Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Canada

You don’t know the wind

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Image by ptra from Pixabay

The title comes from a line in an art book published 25 years ago, titled If you’re not from the prairie . . . The art is by Henry Ripplinger and the poetic text by David Bouchard. Together they evoke childhood in rural Saskatchewan just as I remember it.

Another line in the book says “You’ve never heard grass.” People in other parts of the country know the sound of the wind in the trees. We don’t have many of those on the prairie. I remember warm summer days in my boyhood when I would walk through the pasture and hear the sound of the grass swaying in the gentle breeze.

Another favourite Saskatchewan book is the novel Who has Seen the Wind, byW. O. Mitchell. The description of the boy listening to the sounds made by the wind in the grass is picture perfect, a beautiful example of showing, not telling.

I have travelled across Canada, seen the Pacific in the west and the Atlantic in the east. I have lived in half of the provinces and I know there is wind everywhere. Yet there is something about the wind that blows across the flat prairie with few trees to impede it that speaks to me in a way that tells me that here I am at home.

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Image by sspiehs3 from Pixabay

We don’t enjoy it when the wind blows at gale force for several days. But then, we don’t enjoy it either when it is a hot summer day, the mosquitos are around us like a cloud and there is not even a little breeze to blow them away. For better or for worse, the wind is part of what it means to be a flatlander.

  • If you’re not from the prairie . . . , © 1993 by David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger. Published by Raincoast Books, Vancouver.
  • Who has seen the wind, © 1947 by W. O. Mitchell. Published by Macmillan of Canada, Toronto.

The second coming – of Karl Marx

Perhaps the best way to describe Karl Marx’s ideology is to call it the atheistic version of John Nelson Darby’s millennial doctrine. Marx foresaw a time of class warfare causing chaos and upheavals (a great tribulation) before a worldwide reign of peace (the millennium).

Marxism delivered on the great tribulation, historians estimate the deaths caused by communist regimes at upwards of 100 million. But the millennium did not arrive. All that happened was that one set of rulers, thought to be harsh and unjust, was replaced by another, even more harsh and unjust.

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Image by Bernd Marczak from Berlin from Pixabay

Karl Marx considered his ideology to be spiritual, that is it would satisfy the deep spiritual yearning of mankind, with no need for a god to worship. Yet it was a degrading doctrine. The end justified the means, and the doctrine was infallible. People bought into the idealized picture of a future classless society of brotherhood and abundance. The events unleashed by that belief left them brutalized and dehumanized.

The failed promises of Marxism led to disillusionment, for a time it seemed almost to fade away. But lo-and-behold it has reappeared. Scratch the surface of the fervent environmentalists and internationalists and you will discover the same collectivist dogma, the same quasi-religious fervour. “The world is in mortal danger and the only hope of salvation is to surrender yourselves to our programme so we can set things to right.”

I am labelling all this as Marxism because Karl Marx was the prophet. But the real power behind this movement is that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9). Our enemies are not politicians, social activists, and other notables of the gender wars, climate change wars, class wars, etc. We are faced with intense spiritual warfare and it is vitally important to know who is our real enemy.

Many people today are stirred by a desire for personal fulfilment, for social justice and for the future of the planet. Other people who are not stirred by the same aspirations, in just the same way, are seen as enemies of progress. A fervour for change, a belief that such change must happen now or all is lost, leads to a feeling of urgency that the enemies of progress must be forced to change, or somehow gotten out of the way.

Nothing good will come out of this righteous-sounding activism. It is our chief enemy’s tactic for causing everyone to mistrust everyone else. That is his business – to divide us all so that there can be no united effort to counter his influence. It’s time to stop and look at what is happening. In the words of a pop song from the 60s “Ain’t nobody right if everyone’s wrong.”

As Christians we need to understand people are not our problem. If our feelings are stirred so that we criticize and argue with people who hold to other beliefs, we are playing the enemy’s game.

We are citizens of the peaceable kingdom of Jesus Christ. We can trust the future into His hands. The best way to counter the tumult of the kingdom of this world is to be animated by the forgiveness, brotherly love and compassion of our Lord.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The apostle Paul has the best advice for us:

 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:10-18.

Christians who discern the wiles of the devil and persevere in prayer will do more to help their country and their fellow citizens than they could ever do by engaging in the political process. And that is why I will not be voting today. But I will pray and I urge other Christians to join in praying for Canada and all those in positions of authority.

My home and native land

I am Canadian by birth. I am part of this country and its people; this country and its people are part of me. The history and culture of Canada are an integral part of who I am. I have lived and worked in five of Canada’s ten provinces and visited three more; I am at home anywhere in our land; I speak both official languages.

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Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

Being a citizen by birth is much like being part of a family. We may not always agree, but our roots go deep, our histories have intertwined so we cannot escape the fact that we are family. People from other countries, other cultures, have married into our family and become part of who we are as a family. So it is with our country. We used to have a family doctor who came here from the Democratic Republic of Congo, had received his medical training there. He told me once that he sometimes thought of going back, but his children were Canadian, their roots were here.

I love the land of my birth, my home and native land. I love her people. And yet. . .

By the new birth I am a citizen of another country, the kingdom of God. Specifically, I am a member of one special part of this kingdom, the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Not by natural birth, my parents and my wife’s parents were not members of this church. The natural birth does not make anyone a citizen of the kingdom of God.

At the beginning, we had no roots here. They soon grew and twined together with our brothers and sisters so that we cannot imagine being spiritually at home elsewhere. We love our brothers and sisters. Like us, they are sometimes weak, sometimes clumsy, we all make mistakes but we are family.

We are citizens of two kingdoms, but our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God. Our Canadian citizenship is only for this life, our heavenly citizenship is for eternity. As the second century writer of the Epistle to Diognetus so eloquently described the life of Christians:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life.. . They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign. . . Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.

There is an election in Canada on Monday. I will not vote. However, I will continue to pray for the members of our government, for they are ministers of God for the matters of this life. I will pray that God will bless them with wisdom and vision to exercise their ministry for the good of all the people of our land, so we can live in peace, order and safety. Above all, that we may be at liberty to worship and serve God according to His will.

There is no valid baptism without the new birth

The beginning of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Western Canada owes much to the spiritual vision of one man. Peter Toews was the Elder of the largest part of the Kleine Gemeinde (Little Church) which had separated from the main body of the Mennonite church on the Molotschna Colony in Ukraine in the early 1800’s. Their aim was to return to the original pure faith and practice of the Mennonites. Unfortunately they had no understanding of the new birth so merely concentrated on the outward evidence of their desired purity.

Quarrels and divisions shook the Kleine Gemeinde and by the 1860’s there were four different groups. Elders Peter Toews and his brother-in-law Jacob Wiebe laboured to unite these groups, but only partially succeeded. Jacob Wiebe united with the group led by Elder Abram Friesen, but the largest number of members united with the group led by Peter Toews. A few years later Jacob Wiebe and his group, who lived in Crimea, separated from Abram Friesen’s group. They believed they had not been born again when first baptized and were all rebaptized by immersion. In the process they took a different name, calling themselves the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren.

All three groups emigrated to North America in the 1870’s; the Peter Toews group went to south-eastern Manitoba, the Abram Friesen group to the area of Janzen, Nebraska and the Jacob Wiebe group to Hillsboro, Kansas. Peter Toews had experienced the new birth many years earlier and became acutely aware that many, probably most, of the members of his group did not have peace with God. In his search for answers he came into contact with the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, led by Elder John Holdeman. In the summer of 1881 he was authorized by his church to travel to Kansas to investigate that church. Following are a few excerpts of the letter he wrote to his church at the conclusion of that trip.

The foremost question on my mind was concerning baptism, whether they would baptize a person the second time if it were found that he had been unconverted at the time of the first baptism. They answered to the affirmative; and they had had a case like that: whereupon a minister called a man, A. Wenger by name, to tell of his experience.

(This was Absalom Wenger, son of Peter and Susanna Wenger and the forefather of a large number of Wengers who are members of the church of God in Christ, Mennonite today. He had repented up to a point and seeing the peace and freedom of others who were baptized, he had hoped to gain this peace through baptism. He gave a false testimony of having a good conscience towards God and was baptized. Instead of the peace he had hoped for, Mr. Wenger had felt condemnation. He was afraid to reveal this for some months, but finally did confess to a group of ministers. After this he was able to repent fully and received peace with God. He felt very strongly that his first baptism had been invalid and thus was baptized the second time.)

I then told them that if Holdeman would come to us there possibly would be no end to the rebaptizing of members that had not experienced the new birth and the faith that bringeth about true repentance.

During this discussion my mind was somewhat relieved of my prejudice to rebaptism.

Again I thought if God, in that church, revealed such displeasure when only one person not having experienced conversion was baptized, what would become of our baptism? How many of us have also received baptism on false testimony?

So I must unite with the Church of God and labour toward the union of all God’s children. I can therefore no longer justify our baptism received outside God’s church, nor can I any longer administer oour baptism or the Lord’s Supper. I shall . . . trust in the Lord to lead us to be united with that church. How this will come about is as yet unknown to me, I shall leave it to the leading of God, if it be His will, till Holdeman and one of his helpers come to visit us.

I fear to continue building a structure that is not built according to the rules of the gospel and the God-given pattern, but, as it appears to me, is beside the pattern and teaching of God.

I fear to build members of torn and divided groups, which are not baptized into one body, the church of Christ – to build a kingdom to which only a few of us belong. We are not baptized into one body, but are torn and divided, some walking in self-chosen humility and worshipping of angels (of which we should not be beguiled, lest we lose our reward).

We all profess that we are all baptized into the body of Christ, even though many are walking in voluntary humility. Therefore it appears to me that we are beguiled and in danger of losing our reward, missing the mark and not reaching our goal.

I again certify, as you already know, that I can no longer continue in my office as Elder, and this for no other reason than the fear of God: lest I deal differently than His Word teaches us.

In the winter of 1881-1882 John Holdeman and Marc Seiler came to Manitoba and held evangelistic services in the various locations where these Kleine Gemeinde people had settled. These people had been earnestly trying to live a Christian life, but most were unconverted. Under the preaching of Holdeman and Seiler many were born again and 160 persons were baptized. Congregations were established in seven small villages.

An abundance of geese

Greater Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens atlanticus), blue morphs in foreground, Alexandria, Ontario, D. Gordon E. Robertson, 2 April 2010

I asked my wife this morning if we should take today to go to the city for the things we needed, or if another day would be better. Then we got a message that the electricity would be turned off in our area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That was our answer. School was cancelled for the day too. When we got home in the afternoon we heard the electricity never had been shut off.

On our way to the city we saw huge flocks of geese overhead. Occasionally there would be a field beside the highway that was covered with birds, thousands of them, the majority white but many a darker colour. Snow geese: we are located on their flyway and this is the time of the year they drop in to glean in the harvested fields. Snow geese are abundant, definitely not an endangered species. It is estimated that the breeding population is increasing by 5% each year.

At one time it was believed that the dark coloured geese that flock together with snow geese were a different species. Further observation has shown that they always flock together and that they interbreed. Nowadays they are all called snow geese, with two morphs of plumage colour: white and grey-blue. Not everybody has caught on to that yet, many casual observers still think they are two different species.

Sadly, many people have also not caught on to the fact that there is only one race of humanity, homo sapiens, with a great variety in colour and size. The Bible says we are all of one origin; the apostle Paul reiterated that on Mars Hill, saying all people are of one blood.

Evolutionary biologists used to dispute that, saying that there were different races of humanity. Genetic science has caught up with them, confirming Paul’s statement. Can we all just accept that?

Spectator or participant?

Canadian politics just became much more interesting. Maxime Bernier has withdrawn from the Conservative Party, of which he almost became leader, to found a new political party. He is speaking up about issues that others want to avoid talking about and this has raised a storm of criticism. Perhaps he is starting a movement at just the opportune moment to bring the country back to the principles that unite us. Or perhaps his movement will fizzle out and just be a footnote in history. In either case the next few months promise to be interesting for political observers.

However, for those of us who are Christians, we must remember one thing: in politics we must remain spectators, not participants. Politics is a dirty business and no one who engages in politics, however pure his intentions, can avoid becoming soiled. Politics is he art of the compromise, but a compromise is seldom reached before a lot of grime and slime is slung about. Christians cannot win at such a game, unless they cease speaking and acting like Christians.

In the church we must be participants, not mere spectators. If we think the purpose of the church is to provide spiritual entertainment, we will be disappointed. But if we are looking for something to do that is meaningful and fulfilling, the church has a place for us. It may not be highly visible, but if that’s what we want we should ask ourselves if we understand what truly matters in life. There are people in the church who see things differently than we do. Listen to them, perhaps we have missed something. We should speak freely about the things that matter to us that they may have missed. We need to love them, and be lovable. Above all, follow the promoting of the Holy Spirit and trust that they are doing that too. When we are all led by the Holy Spirit the work we are doing will result in something far better than any one of us could have planned.

The Emperor’s New Clothes and Donald Trump

In the tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen, a vain emperor is approached by two men who claim to be master weavers. They offer to make him a marvellously fine set of clothes from material that only they know how to make. This material has a unique characteristic, it is invisible to those who are unfit for office or not very intelligent.

After many days they present this new garment to the Emperor. He cannot see it, but is afraid to appear stupid or unfit for his office, so he praises its beauty. All his courtiers do likewise. A great parade is announced for the Emperor to display his marvellous new wardrobe and all the people are informed of its magical quality.

The parade begins well, the people exclaim about the beauty of the emperor’s garment. Then one little boy yells “The emperor has no clothes!” Slowly the people catch on that they have been duped; but the emperor and his courtiers, afraid to admit that they too have been duped, continue the parade, stepping more proudly than before.

This tale is an apt metaphor for the current state of our Western democracies and Donald Trump is the bratty little boy who called out the flim-flammery of our intellectual, cultural and political elites. Most media outlets are willing participants in this effort to portray the direction pursued by these elites as the only right way to think.

A photo from the Republican convention has stuck in my mind. It showed one of the attendees holding a placard that proclaims “Trump digs coal.” I think that neatly captured the appeal of Donald Trump. While the elites were talking about climate change and clean energy, they never said anything about how that might affect the livelihood of people in the coal mines and coal-fired electricity plants. Trump understood the concerns and fears of the people so casually dismissed by the elite and aimed his campaign at them.

Conrad Black writes a weekly column in the National Post, one of Canada’s national newspapers. When Trump first announced his candidacy Black was almost a lone voice in considering this to be a serious run for president, with a good chance of succeeding. Black wrote that Trump was not a buffoon, he had the understanding and skills to win, and that he would make an effective president. Now he has published a book: Donald J. Trump, A President Like No Other. The book details Donald Trump’s early life, his business career, the presidential campaign and his first year in office.

It becomes clear from the book that Trump’s bid for the presidency was not a spur of the moment decision, or just another publicity stunt. In fact, the activities of Trump that were dismissed by the elites as publicity stunts were actually a calculated plan by Trump to make his name known to ordinary Americans. This includes his TV show, his sponsorship of beauty pageants and pro wrestling and other activities that kept his name in the public eye.

He was willing to bide his time for years until the opportune time when he would have the best opportunity to win. Meanwhile, people were becoming more and more dissatisfied with the lack of direction in the country. Jobs were exported to Asia, unrealistic programs were announced to combat climate change, twelve million people were in the country illegally, governments alienated traditional allies and tried to cosy up to enemies, and no one would publicly admit that most terrorists were Islamic.

Trump is not anti-Hispanic; he just wants people to enter the country legally. He received a larger portion of the Hispanic vote than Hilary Clinton. He is not a misogynist and most women recognized that; he received more votes from white women than did Hilary Clinton. He is not anti-Muslim; he just doesn’t want to open the borders to anyone who is radicalized and a potential threat to the country.

Trump has let North Korea and Iran know that he is not going to play the diplomatic game by their rules. He is not a bully, but is not willing to let the USA be bullied by erratic and dangerous dictators.

Conrad Black does not portray Donald Trump as a thoroughly admirable person; he does not gloss over any of his past or present missteps. On the other hand, Black points out the hypocrisy of those who are opposed to Trump and are still trying to portray him as a dangerous and erratic madman. The elite is not willing to admit that they have no clothes, they still say that things would be better if people would just listen to them. Black’s conclusion about Trump is that “he is a man of his times, and his time has come.”

Something similar has happened in France, where Emmanuel Macron, who had never been elected to any political office, ran for President a year and a half ago, without the backing of any political party, and won. He then formed a new party that won a large majority in the French parliament last summer. Macron is a smoother man than Trump, but has many of the same objectives.

I am not writing to urge political activism, rather to urge Christians to avoid jumping on popular bandwagons of political correctness. Most of the programs advanced by the highly educated and sophisticated elite, in Canada and other countries, are not ways to make life better for the general population. They are simply means to convince us poor ignorant people to trust them to run things, for their own benefit. Pray for our governments, we live in treacherous times.

Donald J. Trump, A President Like no Other, © 2018 by Conrad Black. Published by Regnery Publishing, Washington DC

Every Day With Jesus – booklet report

My wife has informed me that the book reviews I have posted are not reviews. I have thought about that and decided that she is right. I should have called them book reports.

What I have before me today, though, is not really a book; it is a booklet of daily devotions giving a page per day for two months at a time. I trust that all Christians use the Bible as their daily devotional book, preferably reading a book of the Bible all the way through, in daily bite size pieces. But if you would pick up this booklet from time to time and read several articles,I believe you would find in them a deep spiritual wisdom.

These articles are refreshingly free of feel good, it’s all about me, pop psychology.  The current issue (January/February 2018) spends a number of days each on themes such as repentance, grace and worship. We are told that becoming a Christian is the beginning of a journey not the end.

These booklets are published in the UK and distributed all over the English-speaking world; there are distributors in a number of African and Asian countries, plus Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Canadian distributor is also the distributor for the USA, and I expect these publications are not well known there. I was introduced to Every Day With Jesus by a Nigerian who lives in Saskatoon. I buy it in the Christian book store.

The publisher is CWR. They publish a vast variety of other Bible study materials. I would be pleased to hear the thoughts of readers of this blog who are familiar with Every Day With Jesus or other CWR materials.

Fire Road – a book review

FIRE ROAD – The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness and Peace, by Kim Phúc Phan Thi.

June 8, 1972, a nine-year-old girl had the clothes burned off her back by napalm during the Vietnam war. The photo taken by AP photographer Nick Ut won him a Pulitzer Prize and became one of the most iconic news photos of the twentieth century.

This is the first person account of the girl in the picture.  To his immense credit, Nick Ut gathered up the children burned by the napalm and drove them to a hospital in Saigon. Kim Phúc was the most badly burned and doctors doubted that she could be saved.

But survive she did. When she started university, news got out around the world that she was still living and reporters began coming to Vietnam wanting to meet and interview her. The communist government seized upon this as a propaganda opportunity.  Kim Phúc did not understand the words interpreters spoke in foreign languages when she answered the interview questions but realized they were not repeating what she had said, but telling a story that the communist officials wanted the world to believe.

These interviews came several times a week and prevented her from continuing her university studies. She finally got permission to go to Cuba to continue her studies. There she met Toan, a Vietnamese man and they married. They could only go to another communist country for their honeymoon, so they chose Moscow. The choice was not made because of the appeal of a trip to Moscow, but because Kim Phúc had no intention of returning to Cuba, or any other communist country.

She had learned that the return flight from Moscow to Havana would make a refuelling stop at Gander, Newfoundland. The passengers all disembarked from the plane into the terminal at Gander. Kim Phúc didn’t know what to do next, who she could trust. After some time, she decided to pray; when she opened her eyes she saw a door that she had not noticed before, leading into a narrow hallway. She knew this was the way she had to go. She took her husband’s hand, went through the door and soon came to an office where an official said “Welcome to Canada.”

Doctors have done all they can to lessen the effects of the brutal scarring on Kim Phúc’s back and arm, but she still lives every day with pain. The emotional pain she suffered was even worse. Her family, like most South Vietnamese, were devotee’s of the Cao Dai religion. She found no help, no solace in this religion. While still in school she met a Vietnamese Christian minister and found peace and strength to face her problems through faith in Jesus Christ.

Toan and Kim Phúc have become Canadian citizens, they are parents of two grown sons and now grandparents. She has speaking engagements around the world to tell her story of hope, that the only way to peace is forgiveness and love, which is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ. Her story will move you, perhaps even change your life.

FIRE ROAD, © 2017 by Kim Phúc Phan Thi, published by Tyndale Momentum, Carol Stream, Illinois.

Brain benumbed by beastly biting cold

We are in the midst of a Canada-wide cold wave, with temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below seasonal averages. (Those are Celsius degrees, too. Each one is worth 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees.) The National Post reports that it was colder in Winnipeg this morning than it was at the North Pole, the South Pole and the Gale Crater on Mars, where the Curiosity rover is located.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Yet it was really only -30° in Winnipeg, and the three locations mentioned above are usually much colder than that. Still, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was -27° at its far northern tip. And the Canadian Forces Station at Alert in the NWT was -7°.  That has to be a fluke, since Alert is farther north than any Inuit settlement. The sun will not be seen at Alert for another two months.

My car started Christmas morning at -28°. When I went to open the rear lift gate it was frozen shut (I washed the car last Thursday). But it unlatched enough to turn on the interior light above the door. I guess that was enough to run down the battery, because the car would not start two days later. The -31° temperature wasn’t in it’s favour either.

This is now our third winter with this car and I knew that I had plugged it in a time or two each of the previous winters. But I suffered a brain freeze in the cold weather and couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to find the plug for the block heater. I looked all over the engine compartment and the grill and found no sign of it. Eventually I noticed it just poking its nose out of a vent under the grill.  I plugged it in and after a few hours the car started.

Today I went to Saskatoon. That is a 150 km round trip and depending how much we crisscross the city it could be as much as a 200 km trip. I got to wondering just where an electric car would die in this weather. Our car has a good interior heater and defroster, plus heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Add that load to the battery load in an electric vehicle and how far would it go? I believe a comfortable driver is a much safer driver than a driver wearing layers of clothing, felt-lined boots and two layers of mitts who can hardly see out his frosted windshield.

Forty years ago we had a little Asian car and in weather like this we had a choice between keeping ourselves warm or seeing out the windshield. It couldn’t do both at the same time. I won’t name the maker, because their cars have improved immeasurably since then. The car I’m driving now comes from another Asian manufacturer and is about as good as one can get for driving in our winters. What are the chances that electric cars might improve that much over the next forty years?

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