Is Capitalism Anti-Christian?

Escape From the Money Trap, by Henry Clark (Judson, 1973, 124 pp., $2.35 pb), Illusions of Success, by John Raines (Judson, 1975, 128 pp., $5.95), The Gospel According to the Wall Street Journal, by Carnegie Calian (John Knox, 1975, 114 pp., $3.95 pb), and Notes Towards a Christian Critique of Secular Economic Theory, by A. B. Cramps (Institute for Christian Studies [229 College St., Toronto MST 1R4 Canada], 1975, 80 pp., $1 pb), are reviewed by John E. Wagner, attorney, OklahomaCity, Oklahoma.

Here are four books dealing with the economic system, God, man, and mammon. Three of them cover essentially identical territory, pointing out apparent failures of the free-enterprise economy, the plight of the low-income disadvantaged, and the privileges of the wealthy, and purporting to set forth some Christian solutions to these inequities in our increasingly complex, technological age.

Without question, some of the criticisms are all too true, and Christians are under scriptural injunction to do some hard and serious thinking about them, and to assess themselves and society in general in the light of the gospel message. Nevertheless I suspect that the facts have been, wittingly or not, distorted to make a case for radical economics, redistribution of the wealth, and a headlong slide toward a more tightly controlled economy, resulting in further socialization of the economic system in America.

Henry Clark’s book, Escape From the Money Trap, starts out with a discussion of “consumerism, the yoke of mammon.” In it he lays out very powerfully the grip of materialism on American life, and validly warns us in the words of the prophets, and the Gospels, of the sinfulness of serving mammon instead of God.

But from that launching pad, Clark immediately reveals his thesis that the system itself is bad and needs radical change. In support of all this, he cites various authorities in socio-economic matters. The trouble is that the authorities are essentially one-sided; they do not represent a spectrum of thought; and they are, in fact, the exponents of a socialistic America.

Quoting freely from Michael Harrington’s Other America, a book read widely in liberal circles in the tumultous years of the 1960s, and citing John Kenneth Galbraith, Clark made obvious where his preconceptions lie, and the kind of economic system he envisages for his ideal America. Harrington, it should be said for the record, is a longtime member of the Socialist party in America, having served as its national chairman and as a member of its executive committee. Galbraith’s views for a planned economy, and further socialization, are widely known.

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It would be unfair to discredit all of Clark’s criticisms of the established order simply because of his socialist presuppositions. Some of what he has to say is strictly Christian. Not doubt we do have some of our priorities scrambled, and no one would deny that the economic order can be improved.

What Clark fails to tell his readers is that we live in a very socialized form of capitalism as it is, with ever-increasing government meddling in the lives of Americans. Whether they are willing to exchange their personal freedoms for the security and purported equities of a further redistributed system of wealth is highly doubtful. That such a redistribution, going far beyond the heavy tax burdens now imposed on almost everyone for governmental services, would achieve a more just order has yet to be proven. That such a system in any case would be more inherently Christian is open to serious challenge. To point out the un-Christian areas of the prevailing system is one thing, but to equate the Christian solution with socialism is quite another. I simply do not think that Clark is a realistic thinker. Nevertheless, if you want to see how a liberal theorist, who also wears the hat of a Christian social ethicist, sees the problems and solutions, then this is a book to be read with a dialectical approach.

A similar line of thought is followed in John Curtis Raines’s Illusions of Success. But whereas Clark’s book is aimed at liberal-chic readers, Raines aims at the middle-class audience. Raines is a kind of theological Fred Harris, seeking to arouse the middle class from its frustrated lethargy to strike down the dragon of privileged wealth and monopoly.

Here again, as a lawyer and businessman who has been involved in political life as well as social-reform efforts in a metropolitan community, I see some of his criticism as valid. There are indeed tax loopholes, and some of the rich are insulated from heavy taxation. Moreover, the middle class does very likely bear more than its fair share of the actual out-of-pocket taxes.

But Raines, like Clark, seems alert only to the negatives of the system. He blindly refuses to see its positives; the productivity, generally high standard of living, jobs, income, creativity and technological advances inherent in a free-enterprise economy, and, what is supremely important, the freedom to choose even when that choice is limited by economic inability. He also fails to see that many of the so-called tax loopholes are well-thought-out attempts to encourage research and industrial growth, all as conceived by the Congress in open debate in the legislative process.

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America has plunged ever-leftward economically under both Democratic and Republican administrations since the 1930s. The plight of the poor has not gone unattended. Wealth has been redistributed through taxation and social-welfare programs. That these efforts have not been successful should at least give pause to the advocates of radical social change, including Raines. Perhaps the guaranteed-income idea, espoused by some conservatives as well as by liberals, would serve as acceptable compromise in this realm, without the loss of freedom that the leveling of wealth and tight government controls would inevitably bring to the body politic.

Next, Carnegie Calian’s The Gospel According to the Wall Street Journal is a rather stilted effort to draw some comparisons between what the author believes to be the good life as envisaged by the Journal and the good life of Christian commitment. Calling for a radical faith and a pilgrim theology, Calian says that God “in himself is unknowable.” “At most,” he tells us, “we can have only an attitude of reverent agnosticism regarding his inner nature.” If he means that the infinitude of God cannot be fully comprehended by finite man, he is right; but if he is trying to tell us that God has not fully revealed himself in Jesus Christ and through the special revelatory instrument of Holy Scripture, then he has blown the game. You will have to read this part of the book for yourself and draw your own conclusions. However, his side tour into this question is symptomatic of the faults of the whole volume. It rambles and it preaches. Money can’t buy happiness. The country club set isn’t that important after all. The poor need to be dealt with more compassionately. The realism of the Wall Street Journal in the final analysis stands under the cross of Christ.

All these platitudes, and more, are take-off points for his discussion. This is not to deny that many of his points are valid. But much of what he says I have heard in evangelical testimony meetings from housewives, socialites, wage-earners, and businessmen. Happily, Calian ends his analysis on a moderate note: “The Wall Street Journal contributes much to our understanding of human existence; however, it is the Gospel of Christ which enables us to fulfill our humanity.”

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Cramp’s monograph, Notes Towards a Christian Critique of Secular Economic Theory, is technical and well written, and it comes to some serious Christian conclusions as to the flat spots in both capitalist and Marxist theory. It needs to be developed further and expanded into a full-fledged book. Its readers need to be capable of handling abstractions. Readers used to dealing with abstract categories will be able to understand it even though they are not schooled in economic theory. Moreover it is dealing with the philosophical trunk of the economic tree, and does not sort out the socio-economic apples, good or bad, that have fallen off the branches.

In Cramp, we have the philosopher-economist at his best. The book consists of lectures given first at Cambridge and later at Toronto. Cramp tells us that economics has thought of itself as a positivist science of description, but that in so doing it has been atomistic in the Hobbesian sense; that is, it has not dealt with the whole of man. Consequently, it has substituted the purely descriptive task of what “is” for the prescriptive task of what “ought to be.” The economist cannot be ethically neutral, says Cramp. He must deal with the whole man, and this goes beyond the classical Western conception of economic man’s manifesting himself in the sole dimension of acquisitiveness. This kind of reductionism is particularly subject to Christian criticism, for man is not to be measured by the hedonistic canon alone. It is in this that classical Western liberal economic orthodoxy has erred.

But on the other hand, the collectivist argues that Marx’s teaching makes possible a synthesis of all human knowledge and above all a synthesis of economic history and economic theory. But this too is subject to criticism. While Marxist philosophy is more holistic—not individualistic—nevertheless it sacrifices the “person of the present” for the “expected person of the future.” And to make such a sacrifice, it runs counter to the biblical understanding of man. The man of the now should stand as a person of worth and dignity and not be made a collectivist sacrifice in forfeiting his freedom in the interest of some utopian communist future.

Finally, I would recommend that in conjunction with any of these books one also read the cover story in the July 14, 1975, issue of Time, “Can Capitalism Survive?” For here we have a survey of nearly all the questions dealt with by Raines, Calian, Clark, and Crump that balances their conclusions with other equally, if not more, informed facts and conclusions. The ten-page Time article is almost a layman’s handbook to economic philosophy, problems, and proposals. But since Time does not purport to deal with these matters theologically, and since I have serious misgivings about the theological perspectives of Raines, Calian, and Clark (but not Crump), I would urge the evangelical principle that we are not to idolize any economic system, nor its fruit; we must let both stand under the judgment of God, the saving word of the cross, and the ethical demands of the Gospel.

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These are matters about which individual believers and the whole Body of Christ must think and pray, and which no economist theorist can answer.


Bibliography of Bioethics, Volume 1, edited by LeRoy Walters (Gale Research Co., 249 pp., $24), Contemporary Medical Ethics, by John Dedek (Sheed and Ward, 236 pp., $7.95), Bioethical Decision Making, by Barbara Ann Swyhart (Fortress, 130 pp., $6.50), Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life, by Baruch Brody (MIT Press, 162 pp., $8.95), Death Inside Out, edited by Peter Steinfels and Robert Veatch (Harper & Row, 149 pp., $7.95, $3.50 pb), and The Dilemmas of Euthanasia, edited by John Behnke and Sissela Bok (Doubleday, 187 pp., $2.95 pb). Bioethical issues include abortion, genetic manipulation, psychosurgery, human experimentation, medical confidentiality, the definition of death, and euthanasia. Obviously the Christian community should continue to have considerable concern with such matters and should not leave them to the legal, medical, scientific, and political arenas. The bibliography is the first in a proposed annual series and covers both print (articles and books) and non-print items that were first released in 1973. Dedek is a Catholic ethicist who has written a survey text aimed at medical students but usable elsewhere. Swyhart uses the insights of modern academic theologians, especially process thinkers, to propose guidelines for the usually difficult bioethical decisions with special reference to abortion. Brody gives a philosophical and scientific defense, rather than a religious one, for the humanity of the fetus beginning about six weeks after conception, and the consequent immorality of aborting it after that time (with certain exceptions). Brody heads the philosophy department at Rice; his book merits widespread attention. The last two books are collections of mostly previously published scholarly articles that take on special significance in light of the New Jersey court case involving comatose Karen Ann Quinlan.

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A Book of Comfort For Those in Sickness, by P. B. Power (Banner of Truth, 100 pp., $1.65 pb), The Hospital Prayer Book, by J. Massyngberde Ford (Paulist, 106 pp., $1.65 pb), Color Me Legitimate, by Lu Nell Isett (Bible Voice, 88 pp., $1.50 pb), and Never Too Late, by Kathryn Kuhlman (Bethany Fellowship, 79 pp., $.95 pb). The first title also gives the purpose of the other three books. Power writes from a Reformed perspective and gives valuable insights into God’s purposes in sickness. Ford, a Catholic charismatic and scholar, has herself been gravely ill. The suggested prayers and Scripture portions cover almost every situation (e.g., “on taking sedation at night”). Isett, from a Protestant charismatic viewpoint, reflects on the important question, Why isn’t everyone healed? Kuhlman writes a “first-person” narrative of Marion Burgio, who after seventeen years of multiple sclerosis was reputedly healed instantly at a Kuhlman meeting. Lest every victim be given false hope, Kuhlman adds a valuable chapter “For those who are not healed.”

Culture and Human Values, by Jacob Loewen (William Carey, 443 pp., $5.95 pb). Collection of twenty-nine papers originally published in Practical Anthropology from 1961 to 1970 by one of the leading evangelical missiologists.

The Social Psychology of Religion, by Michael Argyle and Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 246 pp., $18.50), A Sociology of Belief, by James T. Borhek and Richard F. Curtis, (Wiley, 201 pp., $8.95), The Sociology of Religion, by Harold Fallding (McGraw-Hill, 240 pp., n.p.), A Sociology of Religion, by Michael Hill (Basic Books, 285 pp., $10), Religion and Society in Interaction, by Ronald L. Johnstone (Prentice-Hall, 345 pp., $9.95), Psychology of Religion, by Goeffrey E. W. Scobie, (Halsted, 189 pp., $8.95), and Homo Religiosus: Sociological Problems in the Study of Religion, by Robert Towler (St. Martin’s, 206 pp., $10.95). Many Christians think of religious behavior as something that can be described only with at least implicit reference to the Holy Spirit or evil spirits. But even as church buildings can be described architecturally, so religious beliefs and practices can be studied with profit from social scientific perspectives, provided that one recognizes the self-imposed limitations. Theological and major college libraries will want to acquire these texts, and instructors might consider them for classroom us.

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What Must God Be Like? by Pope Paul VI, (Dimension, 84 pp., $4.95), Searching For Sense: The Logic of Catholic Belief, by Frank De Siano (Paulist, 189 pp., $1.95 pb), The Faith of Catholics, by Richard Chilson (Paulist, 303 pp., $2.45 pb), Religious Life, edited by Sister M. Rose Eileen Masterman (Alba, 289 pp., $4.95 pb), Letters to a Young Priest, by Anton Grabner-Haider (Abbey, 63 pp., $1.50 pb), Crises Facing the Church, by Raymond E. Brown (Paulist, 118 pp., $2.45 pb), and The Shape of the Church to Come by Karl Rahner (Seabury, 136 pp., $6.95). Increasing Protestant-Catholic contacts require each side to know not only what the other says when trying to be congenial to its opposite but also something of the other’s internal discussions. The Pope himself shares his thoughts in an informal style. Similar doctrinal overviews, addressed both to non-catholics and long-time Catholics confused by the present turmoil, are offered by Di Siano and Chilson. Ministry by celibate priests and nuns—one of the most obvious Catholic distinctives, and also one of the most tumultuous—is the focus of Masterman and Grabner-Haider. Brown and Rahner, two of the most important theologians, examine not only the role of ministry and of women but other problem areas.

Jesus and Paul: Paul as Interpreter of Jesus From Harnack to Kummel, by J. W. Fraser (Marcham Books [Appleford, Abingdon OX14 4PB, England], 244 pp. £ 8). Major scholarly demonstration that Paul did not alter the teaching of Jesus, as many prominent scholars have asserted, but made explicit what was implicit all along.

Leaders of Sunday-morning children’s services can find help in Children’s Church: The Leader’s Guide. The first issue is dated Fall, 1975, and has programs for thirteen sessions that are readily adaptable for use at other times and beyond the sponsoring Assemblies of God denomination. For information write the editor at 1445 Boonville Ave., Springfield, Missouri 65802.

Antireligious Propaganda in the Soviet Union, by David E. Powell (MIT Press, 206 pp., $25), Miracle in Moscow, by David Benson (Regal, 303 pp., $3.95 pb), Christians in the Shadow of the Kremlin, By Anita and Peter Deyneka, Jr. (David C. Cook, 96 pp., $1.50 pb), and Testament From Prison, by Georgi Vins (David C. Cook, 282 pp., $2.50 pb). Four approaches to the problems faced by Soviet Christians. Political scientist Powell concentrates on what he finds to be largely unsuccessful attempts to “convert” people to atheism. His maps and bibliographical references are extremely valuable. Benson is an American who has been engaged in outreach to the U.S.S.R. for several years, especially through radio. This book is largely about his various visits to the country. The Deynekas, who are with the Slavic Gospel Association, one of the oldest and most reputable ministries of its kind, tell of their visits. Vins cannot simply visit. He is the prominent Soviet evangelical leader who is once again imprisoned and probably being tortured solely because of his faithfulness to God. Meanwhile American leaders toast his persecutors. Characteristically, the book is not so much about Vins as about his fellow Christians who are suffering.

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Preparing to Teach God’s Word, by G. Raymond Carlson (Gospel Publishing House, 128 pp., $1.25 pb), Successful Teaching Ideas, by Marie Chapman (Standard, 95 pp., $3.95 pb), Creative Sunday Schools, by Elizabeth Crisci (Baker, 107 pp., $1.95 pb,) Exploring the Bible With Children, by Dorothy Jean Furnish (Abingdon, 174 pp., $3.95 pb), The Effective Sunday School Superintendent, by Kenneth Gangel (Victor 48 pp, $.95 pb), The Care and Counseling of Youth in the Church, by Paul Irwin (Fortress, 80 pp., $2.95 pb), Teaching Primaries Today, by Elizabeth Jones (Baker, 128 pp., $1.95 pb), Making Learning a Joy: For Leaders and Teachers of Children, by Jim Larson (Regal, 75 pp., $1.45 pb), Guiding a Growing Sunday School, by Albert Morton (Beacon Hill, 96 pp., $1.95 pb), Puppets Go to Church, by Wilma Powers Perry and Earl Perry (Beacon Hill, 87 pp., $1.50 pb), Jesus, the Master Teacher, by Clifford Wilson (Baker, 160 pp., $2.95 pb), Multimedia Handbook For the Church, by Ron Wilson (David C. Cook, 142 pp., $1.95 pb), and Sunday School Teacher’s Planbook: Early Childhood, … Children, … Youth, … Adult (Regal, 48 pp. each, $1.95 pb each). Sunday-school teachers and others who minister to children and youth should examine these titles in their local Christian bookstores. Church libraries might wish to acquire several.

To keep abreast of scholarly writing by evangelical seminarians, see Studia Biblica et Theologica and Trinity Journal. SBT, which appears twice yearly for $5, included major articles on Luke 9–19 and on Edward John Carnell in its October issue (516 Winthrop Ave., New Haven, Conn. 06511). TJ costs $2 a copy, and the Spring, 1975, issue included major studies of Bible colleges as pre-seminary institutions and miracles in John’s gospel, plus forty-eight pages of recommended books for ministers (2045 Half Day Road, Deerfield, Ill. 60015).

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He Never Was Or Still Is

Jesus: The Man Who Lives, by Malcolm Muggeridge (Harper & Row, 1975, 191 pp., $17.95) is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, assistant editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Here is a “coffeetable book” that makes the description not only respectable but complimentary. Muggeridge, the acerbic onetime editor of Punch and a Christian convert, retells the gospel story with punch and verve. Black-and-white and color reproductions of great religious art dramatize the text and are effectively and intelligently spaced throughout the book. Muggeridge divides his tale into three parts: “Jesus Comes Into the World,” “What Jesus Came to Tell the World,” and “The Man Who Lives.”

Muggeridge seems unconcerned with doctrine, and readers might be confused about his theology by the way he states modern secular notions about Jesus’ birth, life, and death. For example, with a journalist’s training, he records that “to a twentieth-century mind the notion of a virgin birth is intrinsically and preposterously inconceivable.” Is he denying the Virgin Birth? No, he merely reports what people think today, and then tells of those who for centuries believed the doctrine. It is clear which side Muggeridge aligns himself with.

Along the way, Muggeridge gives some interesting commentary on miracles and some brilliant insights into why twentieth-century persons find them difficult to accept. He also criticizes the World Council of Churches, and deplores recent attempts to deprive God of his majesty:

In our own time the balance has swung heavily the other way, and the tendency has been all in the direction of loving our neighbor and forgetting or overlooking God. St. Simeon has come down from his pillar to become Comrade Simeon, or the Right Honorable Simeon, or Senator Simeon, or just Sim, with God as no more than a constitutionally elected President to perform ceremonial duties and deliver an annual Speech from the Throne.… Worship becomes a seminar, God’s House a coffee-bar, and the Word that came to dwell among us programmed into people’s Logos [p. 131].
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He also weaves into his narrative a fine essay on God’s gift of imagination to his people and on the importance of creativity, both in God’s redemption of the world and in our accepting and living that redemption here on earth. God in the Incarnation achieved what every artist attempts: “the Word whose flesh he became is every true word ever written or spoken; every true note ever sounded; every true stone laid on another, every true shape molded or true colour mixed” (p. 29).

As the subtitle indicates, Muggeridge resoundingly proclaims that the Resurrection happened. “Either Jesus never was or he still is,” he says. This book lovingly and creatively points to the person at the center of our faith, without whom Christianity could not exist.

The Holy Spirit According To Whom?

The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit: A Wesleyan Perspective, by Charles W. Carter (Baker, 1974, 355 pp., $7.95), and The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit: The Traditional Calvinistic Perspective, by Edwin W. Palmer (Baker, 1974, 196 pp., $5.95), are reviewed by Donald W. Dayton, director of Mellander Library and assistant professor of theology, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

With these two books Baker inaugurates a series on the Holy Spirit from various theological positions that are competing for acceptance. Carter is a member of the Wesleyan Church and a leader of the interdenominational holiness movement. Palmer speaks from the Christian Reformed Church and the circles of Westminster Seminary. The publisher promises a third volume by an Assemblies of God professor.

Palmer’s book is virtually a reprint of his The Holy Spirit (1958), enthusiastically reviewed in these pages on January 19, 1959. The only changes other than minor alterations in the text are the addition of chapters on glossolalia and the “unpardonable sin” and the use of the New International Version (of whose editorial board Palmer is chairman). Palmer attempts to popularize the work of Abraham Kuyper and John Owen by developing the doctrine in short essays on such topics as the role of the Spirit in creation, common grace, revelation, illumination, regeneration, sanctification, guidance, and prayer. The new chapter on “tongue-speaking” takes a moderate position, granting that the case for the cessation of special gifts since the apostolic era is not conclusive and allowing the possibility of tongues while insisting that the New Testament views it as a minor gift.

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Carter’s book, nearly twice the length of Palmer’s, is directed more to scholars and students and so contains more extensive scholarly apparatus. The dust jacket displays “full endorsement” of the book by the Christian Holiness Association as “a scholarly and exhaustive exposition within the Wesleyan interpretation.” In contrast to Palmer’s book, Carter’s consists of an “exposition” of various natural groupings of biblical material (prophetic, synoptic, Pauline, Johannine, and—in five chapters, one-third of the book—Acts and the Pentecost account). This approach keeps Carter close to the biblical text and allows him to take account of the development within the Scriptures and the differing nuances of its various voices. Intermingled are treatments of theological issues and debated points within the tradition.

Carter reflects the classical holiness movement’s extreme suspicion of Pentecostalism and glossolalia, a suspicion that dates from the turn-of-the-century struggles when Pentecostalism emerged as a sort of “holiness heresy.” He contrasts, for example, the “sane and constructive” work of Methodism with the “aberrant fanaticism” of the Azusa Street revival. He argues that the gift of tongues at Pentecost was the supernaturally given ability to speak unlearned languages, and then chooses to interpret the Corinthian passages along this line.

Carter strongly criticizes Vinson Synan’s argument (in The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement) that the holiness movement was the immediate antecedent of Pentecostalism. But some would say that Carter’s book represents precisely those developments within Wesleyanism that permitted the emergence of Pentecostalism. If Pentecostalism is that branch of Christianity which elevates Acts 2 to the hermeneutical key for the interpretation of Scripture (as the Anabaptists use the Sermon on the Mount and the Reformed traditions perhaps Galatians and Romans), then except for the question of glossolalia, Carter’s book is in its basic thought patterns essentially “Pentecostal.” It is noteworthy that Wesley repudiated the approach of early Methodist theologian John Fletcher when Fletcher began to speak of a personal “Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

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Carter’s book does, however, well represent twentieth-century holiness thought, in both its strengths and weaknesses, and can, if so understood, well serve as a dialogue partner in this series. Baker is to be commended for this much needed project. We are clearly a long way from the fresh (both of these books are still rather traditional readings of their own traditions) and the “clear, Biblical view of the Holy Spirit” that the publisher hopes will emerge from this dialogue.

One also wishes that the publisher had exercised greater editorial control. The two volumes are not parallel in approach and level of treatment. Carter’s book is marred by numerous misspellings, inconsistencies in bibliographical form, and other errors of fact and detail that careful proof-reading could have eliminated.

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