Sunday, February 18, 2018

One of those author interviews that makes me want to read the book

Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online interviews Ulrich L. Lehner, author of God Is Not Nice: Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For. 

Some highlights:

Lopez: You write: “We may instinctively like a nice God — and even go so far as to ‘like’ him on social media. But will we make sacrifices for him and to him? Will we be willing to die for him? Will we make the effort to get out of bed early to praise his name?” Then you respond to your own question: “Probably not.” Ouch. That bad? What do we do about it?
Lehner: I think God is, for most people, just some glitter in their life, but he is not transforming them. That’s why so many are unfulfilled in their faith or abandon it. I am not excluding myself from that observation: There are plenty of times when I get carried away with my own work or this or that, but I am making an effort to come back and let his life ferment mine. It took me a long time to really appreciate Thomas à Kempis’s little book The Imitation of Christ. You can’t just read it; you must savor it and live it.
What can we do? I think the best thing is to live as if God really mattered. I have gotten to know many people, including my own relatives, who would rather go to the gym instead of Mass on Sunday but still believe they are Christian. Yet when you ask them what is specifically Christian about their lives, they can’t point to anything except a prayer they say once in a blue moon or a small donation they gave to charity.
What can we do? Live as if God matters and don’t pretend that living with God behind the wheel isn’t a struggle. Almost none of my students has ever heard this. Instead, they are taught that they shouldn’t think too much about their eternal destiny but should rather focus on their career, the next vacation, etc. They are told to focus on what is “practical” so that they can create their own meaning in life (and such created meaning is fictitious). This is preached in families, and until the families change, the Church won’t.
Remember the other day when I posted my reflections on the matter of listening for and to God? It was occasioned by Joy Behar's mockery of Mike Pence saying that Jesus talks to him, suggesting that that was a sign of mental illness. I think Lehner addresses that well:

Lopez: You write: “The journey to knowing God brings us to places we have not been, helps us notice unseen things, and opens our eyes to surprises and delights we didn’t know existed. Only the adventurer is able to see what nobody else sees — and it is this insight that we have lost when we think about God in conventional ways. And then we wonder why life doesn’t make sense — why we are so unhappy and why our existence bores us to death. Deep down, we want that challenge, that journey, that adventure.” What if such an adventure seems terrifying or impossible?
LehnerIt almost certainly will look terrifying! If you read conversion stories you frequently encounter that. Take, for instance, John Henry Newman and Robert Benson. They knew they would not enter a rosy, comfy church but would leave career and acceptance behind and enter a church where they would never really fit in. After I interviewed for my job at Marquette in 2005, I went to church at the Basilica of Saint Josaphat, and while I was praying it hit me that God wanted me there, although I did not feel comfortable about it at all; I did not want to go there and leave my homeland, but I knew it was the right thing to do. My best friend from college knew God was calling her to be a religious, so she visited a number of communities in Germany. While she was at a very strict Cistercian convent, she knew she was in the right place, although a part of her rebelled against the idea. Yet, there was also peace, despite the uproar inside.
Deep down, most of us would rather go with our own inclination than with God’s voice, and hearing the latter is a tricky thing that involves silence, listening with the ear of the heart, and discernment.
That discernment must be cultivated. Per Lehner's overall point, it's not something you get by putting in a requisition form with God and bingo! it falls in your lap. It's not like getting a Kit Kat bar out of a vending machine.

I'm coming up against this in my own life. I have some big matters regarding career and finances that I'm in close consultation with God about, and I keep running into an old sticking point that I've mentioned in some posts here. I generally put it thusly: Okay, so grace ensures that we'll spend eternity with God, the angels and all the loved ones we've known who availed themselves of grace. How does that help me with this challenging meeting I have scheduled for next Thursday? How does it help me come up with the money for a home repair I suddenly need? How does it resolve the  nuclear standoff with North Korea?

I'm starting to see - and this interview helped me see it more deeply - that maybe I'm not turning my life over to God in as all-encompassing a way as a deeper understanding is going to require. Maybe I'm still expecting a greater degree of the "God thing" to fit conveniently into the lifestyle I've crafted for myself. Maybe I'm assuming the set of concerns I've put front and center are my real issues when they're mere symptoms of areas where I still separate myself from Him.

Wow. Where do I get the courage to eliminate that separation? What is going to look different about the way I spend the minutes and hours of my days?

I guess one starts with the present moment. Do I pray, right now, about this, or do I email that certain someone whose correspondence with me I just remembered? Remember some household chore I'd better dash upstairs and take care of?

It's said that you can tell what's really important to a person by looking at what he's doing.

It's time to treat this relationship with God like the life-and-death matter it is.

Resolve to do so is a great way to kick off the week. Keeping that resolve front and center by Wednesday afternoon will require something new to me. It will require a certain kind of dying to myself. A sense of adventure, as Lehner puts it. Trust, at a level I've never before even contemplated.

Here we go.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rex Tillerson's recent remarks about Hezbollah are deeply disturbing

This is close to just plain nuts. It runs counter to any attempt to present a unified face of anti-Iran policy on the part of the current administration:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in remarks during a trip through the Middle East this week, said the United States recognizes Hezbollah is part of the political process in Lebanon as global leaders gather to discuss the Middle Eastern country's future.
Despite the terrorist group's unhelpful influence, Tillerson said "we also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon."
Tillerson's remarks raised eyebrows in Washington, D.C., where some foreign policy officials questioned how the United States would hold diplomatic discussions with Hezbollah as the Trump administration also works to dismantle the group and crush its financial networks.
I realize that any kind of broad view of how Lebanon fits into the fabric of the overall world stage must take into consideration the reverberations from its convulsive and multilayered 1975 - 1990 civil war. It is not the nation it was prior to that, with broad boulevards, fashionable social scene, bustling banking and tourism industries in its major cities, and an overall generally acceptable coexistence between its Druze, Maronite Christian, Roman Catholic, Shiite and Sunni Muslim population segments.

But to resign the US to the forcible insinuation of Hezbollah into anything that was left of that constellation of stability just doesn't fit with an overarching stance of regarding Iran as a mortal enemy. Hezbollah is Iran's proxy, and its influence in Lebanon is a key component of its Shiite crescent aims.

And it's reassuring that others at the cabinet level in the current US administration don't see it quite this way:

"Hezbollah is a terrorist organization responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans, "Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a statement earlier this month announcing tough new sanctions on Hezbollah.
"It is also Iran's primary proxy used to undermine legitimate Arab governments across the Middle East. The administration is determined to expose and disrupt Hezbollah's networks, including those across the Middle East and West Africa, used to fund their illicit operations," Mnuchin said. "The Treasury Department will continue to sever Hezbollah from the international financial system, and we will be relentless in identifying, exposing, and dismantling Hezbollah's financial support networks globally."
Thank you, Secretary Mnuchin.

A Mideast policy wonk says it's high time for the administration to come to a coherent, consistent stance:

 Asked about the State Department's clarification, an Iran policy expert who has worked closely with the Trump administration on the issue said it shows signs that the administration is divided about how to approach the problem.
"The sad truth is the Trump administration doesn't have a coherent policy on Lebanon. The president knows what he wants, which is to aggressively roll Iran back. There are parts of the administration where people seem committed to carrying out his policy, like Treasury's sanctions division, which has been trying to sanction Hezbollah into the stone age," according to the expert.

"But then you've got the State Department, which seems committed to maintaining a role for Hezbollah, and therefore Iran, in Lebanon. It's from top to bottom. Even our ambassador in Beirut is an Obama holdover who sends along manufactured cables and papers about how Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's political process. They're barely even trying to hide it."

This needs to be straightened out fast.

Does the Vatican's acquiescence to China's Communists re: picking bishops indicate high-level institutional rot?

I've posted about this a couple of times lately, and neither of the pieces to which I've linked and commented on went this far. John Zmirak at The Stream sets niceties aside and spells out the strong odor of top-down leftism he's picking up from the Catholic Church:

s Pope Francis’ Vatican “surrendering” or “caving in” to Communist China? That’s the language many concerned Catholics are using. Pope Francis’ decision to turn against that nation’s underground church appalled them. So they try to explain it. They point to priestly naiveté. Or goofball hopes for Western-style reforms. I wonder, though. Francis and his appointees seem driven by something more. Namely by anti-American, illiberal politics. So I think it’s worth considering other words. Such as “strategic alliance.” Does that sound crazy? I wish it were. Read to the end before you decide.
The facts on the ground are clear: We’ve seen 60 years of conflict between the real, underground churches of China and the Communist front groups set up by its government to control them. Now the Vatican has announced that it’s switching sides. Believers, priests and bishops of the Catholic wing of that underground church must stand aside. They must go join the “Patriotic” church which they’ve been fighting for decades.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, who served prison terms at the hands of the Communist government, calls this capitulation. As The Wall Street Journal reported:
“You are telling them, ‘You are stupid for being loyal for so many years. Now surrender,’” Cardinal Zen said in an interview in the Hong Kong seminary he joined seven decades ago.
“They are appointing bad people to be the shepherds of the flocks. How can you do that?” he said in the interview, closing his eyes and shaking his fists. “You’re putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre.”
A group of concerned Chinese Catholics issued an anguished open letter. It said, in part:
[T]he seven illicitly ordained “bishops” were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China. …
[W]e are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people. …


He looks at a few of Pope Francis's closest advisors, and gets the creeps.

There's Archbishop Marcelo Sorondo:

Like a gullible pilgrim to Moscow in 1936, he spoke of his visit to China in sophomoric, glowing terms. He spouted Party propaganda. And worse, as China expert and pro-life hero Steven Mosher explained at The Stream, Sorondo lauded the Chinese dictatorship for supposedly avoiding the evils leftist Catholics attribute to U.S. capitalism. He praised China for its environmental stewardship on “climate issues.” He outright said that China comes closer to “Catholic social teaching” than the United States does. Pope Francis did not contradict him.
Catholics should take that seriously. Sorondo is one of Francis’s front men on Catholic social teaching. He has told us what he thinks it amounts to. I’ve been warning for years that leftists were hijacking and distorting Catholic social thought, then trying to give their ideology the veneer of divine authority. Indeed, Sorondo once told a Vatican symposium that Francis’ opinions on climate change were as binding as the Church’s stance on abortion. Francis’ call for massive, centralized control over the world economy by global agencies? That forms part of the “ordinary magisterium,” Sorondo claimed. According to hi, Catholics cannot publicly dissent from it without sin (which is absurd).
Then there's Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga:

In 2013, another Francis protégé, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga explained Pope Francis’ inaugural document Evangelii Gaudium. It slams the free market as wicked and exploitative. Quoting Fidel Castro acolyte Jean Ziegler, Maradiaga denounced the
world dictatorship of finance capital. … The lords of financial capital wield over billions of human beings a power of life and death. Through their investment strategies, their stock market speculations, their alliances, they decide day to day who has the right to live on this planet and who is doomed to die.
In his own words, Maradiaga dismissed systems like America’s. He damned “neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies.” He warned, “To change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords.”
It’s not surprising that Maradiaga is peddling conspiracy theories. As Alan Dershowitz revealed, back in 2002 the cardinal denied that a clerical sex abuse crisis even existed. What did? A plot by Jews in the media to strike back at the Vatican. Why? For defending the Palestinians. So let’s revoke Spotlight‘s Oscar, okay? It was really just Zionist agitprop. 
Then there's Fr. Antonio Spadaro:

The Vatican-supervised Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica tipped its hand in 2016. It published a telling piece by close Francis associate Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In it, Spadaro denounced the Christian right in America. For what? Conspiring with certain rogue Catholic conservatives in a plot to impose a sharia-style theocracy. The proof? We oppose same sex marriage, abortion and attacks on religious liberty. Spadaro even coughed up the leftist talking point which smears American evangelicals as opponents of civil rights for black people.
Given the nature of those who have the pontiff's ear, one has to wonder if what's going on in China isn't less a matter of reluctant resignation to that regime's power and more enthusiasm for the views on economics and social organization that inform its policies.
 
 
 

Idaho experiments with unwinding the "A"CA at the state level

Conservatives find themselves in an interesting spot with regard to a couple of recent instances of states getting up on their hind quarters vis-a-visd the federal government. They generally like the idea of states being policy laboratories, so the nation as a whole doesn't have to be subjected to things that don't work or aren't right.

In the case of sanctuary cities for illegal aliens, they find themselves at odds with this inclination. The reason, however, makes imminent sense. No matter what state they enter and reside in, illegal aliens have crossed a national border, therefore the issue is national.

In the case of marijuana, opinion varies, as there's a diverse array of positions on loosening up laws regarding that substance within conservatism.

In the present case, though, I can't see how any conservative could respond with anything but hearty applause:

Idaho’s Republican governor, Butch Otter, signed an executive order last year paving the way for non-Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans to be sold in his state, and Lt. Gov. Brad Little has since cobbled together what is sure to be the nation’s most controversial healthcare initiative. Their principal intention is to give the people of their state a way of avoiding Obamacare’s monstrous increases in insurance premiums. They want to put affordable insurance plans on the market again.
Here's how they're entering into this:

The scheme appears to flout federal law, so there was some doubt that insurers would be interested in participating at all. But this week, Blue Cross of Idaho stepped up and made it clear it would do so.

On Wednesday, the company provided information about one of the five such plans it intends to offer, called “Freedom Blue Standard.” This is designed to be comparable in most respects to Obamacare Exchange bronze plans. The two have similar deductibles, rates of coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums.
But there are also a few critical differences. Because it allows some health underwriting, which is pricing based on health, and because it caps lifetime benefits at $1 million, the Freedom Blue Standard plan is available to the healthiest buyers for as little as 40 percent of what the bronze plan costs, depending on age. Setting aside the rate for the healthiest, the average buyer of Freedom Blue Standard saves 26-66 percent of the price he or she would pay for an Obamacare bronze policy, depending on age.

So, just as the children of Lake Wobegon are all above average, Idaho insurance customers who stay in Obamacare’s bronze plan would all pay above the average price for consumers in a scheme that involves health underwriting.
Obamacare’s tradeoff for the higher prices is supposed to be that the sickest patients, with the most expensive pre-existing ailments, get insurance for the same price as everyone else. Yet, the Freedom Blue offering already indicates that this benefit is modest at best. The sickest and most expensive patients, it turns out, would be charged only 25-35 percent more than the rate that everyone currently enrolled in Obamacare must pay.

Idaho’s experiment is a bold one, and it is sure to be challenged in court if anyone can figure out how to do it. But already it has helped quantify the punishing and unnecessary expense that Obamacare has imposed upon the 9 percent of people who buy insurance on the individual market.
The Idaho experiment prompts us to ask why the public should keep paying so much for health insurance when there is a simple alternative. And why should taxpayers subsidize insurers that demand such high premiums, when an affordable system is there for the taking the very moment we clear aside Obamacare’s wreckage? 

Hey, LITD says take this as far as possible and get as much data about results as you can before somebody makes a court case out of it.

Impressive indeed.

Russia wasn't "colluding" with anybody, merely making as big a mess as it could of American politics generally

Jonathan Turley at The Hill says the Mueller indictment of the Russians puts to rest the idea that the Trump campaign was in cahoots with some kind of Russian plot aimed particularly at getting him elected:

Despite a 37-page indictment with a long narrative on a coordinated Russian campaign of interference, the most newsworthy fact comes from the carefully placed adjective “unwitting.” It confirms that the special counsel has found no knowing coordination or collusion between these hackers and Trump officials. The indictment names 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities in alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. It describes a coordinated effort by Russians, including the shadowy Internet Research Agency, to wage “information warfare” against the United States.
 . . . Not only did the indictment clearly say that no one in the Trump campaign was wittingly or knowingly involved with the Russians, it explains how the Russians used fake names and groups to hide their real identities. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a press conference and drove home that point, stating that there was no evidence of any knowing involvement by the Trump campaign, as well as no evidence that this effort impacted the election. Indeed, Rosenstein stated that there is “no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge” of the Russian effort.
Of course, as Turley goes on to illustrate, the spin continues. But that's to be expected in the white-hot political atmosphere of 2018 post-America.
The big takeaway, for anyone willing to set aside his or her particular confirmation bias, is that Russia is a US adversary in the richest sense of the word. Like China, it aims to unseat the US as the world's most powerful and influential nation, and will use increasingly clever means to try to do so.

UPDATE: Susan Wright at Red State provides profiles of each of the 13 indicted Russians. One guy was ostensibly Putin's personal chef. His catering company seems to be a front for an outfit called the Internet Research Agency. That agency appears in most of the profiles.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Navy's shipbuilding plan falls short what is needed

So says the Center for a New American Security's Jerry Hendrix:

This nation used to be able to do great things in a short period of time, when it thought it was important. This past week the U.S. Navy, with its 30-year shipbuilding plan, fell short of the standard of national greatness. To be sure, the plan has some strong points. Its adds 54 ships to the battle force over the next five fiscal years, raising the battle force from its present 280 ships to 324. This will take some strain off the fleet as it attempts to defend the nation’s vital national interests by maintaining approximately 108 ships forward deployed at all times, but it falls far short of the 355 ships required to meet the nation’s minimum requirements. In addition, the plan envisions a massive falloff in the ship count a decade from now, during the 2025–35 “maximum danger” era, and does not achieve the statutory goal of 355 ships until the 2050s. The plan fails due to an abundance of caution and a lack of adherence to the nation’s strategic goal of achieving a balance between capabilities and capacity.

There is a lot of hand-wringing in the 30-year plan about stable funding lines for ship construction and a decline in the nation’s shipbuilding capacity. Navy leaders rightly call out political leaders for their overreliance on continuing resolutions to support the military, and the harmful effects of inconsistent funding on shipbuilding practices, but it is not the Department of the Navy’s job to plan for such occurrences, no matter their likelihood. Naval leaders ought instead to plan for regular order and then testify openly and critically when it breaks down. Rather than a gathering of gallant sailors in a budgetary planning effort, we observe Churchill’s admonition, “the sum of their fears,” in this 30-year plan.

There are also concerns about the defense industrial base, specifically the nation’s shipbuilding capacity. The 30-year plan reports that 14 shipyards have closed over the past generation, leaving only a handful, and three others have shifted from defense to commercial shipbuilding. From this vantage, Navy leaders express concern that the industrial base is incapable of ramping up production quickly, but the question then becomes: Whose fault is that? For nearly 30 years, the Department of Defense has quietly encouraged the defense sector to seek economies and consolidate, turning a blind eye to the strategic implications of defense corporate mergers. Rather than stimulating industrial expansion, as the president himself has called for, this plan attempts to manage shipbuilding within current margins, bypassing a strategic opportunity to help guide the reexpansion of the industrial base.
Perhaps the greatest cause for disappointment within the 30-year plan is its mistaken emphasis. Despite language within the President’s National Security Strategy and the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy that directs the services to pursue a balance between high-end (and expensive) cutting-edge capabilities and expanded capacities (growth in platform numbers), the initial ship procurements over the next five years are largely directed at high-end platforms such as the Arleigh Burke–class destroyers, procuring them at a rate of three a year. Meanwhile, low-end platforms such as littoral combat ships and the new guided-missile frigate, where the Navy has the easiest path to expand its numbers, are bought in lots of one and two ships during the same time period. If the Navy were to subtract one of its destroyers and add two frigates to its shipbuilding plan in its place (a less expensive option), resulting in four low-end combatants bought per year, the Navy could expand its fleet more quickly.
The Navy, however, says that it needs ever more of the high-end ships, shifting its programmed goal for large surface combatants (cruisers and destroyers) from 88 to 104 within its overall 355-ship construct while holding its small surface combatant (littoral combat ships and frigates) steady at 52. This actually runs counter to historical fleet architectures, which place greater emphasis on small combatants for naval-presence, anti-submarine, anti-surface, and convoy-escort missions. If anything, the Navy should revert to its 88-ship large surface combatant inventory goal and expand its small surface combatant total to around 75 ships, which would be in keeping with historical norms. If the Navy pursued this route aggressively, it could achieve and hold a 355-ship inventory before another decade is out. That it is not, is troubling.

While it is true that the Navy recognizes that 355 ships represents the “Navy the nation needs,” it does not seem aware that it needs it now. 

 
Navy ships in particular engage the world's great powers. We've seen fresh evidence today, in the form of the revelations stemming from the Mueller-investigation indictment of 13 Russians, that at least a couple of those great powers are perfectly comfortable with their status and US adversaries. We need the mightiest fleet we can put on the high seas.

Donald Trump was up to his eyeballs in infidelity in 2006

Susan Wright at Red State takes a fairly exhaustive look at revelations that Stormy Daniels wasn't the only extramarital dalliance the Very Stable Genius was having as his third wife was giving birth to his fifth child. In the course of it, she relies heavily on a just-published New Yorker expose on the subject by Ronan Farrow.

Not only did Squirrel-Hair have both of these relationships going on at the same time, he had both women at the same social events:

Behold, it is the hay-haired idol of American “Christians.”
With a new book coming out that (laughably) makes excuses for Trump’s abuses and infidelities, called The Faith of Donald J. Trump, you’d think somebody is probably not thrilled with another story of Trump’s absolute unfaithfulness seeing the light of day.
On the contrary, according to the authors, sexual infidelity is the equivalent of searching for God.
So, rejoice, fellow, lukewarmers. There’s a new tale of Trump’s quest for God, today.
Ronan Farrow, who broke Hollywood wide open with his New Yorker report of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s crimes and abuses, has set his sites on Trump, and another 2006 affair with Playboy model, Karen McDougal.
It’s not just the affair, but the planning that went into juggling multiple affairs and covering them up, including payoffs and nondisclosure agreements, all while his new wife and baby were home.
In this instance, the model, McDougal, kept handwritten notes of the affair, which Farrow obtained from her friend, John Crawford, for his piece. When shown the notes, she didn’t deny, and confirmed it was her handwriting.
The affair began after Trump met McDougal at a Playboy Mansion pool party, thrown by Hugh Hefner for contestants of “The Apprentice.”
McDougal was Playmate of the Year in 1998, and was voted runner-up (behind Pamela Anderson) for Playmate of the 90s in 2001.
Trump apparently took a liking to her at this party, took her number, and the affair began shortly after.
Trump and McDougal began talking frequently on the phone, and soon had what McDougal described as their first date: dinner in a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote. “We talked for a couple hours – then, it was “ON”! We got naked + had sex.” As McDougal was getting dressed to leave, Trump did something that surprised her. “He offered me money,” she wrote. “I looked at him (+ felt sad) + said, ‘No thanks – I’m not ‘that girl.’ I slept w/you because I like you – NOT for money’ – He told me ‘you are special.’ ”
Afterward, McDougal wrote, she “went to see him every time he was in LA (which was a lot).” Trump, she said, always stayed in the same bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and ordered the same meal—steak and mashed potatoes—and never drank. McDougal’s account is consistent with other descriptions of Trump’s behavior. Last month, In Touch Weekly published an interview conducted in 2011 with Stephanie Clifford in which she revealed that during a relationship with Trump she met him for dinner at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Trump insisted they watch “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” alleged that Trump assaulted her at a private dinner meeting, in December of 2007, at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Trump, Zervos has claimed, kissed her, groped her breast, and suggested that they lie down to “watch some telly-telly.” After Zervos rebuffed Trump’s advances, she said that he “began thrusting his genitals” against her. (Zervos recently sued Trump for defamation after he denied her account.) All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller. After Trump was elected, Schiller was appointed director of Oval Office Operations and deputy assistant to the President. Last September, John Kelly, acting as the new chief of staff, removed Schiller from the White House posts. (Schiller did not respond to a request for comment.)
We’ve heard Schiller’s name, a lot. Hey, now we know why Trump was so upset when Schiller left the White House.
McDougal wrote that Trump would fly her out to public events to be at his side, but he never purchased the tickets, himself. She would purchase the tickets and make the arrangements, then he would reimburse her, so as not to leave a paper trail.
She was with him in July 2006 at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe.
Do you know who else was there?

Stormy Daniels. He reportedly began his affair with her there.

According to Daniels’ account, Trump didn’t mention that he was sleeping with someone else there, at the time. Another porn star, Alana Evans, claims Trump and Daniels invited her to join them at that weekend romp.

Trump also invited both McDougal and Daniels to the 55th Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles.
During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!” Trump gave McDougal tours of Trump Tower and his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”
That is sort of confirmation of some of the rumored tales that are to be included in the upcoming Omarosa tell-all – that Melania and Trump do not share the same bedroom.
McDougal’s account, like those of Clifford and other women who have described Trump’s advances, conveys a man preoccupied with his image. McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses. Clifford recalled Trump remarking that she and Ivanka were similar and proudly showing her a copy of a “money magazine” with his image on the cover.
Trump also promised to buy McDougal an apartment in New York as a Christmas present. Clifford, likewise, said that Trump promised to buy her a condo in Tampa. For Trump, showing off real estate and other branded products was sometimes a prelude to sexual advances.
Surprisingly, it was the nude model who got the bout of conscience and ended the affair, in April 2007.
According to Crawford, the breakup was prompted in part by McDougal’s feelings of guilt. “She couldn’t look at herself in the mirror anymore,” Crawford said. “And she was concerned about what her mother thought of her.” The decision was reinforced by a series of comments Trump made that McDougal found disrespectful, according to several of her friends. When she raised her concern about her mother’s disapproval to Trump, he replied, “What, that old hag?” (McDougal, hurt, pointed out that Trump and her mother were close in age.) On the night of the Miss Universe pageant McDougal attended, McDougal and a friend rode with Trump in his limousine and the friend mentioned a relationship she had had with an African-American man. According to multiple sources, Trump remarked that the friend liked “the big black d*ck” and began commenting on her attractiveness and breast size. The interactions angered the friend and deeply offended McDougal.
So then began the cover-up. 

That cover-up included a $150,000 payment to McDougal by the company that publishes the National Enquirer for exclusive rights to her story. The company's CEO, David Pecker (go ahead and snicker; I did.) is a personal friend of Trump's. The idea was to buy the story and then sit on it. This seems to have been fine with McDougal, as she was increasingly leaning Republican as the 2016 election cycle unfolded, and did not want to hurt Trump's chances. She has since become a Christian and had a change of mind and heart.

But consider the state of her morality at the time of the affair. After their first night together, Trump offered her money. She just kind of laughed it off, and continued to see him. She didn't appear to be insulted in the least. Also consider what it says about the state of Trump's morality as well.

She has changed as a person. Him, not so much.

As we know, no one, not even his evangelical sycophants, is claiming that he has become an actual Christian.

Which brings us to the book referenced above. There is a review of it by Erick Erickson at The Weekly Standard that, whether you read the book or not, stands as a searing indictment of the excuse-making on the part of these boot-lickers:

In The Faith of Donald J. Trump, authors David Brody and Scott Lamb provide an in-depth look at the relationship between the president and American evangelicals. Brody and Lamb—respectively a newscaster with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and a vice president at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University—have written what they dub a “spiritual biography,” even though they come right out and say they have no intention of answering the question of whether Trump is a Christian. Instead, they hope to convey his faith through his actions.
In the process, though, Brody and Lamb inadvertently expose the corruption and moral vacuity of the political evangelical movement in the United States.
Trump only started paying attention to evangelicals once he began to consider running for president—some five or more years before the 2016 campaign. He made a show of cozying up to evangelical pastors who write books that usually don’t sell well outside their own congregations. He reached out to the prosperity-gospel heretic Paula White and flattered her. He asked questions of other religious leaders.
As his ambitions grew, Trump cannily cultivated relationships with evangelicals, and they convinced themselves that those relationships must be sincere since they began before he openly started campaigning for the presidency. Once he did start openly campaigning, the outreach only became more intensive. As Brody and Lamb report, Trump would seek out the preachers to sit next to at events. He would bring his mother’s Bible to meetings to show it off. Evangelicals fell for it. So deluded and distracted are they by the trappings of power, they do not even see what Brody and Lamb see. “He’s the P. T. Barnum of the 21st century,” an anonymous banker in the book says of Donald Trump. These evangelical leaders have yet to realize that they are the suckers.
* * *
Brody and Lamb’s book highlights everything wrong with the morphing of American evangelicalism into a post-Jesus cult of personality looking for salvation delivered by politicians—including its hypocrisy and sophistry regarding Trump and morality. The authors quote one evangelical leader saying that evangelicals’ relationship with the president is authentic, not transactional. But a few chapters earlier, the same individual described a conference call he led with the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisers just after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about assaulting women. During that call, “all of us agreed to stand behind the candidate.” After all, Trump “had sacrificed his entire life, in my viewpoint, and supported us. How could we not support him?”
We can wink-wink at Trump’s misdeeds because he does good things for us. The authors actually write that “when assessing the faith of Donald Trump, the significance of the Neil Gorsuch nomination cannot be underestimated.” Really? That is essential to assessing Trump’s faith? More than his sexual proclivities and adulteries, which are barely touched upon in the book? In a few spots in the book, the authors blame American culture for Trump’s sexual ethics, and in one passage, they even find a way to implicate evangelicals in Trump’s sexual behavior. Follow the twisted logic: First, Brody and Lamb quote another biographer who says that “Clint Eastwood, James Bond, and Hugh Hefner” are the figures who dominate Trump’s self-image. Then we are told that Trump boasted about being a womanizer roughly around the same time that Pierce Brosnan’s first James Bond movie came out. And who do we have to thank for Bond’s having a place in Trump’s mind? “Americans—including evangelicals—fund these culture-shaping products with their book purchases and ticket sales.” So if you’ve ever seen a Bond movie, you’ve contributed to the culture that made Trump Trump.
More egregiously, in another passage the authors suggest that Trump’s rapacious libido is just his misguided quest for God. I wish I were kidding. The authors prominently quote a character from a 1944 Bruce Marshall novel: “I still prefer to believe that sex is a substitute for religion and that the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” Brody and Lamb’s book was printed before the appearance of press reports about Trump having had sex with a porn star around the time his wife was giving birth to their son, but one gets the sense that the authors of The Faith of Donald Trump and the evangelical casuists they quote would have no trouble spinning that infidelity as something unimportant or, in a roundabout way, even admirable.
When not justifying or shifting blame for Trump’s sexual escapades, the authors turn to anonymous sources to assure us that Donald Trump’s heart is not bent on greed. “These off-the-record friendly interviewees sense that Trump’s ambition stems from a deep-rooted need to command respect.” It is certainly true that he enjoys receiving praise and respect—including from the book’s authors. One five-page chapter recounts a lunch at the Polo Bar in New York City with one of the authors (Brody), his wife, and Trump. George Lucas, Ralph Lauren, and Michael J. Fox all come to Trump’s table to genuflect. Trump then brags to Oprah that he is meeting with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The chapter ends. Time and again the authors boast about their access to Trump, giving away the game of just how Mean Girlsevangelicalism has become.
While the authors praise Trump for his supposed authenticity in being willing to meet with them, Mitt Romney is criticized for talking to evangelical leaders through conference calls and national meetings: “Past Republican nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain would come in front of a Christian audience but only minimally, knowing it was a political rite of passage to do so. . . . Trump, on the other hand, not only did substantially more interviews with us, his staff didn’t even bother to ask us what we planned to talk about.” See there, Trump gave them access, so he must be a believer. It clearly wasn’t a transactional relationship.
* * *
So if Brody and Lamb don’t grapple seriously with Trump’s moral character and choose not to answer the question of whether or not Trump is a Christian, how do they fill their hundreds of pages?
The book is stuffed with supposition. At one point we are assured that if Andy Warhol were alive today, he’d watch The Apprentice. This comes one page after announcing how much Warhol hated Trump. “If young Donald Trump” did something or other is a recurring theme. If he had picked up a book on church history he would have discovered all sorts of things. “If Trump recalled his Old Testament Bible stories,” he would have clearly understood what he was talking about by referencing the promised land in a speech. If frogs had wings they wouldn’t bust their asses every time they jump. That’s not actually in the book, but I kept thinking about it when whole sections of the book were premised on if Trump did or read or saw something.
Much of the book is padded with descriptions of every conceivable Christian influence on Donald Trump, no matter how attenuated. Brody and Lamb make him out to be the heir of Martin Luther, John Knox, John Winthrop, John Witherspoon, and Billy Graham.
At least Brody and Lamb try to come up with something a little less bone-headed than the "I-was-voting-for-a-president-not-a-Boy-Scout" tripe one sees in comment threads under any kind of news item or opinion piece related to Trump's character.

As I say, last May 3, in Indianapolis, one of the greatest tragedies in American history occurred. We could have had all the great policy-level achievements which Trumpists and actual conservatives alike rightly cheer without the moral taint.

The unwillingness of so many who used to deserve our respect to make look squarely at that moral taint is one of the most saddening measures of our spiritual sickness.

A further look into the plain truth about all this gun stuff

As promised, I've written a piece for Medium on the subject.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The plain truth about all this gun stuff

I'd been thinking about this subject broadly, as not only professional pundits but everybody in your Facebook newsfeed are currently doing. I'd pretty much come to the conclusions that J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Depratment official and a human being who thinks deeply, comes to in this PJ Media piece.

I'm still going to come up with my own essay on it, probably for Medium, just because I think this whole area is ripe for being mined more deeply, but, in answer to the question of, "If it's not guns themselves, or even some kind of gun subculture, what has changed culturally and spiritually about this nation over the past three-plus decades that makes for this undeniable uptick in mass shootings?"

But Adams starts into where I want to go:

What changed? The mainstreaming of nihilism. Cultural decay. Chemicals. The deliberate destruction of moral backstops in the culture. A lost commonality of shared societal pressures to enforce right and wrong. And above all, simple, pure, evil.
I was thinking about this earlier this evening. Why wasn't this trend in these bloody massacres even a remote possibility in 1958? 1918?

It isn't the guns. It's something way more fundamental. Something to do with the whole notion of why we should bother to organize ourselves into a society in which people feel safe.

As I say, I'll be looking further into this, here and perhaps elsewhere, but I wanted to get the conversation started.

Look for more in the near future.

Thursday roundup

Check out Elizabeth Warren's lame attempt to spin her doubling-down on having a Native American ancestry.

David French at NRO says that mass shootings don't lend themselves to macro-level, governmental remedies:

The United States is facing a puzzling paradox. Even as gun crime has plunged precipitously from the terrible highs of the early 1990s, mass shootings have increased. Consider this: 15 of the 20 worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred since the Columbine school shooting in 1999. The five worst have all occurred since 2007, and three of those five were in 2016 and 2017.

It’s horrifying, and governmental solutions are hard to find. Twitter’s fondest wishes to the contrary, the unique characteristics of mass shootings mean that they often escape the reach of public policy. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler (hardly an NRA apologist) famously fact-checked Marco Rubio’s assertion that new gun laws wouldn’t have prevented any recent mass shootings and declared it true. Time and again, existing laws failed, or no proposed new gun-control law would have prevented the purchase.
Seth Lipsky at the New York Post says that one level in the Netanyahu-investigation situation that must be taken into consideration is the relentless investigation of any and every Israeli prime minister going back years:


 The recommendation of Israeli police that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for graftlooks to me like an acute case of a malady that is itself a threat to the Jewish state.
I call it the American disease. This is the itch to criminalize policy differences, an infection America came down with in the 1980s and has been suffering from, on and off, ever since.

Just ask President Trump. He is being pursued by such a gaggle of Democrats dressed up as special prosecutors that it’s a wonder he finds time to do the job the voters hired him to do.

It’s not my purpose to suggest that Israel’s attorney general, who will decide on whether to pursue the charges the police have recommended, drop the case. No one is above the law.

The issue that worries me is larger than Netanyahu.

“Nearly every recent Israeli prime minister has been under constant investigation,” one of Israel’s greatest legal sages, Eugene Kontorovich, tells me. (Yitzhak Rabin resigned his first term for keeping a foreign bank account. Ehud Barak was investigated for illegal campaign cash, Ariel Sharon was investigated but not charged. Ehud Olmert went to jail.)

While no one ought to be above the law, neither ought elected leaders be put further below it, so to speak, than other citizens. That presents its own kind of injustice.

Which may be why two newly reported polls show that most Israelis want Netanyahu to resign — but his party would still come in first were a vote held now.

John Stonestreet at The Stream  has an interesting perspective on Valentine's Day coinciding with Ash Wednesday:

Now don’t get me wrong: romantic love, what C.S. Lewis called “Eros,” is not wrong. In fact it’s a gift from God. As Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, when rightly ordered, eros causes us to toss “personal happiness aside as a triviality and [plant] the interests of another in the center of our being.”
Romantic love can be, as Lewis put it, “a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival.”
And that’s the proper place of eros … not as an end in and of itself, but as a means — something that points beyond itself — and points our hearts beyond ourselves to a higher love, agape, a love that only comes from God Himself.
Lent turns our focus to that total self-giving love of God, that love that caused God to become man and live and die as one of us, for our sakes, despite our sin and rebellion.
The sexual revolution has, in so many ways, disordered eros, treating it as an end, not a means. But twisted eros is no longer selfless and life-giving. It becomes a sort of mutant sensuality, that creates the selfish and damaging brokenness our culture is being forced to reckon with this year.
Today, Ash Wednesday, reminds us that there’s more … more to life than sensual pleasures, more to love than the shriveled-up version that has captivated our Western imaginations.
So today, ask yourself, “how am I responding to so great an expression of love as what God has shown us?” Valentinus’s response was to give up his own life.
For us too, a kind of “death” is required — a death to self, a death to the desires that our culture treats as ultimate.
Now of course guys, none of this lets you off the hook with your wives. So don’t forget the flowers.

Bookworm takes on this silly notion that there's something racist about talking about an Anglo-American legal tradition:

I am sure you have heard about this.  A few days ago, CNN breathlessly highlighted in a report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech to the National Sheriff’s Association, said
Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process. The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.
Our neo-Marxist proggies went nuts.  Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote:  “Do you know anyone who says “Anglo-American heritage” in a sentence? What could possibly be the purpose of saying that other than to pit Americans against each other? . . .”  Others followed suit, the most obscene being California’s current Lt. Gov. and likely its next governor, Gavin Newsom.  He wrote:  “Reminder that our Attorney General is an outright racist who wants us all to acknowledge our ‘Anglo-American’ heritage.”
Referring to our “Anglo-American” heritage in respect to government and the law is not merely common, it is the norm.  It is one of the fundamental truths of our nation.  And while truth may sometimes be uncomfortable, it can never racist.
For the Freedom-Haters to complete their agenda of a completely regulated state populated by cattle-masses and ruled by pointy-headed bureaucrats, they have to keep our youth penned up in their sewers of indoctrination, where they will assuredly remain ignorant of Constitutional principles:

  Their claims will only resonate with those people — most likely products of a K-grad school social justice education — who do not understand the basics of the Constitution or its genesis, nor any sort of world history over the past two millennia.  These are people who do not understand the importance of their rights or the protections of checks and balances to their freedom, and thus will not fight, let alone fight to the death, to protect them as they are stripped away.  Moreover, the neo-Marxist proggies, sounding their outrage in terms of moral superiority, rightly expect that the sheeple  they have so carefully nurtured in their ignorance through public education will then join  the progs to excoriate the evil, racist wingnuts with the gall to call to mention our “Anglo Saxon heritage.”  It is a gamble, though, as for everyone else, they will see the dishonesty and likely be repelled.  Or as the saying goes, “you want more Trump, this is how you get more Trump.”
So let’s take a moment to look briefly at our Constitution and the Anglo-Saxon history behind it.  Let’s begin with my favorite quote from William Pitt, the United Kingdom’s first Prime Minister.  He was speaking in 1763 before Britain’s Parliament upon the Castle Doctrine — enshrined today in our Fourth Amendment.
The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.  It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter,—but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.
Pitt’s speech came a little over a year after James Otis Jr., an American lawyer, spent six hours in a Boston court room arguing the same point, that the English right to be free from search and seizure except for probable cause was an Anglo-Saxon tradition that predated even the Magna Carta of 1215 by centuries.  It was a right the English had fought wars over.  And in a little over a decade, they would fight another war over this and other Anglo-Saxon rights — the Rights of Englishmen — on American shores.

The fact is our entire system of government and virtually all of our governing traditions are not merely adopted from Anglo-Saxon law, they are in many cases the truest continuation of them — far more so than in modern Britain.  Our Constitution is, with but a few critical tweaks, nothing more than the laws, rights and governing systems of the United Kingdom as they existed in 1776.

Be very thankful it is so.  Britain was then unique.  Its system of individual rights and systems of governance gave critical protections to the individual — and not because of benign decisions from English monarchs, but because the individuals of England had, over the centuries, demanded those systems and rights.  At various times, they fought and died for every single one of them.  There are no rights in the Bill of Rights nor any protections guaranteed in our governing system with its exquisitely crafted system of checks and balances, that do not float on a historic lake of Anglo-Saxon blood (not to mention the disembodied head of at least one English King).
Peter Thiel is de-teching:

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is relocating his home and personal investment firms to Los Angeles from San Francisco and scaling back his involvement in the tech industry, people familiar with his thinking said, marking a rupture between Silicon Valley and its most prominent conservative.
Mr. Thiel has also discussed with people close to him the possibility of resigning from the board of Facebook Inc., FB -0.78% the people familiar with his thinking said. His relationship with the social-networking company—where he has been a director since 2005, the year after its founding—came under strain after a dispute with a fellow director over Mr. Thiel’s support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and a related confrontation over boardroom leaks with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg last summer, the people said.​
Byron York at the Washington Examiner asks why everybody but the American public has had a chance to see the Comey memos.




Does Joy Behar have a Bible in her home?

You probably know about Joy Behar's "mental illness" remark, but here's a concise account of the Joy Behar portion of the story. Her remark was in regard to what Manigault had said on a reality show the previous night. Manigault had said Pence's faith was scary and looney. Behar concurred:

Vice President Pence gave an interview to Axios‘ Mike Allen Wednesday. Pence was asked about comments Joy Behar made this week on ABC’s The View. During a discussion of Pence’s faith, Behar said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus, it’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct.” Behar was reacting to some comments by former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault. Asked for his reaction the comments, Pence never mentioned Behar by name but did question ABC promoting comments he labeled “religious intolerance.”
In the Axios interview, Pence handles the matter with his customary statesmanlike demeanor (which sometimes frustrates me; once in a while, he's in a situation that, it seems to me, calls for a raised voice, or at least a snarl):

“I actually heard that ABC has a program that compared my Christianity to mental illness and I’d like to laugh about it but I really can’t,” Pence said. He continued, “Tens of millions of Americans today will have ash on their foreheads to mark the beginning of Lent. [The] overwhelming majority of Americans cherish their faith.
“We’ve all different types of faith in this country. And I have to tell you to have ABC maintain a broadcast forum that compared Christianity to mental illness, it’s just wrong. And it’s an insult not to me but to the vast majority of American people who, like me, cherish their faith.”

“I just think it demonstrates how out-of-touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people,” he said.

Pence concluded, “It’s just simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance. We’re better than that.”
Pence is walking a fine line here. As Vice President, he doesn’t want to say anything that would suggest he doesn’t support free speech, even for someone like Joy Behar who is calling him mentally ill on television. So instead, he focuses on ABC which is amplifying her often absurd musing. 
The what-ABC-is-culpable-for angle - the institutionalization of a dismissive attitude toward Christian faith - is important, but the train of thought this catalyzes for me is the utter secularization of an ever-increasing swath of America that Behar encapsulates.

If conversation between God and individual people isn't two-way, there's no point to prayer, certainly not prayer for guidance in one's personal life.

I get a daily devotional in my email from First 15. Its whole ministry is predicated on personal relationship with the Lord. Nearly every day, the message has something to do with the myriad ways God is speaking to us.

This gets to one of the final sticking points in my own faith journey. During my last days of bucking like a mule against the Truth, I would stress to anyone I was discussing it with, "But no one can see God. We can see any person we talk to or correspond with, hear that person's voice, see what that person has typed. When it comes to God, what are we to look for?"

And that's what I am now learning about.

It takes a purposeful humbling to explore the whole notion of God communicating with us. You can't lay the sensory evidence that he doesn't on the table and call that the end of the matter. I know this to be true, because in my own life as well as the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, there are situations in which God's hand is undeniable and unmistakable. A word of encouragement, an opportunity to use one's gifts in service to someone, a rescue from a tight spot are just some of the ways I've seen it work.

Mainly, though, it comes down to the indispensability of reading Scripture. Does Joy Behar have a Bible in her home? When was the last time she cracked it open?

The secular mocking of the notion of hearing from God surely stems from viewing it through a kind of anthropological kind of lens, hearkening back to tribal implorings of rain gods or sacrifices in the expectation of good crops. But the real, actual God makes clear to us through His word that keeping Him front and center in our thoughts and mediating on his omniscient power opens a range of ways in which he'll make his presence and love known.

It boils down to the question of whether one sees oneself as being on one's own, with no resources to rely on other than one's own faculties. If a critical mass of people think this way, an entire nation can see itself as on its own. At that point, there comes a nasty clamoring for the position of being able to chart the nation's direction, rather than listening for God's direction.

I'm still only a few years into this, so I may not articulate the truth of God speaking to us with the authority of a seasoned theologian, but I know it to be so. I hear Him more frequently all the time.