Rhetoric in Action

We all have dreams and goals, but sometimes we need a push to get us started.  I’ve thought about starting a blog for several years now, ever since I heard the interesting phrase, a space for grace, in the middle of a sermon.  (Thanks Rev. Blume.)  I began to formulate the various blogs I could create.  But for one reason or another, and perhaps mostly out of fear, I kept putting this off until today.  I recently began a masters program in professional writing and in the first course, Professional Writing and Rhetoric, one of the assignments was to create a scenario explaining the definition of rhetoric.  The professor asked us to be creative and I chose the blog format to do just that.

 I came up with a story about a blogger who writes about Grace, and an unknown antagonist known only as the Realist, who commented in sharp opposition to the blogger’s beliefs.  Through their dialectic form of rhetoric, which is a back and forth question and answer type of discourse discussing opposing trains of thought, I would show rhetoric in action.  The protagonist in the story (blogger) would write using proofs or the use of character and emotion as a means of persuasion. 

 The professor liked the idea and thought it would be even more powerful as a real blog.  Despite my initial resistance, I have decided to use this assignment as the catalyst for my first blog.  Throughout history, rhetoric has been seen as both the villain and the savior. From its origins in Greek history dating back to 600 B.C. to today, the art or technique of rhetoric plays a vital role in the lives of all of us.  Rhetoric can either uplift or tear down, move or dissuade. It is the foundation from which all professional writing flows and implemented in communications every day. 

 The following fictional blog shows the importance of effective rhetoric and how through our words we have the power to change lives.  

 Sunday October 25, 2009 7:00am

A Space for Grace

 Grace is a common word for an uncommon gift. It is known as a prayer or “grace” said before and after meals in Christian households around the world. A person who is kind and generous is often considered “gracious.” Grace is a word that makes us feel good. But grace is more than a common word, prayer or characteristic. Grace is an uncommon experience. It is the undeserved favor of God poured out on each person’s life. It is not earned, but given freely with no strings attached. No matter what our past, God is willing to offer us a second chance. He cares about our daily needs and has promised to be with us even through the most difficult of times. God reveals this grace through each and every one of us, often without us even being aware of it.

A friend of mine is an example of God’s grace. She owns two dogs that she rescued from shelters. One of them lost one of her legs after being hit by a car. After several surgeries, the veterinarians were still not able to save the dog’s leg and had to amputate. Not anyone would adopt a three-legged dog, but my friend Natalie did. She saw beyond the handicap into the dog’s heart. Natalie knew that this dog had a lot to offer and that she had value even though she was not perfect.  This is the same way God looks at us. He sees through our imperfections and our handicaps into our hearts. He sees us as we truly are and all that we can be. It is through our brokenness that our true selves are revealed.

If we all looked at each other as God looks at us, we would transform the world. Instead of focusing on each others faults, we could focus on their strengths. Instead of shutting people out because they are different, we could learn from one another and thereby, enrich our own lives in the process. Today, when you encounter someone who is different than you, instead of judging, open your heart and try to look at them from a different perspective and make a space for grace.

Ruth Havens

Monday, October 26, 2009 8:00 am

Unlike your faithful followers, I take offense to your sappy, feel good blog that not only misleads people into thinking there is a God who cares, but feeds them with a false hope that life is worth living.  It’s belletristic rhetoric designed for aesthetics, but not of any real substance.  Let’s face it, if God really exists why would he let people suffer? He either doesn’t exist, he has no control or he doesn’t care. God is a myth, a substitute created by people to take the place of their own fathers. Well, not all fathers are good and if this God of yours exists then he isn’t good either. He’s cruel.

And this supposed free gift of grace? Let’s be real, there are no free gifts; there are always strings attached. Each life has value? As for that three legged dog, think of all the money wasted to save its life. They should have just put it out of its misery. Your friend Natalie didn’t adopt it because she saw beyond the dog’s handicap. She simply felt sorry for it. You are deceiving yourself if you think that people can look beyond someone’s handicap! This world expects perfection. Society seems to want people to look perfect, judge them by the positions and degrees they hold, and the kinds of houses, cars, and possessions they own. And this mythological God you believe in seems to expect perfection too. All you Christians go around trying to be perfect and you’re not.  You’re just a bunch of hypocrites! Don’t tell me that our true selves are revealed in our brokenness. What does that even mean? Look at the crippled veteran and tell me that’s his true self!

It’s easy for you to sit there and preach hope to the masses when life is going so good for you. You’re out of touch with reality. Some of us have to work hard to make a living and barely make it from one day to the next. It’s one struggle after another, day in and day out, and I’m sick and tired of it. And the truth is no one cares. No one sees my pain. I’m all alone. I was born alone and I’m going to die alone and I’m not going to sit around and wait for things to get any worse. I’m done. Before this day is over, I’m going to pull this trigger and end all the pain and suffering. You want people to make space, that’ll make some space on this miserable planet now won’t it! Did you ever think all your blogs are making people feel even worse than they already do? Think about that!

The Realist

9:30am

Dear Realist,

If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny.  Are you serious?  It’s quite obvious from the tone of your response that you are an angry bitter person, and I can’t help but wonder what has happened to cause you to feel this way. Please think this through and don’t do anything rash. Have you tried talking to a counselor, friend or family member? I know you say you are alone, but certainly there must be someone you can go to for help. I know that life can be an incredible struggle and at times it feels like you want to give up, but the Bible says “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This does not mean that we may not go through a long period of suffering and weeping, but eventually it does end. Perhaps it is easier for me to handle the obstacles in life because I do believe in God. He is not a mythological substitute as Freud has said based on our relationship with our own fathers. He felt that if our father was good, God is good or if our father was cruel, God is cruel.  If that were the truth, then how would one explain a person who believes God to be a loving father when their own father was abusive? The answer is that God is real and He does care for you very much. Your life is valuable and whatever has happened or whatever you feel you have done, God can help you if you let Him. I care about you too, please talk to me.

Ruth Havens

10:30am

 You care? You don’t even know me! You don’t know anything about me. You’re just scared because you don’t want the guilt of not being able to stop me. Or maybe you think you can talk me out of it. Don’t waste your time. And yes, I have gone to counselors and that didn’t do any good. It’s easy to sit there and analyze someone else’s life when you haven’t been through that experience. Reading about something is one thing, actually living it is another.

 Do you want to know why I feel this way? Okay, I did believe in God a long time ago. Like you, I thought God’s signs of grace were everywhere. I had lived a satisfying, but solitary life for a long time, and then I met a wonderful woman, named Angelica. I fell for her right away and less than a year later, we were married. I thanked God for her every day. My job as a construction worker was thriving and I couldn’t have been happier, but God just couldn’t let that happen could he? He didn’t want me to be happy.  Several years ago, Angelica and I were in a terrible car accident. I won’t go into the details, but it was my fault. She was okay, but I lost one of my legs. After that is was hard to work with the cane that was now my constant companion.  I mean, how could I climb up and down ladders with one leg?  They laid me off and I haven’t found steady work since. Eventually, Angelica and I grew further and further apart and then a year ago she left me. So here I am, alone with no hope for a job and you dare tell me that God or anyone else for that matter cares? Like I said before, there is no God and if he does exist, he is a cruel judge. Do you know what it’s like to be out of work struggling for money, living in a shelter because you can’t even earn enough to pay for a decent apartment? I lost a part of me because of that accident, but I lost something even more precious than my leg.  I lost the love of my life. Do you know what that feels like?

 The Realist

11:20am

 Realist, you’re right.  My eyes are filled with tears as I write this and I can feel the ache in your heart.  Reading about something is very different from knowing or experiencing it. I am truly sorry for your physical, emotional and spiritual losses, but let me try and explain that God is not cruel and has not abandoned you. Though my experiences are different, I do know a great deal about pain. You see, six years ago, my 18 year old son was killed in a car accident. He was hit by a drunk driver and after several months of existing in a coma, he finally died. I prayed every day for him to wake up. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed in my life and yet, he still died.  It was a real crisis of faith and though I’m healed as much as is humanly possible; the feelings are actually flooding back right now.  I was angry at God for a long time. I couldn’t understand how a loving and caring God could let this happen. He knew how much I loved my son and yet he took him away from me. He was the kindest young man you would ever want to meet, with a heart that cared for people no matter how different they were from him. He didn’t deserve to die when so many other evil people continued to live. I was depressed for a long time and simply went through the motions of life. I was merely existing, not living. I didn’t want to live without him, so I guess I know how you could contemplate suicide.

 It took me a long time to recover from that, but with the help of a great counselor and a lot of prayer, I did. There are still times, however, that I miss him so much that my heart just aches, but God is a loving father and He does care for his children. Eventually I began to understand a little clearer. You see, God gave people free-will and because of that people make wrong choices. It was not God’s choice for the driver of the car to drive while intoxicated and kill my son. It was the driver’s choice. God does not always create the pain in our lives, but He does help us through it.

 Ruth Havens

 12:30pm

 Perhaps I have been too hasty in my judgment of you, Ruth.  Perhaps you do understand my pain after all.   I guess you really do know what it’s like to lose someone you love. I’m sorry for your loss too. Perhaps you do care and maybe….Maybe God might really exist after all, but that actually makes me even angrier. Your arguments about free-will are compelling, and if we are to suppose that God exists then I still say that He is cruel because God is all-knowing, so why didn’t He just stop the drunk driver, or make your son wake up, or prevent me from losing my leg, or any of the other twisted events? If God knows everything, then He knows what choices we are going to make and should therefore stop us from doing the wrong things.

The Realist

12:45pm

 When my son was little, sometimes he would run really fast in the house when I told him not to. I told him he would crash into something and get hurt, but he didn’t always listen. One day he ran right into the cabinet and he cut his forehead. He needed stitches. I was both angry at him for not listening and sad that he was in so much pain. Was that my fault? I knew there was the possibility that he would not listen to me, but I had to give him the choice. Otherwise, how would he have learned? That doesn’t mean I didn’t love him; it meant I was teaching him how to grow up, become independent, and suffer the consequences of his actions.

Ruth Havens

 1:00pm

 I’m sure you did love him, and you couldn’t have stopped him even if you wanted to. God is different though; I mean if He does exist. He can stop people. He intervenes all the time. What was the point of giving us free-will if it would prevent Him from protecting us? If He really loved us then free-will was a really bad idea.

 The Realist

 1:15pm

 I don’t want someone to love me because they have to or because of some magic spell. I want someone to choose to love me and that is why God created free-will. People have the choice to choose to love Him and to do the right thing; otherwise we are all just puppets on a string. God is not a puppet master. There is a direct relationship between freedom and the potential for evil and suffering, but it is worth the risk. It’s the same when we love someone like the way you loved your wife or I loved my son. Great love also has the potential for great pain, but isn’t it worth the risk?

 Ruth Havens

 Monday, October 26, 2009 2:30pm

 Realist, are you there? It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you.

 Ruth Havens

 2:35pm

 Are you still there? What is going on?

 Ruth Havens

 2:45pm

 What about the drunk driver? Do you think God forgave him? What about you?

 The Realist

 They never caught the drunk driver. I was so angry for so many years, but I learned to pray for him. I am sure he must have been tormented too. If he was truly sorry, I am certain God forgave him. And as for me….

 Ruth Havens

 3:00pm

 You must hate him for taking the life of your son. I would. I’d want him dead. He should just pull the trigger on himself. He doesn’t deserve to live. I’m sure you couldn’t possibly forgive him. Do you?

 The Realist

 3:10pm

 That question really cuts into the scar on my heart with the precision of a surgeon’s blade. That’s the one question I think I have been avoiding for all these years. Why did you have to ask that question? I can’t believe I’m being so honest here, and I really hate to say this, but….You’re right!  I would want him to pull the trigger on himself! He deserves to die, not like you, who seemed genuinely tormented by the struggles you’re facing that are not your own fault.  Or are they? Wait a minute…you said the accident was your fault, but you won’t give me any details. Why do you want to know if I would forgive the drunk driver?  Did you kill someone?  Did you drive drunk and kill an innocent person?  Did you? Did you?

 Ruth Havens

 3:30pm

 I didn’t mean it!  I swear it was an accident. I’ve tried so hard all these years. I’m not drinking any more. What about God’s grace? What about forgiveness?

 The Realist

 3:35pm

 Do you know the kind of pain you’ve caused?  You’re just as bad as the drunk driver that killed my son! I can’t believe this! Of all the people who could have responded to my post…..It’s no wonder you have so much guilt, no wonder your life fell apart. That’s why you lost your job. It wasn’t because you lost your leg; it was because you were crippled with alcohol. You deserved everything that’s happened to you! Go to hell! Go ahead and pull the trigger; that’s what you deserve!

 Ruth Havens

 3:45pm

 Oh God, you don’t understand how much I’ve cried over this, how hard I’m sobbing right now.

You’re right.  I deserve to die.  God’s Grace and mercy don’t apply to me. My wife is gone, but at lease she’s still alive.  But your son, the little boy I killed….nothing can ever bring them back.  I should have never responded to your post, but then maybe it’s what was meant to happen.  It’s come full circle.  You’ve won the argument and in a couple minutes this metal against my skull will put an end to both our pain.  I don’t deserve to live.

 The Realist

 4:00pm

 Go ahead and pull the trigger?  What am I saying?  Words have power and looking at them now in black and white, I can’t believe what I just typed.  This judgment is not just on you, it’s on me too. My blog was meant to inspire and encourage, yet now I’m playing God.  Grace, the underserved gift from God, was meant for everyone, and I’ve changed that interpretation to fit my own needs.  I’m ashamed of my own hypocrisy.  

 Stop! Stop! I forgive you. I forgive you. Don’t do it. I forgive you. God’s Grace is bigger than my pain. God’s Grace is bigger than your sins. Your life does have value. You have a purpose. Why else would He have brought us together like this? God wants you to live and….so do I.

 Ruth Havens

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Realist dropped the gun and fell to his knees. The blogger also fell to her knees and dropped her long held burden. Neither one of them had any idea when the day began that their lives would be turned inside out. God’s Grace had saved two lives that day.

 As I wrote this fictional blog, my own heart was changed as well.  You see, on May 6, 2009 in the heart of Alabama, my nephew was struck by a car and thrown from his motorcycle.   After six months in a coma, he finally died as a result of the injuries.  The driver of that car was not drunk, but I know it was an accident.  If the driver ever reads this blog, please know that God’s Grace is bigger than all of our pain and I forgive you.  And for anyone who is reading this, please know that God’s Grace is bigger than all your pain as well.  Like the characters in the story, be careful with your words, their impact reaches farther than you may imagine.

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