Zach Sherman posted in the Atrium discussion forum this apologia by St. Athenagorus. He was defending the Christians to Marcus Aurelius.
This morning an article was posted on the website, Axios, pointing out that CEO's from across the nation are meeting with the White House and "in private conversations and pleas to President Trump, are warning of economic catastrophe if American doesn't begin planning for a phased return to work as soon as May."
One line in particular drove home the dilemma of the article to me:
"Several are debating going public with this concern, but fear the optics and timing look discordant."
The rhetorician is not safe if he imagines that anything he says can have value when it is separated from or other than the fruit of prayer.
He is a fool if he thinks he can do more than proclaim the crucified Christ as a Herald proclaims a simple message. If his words are for his advantage instead of the blessing of the listener, he is not standing beneath the cross as he speaks.
If his words are not emanations of the light of Christ he has not brought his message from the throne of the heavenly Majesty.
Our era is dismantling millennia of incarnated memories with increasing fervor and speed—“old” books are considered irrelevant, so much so that it can be difficult to find classics in local libraries or school curricula; monuments and artistic creations, some of which have withstood the ravages of decades, if not centuries, are toppled in the name of social progress; beautifully crafted belongings, once meaningful heirlooms, are jettisoned in favor of the newest machine-made decorating fads and end up in dusty thrift shops.
Last June I enjoyed the great delight of attending my first Society for Classical Learning Conference, which was held in Dallas, Texas. There were a number of excellent plenaries and presentations, some of which have continued to spark conversation. I also had the privilege of speaking on formal rhetoric curriculum. In hindsight I tried to pack far too much detail into the time, and as a result my presentation suffered from a lack of helpful, clarifying examples. (Thankfully there were fewer than ten folks in the room who had to suffer through the abstraction!)
I teach rhetoric to 11th graders, and it has become apparent that some of my students believe that we should not spend so much time studying rhetorical devices and tropes. Either it’s a waste of time or, worse, it’s a form of manipulation and deceit. I'm not surprised that some students don’t get jazzed about exploring the beauty and depth of language, much less how to give a persuasive speech in front of one’s peers.
It has been said, mostly in old westerns, “don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.” However, that does not rule out going all the way across and deciding you’re riding the wrong horse, or that you crossed the wrong river, or that you’re going in the wrong direction, or that something screwy is going on. Anyway, I have such a story to tell.
Among the most profound mistakes of our era, I am convinced we would have to list the shift from the liberal arts to subjects in our schools.
If you teach subjects, one of the many unfortunate things that happens is that students quickly catch on that there is content (i.e. information to be remembered) in this subject. If they like it, they will pay attention, if not, you need something else to get them to do so.
Tests will do, thank you very much. But that's only one of the myriad ways teachers are taught to manipulate the students affections and minds.
We had been practicing the common topics of rhetoric for several weeks when one of the students approached me after class, brow furrowed. “Miss Brigham,” he confided, “these things are messing with me.”
(My teacher’s heart rejoiced within me. If “things messing with me” means assumptions and desires being displaced, upended, rearranged, then surely this is an excellent—albeit colloquial—definition of learning itself.)
What is rhetoric? You’ve probably heard or thought of rhetoric as the art of persuasion. Fans of Aristotle will probably think of it as the art of finding the available means of persuasion. If you follow in the vein of Quintilian, you will probably think of it as the art of persuasion toward truth (and goodness and beauty). For those of you who have heard Andrew Kern speak on the topic, you’ve probably picked up something along the lines of rhetoric being the art of decision-making in community. One of these is decidedly not like the others.