The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is This Book Dangerous?

          Prior to my Christmas trip I listed the books that I would be taking with me.  You can see the list here.   I have not finished all of these, but my intent is to review the ones I have already read or as I finish reading them in the near future.  In this post I will be reviewing The Shack by William P. Young.

           William P. Young's The Shack is a novel that has sold millions of copies, spent weeks on numerous bestseller lists, and been translated into many languages.  It is a phenomenon that has achieved immense popularity in the United States and throughout the world.  The book has generated much controversy as having been hailed as a highly spiritual reading experience as well as a dangerous book that has mislead millions with a deceptive interpretation of Christian belief.

           The novel tells the story of a tragic loss when a young girl is kidnapped during a family camping trip.  Evidence that she has been brutally murdered is found in a secluded mountain shack, but the body cannot be found.  The story opens four years later with the family still grieving over their loss.  The father receives a mysterious note from what may be God asking him to come back to the shack.  What follows is a life changing encounter with the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

         The story is mostly a dialogue between the very depressed father and God.  It is a book of philosophies, or more accurately, theological doctrine.  The ideas lovingly expressed here sound truly wonderful and I can understand why the book would be so appealing to many people.  However I couldn't help but feel a bit of uneasiness about this presentation.  It is not Christianity as I believe it.

         The Shack offers much for discussion and debate.   In that sense the book can be stimulating.  The storytelling is decent and the dialogue is entertaining.  The characters are well-drawn and in fact inspired by Young's own family.  I was let down by the trickery of the bad literary device used at the end.   It is not great literature, but it's better than average pop literature.  I wouldn't encourage anyone to buy the book, but if you have a chance you might enjoy reading it.

         Is it a dangerous book as some have said?  I guess the answer to that depends on your personal beliefs and the nature of the person reading it.  Yes, it is a potentially dangerous book in the sense that any book could be dangerous if used in the wrong way. 

         Have you read The Shack?  Do you think it is a dangerous book?  What are some other books that some have called dangerous?



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49 comments:

  1. Nice review! I read it a few years back, and enjoyed it for what I assumed it was...a piece of fiction. It's inaccurate portrayal of Christianity could make it a dangerous book; however, for those who do not believe, perhaps it will lead them to explore Christianity and its true meaning. For those of us who understand its inaccuracies, it gives us an open door to answer questions arising in non-believers. Thanks for the review. Happy Tuesday! :o)

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  2. I haven't read the book, but Christianity has SO many faces that it would be impossible to represent them all in a single work of fiction. If someone's afraid of controversial ideas, their mind is too small, and they need to engage some controversial ideas.

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  3. Nicely written. I don't have the book but my mom does. She loved it. Thanks for your insight.

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  4. I tend to think that most of those spiritual books are selling basically nothing. They are mostly written for really desperate people who will seek guidance even in relatively cheep books. In that way they can be dangerous because they usually aim for the less educated and less enlightened people with low self esteem who are more open to influence. Off course, some of these books are positive because, even if they have a superficial plot, they often promote positive thinking and being kind to other human beings.

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  5. Ok, I have to say I don't have patience for books like the shack because I think they are ridiculous. But someone wanted me to read it and lent it to me. I read it. I was bored. And I was not disappointed in that I still think books like that are ridiculous.

    However, I don't think it's a dangerous book unless non Christians think that these characters are really God and Jesus. We humanize our Holy God way too much. By doing this, we limit our relationship with him. But we are humans and that's how we think.

    I think the story of the grieving dad was great.

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  6. I can't believe this book is still around. It has been a long time since I have seen a book create such controversy among so people. The Devil has had himself one fantastic run of a best seller.

    This book is void of any biblical theology. It is full or error, false doctrine, and misleading teaching. It honestly should be avoided by believers and assigned to the pile of false doctrine.

    I think it is dangerous in the sense that gullible, un-taught, and even immature believers could actually think that there is any true help or guidance in this book.

    I think it is at least blasphemous, if not dangerous because it directs attention away from the true and living God of the bible to some fable that mis-represents both God and His truth.

    People are naive. They have been led to think that this is a piece of fiction when the author has said many times, this is an actual experience in his healing process. They are naive when they think it can be harmless.

    They are naive when they think it should be read in order to be discussed. I don't need to drink any type of deadly poison in order to discuss its intrinsic problems.

    I rejoice in the fact that one day God will triumph over people and things like this book and others. God will be exalted and the truth made known.

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  7. I haven't read the book but have heard positive and negative points about it.

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  8. I thought the book was about an honest struggle about having faith. It was fiction, not a testimony, not a read this and believe all of it, but a story! It caused just as much talk as Harry Potter and we're all going to hell for reading that series. Give it time, another evil book will be around to destroy the world.

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  9. I have read the book and found it very good. Dangerous? Only if you have a problem distinguishing fact from fiction.
    As my Pastor says, "It's fiction, just enjoy it."
    It held my interest from beginning to end. I can't say that it changed my life in anyway, I just enjoyed it! Love Di ♥

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  10. I prefer books that are not trying to push some sort of agenda or belief system and there’s simply too many others that I want to read for this one to get on my list.

    I’m not sure what makes a book dangerous – one thick enough to do damage if used as a weapon to bop someone over the head maybe?

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  11. I'm not particularly religous. I read The Shack before Christmas. Loved it. I cried frequently and enjoyed the story a great deal. I didn't really care about doctrine or dogma, moreso I was focused on the man's journey and his relationship with God. It is, afterall, a work of fiction.

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  12. Seams Inspired -- It should be only taken as fiction, but it is possible that it could stirs questions within those who want to know more. A strong sense of discernment is required in the reading of this book.

    Will -- It is good to know what other people believe, to question, and to study before jumping too hastily to conclusions.

    Sheri -- My mother and sister were the ones who encouraged me to check out the book.

    Dezmond -- I'm all for positive thinking and kindness to others.

    Teresa -- It's certainly not among the best books I've ever read. It was highly overrated probably because many people were so emotionally affected.

    Gregg -- I can see where this book might be taken as doctrinal truth and even become the basis for cultish religious thinking. It is probably good for Christians to read it if they know others who are sold on its concepts. Amen to the truth!

    Wanda -- I think the dual thinking on this book is what made it come to the arena of controversy. That's often what makes a book a best seller.

    Jennee -- I don't think the author had malicious intent in writing this book. He had a genuine struggle in his life and this was his conclusion to what he felt he had learned. It is fiction, but I think it also does present a belief system that many traditionalists dispute.

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  13. Diana -- I agree that this is the way this book should be read, but it has all the elements that can lead to alternate thinking that some may like while others feel is spiritually dangerous.

    Jane -- I think the danger comes in interpretation of themes and idea and how some ardent believers of what has been presented carry the message into the public arena to embrace as absolute truth. What comes from the reading of a book other than a entertainment or educational experience? If it is more than that a potential for cult following is there.

    Stephanie -- As a mere emotional reading experience, this book has what it takes. One must be able to see it as fiction and ask questions rather than just absorb the beliefs and accept them as absolute fact.

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  14. I read it last year and loved it!

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  15. I'm always interested in what people say about The Shack altho I haven't read it myself, I'm interested in it because it's a/ a self-publishing phenomenon and b/ a book with a spiritual base. I think the success of The Shack shows the hunger for truth and spirituality that is rampant in the world today. And I would love to know more about the author's promotional plan.

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  16. I've been hearing about this book a lot lately, and this I think clinches it-I wanna go buy it right now! Thanks for a great review :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  17. Karen - as I understand it, the "promotional plan" was that he printed a few copies for family and friends and it spread by word of mouth like wildfire. So much so that he was encouraged to print more and more copies.

    This book is not a manual of doctrinal teaching - it was never meant to be. What I want to know is, why are so many Christians afraid of contemplating a God of love? Surely they, we, cannot be more "comfortable" with a vindictive, distant, unknowable Sovereign than a Father who truly cares for each and every lamb in his flock, even when they wander off and get lost?

    For me the power of this book was not about teaching theology, it was about forcing me to examine and reaffirm my beliefs, and more importantly, my own attitudes and excuses for keeping God at bay.

    :Dom

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  18. Lee-

    I'm organizing a book burning-that there book IS dangerous.

    I don't think a book of any type can be inherently dangerous. As long as people think for themselves (not a popular concept in America today, but I guess I'm old-fashioned) they ought to be able to separate the literary wheat from the chaff.

    It wasn't so long ago that there were Christian-led album burning rallies, and even though I might agree with their opinion of the material they are burning, I am against the act of burning it. Just don't read it if you think it's crap.

    "A mind is like a parachute
    It doesn't work if it isn't open"
    -Frank Zappa

    "What, me worry?"
    -Alfred E. Neuman

    "Let me up, I've had enough"
    -Tom Petty

    "Oops! Wrong planet."
    -Utopia

    LC

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  19. Fredamans-- You are not the only one.

    KarenG-- I meant to discuss the independent publishing aspect of this book as that was the part I found most interesting. The author includes a "Story About the Shack" segment at the end of the book and I found this to be the most interesting part. You can also find information about his publishing journey at his website, which is easy to locate thru Google.

    Sarah -- I won't discourage anyone from buying the book, but I don't encourage it either. Just so you have an idea about what you're getting into.

    Dominic -- This is the promotional plan as I understand it. However, judging from the author's post publication activities I think he may have a doctrinal teaching agenda in mind.

    Larry -- Guns don't kill people, people kill people. I guess the same could be said for books. Except, the pen is mightier than the sword. Sometimes people don't separate the literary wheat from the chaff and just believe in anything that happens to sound good that day. A book has the potential to lead or mislead--but I'm not going to burn any of them, but I will tell people what I think of them. And I guess I've read plenty of crap in my life without feeling beforehand that it was going to be crap.

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  20. I've not read "The Shack" and won't be doing so. But based on what you've written, BOID, and what I've gathered from a few other sources, this book strikes me as the sort of thing favored by lightweight thinkers and those who need their "spirituality" cloaked in "entertainment" because they favor milk over meat (to borrow Biblical imagery).

    I'd say, if someone GENUINELY wants to learn about God - the idea of The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - and wants to learn about their relationship to The Creator, let him or her go to the REAL source: The Holy Bible.

    Who wants lightweight "entertainment" and fiction when the heavyweight, nonfiction, meat and potatoes is readily available?

    This reminds me of me: When I was young, the fictional work "ILLUSIONS: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach served as my "bible". But as I grew older and became a deeper thinker, I put aside the spiritual fiction and The Bible became my bible.

    Or to quote from Saint Paul:

    "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man," . . . Al Gore invented the Internet, and I was able to put all of my childish words and understanding and thoughts in a Blog.

    Uh... wait a minute. That doesn't sound quite right. Where'd I put my Bible? ...Oh, there it is, on the table next to 'Lord Of The Rings' and the 'Harry Potter' series.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  21. I haven't heard of this book, but it sounds interesting! I'm intrigued now!

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  22. StMc -- I can assure you that you would not like this book. It is light, but with some underlying ideas that are deep and in some ways illogical and troubling. I agree that the Bible says it best, but some people are not inclined to go to the Bible first.

    Talli -- It was a huge best seller in the United States. It sold quite a few copies in the U.K. as well.

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  23. Sorry, I haven't read it.
    And look! We're over halfway to 300 and it's only February First!

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  24. Hi Arlee -- I too read this book and didn't care for it. It just gave me a bad feeling, a heaviness. I know the content was heavy, but I never felt that it had any redemptive qualities about it. And frankly, I don't like the way the Trinity was portrayed. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

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  25. I don't really think it is dangerous, It can only make you think a bit more than usual. All depends on your state of mind :/

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  26. A good review Lee, though I haven't read the book it may upset parents who have had their children/child whilst on holiday, for example
    Maddie MacCann from the UK who was on holiday in Portugal nearly 4 yrs ago.

    Yvonne.

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  27. I think if you call a book dangerous, then it will sell more. My hubby has read this book but I haven't. He didn't think much of it and was surprised it was categorised as a 'christian' book.

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  28. Lee, I've read this book. It says on the book that it is fiction. But I can see where people who aren't anchored in Christ could be harmed by this book. I passed it on to one of our son's and he passed it on.

    I think you treat it like any work of fiction. It's a tale. But to categorize it as Christian is WRONG. That is what will hurt people.

    Great to see you today. Have a wonderful evening.

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  29. I have not read the book so my comment is just that. Man your fest is growing like a wild fire :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  30. Alex -- A to Z turnout is looking good. Lookout 300! Here we come!

    Lisa --- It did have a frivolity about the way it portrayed the Trinity.

    Doo -- And I suppose it could be argued that a person in the wrong state of mind could be influenced in a bad way. But even that is pretty subjective.

    Yvonne -- You may be right that it might upset a parent who has experienced a similar tragedy, but then again it could provide a great deal of comfort to others.

    Lynda -- I don't think the controversy over the book hurt sales at all. I would say it's a book that's influenced by Christian thought, but it is not a traditional Christian book by any means.

    Robyn -- The Christian catagorization could be misleading.

    Jules -- Thanks to all of those who are helping to spread the word--that's how we're really going to get A to Z to the 300 mark.

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  31. I just love that you opened this discussion! I read the book at the suggestion of a dear friend whose faith (and approach to this book) I share. There are many out there who forbid books for their children based on the prevailing opinion of the majority who claim their same faith. (Harry Potter is evil, for example.) (No, he's not. I want my own invisibility cloak and I'd like to kick Draco's ASS) My stance is read ANYTHING. Judge it for yourself. What totally PISSES ME OFF to no end is when people judge a book without reading it. WTF? What gives YOU the right to say ANYTHING about something you haven't read? I mean, it's like "You called the wrong play on 4th down". You aren't the coach. They don't know what factors figured into this decision. I read widely and discriminatingly. I refuse to pass judgment on a book that I haven't read. That would be the height of arrogance.
    So all that to say: The Shack is FICTION. If it gets people talking and thinking about God and Jesus and salvation, all the better. I very much enjoyed one man's thoughts about what heaven might actually be like.
    Ok, stepping off soapbox to say, looking forward to April and thanks for the follow.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  32. Tina -- Thanks for your comment. You make a good point. I agree that is good to be well informed by reading a wide range of things and listening with an open mind. A judge and jury listens to all sides and is presented with a lot of evidence in order to make the best decision. It's hard to convincingly take a side unless you really understand what is being presented.
    I'm excited about the A to Z Challenge this year and glad you are a part of it.

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  33. There's an intro in a MG book called "The Title of this Book is Secret". In it the narrator states that all books are dangerous because they contain ideas and ideas are dangerous. Then it dares the kids to read on. It's fabulous.

    So, yes, all books are dangerous - and we should read them anyway!

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  34. I read this book a few years ago and I really enjoyed it, it was no threat to my Christian belief. In fact I thought the author had a great imagination......:-)Hugs

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  35. I haven't heard much about it--not sure if I've just been somehow coasting past it, or if it didn't make as large a splash here in Australia. I think books like this can be handy for stimulating debate, but unfortunately that's not always what happens.

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  36. Wow! lots of comments. I personally have never even heard of this book but that isn't really surprising since I don't like books about Christianity nor fiction. When I want to know something about God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit I pray about it and ask for wisdom and understanding of Gods word, namely the Bible. Wow lots of comments though :) Geoff.

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  37. I have not read The Shack. My wife started to but stopped part way through. She said it was a bit too intense for her. She likes self help books anyway.

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  38. To one of your commenters, Dezmond: With all due respect, there are many highly intellectual and confident people who enjoyed this book, and other books that attempt to help discern the "not always easy to understand" bible.

    Thanks Arlee for reviewing this book which has opened up an impressive room for discussion.

    I read it, hoping to see it as a metaphor, but was totally bored. On the other hand, my husband, who I view as a very knowledgeable Christian and who walks it, liked the book. I was surprised.

    With all the things going on in the world, comparatively, I don't think this book is a threat at all. If I recall correctly, the author was surprised at its success. I don't think he set out to start a cult or something.

    Again, good job!

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  39. I've not read "The Shack," but it sounds like an interesting premise. I'll see if my local library has it on the shelf and let you know my thoughts if they do.

    Another book that comes to mind that had a somewhat polarizing effect was "Conversations with God : An Uncommon Dialogue (Book 1)" by Neal Donald Walsch. If read with a belief towards all possibilities it is thought provoking.

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  40. I read The Shack and did not find it dangerous at all, but rather a remarkable and compulsively readable 'crossover' book that can relate to secular readership as well as the
    Christian readership. Theologically it is not 'traditional' and probably unsettles fundamentalists with some of its 'outlandish' representations of the Holy Trinity, but then - you know me, that's my cup of tea anyway. It's only a book - take it for what it is, and get over it if you don't agree with it.

    I think it's an excellent book, filling a great need in this current spiritually polarized society. Good review here, as usual.

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  41. I haven't read The Shack and won't be reading it. I do think that it did get a lot of people thinking and talking, which is good. And I agree with others that if a book's any good, it's probably "dangerous" to someone.

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  42. Wait....
    It appears that I am somewhat out of the loop.

    How is this book supposed to be "dangerous"?

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  43. Jemi -- The sensationalist taboo approach is usually effective.

    Bernie -- That's the way it affected me, although I have read better books.

    Amie -- If a book stimulates intelligent thought and discussion that can be a good thing.

    Geoff -- It's a popular book that many have read or at least heard of, but you probably haven't missed that much.

    Stephen Tremp -- You probably have to be in the right mood to enjoy this book and I don't know that it qualifies as a self-help book in the traditional sense.

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  44. Anita -- Thank you. I would never knock a person's sincere appreciation for something I may not like. It depends a lot on what their actions are after they have read the book.

    Paula -- I am not familiar with the "Conversations" book that you mention. I think the biggest problem with any book in which the author presents a scenario where God is speaking, the author may be injecting his own beliefs as what God would believe. It is specuative thinking.

    Marvin -- It is indeed a modernist's take on an age old topic.

    Carol-- It is a book prone to stimulating thought and has the potential for some kind of danger if only in the arena of belief systems.

    Andrew --- If the hardbound version were thrown with great force and a corner struck you, then that could be dangerous. Or if a copy were to be lit on fire and tossed into a cluttered room doused with gasoline, that would be dangerous. But wait, why am I coming up with all of these ideas? You're the guy that's always coming up with weird stuff. I'm sure you could come up with all sorts of ways that this book could be dangerous.

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  45. Hi Lee .. interesting. I really like your review - too many believe everything they read, or see in the media or tv .. just because it's in black and white doesn't mean it's true.

    Somehow we need to be able to work our way through the haystack ... I like Old Silly's comment - succinctly put .. Hilary

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  46. I hope there are dangerous books out there. Poets and writers are always culled first in any 'cleansing' of a society. It is of course dangerous to be invited into the minds of others - that is the point. I want my ideas, my belief systems to be constantly challenged - the Buddha said 'don't believe anyone who tells you something without experiencing it yourself, including me." Rumi says "Christ is the population of the world,/and every object as well. There is no room/for hypocrisy./Why use bitter soup for healing/when sweet water is everywhere? "
    Thanks for your review. I've heard of the book but haven't read it.

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  47. I read this book but didn't enjoy it. I have very deep-rooted beliefs and this presented ideas that I strongly disagreed with.

    But dangerous? I think that's a stretch. Anything that encourages faith in God is not, in my view, dangerous. It's how you use that faith that matters.

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  48. Hilary -- We have to go with what we know or learn about what we don't and then use good reasoning to draw an intelligent conclusion.

    Jan -- ditto for what I just told Hilary

    Karen -- That is my point here. Intrinsically the book is not dangerous, it's what people do with the knowledge the danger potential might exist.

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  49. Thanks for this nice book review. I enjoyed it. I read book reviews on different sites, I find your review very genuine and orignal.

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