Donald Sensing lives in Franklin, Tenn., not far from his hometown of Nashville. He graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in philosophy and obtained his M.Div. from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1999. In between, he served as a US Army field artillery officer, retiring in 1995. Don has been married since 1980 and has three children; the eldest is a US Marine, the other two are still in school. As an Army officer, he served on four continents and was a plans officer assigned to Headquarters, Dept. of the Army at the Pentagon. He served as well on the travelling staff of the Secretary of the Army. His second career is as an ordained minister (elder) of the United Methodist Church, where he is pastor of Trinity UMC, Franklin. Don blogs at One Hand Clapping.
Why do you blog? > I blog better to understand the world and what is happening in it. In many ways, blogging is a form of self-talk for me. I think best when I'm writing, and blogging is how I think about the important topics of the day. Although I am gratified that two million-plus people have now read my site, I really am writing for myself more than anyone else.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Like many bloggers, the first thrill was getting my first Instalanche, back in March 2002. The blogosphere was still pretty small then, and that Instalanche yielded 1,700 hits. Back then that was huge! The most gratifying experience was being asked by OpinionJournal's James Taranto to write an op-ed for the WSJ site last March. He had read one of my posts and asked me to submit it for publication on his site. It may be read here. I also get a fairly steady stream of email from readers telling me how much they like my work, and that's very satisfying.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > When I decided to quit after only three months of blogging. The hit counter I was using then said I was garnering an extremely small number of readers, some days in the single digits. So I simply posted that blogging was suspended indefinitely. Shortly, Geitner Simmons emailed me to persuade me otherwise. After a few weeks I restarted, that time on Blogspot (I now have my own server), and have been blogging ever since. Geitner and I became good friends, too. So the low blogging moment was supplanted by some very positive things.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write for fun and write about what you already know. Keep at it, but remember that if you write simply for others to read, you'll probably quit. Please yourself first. Gaining readers is really a bonus, although a very nice bonus. Don't be afraid to ask big-time bloggers to look at your work, but, as Glenn Reynolds once wrote, 'Sell the post, not a blog.' Send the text of a post to other bloggers, not just a link. And include the link, of course; I prefer it plaintext rather than text-embedded.
What are your favourite blogs? > Other than Instapundit, the Grand Central Station of the blogosphere, I enjoy American Digest for reflections, Bill Hobbs for Tennessee news and analysis and Belmont Club for foreign affairs insights. I really want to mention Braden Files, too, an outstanding site with a very small readership, but always worth the time.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, John Wesley.
What are you reading at the moment? > Holy War, a History of the Crusades, by Karen Armstrong. It's a bit of an ideological treatment of the subject, and I think she is stretching in the extent of her claims that the Crusades strongly influence the West's relationship with the Middle East today. Nonetheless, it's an informative work.
What is your favourite movie? > Gone With the Wind. What man doesn't secretly wish he was Rhett Butler?
What is your favourite song? > All my favourites are hymns. If I had to name one it would be, 'And Can It Be that I Should Gain', by Charles Wesley, 1739 (United Methodist Hymnal #363). But there are dozens of others I could name as well. At this time of year 'Silent Night' is my seasonal favourite.
Who is your favourite composer? > Don Michael Dicie, the music director of my church. He's incredibly talented and is published by Oxford. We co-wrote an Easter offertory this year (he wrote the music, of course) and it was a wonderful experience. He and I are closely aligned theologically and in how music and word should interplay during worship, making it a real joy to lean on his vast knowledge and expertise to plan worship. Start with his Googled results.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I am much more liberal theologically than I was before seminary, but I lean politically toward conservative libertarianism. I am much more open than before to the historical and cultural influences on how the Bible was shaped and written as well as how those influences shape how we use the Scriptures. When I was young I tended toward Scriptural stringency, but studying Wesleyan theology loosened me up a great deal.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > 'The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time. The hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them' - Thomas Jefferson.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Statism, the idea that government has the final say in the ordering of the life of a nation's citizens.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Nintendo, Gameboy and the like.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Both major parties are now wholly converted to Big Government, therefore both parties have become anti-freedom. Both parties see America as a problem to be solved and Americans as a people to be managed. Hence our lives are being regulated at a compounding rate. We are well on our way to thinking that statism is the norm. Somehow we must reverse this process.
What would you do with the UN? > The UN is so bloated, so corrupt, so outdated and so anti-freedom that I don't see how it can be useful again. Neither am I sure it can, or should, be replaced with another organization. There are a lot of good things UN agencies do that don't get a lot of press. The challenge is how to preserve them while burning the chaff - and there's an awful lot of chaff. One place to start is by purging every UN official who had anything to do with the Oil-for-Food scandal. Annan has to go, too. The old Rooseveltian idealism with which the UN was begun is no longer tenable. Today the UN is a tool of despots and dictators. The first-world member states must regain control of the UN and use it to bring forth more freedom across the globe. But Europe is quite unwilling to do that, so I don't see much of a future for the UN.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > At present, Islamist absolutism potentially armed with atomic weapons.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > As a man of Christian faith, I always believe that the best is yet to come. 'I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope' - Jeremiah 29:11.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Follow the Golden Rule because the other side of the coin is true, too: as you treat others so you will be treated. There's an economy of life that works out so that what you get from others is closely aligned to what you have given away. Acting from kindness and love are the most important habits to develop, and also the most difficult.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Courage. I agree with Churchill that courage is the foundational virtue upon which all other virtues are built.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Dishonesty. Unless someone can be trusted to be truthful, I have little use for him or her.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Spare time? What's that? Mostly, I spend time with my wife and kids. Once my eldest entered the Marine Corps right out of high school, I realized with a jolt that my second would be gone soon, too.
What is your most treasured possession? > I really don't treasure possessions. They're just stuff. I very much value a handmade, crewel wallhanging my grandmother made me as a college-graduation present. It's irreplaceable, so I suppose that if the house caught on fire I'd grab it first, once the family was taken care of.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > When I was growing up, I hated 'Donald' (I suffered through a lot of inevitable Donald Duck jests). I wanted to be named David. But that's not very different, is it? If I had to change my first name, though, I guess I'd stick with David. Rather dull answer, eh?
What talent would you most like to have? > Athleticism. I am a very average athlete. My second son, Thomas, is athletically gifted, and the control and coordination he has over his body just amazes me. I would love to be able to do the things he does.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I would be torn between something fairly scholarly, such as a full-time writer or professor, and something fairly active and outdoors, such as a national-park ranger. No, wait, I've got it! Airplane racer. Seriously. I learned to fly when I was single and therefore wealthy. I loved flying fast and low. Thankfully, my flight instructor never found out what I was doing with his airplane when I was soloing!
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jackie Gleason. His talent for humour, and especially characterization, was unparalleled.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Moe Berg, a pro-ball player whose espionage career for the US government began while he was still a player. His baseball career was not very distinguished, but his intellect and mental abilities were astonishing. (Observed a teammate, 'He can speak seven languages fluently, but he can't hit in any of them.') He carried out amazing assignments as a civilian officer of the OSS in World War II.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I would like to win the Grand National championship in trap shooting. Alas, it is only a wish because I have neither the time nor money to practise enough to achieve that level of skill.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would give a great deal of it away, first to the United Methodist Education Fund and then to help fund medical plans for retired pastors of the Tennessee Conference of the UMC. I am medically covered myself, being retired military, but for almost every other pastor, retirement medical care is severely underfunded. For myself, I'd like a different house but not necessarily a much larger one. I'm sure I'd buy something very nice for my wife. But I don't see leaving the ministry for mere money.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Moses, Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed - the three figures who most shaped the world we live in today.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Tennessee is landlocked while I would really like to live near the sea. I enjoy experiencing four distinct seasons, so the coasts of North Carolina, Maryland or Delaware would be nice. My wife and I really love the Outer Banks of North Carolina and my older brother lives in Delaware, so it would have to be either of those states, I suppose. We'd definitely have to have a boat large enough to take two- or three-day trips on, and a smaller speedboat for water skiing.