New Rhetoric

June 19, 2007

Brian McLaren has an excellent piece at the "God's Politics" blog entitled "The Need for a New Rhetoric." Here are a few highlights:

A number of my friends have given up blogging, either temporarily or permanently. The reason? The blogosphere seems to indulge a certain kind of rhetoric that they don't want to be associated with anymore.

Although I continue to post here at the God's Politics blog on occasion, and I believe in the power and potential of the blogosphere, I share my friends' frustration with the kind of disrespectful dialogue that frequently ensues in the comments section of so many blogs. The majority want to have substantive and respectful dialogue, and they tolerate the static because they believe in the level playing field of the blogosphere.

... Misleading labels, name-calling, innuendo, insult, cynicism, deception, even flattery can find their way into any of our communication and add another straw to the overweighted camel of civility and mutual respect. (I've already edited out some of my own rhetorical descents in this piece, and I imagine I've still failed to live up to the ideal I'm espousing.)
McLaren tells a story about how love is needed in our language. He adds:
Without it, the apostle Paul said, we're nothing. With it, even the way we disagree can lead us to a better place, whether in the blogosphere or in the world of domestic politics and international relations.
Amen! We need to tone down the rhetoric. And above all, we need more love.

5 comments

  1. That's an easy one to say "amen" to. I can't imagine many people saying anything negative about the post, which speaks volumes to the truth that is contained there.

    Question: so, what do we do? Do we turn off the "comment" section to blogs? Most of the things that offends me the most is found in the comments. Anonymous comments, blasting the person that posted the blog. Saying hurtful things, the whole time believing that they are safe behind the little screen at the other end of the line.

    Any ideas?

    Tim Dahl

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  2. Tim: Thanks for the comment. You pose an excellent question. I think it would be unfortunate to stop comments because that offers a chance for some dialogue. It might be good to moderate or delete inappropriate comments. I also think talking about it can help infuse some civility into the discourse (for instance, I dealt with a comment in a post here).

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  3. I think McLaren illustrates the "rhetorical comments" issue quite nicely in a sentence that Brian quoted: "I’ve already edited out some of my own rhetorical descents in this piece, and I imagine I’ve still failed to live up to the ideal I’m espousing."

    It goes to show two key concepts important to polite debate: One, even if we're trying our best to be polite and respectful, it is often difficult to express differing viewpoints while completely avoiding any chance of offending those with whom we disagree, so we should go out of our way not to offend the other guy, while also going out of our way to avoid feeling offended by what they say. Two, it is often helpful to express dissenting views in the most humble manner possible, admitting our own inabilities to live up to the very standards we often set for others.

    I add an "amen" to Brian's example of dealing with such negative comments (in the link contained in his comment above). Excellent example of inviting constructive criticism while discouraging rude behavior.

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  4. Hey Y'All,

    I once had a professor that spoke about "cussing responsibly." He noted that all words have a legitimate use. We, however, tend to use them with less respect than they are due.

    I think that is part of my problem, and possibly others as well. When I speak out of what some would call "conviction", it is usually accompanied by certain emotions...like frustration.

    When I speak "emotionally," that usually means that I am beginning to speak "habitually." Meaning, I start to use words, not intentionally, but out of long standing habits. I've found that one of my most often and overused words is "crap." Please edit, if you feel it is appropriate.

    Anywho, I've found myself at times "commenting" on blogs in the same manner. I comment out of a percieved need; which turns out to be some emotional reaction to what is written. I write what I habitually say, and then become guilty of disrespecting the language that God has blessed me with learning.

    Go figure.

    Tim

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  5. Stan & Tim: Thanks for the comments! You both make good points that give us stuff to think about.

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