Anyone who has been around me for very long, or been around the blog for any length of time, is aware of my interest in politics, theology, and the use of language. My undergraduate thesis (to be published in a revised form in CCTE Studies) was titled Glenn Beck, Jim Wallis, and the Debate on Social Justice: A Narrative Critique. My seminar paper for my Mythology class this past semester reflected on the political implications of reading the myths of the bible as fully valorized. I have also focused some attention on the dualistic nature of the American political system and its inherent failure to address questions of substance.
Given the increase in vitriolic discourse in the American political scene, and given the politicization of religion, I have become interested in Christian political discourse. As a Christian myself, and given my interests, I am well aware of the political discourse of Christians across the spectrum. As a rhetorician, my primary interest is not so much in who is right (both politically and theologically), but in the way language is employed to accomplish a specific end. Moreover, as a Christian, it is my conviction that love of neighbor is the ruler against which all Christian language ought to be measured. My assumption is that Christian political discourse fails almost completely to love the other as our Lord commanded us to.
Thus, I am introducing a new blog series entitled Exorcising the Devil from Christian Political Discourse: Toward a Rhetoric of Love. Posts in this series will appear with regularity on Thursdays as part of the foreseeable future’s From the Classroom blogging category.
Underpinning this study are some theoretical positions to which I am predisposed. Namely, as the title of this series implies, I am convinced that Christian political discourse is possessed by the demonic in that it encourages participation in the world in ways contrary to the Way of Jesus. Even when one advocates for supposedly Christian positions, if one does so in a grab for power or in a hateful manner, then one does so in capitulation to the Powers. Moreover, Alan Jacobs’ magnificent work A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love will inform the way I approach the final constructive question: what does a rhetoric of love look like?
Here is the itinerary for the next several weeks:
The first post in the series (today’s post) provides an introduction to the series and my reasons for pursuing it.
The second post will address the historical and social contexts for this study. Here I will draw upon my already extensive historical work on this subject.
The third post will narrow the rhetorical space from which I will draw my texts for analysis. We will consider social media, traditional media, churches, government, etc.
The fourth post will narrow the scope of the texts for analysis. I will consider which texts to analyze and why.
The fifth post will set out a methodology for analyzing the texts. I will draw from established rhetorical research methodologies in order to construct my own methodology for this project.
The sixth post will set out the findings from my research and will make tentative arguments from these specific examples to more general conclusions.
The seventh post will discuss the broader implications of my findings for rhetorical studies and for Christian political discourse.
The eighth post will, by synthesizing and integrating love as a rhetorical practice in the Christian tradition, propose ways in which Christian political discourse can move forward in a pluralistic society.
Thank you all for reading! I am very excited!