Religion and Rhetoric

Religious leaders deal with rhetorical situations on a daily basis.  Speaking to their followers and believers is a rhetorical situation that they must prepare for on a frequent, regular basis. However, it is important for them to realize that often their audience is outside the walls of the worship hall as well. An example of this would be the Pope of the Roman Catholic church. Pope John Paul II was regarded by many as an excellent public speaker. John Paul faced many different constraints that were posed by his audiences. His main mission during his papacy was to inform people about Christians and Christianity. In order to achieve this, he had to reach out to non-Christians and speak to them in a way that was inviting and informational. However, he still wanted to keep the attentions and faith of the Catholic church as well. This posed a type of balancing act that Pope John Paul achieved with much success.

caroline cogan


5 comments so far

  1. julie1990 on

    This brings to mind something that Dr. S-D has mentioned several times throughout the semester which I had kindof taken for granted… until now. The lightbulb just flipped on, and I realized that what I had considered “being political” is actually “establishing good will toward your audience”. Who could possibly be under more pressure to establish good will than the leader of one of the largest religious organizations on the planet? As you point out, it is necessary for the pope to establish good will toward both Catholics and Non-Catholics, and I’m starting to realize that no matter what any given speaker may be saying, more often than not their goal is to be appealing to someone, and that the easiest way to do that is to establish good will.

  2. cejsmith20 on

    This reminds me of the Edward Kennedy speech, where he was in a very hostile atmoshpere and still had to speak. Successful rhetoric in the papacy means keeping the faithful true and you holy in their eyes, but it also means not stepping on other people’s toes. There are many people that are anti-catholic or that don’t believe many things the catholic church does and says. John Paul was amazing at keeping up the faith worldwide while adding faith and keeping goodwill with the opposition (something the current pope could probably take a few lessons on)

    – Cody Smith

  3. flynnquisition on

    It’s true that many of the higher-ups in any religion will be under a lot of pressure as a speaker, trying to get non-believers or whoever else to understand that particular religion’s point of view, and preferably trying to not offend anyone terribly.
    But, after thinking about this, I also got to thinking about priests and the like from church to church, and how different their rhetorical situation is from, say, the Pope’s. At most (smaller?) churches, the priest/minister/etc is speaking to a crowd that is comprised almost entirely of people who are already on their side. True, their job is also a little different, but still. I just thought it was interesting how much variance there is between speaking opportunity from priesthood to papacy.

  4. lewingj on

    It is certainly true that the constraints for someone like the pope are incredibly and important and yet challenging to deal with. As Cody mentioned, it is most important for the pope to portray his message without being too controversial a figure or stepping on anyone’s toes. Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jewish, you recognize the pope as a meaningful figure. When he speaks, it is on behalf of the entire Roman Catholic faith so it is essential that he represent them as best he can to people of other faiths as well as fellow Roman Catholics.

  5. jswanson89 on

    Religious leaders, I would argue, have the most polar opposite audiences of any position of authority. The President of the United States has to speak to people of other parties, but both parties generally want the same thing (freedom and the beterment of our country, etc.) However religious leaders are constantly under intense scrutiny. Some people feel the need to prove or disprove the existence of God. Some people condemn others for their beliefs, and some remain open to religious tolerance. Basically, religious leaders have the toughest constraints of almost anyone because they are under so much scrutiny. Therefore, they must choose their words very carefully. Nice observation.

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