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Occasional guest blogger Pious Petunia has apparently started a podcast? I’m not sure, but I did discover what appears to be part of a transcript for an episode in which Miss P interviews two distinguished guests, Rev. Grouchy von Misanthrope and Prof. Jacobus Vroomelpoep. I believe the intent was to debrief with the reverend and the professor after the recent CRC and RCA synods; however, that part of the transcript seems to be unfortunately missing.  

It’s possible the following transcript fragment represents the cutting room floor, so to speak, as it seems to start in the middle and doesn’t really go anywhere or engage with anything of much substance. If a link to the edited episode recording ever turns up, I’ll let you know. For now, see what you can make of this. — DKR

Pious Petunia: Gentlemen, I have received numerous questions from my readers about so-called “virtue signaling.” You know: flying flags of various stripes outside one’s home, or planting “Back the Blue” signs in one’s yard, or putting pronouns behind one’s name on Zoom, or noting “husband, father, Jesus-follower” in one’s Twitter bio. What do you think about these practices?

Jacobus Vroomelpoep: Hmph.

Grouchy von Misanthrope: Back in my day, people just HAD virtue. They didn’t have to “signal” it.

Miss P: Now, now, Grouchy. Didn’t people merely signal different pieties in different ways?

GVM: Fair, fair. Different times, same depravity. What we have today, in my estimation, is tribal warfare. It is not virtue, it is tribe. You signal your tribe—OK for you. Others signal theirs, you accuse them of signaling. There you have it: hypocrisy, contention, depravity.    

JV: But virtue must be visible, ja? If you are virtuous, you must practice virtue, and therefore signal it somehow? And thus model virtue for others—inspire others on their path of sanctification.

GVM: But what is the line between inspiration and obnoxious? I drive an electric car, I try to practice what I preach about caring for earth and so on, help my neighbor get inspired, too. But my neighbor tells me I do virtue-signaling. Truth is, though, I’m just cheap—I save money on gas.

JV: Heh, heh. One man’s inspiration is another man’s obnoxious, ja? Perhaps we could say that the virtue signaled must be true, not merely a pose. Else we are dealing with dead man’s bones. Or at least, the virtue in question must be aspirational. One wishes to live into the virtue. Therefore, sometimes this virtue signaling is merely virtue practice. Pronouns, for example. We respect what people wish to be called in order to practice respect. You think this is silly? So what. You are silly. We are all silly. Be silly, but—respect. Kindness.

Miss P: What virtues do you think we ought to focus especially on practicing right now?

GVM: Oh I believe we must focus still more on sins. The Heidelberg Catechism has much to say in Lord’s Day 34 to 44. We obsess over Lord’s Day 41 and sins of the sexual type. But what about these many other sins? Where are the overtures about calling to account those who “join in condemning any man rashly or unheard,” or those who listen on the social media to “all sorts of lies and deceit” which are, the catechism teaches, “the proper work of the devil.” I note that Romans 1 condemns those who are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice, the slanderers, the arrogant…

JV: Or covetousness, Grouchy. What about covetousness? Romans 1 also condemns greed. I confess the Heidelberg has, in my opinion, not nearly enough to say about this grievous and—let us observe—widespread sin, ja? Lord’s Day 44, alas, rather sidesteps the issue. I propose we appoint several study committees on greed and strive to defrock any office bearers who unrepentantly own vacation homes.     

GVM: Did you know, Jacobus, that the word “defrock” is called a “lonely negative”? It is a word that does not have a positive version. We never speak of “frocking” someone. Or how about “dissheveled”? What does it mean to be “sheveled”?

JV: Or “combobulated”! Or “gruntled”!

[Jacobus and Grouchy dissolve into giggles]

Miss P: Gentlemen, you mention Romans 1, which has recently gotten quite a workout. What are some texts you believe have not been preached on or studied enough?

GVM: [still a little giggly] Well, I believe there is much theological depth yet to be plumbed in Genesis 27:11, “Esau is a hairy man.” Also, 2 Kings 2:23: “Go up you baldhead!”

JV: [also giggly] I’ve always thought we must ponder further the implications of Judges 3:22: Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged.”

[at this point, the recording is garbled as the men seem to be laughing so hard they forget to speak into the mic]

GVM: Genesis 6:4!

JV: Proverbs 31:6!

GVM: Proverbs 21:9!

JV: Revelation…

[Miss P interrupts]

Miss P: Gentlemen! Gentlemen. Thank you. Let’s get back to the question of sanctification, particularly with regard to disagreement among groups. With all the contentiousness in denominations right now, my readers are wondering: Why can’t we all just get along? A naïve question, of course, but beneath it, I believe, is a question about change. How do people change their minds? Can they?

JV: Ah, yes. [pause—seemingly recovering himself] Theory of change, you speak of. What is one’s theory of change? This is the question. As Reformed people: semper reformanda secundum verbi dei. We must understand change as natural, necessary, indeed holy. The Word of God under which we reform is dynamic, the Person of Christ as made known by the Spirit.

GVM: One cannot yell at others, “You are wrong! You are bad!” and expect them to change. What do we call this thing these days—the “outrage machine?” Yes. This will not help. Shame, anger, disparagement, exclusion. This changes nothing.

JV: People change with relationship—with God, yes, but with others, particularly others who are different. The research—admittedly, I do not care for sociology, only theology—but nevertheless, this is correct. People change when they experience being in the minority, when they receive wounds or feel grief, when they receive new information—but only when there is relationship. Trust.

Miss P: And how can we create such relationship?

Grouchy: This is most difficult, especially…      

Sadly, this is where the transcript cuts off. We can only hope that the real substance of this discussion will appear someday as an actual recorded episode. But of course, I can make no guarantees that such a recording will appear. Pious Petunia’s endeavors are, as you know, most elusive. — DKR

Note: Many thanks to Ron Rienstra for the header image and for assistance in discovering this transcript.

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.

15 Comments

  • Mark S. Hiskes says:

    Deb,
    Funny, wise, and all too accurate. Thank you especially for the “lonely negatives”: may they build a relationship with someone different.

  • Thomas Hoeksema Sr. says:

    Brilliant. Hilarious. Just may be another theory of change. Thanks much!

  • Evonne Kok says:

    Hilarious! And so true.

  • Rowland Van Es, Jr says:

    I love this lady! Hope to hear more from her soon. Thanks for a needed laugh at ourselves and our ways.

  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    Your creative conversation, and many recent blogger posts, seem to have a thoughtful, welcoming thread behind the scenes—kind of like an adult puppet show than makes you think (hopefully) more critically about current issues.

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    With all the current (‘no—we’ve always focused on this!!”) emphasis on Romans 1, the section “God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity” (v. 18 – 32, NIV), the one listed sin that has always intrigued me yet no one talks about it is tucked in among the summary, as Paul is on a breathless roll: in v. 30, those who “invent ways of doing evil.” I’d love to hear discussion by the esteemed Rev GvM and Prof JVP of that particular sin, and how we can be vigilant against it NOW, not waiting for subsequent synods to debate or for a study group to re-interpret the intentions of the catechism authors.

  • JAN ZUIDEMA says:

    Miss P is simply divine at digging out the truth: “People change with relationship—with God, yes, but with others, particularly others who are different”. Thank you for a laugh-out-loud transcript that has deep truths imbedded in it.

  • Tony Diekema says:

    Delightfully “spot on”, Deb………..and while I’m thinking about him, Andy would have loved this!

    • Emily Jane VandenBos Style says:

      Agree. Andy would have loved this. May joy beyond measure be his in the Great Beyond!

  • Henry Baron says:

    This is crazy funny – and serious underneath the “giggles.”
    Let’s hope you find the missing part of the transcript soon, Deb!
    Groucho and Vroomelpoep deserve a platform.

  • Phyllis Roelofs says:

    Thanks for uplifting my Saturday morning. So much truth included.

  • Kathy Davelaar VanRees says:

    So very funny.
    I got the giggles.

  • Duane VanderBrug says:

    Could arrange a series of interviews with writers who specialize in overtures?
    Ecclesiastical ones that are also peacefully musical?.

  • Marchiene Rienstra says:

    Dad and I hugely enjoyed this, Deb (and Ron). More! More! If only these esteemed gentlemen could make a guest appearance at the next synod!!! The ability to laugh at ourselves is a true sign of real humility. And church bodies, especially like synods, could use a good dose of it!
    John and Marchiene Rienstra

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