Starting a Doctorate at 50 - will colleges consider a 53/54/55 year-old first-time professor?

Discussion in 'Education, Teaching and related degrees' started by Ken Hensley, Jun 29, 2019.

  1. Ken Hensley

    Ken Hensley New Member

    Background: I've been in full-time vocational ministry since 1991 and have a MS in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. Through the years I've often thought I would enjoy teaching at a small to medium sized college (likely a Christian university in either leadership or Christian ministry).

    I've been looking at several doctoral programs (Cumberlands Ph.D. in Leadership, California Southern University DBA, Denver Seminary D.Min., and American College of Education Ed.D. in Leadership).

    These programs are regionally-accredited (with the exception of Denver Seminary which is ATS) and are relatively low-cost (another consideration at my stage in life).

    Here's my question: how viable would I be as a candidate in my mid-50's? While I have extensive teaching, speaking, and leadership experience, it has been in the non-profit and for-profit environments and not in a college classroom.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    My advice . . . pursue Plan A and develop a viable Plan B
  3. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Say what? :rolleyes:
  4. copper

    copper Active Member

    Certainly have a lot of over 40s going back to school and accumulating student loans.

    You have to ask yourself a few questions.
    1. Is there utility to the degree you will pursue?
    2. Cost? Is there a return on investment?
    3. Should I consider a well known school with an excellent track record or a no name university?
    4. Does the school I currently work for help with tuition?
    5. Do I have the drive and motivation to cross the finish line?
    6. Can I balance family, work and school?
    7. Is the course of study I am pursuing strategically approached? Have a strategy in mind!
    8. What are your motivations? Personal satisfaction? Career advancement? etc.

    Draw up a pro and con list. Only you can answer these questions!

    Couple more schools:
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2019
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    I'm sorry Steve. I'll translate for you. Becoming a university professor is difficult. The odds are against it for a number of reasons. Still, it is possible and I don't like to advise people to ignore their personal goals. So I suggest that the op pursue his PhD and the prospect of becoming a university professor. I also suggest that he have an alternative path in mind if, for whatever reason, this becomes untenable. This might mean having a plan for what he might do if he can not finish the PhD and it might mean having a plan for what he might do with the PhD if he can not find a teaching job.
  6. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    First, welcome to DI. Now, let’s start to clear out the bullshit. Allow me to introduce myself – I am your reality check.

    I’ll get to the bottom line quickly – you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in the lake of fire and brimstone to get hired by even a small to medium sized college or a Christian university (especially when you obviously don’t know the difference between a college and university). You have zero teaching experience in a college classroom, you do not cite a publication record of any type (and if you don’t know the importance of that, things are truly hopeless), and you appear to have an active fantasy life about merely walking into a school and suddenly being able to teach.

    Moreover, what the hell is “full-time vocational ministry?” As Kevin Costner said in American Flyers, “Sounds like bull Shinto to me.”
    Let’s knock out all four, one by one. First, Cumberlands is the only historic Christian college with traditional programs. But over the past few years they have reoriented themselves with doctoral programs in leadership to make up for declining enrollments in the traditional sector, and they have brought on lots of adjuncts to buffer their faculty. Southern Cal and ACE are both for-profit schools, and for-profits is one of the hot button issues in higher education today (for-profits are all whores – no exceptions).

    And what gives you the impression that Denver Seminary is accredited by ATS and not regionally? They are, in fact, an RA school. However, unless you have an M.Div. degree, don’t expect to walk into a D.Min. program – under ATS, an M.Div. is a D.Min. prerequisite. Denver appears to leave some wiggle room on that, but I guarantee that with your credentials, you will not be exempt from that requirement. Moreover, a D.Min. is generally a 30-credit doctorate on top of a 90-credit M.Div. (Denver’s program is 34 credits), and it’s a practical doctorate, not an academic one. I guarantee that even if you apply to Christian school to teach, they will laugh your application into the circular file if they see that you claim a D.Min without a previously earned M.Div. The psychology is, “We had to do it the traditional way, you do, too.” (The “I paid my dues, so should you” philosophy.)

    I’ll also mention in passing (since I’ve spoken on this elsewhere on DI more extensively), doctoral degrees in leadership are bullshit degrees. Moreover, a DBA is the new MBA – everyone is getting one. And an Ed.D. in Leadership has been called useless by more than one member of this forum who has actually done it. It’s a one-size-fits-all doctorate du jour and, IMO, it’s worthless.
    How viable? Not viable at all. Not a bit. Not even an iota. Your age has nothing to do with it, your lack of experience has everything to do with it. And I guarantee that you do not have “extensive teaching, speaking, and leadership experience of any relevance to higher education – if you did, you would already know everything I have said here. (Not to mention that the quoted phrase is the kind of B.S. you see on a résumé.)
    My pleasure. I always like it when people post inquiries at which I can laugh. But seriously, you’ve got great style – you just have no substance. Take it from me, since I have “extensive teaching, speaking, and leadership experience.” (I just can’t say that with a straight face.)
  7. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    That's being a little harsh towards for-profit schools, Steve. I think you just hate all for-profit schools. I think the only thing "for-profit" about ACE is the ownership structure. Their tuition is among the most affordable in the country. They are more affordable than many private non-profit, and public universities. I think schools like Harvard, Penn, Columbia, etc. are the real for-profit. Their education is no better than the thousands of other schools out there. All they are selling is a god damned name!

    Anyway, OP, you first need to determine what area you want to study. You seem to be all over the place - Ed.D., Ph.D., DBA, D.Min... you might end up getting screwed by the wrong "D" (doctorate).... Haha! You're not to old to become a professor. A lot of professors with 20, 30, 40 years of experience transition to full-time teaching but they usually teach in a field that's related to their professional experience. Their doctorates are sometimes not earned in the same field but they have at least a master's degre in the content area.
    Ken Hensley and LearningAddict like this.
  8. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    I'll be your #2 reality check, assuming you haven't moved on.

    I'm about your age, Ken. You are dealing with a mid-life crisis. Your wife is right, it's a crazy idea. Get over it.

    Why are you wanting to get out of your current head pastor gig in one of the most beautiful places in the country and into a line of work where maybe you'll make $35 to $50K--and have to move anywhere the jobs are? One of my Christian colleagues here at State U, who makes $170K a year now teaching accounting, was making exactly one-fourth that teaching for a small to mid-sized Christian college. And the administration treated him like he was a steaming pile of dung--common at Christian colleges, it seems. He finally had enough and realized that was for the birds. Is it worth going back to school and spending five-figures for a degree and several years of your life studying for a job that will make you $35 to $50K a year? Unless you're up for getting into a high-demand, reasonably well-paying field like accounting, finance, information systems, forget about it.

    Do you realize you won't be the one running the show? You'll be a cog in a wheel, with three or four or more layers of authority over you: your department chair, then the dean (along with the assistant and associate deans), then the provost, then the president, and above him or her, the chancellors or trustees or whatever they call them at any given school. Not like being the pastor with your supporting elder team and the whole structure and hierarchy spreading out beneath you (which is an unbiblical model in the New Testament Era, but that's a fight for another day).

    Are you up for the effort of coming up with 50-minute "sermons" delivered 10 to 20 times a week before a group of people who are not at all inclined to tell you "Oh, Professor H., that was such an INSPIRING message!" (you know, what you're used to each week, don't lie, you know it happens every week). No, a lot of your students will be indifferent at best, some will be hostile, some will be surfing porn on their phones during class (actually happened in one of my classes, true story). I used to be on paid "vocational ministry" staff at a church, and have served as an elder at two other churches, I've seen the workload of a pastor from the inside. Realize there's a whole lot more teaching going on in a college or university than there is preaching in a church and the work pastors do does not usually incline towards grading hundreds of papers and entering thousands of grades, dealing with an irritated registrar breathing down the back of your neck saying "The deadline for grades is six hours from now!" Anyone who says the modern U.S. pastor in the average church with the slick website, flashy logo, praise band where they turn the lights down real low and get people into a sound-blasted, suggestible emotional state before pastor stands up to deliver his sermon from an elevated stage with the spotlight on him JUST SO is doing exhausting, hard work is living in a fantasy. Pastors do not work very hard, not in our culture, it isn't anything like the literally dangerous, life-taking work that it was for the First Century church leaders and in many places around the world today. And what's a "pastor" anyway? It shows up once in the singular in the entire New Testament, 4th in list of 5 useful gifts for the church, in Eph 4, and never described at the main teacher, main leader, for a body of believers, it's a made-up role (but that too, is a fight for another day).

    And in all candor, you sound like you have no clue what to do, all over the board as Chris points out. It doesn't work that way, Ken, you don't just get a whim and decide "I wanna teach in academia," and then go randomly looking for a degree that will enable you to do so. You have a passion, you start adjuncting, you publish, you get to know people in the chosen field of your passion, and you work your way in--and it takes years. Either that, or you do a FT residential PhD and you try to work your way in that way, which also takes years.

    Just sayin.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
    JoshD likes this.
  9. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    One more thing. I used to do consulting work for WGU, writing test bank questions, both for a company that had a contract with WGU, called Certification Management Services (don't know if they're still a going concern, haven't worked for them for years) and for WGU directly, for both graduate and undergraduate programs. The way they water down their assessments was frankly shocking. Makes the validity of their degrees highly suspect, IMHO. Every challenging question I wrote, the sort of questions I'd been using on students at community colleges, a small Christian college, and the large State U I now teach at, was disallowed by WGU. They demanded that every single question be written at the level of "marginally-passing C student." That's a verbatim quote, or very close to it, it came straight from the top, that was the rule at WGU--no challenging questions. That is a fact. I'd go in and try a degree with rigor first and see what happens. How about UNC-Kenan-Flagler or U of Illinois-Gies master of accountancy? Both of those top-10 programs accept people without an undergrad in accounting. Give it a shot, see what the rigor's like. If you can get through, you might be up for legitimate academic doctoral work.
  10. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    You presume much, Chris. As I’ve said (quite often) in the past, to every rule there is at least one exception. You’ll notice that I did not trash ACE except to note that it is a for-profit; I trashed, as I always do, the Ed.D. in Leadership, which I call a bullshit degree.

    For a proprietary school, ACE actually has a good reputation – even its piece in Wikipedia says nothing negative about the school, which is not the case for lots of for-profits. Am I willing to endorse the school? Nope. First, I think that my stand against for-profits has to be consistent, even if the school may have much going that is positive. Things can always change, so I’m not willing to make recommendations of any for-profits, regardless of how good they might be. For better or worse, their graduates will have to defend the notion that they are a for-profit, and the negative publicity generated by for-profits is pretty much universal over the past few years.

    Your point about Harvard, Penn, Columbia, et al. is well taken. There are negatives is many non-profit RA schools. But I don’t trash them any more than I trash specific for-profits. In other words, I have never spoken of ACE before this post, but there are plenty of for-profits that I have specifically trashed. Likewise, my trashing of non-profits includes even my own doctoral alma mater (I always like it when people try trashing Union, not realizing that I beat them to it years ago).

    In the end run, much of the way we evaluate individual schools is the same as the way we evaluate plays and musicals in the theatre – it’s largely subjective. It’s my opinion versus your opinion. And of course, we all know that my opinion is the right one. Ne c’est pas? We evaluate, and provided our heads are not up our asses, we make the best decisions we can based on our perceptions of what works for us as individuals. That, for example, is how you ended up at Liberty for your Ph.D. – after you acknowledged Liberty’s weaknesses. (And, frankly, I think you made the right decision.)

    So why don’t I simply come out and endorse American College of Education, about which I have not read anything negative, and about which I find some of their programs to be impressive? For two reasons: first, even though I retired from this field and discontinued updating my own books several years ago, I do not want any school, for-profit or non-profit, to claim that it has my endorsement. Whether I like it or not (and I actually don’t care about it one bit), my endorsement still carries some weight, as I’m occasionally reminded from my ongoing relationships with academic and regulatory personnel. I’ll trash a mickey-mouse school in a second, but I’m not quick to endorse schools that I think are legit. Second, even my own alma mater have significantly changed over the years to the extent that my endorsement would mean nothing. I wrote the ultimate guide to portfolios at TESC many years ago (it was online here at DI for years), but today it’s sufficiently obsolete that it’s totally irrelevant. I have no clue how Edison does things these days, nor do I care since I graduated from TESC decades ago. Vermont College of Norwich University, where I earned my M.A., no longer exists, having been sold by Norwich to Union, which gutted it and trashed it beyond existence. Even though the independent Vermont College of Fine Arts carries on the V.C. tradition, it’s hardly the same school it was in the old days. And Union itself, which I still think had the best Ph.D. program in the glory days of universities without walls, sold its soul to Satan in order to survive the OBR audits. It may be one of the few non-profits out there, but now it’s merely a cookie cutter doctoral program.

    Why not endorse ACE? At one time, I thought that Argosy University had some solid programs, especially since they were accredited both regionally and, in their psychology programs, by the APA. I actually considered going to one of their schools, the University of Sarasota, before Argosy purchased them. (I’m obviously glad I didn’t.) But, as I’ve said, things can change big-time, and today Argosy is down the tubes, having flown the coop almost overnight this year.

    I’d like to say that ACE will not fly the coop as Argosy did. But I’m not willing to speculate one way or the other. And, accordingly, I’m not willing to endorse them. Does that mean I hate them? Hardly.

    By the way, another school I never endorse is WGU, which FTF trashed beautifully in this thread. WGU is non-profit, and I recently called their organizational formation legit by saying that they had a distinguished pedigree. But even then I didn’t endorse them, because I have also said consistently that I consider the phrase online university to be an oxymoron. Does that mean that I hate online universities? No, but it does mean that I consider them a joke. All of them.

    On the other hand, much of higher education, even at traditional brick-and-mortar campuses, has become a joke. But hell, I already have my three degrees, so I’m a happy camper. And if I seem like a hard-ass sometimes, it’s because I didn’t have resources like DI when I searched for the schools from which I graduated (all that any of us had in those days were John Bear’s books). But I researched my options carefully and, as far as I’m concerned, if others aren’t ready to do the same kind of research I did, they don’t deserve degrees.
    chrisjm18 and FTFaculty like this.
  11. Maxwell_Smart

    Maxwell_Smart Active Member

    That's not as uncommon as some readers may think. Education in the United States is largely watered down in general, and I see no other way so many complete morons are coming out with college degrees. In my own work with many schools either attending or auditing, I found that you get dumbed-down material most often, or the other end of the extreme where the material is too difficult for the average person to understand (much less often), or exams that don't line up with the material being taught, or exams that are poorly written with tons of mistakes and wrong answers (very common in my experience).

    WGU (like the now-defunct Patten University) used to get complaints for exams not lining up with the learning materials. Maybe they re-examined everything and having a "no challenging questions" policy was an unfortunate part of a revision. Having said all of that, in my view, if the material still manages to give you the information you need to be effective, this won't hurt as badly as material that teaches you nothing, and believe me, there are schools out there with that kind of material and course setup.
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  12. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Certainly there are benefits even with assessments that aren't challenging, as you say, so long as the material's on point. The problem I see (and bet you'll agree) is there's no way to tell if someone like Ken Hensley can slap both his butt cheeks in the dark based on getting a WGU masters in leadership. So how is an admissions committee for a doctoral program going to have any idea if he can hack it at all? Ken might be a bright, competent guy, or he might be an incompetent buffoon who couldn't hold a legit job in the private sector.

    He might also be a petty, narcissistic tyrant who can only function in a role where he is surrounded by people who hang on his every word, gets a spotlight trained on him multiple times a week, and holds the power over who gets disciplined and shunned--and who gets in on the good, inside stuff and a coveted spot on the elder team with all the connections and prestige that entails. Ken could be most anything under the sun good or bad, but a master's from WGU and a history bouncing just a bit from one pastoral position to another and a website with the net address "ken hensley dot com" do not give us much to go on--and what it does give us pops a few red flags IMHO. Frankly, I'd like him a little better if he came back by and responded, even with venom. But you kind of get the feeling were this Twitter he might have blocked us all AND HOW. Lock out anything that doesn't give you a big hearty pat on the back. Kind of a pastor thing, you know. But, ahem, not a Christian thing.

    First thing he might want to do is take down that cool pic of him holding the mic in his profile. Thing's on his Linked In site also. Probably all over the net. Maybe next thing he might want to do is stop referring to himself in terms that sound like he's marketing himself; e.g., "extensive teaching, speaking, and leadership experience." Oh Ken, you're just so...EXTENSIVE!

    Final thing he might want to do is step down and get a real, actual job. Maybe sales, B2B. Go out there and fight through that for a while and see how he cuts it. Can he do it with integrity and make quota and support that family? Try that out, if it works out for him, maybe there's an honest career, and maybe it'd be the real sort of experience that might lead to getting into a legit doctoral program where maybe he could, a little later in life, teach. But you have to earn it, Ken, and I don't think you quite know what that means yet. Just a gut.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
  13. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Whoa . . . nice call, FTF. I hadn't even bothered to check him out on Google, let alone find his web site. Of course, it was easy to pick up on his, um, extensiveness just from his initial post.

    From both his personal web site and his church web site, the most notable absence is in terms of his extensive speaking. For a guy who seems to like holding his microphone (I'll try to avoid any phallic jokes here), one would think that either of his sites would include videos of his, um, extensive teaching and speaking. In fact, his church web site appears to include some of his sermons (though they do not specifically identify him as the speaker), but they are audio only. And quite frankly, not that good. As I said earlier, Ken seems to have quite a bit of style, but zero substance.

    All things considered, Ken is obviously an amateur. I have no beef with a pastor who doesn't hold an M.Div. degree (non-M.DIv. pastors are quite common in evangelical churches), but holding his M.S. in Management and Leadership as a pastoral qualification is naïve to say the least. On the other hand, not listing his pastoral qualifications per se may simply be because he has none.

    I'm probably stereotyping here, but one thing he does that I have begun to find objectionable when anyone does it is t0 describe himself as an entrepreneur, especially when it's someone who claims to be acting in a pastoral role. Or, for that matter, someone who claims to be an entrepreneur and has founded a so-called university in, say, the Caribbean.

    Final side note: I can't help noticing that Ken's church web site has nothing in the form of a doctrinal statement. Normally, evangelical congregations will give some indication of whether they lean toward the Fundie side or the Pentecostal side. On first glance, I saw nothing that would indicate their position on things like spiritual gifts, etc. Perhaps they simply want to come off as all things to all people.

    Anyway, it's two whopping days since Ken posted his original (and, thus far, only) message. My take is that he probably won't be back since his bullshit side was spotted here, But, on the other hand, he may turn out to be a great con artist (like, say, Rod C.) and continue his riff in the face of all exposure.
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  14. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Yep, Steve. It's just that he came across like a huckster from the start. Think of it, you're thinking about a mid-life career change, you want info on the field and how to get into it--so do you:

    1). Go on the forum and just set up a basic profile and ask your question? Sure, that's what most people would do.

    2). With your first post on the forum, put up a self-promotional sort of picture with you holding a mic, like Tony Robbins or something, and then describe yourself as having "extensive" experience, and speak of yourself in terms that come across like some slick copy from a marketing brochure?

    If you choose option #2, you deserve the ridicule you get, especially when your post betrays absolute ignorance of the field you're looking to move into.

    It'd be like if I was thinking about getting into pro mixed martial arts, and I went on the Pro MMA forum and with my absolute first post put up a profile picture of me when I was 9 with my little karate get-up and wrote a first post that was an ode to my all-fired extensive experience in self defense and all the martial arts movies I'd seen and then asked for tips from the forum regulars about how to get in the pro business. I would be destroyed--rightfully.

    BTW, he's obviously still paying attention, because he came by to take down his picture from his profile. I mean, dude, at least snark back at us? Defend yourself? Admit you came across like a bit of a hotshot but betrayed that you didn't know what you were talking about? Something that demonstrates genuine humanity? Ah, too much to ask from most pastors used to a spotlight at their wanna-be mega. There are some decent folks out there calling themselves "pastor"--and then there are the ones used to being stroked like a luxurious cat, who can't imagine a world in which they're not IT.
  15. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Ken, I took your post as asking about teaching part-time as an addition to your primary calling. If that’s the case, you probably should contact the college or seminary where you envision yourself teaching and ask them what qualifications they look for in the part-time instructors teaching practical subjects. If you were indeed looking to become a full-time lecturer, your best initial approach would probably be part-time teaching anyway.
    Ken Hensley likes this.
  16. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Well, I was going to move on from this thread, but since Ken is obviously monitoring it (although he’s too much of a chickenshit to actually participate at this point), I thought I’d toss him a few bones.

    I find it interesting that on his personal and church web sites, his mention of the master’s from WGU is minimal. He claims to have a generic “master’s” degree in management and leadership but does not identify the school from which he earned it. More notably, perhaps, is that nowhere does he identify his undergraduate degree (or its source). Which raises the obvious question: Does he even have a bachelor’s degree?

    It turns out that there are several videos of Ken on the web. Mountainview appears to have several Youtube channels, but the one cited on their web site is That channel has only four videos, which receptively have had two, zero, 41, and 12 views. Not exactly viral, wouldn’t you say? One of those videos deals with the recent STEM shootings in Colorado, which Ken claims happened close to their church, so that’s the one I decided to watch (until it started to put me to sleep).

    Now, Ken, about your speaking technique: Never, ever, ever sit in a “crotch shot.” One of first things you should have learned when you did media work is to never sit in a chair with your legs spread far apart – yes, that’s why they call it a crotch shot.

    And if you are going to do it, don’t use a 97-pound reference Bible to hide your hard-on. Seriously. You held a closed Bible for your entire sermon – didn’t open it once – and it served no purpose other than to give you a prop. Your posture was also slouched, and that had a negative impact on your vocal delivery. Hard to believe that this was a performance by such an “extensive” speaker.

    Ditto your hands, Ken. One of the other things you should have learned as a public speaker is to keep your fingers together when you gesture with your hands. When your fingers are apart, people at the rear of the auditorium can’t see your hands. Held together, they can see your hands and the full scope of your gestures.

    Next time, Ken, ditch the high chair and use a standard podium. It gives you mobility, someplace to stash your 97-pound reference Bible, more ability to use our hands to illustrate points, and better staging for the visual aspects of your, um, extensive speaking. Because in the STEM talk, you come across as a rank amateur instead of a polished speaker.

    In short, sir, you are a joke. But, on occasion, a pretty funny one.

    You see, Ken? Even as I make fun of you, there is much you can learn here at DI. I hope you’ll stick around and have the balls to join in.
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  17. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    I am going to assume that he hasn't responded to your insults because that's the Christian thing to do (at least that's what my mother would say).

    Steve, if you're going to snoop, do a good job or leave it to (former) Officer Chris. Ken graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with a BA in American Studies in 1991 (the year I was born). Next time you want any private investigation done, holla at your boy :)
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  18. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Once again, Chris, you have demonstrated sound research skills that go beyond my own, especially since I don't want to spend too much time on this character (Ken).

    But I trust you'll understand why I have no intention of ever referring to you as a boy, let alone as my boy. And the only "holla" I have anything to do with is a Jewish bread, but we spell that one challah.

    Besides, in another couple of years, I trust that we'll be calling you Doctor.
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  19. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    You're a funny guy :D
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  20. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    Excellent research, Chris the sleuth!

    You know, Steve, there's allegedly Israeli-Jewish in my blood up mom's side, though I was raised in a completely irreligious environment. But we are somewhat Messianic-type Christians, celebrate Pesach, etc., so maybe we have something sort of in common.
    chrisjm18 likes this.

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