week–and was forbidden candy at home, as was his younger sister. His buddy’s home was also highly controlled, with a strong health focus, and as a result he too, almost never got candy. By partnering together, they managed to keep their addictions hidden–both the porn and the candy–while feeding those addictions constantly.

When the computer arrived in their home, unsupervised, providing easy access, Jeremy said the problem escalated to unimaginable levels.

At one point Jeremy’s mom sat down, sensing something was wrong, and questioned him, but he denied everything, and she never asked again.

Driven by guilt, the addiction was a compelling force in Jeremy’s life for many years. Through high school, through his early twenties, and then into marriage, he surrendered, mostly willingly, to the addiction. There were short periods of time when he fought hard, and even gave up the addictions. But it never lasted longer than 2 or 3 weeks, before it would overtake him again, leaving him hopeless, overwhelmed and defeated. Not to mention that he didn’t like who he became when not feeding the addictions.

While this struggle played out, going back to those earlier years, other drama and trauma also played out in Jeremy’s life. His sister developed extreme mental illness, leading to physical attacks and even death threats, starting when she was only thirteen. On several occasions she made actual physical attacks on Jeremy’s life, attacking him with sharp objects or other weapons. He was, at that time, still small for his age in every way, and his younger sister, who was taller, had the upper hand. At night his bedroom had to be locked, to keep her out and him safe. And even that didn’t prevent her from trying.

This struggle only served to deepen the addiction, as Jeremy searched for an escape from reality.

When Jeremy started dating, in his late twenties, there was a sudden and unexpected accountability that he hadn’t prepared for. It began when she asked if he was into pornography. In that moment he decided to be honest, and immediately told her the truth.

Through the rise and fall of their courtship, Jeremy said he pushed his girlfriend far beyond her own boundaries, sexually, but managed to avoid having intercourse before marriage. Still, it added to struggles after marriage. She felt betrayed, almost used, and he was confused by her frigidity after marriage.

The marriage vows didn’t take care of the addictions. Jeremy continued to feed on pornography, going through the cycle of wanting to quit, feeling defeated, and drowning in guilt. And then trying again.

In that cycle of trying to overcome, Jeremy found that all he thought about was the very things he wanted to remove from his life. The end result was that the ‘draw’ to the addiction only grew stronger, leaving him yet more powerless.

Jeremy’s wife gave birth to their first child–a son–still the addictions continued, and their relationship deteriorated. As things grew increasingly worse in their marriage , after the birth of twin daughters, Jeremy’s wife insisted he get help. She was ready to give up on the marriage, struggling constantly with the ‘competition’ of pornography, and feeling like she wasn’t enough.

When trying to have sex with him, she said, she constantly pictured what scantily clad, or naked, woman he had last lusted after. The pornography had become a consuming force in their marriage, threatening to take from Jeremy the woman he loved.

Still afraid to expose his struggle, Jeremy reluctantly joined a Celebrate Recovery group, meeting with men who challenged and inspired one another to rise above, to forgive when they failed, to keep reaching for holiness.

As a result of that group, three men decided to meet weekly, apart from the group, and offer each other accountability. At first it worked like a weekly ‘confessional’, where all that really took place was taking turns admitting to failure. When this proved ineffective, they set up a method of ‘consequences’ in which, whoever failed had to pay the other two men a set amount. This worked effectively, he said, by training the mind on consequences.

“I’ve been ‘clean’ for over half a year now,” he said with bold confidence. He shared how he learned to focus on getting up after failing, rather than beating himself up for failing, and the difference that has made. He acknowledged how much his wife has suffered because of his sin, his choices, and how he wants to extend grace to her, as she struggles through that, and through her feelings for him–or the lack of them.

Jeremy is fighting for his wife’s heart, and for their family unit, without imposing on her the burden of his sin. He didn’t say she has to forgive and forget, and get on with life. He understands the consequences of his wrong choices, and time and patience, as God works, is the answer.

When his son gets a little older, he told me, he will have awkward talks with him about pornography and all that ‘stuff’. He remembers those awkward moments with his parents–even how his dad once admitted to having struggled–and plans to have even more talks… talks that are even more awkward. He will teach his children to protect themselves. Teach them about identity, value and purpose.

Jeremy is breaking a generational chain, by breaking the silence. He has moved from a journey of abuse and addiction, to a journey of freedom and hope through Jesus, through accountability, through honesty.

© Trudy Metzger

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