The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

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Hosted by Mike Cosper, this podcast takes you inside the story of Mars Hill Church in Seattle – from its founding as part of one of the largest church planting movements in American history to its very public dissolution—and the aftermath that followed. You’ll hear from people who lived this story, experiencing the triumphs and losses of Mars Hill, knowing it as both an amazing, life-transforming work of God and as a dangerous, abusive environment. The issues that plague Mars Hill and its founder, Mark Driscoll — dangers like money, celebrity, youth, scandal, and power—aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.

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Recent Reviews
  • GODZGOOD
    Exceptionally Well Done
    This was so well done, I really don’t have the words. As a borderline Millennial/GenXer I was incredibly influenced by Mars Hill. The teaching, the podcast they had and Mark’s books. I was very curious and a little bit skeptical as to what type of spirit was behind this series. But from the 1st Episode alone you could tell that this was carefully thought out and was coming from a place of genuine love and concern. It was simply well crafted all around. God is good. Keep doing what you’re doing.
  • Jahoozawitz
    Too long
    Listen to the first 5 episodes and then “The Tempest” to finish full circle. The message is good. And Mike does a great job of telling the story. This story parallels a lot of smaller scale churches. Glad that CT used this podcast to bring awareness to church people and leaders. I pray that leaders ask themselves, “is my church about me or Jesus?”
  • SavPerr26
    Hard to Listen
    It’s taken me nearly a year to listen to this. It has been painful to chew on. I attended Mars Hill, Ballard on a handful of occasions back between 2005-2008 and even in those times felt it was off even though I couldn’t put my finger on it. But, I heard good things so I’d make the drive a few times a year and I had a crush on a guy who attended there. At the time I was a part of a church in Tacoma, WA that was charismatic but had a narcissism of its own, and I was unofficially excommunicated at the end of 2007 when I finally realized how bad and Biblically off it was. It’s 2023 now and I can fully relate to the interviewees that well over a decade later still struggle with the abuse that took place during there time at MH and my 8 years at the church I was part of. So many parallels and painful times. It nearly shipwrecked my faith and it successfully destroyed the faith of many I dearly love and whom I hurt not realizing until later my good intentions caused them harm. I am now much more reformed, according to how many would define the way I demonstrate my faith, especially my progressive family. Listening to this podcast, it is obvious there is some liberal more progressive perspectives. The actual Gospel is not well defined, nor are the terms grace or mercy. Perhaps the host assumed those who listen would already have a good grasp on that, but defining terms clearly in my healing process was absolutely necessary and I imagine it’s needed for all. While I agree Mark lacked all grace and mercy and was never fit to be a pastor, I would have enjoyed hearing the host explain Biblically as well as all the other ways he was not fit. Scripture, though it was hard to even look at a Bible for years, still is something we should aim to return to if we call ourselves Christians, to make sense of many of the issues that took place. Mark is clearly a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I deconstructed for several years before I finally in reluctance opened my Bible again and the Holy Spirit helped me realize it was never God who was at fault and if I understood His Word, especially, “if you love me you will do what I command,” I would have better seen the dysfunction before I was boiled alive. It was not my fault nor the fault of so many people who were harmed that they are victims, but I wonder if we were more concerned about truly knowing who the true Jesus of the Bible is, if we would have been spared these deceitful “leader’s” tentacles of abuse. But we are human and it’s so easy to be caught up in mesmerizing movements, even with thousands of red flags we don’t realize were there all along. James is so clear that not many should desire to teach for they will be held to a higher standard. Mark as well as my old pastor walked in pride and not humility. That was a red flag I think so many of us miss when we are in a place with Christian language but not Biblical literacy. It took a flat out heresy from my pastor for me to wake up and realize he was not a shepherd. It also took the death of a sibling and the devastation of my entire family to realize I was living in a silly hamster wheel striving to be in an inner circle I was not good enough for and would never achieve. I praise the Lord for all He has done. He has spared me, and has helped me see how prominent this type of behavior exists in so many “churches.” My biggest plea is that people would truly surrender to Jesus as He commands and follow Him through His Word. Study it and know it like the Bereans. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path. He will guard you. Praying for all of your continued healing.
  • Tin Nan
    Conservative
    I’m conservative and I’m not a huge fan at all of christianity today. There are also a lot of things I like about Mark Driscoll etc.There are things in this podcast I think that are an oxymoron like a Christian feminist. That being stated I think this podcast has been very well thought out and very well done and is an important listen to anyone in the Christian faith that is in church leader ship and/or planting.
  • Fairway Hammer
    Intro Change?
    Enjoyed listening to this pod in the summer of 2021. Came back to listen again and the theme song dropped the narration between the lyrics in the intro. Anyone know what happened? Loved how the intro was mixed with the original song. Overall, really well done pod that gives the uninitiated (like myself) something to consider.
  • CLH on Golf
    Great Journalism and Presentation about Mars Hill
    As an Elder of a Evangelical church, I found this a powerful well presented story. I highly recommend this to any church leader to help guide their church.
  • applefan2876
    For Itching Ears
    Completely over dramatized. Apocalypse music is played to draw emotion from the listener and make them feel like this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of humanity. No practical solutions are given to solve the problems this show brings to light. Guess what, Mike? This exact same thing is going to happen again in the next ten years! And where will you be? Wherever you can make the most money for yourself and CT! With the secular ads that were played on this show, it’s clear to see it’s about the money, the truth can come second. Which it has. Because of this, I certainly won’t be listening to anything from CT in the near future.
  • Likkkhh
    Wow
    This podcast was so phenomenally made. I ran to this podcast after Mrs. Perry mentioned this podcast on hers. The research, music, editing, information, commentary that was not one sided but true journalism. This piece was humbling. I am a true follower of your work. Thank you for your hard work and dedication. I plan to be a supporter. Also, who picked the main song? My goodness, it was fitting!
  • ATMetzger
    Mark Driscoll…
    …probably wrote the one star reviews.
  • shin.eug
    The podcast no-one asked for
    This was a podcast that nobody asked for. When Driscoll disappeared from the limelight and Mars Hill dissolved. That was that. Then this guy decides it was in his tactical best interest 10-12 years later to say, “Hey, I’m not recognized enough. I’ll use one of the most infamous dudes in Evangelicalism. Do some fancy editing to present himself as “balanced” but in reality, this was nothing but clout chasing off the back of a guy that nobody cares about now necessarily. Listening to the whole of this podcast, it’s clear this dude was obviously trying to make a name for himself and Christianity Today, in all their useless wokeness, thought it was also in their best interest to partner up. All in all, it’s just like any other podcast that takes one quote or two from people and builds a whole case around the continual character assassination of a guy that nobody really talks about any more. This wasn’t brilliantly done. All this podcast has done is brilliantly masked the reality that this guy couldn’t handle Driscoll and much like most men in the west, attempted to legitimize his grievances on a podcast. The podcast itself was well done. The content therein, poorly produced, and to me, is the poster child of why the church in the west is failing in such comedic fashion… soft men like the host and those who cater to a culture that would rather see men emasculated than built up and stand strong which was the crux of Driscoll’s messaging anyways. But like any effeminate man today, tone policing seems to be the MO. The host just did it in a convoluted and pretty pathetic way.
  • Kqrodgers
    Time incredibly well spent
    I so much enjoyed this podcast that I chose to review for the first time. Heartbreaking story but a story that needed to be told nonetheless.
  • NerdyScholar
    Wow.
    Gut wrenching and unbelievable at times, yet the podcast approaches the story with much grace and compassion.
  • ProphecyWatchman
    One sided Attack Hit Piece
    CT is publishing this hit piece meanwhile giving “Pastors” like Joel Osteen a free pass. CT is liberal garbage. I guess those giving this 5 stars also took the poke poison as well. Stop believing their trash propaganda.
  • Josietoughgirl
    Paint the Beauty we split
    Overall the entire Mars Hill podcast was amazing. Heartbreaking, faithfilled, honest and vulnerable. As a leader in the church- although not Mars Hill or a similar church- I found the power dynamics and abuse so hard to hear. And yet- the show did such a great job of showing how God still worked in and through it. I wanted to write in response to the music episode because Kings kaleidoscope worried that Mark Driscoll’s fingerprints tainted a great song they wrote. As someone who came to know Kings Kaleidoscope through this story- I want you to know I disagree. I listen to your Music now and don’t think of Driscoll at all. I don’t hear his words when I hear sticks and stones but enjoy the beauty and faithfulness of the song. Thank you for sharing your music and for the work you continue to do.
  • Grouped on
    Good series - skip the bonus episodes.
    I enjoyed the series and thought it was well done - but I was disappointed with the bonus episodes and thought they took away from the entire series with the exception of the interview with Tim Keller.
  • HeatherListening
    A Lot of Men Talking
    It’s an important story, but wow, the focus on male points of view becomes almost laughably infuriating. There’s one important episode on the harm this kind of Christianity causes women, and the interviewees are mostly women. It’s the best episode. Otherwise, a lot of the series is a bunch of men interviewing each other about how to fix a broken misogynistic church that mistakes patriarchy for Christianity…. which is just … ironic. I would love for the series to tally the number of words spoken by women versus the number of words spoken by men, and then do a reckoning moving forward.
  • Aubs11
    Timely. Needed. I’m grateful.
    As someone who spent YEARS of my life in mega churches and dedicated my life and my children’s life to them, I’m so grateful someone is giving time to tell the story of how people abuse their power and can take advantage of those who do simply want to do good in the world and help others. So many of these people did simply want to do the right thing and wanted to just help others who had the same issues as them… but the wrong person got into leadership and when you’re told over and over if you question the pastor it’s as if you’re questioning Jesus - you believe them. You’re trained to believe that. And you’re punished as we see. The same things happened in the church I served in for years. I loved this reporting. I am grateful for those who told their stories. I’m grateful for CT Media and their transparency.
  • CLSS92
    Sheds light
    Very healing and soothing to those of us who have been through similar situations. I’m glad a friend told me about this podcast. It’s great knowing we aren’t alone in this. *** I love this podcast. I hate to see it end. We went through a lot of the same things **.
  • Emsperk111
    Slanderous, Lacking Grace, and Not Helpful to the Kingdom
    I have listened to Mark Driscoll on and off throughout the years, and although he has made some mistakes, his preaching and teaching is biblical and provocative. I was looking up one of his sermons and came across this podcast, curious how such a big name in Christian media would unpack what happened in Seattle nearly a decade ago. Unfortunately, I found this reporting to be completely lacking the grace that should be a hallmark of the Christian faith. This type of reporting is NOT kingdom focused. Has Pastor Mark made mistakes? Yes. Has he repented of these mistakes? Absolutely. I am quite sure him and his family have suffered enough because of them. As a believer, what matters that grace covers a multitude of sins and praise God for his redemption. Pastor Mark is still faithfully teaching the Bible and God’s grace is sufficient.
  • Fluffygooey
    Preach
    This story is way way way to common in churches today. Power and pride are the finest weapons of the enemy in America. Give me a village church in Nicaragua, a house church in China, a gathering of huddled families in Ukraine please. We have lost our first love. Also, the soundtrack for this… I have 30 new favorite songs now.
  • D'Vaughn (RevDev)
    Cathartic
    I had to pause several times each episode to process because so many of the stories aligned with my own experiences. I was coming of age as a Christian leader at the time of the mars hill ascendancy and never realized the formulation of my leadership constructs were largely based in dominance and manipulation. It took a long time(and this podcast helped give voice to it) to realize that many of my close relationships were transactional, precisely because of those aforementioned constructs. So, thank you…
  • I_am_a_dragon
    Watered Down Version of the Truth
    This is a moneymaking scheme that complicity refused to address the true depth and scope of abuse that Mark Driscoll perpetrated. Christianity Today has too much of a stake in the Church game to credibly report on this.
  • infomom
    Excellent series
    Each episode was so enlightening. It made me sad on occasion, however. I now know better what to look for in a pastor and church. Mark Driscoll was a false shepherd and he will reap the consequences. You all did a great job.
  • cmbohm
    Timely. I’m so grateful.
    I am grateful for this podcast. God is using it to help with healing wounds inflicted by the church including my own. I am especially grateful that Mike ended the podcast back with the people that were left holding hurt and were still trying to make sense of it all. I am so grateful that God remains. He will remain when all else fails. This podcast has testified to that and I can attest to that truth in my own life as well. Thank you to all those who worked to make this. God Bless the people that were Mars Hill.
  • MasterCrane_01
    thank you!
    Such a powerful series!
  • Hibdon
    Insightful & helpful
    Wisdom to encourage ministers to stay humble and Christlike
  • Sleepless in Kennewick
    Unfair
    Mark Driscoll started his church at a very young age. If people expect him to be perfect I would look in the mirror because no one is perfect. Additionally, this podcast was one sided and didn’t look at the other side. It’s an attack podcast and many of the people are just giving their own rotten opinion. Someone decided they hate him and made a whole podcast series about their hatred. This isn’t the way to act. It makes you look no better than your object of hatred.
  • vbchickie
    Helpful & Powerful
    I take one of the interviewee’s comment to heart: It’s easy to listen to this and compare, judge, assume you’d know better. But really this is a recounting that speaks to Solomon’s famous words: “nothing new under the sun” when you consider the realities of people + power. It’s humbling and a good reminder that we all need accountability when entrusted with leadership. I appreciate the long form approach for its thoroughness. Too often we only hear the most salacious with no context. This provides a lot of necessary context and I get how people would want to join this church given when this happened and what the tone of Christianity was like at the time. I’m grateful for the honest accounting of what happens when people do their best to follow Jesus but get caught up in a culture that slowly becomes toxic fueled by massive growth and good intentions. The fact that many who were part of this have shared apologies to those who were hurt is redemptive and (hopefully) healing. May we all do that in the churches we belong to. Nice job CT and thank you.
  • little_dhampir
    Well done 👏
    One of the most well-done podcasts I’ve ever heard. Loved it, grateful for it. (But why did you change the intro?? The original was 🔥!! Bummed this was edited.)
  • K1y2l3e
    Please Don’t fall for this Trash
    This is pure garbage. CT has become a joke.
  • PayElise97
    One sided agenda
    Well there was clearly an agenda here. Everything is always 2 sided, if someone isn’t willing to show the other side automatically they forfeit respect in my book. Was Mark perfect lol no, but neither are any of us. Were his teachings biblically correct? Yep. Were they politically correct? Lol nope. And that’s the exact reason you should hear them. Yes they were intense but sometimes in order for people to hear you through all this noise you gotta yell. Sounds like this church was trying to conform to make everyone happy and Mark was standing firm in the biblical beliefs. How about you don’t take all the “research” so seriously and buy in to this garbage just like Americans do today..hence why there is a growing weakness and a growing number of divorces. News flash, men are the head of the household. Most of the time where everything is accepted, it’s the wrong place to be. Check your mindset and your morals. If you think this is something worth listening to..you need to reevaluate. If you want something worth your time listen to the XO Marriage podcast. 👍
  • StuckieDuckie
    Great listen !
    Never knew about this church. It’s sad, suspenseful, eye opening, and tactfully honest.
  • In2Bate
    Let’s keep this thing going
    I attended Mars Hill in Michigan. Same name. Not affiliated with Driscoll. When I read the title of the podcast, I assumed the topic was Mars Hill Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and its founding Pastor Rob Bell. I’d love to see a Podcasts sequel, addressing the rise and fall of that church community and man. Some similarities. Many intriguing differences and a common fall from grace.
  • mpalomaki
    Sad
    I thought the Mars Hill podcasts were exceptional. However, when CT did their own “exposé” it paled in comparison to the depth and detail of the Mars Hill IMO. Episode 16. It was almost like there was a level of touting CT’s new leadership to show full transparency and the sins of the past but then glossed over it. Not nearly the same depth and detail as Mars Hill was scrutinized. Sad to me that they snuck that podcast into this series. 5 stars for the rest of it, 1 star for that episode. Have not listened the the Bonus episodes which seem to be getting blasted.
  • mellowmart
    “Cultivate a better moral imagination”
    I’m a little behind in the trend of listening to the podcast but I’m finally doing so. It is very enlightening and thought provoking. As woman who grew up in and was shaped by a non-denominational church culture, this resonates with me. My hope is that those in Christian leadership can closely examine their motivations and whether or not they are actually mirroring the heart of Jesus Christ, while placing people of true accountability around them. I hope the same for myself on a smaller level. Mike Cosper, the journalist and host states in episode 6 that “I hope that in telling this story, we can cultivate a better moral imagination; that we might be able to ask better questions about the excitement of crowds, the glow of celebrity, the momentum of a movement…” The podcast is thorough with investigation and interviews and even every song choice throughout the series is very intentional and lyrics relevant. I like the intro into every episode talking about the fact that God can use even the failing messes of his followers to draw people to himself and make something beautiful out of something terrible (my paraphrase). Worth a listen.
  • CFrostMarotta
    Knowing Your Savior
    I was on staff at a church. At the same time this was happening at Mars Hill, I was meeting 1-1 with our pastor (following the Matthew 18 process) to address his sin in leading people away from Christ if they weren’t in step with him. When he refused to listen, I took it to the elders. After a few months of attempting to reconcile, he was the only staff member remaining and the majority of the congregation walked away- too many have not sought out fellowship with another congregation yet. It’s incredibly devastating. I think about my role their often and God’s purpose for me. This podcast has given me further clarity in the sin of silence. Thank you!!!
  • Hotrodzac
    The rise and fall of... us
    Mike Cosper is not addressing the casual listener but those familiar with recent events and movements in American evangelical Christianity, though I suspect there's something to learn from the narrative of Mars Hill for other backgrounds as well. There are some potential triggers for anyone who's experienced psychological or spiritual abuse. I was not very aware of Mars Hill or Driscoll until after the church imploded, though I have several friends who were in the restless reformed camp and were devastated when this happened. Much of what I've heard in Cosper's podcast is eerily familiar to experiences I've had with fellow ministers. And frankly, I'm guilty of participating in many similar problems described in this podcast. It's not just a story of the fame and death of a mega church in 2000s Seattle. It's the story of the rise and fall of the American evangelical church.
  • craigmarsee
    Where to begin?
    This podcast was amazing. My emotions were all over the place and I felt like I came away with so much personal insight into ministry and mankind. I kept a journal of each episode because I needed to do something to keep my mind clear of all the questions and observations that kept flooding my mind. This podcast was well put together and the guests had such amazing insights and vulnerability. So many lessons that have come from this podcast just for me personally. Thanks for putting it together.
  • Hockey9966
    Over-produced but honest
    This podcast was refreshing and another much needed splash of water in the face for American evangelicals. I grew up with a very brilliant brother who was a real voice in the evangelical movement. He was an actual person of integrity, decency, and intellectual firepower. I was exposed to his world and appreciated the earnestness of some of the characters in it. But while I loved him dearly, I recognized from his young years, at the root of it all, he was a person who psychologically needed to believe in a higher power, and brought all of his intellect to build a fortress around this primal need, to make it unimpeachable. And over the course of four decades I watched in awe the people and things he embraced that were obvious, old school charlatans and cons, and eventually revealed to be just that, but yet were not obvious to him and his peers at the time they were to people like me who were not wearing psychological blinders. I came to see that white Christian evangelicals have a super power to ignore flashing red lights of poor behavior and full scale grifting and co-opting, even after they’ve been used. I say all that because of course Mark Driscoll was making it up as he went along, and abused the trust that so many of the overly credible men around him vested in him. Of course Mark did and said what he needed to to grow his influence, lifestyle and cultish hold over his followers. American Christians love authority figures and no matter how many times their trust is abused they come back for more, even a fellow as intellectually gifted as my brother. The pattern is scary to me, seeing the need in the hearts of evangelicals for the idea of god that leads them to run to every charismatic interpreter and soothesayer who pops up and can at lest temporarily front as a bridge to that hope/need. And when the human failing and the con is reveled, they sit down at the next card table and play the game. Overall I liked it and I hope it opens some eyes.
  • WhiteSuburbanMiddleAgedWoman
    Thanks! I started listening to him again
    For the most part, Mark Driscoll had fallen off my radar since the time these events happened. This podcast made me look him up and see if he’d grown, learned, changed, and been refined at all. I started listening to more recent sermons, and I’m so glad! He is a voice in the wilderness for such a time as this. While some are critiquing, deconstructing and generally caught up in their own thoughts about God, Mark seems to be using his second chance to point to God’s greatness. He is one of the few preachers willing to face the tragedies of our day head on with the Truth of what God says about them, which is real hope for a hurting world. I think we all know, Mark knows, and most importantly God knows, how Mark strayed from his calling. But, glory be to God that He doesn’t leave any one of us in our waywardness if we seek Him. I’m thankful for the hundreds of second chances that God’s given me, and that He doesn’t forever define me by my worst moments. And I’m thankful for that opportunity for Mark too. Don’t know him at all. But may God use and bless him for the good of the Kingdom.
  • CAkice
    Assumes that Christianity is truth
    Though I appreciate the reporting, the host assumes that Christianity is the truth, the way to god, which makes it harder to listen to a podcast exposing spiritual abuse. I would have appreciated a more open stance
  • DaniMW1980
    Great content but…
    So much work has been put in to this series and I have really appreciated the background look into this issue. Having come from an SGM church for 18 years, I can identify with some of these issues. However, I am struck by how many times the guests and the host’s words and conversations lean more towards a system and way of doing things, a religiously political conversation. The heart of their faith feels completely devoid in this series. It’s just more “politics”, but from their perspective. We need more relational content with Jesus, not systems, liturgical content, etc.
  • benfranklinbandito
    I Smell Elephants
    Mike, What is Christian about this podcast. I continually hear you proclaim the merits of therapy and wince at the permeation of nuanced liberalism. Someday someone will make a podcast about how CT facilitated the syncretism between psychology and Jesus. How an entire generation knew what it meant to be triggered but could not describe the gospel or what the word Jesus means. What does the Gospel of Mike have in it that might make juicy clickbait for wounded evangelicals. There are valid facts surrounded by liberalism and arrogance (I mean only two people in Tim Kellers church had college degrees and they were just teachers). What in the world does that mean? How many of the apostles had college degrees? I ask one final question…. What was the real purpose of producing this content? Whatsoever things… Greg
  • Ommax3
    Excellent Listen
    Not only eye opening, but also helps me look more critically at the leadership of my local church. We’ve been in that church….and left prior to experiencing pain…but I feel less alone. Thanks CT for deep diving into Mars Hill….and hopefully those touched currently by his ministry in AZ will take a strong critical look at their church…and themselves.
  • lizzieP2020
    Light Bulb Moments
    Having recently gone through a church split I saw so many exact parallels. I am so sad that the pastor we left behind had people trying to protect him instead of the body of the church. He was never held responsible for breaking the requirements of a pastor. He is now on a sabbatical “not because he did anything wrong”. We pray continually that he will seek counseling to help him. This podcast enabled me to realize how these things happen and have sympathy for broken people
  • cpepecepcepc
    Good pain
    I was deeply hurt by Harvest Bible Chapel and in part because my experiences there, and in part because of years of deep theological study in and out of formal university settings I now consider myself atheist. This podcast has helped to validate my own pains and reflections and reaffirm that I’m not making up some of these pains or stories or theological problems. The care when discussing the traumas and the empathy extended to people like me who have left the faith or the church in some way is really appreciated and so much more caring than a lot of interactions with Christians in person. I am very much confident in who I am and what I believe as an atheist, but its very open and difficult struggling like this that reminds me why I can still appreciate the church and Christians as people try to learn from the ways they’ve failed and caused harm and change to make the world better. Also, on a further possible note, I would be DEEPLY interested and invested in a similar podcast on Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald. Might even by a CT subscription if that would help make that a reality.
  • Brooke WIIL
    Great job
    Kudos to CT for stepping into this conversation.
  • geldster
    Balanced discussion
    Very good podcast with a balanced view of the problems of putting a pastor on too much of a pedestal. I’m always amazed at how people can’t question their pastor or disagree with what is being said from the pulpit. This podcast shows how toxic it can become when people don’t question leadership in the church. Surprising to me how many women put up with the Terrible teaching.
  • KT0612
    Great Podcast
    This is the best podcast I have ever listened to. It’s not just the content but the way this team crafted it together. I want to keep listening so I just repeat listen to the whole thing again!
  • mooreb30
    Healing
    I discovered this podcast through a friend after going through deep spiritual trauma at my church and losing my relationship with brother because of it. I found healing through the honesty, transparency and willingness of everyone sharing their story. I wish more us would talk about our stories, and our deconstruction journeys. Thanks being a light!
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