Monthly Archives: April 2009

Rethinking the Spiritual Gifts

God gives each person a spiritual gift, choosing from four different lists Paul wrote. We identify that gift by taking a written test. Then we do something in the church that goes along with whatever the test says God specially enabled us to do.

That’s the American evangelical view of spiritual gifts. I’ve taken many such tests, and have largely bought into this whole view of spiritual gifts. It fits the way we Americans think–testing, quantifying, scientifically validating, etc. And yet, certain elements have nagged me:

  • Why do the results of these tests sound so much like natural or learned abilities?
  • Why do the results change over time, just like the results of personality tests? As I mature, change, learn new things, develop new abilities–why would that change a gift God has given me?
  • Why do the tests disagree on which “gifts” should be included?
  • The descriptions of the gifts always seem to be written from the perspective of Western Christian churches. But as I learned long ago, if a concept from an American church doesn’t also fit a church in Calcutta or the African jungle, then it’s not the Gospel–it’s just an American cultural interpretation.
  • Why didn’t the Apostle Paul include a Spiritual Gifts Test for the Corinthians to use?

I’m reading  a book by Biola University prof Kenneth Berding called, “What are Spiritual Gifts? : Rethinking the Conventional View.” He dismantles the view that the tests propagate, arguing that the gifts should more properly be viewed as ministry assignments or functions. They are not things for which we’ve necessarily received some special enablement; in fact, God often calls us to do things out of weakness, not strength. It makes SO much sense to me. And I’m only partway into the book.

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The First 100 Days, by the Numbers

Here’s a fascinating statistical run-down of Obama’s first 100 days–trips, states visited, proclamations, bills signed, visits to Camp David–everything you do and don’t want to know. 

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More on Arlen

Out-of-favor conservative David Frum writes: “For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone….For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?…Until and unless there is an honored place made in the Republican party for people who think like Arlen Specter, we will remain a minority party.”

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Arlen’s Plight

I’ve always liked Arlen Specter. He can articulate a nuanced position, and sticks to his personal principles and beliefs above partisan politics. But yesterday, in explaining why he was jumping to the Democratic party, he showed himself to be consumed with self-preservation. He changed parties so he wouldn’t be voted out of office. He made no bones about it. It was about pride, ego, legacy. Very dissappointing. 

However, Specter’s decision points out a huge problem in the Republican party. Moderates are no longer welcome. In fact, if you listen to the right-wing media, there are no Republican moderates, only conservatives and liberals. If you hold moderate views, you’re not a true Republican. You’re a liberal, a Republican in name only. 

I’ve heard various Republican leaders talk about increasing the size of the tent, but they seem to get shouted down. Instead, the tent is getting smaller, while the Democratic tent continually increases in size. Remember how Rush Limbaugh lambasted John McCain during the primary? He didn’t consider McCain a proper Republican; his voting credentials were insufficiently ideological.

I’ve been a Republican most of my life, but it’s hard for me to find room in that tent. Likewise for the growing number of what are being called “progressive evangelicals,” people like me whose biblical convictions about the role of government extend far beyond the Big Three of the Religious Right–abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. 

I oppose the death penalty, favor reasonable gun control, care deeply about economic injustice (favoring the rich, screwing the poor and the middle class), believe climate change and energy independence must be dealt with, think that in a modern civilized country, everyone should have access to health care. But Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, our media-age gurus, would tear me apart. Their Republican party has no room for my kind; we’re ideologically impure and cannot be tolerated. We are to be demonized and ridiculed, labeled as traitors. We are not what they consider conservatives.

The Democratic party isn’t attractive to me, with their nutty left-wing. and yet, they are making room for progressive evangelicals. It’s probably the reason Obama was elected.

Interestingly, the senators I admire most are all Republicans–John McCain, Dick Lugar, John Warner, Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham…and Arlen Specter. Most, if not all, of them are political moderates. But if the loudmouth right-wing media continues its stranglehold on the political conversation, excoriating Republicans like me, the day will come when a Lindsey Graham or a John McCain–not just an Arlen Specter–cannot find a home in the Republican Party. And that will be sad.

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Dick Cheney, Grumblemaster

Dick Cheney, in full self-justification mode, is running around criticizing everything about the Obama administration. This is like Microsoft griping about bugs in another company’s software. Most of us wish Dick Cheney would just go away, because his legacy is not exactly shimmering.

  • We continue fighting two wars, with no end in sight.
  • The economy is in the worst shape since the 1930s.
  • We went from a surplus to our largest national debt ever (though that number will soon be shattered).
  • Our moral standing in the world, built over 230 years, is shredded.
  • We went soft on the Taliban so we could divert our resources and attention to Iraq. And now the Taliban threatens to take over the world’s 6th most populous country, along with their 100+ nuclear warheads.
  • Because the Bush administration (with Cheney’s insistence) refused to talk to North Korea and Iran, passing up opportunities early in the administration, one now has nuclear weapons and the other will soon have them. 
  • Eight years of campaign strategy based on dividing the electorate have left the country severely divided, and the idea of states seceding from the Union has even arisen. 
  • We went eight years with nothing done in the name of energy independence.
  • We went eight years with nothing done to fight climate change. 
  • A major American city, New Orleans, remains in tatters.
  • While the number of millionaires exploded, the middle class was pummeled. Remember that dream of settling into a comfortable retirement at age 65? Dream on.

Mr. Cheney, we don’t expect you to apologize. We just want you to go away. You had your chance to show how to do things. It’ll take us a long time to recover.

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A New Definition for Stupid


Overheard in the White House Military Office:

We need some new photos. So let’s send a 747 up to New York City, let it swoop around the city, real low. Oh, and we’ll give it an escort of two F-16 fighters, so that nobody gets alarmed. We’ll keep the mission classified, so nobody will even know it’s happening…right?

While we’re at it, let’s shoot off a huge fireworks display from atop a few skyscrapers. That’ll be cool.

Let’s do it without telling President Obama. Keep it a surprise. I’m sure he’ll love it.

I can imagine the 747 pilot, plus the F-16 pilots, all thinking to themselves, “This is a bad, very bad idea.”

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The Moral High Ground

General David Petraus agrees with George Washington:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we – not our enemies – occupy the moral high ground.

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Beyond Stereotypes of the Homeless

Hear the stories of real homeless people at (Thanks for the link, Tony.)

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The Exodus from Myspace to Facebook

Pam and I use Facebook all the time, and the number of friends and family who use Facebook just keeps increasing. It’s a great way to keep in touch. I have a Myspace account, but don’t do anything with it. To an extent, I don’t even understand Myspace, with its chaotic displays and multitude of graphics.

The growth of Facebook is being fueled, in part, by people leaving Myspace. ReadWriteWeb wrote a piece about that: “Myspace is Dead – The Internet is Growing Up.”

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Book: Blackout

blackout.jpgThis mystery, by John Lawton, is set in London during WW2. As the city undergoes regular bombing, our intrepid policeman, Inspector Frederick Troy, tries to catch what appears to be a serial killer with ties to the American military.

This is a very well-written, evocative book. Lawton’s very good (I’d never read anything by him before).

Plus, I love mysteries set within a context where much larger things are happening. Like Philip Kerr’s “Berlin Noir” trilogy, set in Germany before and after WW2, and Dan Fesperman’s mysteries set in Sarajevo, with the Serb army camped outside the city and snipers picking off people on the streets. In “Blackout,” the murder mystery seems almost trivial compared to the much larger conflict in which the story is set.

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