Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Christians shouldn't be involved in a democracy, or if they are, they should be liberal

This is the "deadly serious" post I alluded to that has been rattling around my head for a few days, interrupted by the London bombing and my angry thoughts on that. This has been bugging me for a while, so I decided to drag out my Bibles (yes, I have more than one) and do some research. Research for a post? Boy, I must be serious.

Anyway, whenever I see evangelical fundamentalist Christians get involved in politics, it bothers me. Not just because they're usually on the other side of the issue than I am (this is America last time I checked, so they can have their opinion), but because of the two reasons I mentioned in the title of the post. "True" Christians, in my opinion, cannot be involved in politics. And if they feel they can be, there is no way they should be conservative. In my humble understanding of Christianity, being conservative is basically a betrayal of everything Jesus stood for.

Ah, a bold statement like that cries out for an explanation, don't it? Well, I know you come here for trenchant religious analysis, so let's begin! First, why I believe evangelicals are conservative. Most evangelicals are, let's face it, white. White meaning Northern European stock. This is a whole cultural thing, and I'll probably engage in some stereotypes, but bear with me. The so-called "Protestant work ethic" has nothing to do with Protestantism per se. The work ethic of the Dutch, Germans, British, and Scandinavians was simply grafted onto whatever branch of Christianity they happened to practice. Did the Dutch become hard workers simply because they adopted Protestantism? Of course not. There is a great cultural divide between Northern and Southern Europe, roughly corresponding with the borders of the Roman Empire. The northern Europeans have a different outlook on life than the southerners. I don't know if it's the climate - they had to work harder to grow crops, while down south oranges and grapes were falling off trees into maidens' laps - or what, but there is the stereotype of northerners being hard workers while the southerners - not so much. The French have a particular problem with this, it seems - they border both the Mediterranean and the North Sea, and some of their history is closely entwined with the Romans while other parts are linked to the North. I haven't been in Europe for many years, but it was very interesting how the southerners had a much more laid-back attitude. They worked hard, but they took siestas in the middle of the afternoon, for crying out loud! So this attitude of "hard work" has little to do with Protestantism. The colonists - British, German, Dutch - brought it to the U.S., where hard work was definitely needed - all those hostile Injuns, for example. Why were they so mad? The United States has always had this tradition of working hard - witness our total lack of vacation time or, God forbid, maternity leave at jobs. You don't want to spend time with your newborn - you want to get right back to work! I would argue our tradition of "working hard" has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with culture.

So what does this have to do with conservative evangelicalism? Well, the evangelical movement is essentially Protestant (in that it's not Catholic) and led by these British, German, and Dutch people who also helped build this country. People who are successful in business start out radical in order to make their fortune and then become ridiculously conservative in order to keep it. These evangelicals have the attitude that they need to work hard and that no one is going to help them out. It has nothing to do with their religious belief. They think it does, but it doesn't. Once they become successful, natural conservatism takes over. They never got a handout, so no one else deserves one. The government didn't interfere with their business, so it shouldn't interfere with anyone else's. They now have children, so the crazy things they might have done in their youth (before they were "born again," which really means they grew up) must be curtailed for their children, because children must be protected at all costs. They have investments overseas, so military force must be used to protect those investments, because capitalism made them rich, so it obviously can make anyone rich if only those people applied themselves. You'll note, again (I don't mean to belabor the point) that none of this has anything to do with religion. What these evangelicals do if graft their religion onto these personal beliefs, because they can't imagine their religion contradicting the way they want to think, and the way it is somewhat natural to think. What about young evangelicals, Greg? Well, these people have been raised by older conservatives, and despite Americans' claims to individuality, we are a product of our culture and family as much as anyone. So these rich conservatives breed young conservatives.

So far, so good. There's nothing inherently wrong with conservativism and wanting to preserve what you have built up. Everyone wants it. I want to pass on good things to my daughters, and I will get angry if anyone tries to take my stuff from me. But now we get to the religious part, and here's where we have to consult the Good Book.

Religious conservatives, it seems to me (I'm stereotyping again, and I could be wrong) believe in certain things. Evolution should not be taught in schools because it's just a "theory," or if it must be, equal time must be given to creationism. Gays are pure evil. Abortion is pure evil. We must use military force to kill anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus as the Son of God. God has given us dominion over the earth, so let's enjoy it! Censorship is good. If the government is "Christian," criticism of it is evil. America is the Promised Land. Sound about right?

Okay, evolution. Whatever. Evangelicals can be with the Republicans on this one, because the reigning Republican administration has shown nothing but contempt for science since it got into power. I simply do not understand how you can claim "intelligent design" should be taught in school. My old friend Dave (with whom I had a fun e-mail exchange about raising kids in a Christian manner) used to send me loooooong e-mails about "proving" creation and debunking evolution. The funny thing about it was that, in his attempts to scientifically prove creation, he was making the point of the evolutionists. He always was a scientifically-inclined kind of guy, and for him, faith in creation wasn't enough - he had to prove it using science. At least he tried it instead of simply saying, "It's in the Bible." Intelligent design does not stand up to scientific scrutiny - it simply doesn't. ID proponents want to question evolution endlessly (which is fine - that's what science does) but they don't want people to question ID endlessly, because it would fall apart faster than the Phillies do every June. Teach creationism (which is what ID really is) in Sunday School. Teach it at home. Don't teach it in school, because it's not science. Why don't we teach kids that the sun revolves around the earth too? Look at the sky - it's obvious it's going around us! But I can deal with the evangelicals siding with the Republicans on that - it's a relatively minor deal. Science is science, after all, and if it's true, it's true, and the yammering of people who think we should still read goat entrails won't change that.

How about abortion? This is really the only thing I can see evangelicals siding with so-called "conservatives" on, because it's all about your definition of when life begins. If you believe it begins at conception, then it's murder. Fine and dandy. If you believe it's murder, you should try to outlaw it. I don't agree with it, but that's a belief. It's not like debunking evolution, which has been tested and tested for well over a hundred years and always comes out looking good. I don't even have a problem with anti-abortion people trying to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. It would suck, but that's the way our system of government works. You don't like Roe v. Wade, elect people who will change it. I don't even have a problem with those same anti-abortion people telling me and my wife we're going to hell because Krys has had an abortion. They don't make that decision, after all. I do have a problem with anti-abortion people killing doctors who perform the surgery, since it's, you know, legal and all, but they're crazy and shouldn't enter into the equation. Abortion is a very personal issue, and while I don't agree that the government should tell us that what we do to ourselves should be illegal, I understand the objections to abortion.

Where this kind of evangelical politicization begins to bother me is with gay people. The last time I checked, no gays were recruiting anyone I knew to join their demonic cause. All those gay marriages in San Francisco and Portland and Boston didn't make me divorce my wife. Marriage has been two things in its history: a contract between two families to increase their power and money, with the two people getting married having little to no say in whether they actually wanted it; and a match between two people who love each other. Fundamentalist Christians have yet to explain how gay marriages would weaken either one of those interpretations of marriage. Evangelicals point to the Bible as their basis for not liking gay people, especially good old Leviticus. Well, let's take a look at Leviticus, shall we? (I know it's been done, but it's worth looking at again.) In Lev. 20:13, God says to Moses, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable." Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Christians everywhere rejoice! Well, the rest of the verse is fun: "They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Do Christians really want to kill homosexuals? I guess they do. Also in Leviticus we get the Ten Commandments: "Do not lie" (19:11); "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material" (19:19 - that's my personal favorite); and "Do not ... put tattoo marks on yourselves" (19:28)¹. Any Christians out there with tattoos or wearing polyblend clothes? You're going to hell. Some people will say that Leviticus goes over certain laws that are for the Jews at a specific time and others that are universal. Well, to me, you can't have it both ways. Also, I thought Jesus was the final authority on morality for Christians. Jesus says absolutely nothing about homosexuals. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Paul does (in 1 Corinthians 6:9), but for evangelicals, the word of Jesus is supposed to be final². What fundamentalists can't get around is that the only reason they don't like gays is because the idea of anal sex disgusts them. They define gay people by the fact that they have anal sex. There is no proof that gay people are less moral, or worse parents, or worse marriage partners, or more likely to molest children (the opposite is actually true) than heterosexuals. But to most people (evangelical Christians aren't alone in this regard), gays are icky. You can't build a sound political platform on "Those people make us uncomfortable and they're icky," so they must justify themselves. They don't find that justification in the words of Jesus, so they find it in the Old Testament. When you Christians start wearing clothes made out of only one fabric and stop getting tattoos, then we can talk about your attitudes toward gay people.

The idea that we must use military force to impose Christianity on the rest of the world is repellent to me, and it should be to good Christians everywhere. This is why Christians shouldn't be involved in politics at all. How can you call yourself a good Christian and be involved in politics? Has George Bush, since he was "born again," loved his enemies as his brothers? No, and we wouldn't want him to. We want him kicking ass! Jesus said, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Mt. 5:39-40). That's not too difficult to understand, is it? I don't think there's much controversy about that translation. It is impossible for Bush to be a good Christian. It is impossible for anyone who believes in the words of Jesus to be in favor of this war. Jesus says quite explicitly, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Mt. 5:9), and I don't think Bush falls into that category. That's not to say I don't want Bush to find the terrorists and punish them (of course, he doesn't care about that, as I ranted about yesterday, but the point is, we need a president who is going to ignore that little beatitude when it's necessary. For Bush to claim that he's a Christian while ignoring the basic tenets of Christianity is hypocritical and somewhat facile of him. We are a "Christian" nation, so he has to appeal to that base. The fact that most Christians don't follow Christian teachings doesn't matter. It's good enough to claim you're a Christian.

If you're going to be a Christian in politics, you have to be a liberal. There is no way you can be on the side of the current version of conservatives, who have wedded themselves to big business and big money. As I mentioned above, Protestantism has a "work ethic" mentality at its core, but the idea of accumulating riches simply for your own profit is not a Christian ethic. Yes, you should work hard, but you should give it all away. Back to the words of Jesus: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Mt. 6:19). Has Pat Robertson stopped storing up treasures on earth? He looks pretty well off to me. Jesus said, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received you comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry" (Lk. 6:24-25). Has James Dobson decided not to judge people (Mt. 7:1)? Not likely. Jesus tells a rich young man: "Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Mt. 19:21; Mk. 10:21). He's a goddamned socialist, that Jesus! There is no way rich Christians can justify their wealth. No way. They should be voting the biggest tax-and-spend liberals into office that they can, because they need to give away everything they have earned!

This is the problem with Christianity. Christianity is almost impossible to practice. I am not a Christian, nor have I ever really been one (I was a member of a church, but only because it made my mom happy), but I do have a lot of respect for people who call themselves Christians and try to live a Christian lifestyle. However, Christianity was almost immediately co-opted by Paul of Tarsus and turned into a vehicle by which people could gain and hold power. Jesus was a desert ascetic, Paul was an urbane dilettante; the idea of Paul doing anything that Jesus recommended is almost laughable. It's no surprise that the version of Christianity that eventually triumphed is not the one practiced by the people who, you know, actually knew Jesus, but by a convert after the fact. Converts to a cause, as you know, are the most obnoxious and zealous in trying to prove they're better than the originals. The problem with Paul's version of Christianity is that it became the reigning religion of the Roman Empire, and from then on, true Christians could not engage in politics. I have no problem with people acting Machiavellian (or even Bismarckian) in politics, but don't pretend that you're Christian. In politics you have to lie, cheat, wage war, compromise, and generally be a jerk. Not always, but sometimes. Christians can't be politicians.

What about the censorship and the "America as Promised Land" thing? I'm not even getting into the latter, because it's just stupid. But if you're a Christian, you believe in very specific things, many of which are completely anathema to democracy and freedom. Jesus is tough on free thought: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Mt. 12:30), "For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother'" (Mt. 10:35, quoting Micah 7:6), "If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away" (Mt. 18:8). He brooks no argument, and allows no compromise. As I mentioned above, Jesus was a desert prophet. Those dudes were harsh and uncompromising by nature. Christianity is difficult, and totally against what the Founding Fathers were trying to create here - a land where people would not be persecuted for their beliefs (or lack thereof) and where everyone could get a fair chance. Jesus was fair, but also fairly precise and unwavering: believe in what I say or else. So therefore freedom of speech is out. Guns? Are you kidding? Jesus would have hated them. Say goodbye to the Second Amendment. All our freedoms that we cherish and die for are completely against Christianity.

I know there are Christians out there reading this who might be a little grumpy by my analysis. There might be others who think I don't know what I'm talking about. That's fine. This is just my opinion. I welcome people to dispute me, because I'm sure I'm missing something. I'm not going into the history of Christianity and how it has changed, I'm just saying that if you look directly at the words of Jesus, which most fundamentalists say they do (it's kind of the meaning of "fundamentalist," after all), you find that the words of Jesus don't jive with what a lot of these people say. We need to get beyond having Christianity in our politics, because it turns people into hypocrites and cheapens the faith all around³.

¹ My source is The New International Version Study Bible (1985 version); your Bible might say something different.
² Jesus, however, does say plenty about divorce. Here's just a sample: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery" (Mt. 19:9). Any Christians out there who divorced because they couldn't get along? Yeah, you"re going to hell. The ex-minister of our church divorced his wife because she was a lesbian (no, his name isn't Ross Geller). As far as I know, she never cheated on him. Is he going to hell?
³ I just found out how to do footnotes in HTML. Awesome. I love footnotes. Beware!


Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

As a practicing Christian, I think your column hass much to recommend. I mean, i don't buy a few leaps you make, but the general point is sound.

The thing about opposition to gay marriage that I don't understand is more mundane; for years, people chastised gays for their "wanton" lifestyle, and some gays (as well as a lot of straights) were very promiscous. So the idea that a couple wants to "settle down: should be a moment for rejoicing, nor ridicule.

Oh, one last thing: how the hell do you maintain three blogs with two children?

8/7/05 6:33 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/7/05 4:25 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

That was a well thought out post. Our views seem to be rather consistent. I liked the tone, also; it was critical but you did not come across as angry.

9/7/05 4:30 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Roger: I find the time by neglecting my wife! Oh, not really. I don't work (I'm a "kept man"), and the kids sleep in the afternoon, so I have a good three hours there. Mia gets a lot of therapy, so I don't have to deal with her then, but I want to be ready to help, so going away and reading is out - hanging out on the Internet while she gets therapy is something I can stop pretty quickly.

Yeah, I know I made a few leaps, and I like your point about gay marriage - shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that people want to be in a committed relationship? First we criticize gays for being promiscuous, then we criticize them for wanting to marry. I think it goes back to what I said - the opposition to gay people stems from their "ickiness."

Thanks, Matthew. I don't really like reading stuff where people are just ridiculing others and being angry (unless it's really funny). That's no way to make an argument. Like I said, I have nothing but respect for people who are trying to live a Christian lifestyle - why would I want to piss them off?

9/7/05 7:14 AM  
Blogger Eric Martens said...

I'm a non- (or anyway, not much of a) Christian conservative, and I'm pretty much with you on this. The religious right has done itself, the conservative movement, and our politics in general all kinds of harm in recent years. I don't think it follows, though, that, as you write, Christians "should be voting the biggest tax-and-spend liberals into office that they can, because they need to give away everything they have earned."

The point is for Christians to give their riches away themselves. (And Evangelicals have traditionally been among the biggest charitable givers in the U.S., though not so much anymore. This is part of what I meant by their harming themselves.) Jesus doesn't tell the rich man, "You should let the government take all your riches and give them to the poor along with the riches of the selfish prick next door." That's as un-Christian an imposition of virtue as any anti-sodomy law. If anything, Christians should be anti-Randian, charity-mad libertarians. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to the Lord what is the Lord's," cuts both ways, and I doubt that Jesus thought Caesar had any business dealing in virtue.

9/7/05 8:09 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Wait a minute! I didn't descend from no monkey! I jest.

It seems that Christians use the Bible to advance their narrow-minded views. Most of what people claim to be Christian and in the name of Christianity is in contravention with what I understand to be core values of that religion - acceptance, love, forgiveness, caring, and so on. That seems to be the case with most religions, though. In theory, they are great, but in their adherents' application, they are something else.

9/7/05 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments are pretty dumb, because they make a few assumptions that you should be smart enough to realize don't apply at all.
Do you really think people who label themselves as "right-wing Christians" have read the Bible? No dude, they've just read the parts they like. And people who feel free to pick and choose which apects of the Bible they choose to endorse don't have to be consonant with the entire doctrine that Christianity sweatily espouses; they just go by the parts they like.
Or if they know about Jesus' radically socialist ideas they just don't stress on it. He just died on a cross is all. For you, but especially for me, and not for no damn homos! And not no damn immigrants!
(And P.S., reading goat entrails is a science, not for reading the future but for estimating the health of a site; check Vitruvius, On Architecture, Book One, Section Nine, page 41, Volume of the Loeb Classical Library Edition.)

9/7/05 10:15 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Eric: Yeah, that's true, but I just wanted to make the point that the stereotypical conservative wants to cut social services in favor of "pure capitalism" (which doesn't exist in the U.S. anyway), while the stereotypical liberal wants to tax more to give to those who don't have it. It seems strange that "Christians" would vote with the former so much. I know that evangelical organizations give a lot to charity, but it seems that they only want to give to causes they espouse. While there's nothing wrong with that, Jesus made no distinctions. The idea that cutting money to schools (a particular sore spot with me) jives with Christian principles makes no sense.

Anonymous (I wish people would leave their names!), I'm sorry I'm dumb. But as you say, a lot of these people haven't read the Bible, and I just get annoyed when people can identify themselves as "Christian" as claim they speak in the name of Jesus, and no one calls bullshit on them. Christianity is harder than it looks, and everyone going around saying they're Christian just to pander to an audience is stupid. So yeah, I made some assumptions, but it's disappointing that when you point Jesus's (and the apostles') raging socialism to Christian conservatives, they say you have no idea what you're talking about. Why, exactly?

9/7/05 1:09 PM  
Blogger fdfs said...

Whew! I'm staying out of this fray!

...Except to say, you know, Greg's right.


9/7/05 2:17 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I see no fray. I hope I just see a discussion.

9/7/05 3:14 PM  
Blogger layne said...

I love Leviticus, it helped make me the apostate I am today.
Seriously though, I really enjoyed this. I'm torn between being jealous of how well you articulate and being grateful that I live in Canada. Like it says on our licence plates: "We have weirdos too, but it's not like we listen to them."

My main problem with religion, especially of the fervent, evangelical variety, is that I see it as an empty exercise in positive reinforcement and personal validation. The emphasis on the believer's "relationship with God" is solipsistic pandering, with "submission/service/worship" facilitating a disingenuous act of narcissistic transference.

That's just my two cents...I hope I made sense.

9/7/05 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to read it twice but yeah, you make sense.
And Nick, I do agree with Greg's stance on things, I just think it's kind of dumb to confront an audience devoted to superstitious belief with logical approach and argument. They'll believe what they want even if facts get in the way.

9/7/05 5:26 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I am very glad I stumbled upon your blog. I am a fiscal conservative who can't stomach the Republican Party due to their overwhelming focus on what I deem to be, "non-issues." It seems that the fundamentalist Christians are bent on forcing their views on our country and our world through politics.

Greg, I am quite relieved to see that there are still people like you out there in the world.

9/7/05 5:56 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

Greg I linked this post on my site. You hit the mark on what disgusts me with my brothers and siters in Christ.

Oh and you need to read you some Stanley Hauerwas. I think you'd dig them.

9/7/05 8:16 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Sigh. More people to read. Damn you, Lefty!

Hi Ashley. I'm glad you came by. I'm certainly by no means a fiscal conservative, but I certainly like fiscal conservatives more than religious conservatives. At least you can debate policy!

9/7/05 9:50 PM  
Blogger Roxy said...

Again, a well thought out rant.

10/7/05 10:04 AM  
Blogger N said...

Here's one thing about fiscal conservatives. They tend to be hypocrites no more often than anyone else! Isn't that amazing? They have a stance, they proclaim that stance, and they generally try to make that stance a reality. Good for them!

The Republican Party as it is now, and the religious right, however, are as hypocritical as human beings can get. Think about this: everything --- every single thing --- the GOP claims to stand for is actually the opposite of what they want to achieve in this country. They claim to believe in tolerance and unity, but they divide and attack (the peurile, hate-filled garbage of Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity,their guard dogs, see to that). They claim to be the law and order party, but our president and VP have five DUIs between them. Bush used to be a party boy, and oh, haven't the right wingers stopped talking about how important a man's past is, like they did when Clinton was in office? They claim to be the party of martial honor, but again, both the P and VP skipped out on the wars poorer people their age had to go to. In his defense, Bush was just too drunk to even show up for his DOMESTIC service; Cheney's record of dodging Vietnam is simply vile and scandalous. They claim to be "tough on terror," but why did Bush ignore Clinton's recommendations on bin Laden when he took office before 9/11, and why aren't our armed forces deployed to shut down al Qaeda isntead of Iraq, which has no conection at all to 9/11? They claim to be the party of tolerance and freedom, when they're anything but. They claim to be the party of "less" government, byu which they only mean fewer taxes for the wealthy; when it comes to acutally keeping government out of our private lives, like democrats want, they are absolutely the opposite. Big Brother is watching you homos!

Their hypocrisy has no end, basically. Now I have to go lie down with a cold compress on my fevered brow; this hystical partisan ranting tires me out.

10/7/05 10:14 AM  
Blogger Krys said...

Don't forget about the whole prostletyzing thing--the bible says somewhere (unlike my slacker husband, I haven't the time to look it up) something about not "shouting from the street corner", but going about quietly and doing good works & getting your reward in Heaven. Aren't these Fundementalists really just shouting from the street corner, proclaiming that everyone is going to hell but them?

I was thinking about it when Greg was arguing with his Mom about which was more valuable; Smokey's life or the $6,000 we spent to save it. I decided that neither is inherently more valuable--we, as individuals, simply place value as we see fit. For us Smokey was more valuable. For Mom, the cash had all the value. This basic fact is the reason we can't have one individual (or one group) deciding the "acceptable" moral values for an entire country. With the exception of the basic tenants of law like rape & murder, we all have very different ideas of "values". When someone else's values start infringing on other people's basic human rights, I have a problem!

11/7/05 1:49 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...


Read Matthew, Chapter 6.

12/7/05 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow..a liberal/conservative suggesting that the the only proper thing for others involved in government to be is the same as them...

how very brave.....

15/7/05 10:57 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't know if you're talking about me, Lance, but I'm not Christian, and I don't care if people in government have the same ideas I do. It's very healthy for a government to have lots of different ideas about how to run things, and then all sides compromise to find the common ground and (we hope) the best way. What annoys me is people claiming that they are Christian when they're not. I would respect conservatives a lot more if they didn't base their ideas on "It's God's will." As I said, I could be way off base with my interpretation of Christianity, but that's why this is America!

15/7/05 11:59 AM  

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