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Tribal Council

By December 3, 2016 One Comment

by Debra Rienstra

When I was on the Perspectives board years ago, I used to refer to our semi-annual meetings as “tribal council.” We gathered in ritual fashion around tables laden with good food and we laughed together and encouraged each other. Tribal council was not so much about making policy—after all, we were just trying to run a little magazine—but about affirming and celebrating an identity: we are Reformed. We thought about ways our little magazine could keep asking: What does that mean? And what does a Reformed perspective offer the world?

These days “tribalism” is a problematic term that reminds us of the human tendency to gather with the like against the other, hunkering down in our enclave and generating fear and hostility toward those outside the bunker. The Reformed tradition, like any other, has its history of bunker mentality. But thankfully, that has never been my experience of what it means to be Reformed. Instead, a Reformed identity at its best combines devotion with intellectual engagement, serious-mindedness with good fun. We share a story that rests on the faithfulness of God; we share a temperament that trains a keen eye on the world around us.

Perspectives magazine and its predecessor, The Reformed Journal, have always sought to present the best of that keen-eyed joy. (For a helpful history of the magazines, see Scott Hoezee’s review of The Best of the Reformed Journal.) One of the favorite features of the old Reformed Journal was the section of short, informal opinion pieces printed under the heading “As We See It.” In these pieces, members of the tribe stepped up on their little soapbox, gladly musing on everything from politics to church life to baseball. I remember when Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell was serving his turn as Perspectives editor, he was always lamenting the need for more As We See It pieces.

Then we founded the Twelve blog.

Since November 1, 2011, we have published a new essay every single day. We’re approaching 2000 essays now. In the fine tradition of As-We-See-It eclecticism, we present a range of voices on a huge variety of topics. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we have greatly increased our reach. More voices, more often, on more topics, to a bigger audience. Our predecessors would be amazed and proud.

As a Twelve writer since the beginning, I have been so grateful for the freedom of this blog. I love going to the blog each day, anticipating the surprise, wondering what my fellow bloggers will have to say. And I’m grateful for a place where, in my own writing, I can reflect on Scripture, reveal personal grief, respond to current events, write a review—or indulge in total silliness. Whatever I write about, I have confidence there’s an audience out there who, on some deep level, understands.

By virtue of reading this, you are a member of our online tribe. Please consider supporting this lively space where faithfulness and thoughtful rigor and good fun all come together. Consider your contribution a way of paying your tribal dues.

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Debra Rienstra teaches English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching early British 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. Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for The Twelve 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. 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.

One Comment

  • I, too, love going to the blog each day and seeing what the bloggers will have to say–including the creative ways you are challenging us this week. I have made a small online donation. Keep up the good work.

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