There are different styles of communication, of persuasive argument, logic, reason, rhetoric, dialectic. I happen to find rhetoric somewhat annoying on account of the fact that we live in a culture so consumed by it. People seldom actually present rational arguments anymore, instead it is all about manipulating public opinion by triggering emotions. You see this in advertising, politics, and the media. You really see it on social media, “click like so people will know you care, so, so much about this issue”…this issue you actually know nothing about and no one is going to bother to explain it either, because the entire subject can be summed up as, “the good people will click like and the bad people won’t. Are you a bad people?”
I call rhetortic “potatoes” as in, where’s the beef? Rhetoric can lack genuine substance, therefore having little or no real meat. I have had entire conversations with people composed of nothing but political slogans, cliches, and ideology, as if one had just marched off the mothership properly programmed to respond like an automatron.
It is not that rhetoric is good or bad, it is simply that we are inundated by it and it has been so over used and misappropriated that it can be downright annoying. It may be hard to believe, but I tend to respond best to a calm, well reasoned argument, based on logic and somewhat devoid of emotion. That is so rare these days, it tends to immediately get my attention. In fact, it is often the only way to pursuade me to change my mind about things. People who can leave the hyperbole behind and depersonalize their arguments tend to instantly win my respect. Once you have that you could be trying to convince me we are descended from aliens on Jupiter and I would at least listen to you and do some research.
Oh heck, I admit it, I’d stay up all night and spend days researching your argument simply becasue I respected your presentation….
Again however, it is not that rhetoric is bad. As someone recently reminded me, the Gettysburg Address is a rather remarkable bit of rhetoric, full of idealism and romantic notions designed to call us to our higher selves. Potatoes, a pursuasive argument not based so much on reason, logic, or facts, but on a calling, on more ethreal ideals, emotion, feelings.
Now rhetoric and romance, that is a whole other story, too. In that case, triggering emotions and feelings is what it is all about. That is downright charming and I don’t necessarily mean in an intimate way. The other day a guy, a random stranger on the internet, got me quite good. No meat, complete potatoes, laid on so thick, it reminded me of the Shining, not the scary movie, but the shine of his salesmanship. I have no idea what he was selling, but I sure was buying.
I jest a bit here, but in truth it was a very kind, very thoughtful response and well played. A group of us were simply discussing the election and assorted world problems and he just said in part, “Don’t be distressed. We got this thing. We’ll handle it and all will be well.” Irrational, illogical, not fact based, containing very little substance or “truth,” an argument that could be shot down in an instant, but why do that? In times such as that it is far better to just close your eyes and feel the music. Acknowledge that a random stranger actually took the time to provide some reassurance and comfort, just because. How charming!
Comfort, that’s an odd concept these days, especially on the internet. His sweet little bit of rhetoric got me thinking of that word “comfort” and what it really means. The modern definition is “the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress,” however, that does not tell the whole story, at least not from a biblical perspective. In John 14:16 we are told of the Holy Spirit, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” The Holy Spirt is often called our Comforter, and while it is true, He can ease our feelings and fill us with His peace, “comfort” in a biblical context is far more complex than that.
John 14:26 says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” So “comfort” in a biblical context has to do with truth, teaching, and rememberance. To “comfort” is to light the path before us, to remind us of what we need to know, and to show us the Truth, or as I like to say, to restore order to our chaos.
The Holy Spirit is not rhetoric, feelings, or the charm of a random stranger on the internet, He has genuine substance, the meat and the potatoes of our faith, and He is our Comforter who truly will teach you all things, things of genuine substance. Truth and comfort can be an odd juxtaposition in our modern times, so it is important to know the full meaning of that word “comfort,” as it pertains to faith.
“Comfort” ain’t always so comfortable.