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Counting Our Blessings, Electoral Style

By March 4, 2016 2 Comments

I did not want to write about politics today, but I’m feeling chock full of gratitude and I need to rejoice! Yes!

Bloggers and journalists and broadcasters—not to mention all your friends and coworkers—are preoccupied these days with working up jeremiads about the U.S. presidential election campaign: the boorish candidates, the paper-thin policy discussions, the corrupt election process, the complicit media, the fall of democracy, the end of civilization, etc. But people: we need to give thanks in all circumstances. That’s what the Good Book says (I Thess. 5:16-18). So in the interest of biblical blogging, here’s my list.

Things to Be Grateful For in This Election Season

Comedians have plenty of material.
We didn’t think it possible, but this presidential campaign has made clearer than ever before: we need comedians. They perform an important public service in this Republic. They skewer hypocrisy and expose our absurdities. Here is one recent virtuosic performance [warning: crude language but withering content].

The term “evangelical” is falling apart.
And it’s about time. What does that word even mean? Pundits of all species have been confused about it for decades now. Is it about beliefs? Voting habits? Purchasing patterns? How many times you say “just” while praying? Well, loyalists who formerly claimed the term as their true identity are now jumping off the word like it’s a sinking ship. This is good news for the cause of language precision. (Also here and here.)

Conservatives are redefining and reclaiming the term “conservative.”
Candidates spit more-conservative-than-thou rhetoric at each other (or less-conservative-than-thou for Democrats). But who is defining the term? The National Review, for example, engaged in what Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi described as a “22-pundit jihad” titled “Conservatives Against Trump.” In Taibbi’s analysis of this and other conservative responses to Donald Trump, Taibbi remarked, “What these tweedy Buckleyites at places like the Review don’t get is that most people don’t give a [bleep] about ‘conservative principles.’ Yes, millions of people responded to that rhetoric for years. But that wasn’t because of the principle itself, but because it was always coupled with the more effective politics of resentment: Big-government liberals are to blame for your problems.” (Worth your time to click through to Taibbi’s article.) Once again, figuring out what “conservative” means is good news for everyone.

Trump’s woefully ignorant remarks on forgiveness give pastors a starting place for sermons on repentance during Lent.
“I am not sure I have [asked God for forgiveness]…. I just go on and try to do a better job from there…. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.” Even the secular media can figure out that this is not how a Christian talks about forgiveness. Calvinists, never apologize for the doctrine of total depravity. It’s a potent antidote to sinful pride. Be thankful for it!

Spanish teachers have reasons to rant in class.
How often do high school Spanish teachers get an obvious excuse to launch into a tirade (en español, of course) about appreciating immigrants, resisting stereotypes, showing love to neighbor, and respecting Hispanic people? All it takes these days is one kid wearing a Trump T-shirt. “Que es esto? Esta un chiste? No? Ay yai yai!”

Civics class suddenly feels urgent.
Wake up, high school seniors. This stuff really matters. “So the president doesn’t get to just tell the military to torture people?” “No, Eric. Remember what we learned about the rule of law?” “…And so, class, that is why the Founders developed the three branches of government with a checks and balances system.”

Even second graders are invested in the political process this year.
“Tell me why you are feeling so scared today, Sonia?”
“Because, Pastor Laura, my parents are worried that we will all get deported after the election.” [a real story, names changed]

Hillary Clinton’s scuffs and tarnishings suddenly seem less disqualifying.
Whatever you thought of Hillary before this year, she now looks like the grownup in the room. Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle are practically wearing halos. (Thanks to Kristin du Mez for sharing insights from her historical research on Hillary Clinton’s faith.)

Canadian tourism is getting a huge boost.
“Honey, why don’t we go camping in Canada this summer?”
“Canada? Why not our usual lake?”
“Well, you know, I just want to see what it’s like up there. Maybe check out the real estate situation in Ontario on our way to Banff. Or something.”


Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.


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