Rampant Radical Rhetoric
I’m a person who likes to read. I read widely and appreciate many styles and genres including news, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, theology, literature, academic and scientific writing and many kinds of fiction. I tend, however, to stay away from, or only occasionally visit, the popular forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter. After all, I can’t read everything. . .
Over the past year, I’ve observed a trend in much of my reading (unless it’s classics or specific rigid genres). What I’m seeing is a movement toward radical forms of expression. Whether it’s descriptive writing, opinion pieces, news reports, contemporary fiction, non-fiction or even academic writing that, by definition, is meant to be “objective,” the rhetoric is increasingly fervent and often strident. We are living in an age of extremes and language reflects culture. With so many voices vying to be heard, language seems to be undergoing a change that reflects this struggle. The louder or more provocative the voice, the more it will rise above the clamor of the commonplace.
In the context of the matrix in which I live, as a Yeshua follower living daily with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this trend is highly visible. Opinions are expressed as absolute truths giving no recourse to discussion or dialogue. This makes it difficult and even impossible to have a meeting of minds. How can closed minds meet? What will it take to open minds to entertain views that challenge or oppose your own? Must our narratives always support our preconceived views? And the classic question of “where or what is truth?” remains sidelined and unanswered.
I once thought language could be used dispassionately. Today, I’m no longer certain. Everything we say and write has an undercurrent, or an agenda, or a perspective that often is not immediately visible, even to the author. Our emotions and even our passions inform our choice of expression and certainly the language with which we articulate our views and conclusions. This is part of being human, made in the image of God. As his children we read and internalize his words and his character. Reading the Bible is a journey into the mind of the maker. That mind is both accessible and unfathomable. Certainly the divine author expressed himself with great passion and with motivation to persuade those who were his hearers. Reading the Bible is also a journey into the heart of the maker who expresses himself in very human ways as a God who fully identified with humanity.
The radicalization of language is a growing phenomenon. As a Yeshua follower, I’m cautioned to be more careful than ever to find ways of articulation that are faithful to the complexities of contemporary life and at the same time are founded on and set within the unchanging biblical worldview. This does not imply that I cannot or should not speak with passion. My prayer is that it will be Godly passion and not radical rhetoric to prove a point or to support my preconceived positions or to devalue or undercut those who see things from perspectives other than my own.