Archive for the ‘public rhetoric’ Tag

Launching the Academy of Preachers

[Fifth and last in a series]

On Election Day—November 4—I drove to Wilmore, Kentucky to hear Shane Claiborne speak in the chapel of Asbury Seminary. Shane is the young man, now living in the Philadelphia are, who wrote the best-selling book, “Jesus for President.” I read it, liked it, and used it as a text for a church discussion class this fall.

Shane is from the Jim Wallis-Tony Campolo stream of Christian living and thinking. Plus the book picks up the Kingdom-Empire theme popularized by John Howard Yoder and John Dominic Crossan. I find both of these influences compelling, which is why I read the book and attended the talk.

Shane is young—just past thirty years old—dresses more like the Jesus freaks of 30 years ago, wore his hair long and covered with a bandana. His voice is high-pitched, his message only barely structured, and his presence less than impressive.

None of that mattered: the chapel was packed—I sat in the balcony and the aisles were cluttered with students. All of which illustrates a fundamental principal of public speaking (or preaching)—when a speaker has a strong, compelling call to a radical vision of life and when the speaker actually embodies the message he or she is describing, it will draw an audience.

After chapel I went to lunch with the president of the seminary, J. Ellsworth Callis. He is an elderly, dignified man, with a wonderful voice and an attractive disposition. He is a Methodist preacher, and a professor of preaching; he is president only for the interim. It is easy to see why people tell me is an outstanding preacher. He was easy to listen to in the diner and I am sure he is easy to listen to in the pew.

We talked about my new venture, The Academy of Preachers; and he was immediately and thoroughly supportive of it. One of the students at the seminary—Georgetown College graduate James Bush—is on the Young Preachers Leadership Team, which will help me design and launch the Academy.

But mostly we talked about the election—it was Election Day, remember—and whether the rhetorical skills of Barack Obama would fuel a renaissance of interest in both public speaking and preaching. It certainly demonstrates, I suggested, the power of pubic rhetoric and its value in establishing vision, mobilizing people, and achieving purpose.

Whether or not statistics will bear out any renewed attention to these things, The Academy of Preachers is carried along by the conviction that gospel preaching is a vocation of enormous social and spiritual significance and that it is worthy of the best energies of the most gifted young people.

I now have recruited 18 of these young people from schools in a four-state area: Anderson University, Oakland City University, St. Meinrad Seminary, Christian Theological Seminary, and Hanover College, all in Indiana; Cincinnati Christian University in Ohio; Trevecca Nazarene University, Fisk University, Vanderbilt Divinity School and Libscomb University in Tennessee; and Georgetown College, Asbury College, Asbury Seminary, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, plus two high schools in Kentucky.

We are ready to get this Academy off the ground!!

Another Listen to Limbaugh

My column yesterday—“Now a Word from Rush Limbaugh” (right)—drew more response than anything I have written on this blog site. Some of the responses are printed in the “Comments” section attached to the column and I encourage you to read them.

But there is more; and I here post a number of these other messages, some pro and some con. I appreciate them all; I honor the free exchange of ideas and opinions that is both a fundamental freedom of our society and a wonderful part of the World Wide Web.

First, one friend wrote from out-of-state: “Your pattern and patois are perfect.” I had to look up the word “patois”—it means “any pleasant or provincial form of speech” and is pronounced pa-twa (French, of course). I couldn’t tell: was this a compliment?

Another friend wrote from in-state: “Preacher, I do believe you are for Obama. I am a McCain man, so therefore I would listen to some of those guys, but you are still my friend.” I wrote him back: “You are my friend for life. Keep a place at the table set for me. I am coming down there soon.” And he replied: “You got it!”

Second, a regular reader sent this message: “I read all of your blogs on the first page there, and in my opinion you are the most dogmatic writer I have ever read. Your mind is made up, and you are not going to let in one scrap of goodness or truth about any of those people you are criticizing. Some of those people are born-again Christians….Because of you, I am spending more time on my knees.”

Third, one friend wrote this response: “I’ve voted Republican every presidential election since Nixon….I’ll probably vote Republican again in the future, but not this year. Why? One big reason is the appalling, disgusting content of right wing radio jocks…. Once I discerned the deception they were spinning, and saw their goals of instilling partisan fear and hatred that will endure well beyond the election, I knew a closer look at Obama, unfiltered or interpreted by them, was merited. I really like what I discovered. Obama all the way! He’s got my vote.”

But after he wrote this “Comment” and before I had approved it—according to the standard blogging protocol—he got cold feet; he called to say: “Don’t post my response on your blog site.” Of course, I didn’t.

But my friend’s on-and-off comment addressed the issue of public rhetoric, though, and that brought to mind the article written by Evangelical leader James Dobson of “Focus on the Family.” His web site posted an article entitled “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” It is a fictional letter describing social conditions that some think might develop if Obama is President.

Fear is the primary emotion flowing into and out of this letter, something pointed out by numerous responders, including Jim Wallis, on his Sojourner’s web site. Both the Dobson piece and the Wallis response are worth reading; they provide a wonderful window into opposite ends of the Evangelical world.

Finally, one friend who supports McCain and can not understand why I will vote for Obama sent a link to this article. It is an African American man explaining why he cannot vote for Obama. He reasoning revolves around two predicable issues: abortion and homosexuality—in my judgment, a very narrow moral spectrum.

This same McCain friend also thinks the large media networks are all biased in favor of Obama so she sent this cartoon. I smiled when I saw it and so can you.

Pied Piper from Chicago

Pied Piper from Chicago