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UN Poses Danger to Free Speech, Parents’ Rights. Here’s How Trump Administration Can Fight Back.

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 19:00

A dangerous alliance between United Nations bureaucrats and LGBT activists poses a new danger to free speech, free exercise of religion, and parental rights -- not just for Americans but for people around the world.

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador Nikki Haley, the Trump administration should strengthen protections of the fundamental human rights of Americans that are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and international treaties.

That would mark a significant break from the approach of the Obama administration, which joined forces with a handful of Western nations, the U.N. bureaucracy, and progressive activists to push policies based on rapidly changing ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity.

They did so with zero authority: None of these concepts are contained in any of the international treaties that the U.N. is authorized to enforce.

Now these policies are threatening to cost us our rights -- and the U.S. could foot the bill. The U.S. is responsible for 22 percent of the United Nations' total budget and contributed $10 billion to the U.N. in 2016 alone.

American taxpayer money should not go toward an illiberal agenda that could undermine fundamental human rights.

UN Bureaucracy Run Amok

One of the most egregious examples of bureaucratic overreach occurred in the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Rather than focus on the U.N. General Assembly's mandate to "promote and protect" the effective enjoyment of fundamental human rights that are in the texts of treaties, this U.N. office launched the Free and Equal campaign.

This highly visible and well-funded global campaign aims to socialize same-sex marriage, criminalize so-called "hate speech," and normalize transgender ideology, even though these terms are not in the text of any U.N. treaties.

This campaign is not only a massive overreach by U.N. bureaucracy, but it threatens to silence public debate on controversial topics like marriage and sexuality throughout the world.

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Unfortunately, this campaign is just the beginning. Charles Radcliffe, Free and Equal's founding director, has stated that a dozen U.N. agencies have made public commitments to advance sexual orientation and gender identity policies in individual member states and that more than 100 countries have implemented changes in their domestic laws in response to U.N. sexual orientation and gender identity recommendations.

Who pays for this bureaucratic overreach? Well, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides a leadership and coordination role for these policies about sexual orientation and gender identity. Its annual budget was $201.6 million, with 40 percent of its funding from the U.N. Of course, the U.N. gets over a fifth of its budget from the United States. Now the U.S. must leverage its funding to bring an end to these drastic ideologically-driven policies.

UN Policies Threaten Religious Freedom

Activists at the U.N. are attempting to impose their ideology in subtler ways, too. The addition of the sexual orientation and gender identity categories to interpretations of the term "nondiscrimination" in U.N. treaties may seem innocuous, but it is fraught with the potential to harm fundamental rights.

In Europe and the United States, progressives have used such nondiscrimination laws to force individuals to endorse a new sexual orthodoxy, including same-sex marriage, under threat of economic punishment.

The European Court of Human Rights upheld the United Kingdom government's terminations of civil servants and private employees for refusing to perform services for same-sex marriages.

The United States Supreme Court is currently considering the case of a Christian cake artist whom Colorado ordered to endorse same-sex marriage by designing a custom wedding cake despite his religious objections.

The U.K. Supreme Court is hearing a similar case. None of these individuals turned someone away because they identify as LGBT; rather, the conflicts were all the result of disagreement over the definition of marriage.

No state, much less the unelected U.N. bureaucracy, should compel a person who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman to endorse something they believe is untrue because of pressure from a politically powerful identity group.

Free Speech Under Attack

Sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination policies also threaten free speech.

European governments that are pressing for new sexual orientation and gender identity rights at the U.N. have used their domestic hate speech laws to enforce the new sexual orthodoxy. Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K. have launched police investigations into "hate speech" based on statements made by clergy.

The Obama administration endorsed this approach by issuing a United States Agency for International Development document, "LGBT Vision for Action," that explicitly endorsed the dangerous concept of "hate speech."

Although 165 of 193 countries recognize only a marriage between a man and a woman and not a single U.N. treaty recognizes same-sex marriage, in 2014, then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the U.N. Secretariat would start recognizing same-sex marriages of U.N. employees.

Even more concerning and with implications for what constitutes "hate speech," Ban made it clear that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in "homophobia."

This is simply untrue. Reasonable people of good will have held the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman for thousands of years. There is nothing inherent to this belief that necessitates bigotry.

People should be free to hold a traditional view of marriage without punishment.

Parents' Rights Also at Stake

Sexual orientation and gender identity ideology has implications for families, too.

This ideology directly conflicts with the fundamental right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious and moral beliefs as protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

U.N. independent expert and LGBT activist Vitit Muntarbhorn has called on all states "to develop inclusive curriculums and learning materials ... nurturing respect and understanding for gender diversity."

In the U.S. and other nations, Orthodox Jews, Christians, and parents of other faiths have balked at government efforts to teach their children transgender ideology. The best science, medicine, and psychology do not support the treatment of gender dysphoria with the socialization, hormone therapies, and surgeries that the transgender community advocates.

Despite this, activists at the U.N. continue to pursue a radical agenda even at the cost of family integrity and parental rights.

In every case where sexual orientation and gender identity ideology conflicts with the established rights to freedom of religion, free speech, and parental rights, the U.N. bureaucracy treats the fundamental human right as an obstacle to the ideology rather than the other way around.

The U.N. bureaucracy has it backward. If it can downgrade one fundamental human right because of one cultural orthodoxy, what is to stop it from downgrading other rights to promote other ideologies?

American Legal Decisions Could Also Be Affected

Radical ideas, which unfortunately infect some aspects of international law, can also influence the U.S. legal system. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer argues that U.S. judges should cite foreign law in interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

The Trump administration should reject the U.N. and activists' attempts to impose extremist ideology through bureaucratic overreach that will affect people all over the world.

The U.S. should lead at the U.N. by supporting the fundamental rights of all individuals that sovereign member states of the U.N. have recognized in treaties.

 

Emilie Kao is director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.

Grace Melton is an associate for social issues at the United Nations.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

The Left’s War Against Prosperity in Seattle

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 16:30

The left is sleepless in Seattle, working overtime to squander years of economic success.

Seattle is, by many measures, one of the fastest-growing cities in America, if not the fast-growing city.

A few big tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, plus other large, successful businesses such as Boeing and Starbucks, have fueled this explosive rise.

But prosperity hasn't necessarily bred contentment, as the traditionally left-wing city turned on the elements that made it rich.

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In the latest move to soak the productive part of the city's economy, the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to approve a new "head tax" imposing a $250-per-worker charge on companies making over $20 million a year.

According to The Seattle Times, advocates of the tax said it "will have a meaningful impact on addressing our homelessness crisis by building housing and providing health services."

Companies such as Amazon and Starbucks, which generally have had no problem kowtowing to the demands of social justice warriors, lashed out when their bottom line was threatened.

Amazon announced that it would continue to build in the city despite a previous halt in construction.

Amazon said in a statement: "While we have resumed construction ... we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here."

This may seem like a reasonable measure by a company that expects a financial shakedown, but activist groups weren't about to let these corporate cash cows take their business elsewhere.

The labor group Working Washington called for criminal prosecution of businesses that threaten to leave the city. They argued that this constituted an illegal threat against public officials, a felony.

As libertarian law professor Eugene Volokh noted, such an expansive view of the law would also criminalize activities such as union strikes and boycotts.

This method of intimidating businesses into accepting predatory government action may not have been well considered, but it does reveal the impulses of the hard left.

If you aren't willing to accept the left's measures willingly, you will be forced to accept them through punitive government action. There will be no escape.

This is hardly the first Seattle policy to take aim at businesses.

In 2015, Seattle increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, which, according to one study, decreased employment and hurt low-income workers.

In 2017, the City Council voted unanimously to stop using Wells Fargo & Co. bank due to its investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline and a fraud scandal.

"Take our government back from the billionaires, back from [President Donald] Trump and from the oil companies," Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is openly socialist, said at the time of the vote, according to The Seattle Times.

Sawant, also a strong backer of the head tax, hasn't just received opposition from "billionaires."

At a recent press conference she hosted in Seattle, a group of construction workers showed up and began chanting, "No head tax! No head tax!"

Ditching Wells Fargo likely would have cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money, but they were saved by the fact that no other bank would take the city's business.

Hilariously, Seattle had to go crawling back to Wells Fargo.

It apparently was a surprise to Seattle's government officials that companies don't like to be shaken down.

Instead of finding ways to drive down the cost of living, cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have embraced policies that continue to drive up costs.

Their solution is what The Seattle Times called an "eat the rich" strategy.

That is, simply tax the productive businesses and citizens as much as possible and use this to subsidize the poor.

Despite the fact that Seattle's tax revenues have shot up dramatically in this boom, it isn't enough to pay for the ever-expanding list of demands from the city's ascendant hard-left activists.

There will never be enough to satisfy those who believe they can remake the world as a perfectly equal and fair place through the levers of government.

It's hard to believe that a tax on jobs is going to solve Seattle's homelessness problem, which has actually skyrocketed in the past 10 years despite higher levels of revenue and spending by the city.

This has occurred while homelessness around the state of Washington generally has gone down.

The reasons for the surge in Seattle homelessness are many. Some argue that the presence of the rich simply increased the ranks of the poor as everything naturally becomes more expensive. But this misses the fact that government policies, such as extremely restrictive building codes and low-growth housing plans, have forced prices upward.

According to a Heritage Foundation study on poverty:

Policies that drive up housing prices -- and there are many -- have a disproportionate impact on low-income households. Based on 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest-income households spent 58.2 percent of their income on housing, compared to 25.8 percent for the highest-income households.

Instead of addressing the squeezing out of the middle class and the underlying costs of life in the city, though, Seattle's leaders focus on meliorating the circumstances of the poor and homeless.

Creating another expensive program, if that's even what this tax is really about -- City Journal's Steven Malanga speculates that it's actually an excuse to bail out the city's strained public pension system -- won't solve the underlying problems.

The more the planners plan, the more the plans fail. When the newest scheme doesn't produce the desired utopia, they will again blame the "rich" and take a little more.

The planners will turn to increasingly punitive schemes to remake the world as they see fit.

They will strangle and kill the goose that laid the golden egg and end up with nothing but misery and dysfunction.

Beautiful and desirable places such as Seattle and San Francisco can withstand a certain amount of dysfunction before people bail on those cities.

Such cities may very soon be testing those limits, as big companies and productive citizens look to greener pastures and local governments that don't use them as an ATM for their failed schemes.

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

The Misunderstood Church

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 14:30

Don't you just hate being misunderstood?

It happens to Christians all the time these days, it seems. We're "haters," "against equality," "anti-science," and on it goes. If you haven't heard it you've either been very blessed or very unaware. Wouldn't it be great to go back to the days when Christianity was understood for what it is?

You'd have to go back a very long way. And that fact ought to encourage you. You'll see why in a moment. It relates directly to this day of Pentecost we celebrate today.

Meanwhile I'm thinking about just my own lifetime. Over the last few decades I've seen the faith described as sexist. I've seen it used to justify Marxist revolution. Worst of all, I've seen most of White America simply assume we were all Christian, and the proof of it was that we went to church and got along most of the time.

We could go back a few more years to when Marx and Freud dismisses religion was as the "opiate of the masses" and "wish-fulfillment." Southern slaveholders said the Bible approved of their sin.

I hate being misunderstood that way.

Misunderstood From the Very First Minutes

Then I look at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and I have to smile. It's considered the day of the Church's founding. The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples. They were baptized in Him for the first time! God Himself had come to dwell in them! And the rest of Jerusalem thought they'd drained too many wineskins that morning.

Peter had to stand up and explain, "Look, folks, it's barely mid-morning. Honest! We're not drunk like you think we are."

How long had the Church been around before people started misunderstanding it? Oh, maybe a couple of minutes.

How long had the Church been around before people started misunderstanding it? Oh, maybe a couple of minutes.

Getting God Wrong

But look again at what the people got wrong there that morning. The disciples hadn't planned this event, and they didn't make it happen. It was all God's work. That means it was God Himself that Jerusalem misunderstood.

So Peter, newly emboldened by the presence of God in Him through the Holy Spirit, stood there and explained. He told them about the prophecy being fulfilled there that morning, and about Christ and His resurrection. The disciples spoke in languages they had never learned, adding tangible power to Peter's preaching.

And thousands came to faith in Christ, on that morning of misunderstanding.

Three Lessons

I draw three lessons from this.

First, if it's easy for the world to misunderstand God, it's easy for the Church to get Him wrong, too. The disciples had been with Jesus. They'd been studying with Him. They had let Jesus' words reach inside their ambitious, self-seeking hearts and change them -- a work that the Holy Spirit confirmed and continued in them. We have to do the same. Otherwise we have no reason to be confident we're not getting God drastically wrong ourselves.

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Second, if we do get God right, the world is still bound to misunderstand. They're going to label us, dismiss us, deride us. But if we're following Jesus Christ, it's not us they're getting wrong, it's God Himself.

Third, we can take these moments of misunderstanding as opportunities to explain. Peter did that, speaking clearly using concepts the crowd was familiar with. He used Scripture that He had memorized, too, foe which was obviously prepared. He'd done His homework. When the moment arose, he was ready.

We will always be misunderstood. Let's pray and learn well -- and live well -- so that as much as possible, it's God they're getting wrong, not us. But let's also be prepared to explain, with full knowledge and in the power of the Holy Spirit, as Peter did that first Pentecost morning, and thousands suddenly, for the first time, understood God rightly in Jesus Christ.

‘We Should Make Pentecost as Big as Christmas!’ Say Evangelical, Catholic Leaders

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 14:16

Part of an ongoing series on "Pentecost and the Holy Spirit Today."

This weekend, the fifty-day liturgical season following Easter comes to a climax on Pentecost Sunday. Centered on receiving the Holy Spirit, Pentecost is celebrated by churches globally -- even those who shun practices labeled as Pentecostal.

"Pentecost is not just the memory of an event that occurred 2,000 years ago," says Deacon Keith Fournier, long associated with the Catholic charismatic renewal. "It is an ever-present invitation to ask the Lord to pour out His Holy Spirit. Then we can overcome fear and become those witnesses who will turn the world upside-down with our message."

One minister based in Telangana, India says supernatural encounters are changing their culture. Bishop Joseph D'Souza oversees more than 4,000 Christian churches in the Good Shepherd Church of India network.

"What we're seeing in India is the full-blown charismata of the Holy Spirit," says D'Souza. "It's not limited to Pentecostal congregations, or even to Christians. I see the workings of the Holy Spirit among people of other faiths -- sometimes without even human agency being involved. They are having dramatic visitations and then finding Christ through that."

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In interviews, diverse Christian leaders consider the Holy Spirit through lenses of both theology and experience. Leading voices of various ethnicities and generations offer insights into the least understood member of the Trinity.

Awakening in India

Joseph D'Souza grew up in what he calls the "Christian ghetto" of India. Oppressed as the lowest caste in India's culture, Dalits were the majority in his area. D'Souza earned a seminary degree and married across ethnic lines. Even while opposing discrimination, the minister sees much to praise in the Indian way of life.

"By culture, many are very spiritually inclined in India," says D'Souza. "They know that many of the answers to problems in life come from turning to a higher power. For them, this awakening and demonstration of the works of the Holy Spirit is a phenomenal thing."

Bishop Joseph D’Souza

While his focus is on education and anti-trafficking outreach, D'Souza relates that signs like healings and prophecies are commonly observed in their church network. He recently reported how Hindu radicals are attacking Christian schools -- though things can change if they remain long enough for a worship service, he says.

"Without any question, the spiritual awakening in India is massive," states D'Souza. "That's one of the problems for radicalized religious groups. They don't understand this phenomenon until the Holy Spirit touches them and turns their lives upside-down. Then they realize, it's not human -- it's supernatural."

Such open talk of inexplicable events at church is foreign to many American Christians. The ideology of cessationism claims that certain gifts ceased to be in operation following the first century. Seminary teacher Dr. Michael Brown says he often encounters people who doubt the examples of divine healing he shares.

"While there is a debate going on, I have to say candidly I don't really think there is a debate," states Brown. "The Scriptures are so overwhelmingly clear. As far as I can tell, the only reason people question the Holy Spirit outpouring today is because of the way they were raised in the Lord or because of bad experiences."

Having observed abuses in charismatic circles, he has sought to bring correction. Last month, Brown released Playing with Holy Fire to chronicle self-aggrandizing practices among "Spirit-filled" believers and offer biblical rebuke.

D'Souza sees spiritual experiences fostering greater equality, starting in the church. "The charismatic outpouring of the Spirit in India is important because we want to see India become an equal and just society," he says. "The caste prejudice and oppression of Dalits, local tribes and women must come to an end."

A popular Christian conference speaker from Dallas, Texas affirms these views. Dehavilland Ford serves as executive director of 818 The Sign, which seeks spiritual renewal particularly in urban communities.

"Women and children are the most oppressed globally," she says. "In so many nations, they don't have the freedoms that we have here. I believe a movement of women being empowered by the Holy Spirit will result in a global harvest of souls."

Such a vision has echoes of what happened in the iconic Upper Room.

The Day the Church Was Born

Deacon Keith Fournier ministers in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. Even at the end of an hour-long interview, he excitedly shares about the events of Pentecost.

Professor Scot McKnight

"The earliest believers, even though they had encountered the risen Christ, were still filled with fear and apprehension," says Fournier. "Those people who gathered in the Upper Room were just like us. They had volatile personalities. They made a lot of mistakes. They came from every walk of life. But power came and changed them."

As professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary near Chicago, Illinois, Scot McKnight has taught the Book of Acts for decades. He has a ready answer for why Christians should take part in the Pentecost season.

"The church calendar is important because it keeps before us the principal events of God's work in our midst," says McKnight. "We find a pattern of calendar in the Old Testament that shaped Israel's piety and faith. What God has done in the past becomes critical for what God is still doing."

Brown, a Messianic Jewish believer, aligns closely with this perspective. "We need to go back to our roots," he says. "As we remember the past, we have great faith for the present and the future. Let us be reminded afresh of how tongues of fire came on each one. God shook the entire ancient world through the Spirit-empowered church!"

Both emphasize how the spiritual call leads to a sending. "At Pentecost, we celebrate the sudden powerful presence of the Spirit that anointed the apostles and early Christians to become agents of mission in the world," says McKnight.

"We should make Pentecost as big as Christmas and Easter!"

A Place for Women to Minister

Dehavilland Ford believes much of the church still misses an aspect of Pentecost, chronicled in Acts chapter two. She hones in on verse 17, which states: God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, [on] your sons and daughters.

Dehavilland Ford

"We don't do a good job of equality in the church," she says. "Women get the chance to sing in the choir or work in the nursery. But in terms of women preachers and voices in the pulpit, we have something to bring to the table." On Mother's Day, Ford delivered the message at Trinity Church-Fairmeadows in the Dallas area where she and her husband serve on-staff.

In McKnight's new book Open to the Spirit, the chapter on prophecy recounts when a woman preached to America's government leaders. In January 1827, Harriet Livermore addressed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. Capitol--with a sermon on God's standard of justice. Listening intently, President John Quincy Adams was strengthened in his abolitionist resolve.

"She denounced the injustices of our nation," says McKnight. "Like the prophets of the Old Testament, she spoke with the Spirit of God in power in ways consistent with Scripture, to those in high positions. I was really impressed with that story, in part because I'm so supportive of women in ministry."

Nearly two centuries later, women still limited opportunities in most churches. A 2017 Barna study revealed 62 percent of practicing Christians are open to a female pastor, yet only nine percent of Protestant churches are led by women. Ford sees greater openness in certain segments of the church.

"In charismatic circles, women are more empowered because we believe the gifts are for now," she says. "A lot of my spiritual moms fought for that. It's time for the women to be bold and to be a voice -- whatever that looks like, through teaching, blogging and certainly raising up godly children."

Unity Across Ethnic Groups -- and Christian Confessions

Indian Bishop Joseph D'Souza rejoices at how Pentecost is centered on salvation. "People from many different nations were gathered there," he says. "They heard the apostles who preached, and five thousand people came to Christ from all groups."

The value of every person is also an integral part of the message, he says. "We are all equally created in the image of God," continues D'Souza. "What the Pentecostal experience should do, which many do not understand, is to break down all ethnic and caste barriers and bring unity among peoples."

Deacon Keith Fournier

When seeking to work with Christians of "other confessions," as he says, Keith Fournier often encounters suspicions of another sort. His Catholic brethren claim being open to charismatic gifts leads congregants into Protestant churches.

"It's an oversimplification," responds Fournier. "The opposite happens as well. I count as personal friends many former evangelicals who were led into the fullness of communion in the Catholic Church, through the same Holy Spirit."

Author of Evangelical Catholics, Fournier urges believers to rediscover mutuality in faith. "We have something to offer one another," he says. "Many of us Catholics have been changed when evangelicals helped us come to a deeper understanding of a personal relationship with Jesus. Many evangelicals have benefited from the wealth and depth of the sacramental life and historic rootings of the Catholic Church."

The two leaders mourn where they see divisions. "The best Pentecostal experience is incomplete if you are not able to experience unity in Christ," says D'Souza. "In Jerusalem, they had blacks, whites, brown, Chinese and all gathered together to exalt Christ."

"Today, large sections of the church are not able to see this."

There Is No Plan B

These leaders are not hidden away in their parishes, unaware of the world around them. Rather, they recognize hopelessness and cynicism gaining ground in society.

"There's a lot of work to be done, and much to be fearful of," says Fournier. "We need the encounter that changed the apostles on that day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit takes ordinary people and makes us extraordinary."

Chicago-area theology professor McKnight believes Pentecost is a rare opportunity for churches. "It should be big," he says. "We should invoke the Spirit and be open to the Spirit coming upon us, transforming us, impelling us into mission and compelling us towards holiness, love and grace."

Despite their distinct backgrounds, these five leading voices share a vision of experiential Christian faith that is global in scope and unified in focus.

"The Lord will bring us together, and he may surprise us all," concludes Fournier. "I believe it will include the best gifts of each confessional group. Those gifts need to be expressed in the body of Christ." "Because God only has one plan, and that's the church."

  Explore the entire series on "Pentecost and the Holy Spirit Today."

2 Billion People Have Never Heard the Gospel: The International Day for the Unreached Event on May 20 to Spread Awareness

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 12:24

Two billion people have not heard the good news of Jesus. The third annual International Day for the Unreached (IDU) will push Christians to bring that good news to more people. It will take place on Pentecost Sunday, May 20. American Idol finalist Phil Stacey will host the event and lead a time of worship. 

The International Day for the Unreached

The IDU began three years ago. It was born out of a desire to educate, inspire and motivate Christians to do what they could to reach the unreached for Christ. The group chose Pentecost Sunday in light of their mission, said IDU Executive Director Wayne Pederson in an email to The Stream. It’s the day “the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the evangelists and people from around the world heard the Gospel for the first time in their very own language.”

The IDU started with six partners, other mission organizations who shared its vision. Now the coalition -- called the Alliance for the Unreached -- is made up of 12 organizations that participate in the vision in their unique way. For example, Reach Beyond uses radio and medical care to reach those who haven’t heard the Gospel. Other partners translate the Bible or provide blankets or food.

The IDU’s definition of an “unreached” people group is different from most pastors’, Stacey told The Stream in an interview. Many pastors and Christian leaders think it means people outside a church. “They’re reached,” he says. “There’s a church on every corner. They’ve heard the name of Jesus. … They know what Christianity is. The unreached are the people around the world who have not had any exposure to the Gospel whatsoever.”

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Stacey believes that a lot of churches and pastors would love to help reach those who’ve never heard the Gospel, they just don’t know they can. He wants to go into churches and tell there’s a really big mission field that the Church isn’t paying attention to. “If we could start resourcing missionaries, if we could even start resourcing missions organizations that are actually already there … doing a work in trying to reach these places, I think that would be very valuable.”

Ways to Get Involved

People can participate in several ways, Stacey explained. First, they can pray. “We believe in the power of prayer, so we want people to pray for the unreached.”

Second, they can advocate. They can “talk about it to their pastors, to their friends who are involved in church.”

Third, they can share. “What that means is sharing of time, talent, resources for the sake of the unreached. That doesn’t just mean sharing from finances -- that’s actually, ‘Hey, what about doing a missions trip with one of these organizations?'”

Fourth, they can serve. “What we are in need of is missionaries who are willing to go into the [unreached] areas. … It’s one of those things where you’re talking to people like, ‘Are you ready for this? Are you ready to commit your life?'”

If they are, they should be ready for persecution. “Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake.’ If they’re willing, then there’s an open door, they can get involved and they can actually go serve in these unreached people groups.”

The Event

This year’s event will feature video reports from around the world, updates from Alliance partners and a panel discussion about the unreached challenge, according to a press release. It will take place at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado from 6-7:30 p.m. MDT. In addition, the event will be live-streamed on IDU’s website. It will also be live-streamed from the group’s Facebook page. 

Stacey hopes that people will share the information about IDU on social media so more will be able to participate in the event. “We really want to engage the church and really get the church plugged in to the work that’s being accomplished around the world.”

Family, Friends Recall Texas Shooting Victims’ Optimism, Humor

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 12:04

SANTA FE, Texas (AP) -- Hardworking. Funny. Loving.

Grieving family and friends recalled the endearing qualities of some of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a Texas high school, as authorities on Saturday released the names of the 10 killed.

Eight of the 10 were students: Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone and Aaron Kyle McLeod. The other two, Glenda Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale, were teachers.

At least 13 people were injured in the attack at the high school in Santa Fe, which is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Houston. A 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, is being held on murder charges.

Here are some of the victims’ stories:

___

SHANA FISHER

The mother of 16-year-old Shana Fisher believes that her daughter was intentionally targeted by Pagourtzi.

Sadie Rodriguez said Pagourtzi repeatedly made advances toward Fisher in the four months leading up to the shooting. Pagourtzi was an ex-boyfriend of Fisher’s best friend, she said.

“He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no,” said Rodriguez over Facebook Messenger. “He continued to get more aggressive.”

Rodriguez said that the week before the shooting, Fisher “stood up to him” by “embarrass(ing) him in class.” Rodriguez gave no other details.

Rodriguez described her daughter as a “shy and sweet” with a passion for video games. Rodriguez shared a video of Fisher from 2015, in which the teen contemplates whether or not she’ll continue making gaming videos because her computer keeps crashing.

The day of the shooting, Rodriguez wrote in a Facebook status to “love like (you’re) getting one more day with them.”

“Anything can happen,” she wrote. “I will no longer get to see my baby my 1st born anymore.”

___

CHRIS STONE

Stone was among a group of students who blocked the door to try to prevent the gunman from entering their art classroom, freshman Abel San Miguel, who was in the class, told The Associated Press. The shooter fired his shotgun through the door, though, striking Stone in the chest, he said.

Stone was outgoing, “really funny” and had a lot of friends, said Branden Auzston, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High. He said he knew Stone for about three years, and Stone was one of his best friends.

Auzston’s mother, Nicole Auzston, described Stone as a part of her family.

“We would have done anything for him,” she said. “He’s just a great kid.”

Robert Stone told the AP by phone Saturday that his family was grieving his nephew’s death and requested privacy.

___

SABIKA SHEIKH

Abdul Aziz Sheikh was expecting his daughter Sabika to return home to Pakistan in a few weeks for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Instead, he learned that his oldest child was among those killed in the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, where Sabika arrived as an exchange student last August.

Surrounded by mourning friends and family at his home in Karachi on Saturday, Abdul Aziz Sheikh fought back tears as he relived his frantic efforts to check whether his daughter was safe half a world away. She wasn’t returning his calls and neither were her friends. He eventually learned from the exchange program that she was among the dead.

“We are still in a state of denial. We can’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare,” Sheikh told The Associated Press.

He said his daughter was a hard-working and accomplished student who aspired to work in civil service, hoping one day to join Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

“One should not lose his heart by such kind of incidents,” he said. “One should not stop going for education to the U.S. or U.K., or China, or anywhere. One must go for education undeterred. But controlling such incidents is the responsibility of the respective governments.”

___

CYNTHIA TISDALE

Leia Olinde said Tisdale, her aunt and a substitute teacher at the school, was like a mother to her and helped her shop for wedding dresses last year.

“She helped me put it on, she helped fix my hair,” Olinde said through tears.

“She was wonderful. She was just so loving,” said Olinde, 25. “I’ve never met a woman who loved her family so much.”

She said Tisdale was married to her husband for close to 40 years and that they had three children and eight grandchildren.

Tisdale’s house was the center of family gatherings and she loved cooking Thanksgiving dinner and decorating her house, Olinde said.

Olinde’s fiance, Eric Sanders, said of Tisdale that “words don’t explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people.”

___

AARON KYLE MCLEOD

McLeod, a freshman who went by Kyle, could always be counted on to make light of any situation, said close friend Kali Reeves, who added she wouldn’t have been surprised if the 15-year-old “made a joke about getting shot” if he were still alive.

Reeves, 15, said she knew McLeod for years and became close friends with him in the eighth grade. She said he always had a smile on his face and loved to hang out with his friends.

“He was never one to be a sad or down person, he always had to joke or laugh about things,” she said. “He was just outgoing and super sweet. He definitely didn’t deserve this.”

Reeves heard that her friend had been shot as she was evacuating Santa Fe High School. She joked to her boyfriend that if she FaceTimed McLeod, he would have “made a joke about him getting shot,” adding that “he just always looked on the bright side of things.”

Reeves said she texted McLeod throughout the day to check up on him. She sent him one final text, saying she hopes he “gets better.” Shortly after, she checked Facebook and learned he was one of the 10 killed.

___

JOHN BARNES

School police officer John Barnes was shot in the arm when he confronted the gunman.

A bullet damaged the bone and a major blood vessel around Barnes’ elbow, which required surgery to repair, said David Marshall, chief nursing officer at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Barnes was the first to engage Pagourtzis, according to Marshall.

Walter Braun, the school district’s chief of police, said Saturday that the last he had heard, Barnes was in critical condition.

___

ROME SHUBERT

Sophomore baseball player Rome Shubert said the gunman walked into his classroom and tossed something onto desks.

Shubert told the Houston Chronicle that he then heard “three loud pops” before the attacker fled into the hall. Shubert said he realized he’d been wounded as he was running out the back door.

Shubert said he was hit in the back of his head with what he says was a bullet, but that it “missed everything vital.” He also tweeted that he was OK and stable.

___

Zimmerman reported from Springfield, Illinois. Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cambridge Professor Tied to CIA Spied on Trump Campaign Associates

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 11:50

(Note: For the time being, The Stream is withholding the source’s name. However, given the apparent effort by the Obama Administration to entrap members of the Trump campaign and conduct surveillance on an opposition party candidate, that name will soon be widespread.)

A top-secret CIA and FBI source who spied on two Trump campaign advisers and initiated contact with a third was all but outed Friday night.

The New York Times and The Washington Post provided a detailed description of the source in articles published Friday night, but did not identify him by name, citing concerns about his physical safety.

But the reports match up exactly with a Cambridge University professor first described in a Daily Caller News Foundation report from March. That professor, (name withheld), contacted Trump advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis during the 2016 campaign.

President Donald Trump commented Friday on the existence of an informant, who he asserted was "implanted" on the campaign "for political purposes."

"Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president," Trump tweeted on Friday. "It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a 'hot' Fake News story. If true -- all time biggest political scandal!"

Democrats, liberal pundits and some news outlets blasted Trump's statement, saying there was no evidence that the FBI planted a spy inside the campaign. He was also accused of coordinating with House Republicans to expose the identity of the source, who has long provided information to the FBI and CIA. The source has also provided information for the Russia investigation both before and after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's appointment on May 17, 2017.

But instead of a GOP-orchestrated exposure, it appears that (name withheld) was essentially outed through leaks from the Justice Department or FBI.

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The use of an informant is sure to raise questions on Capitol Hill as well as with Trump supporters. It remains unclear when he began conducting surveillance on the Trump team, whether he was paid, and whether he was directed by the FBI, CIA or both.

What exactly prompted the surveillance campaign is also a mystery. Page had been on the FBI's radar since 2013 when he cooperated with the FBI for its investigation of a Russian spy ring in New York City. One of the Russian operatives met with Page. Page shared some of his academic research with the operative, and said nothing of substance was exchanged.

Page and Papadopoulos joined the campaign together on March 21, 2016. Weeks later, top officials at the FBI and Justice Department considered whether to warn the Trump campaign about Page because of the Russian spy ring case as well as about Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who is now indicted over his lobbying work for a Ukrainian political party.

Then-FBI Director James Comey and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch decided against briefing the Trump team, according to a recent report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. U.S. officials did not want to offer the warnings for fear of alerting any Russian agents that were circling around the Trump associates, according to various reports.

The government appears instead to have opted for old-fashioned human-on-human spying.

(Name withheld), a veteran of three Republican administrations, first made contact with Page in mid-July 2016 at a conference held at Cambridge. They stayed in regular contact for the next 14 months, Page told TheDCNF.

Page also made multiple visits to the source’s farm in Virginia. The pair also met in Washington, D.C. and maintained contact through email.

Page told TheDCNF that he did not believe at the time of their encounters that (name withheld) was keeping tabs on him. But Page did say that during their first meeting at the Cambridge conference, (name withheld) said that he had known then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort for years. And during an encounter later in the summer, Page and he discussed a letter that then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had sent to the FBI accusing Page of being a Russian agent.

Page said he recalled the source rolled his eyes at the suggestion.

Contact between the two ended in September 2017, around the time a surveillance warrant that had been taken out against Page was set to expire.

(Name withheld), 73, reached out to Clovis and Papadopoulos within days of each other in August and September 2016.

He reached out to Clovis first, offering to provide the campaign with foreign policy advice. The source, who worked in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, is a well regarded foreign policy expert. He and Clovis met for coffee on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1. That was their only meeting, although (name withheld) sent Clovis a note congratulating him after Trump's election win.

As TheDCNF reported back in March, (name withheld)contacted Papadopoulos through email on Sept. 2, 2016, offering to fly him to London to discuss writing a policy paper about energy issues in Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. He offered to pay $3,000 for the paper.

Papadopoulos made the trip and had dinner multiple times with (name withheld) and a Turkish woman described as his assistant. Sources familiar with Papadopoulos's version of their meetings said the informant randomly asked Papadopoulos whether he knew about Democratic National Committee emails that had been hacked and leaked by Russians.

Papadopoulos strongly denied the allegation, sources familiar with his version of the exchange have told TheDCNF. (name withheld) grew agitated and pressed Papadopoulos on the topic. Papadopoulos believes that (name withheld) was recording him during some of their interactions, sources said.

The assistant, who is named Azra Turk, brought up Russians and emails over drinks with Papadopoulos. Turk also flirted heavily with Papadopoulos and attempted to meet him in Chicago, where he lives, a source told TheDCNF.

Turk recently shut down her phone. (Name withheld) has not responded to numerous requests for comment over the past two months. The FBI, Justice Department and CIA declined comment for this article.

Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with another professor who discussed Clinton emails. On April 26, 2016, a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud told Papadopoulos during a meeting in London that he had learned that the Russian government had access to Clinton emails.

Two weeks later, on May 10, 2016, Papadopoulos met at a London wine room with Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the U.K. An Australian diplomat named Erika Thompson introduced Papadopoulos to Downer. An Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor introduced Papadopoulos to Thompson.

Downer reportedly told the FBI that Papadopoulos mentioned stolen Clinton emails during that meeting. That information was what the FBI claims sparked the opening of a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. That investigation, nicknamed "Crossfire Hurricane," started on July 31, 2016.

(Name withheld) is not a prominent public figure, but he is well known in foreign policy circles. Some information about his links to CIA and MI6 as well as the British intelligence service is available in the public domain. He is the son-in-law of Ray Cline, a legendary CIA officer who was the agency's top analyst during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He also served on former President George H.W. Bush's failed 1980 presidential campaign. He worked with a team of former CIA officers on an opposition research team. (Name withheld) would go to work on the Reagan campaign. There he was involved in a small scandal called Debategate, in which a small cadre of Reagan aides obtained debate notes from former President Jimmy Carter. Halper denied wrongdoing.

In recent years, the source has worked closely with Sir Richard Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. They are both partners at the Cambridge Security Initiative, an intelligence consulting group that lists "UK and US government agencies" among its clients.

Both men were in the news in December 2016 when they threatened to resign from the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar over what they said were pervasive Russian ties.

 

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Come Holy Spirit! The Whole Church Needs a New Pentecost

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 11:42

On Pentecost the early followers of Jesus gathered. So their Lord had instructed them. Why? To expect the fulfillment of the promise he had made to send the Holy Spirit. We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church for a good reason. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them.

They were filled with the same Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead. The Apostle Paul would later explain the experience. He was not at that first Pentecost. But he certainly experienced the same encounter, and came to know of its powerful, transformative effects! (Romans 8:11)

The Holy Spirit capacitated the early followers of Jesus to go from being a frightened fraternity to a band of brothers and sisters. Of them it was said “they turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) They were empowered to carry forward in time the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ until he returns to complete the work of redemption.

We’re Offered the Same Gifts

Every year, this celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is an invitation to each one of us to have the very same encounter. It is the Holy Spirit which makes it possible for us to live lives of sacrificial love, holiness and service in a world that God still loves. It's a world into which He still sends His Son, through the Body of Christ, the Church -- of which we are all members. (John 3:16)

The purpose of Pentecost is the birth -- and continued rebirth -- of the Church.

We are, in this millennium, commissioned to carry forward the very same mission of those first disciples who gathered with Mary the Mother of the Lord. Jesus promised his followers, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

That includes you and me!

A Transforming Fire

In these in words, recorded in that same chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus made a promise.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

Among the readings read at the Catholic Liturgy on Pentecost Sunday is the account of that first Christian Pentecost:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

There is little doubt from their actions following that event. They were very different. They went forward and really did turn the entire world upside down. With their preaching and the witness of their changed lives. Will we do the same in this new missionary age? The choice is ours to make.

We’re Not Post-Christian But Pre-Christian

As I have regularly written and proclaimed, it is time for all Christians to stop bemoaning the collapse of the culture. Stop using the language of “post-Christian.” Look at this moment, our moment, as PRE-CHRISTIAN.

It is time to get to work, empowered by the same Holy Spirit, TODAY.

In many respects, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, seems mysterious to many Christians in our own day. When I consider this reality, I am reminded of one of the many missionary stories recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.

I am one of countless thousands whose life was profoundly changed by an experience, an encounter, with the Holy Spirit decades ago. I am old enough to remember when we who had this encounter were called “Pentecostal Catholics.”

See Chapter 19 of Acts. “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19: 1, 2)

Pretending the Holy Spirit Doesn’t Exist

Too often we live our lives like those disciples in Ephesus. We act as though we did not realize there even is a Holy Spirit. But he's still at work, still pouring out gifts and still making it possible for us to bear spiritual fruit. The same Holy Spirit still changing each one of us, individually and collectively, into the Image of Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit calling us to make disciples of all the Nations.

An examination of the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament reveals the essential role of the Holy Spirit in the life and mission of the Church. And in the life and mission of every individual believer. A study of the Tradition, the magisterial teachings of the Church and the Catholic Catechism underscores that this reality is meant to continue. It was not a onetime event.

The purpose of Pentecost was -- and still is -- the empowering of the Christian Church with the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead! The Holy Spirit draws us into communion with the Lord and a participation in His Divine Life and mission. That communion is lived in the Church. The Catholic Catechism, quoting St Augustine, affirms “What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.” (CCC # 797)

My Life Was Changed

I am one of countless thousands whose life was profoundly changed by an experience, an encounter, with the Holy Spirit decades ago. I am old enough to remember when we who had this encounter were called “Pentecostal Catholics.” That was before the more refined term “charismatic” took prominence.

Pope Francis has taken to calling the experience a “Current of Grace.”

I do not really care for any adjective before the noun “Catholic”. No, I am a Christian, standing by choice in the heart of the Catholic Church, which stretches back to the earthly ministry of Jesus and forward to His return. I stand reaching out, with all Christians, into an age which needs to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and be set free.

In fact, it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit so many years ago which led me back home to the Catholic Church into which I had been baptized as a child. That same Holy Spirit which leads me to work with other Christians, across the confessional lines, in evangelistic and culturally engaging work and mission.

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What Happened to All the Charismatics?

Sometimes, people ask me, all these years later, when they hear of my earlier identification with that movement called the Catholic Charismatic renewal. “What Happened to those Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics?” I guess my life is one of many answers to that question. I give them the following answer.

The Holy Spirit continued to lead me into the heart of the Catholic Church. My hunger for more of God and my passionate love for the Word of God, led me to continued theological studies and to ordination as a member of the clergy, a deacon. My heart for evangelization led me to assist in the myriad of ministries, apostolates and works in which I have involved for decades.

Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I also hope that they assist us all in growing in the fruits of the Spirit and manifesting the character of Jesus Christ through living lives of real holiness.

Many Movements, One Body

I do not identify with any particular “movement”. Rather, I identify with the Lord Jesus Christ who has been raised from the dead and still pours out His graces through the Church which is His Body. My experience all those years ago was not about a specific movement. No, it was about a new way of living in the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, in the Church, for the sake of the world.

Over the years, the term “ecclesial movements’ has become the term used to refer to the many movements within the Catholic Church. They demonstrate that the Spirit of Pentecost is alive and well. Though each has a unique charism and mission, they all invite Christians to have a “personal” relationship, an encounter, with the Lord Jesus Christ. They proclaim that He has been raised from the dead and is alive in our midst in the Church. They call men and women to the encounter, to experience the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit He promised, right now.

A New Way of Living

Pentecost is not about a onetime experience. It's about a way of living in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are led by the Spirit to live in the Heart of the Church, for the sake of that world. The Church is meant to become the home of the whole human race. Within the communion of the Church we become leaven and seed in the loaf of human culture, in order to lead the world into the “new world”, which is the Church.

We are called to live a unity of life, where our Christian faith is not compartmentalized but rather informs and permeates our daily life. We are called to love the Church, recognizing that she is “Some -- One” not something, the Body of Christ continuing His redemptive mission on the earth until He returns. The missionary mandate extends to every state in life and every Christian vocation. They demonstrate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and still available for all Christians.

The Church, Born Again

The purpose of Pentecost is the birth -- and continued rebirth -- of the Church. The Church is “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B”. The notion of a Christian group being “para” Church is far from the purpose of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was not poured out on the disciples so that they could form movements outside of the Church. Nor compete with one another in movements within her. Rather, so that they could become full members of Christ’s Church living His life within her bosom for the sake of the world.

Jesus told the disciples that He must ascend, to “my Father and your father, my God and your God” (John 20:17) because, in His own words “If I do not go I cannot send the comforter. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

And in the same Gospel “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” (John 16: 7-15)

Live Differently

The Christian Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption; to lead the world back to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Can we live this kind of transformed Christian life in the stuff of our own daily lives?

Yes, by living them in the heart of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a lot of “bad news” in our contemporary culture. However, this culture is not all that different than the cultures into which the early Christians were sent on mission; cultures such as the one which the Christians in Ephesus confronted. They needed the Holy Spirit to do their work and so do we.

The Gospel Is Still the Answer

The answer for the malady of this age is the same as the answer of those early disciples for their broken and lost age, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like them we are called to present the new culture which is revealed in the heart of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit to our own age. As I continually proclaim, we are living in a new missionary age and we are called into the whole world to preach the Gospel in both word and deed.

The Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church began with a prayer for a “New Pentecost.” The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost and continues to be poured out on, in and through the Church, for the sake of her mission in the world. Pentecost was and is the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church and the source of her power for mission.

We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the WHOLE Church in this hour! Because we need more of the Holy Spirit for the work of the New Evangelization within the Church so she can take the mission to the whole world. We need to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit in order to take our role as a member of the Body of Christ in this new missionary age.

To Transform the World

The Church needs to rise up in this hour with the same power with which she transformed the world of the first centuries. She can … by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Whatever Happened to those Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics? We are everywhere these days continuing to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit by offering ourselves to the Lord in His Church and, through her, continuing the redemptive mission of the Lord until He returns.

 

This column originally appeared in a slightly different form at Catholic Online. It is reprinted by permission.

US, China Agree to Cut American Trade Deficit

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 11:40

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States and China have agreed to take measures to “substantially reduce” America’s massive trade deficit with China, but the Trump administration failed to get the Chinese to commit to a specific numerical goal.

Still, the talks, which began Thursday and ended Saturday with the issuance of a joint statement, may have helped to ease tensions at least slightly between the world’s two biggest economic powers. In recent months the two have threatened to impose punitive tariffs on billions of dollars in each other’s exports.

In the statement, Beijing committed to “significantly increase” its purchases of American goods and services, saying that the increase would “meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development.” The two countries also agreed on “meaningful increases” of U.S. agriculture and energy exports and greater efforts to increase trade in manufactured goods and services. The United States said it would send a team to China to work out the details.

The statement, however, provided no dollar amounts on how much China might boost its purchases of American products. Lawrence Kudlow, head of the president’s National Economic Council, had told reporters Friday that a reduction in the trade gap of at least $200 billion by 2020 was a “good number.”

Last year, the United States had a record deficit with China in merchandise trade of $375 billion, the largest with any nation.

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Saturday’s statement also was silent on whether the talks had made progress in easing a developing tit-for-tat trade war in which each nation threatened to impose punitive tariffs.

Trade analysts said it was highly unlikely that China would ever agree to a numerical target for cutting the trade gap between the two nations, but they said the talks likely were more successful in de-escalating recent trade tensions.

“It is likely that this agreement, weak and vague though it is, will serve as grounds to at least delay the imposition of tariffs,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist and trade expert at Cornell University.

“The Trump administration seems eager to engineer at minimum a temporary peace with China to ensure a smooth runup to the Kim-Trump summit in June,” Prasad said, referring to the June 12 meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader.

The Washington talks, which followed a high-level meeting last month in Beijing, were led on the Chinese side by Vice Premier Liu He and on the American side by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The U.S. delegation included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to get tough on China and other U.S. trading partners. He views the massive U.S. trade deficit with China as evidence that Beijing is engaged in abusive trading practices and has outmaneuvered previous U.S. administrations.

Last August, Lighthizer began an investigation into Beijing’s strong-arm tactics to challenge U.S. technological dominance. These include outright cybertheft of U.S. companies’ trade secrets and China’s demands that American corporations hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese markets.

Last month, the administration proposed tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports to protest the forced technology transfers. Trump later ordered Lighthizer to seek up to an additional $100 billion in Chinese products to tax.

China responded by targeting $50 billion in U.S. products, including soybeans -- a shot at Trump supporters in America’s heartland. The prospect of an escalating trade war has shaken financial markets and alarmed business leaders.

In a separate controversy, the Commerce Department last month blocked China’s ZTE Corp. from importing American components for seven years, accusing the telecommunications company of misleading U.S. regulators after it settled charges last year of violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The ban amounted to a death sentence for ZTE, which relies heavily on U.S. parts, and the company announced that it was halting operations. A week ago, Trump tweeted that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to put ZTE “back in business, fast.” Media reports suggested that the U.S. was offering to swap a ZTE rescue for an end to proposed Chinese tariffs on U.S. farm products.

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Military Photo of the Day: Transport Crashes

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 07:00

Crewmen Extinguish Burning Air Force C-130 Transport, 24 May 1968

“Transport Crashes: Crash crewmen of Marine Aircraft Group 39 [MAG-39], Quang Tri base, brave intense heat, fire, and exploding small arms ammunition to extinguish a burning Air Force C-130 transport. All passengers and air crewmen on board were rescued immediately when the aircraft crashed at the Marine Corps' northernmost air base in South Vietnam (official USMC photo by Sergeant T. E. Kingry).” From the Jonathan Abel Collection (COLL/3611), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.

For Pentecost: Flambé Foods and Bungee Jumping

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 23:30

The Feast of Pentecost is one of the most important to Christians. First, it marks the birthday of the Church, the day when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and Mary, and gave everyone the nerve they needed to preach the risen Christ to a hostile mob.

Pentecost also reverses the story of the Tower of Babel -- the Old Testament tale of a people so ambitious they wanted to reach heaven through technological means. God tweaked them by inventing that bane of American schoolchildren over the millennia: foreign languages.

In what we might call multiculturalism's founding moment, God scattered them into a squabble of hostile ethnic groups, who couldn't communicate with each other.

The Star Trek Universal Translator

Then, at Pentecost, He reversed the process -- giving the Apostles the gift enjoyed by Star Trek crewmen since the very first episode: the ability to be understood by anyone, no matter his native language. The Holy Spirit provided this universal translator, which is called "the gift of tongues," to kick start the Church into universality.

For just a few hours on Pentecost morning, the Apostles came out speaking Aramaic; but they were heard in Greek, Latin, Esperanto -- you name it. They were so jumped up with joy that people assumed they must be drunk; Peter quipped back at them that it was only nine in the morning--they couldn't be drunk. (For later generations of Catholics, this wouldn't prove a thing -- but we digress.) This is what it means to "speak in tongues."  At least for us non-Pentecostalists.

Fire Is Cool

But the very best thing about Pentecost (from one point of view, anyway) is that it involves fire. Fire is cool. Setting fires is cool -- except that it's usually illegal. So are you wondering how you can celebrate the day? Well, Pentecost gives us a marvelous excuse to set lots of fires, all around the house, in the form of a flambe dinner party. To decorate the house in flaming red, and send out invitations replete with fiery puns. To stage a night-time party that none of your friends is liable to forget (especially the dimwits who come away with third-degree burns).

Since the theme of the feast is universality, this is the party to which you should invite your international friends. Fill up the house with foreigners, and watch the Holy Spirit (and other spirits) break down those barriers of culture and conversation. Present a multi-ethnic menu with some incendiary treat to please everyone. But keep the boys away from the 151 rum….

Paint the Town Red

Think red. Think flaming. (No that's not what we mean -- though we do want you to have what the Flintstones called "a gay old time.") Hang bolts of scarlet silk in place of your curtains, and fill the house with glimmering red candles -- you know, like in Rosemary's Baby. Get hold of as many silver platters as you can -- and this time remember to polish them. No, the tarnish isn't quaint, no matter what the man of the house says. Dim the lights, maybe burn some incense to get the room fragrant and smoky. It's that simple.

Fill Your House with Fruits

In the Old Testament, Pentecost made its first appearance as a harvest festival, marking 50 days after Passover, under the title the "Feast of First Fruits." Carry on this part of the tradition as you celebrate by providing lots of tasty fresh edibles, from kiwis to kumquats, arrayed around the house in bowls. It will help the guests' digestion -- since the meal doesn't include the ordinary quantities of greens. (They'd clash with the red; we're not going for a Christmas theme.) The Israelites also hung the home with garlands and flowers -- a custom that in the Christian East meant roses throughout the house. (The Greeks called Pentecost "the feast of roses.") If you can afford the expense, collect a few dozen red roses or other flowers, and plant them all over the house.

Roll Cheeses

So that's one way to celebrate, but only one. Many curious activities have arisen to mark this feast -- perhaps the strangest in Merrie Old England. Some villages in Gloucester still keep alive these customs -- which include a cheese-rolling contest, that pits country folk against each other in a race with enormous cheeses down the nearest hill. The winner gets to keep, and presumably eat, the giant, dusty cheese. In St. Braivels, the villagers celebrate the day after Pentecost by hurling baskets full of bread and cheese from a castle wall, for the common folk to scramble and fight over on the ground.

It's said that this custom began as a way to pay the villagers' wages, but it seems like a nasty bit of mischief perpetrated by aristocrats on famished peasants. So try it with your hungry guests. Make sure that no appetizers or snacks are laid out to precede dinner. When people start to grumble about being hungry -- as they smell the sizzling meats in the kitchen -- cast each one a fresh, crusty baguette from the bakery, and an individually wrapped cheese, such as a chevre or a wedge of Laughing Cow. Explain that "it's an English tradition."

Then casually announce that tonight you're serving all English food. This should provoke a wave of anxiety, as they visualize plates piled high with flaming Scotch Eggs, Spam saute, Toads-in-the-Hole and Marmite-smeared dry toast. When your flambeed international delights come out of the kitchen, they'll be greeted by sighs of relief.

Birds and Blossoms

In Italy, rose petals were traditionally scattered from the church ceiling on this feast; in France, trumpets were blown to sound forth the Holy Spirit. Before the Reformation, English priests released a dove inside the church during Mass. Any variation on these customs would be most festive -- until you have to clean up after the bird.

Bungee Jumping

The most exotic Pentecost activity arose on the tropical island named for the feast, near the Pacific tax haven of Vanuatu -- the home of the original "Cargo Cults," where cannibalism, one must insist, is no longer legal. On the Catholic half of religiously divided Pentecost Island, the natives practice a perilous sport they call "Nagol," or land-diving (on the Anglican half, they practice golf). As soon as the yam crop is ready, the island's Catholics start to build enormous towers out of wood cut from the forest, tied together with liana branches, standing 40-50 feet high.

Any male old enough to be circumcised (see Jan. 1) is expected to climb the tower, have his ankles tied with vines, and leap to the ground, bungee-style. If the vine is even a foot too long, he splats on the ground in an ex-Pentecostal heap, so divers pay close attention to the art of measurement. Missionaries say that this leap of faith is meant to evoke the descent of the Holy Spirit on His feast day. Locals know better: The diving is what ensures the next year's yam harvest. It’s strongly advised that you make this a central part of your festivities.

 

Drinks

Kava "blong" Pentecost is a mudlike drink made from the root of a pepper plant, popular on Pentecost Island. Kava drinks are available online from Kavafied. To keep in the fiery spirit, be sure to add some pepper vodka to the mix.

Whitsun (Pentecost) Ale, a light fruity traditional ale available from the Arcadia Brewing Company.

Polish Fire Vodka (Krupnik). This hot, mulled vodka drink combines the tastes of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Food:

Flaming Spinach Salad. (See recipe.) The last thing your guests expect to see on fire.

Saganaki. A beloved appetizer of flaming Greek sheep milk cheese (see below).

Flambeed Mushrooms in Sherry. A sweet and satisfying Spanish tapa.

Flaming Chicken Brochettes. Easy to serve, delicious, decorative and light.

Sizzling Steak au Poivre. One of the richest, most satisfying concoctions we know about.  

Catalonian Cornish Hen. Tender little birds roasted with sherry and Seville orange glaze.

Carmelized Pineapple. A simple, explosively enjoyable dessert.

Flaming Strawberry Shortcake. A spirited variation on the traditional summer favorite.

Recipes

Flaming Spinach Salad

This is particularly fun flambe to serve -- burning salad is always such a nice surprise! Serves 8.

 

4 bunches spinach, washed and dried

4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Dressing: 

1/2 cup bacon drippings

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons walnut oil

1/2 cup malt vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons sugar 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

11/2 ounces brandy

 

Toss spinach, eggs, salt and pepper.

Combine dressing ingredients in a sauce pan. Warm dressing and cook for a few minutes to balance flavors. Adjust seasoning. Heat brandy, add to dressing, and ignite.

Toss salad as it flames, before guests. Serve on warm plates. 

 

Saganaki (Greek Flaming Cheese)

Serves 8.

 

2 pounds Kasseri or Halloumi cheese

Flour, for dredging

Butter

3 lemons, cut in quarters

Cognac

 

If the recommended cheese is not available ask your cheese monger for a recommendation or search out a Greek purveyor. He will be sure to have an opinion about the best cheese as well as how it should be cut. Of course, "the only way it should be done" will differ from vendor to vendor.

 

Slice cheese into 1/2 inch thick rectangles. Keep cold at all times when not working with it.

Heat a medium size saute pan and melt 1 tablespoon butter.

Dust cheese with flour in a shallow plate, lightly tapping to remove excess.

Gently lay 2-3 slices at a time in pan and cook until golden on each side.

Remove to serving dish and cook remaining slices, adding butter as needed. As cheese comes out of pan, squeeze lemon over slices. (Work quickly as the cheese is best eaten hot.)

Heat a few tablespoon of cognac. This can be done by holding it in a large spoon over a flame. Pour over the cheese and ignite in front of your guests. Serve with lemon quarters.

 

Adapted from The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living.

Facebook Reveals Troubling Takedown Rules for Hate Speech and More

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 22:35

During the first three months of 2018, Facebook pulled or attached warnings to nearly 30 million posts. This affected posts with sexual or violent images, terrorist propaganda and hate speech. Within the past year, Facebook disabled 1 billion fake accounts.

Facebook took action against 2.5 million pieces of hate speech content during the first three months of this year. That is a 56 increase over October-December. Over the last two months, on average, they deleted around 66,000 posts reported as hate speech per week.

How does the company decide what to pull? What criteria do they use? Conservatives feel a growing concern that Facebook’s standards are unfair and wrongly enforced. The company’s run by those on the left. Most of its employees are on the left. Some evidence suggests that the company censors right-leaning and Christian content.

Now We Know, Maybe

Now Facebook has told us. Kind of. The company published 25 pages outlining what its standards are for taking down inappropriate material. Facebook also issued an 81-page "Community Standards Enforcement Report” detailing recent actions taken.

Facebook admitted that its content reviewers made the wrong call on 22 of them.

The policies won’t necessarily make Facebook’s treatment of conservatives and Christians more fair. CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted earlier this year, "We won't prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools." 

ProPublica asked Facebook about how it handled 49 posts that might be deemed offensive. Facebook admitted that its content reviewers made the wrong call on 22 of them. Several people as well as the Anti-Defamation League asked Facebook to take down a page called Jewish Ritual Murder. Their requests were ignored. Only after ProPublica asked Facebook about the page was it taken down. The website Facebook Jailed tracks unfairness in Facebook’s takedown policies.

Let’s review the policies. They’re not completely reassuring.

Hate Speech

Facebook bans “hate speech.” No conservative will object to that. Except … what exactly is hate speech? The definition has to be subjective. The company admits, “There is no universally accepted answer for when something crosses the line.” It also claims that some hate speech is “obvious.” That includes material that “degrades or dehumanizes people.”

Facebook defines hate speech "as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics -- race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity and serious disability or disease. We also provide some protections for immigration status."

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But how does Facebook define “attack”? It defines attacks as “violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation.” 

Facebook's VP of Global Product Management Monika Bickert gave reporters last month the example, “Saying 'members of this religion are evil.'" Facebook provides others examples: “A post that calls all people of a certain race ‘violent animals’ or describes people of a certain sexual orientation as ‘disgusting.'” Facebook bans certain criticism of the refugees settling in Europe: “dehumanizing references to them -- such as comparisons to animals, to filth or to trash.”

The Problem

It sounds all right. Here’s the problem, though: Many people on the left believe traditional morality is dehumanizing. They believe it declares certain people inferior and that it excludes or segregates them. They think that just saying what Christians have always believe is a form of hate speech.

For example, we reject homosexual practice and same-sex marriage. We believe a person’s body determines what his sex is, not what gender he prefers. We think the truth helps people. Not telling them when we should hurts them. But to many liberals, saying “marriage is a relation of one man and one woman” is too cruel to be allowed. It sounds like hate speech to them.

In other words, Facebook’s rules could easily be used against Christians who disapprove of behavior that violates Biblical principles. Although Christians don’t believe those who engage in sin are inferior, Facebook could choose to see it that way. It could also be used to ban speech in favor of separating the genders. Facebook removed a post that said “Men really are trash.” It was a “gender based attack.”

Facebook also bans “cruel or insensitive” material. For the same reasons, this could be used very broadly to restrict speech liberals dislike. Any speech someone claims makes them feel bad can be called “cruel” or “insensitive.” Or both.

Organized Hate

Facebook also bans those with ties to “organized hate” from the site. They are labeled “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.”

Facebook defines a hate group as “Any association of three or more people that is organized under a name, sign, or symbol and that has an ideology, statements, or physical actions that attack individuals based on characteristics, including race, religious affiliation, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, serious disease or disability.”

Some speech is OK for some users but not others.

Facebook bans users from posting symbols linked to hate groups. They cannot praise the groups or their actions. They can’t raise help for them. This could be used to stop efforts to fundraise for a Christian group because of its views on LGBT issues.

What’s the problem here? There are some vile hate groups out there. The problem is how Facebook might define a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled many Christian groups as hate groups. For example, the activist group ProPublica wonders why the Christian Action Network still has a Facebook page. SPLC has labeled it a hate group.

Some speech is OK for some users but not others. LGBT members can use rude words to describe each other, but someone else using the terms in a negative sense cannot.

Violence and Crime

Facebook bans graphic violence. From January through March, Facebook took action on 3.4 million posts for this reason. It bans “Still images depicting the violent death of a person or people.” This was likely what was used to stop Christians from running ads about the Passion of the Christ.

Facebook says it does “not allow people to depict criminal activity.” This is concerning. What if you want to post a video of violence against the right or Christians? YouTube is already censoring videos like that. A video of an abortion supporter pushing a pro-life campaigner for Ireland’s Save the 8th was placed on restricted mode. Only adults could view it.

Facebook permits nude photos “as a form of protest.”

On the other hand, Facebook permits nude photos “as a form of protest.” This allows some photos of topless women.

Facebook is building out a way for people to appeal their decisions. They are expanding their safety and security team from 10,000 to 20,000 employees. It includes content reviewers.

Should Facebook Censor?

Should Facebook be censoring speech? Can it decide what is hate speech? Facebook is a tech company. But is it also a media company? Bickert claims, "We are not creating content and we're not curating content.” However, by choosing what Facebook allows and doesn’t allow, that could be curating.

It is concerning that Facebook has so much control over what type of content is allowed. While it is not free speech issue per se because Facebook is a private company, so much speech takes place there now, Facebook’s vast control cannot be ignored.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

Foster Kids Need Our Help!

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 22:00

“The world would be a better place if all the mothers were like you,” Kelly Rosati’s 16-year-old daughter wrote in her card for Mother’s Day. There was a time when Rosati didn’t think such sentiments were possible. Let’s just say she’s been called things less endearing than “mom.” There have been suicide attempts. Probation. Cutting. Bulimia. Even right now, their adopted daughter isn’t at home, but temporarily living in a residential program.

“It sounds like a failure,” Rosati said this past week in Sierra Madre, at the California Catholic Conference’s annual meeting of pro-life and family leaders from across the state. “It isn’t. It’s about being healthy. Our kids have come to understand that.”

Her four foster children all encouraged their mother to talk about their lives and struggles “as long as it might help other people.”

Modern-Day Orphans

That there were hundreds of “modern-day orphans” in her own community was news to Rosati and her husband, John, almost 20 years ago. Living in Hawaii at the time, Rosati had been asking questions about adoption advocacy. She was a lobbyist and she was ready to change laws and remove obstacles. But quickly it became clear there was something more powerful than policymaking to be done. “We are a family and we have a house, and we have love to give.” The next move seemed clear.

“Talking and praying abstractly about the things that break God’s heart is one thing,” Rosati writes in her book, Wait No More, named for the program she started at Focus on the Family to connect families with children who would otherwise languish in foster care. “Seeing and hearing needs up close and personal -- in your face, literally -- is clarifying. There was no way we could see what we were seeing -- precious faces, voices and lives of real kids in desperate need -- and go back to our comfortable life unchanged.”

A Love That Saves Lives

“The love that saves lives is not soft sentimentality.”

Rosati was one of the speakers this year in January at the March for Life, where the theme was “Love Saves Lives.” There she emphasized that “The love that saves lives is not soft sentimentality. It can often be a very difficult journey.” It will be frustrating, it requires perseverance and there will be many regulatory “headaches.” Part of this is for the purpose of vetting. If you can’t handle the process, you’re not going to be able to handle what’s about to hit you once you have a foster child or a child adopted out of foster care, in your home.

So she sugarcoats nothing: This is hard work, but the most important work. She also doesn’t have to say, “they are so worth it” as she does, because her love for her children overflows in every word.

If you get yourself involved in fostering and adopting out of foster care, you can’t be looking to fulfill an adult need. “Because these kids come to you empty,” Rosati stresses.

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A Different Kind of Parenting

“Trauma changes the brain. It takes a different kind of parenting to help them heal and become everything God intended them to be,” she says, talking about the myriad mental-health issues that children, even young ones, face. She knows this intimately, as her son Daniel was born addicted to crystal meth. “Two of my kids’ birth mothers have schizophrenia,” she says. Mental illness, she explains, “is one of life’s toughest challenges. But God is there.” Another of the Rosatis’ children had been homeless -- theirs was the sixth home he was placed in. He was 4 years old and he wasn’t potty-trained. Once they met him, though, the Rosatis were determined that he was not going to another home.

A Need for More People to Help

Adoption and foster care must be high priority for everyone who considers themselves pro-life. And when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently realized there were 34,000 foster children in their city, it didn’t start a new department but quickly started to tap into models and networks already in existence, many of them successful in evangelical churches, to connect families with foster children and wraparound services.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, despite issuing a recent campaign for foster families, is pushing Catholic Social Services out of foster care. We’re in need of more, not fewer, people of good will who can provide help. These children need people making foster care and adoption a priority in every church in America in a deeply personal way.

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.

Did the French Want the Statue of Liberty to Stand For Immigration? [VIDEO]

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 21:41

 

The French intended the Statue of Liberty to symbolize America's openness to immigration, Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine claimed. But did they?

As I listen to French President Macron address Congress, I'm struck that it's the same day that the Supreme Court will hear the Muslim travel ban case. The French people recognized the U.S. as a nation of immigrants when they gifted us the Statue of Liberty.

— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 25, 2018

As it turns out, no. The statue's French creators intended for the colossus to celebrate independence and enlightenment. It was only later it came to symbolize the promise of immigration. In 1865, French political thinker and abolitionist Edouard Rene de Laboulaye suggested the people of France build a monument for the U.S. as a gift following the end of the Civil War. He wanted it to celebrate independence and recognize the connection between France and the U.S.

"This monument to independence will be executed in common by the two nations, joined together in this fraternal work as they once were to achieve independence," he wrote.

Laboulaye hoped the monument would inspire the French people to learn from the U.S. system and call for democracy in France.

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French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the colossus, shared Laboulaye's desire to memorialize the principles of liberty. He originally devised a lighthouse in the shape of a robed woman with a torch intended for the Suez Canal, called "Egypt (or Progress) Brings Light to Asia," but plans for the lighthouse fell through. In 1870, Bartholdi began to reshape that design into the Statue of "Liberty Enlightening the World."

The statue became a symbol of immigration due in large part to American poet Emma Lazarus' sonnet, "The New Colossus," which is mounted on the base of the statue. Inspired by the plight of the immigrant, Lazarus dubbed Lady Liberty the "Mother of Exiles." "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," the poem reads.

Kaine misconstrued the meaning to make it seem French President Emmanuel Macron was opposed to President Donald Trump on immigration while the Supreme Court was considering his travel ban.

While it would've been convenient for Kaine if the French had wanted the U.S. to take in every migrant -- no questions asked -- but that's just not the case. In reality, the French intended for the statue to encourage American independence and enlightenment.

 

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Nassar Victims Had to Make a Major Concession to Get $500 Million Settlement

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 21:41

Victims of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse agreed to stay silent on two bills before the Michigan legislature in exchange for a $500 million settlement from Michigan State University, Deadspin reported Friday.

Lawyers representing the 332 current and former gymnasts -- almost entirely female and victimized by the former Michigan State and Team USA gymnastics doctor -- announced the payout Wednesday. A total of $425 million will be split among the victims, and $75 million will be set aside for any more that come forward.

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As part of the settlement, Nassar's victims agreed to cease advocating for two bills currently being fought over in Michigan's State Legislature. The bills would eliminate government immunity in cases involving the sexual abuse of children, according to Deadspin.

"The victims continue to support statute of limitations reform, et cetera," the vctims' attorney, John Manly, told Deadspin. "The only area they agreed not to pursue actively was the bills dealing with governmental immunity."

"The truth is, nothing was given up," Manly added after saying the government immunity bills were not likely to pass. The settlement does not apply to any future bills possibly introduced to the legislature concerning government immunity.

Nassar was sentenced to no less than four decades in prison for his abuse, which spanned decades as Michigan State and Team USA officials ignored or buried multiple complaints from victims.

 

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Am I Tuning In At the Wrong Times, or Does CNN Really Have Trump Derangement Syndrome?

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 16:00

Maybe it's a matter of timing. Maybe I'm not giving this a fair shake. But whenever I happen to tune in to CNN, there's a panel of talking heads discussing President Trump and the porn star. Or President Trump and the Mueller investigation. Or President Trump and whether he'll be impeached.

But as for President Trump and Jerusalem. Or President Trump and Saudi Arabia. Or President Trump and Iran. Or President Trump and North Korea. Or President Trump and the American economy. Or President Trump and pro-life legislation. Or President Trump and national security -- or whatever the major topic is -- I almost never hear CNN talking about it.

And as for CNN talking about a subject that doesn't mention Trump at all, I can't remember the last time I witnessed that personally.

Now, to be totally honest, I watch very little TV news, so my sampling is quite small. I get almost all my news reading online, and in that regard, my sampling is quite large.

Is CNN giving even the slightest pretense to being fair and balanced? Is there even a modicum of desire to say, "We are not just here to slam the president"?

Perhaps, if I sampled Fox News on TV the same way, I would get similarly skewed results, just in a different direction.

So I'm asking a question here rather than claiming scientific accuracy.

Still, I have to wonder: Is CNN giving even the slightest pretense to being fair and balanced? Is there even a modicum of desire to say, "We are not just here to slam the president"?

A Small, but Representative Sample

The fact is, although my sampling is small, it's somewhat representative. That's because the TVs in our home are programmed to start with CNN. (I'm not sure who set it up like that, but we've never changed it.)

So, when I want to watch some sports (perhaps while eating dinner at night when Nancy is not with me, or while winding down a little between writing projects), the first thing I see and hear is CNN.

The times of day can vary. The days of the week can vary. But one thing never varies.

I mean day after day. Week after week. Broadcast after broadcast. CNN anchor or talking head panel.

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They're breathlessly discussing President Trump and the latest alleged scandal. They're examining the newest dirt in fine detail. They're talking about chaos and upheaval and crisis. They're talking about Trump melting down. Things are really bad, and they're getting worse by the moment!

Watching CNN, you're surprised when you hear the president utter a single sane word. You’d think he was out of his mind!

Watching CNN, you're shocked to see that his administration survived another day. And you can hardly believe that Trump and Melania are still together.

Through the lens of CNN, the White House sky seems to be falling multiple times a day, as crisis after crisis comes crashing down. At least that's how CNN's reporting sounds in my ears.

Am I Wrong?

On a daily basis at CNN the big news, aside from a major news headline -- like another tragic school shooting -- is the latest scandalous accusation against the president.

So, again I ask, is it just me? Are my impressions simply the result of my poorly-timed, too-short, random sampling?

I don't watch much TV in general, so maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm not giving CNN a fair shake.

On the other hand, what are the chances of my random sampling being that skewed?

As for CNN reporting on Trump's major accomplishments, those can only be reported in the negative. He acted hastily. It was all for political gain. This is about Trump, not helping others. He's making a total mess of things.

There is nothing good about the man or his administration. Nothing praiseworthy. Nothing positive. Not one thing.

And on a daily basis the big news, aside from a major news headline -- like another tragic school shooting -- is not the world news. The big news is the latest scandalous accusation against the president. At least, that's the big news according to CNN.

So, is it just me? Am I tuning in at the wrong times or not watching for long enough periods? Or does CNN suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome?

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Wed in Windsor as Millions Watch

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 13:25

WINDSOR, England (AP) -- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gazed into each other’s eyes and pledged their eternal love Saturday as they married at St. George’s Chapel in front of hundreds of celebrity guests and millions of viewers around the world.

The American actress arrived to a fanfare and walked down the aisle accompanied part of the way by Prince Charles and by 10 young page boys and bridesmaids. The children included 4-year-old Prince George and 3-year-old Princess Charlotte, children of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Markle’s sleek white dress, designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller, had a boat neck and was made of silk. Her veil came to her waist in front and billowed out for many feet behind her long train.

Harry and best man Prince William wore dark formal military dress, with white gloves and the frock coat uniforms of the Blues and Royals, and Harry kept his full red beard intact. As Charles and Meghan drew close to the altar, Harry said: “Thank you, Pa.”

To Meghan, Harry said: “You look amazing.”

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Markle seemed poised and confident as she delivered her vows without so much as a quiver in her voice. She smiled broadly as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby declared them husband and wife. Harry seemed a bit nervous -- but happy.

A host of celebrities and athletes -- including Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Elton John, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, James Corden and David and Victoria Beckham -- watched the ceremony in the gothic chapel at Windsor Castle.

Prior to the festivities, Queen Elizabeth II honored her red-headed, 33-year-old grandson with a new title: the Duke of Sussex. That means that Markle is now the Duchess of Sussex.

The wedding was a global event, thanks to Harry’s status as a senior British royal and Markle’s celebrity after starring on the U.S. television series “Suits” for seven years. The wedding pomp and ceremony -- complete with Anglican prayers and tradition, classical music, a gospel choir and a horse-drawn carriage ride through Windsor -- was beamed live to tens of millions of TV viewers across the world.

Relatives at the ceremony included Charles Spencer, the brother of Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, and Harry’s cousin Zara Tindall and her husband. Also in attendance was the family of Prince William’s wife Kate: Parents Carole and Michael Middleton, sister Pippa Middleton and brother James Middleton.

Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was also among the congregation, as was Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, the ex-wife of Harry’s uncle Prince Andrew.

Outside the castle, thousands of fans crammed the streets of Windsor. Irene Bowdry, a lawyer from California, was aboard the jammed early train to Windsor. She booked her trip to England as soon as the wedding date was announced.

“An American in the royal family, isn’t that so exciting?” she said.

The weather was balmy and clear, bathing the ancient stones of Windsor Castle in a beautiful spring light. Royal fans have been camping outside the castle for days, and British police have stepped up security, with sniffer dogs, barricades and patrols all over town.

“Windsor is absolutely bursting with excitement,” said royal historian Hugo Vickers. “There are cardboard cutouts of Meghan and Harry in every shop window, virtually. There’s bunting all over the place. I’ve never seen so many people in the streets of Windsor.”

It is a time of transition for the British monarchy, one that seems filled with hope as William and Harry -- the two sons of Charles and the late Princess Diana -- step ever more confidently into the limelight. Many in the crowd, like Ana Karukin, a Brazilian nurse living in Florida, said they came to witness a moment of history.

“We’ve got to be here for him and for her, my Meghan, my special girl, to support them, because it’s a beautiful time,” she said. “I wish that Diana was here, but she’s in heaven watching over them.”

The brothers found the time amid the wedding hoopla to stroll outside the castle Friday evening to thank fans for coming. A smiling Harry gave a thumb’s up and answered “Great, thank you!” when asked how he was feeling on the eve of his wedding.

And it seems to be a time of joy for 92-year-old queen and her 96-year-old husband, Prince Philip, who plans to attend the ceremony despite his recent hip replacement surgery. She is seeing her grandson marry a woman who clearly has brought him the happiness he’s often said was missing from his life after his mother’s premature death.

The family tableau played out on the broadest possible stage. Dozens of broadcasters set up on the castle grounds for a visual feast. The chapel itself is a masterpiece of the late Gothic style, and Windsor Castle has been home to British sovereigns for nearly 1,000 years.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds will ride a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Windsor, flanked by a British military procession with many officers on horseback.

Then it will be off to the first of two gala receptions. The first will be hosted in the afternoon by the queen -- with finger foods, wine and champagne. The second, smaller reception is being thrown by Charles. A three-hour break in between will allow for a rest and a change of outfits for the lucky 200 invited to the evening soiree.

The chapel service will reflect Markle’s American roots. The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the African-American leader of the Episcopal Church, delivered the sermon, and the musical selections included versions of Ben. E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Etta James’ “Amen/This Little Light of Mine.”

Harry invited buddies from his 10 years of military service -- which included tours of duty in Afghanistan -- and from many of the charities he supports, which have focused on helping wounded veterans or encouraging a more open discussion of mental health issues.

The couple also honored the memory of Harry’s mother Diana, whose older sister Jane Fellowes gave a reading during the wedding service.

___

Kirka and Lawless reported from London.

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Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cohen Lawyers Move To Boot Michael Avenatti From NY Case For Unethical, Reckless Actions

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 12:06

Attorneys representing embattled Trump fixer Michael Cohen asked a federal court in New York to deny Michael Avenatti's request to appear and represent Stormy Daniels in an ongoing dispute over the April 9 search of Cohen's office.

Avenatti, who is not licensed to practice law in New York, is seeking the court's permission to appear on Daniels' behalf in the Cohen case. Cohen lawyers argued Friday the request should be denied.

"The ongoing inaccurate statements started the very day Mr. Avenatti announced at a press conference his representation of Ms. Clifford," the filing reads. "Since then, he has made numerous claims against Mr. Cohen that lack accuracy and factual support. Mr. Avenatti appears to be primarily focused on smearing Mr. Cohen publicly in his efforts to further his own interest in garnering as much media attention as possible."

Rule 3.6 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct provides that attorneys should not make out of court statements which could prejudice a pending matter. Cohen's lawyers say Avenatti has violated the rule by disseminating false information he may have obtained unlawfully about Cohen's finances. Avenatti released intimate details of Cohen's personal financial history early in May, though the data he disclosed compromised other individuals of the same name not related to the investigation.

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The source of the breach has not yet been identified. The filing, citing Ronan Farrow's May 16 piece in the New Yorker, notes the law enforcement official allegedly responsible for the leak is "terrified" of legal consequences.

The filing also notes that Avenatti failed to disclose the fact that he is currently the subject of a bar complaint in California. Local rules require that any out-of-state lawyers disclose ongoing disciplinary proceedings when moving to appear. In a response filed just minutes later, Avenatti said he was not obligated to disclose the investigation since no final determination had been rendered.

Fox News first reported the existence of the bar investigation.

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Teen Laid Out Texas Attack Plan in Journals, Officials Say

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 11:59

SANTA FE, Texas (AP) -- The Texas student charged in the shooting at Santa Fe High School described planning the attack in private journals, including a plan to kill himself, posted an image on Facebook of a “Born to Kill” shirt and used his father’s shotgun and pistol in the rampage that left 10 dead and 10 wounded, authorities said Friday.

A motive wasn’t immediately clear, but Gov. Greg Abbott said Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, wrote about planning the attack in journals on his computer and in his cellphone that police obtained. That was inconsistent with the portrait painted by his friends -- a reserved young man, an athlete who had discussed wanting to own guns but didn’t talk of killing people.

It may have been what Pagourtzis hoped would happen, as according to an affidavit filed Friday when he was charged with capital murder, he told investigators that he didn’t shoot students he liked “so he could have his story told.”

“Not only did he want to commit the shooting but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting,” Abbott said, adding that Pagourtzis told authorities he “didn’t have the courage” to take his own life.

Pagourtzis was held without bond in the Galveston County jail on the capital murder charges, said the county sheriff, Henry Trochesset. Abbott said the two guns used in the attack were owned legally by his father. It was not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them.

The governor also said explosive devices including a Molotov cocktail had been found in the suspected shooter’s home and a vehicle as well as around the school and nearby.

Abbott said at a news conference that “unlike Parkland, unlike Sutherland Springs, there were not those types of warning signs.” He was referring to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida and one in November inside a church in a town near San Antonio. Abbott said the early investigation showed no prior criminal history for Pagourtzis -- no arrests and no confrontations with law enforcement.

That same Facebook profile that included pictures of the “Born to Kill” shirt -- which one classmate told The New York Times that Pagourtzis was wearing Friday -- described Pagourtzis as planning to enter the U.S. Marine Corps next year. But the Marine Corps told The Associated Press it has reviewed its records and found no one by that name as either a recruit or a person in their delayed entry pool.

A woman who answered the phone at a number associated with the Pagourtzis family declined to speak with the AP.

“Please don’t call us. Give us our time right now, thank you,” she said.

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Classmates described Pagourtzis as quiet, an avid video game player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class. He had played football on the school’s junior varsity squad and danced as part of a church group. Those who know him expressed shock he might be involved in the killings.

Branden Auzston, 17, a junior at Santa Fe High School, said he was sitting in his history class watching a movie when he heard the fire alarm. At that moment, he thought it was just a fire drill, so he and his girlfriend, Daisy Sullivan, walked outside the building with other students. But Auzston said he thought it was odd the school was having another fire drill after having had one about two weeks ago.

“We go outside like normal. We’re told to get in the grass,” he said.

Auzston said once he was outside, he heard two bangs but thought it was either a door slamming or the lid of a dumpster slamming down.

Then he heard three more bangs, and panic set in.

“Then I see Mr. Vaughn run hysterically and screaming, ‘Just run.’ At that point you have 500 students just running off to get as far off as possible.”

Daniel Vaughn is a history teacher at the high school.

Tristen Patterson, a 16-year-old junior at Sante Fe, considered Pagourtzis a friend. He said Pagourtzis was into video games that simulated war, and that he sometimes talked about guns -- firearms that he liked or wanted to get. “But he never talked about killing people or anything like that,” Patterson said.

He said Pagourtzis didn’t show signs of being bullied but also rarely talked about himself. In one of their classes, Pagourtzis would sometimes enter the room “acting a little bit down or sad. A little bit sluggish,” Patterson said.

“But he never talked about why,” he said.

Father Stelios Sitaras of Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Galveston, Texas, said he met Pagourtzis when the young man danced with a group as part of an annual festival in October. He said the Pagourtzises are members of a nearby parish. On Facebook Pagourtzis identified his religion as “atheist.”

Sitaras said he had never heard of the teen being in any sort of trouble.

“He is a quiet boy,” the priest said. “You would never think he would do anything like this.”

Michael Farina, 17, said he grew up with Pagourtzis and would play video games with him. He said Pagourtzis knew a lot about guns and remembered him asking which one he should get when he was older.

“I’m kind of dumbfounded. We didn’t get any warning,” Farina said.

He said a black trench coat and black boots was Pagourtzis’s regular outfit to school. “I guess you could say it was his kind of style,” Farina said. He said he wasn’t someone who got into trouble and described him as a “run of the mill” student.

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Biesecker and Horwitz reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, and John Mone in Santa Fe, Texas, contributed.

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Follow Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck and Horwitz at http://twitter.com/JeffHorwitz

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

LGBT Activist Twisting Jesus’ Words Into a Judgmental ‘Jesus Hammer’

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:00

"I find it appalling that so many of you supporting segregation profess to be Christians. Jesus, the Christ, always defended marginalized [sic]. … Make no mistake, the Lord is on our side."

-- Mom in Texas, schooling legislators on her view of Jesus' politics. See the video below.

Do you remember the old folk song, "If I had a hammer, I'd-a hammer in the morning"? The woman quoted above is using Jesus as her hammer to justify imposing transgender ideology on others. I find it appalling.

I've already spoken about the manipulative, emotional tactics she used trying to get people to shut down their brains as she gave this testimony before the Texas legislature. Let's resist that. Let's start our brains up again, and keep them in gear.

Here’s a good place to start: Did Jesus "always defend the marginalized"? Better yet: Does that statement even mean anything? The answer is no.  Obviously no. 

“Marginalized” Doesn’t Always Need Defending

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People get marginalized for all kinds of reasons -- and some of those reasons are perfectly good. They get left out of decisions because they're new in the company. They're relegated to last chair in the trumpet section because they haven't practiced enough. They're second-class citizens in Hollywood because they're porn movie producers.

So again, what could it possibly mean for someone always to "defend the marginalized"? Would it mean insisting that businesses let rookies set strategy? Demanding everyone gets to play a solo at the concert? Boycotting movies until the Academy gave out Oscars in the pornography category?

No one could "always defend the marginalized." Not even Jesus. He would have had to deny His own character and moral truth.

Of course He stood up for everyone's essential worth, and we should too. There are ways you and I could help bring any of the folks I've just mentioned into the mainstream. We could coach and mentor the newcomer, so that over a long period of time she would gain real influence. We could give the trumpet player incentives to practice. And we could go stand on the porn producer's desk and tell him to just stop it!

Jesus Knew When, How -- and When Not -- To Defend “Marginalized”

Of course I'm not saying there are always good reasons for people being marginalized. Far from it. Consider the woman Jesus met at the well in John 4. She fit four marginalized categories all at once: female, Samaritan (a race hated by the Jews), theologically confused (also a big problem for the Jews) and sexually immoral. God never intended either race or sex to be reasons to belittle or exclude, as so often happens.

Jesus handled those two categories in exactly the right way, simply treating her as a human being worthy of respectful conversation. But he also corrected her misunderstanding of God, and he called her out on her immorality. This Jesus stood with her on two marginalized categories, and called her out on two others.

His example in this one interaction plays out everywhere in His ministry. For the fact is, there's no policy of "always defending marginalized" anywhere to be found in Jesus' ministry. He healed a widow's dying son; he also healed a Roman officer's dying servant. One was marginalized, the other wasn't. There's no policy of "defending the marginalized" anywhere in view.

Or again, Jesus coached the fisherman-disciples in how to follow him, and he coached the Pharisee Nicodemus, too. Where's the policy? It can't be found. Not in the Bible, anyway. You have to look for it elsewhere, like in this woman's strained attempt to convince herself the Lord on her side. You can find it, too, in the writings of leftist theologians, who make it their habit not draw the Lord's truth from the Bible, but to pour their ideologies into it instead.

The one needs freedom and vindication as its solution, the other needs (or wants) social approval and social power.

Marginalization Does Not Equal Oppresssion

Of course they have to have someplace to pour it, and the most conveniently shaped vessel for it is Jesus' stand for the oppressed. Early in his ministry Jesus quoted from Isaiah, saying,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free the oppressed, To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

He came to set free the oppressed. More often than not this meant setting people free from themselves, from their own sin, as he did with the tax collector Zacchaeus. "Today salvation has come to this house," Jesus said of him, "for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).

Obviously there's overlap here, for many are marginalized precisely because they're oppressed. But not all, as we saw above. And conceptually, to be oppressed and to be marginalized just aren't the same. The one needs freedom and vindication as its solution, the other needs (or wants) social approval and social power. If two problems have different solutions, they’re not the same problem. Marginalization doesn’t equal oppression. 

The Kingdom of God in Grace and Righteousness -- That’s What He Always Defended

For Jesus, though, neither oppression nor inclusion was ever the first issue. There was only one thing for which He always stood: the Kingdom of God coming in the grace of God and in the righteousness of repentance. That's what His Isaiah quotation was about, above all.

For some reason, though, we don't hear this Texas mom telling the lawmakers she wants help getting her son freed from his confused gender condition. We don't hear her grappling with whether this "marginalization" exists for good reasons or for bad. We don't hear her broaching the question, "Is this the way Jesus meant it to be?" No, we only hear her using His name for the meaningless, "Jesus always defended marginalized."

Twisting Jesus’ Words: Dangerous for Her, Ominous for Us

She came in to that meeting with judgment in her heart and a twisted version of Jesus as her cover for it. She re-manufactured His own words into a Jesus hammer to pound people with. That's dangerous business. I find it appalling.

And ominous. Count on it: There's more of this more to come. What defense do Christians have against this misuse of God's word? One above all, and a second to support it. We have to know what it says. And we have to keep our brains in gear.

 

 

See also my earlier article on LGBT persuasive rhetoric in this woman's testimony. It's a virtual clinic in manipulative tactics.

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