In the USA, candidate for president Hillary Clinton said half the supporters of other candidate, Donald Trump, were in a “basket of deplorables.” Clinton later apologized for saying it was half of the supporters.

In a debate, Trump called Clinton “Such a nasty woman.”

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The Pharisee and the Publican, baroque fresco in Ottobeuren Basilica. Johannes Böckh & Thomas Mirtsch CopyLeft license

Having just preached on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican yesterday, I’ve been thinking about the way we characterize the people who support someone other than our candidate, our party, our viewpoint. Do we say “thank God I’m not like that person, part of the basket of deplorables”? Or “Thank you, God, for not making me like that nasty woman”?

On the other hand, what if we – like the Publican – own what’s ours?

I think there’s a place for us to humbly agree with the words of Charlotte Elliott: “just as I am, without one plea.” But even “Sin Boldly” – from Martin Luther’s letter to Melanchthon – speaks more to engaging with the fact that our sins are very real, than proposing that Christians should intentionally and willfully transgress.

While it’s important to own our sin, to be honest about our shortcomings, it may not be wise to be proud of our sin.

Many of Trump’s supporters quickly began proudly declaring themselves “deplorables.” Many female supporters of Clinton began calling themselves nasty women. It is now possible to buy t-shirts, hats, mugs, tote bags, buttons, bumper stickers, and many other items declaring one’s self “Deplorable” or a “Nasty Woman.”

Is this being proud of one’s sin? I think not: being called deplorable or nasty is not a sin.

There is a history of oppressed groups reclaiming derisive terms. Is that what’s going on here?

My feeling is that this is something different. It feels more like wearing an insult as a badge of honor. And while I understand how such a word or phrase may help draw the insulted people together, I think it also increases the chasm between the insulters and the insulted. It creates an even greater feeling of “us versus them.”

In a way, by claiming honor in the insult, it flips the parable, so the Publican is praying “thank you for not making me like that Pharisee.” It’s the self-righteousness, the feeling of superiority, that indicts the Pharisee. It would be just as wrong (though less likely) for the Publican to make that prayer.

So while I won’t condemn the merchandise claiming one’s self as “Deplorable” or a “Nasty Woman,” I do want us to think about how we’re using these words. Are “Nasty Women” better than people who call others “Nasty Women”? Are “Deplorables” better than those who call others “Deplorables”?


Rev. Cindi Knox is pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Evanston IL USA. She blogs at http://revcindi.com/


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