Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rhetoric matters

I love Disputations because he understands the importance of rhetoric in our doctrinal and intellectual formation -- how the specific words we use say so much about who we really are and who we are becoming through those words. It’s also why I give Obama some credit for raising the bar on political rhetoric far more than most other candidates (the fact that he throws the bar away when it comes to life issues is a fatal contradiction). Mark Shea makes a nice reference to Disputations’ rhetorical appreciation:
Too many gripes to answer so I will just focus on a couple. One guy writes:
I guess I find it strange that you and Tom, among others, are so intent on dismissing the concerns of many good Catholics, and, it seems, those of the pope himself.
Tom makes a pretty good reply here:
This manages to pack many of the worst traits of discussions on the Mass into a single sentence. There's overstatement (two posts in two months is "so intent"), victimhood("dismissing the concerns," how boorish), moral posturing ("many good Catholics"), and implied charges of dissent ("dismissing...the pope himself"), all wrapped up in an obstinate inability ("I guess I find it strange") to accept that lack of interest does not imply a judgment against those who are interested.
Just a brilliant fisking of the subtle, corrupting, and self-serving uses of language even among those of us with ostensibly "good intentions" and "right teaching." It really isn't enough to know and crusade for the Truth. The call to "speak the truth in love" is not just some sentimental exhortation, not just an appeal to courtesy or politeness, but a rhetorical insight. Apart from love (which is also an intellectual virtue), our rhetoric can and will consume us and obstruct our participation in the Truth. I am guilty as charged.