THE JESUS REVOLUTION AND THE
SEARCH FOR "COMMUNITY" AND
THE "CHURCH-LIFE"


 

BY: S.R. SHEARER

"My eager desire and hope is that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honor to Christ in my own person by fearless courage - whether that means life or death, no matter!" [Phil. i, 20-21 (Moffatt)]

REMEMBERING THE
"JESUS REVOLUTION"

The Jesus Revolution! - it was, as one former member of Shiloh Ministry put it, the "best of times," and the "worst of times;" and for a great number of those who lived through it, it was - for good or bad - the spiritual "high water mark" of their lives - an experience not unlike that which many combat veterans experience after having participated in some great, magnificent and noble "cause" too early in life. It leaves the rest of one’s life as an anti-climax to the grand adventures of those earlier years. For many, nothing in the twenty or so years since has come close to creating the thrill, the "meaning to life," the vibrant community of close, intimate friends, etc. which those times produced. Indeed, those who participated in the "revolution" felt that they had been caught up in a great "cause" - a "crusade" which was bigger than their own individual lives and which had, as a result, excited in them an exhilarating and reckless abandon that had stimulated a sheer "delight of living" and "electricity to life" which the money and "success" of their later years (if, indeed, there had been any) had not been able to replicate.

Unfortunately, however, their experience with the "Jesus Revolution" left many of them with a quiet - even unconscience - disdain and scorn for "normal Christianity," the kind of pew-sitting, meet-you-at-church-on-Sunday-morning Christianity with which most evangelical Christians are familiar. To most of the veterans of the "Jesus Revolution," this type of Christianity is nothing more than a rather pathetic, pitiful shadow of the kind of church-life they had experienced during the "revolution." Try as they will to rid themselves of such "unbecoming" sentiments, the lingering nature of these feelings has created in many of them a never-ending and morose melancholy - a wistful longing for the "purpose in life" and the friendships that they had experienced so many years ago - and all this despite the fact that, in the end, the revolution had ravaged and wasted most of them, leaving countless numbers of them thrown up on a myriad of lonely beaches - as it were - like so much flotsam and jetsam from an ancient shipwreck. Indeed, the "oxymoronic," "dichotomous," "love-hate" way that many of them talk about their experience is a source of continual amazement to those who never went through the "revolution." On the one hand, the bitterness which spills out from them as a result of what most of them now consider to be the failure of the "revolution" (at least as it impacted their personal lives) is psychologically shattering to those brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and friends who have to sit and listen to them rant endlessly on, but who never experienced the "Jesus upheaval" first-hand. Yet, in the midst of their bitterness, most of these ex-revolutionaries seem quite unconsciencely to exhibit a certain wistful yearning about their participation in the "revolution" which is both extremely sad and, at the same time, very disquieting. It’s a dichotomy which most "normal people" are simply unable to understand and which, as a result, has left most of the "Jesus revolutionists" that much more isolated and cut-off from their peers in what passes today as "normal Christianity."

Attempting to explain it all to those who never went through it is an exercise in futility, an activity which produces feelings of frustration not unlike those which are experienced by veterans of the Vietnam War. Try as they will, people who never went through it are simply unable to grasp what these so-called ex-"Jesus freaks" are talking about. As a result, like worn-out Vietnam combat Veterans, veterans of the "Jesus Revolution" seem to gravitate to one another out of frustration at their inability to share their experiences with "outsiders," with those who never went through what they went through. The fact is, however, no amount of talking can adequately explain their participation in the "Jesus Revolution" and what appears now to have been their "misguided fanaticism," and their mistaken commitment to the "cause." In hindsight, it all seems so foolish. It’s written off by many as the result of "brain-washing."

Nonetheless, there is a "knowing," a secret which they share with others who went through what they went through - an "understanding," for example, of why, during the siege at Waco, those who were "holed up" and trapped at Mount Carmel refused to come out; and why, during the ensuing inferno, some of the Branch Davidians, having once escaped the conflagration, turned back and disappeared into it to die with their compatriots. Were they misguided? - most certainly! Were they "brain-washed?" - probably! Still, there is a "comprehending" which "outsiders" are simply unable to grasp which causes "insiders" to understand why they did what they did. It’s an "understanding" which they share with soldiers who have preferred to die with their comrades in an impossible - maybe even misguided - struggle rather than to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds, even when surrender means that they will live and eventually be freed.

Oh, the horror of surviving a struggle when your friends and compatriots have died; to be left alone in the midst of "empty chairs and empty tables" to go on with life without the friendships and without the "cause." The emptiness of it all! Better to have fallen with your comrades than to live on. Worse yet, it’s like having participated with General Heinz Guderian and the vaunted German Wehrmacht during its daring, headlong plunge towards Moscow in the summer of 1941 (with 120 divisions on line), and then - after its defeat - having to spend the rest of one’s life with the Bolivian National Guard and soldiers who can’t even march in a straight line. Yes, Guderian and the Wehrmacht had served an unholy cause! - but what an army! and what a bold and adventurous drive! - and though it ultimately failed, the euphoria and exaltation that it produced is impossible to forget for those who were a part of it.

WHAT THE "JESUS REVOLUTION" WAS ALL ABOUT - THE SEARCH FOR COMMUNITY

But how did the "Jesus Revolution" come about? What forces produced it? The "Jesus Revolution" resulted as a reaction against the vacuous nature of the Christianity of the 1950s and the narcissism of the drug culture and the so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. Taken together, these things produced an insatiable desire on the part of countless numbers of college-age youths to search for "truth" and "community" - a search that owed NOTHING to the established denominations of that day, and one which occurred almost entirely "outside of religion." Indeed, it had a lot to do with the nearly total inability - even impotence - of the Christianity of that era to deal with the kind of separation and emptiness that the drug culture and the sexual revolution had produced.

The fact of the matter is, the Christianity of the late 1950s was geared towards materialism and worldly success; specifically towards individual materialism and individual success. It had very little to do with any kind of concept of Christian "community." It was a Sunday-go-to-meeting-kind of Christianity adjusted more towards making the individual Christian a more productive member of the secular society which surrounded him and with upholding social conventions and personal propriety than it had to do with leading its adherents into a living, loving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and with other Christians. It was a minimalist kind of Christianity oriented towards the busy life-styles of men and women who were "on the make;" who were oriented towards "keeping up with the Joneses," of moving up the corporate ladder, of "relocating" to the suburbs, of buying that extra car, etc. It had very little to do with a Biblical Christianity and a Biblical kind of church-life, and very much to do with personal success in the "here and now."

This was hardly a kind of Christianity which could be of any help to the college-age youth of that era - a youth which had pretty much seen through the vacuous nature of their parent’s religiosity and their "martini," "Madison Avenue" life-styles, and who had been trapped in the "aloneness" of the drug culture and the empty, barren sexuality of that era. Indeed, the aversion of most of the college-age youths who came to the Lord in those days against the religious establishment of that era was so great that there probably would have been no "Jesus Revolution" had the people who led it felt compelled to work within Establishment Christianity. And it’s for this reason that it is so deplorable that much of the history of the "Jesus Revolution" has been rewritten - rewritten largely to accommodate the sensibilities of those evangelicals who had opposed the revolution in the first place. The fact is, the rewritten history of this era has produced a complete misunderstanding of what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about - and so much so that it has actually made it possible for Establishment Christianity to co-opt the "Jesus Revolution" for its own purposes and to "institutionalize" it within its own associations. The "Jesus Revolution" was about commitment and community - Christian commitment and Christian community; it was not about personal success and most assuredly it had NOTHING to do with materialism and ego - the altars at which Establishment Christianity worships.

Nevertheless, if one reads most of today’s accounts which deal with the "Jesus Revolution," one could very well come away with the view that the revolution had been produced by, and had emanated from, the very religious establishment which had at first opposed it - i.e., Multnomah School of the Bible, Dallas Theological Seminary, Western Seminary, Wheaton, etc. But that simply isn’t the case! The "Jesus Revolution" occurred DESPITE these institutions, not because of them. The reality is, leaders like David Wilkerson, Jim Durkin, Chuck Smith, etc. (to say nothing of the countless "no-name" leaders who were the real leaders of the revolution) were forced, to one degree or another, to leave the established denominations they were originally a part of in order to participate in the revolution. Even Hal Lindsey, the author of the Late Great Planet Earth and a graduate of Dallas, was opposed by most at Dallas for daring to "popularize" Dallas’s pre-millennial eschatology.

This brings us to the matter of the church, and to the question, "what is it about Establishment Christianity which makes it so unable to satisfy the need for ‘community’?"

THE CHURCH: GOD’S ANSWER FOR MAN’S LONGING FOR COMMUNITY; FOR HIS DESIRE "TO BELONG"

The Bible says:

"... It is not good that ... man should be alone ..." (Gen. 2:18)

He needs other human beings with whom he can interact; with whom he can mutually relate; with whom he can share his joys and sorrows, his victories and defeats, his successes and failures. Yes! - even failures. Indeed, one of the most poignant passages of Scripture relates to the need of companionship when one is suffering failure:

"... woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." (Eccl. 4:10)

And this sad lamentation is repeated throughout the Scriptures (Ex. 18:18, Num. 11:14, Eccl. 4:11, etc.).

Even God cannot abide loneliness - and it was this more than all the other horrors of the crucifixion, that tore at Christ’s heart when He was abandoned by the Father as He hung on the cross:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)

Loneliness is surely an abhorrent thing. Indeed, one of the most invidious things about sin is that sin destroys relationships; and in doing so, it creates separation and isolation. After all, what is it about adultery that makes it so abominable? - surely it is the fact that it tears at the fabric of trust which holds a husband and a wife together in love! And is it not the same with idolatry? Does not idolatry strike at the very heart of the relationship that God desires with man? - certainly it does! And what about honoring your parents? - when one fails to do so, does it not break the relationship between parents and children? - of course it does! And then there’s stealing, and covetousness and all the rest. Do not all these things - in the end - destroy relationships and break the bonds of trust that hold a community together, creating in their wake suspicion, cynicism, hatred, etc. - all the things which are the progenitors (i.e., the origin and source) of isolation and division? Surely they do!

Man needs "community" - and sin destroys it. Sin destroys man’s relationship with God, and it destroys his relationship with other men. Without "community" - i.e., "community" with man and "community" with God - man ceases to be man; he loses his humanity. And it is for this reason that God gave us the church -

"That they all may be one (i.e., that they may have "community" with each other); as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (i.e., that they may have "community" with God): that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)

"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me." This is very important! How does the world know that God sent Christ into the world? - because believers have (1) "community" with each other, and (2) "community" with God! That’s our testimony: Community! -

"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:22-23)

And how is this "community" accomplished? - through the church! This is what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about - the recovery of community! The recovery of the "community-life," i.e., the church-life! The Bible says,

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world ... Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will ... Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself ... That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ ... And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And to make all men see what is the FELLOWSHIP of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known BY THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God ... That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend WITH ALL SAINTS what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, him be glory IN THE CHURCH by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (see Eph. 3:3-21)

"Gather together in one;" "fellowship;" "with all saints" - what is all this speaking about? - "community!" - "community" with God, and "community" with man! Where? - in the church! Again we say, this is what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about. It wasn’t about the charismatic gifts! It wasn’t about power! It wasn’t about any of these things! It was about community!

WHAT CHRISTIAN "COMMUNITY" IS ALL ABOUT

Now it’s important in this connection to understand what the word "community" means. The word "community" is taken from the word "commune," which means to "communicate intimately with," or to "be intimate with." The word implies "closeness," "affection," "familiarity," "friendship" - and is the word from which we derive the word "communal," meaning "belonging to," as, for example, in the way it is used in Mark 9:41:

"For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."

We belong to Christ, and it’s for this reason that those who help us help Christ; and in doing so, Christ incurs an obligation to them (i.e., He becomes indebted to them) - hence, His obligation to reward (or pay) them.

Now be clear what’s happening here. It’s not Christ per se who was helped; it was those who belong to Christ (i.e., Christians - us) who were helped; but because we belong to Christ, the debts we incur as a result of our testimony are ipso facto incurred by Christ. Our debts become Christ’s debts. He is obligated to pay them. This is the sense that "belonging to" implied in the Ancient World. Therefore, when one "belonged to" a community, his debts too "belonged to" that community; his obligations became the community’s obligations. Thus, "community" in the Ancient World meant "to hold things in common" in the sense that we today attach to the word "communal" or "commune."

In the Ancient World, the church was the "community of God," it was the "commune" of God. Hence, unlike what most modern-day Christians have been taught, the early "communal" organization of the church in Jerusalem was no accident or fluke. It flowed naturally and in a very uncontrived manner out of the early saints’ understanding of what "community" meant - which is to say, "communalism." Consequently, in speaking of the early church, the Bible says:

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common ..." (Acts 2:44)

"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." (Acts 4:32)

Pretty scary, isn’t it? It certainly strikes at our modern, "free enterprise" understanding of the church-life - but to the extent that this frightens those who are reading this material, it’s to that extent that we have missed the mark of what the real church-life is all about -

"the unreserved sharing of one another in a community of believers who possess the life of Christ."

This is what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about - the unrestricted sharing of one another in a community of believers dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is precisely the yearning for this kind of "community" and the friendships and commitment that flow out from it that exerts such an enchanting pull on those who experienced it so long ago. And it is precisely this understanding of the church-life which makes the church-life of today’s evangelicalism seem so shallow in comparison to those who participated in the "Jesus Revolution."

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT THE CHURCH IS A SOCIALIST INSTITUTION

Of course, this is not to say that members of a church are required to "sell all they have" and to "have all things in common." There is no such requirement laid upon the saints of God. What the disciples did in the church in Jerusalem, they did of a willing spirit and because of the exigencies of the time. This is made plain in the account of Ananias and Sapphira:

"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

"And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it, at the apostles’ feet.

"But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

"Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (Acts 5:1-4)

What’s important to note here is that the Scriptures recognized the prior claim of Ananias and Sapphira on their property and money. It was theirs. They could dispose of it as they wished. The church as such had no claim on it; this passage of Scripture does not validate the socialist ideologies of Liberation Theology. While the Bible is certainly not a capitalist document, as some preachers of the "Green Gospel" and the Religious Right (and especially the "fat cats" of the Republican Party) suppose, it plainly recognizes the "right" of private property. What Ananias and Sapphira did that was wrong was not refusing to join in what appeared to be a "general rush" of some to sell their property and give it to the church, but was, instead, pretending to join that "rush" and lying to the church about it. Lying to the church was the sin they committed.

And it occurred in this way: some of the disciples had very evidently been led of the Lord to sell their property and give it to the church. For example, "Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus ..." (Acts 4:36) And, of course, there were many more who had likewise been led of the Lord out of a willing heart to do so (Acts 4:34) - evidently to meet the very great need of the church at the time [which had, in a matter of days, expanded from a few hundred souls to thousands and thousands, many of whom were desperately poor (Acts chapters 2-5)]. That they did so willingly is made apparent by the context. Obviously, Ananias and Sapphira were not so led, but they saw what appeared to them to be the general thanksgiving of the saints in connection with the generosity of those who had given so much, and they wanted to be "lifted up" (as they saw it) in like manner; hence their intrigue. (Acts 5:1-2) They wanted the "approval" (again, as they saw it) of the congregation minus the sacrifice that was necessary to obtain that "approval" (i.e., appreciation, thankfulness). They wanted recognition! - and an undeserved recognition at that. This was the problem" This was the sin!

THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY

For those on the left who claim to see an embryonic form of socialism (or even communism) in these passages of Scripture, or for those on the right who believe that the actions of these individuals resulted merely from an "over enthusiasm of the moment" (or who would really rather see these passages excised altogether from the Scripture), they are missing the point altogether. The church is not a socialist institution; neither is it a capitalist institution. IT IS A FAMILY! Institutions - whether of the right or of the left - derive their validity from power, i.e., force or the ability to coerce or compel others. Not so with a family. Coercion has no part in a family. Families derive their validity from love. What motivates the action of family members is love, not coercion. We repeat, the church is a family; it’s not an institution! We are the Lord’s "brothers" and "sisters," and "brothers" and "sisters" one of another. The Bible says,

"While he (i.e., Jesus) yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

"Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

"But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

"And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

"For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matt. 12:46-50)

Together, we all share the same life - Christ’s life. Jesus said:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:4-6)

By abiding in Christ, we share Christ’s life, and because we share Christ’s life, we become Christ’s family. This is why Jesus said:

"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

We are members of his family, and this is why we can ask the Father what we will - because we ask as His children:

"... what man (i.e., father) is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

"Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them (i.e., his children) that ask him? (Matt. 7:9-11)

We are the Father’s children because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ - we share Christ’s life.

This brings us back to the matter of communalism. The communalism of the church is an attitude, it’s not a "necessary way of doing things." Was the communalism of the early church a normal thing? Probably not. Was "living together" and "having all things in common" what everybody really wanted? Probably not. Living together and sharing things in common are not normal things - nor should they necessarily be. Nevertheless, the church should have a communal spirit (Geist). A willingness with regard to communalism. An attitude of communalism. Why? - because families are communal - not only in the Ancient World, but today and even here in America. For example, as I sit writing this, my grown daughter and my son-in-law (along with their four children) are living with us. Is this what we really want? No, not really - but we nonetheless do it out of a willing heart because love and the exigencies of the moment necessitate it. The same is true with regard to my two closest compatriots in the faith - Dene McGriff and Fred Palmquist. Both are taking care of members of their families who are not members of their immediate families. Dene and Carole (his wife) have their grown daughter and son-in-law (as well as their grandchild) living with them. Fred has his aged father living with them and Cheryl, Fred’s wife, is taking care of a grandchild quite a bit of the time. Why? - because they want to? Probably not; but again, because love and the pressing needs of the moment impel them to do so; and they do so out of a willing heart.

In the same way, those in the church in Jerusalem saw the need of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and love motivated them to sell all that they had in order to help. What love! What compassion! This giving was not forced upon them by an unfeeling bureaucracy and the force of institutional power, but instead flowed out of love. It had nothing to do with an institution’s compulsion, and everything to do with the love of one family member for another. This is what "belonging to" is all about. It’s a family "belonging to," not an institutional "belonging to." This is what Christ meant when He said,

"For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)

This is what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about! And this is why those who experienced it are so completely unable to forget it.

INSTITUTIONAL "BELONGING TO" vs. FAMILY "BELONGING TO"

Today, in church after church in America we have institutional "belonging to," but we don’t have family "belonging to." When the church helps its members, it helps its members as an institution, not as a family. Too often, the help that is extended is the unsympathetic, compassionless help that characterizes the welfare office rather than that of a family - and this is especially so in those churches which have adopted the elite establishment’s attitude towards the poor - i.e., that people are poor because they are lazy.

I don’t say that this is always the case, of course it isn’t. But all too often it is, and especially so with the larger churches. Where is there any testimony to the Lord here? Why would unbelievers be drawn to the Lord as the result of this kind of a testimony? No, it’s better for them to go to the institutions of the state than to the church. This is not the kind of love, the kind of "belonging to" that will draw unbelievers to Christ the way they were drawn to Christ during the "Jesus Revolution." Yes! - better that they go to the county welfare office than to the church - at least there is probably more money there, the files that are kept are probably more accurate, and the help comes on a more regular and non-judgmental basis than it does at the church. But if that’s the case, we shouldn’t wonder why unbelievers aren’t drawn to Christ. Why? - because Christ’s testimony lies in our oneness; it flows out of our oneness. That’s what the Bible says:

"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

"I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:22-23)

If we don’t have oneness, than we don’t have a testimony. Our testimony lies in the fact of our oneness. And it’s not the oneness that an institution generates or the oneness that ecumenicism creates, but the oneness that flows out of a shared life - the life of Christ - and that results out of the kind of oneness that a family alone - i.e., the family of God - is capable of producing.

DOCTRINE IS IMPORTANT, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT NOT FOR ACADEMIC REASONS, BUT BECAUSE IT PRODUCES LOVE

Yes, doctrine is important; without it, there is no church! The Bible says that the church is -

"... the PILLAR and GROUND of the TRUTH" (1 Tim. 3:15)

- and as we indicated in our last letter to you, if the church no longer "abides in that truth" (I John 2:27) can it really be called the church? The answer is obviously, No! Just because people who call themselves Christian meet together does not in itself mean that they meet as the church. The Mormons, the Moonies, the Jehovah Witnesses and countless other similar sects call themselves Christian - but does that mean that when they meet together, they meet as (or constitute) the church? - No, of course not! Why? - because they do not meet on the "ground of truth," despite the fact that they call themselves Christian. The Bible says:

"... God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Moreover, the Bible says,

"Whosoever ... abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, HATH NOT GOD ..." (2 John 1:9)

And it goes on to say,

"He that hath my commandments [i.e., my word (which is to say, the truth)] , and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

"... if a man love me, he will keep my words (i.e., he will abide in the truth): and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:21, 23)

If we are abiding in the truth, and - consequently - we are loving and being loved by the Father and this love is being manifested to our brothers and sisters in Christ, than all this will have an outcome: the church. Love is the outcome of "sound doctrine," (that’s what John 14:23 says!) and that love then produces the church. If the church is not ultimately produced, than we should have concern as to what we are doing. If - in proclaiming what we perceive to be the truth - the truth we are proclaiming does not produce the church, but just empty words, than we’re doing something wrong! The Bible says:

"... (M)y word ... shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

THE CHURCH MUST BE PRODUCED

God’s Word produces an "abiding in Christ," which then produces love, which then produces the church. That’s what Isaiah 55:11 (when taken together with John 4:24; John 14:21, 23; and 2 John 1:9) plainly indicates. If our "contending" for the faith does not produce the church, then all our contending is vain. There is no substance to it - and again, when we speak of the church, we’re not speaking about an "institutional manifestation" of the church, but a "communal manifestation" of the church - the church as God’s family. The Mormons, the Moonies, etc. produce a oneness from their false doctrine, but it’s an institutional oneness, not a family oneness.

We repeat, this is what the "Jesus Revolution" was all about: oneness - and not the oneness of an institution, but the oneness that only a family can produce.

Were there mistakes made in the "Jesus Revolution?" Yes, certainly there were! Very bad mistakes - mistakes which shattered and even destroyed lives. Mistakes having to do with gross abuses of power and what we call "guruism;" Mistakes even with regard to "sound doctrine," etc., etc., etc. But was it, nonetheless, a legitimate search for the real church-life? Most certainly it was!

ESTABLISHMENT CHRISTIANITY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE "JESUS REVOLUTION"


That search did not originate with the Establishment Church. It had nothing to do with it! The Establishment Church knows nothing about the real church-life. How can it? It’s organized as an institution; as a bureaucracy, not as a family. The communalism of the real church-life strikes at the heart of the Establishment Church - oriented as it is towards "me-firstism" and the materialism and success of the "here and now." "Communalism" creates terror in its heart and the heart of its adherents. The thought of having to share unreservedly with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ is anathema to them. "What? - share my home with another family? Sell my BMW or Lexus to get money for others? - you’ve got to be crazy! What the poor and unsuccessful really need is a seminar on ‘responsibility’, on ‘how to be a success’ and a good kick in the pants to ‘get off their duffs’ and ‘get on with life’."

The devices it uses to draw people to itself have very little to do with a yearning to know Christ and to participate in a "communal" manifestation of the church-life. The Establishment Church is not communally oriented, it’s institutionally oriented. It offers "how to" programs and seminars in "how to" have a successful life in the "here and now" - seminars on "how to" better organize one’s finances (often so that there’s more money to give to the many very expensive institutional programs of the church); studies on "how to" have a better family-life (often not necessarily to create a better testimony but to generate a more pleasant family environment and way of life in the "here and now;" even teachings on "how to" have a better sex life, find a husband or wife, obtain a better career, a better "self-image," etc. But all these things - while not necessarily evil in and of themselves - deal with the "outward man," personal aggrandizement, and successful living in the "here and now;" they have very little to do with the real (communal) church-life (of sacrifice to others), and the manifestation of that life to a lost and dying world.

The fact is, the search for "community" in the 1960s and early 1970s did not originate in Christianity at all, let alone the Establishment Church. Instead, it originated out of a very human desire - a desire which, as we indicated earlier, God has placed in all humanity, both the saved and the unsaved; it’s a part of what makes us human - i.e., the yearning for community by unbelievers who were sick and tired of the narcissism and loneliness of the drug culture and the emptiness of the sexual revolution. [And believe me when I say that that desire is still there, lurking just beneath the surface of the lives of the unsaved; it hasn’t disappeared; it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still waiting for an answer - an answer that only the communal life of the church can offer. All that is needed is for Christians to turn away from "institutionalism" and towards "communalism" for a new "Jesus Revolution" to break out. What’s lacking is not the need and desire on the part of unbelievers; it’s still there! What’s lacking is the manifestation of a real church-life. It’s not a manifestation of power and authority that is needed, but a manifestation of love and commitment. The unbelievers are ready - it’s the believers who are necessary to preach the "Good News" who are not. The Bible says:

"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2)]

ESTABLISHMENT CHRISTIANITY AND THE "COUNTER-REVOLUTION"

What destroyed the "Jesus Revolution" was not so much the mistakes which flowed out of that revolution [mistakes are inherent in any revolution, even legitimate revolutions], but rather the fact that it was co-opted by the Establishment Church and eventually institutionalized within that church. This kind of thing, of course, is an all too common occurrence as revolutions progress and threaten the establishment. This is what happened to the "Jesus Revolution." By the mid-1970s the Establishment Church was finally beginning to recognize what was happening: it was being marginalized and left behind. As a result, it moved to take the revolution over - and it progressed along lines similar to most other "take overs," secular or otherwise - there’s no mystery here; there is a pathology involved which differs little from situation to situation. The actors and the names may change, but the script remains pretty much the same.

The first step most establishments take when confronted with unrest is to ignore it; as the unrest quickens and begins to "pick up steam," the establishment moves to a second level, which is to oppose it; finally, when open opposition proves futile, the establishment moves to a third step which is to accommodate itself to the new reality - not necessarily by changing inwardly, but by changing outwardly thereby subverting the revolution, and finally co-opting it. Establishments accomplish this by adopting the "trappings" of the revolution - i.e., its jargon, its style, its dress codes, etc. while avoiding dealing with the inner realities of the revolution itself. It’s a popular and highly successful tactic - and it rarely fails. This is what the Caesars did with the Augustinan Revolution, what Napoleon II did with the French Revolution, what the Catholics did in the Counter-Reformation, what Republican Party Progressives did with Democratic Party populism at the turn of the century, etc. It’s a popular tactic, and it is a very deceitful one.

What makes this tactic so easy to execute, however, is this: usually by the time the establishment moves to implement it, the revolution is beginning to be weighed down by its excesses and mistakes - excesses and mistakes for which it has no one to blame but itself. Such things are the common lot of humanity - whether Christian or secular, whether of the establishment or the anti-establishment. It doesn’t matter. Excess and mistakes happen. Why? - because humans are involved. They happened, for example, with Luther, with Zwingle, with Huss, with Darby, with Newton, with Moody - the list is endless; no one can be left out with any modicum of honesty and integrity. Those who would deny this are either fools, charlatans or very, very naive. The weaknesses and failures of the leadership begin to become apparent, weariness sets in, egos surface, jealousies form, economic failures begin to manifest themselves, excesses of authority develop, etc. (and, again, this happens secularly as well as religiously) - and it’s upon all this that the "counter-revolution" pounces and seizes hold on. This is exactly the pathology that took hold on the "Jesus Revolution."

THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION TAKES HOLD

The Establishment Church moved to adopt the informality of the "movement." Pastors moved out from behind their pulpits, took their ties off, adopted the attire (and in many instances, the long hair) of the "revolution" and began to preach from a stool and to mingle with the audience as they spoke. They started home-meetings (after, of course, carefully inserting their "own people" into leadership roles in them, and carefully orchestrating their content). Some churches encouraged "rock bands" (or at least more "modern" forms of music), and they threw away their hymnals and began using graphic projectors instead. Others started dance troupes and began to encourage "congregational dancing." Almost all the Establishment Churches opened themselves up to the "charismatic gifts" (even the Catholics and Episcopalians), and if they didn’t necessarily encourage them, they at least tolerated them. Even the staid Baptists relaxed their stand against them. But for the most part, it was nothing more than a facade; a deceit; a mask; a camouflage -

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof ..." (2 Tim. 3:5)

There was no real move towards the church-life and the communalism of the "Jesus Revolution." How could it be otherwise? - how could the Establishment Church make such a move and remain true to its real orientation - success in the "here and now?" No, for the most part, it was only window dressing.

Moreover, as they adopted the trappings of the "Jesus Revolution," they nonetheless continued to hold up to ridicule the excesses of the revolution, especially insofar as its "guruism" and so-called "untrained" leadership were concerned - as if there was no "guruism" in the Establishment Church [and, insofar as the matter of "untrained leadership" is concerned, one wonders what they would have said about Peter, James, Andrew and the other Apostles - men the Pharisees and Saducees (the establishment leaders of Christ’s time) called "unlearned and ignorant men ..." (Acts 4:13)] - and all this as if these things had been unique to the revolution and not, as we already indicated, also rampant in the Establishment Church - and more so if the truth were known. Most especially the Establishment Church attacked the "excessive sacrifice" the revolution seemed to require from its followers.

THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION AND ITS EFFECT ON THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE "JESUS REVOLUTION"

And it worked! Why? - again, as we just indicated, because fatigue and exhaustion had begun to take hold on much of the revolution, and "self" had started to manifest itself. Couples who had begun the revolution as individuals were now married and had children: they talked about being weary of giving, and giving, and giving and having nothing left over for themselves. The Establishment Church encouraged such people in this direction and motivated them in the belief that such giving was unnecessary - which, no doubt, some of it was. Charges of sexual deviancy were leveled against the revolution (as if such deviancy didn’t exist among the many "dysfunctional" families which populated the Establishment Church and occupied its pulpits) and were used to discredit it. Charges of "brain-washing" were used to explain what appeared to be the excessive demands of the revolution and the communalism that it encouraged - a communalism which incidentally exposed the self-indulgence and selfish lifestyles of many in the Establishment Church - indulgences and life-styles which could not be supported by any fair reading of the New Testament, and lifestyles which exposed their adherents for what they really were: "permanent residents" of the "here and now" rather than "pilgrims" and "sojourners." (Mark 11:13 and 1 Peter 2:11).

As the Counter-Revolution progressed, it worked on the adherents of the "Jesus Revolution" in a kind of wave like action, offering followers of the revolution the siren song that the Establishment Church has always offered those who adhere to it - "Christians can have it all: everything the world has to offer (and have it more abundantly even than unbelievers) and Christ too." The message was directed first at the most peripheral of those in the Jesus Revolution, and as these were subverted, they were encouraged to go back to their erstwhile compatriots with the news: "the world (and ipso facto, the Establishment Church) isn’t that bad; and besides the Establishment Church has changed" - and so a second group, which probably wouldn’t have been open to this kind of message from outsiders, opened themselves up to their former colleagues, heard them out, and were likewise subverted. And so the pathology progressed, crashing like an endless succession of waves over the ramparts of the revolution and wearing it down under its ceaseless pounding.

And in the midst of all this, self and ego played their ugly parts. Leaders began to unduly exalt themselves above their peers - prancing about as "overlords of the Lord’s heritage" and not as the movement’s servants; many took unseemly - and even illegal - financial liberties with the movement’s money; some even indulged themselves in sexual liberties which would have made the secular world blush. All this cast a pall of suspicion over the movement’s integrity and acted as an acid on the trust that is so necessary between leaders and followers - especially in a movement where so much sacrifice seemed to be demanded.

Today, twenty years later, not much of the "Jesus Revolution" remains; the acid of the Counter-Revolution has worked its awful course and has eaten away at the fabric of the revolution to the point that there isn’t much of it left. There are, of course, some who have continued on faithfully; but for the most part, the revolution is dead.

While many of the "Jesus Revolution" churches remain - some even as whole denominations - they continue largely as hollowed-out shells with very little of the communalism and commitment of their earlier years. Much of the informality also remains; here and there one can still see some of the long hair; most leaders seem to have dispensed permanently with the pulpit and continue to mingle with the "parishioners" as they speak; the guitars of the revolution still predominate; the dancers continue to dance; the singers continue to sing; there’s still a lot of speaking in tongues and the manifestation of the charismatic gifts; a lot of prophecy is still being spoken - much of it, however, just gibberish; there’s still some preaching of the Gospel, but the "street preaching" that characterized so much of the "Jesus Revolution" is gone; the "communes" have long ago been boarded up; and the "ranches" and "the land" abandoned or sold off.

And who’s to blame? - everyone and everything are to blame for its failure - everyone and everything except one’s self. It was the leaders - they were the one’s that were at fault; it was the excessive sacrifice; it was so and so’s sexual proclivities; it was greed; it was this sin and that sin, this brother and that brother, this sin and that sin - everyone but one’s own self. Everyone’s to blame but me - or so it goes.

GOD DIDN’T FAIL; WE FAILED

But be clear here - it isn’t God that failed; we were the ones that failed. It wasn’t God that was subverted; we were the ones who were subverted. We were corrupted with the message of "You can have it all and Christ too." You can have your BMW, your split level home, your green lawns, etc. - all this and Christ too. But the sad truth is, you can’t! The Bible says:

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24)

Now remember, this is what the Bible says - we’re not the ones! Don’t blame Antipas for this. Your controversy here is with God, not with us. Christians have been falling prey to the siren song of worldliness - i.e., that we can have the world and Christ too - since the beginning, and it’s been breaking God’s heart since then; and not only God’s heart, but the hearts of His faithful ones as well. Surely it was breaking Paul’s heart shortly before his death in Rome when he wrote Timothy concerning Demas,

"Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:

"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica ..." (2 Tim. 4:9-10)

Paul warned his disciples:

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

"But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness" (I Tim. 6:7-11)

- and as we have said many times before, the line between the "love of money" and the "possession of money" is a very thin one, indeed - a line that is very rarely navigated successfully. Jesus said:

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

THE CONDITIONS THAT PRODUCED
THE "JESUS REVOLUTION" ARE STILL THERE

There are many ex-Jesus revolutionaries who maintain that the "Jesus Revolution" can never be recovered; that it was an aberration that could never be repeated; that it was largely the product of the unrest and tumult which accompanied the Vietnam War. To a certain extent, that’s true - the unrest which accompanied the Vietnam War did act as a powerful catalyst for the events of the "Jesus Revolution." It helped to strip away the facade of "normalcy" which does so much to hide the temporary and uncertain nature of life in the "here and now." Social unrest and political uncertainty are usually the very necessary ingredients of events like the "Jesus Revolution." To that extent, the war - and the strife and commotion that it unleashed - helped generate the revolution.

Still, the real causes of the revolution were the narcissism of the drug culture and the emptiness of the sexual revolution, and these things haven’t disappeared in the ensuing years; if anything, they’ve become worse; many times worse! Indeed, the Bible says concerning the "end of days,"

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

"Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

"Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God ..." (2 Tim. 3:1-4)

These are exactly the conditions that produced the "Jesus Revolution." And unbelievers are still searching for answers - a way out of all this emptiness and shallowness of life. It’s not that they have quit looking - it’s just that they aren’t finding what they’re looking for any more because there are not enough laborers for the harvest. The Bible says,

"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2)]

What the Lord needs is laborers - laborers who are willing to sacrifice themselves and their "wants" in order to exhibit the church-life to a lost and dying world which yearns to know more than the selfishness and narcissism of the "here and now." It’s not so much unbelievers who have been subverted by the "here and now" - it’s believers! It’s evangelicals who have been subverted!! The unbelievers are still looking. Again, the Bible says,

"... The harvest truly is plenteous..." (Matt. 9:37)

And again,

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." (John 4:35)

It’s the laborers who are few!

WHAT’S NEEDED NOW

What’s needed now is not for unbelievers to get ready - they’re ready! What’s needed is for believers to be galvanized - galvanized not to "take the nation back for Christ" - the world, and America which is a part of this world, is not reserved for salvation, but for judgment (Psalm 9:8, John 16:8, John 12:31). It’s not the Promise Keepers, or the Christian Coalition, or even a suddenly "righteous America" that unbelievers are waiting for - it’s the manifestation of the church. The Bible says:

"For the earnest expectation of the creature (i.e., the creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God (i.e., the church) ... For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Romans 8:19, 22)

Again we say, it’s not creation and unbelievers who aren’t ready - the Bible says that they are "travailing in pain" to have the church revealed; it’s believers [i.e., the "laborers" (Luke 10:2)] who aren’t ready.

What shall we do then? - wait for another Vietnam War to break out to act as a catalyst to galvanize believers? - to strip away from them their love affair with the "here and now?" If that’s the case, Christians may wait too long. The next war may drown us all if we aren’t ready for it. And not only that, instead of acting as a catalyst for God next great move, it may very will act as a catalyst for the "Deception of the Last Days:"

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (i.e., the day of the rapture and the resurrection) shall not come, except there come a falling away (i.e., apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition ..." (2 Thess. 2:3)

Again, we need to remember what prophecy is all about: prophecy is like a road sign saying: "Slow down, sharp right hand turn ahead!" But if we fail to heed the sign, if we fail to slow down before we get to the turn, it will be too late to brake once we finally get there, and we will surely slide off the road and crash. Like a road sign, prophecy tells us things before they happen so that we can take evasive action before events catch up with us. If we wait until they finally overtake us, it will be too late to do anything - we will crash! Watch, therefore, for the "signs of the times," and don’t wait to take action. You may wait too long! Jesus said,

"... When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:2-3)

And Paul warns us,

"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." (I Thess. 5:4-6)

No, we don’t need another war. We have the "Prophetic Word" to give us vision. The Bible says,

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts ..." (2 Pet. 1:19)

The "Prophetic Word" is far more able than war to galvanize us, if we just let it do so. Why? - because the "Prophetic Word" is a "sure word." This is what the Bible says. We can trust it! Moreover, as we trust it, and begin to order our lives according to it, we become a testimony to others. This is what happened with Noah. The Bible says,

"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear (and) prepared an ark to the saving of his house ..." (Heb. 11:7)

Noah became a testimony by organizing his life around the vision God had given him. Like Noah, what we need now is to be gripped with vision, the same kind of vision that propelled Noah to do something which appeared foolish by any normal standard: to build an ark - on dry ground no less.

God had said that it was going to rain (and remember, there had never been such a thing as rain before because God had watered the earth by means of a mist which came up every morning and evening), and that a great flood would result. It hadn’t happened yet - and there was no evidence that it would. The only word that Noah had was God’s Word. But that was enough for Noah, and he proceeded with what appeared to be an extraordinarily foolish project despite what must have been the daily derision and taunts of his friends and contemporaries because he believed that -

"... the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Cor. 1:25)

God moves His people by means of vision - not necessarily the "Thus saith the Lord" kind which one hears so much in today’s charismatic movement, but the kind which results from a reverential and careful study of God’s Word. The Bible says,

"Where there is no vision, the people perish ..." (Prov. 29:18)

WE NEED TO PREPARE OUR ARK

As a result of his vision, Noah prepared an ark. We too need to prepare an ark. The ark we need to prepare is the church; the church is the ark that will see us through the troubled times ahead. Not the institutional kind of church so common in today’s evangelicalism, but the "communal" kind that results from a yearning for "family" that God’s people possess as a result of a worshipful "abiding in Christ" minute by minute, day by day, year by year.

In the end, this is what all our contending for the faith must produce. Again we say, if our contending doesn’t produce the church, then we should have concern for what we are doing. It could be that it is nothing more than a vain jangling. Sound doctrine produces an "abiding in Christ," which then produces love of God and love of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, which finally results in the church - God’s family! We must be brothers and sisters in Christ not just in word, but in deed.

THE WORLD IS HEADED IN TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

The cosmos is headed in two different directions: one direction is towards Satan, and the other towards God; one direction is towards separation and isolation, the other towards community - community with man and community with God. Unbelievers know this! They may not know it because they’ve studied the Word, but they know it nonetheless. They know it intuitively. It’s a "knowing" that God has put in the hearts and minds of all men everywhere. Again, the Bible says,

"That they all may be one (i.e., that they may have "community" with each other); as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (i.e., that they may have "community" with God): that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)

If your church isn’t measuring up to what we’ve been talking about here - please don’t quit and give up on the church. We urge you to prayerfully consider starting a "house-church" in your home. Give us a call at (916) 568-7461and we’ll help.

Sincerely,
Steve
 
S. R. Shearer Antipas Ministries

They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
(Heb. 11:37-38)

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life" (Heb. 6:24)

At some time in their lives - usually somewhere in the "middle years" - most men and women reach a point where they ask, "What is life all about?" Psycho-logists call it the "Mid-Life Crisis." It strikes the rich and poor alike; the so-called "successful" as well as the so-called "unsuc-cessful." It is charact-erized by a pervading sense that somehow or other life has passed them by; that they have lost their way; that life is not an endless lark with unlimited horizons, but has a definite end (death), and they are fast ap-proaching that end with very few of the ideals of their youth left intact. They are infused with an unconscious understanding that somehow or other they’ve gotten lost in the details of "everyday life" (making money, developing a business, raising a family, etc.) and have neglected the higher ideals and goals which had at an earlier time made up so much of what they were all about. Idealism has given away to cynicism and drudgery; optimism to pessimism. Psychologists say that such feelings will pass; that the details of their lives will again take on meaning - that all they have to do is "tough" it through. But I believe that such feelings have a very real meaning and message! - and that people ignore this message at their own peril. And this is not only true of the unsaved, but the saved as well. Don’t you lose your way. Life is more than the acquisition of material things. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve (both) God and mammon (at the same time). Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not ... life more than meat, and the body (more) than raiment?" (Matt. 6:24-25)


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