Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Final Exam Essays: Eli Hainsworth

Short Essay: Religion and Rhetoric

Earlier this week, I saw one of my friends post an article about tone policing: refusing to listen to an argument in the way it is presented, allowing one person to strong-arm the tone of the discussion. Although my friend was protesting what they saw as a social justice issue, I saw an underlying truth to rhetoric. The tone used when presenting an argument becomes part of the argument itself. This truth is responsible for a complicated relationship between religion snd rhetoric. Although Christians strive to be free of worldly influences, they must present their message in such a way where their audience accepts it.

The early growth of the church is an excellent model for this. Tertullian's famous question, "What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?" can be found in early accounts of missionary work. When Paul gave his sermon at Mars Hill, he did not immediately identify the fact that he was speaking of the Christian God. Rather, he created suspense by withholding his thesis until the end. The Athenians, who were always milling about to hear some new thing, were most impressed by novelty, and this was the appeal Paul attempted to use.

C.S. Lewis' work, Mere Christianity, provides us with a more modern example. The book is divided into four sections, and the greater part of the first book tiptoes around mentioning God as the supreme ruler and giver of right and wrong until the author has had time to build up this base. Lewis freely admits that some would say he "tricked" them into having interest in God, but in his eyes, it was no trick at all. Rather, he knew that he was leading them up the mountain the whole time, and because he picked the most comfortable trail, he knew that his readers would continue to follow along with him. Then, when they reached the summit, he could show them a view which, if they could have seen it before, they would have yearned for all along.

The driving power behind religion is the word of God, delivered through those who speak in his name. God Himself describes the word as sharper than a two-edged sword, and it is the duty of Christians everywhere to present the word in a way that will pierce the hearts of those who hear.

Short Essay #2: Rhetorical Analysis of Jacob 2­3 (Book of Mormon)

Jacob's Sermon in the Book of Mormon is often considered one of the most eloquent speeches in the thousand-year record. Both the spirituality and the wording of the text has a powerful effect upon the reader, and it is very easy to feel the guilt that his words were meant to inspire in sinners.

One of Jacob's most used techniques involves humanizing sin and the marks it leaves. He repeatedly describes them as injuries, using phrases such as "many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds". Interestingly, he treats the concept of the gospel in a similar fashion. Although introducing it as a comfortable relief, he quickly points out that it also expands wounds and pierces the heart like daggers. This exergasia is a very effective means of creating urgency in the crowd. The same image of hearts being pierced and dying is used at the end with a touch of epitasis. Although Jacob had already made his point very clear, the final verse of chapter two leaves a strong aftertaste.

Chapter three introduces an interesting comparison. Systematic racism against the Lamanites had taken strong root, and Jacob used this xenophobia to hammer home another point. While speaking of becoming black, Jacob employs syllepsis  to create the link between the darkening of skin and the much more serious darkening of a soul. This same point is driven home with syncrisis in his concluding remarks: "Neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers."

Although the Spitit behind Jacob's words carry the message, it was Jacob's own distinct style that shaped it. The power of his speech continues to touch hearts today.

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