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The Public Square

They Say / I Say

Go Even as a writer, writing teacher, and rhetorician, I could not see how many gaps I left in my writing until this book. So much of the writing process was just flung at me in public school that I was fortunate to absorb dribs and drabs. Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst dismantle writing into a system, based on the most recent rhetorical research, and lay the process out in short chapters, plain language, and a scheme of templates that students can use to kick-start their own writing. The authors' thesis is that writing is an uncomplicated process which can be reduced to a handful of rhetorical components. If students see writing as a social act, joining a larger conversation already in process, they will produce engaging writing which both they and their teachers will enjoy. Since the book is laced with examples of effective and ineffective writing, there is no doubt as to which the authors aim for, making evaluation a simple, somewhat objective process. ~ Kevin L. Nenstiel at Amazon.com

Concepts of God

Go Using terms acceptable to each religious tradition, Professor Ward considers the doctrine of ultimate reality — God — within five world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. By closely studying a definitive, orthodox writer in each tradition, Ward builds a series of "pictures" of God and uncovers a common core of belief. "An invaluable introduction to the religious traditions which have helped shape human culture through the ages. Indispensable lot a comparative religions library."

Finding Common Ground

Go In a world that’s growing more hostile to the gospel, what can Christians do?  How can we communicate with our unbelieving friends and coworkers in a way that won’t seem pushy, intolerant, or judgmental? In a world that’s heard it all before and no longer seems to care, where do we begin? By sowing. In Finding Common Ground, Tim Downs reminds us of the forgotten biblical art of sowing and shows us practical and effective ways to: Bring up spiritual subjects with busy and distracted people; Use secular movies and book to talk about biblical ideas; Overcome prejudice and stereotypes in our listeners; Keep open doors of communication with even hostile opponents; Move everyone we meet a step closer to the gospel. ~ Back Cover

James McCosh on “Oblique Expression”

Go It is used by the courtier and the flatterer, who keep within the limits of truth in their statement, but intend that their words should suggest much more to those whom they address. It is employed by the calumniator when he does not bring a direct accusation — which might be met; but he hints and insinuates certain dark charges fitted to raise our worst suspicions. We see it exhibited by the guilty man when he puts on a look of injured innocence; or affects a virtuous indignation because such an offence could be charged against him. There are certain speakers guilty of it in every sentence, and certain writers exhibit it in every page, for they can say nothing clearly and plainly. It has been said of Hume, as a historian, that, "without asserting much more than can be proven, he gives prominence to all the circumstances which support his case, or glides lightly over those which are unfavorable to it."

Faith in the Halls of Power

Go Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University who has previously worked with pollster George Gallup Jr., looks at the rise of evangelical Christian influence in the spheres of power of American public life: political, intellectual, cultural and economic. Based on interviews with 360 leaders from these spheres, including two former presidents, as well as a command of what everybody else has heretofore written, Lindsay demonstrates how over the past two decades evangelicals have moved into positions of great influence. From a sociological point of view, their path to power is easy to discern through networks of relationships or institutions that have seeded larger political and economic institutions. This growing network has produced new leaders whose ideas and actions are motivated by their Christianity. The interviews allow Lindsay to cite numerous examples that make his point persuasively. He is a sympathetic observer who understands that evangelicalism is as reformist as any other movement that has ascended to power in America. Yet he also understands that evangelicalism has made accommodation to the larger public life it seeks to reform, a tension he calls elastic orthodoxy. This important work should be required reading for anyone who wants to opine publicly on what American evangelicals are really up to. ~ Publishers Weekly

Faith In Dialogue

Go What happens when the immovable object of faith meets the irresistible force of sophisticated unbelief? Too often, says Dr. Jerry Gill, the believer either retreats out of earshot, saying that faith is "better felt than told," or he tries to build a "foolproof" logical system too airtight even for God. This book suggests a third option: risking an open-minded "dialogue" with challenges to faith, examining presuppositions on both sides and acknowledging valid contributions of other views while maintaining responsible religious commitment. "As I understand it, a dialogical posture is one that takes the matters of religious reality and truth so seriously as to require extreme openness to and growth toward them, as well as radical sincerity and commitment to them. Thus, all sides and aspects of an issue must be explored with humble thoroughness, and whatever is deemed worthy of commitment must be incorporated into one's life with integrity." ~ Quote

Letter from Birmingham Jail

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My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Nonviolent Provocation

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Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

C.S. Lewis on God is Love

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St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougement) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God. I suppose that everyone who has thought about the matter will see what M. de Rougemont meant. Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done “for love’s sake” is thereby lawful and even meritorious. That erotic love and love of one’s country may thus attempt to “become gods” is generally recognised. But family affection may do the same.

US Commission on International Human Rights

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Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Paul Dixon on Stalin’s Five Year Plan of Atheism

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The attitude of the Bureaucracy towards the Church has passed through the usual zig-zags of Stalinist policy. During the ultra-left period of forcible collectivisation and the Five Year Plan in Four an attempt was made to liquidate the Church and its influence by government decree. Starting in 1929 churches were forcibly closed and priests arrested and exiled all over the Soviet Union. The celebrated Shrine of the Iberian Virgin in Moscow – esteemed by believers to be the “holiest” in all Russia was demolished – Stalin and his Government were not afraid of strengthening religious fanaticism by wounding the feelings of believers as Lenin and Trotsky had been! Religion, they believed, could be liquidated, like the kulak, by a stroke of the pen. The Society of Militant Atheists, under Stalin’s orders, issued on May 15th 1932, the “Five Year Plan of Atheism” – by May 1st 1937, such as the “Plan”, “not a single house of prayer shall remain in the territory of the USSR, and the very concept of God must be banished from the Soviet Union as a survival of the Middle Ages and an instrument for the oppression of the working masses.”!

Miguel de Unamuno on Winning But Not Convincing

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This is the temple of intelligence and I am its hight priest. I have always been, despite the words of the proverb, a prophet in my own country. You will win but you will not convince. You will win because you have more than enough brute force; but you will not convince because to convince means to persuade. And to persuade you need something which you lack: right and reason.

The Marx Brothers on Partisanship

Go I don't care what you have to say,
it makes no difference anyway:
Whatever it is,
I'm against it.
No matter who proposed or who commenced it,
I'm against it.

Your proposition may be good,
but let's get one thing understood:
Whatever it is,
I'm against it.
And even if you change it or condense it,
I'm against it....

Harlan Fiske Stone on Liberty of Conscience

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Both morals and sound policy require that the state should not violate the conscience of the individual. All our history gives confirmation to the view that liberty of conscience has a moral and social value which makes it worthy of preservation at the hands of the state. So deep in its significance and vital, indeed, is it to the integrity of man’s moral and spiritual nature that nothing short of the self-preservation of the state should warrant its violation; and it may well be questioned whether the state which preserves its life by a settled policy of violation of the conscience of the individual will not in fact ultimately lose it by the process.

G.K. Chesterton on Common Ground with His Reader

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The thing I do not propose to prove, the thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity, a life such as western man at any rate always seems to have desired. If a man says that extinction is better than existence or blank existence better than variety and adventure, then he is not one of the ordinary people to whom I am talking. If a man prefers nothing I can give him nothing. But nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.

Wilberforce and Huxley on ‘Yo Momma’ and Ape Ancestry

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In the course of a debate between Bishop Wilberforce and Huxley, in which Huxley defended the doctrine of evolution, the Bishop said: “I should like to ask Professor Huxley as to his belief in being descended from an ape. Is it on his grandfather’s or his grandmother’s side that the ape ancestry comes in?” Then, in a graver tone, he asserted that the views of Huxley were contrary to the revelations of Scripture. In the course of his refutation Huxley said: “I asserted — and I repeat — that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were any ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would rather be a man who plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and to distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.”

Françoise Demore on Politeness, Deference, Kindness

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There is, therefore, a difference between civility and politeness, a sort of gradation from the first to the second. To be polite means more than to be civil. A polite person is necessarily civil; but a person simply civil is not polite. Politeness, therefore, not only supposes civility, but adds to it. The latter is by communication with men what public devotion is in regard to God, an exterior and sensible testimony of the interior sentiments that ought to animate us; and even in this it is precious as inspiring exterior deference and kindness. It is an open confession of the esteem and benevolence that ought to reign within.

Michael Ferrebee Sadler on Incarnation and Humility

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If the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, as it is set forth in the Scriptures, be a truth of God — if the Divine Person Who had glory with the Father, having taken upon Him the nature of His creature, really condescended to go through the humiliation and pain and distress which is written of Him, it stands to reason that the loving humility and abnegation of self displayed in such endurance, must be the chief feature in the character of the God-man, which we must in our degree possess, if, in the words of the Holy Ghost, Christ is to be " formed in us."

John Stuart Mill on Heretics and Freedom of Thought

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But it is not the minds of heretics that are deteriorated most, by the ban placed on all inquiry which does not end in the orthodox conclusions. The greatest harm done is to those who are not heretics, and whose whole mental development is cramped, and their reason cowed, by the fear of heresy. Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of thought, lest it should land them in something which would admit of being considered irreligious or immoral? Among them we may occasionally see some man of deep conscientiousness, and subtile and refined understanding, who spends a life in sophisticating with an intellect which he cannot silence, and exhausts the resources of ingenuity in attempting to reconcile the promptings of his conscience and reason with orthodoxy, which yet he does not, perhaps, to the end succeed in doing. No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize, that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill on the Only Free Society

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The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow; without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong. Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived. No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free, whatever may be its form of government; and none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. Though this doctrine is anything but new, and, to some persons, may have the air of a truism, there is no doctrine which stands more directly opposed to the general tendency of existing opinion and practice. Society has expended fully as much effort in the attempt (according to its lights) to compel people to conform to its notions of personal, as of social excellence.

On Civility

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The well-being of society would be greatly promoted, if the nature and use of this Christian virtue were more generally known. We take this to be, in personal intercourse, the observance of the command, Do to others as you would that others should do to you. The most rapid glance at any community, shows this: That some of its members are brought into contact in matters of business, necessarily; others meet, incidentally, who have no particular connexion; others meet for social purposes, in various forms; and that there is a large proportion who know, of each other, very little beyond the fact, that they are of the same country; and perhaps, not even that. There must be a best rule of deportment for all these classes; and no one will deny, that if this rule were defined, and faithfully applied, there would be much more of every day comfort, and complacency in the world, than there is well known to be. If we rightly understand the meaning of civility, it is the manifestation of kind feelings, and of a desire to do all things which are to be done, under the influence of such feelings, in a becoming and agreeable manner.

If every person understood the true foundation of society, the common origin of all its members, their natural and necessary sympathies, their community of interests, their necessary action upon, and with each other, it might be supposed, that all who are reasonable, would be civil. They would be so, because they would promote their own good, because they would be doing what it is proper to do, to promote the good of others; and because they would know, that in so doing, they would conform to the design of their creation. We do not include under the term civility, the great duties of justice, acts of munificence, important personal services. These arise out of some special relation, which an individual bears to one or more other individuals. It seems to be limited to the manner in which the common, or accidental intercourse of the members of society, in general, should be carried on.

This matter may be better understood by some examples. Thus, if one comes into the presence of another, as a beggar, servant, laborer, mechanic, trader, merchant, farmer, lawyer, physician, clergyman, or public officer; or if it be a female, or child of either sex; there may be very various modes of receiving these different persons. Yet, certainly, by every one of the laws, which we are endeavoring to illustrate, these several persons are entitled to civility. Even the beggar, perhaps one should rather say the beggar in particular, if not deformed by voluntary transgression, should be received with civility. That is, gentleness, kindness, decorum are to be observed relatively to each one. Why? because no man can afford to be deemed insensible to the calls of reasonable humanity; nor a stranger to the decencies of life; nor ignorant of what is due from him, nor to him, in any of his proper relations. Politeness may be quite another thing, in some of the supposed cases. One interchanges politeness with those who happen to know what politeness is; civility, with every body. A king would be polite to the ladies of his court, to his prime minister, to the members of his council, to foreign ministers, &c., and civil to his coachman, and to the humblest of his subjects.

We may find many illustrations, and fill ever so many pages with them. Let us take one which will concern the greatest number. In this country a stage-coach, and a steamboat, bring many persons into a small space, who may be utterly ignorant of each other’s existence, until they meet. They have a common object, that is, to be transported in the same vehicle, from the point of departure, to that of destination. Circumstances compel them to be very close to each other, and each one has the power of being very disagreeable to each one of the others, in a variety of well known modes. Let us suppose that each one consults merely his own interest, including in that, his own self-respect, the reasonable good will, which each man desires from all others, and the ever present principle of doing as he would be done by. He shows that he is sensible of the presence of his fellow-men; that he thinks them of sufficient consequence to wish to have their good opinion; that he is attentive to their comfort, or convenience; that he is disposed to learn something; from them, or communicate something; or to join with them in disposing of the time in which one has nothing to do, but to be carried. Take the other side of the picture; — he puts himself in the best place; takes out his cigar, lights it from a pocket apparatus, and goes to smoking; he sees no one, speaks to no one, and endeavors to hear no one; if spoken to, he answers in a coarse monosyllable, and in a tone which prevents all further attempt at intercourse with him. If he make his presence known at all, beyond his sullen sitting there, it is by some selfish exclamation; or contemptuous ejaculation, on what is passing within his notice. Which of these two persons is civil; which of them is making the most of human life; which of them is attracting good will; which of them ought to like himself the best; which of them will have the most to look back upon, with pleasure? Which of them is a rational, sensible, well disposed human being, and which of them is a selfish brute.

Thomas Carlyle on Irony and Sarcasm

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Often, notwithstanding, was I blamed, and by half-strangers hated, for my so-called Hardness, my Indifferentism towards men; and the seemingly ironic tone I had adopted, as my favorite dialect in conversation. Alas, the panoply of Sarcasm was but a buckram case, wherein I had striven to envelope myself; that so my own poor Person might live safe there, and in all friendliness, being no longer exasperated by wounds. Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it. But how many individuals did I, in those days, provoke into some degree of hostility thereby! An ironic man, with his sly stillness, and ambuscading ways, more especially a young ironic man, from whom it is least expected, may be viewed as a pest to society.

John Stuart Mill on Teachability and a Slowness to Condemn

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We desiderate in it somewhat more of what becomes all men, but, most of all, a young man, to whom the struggles of life are only in their commencement, and whose spirt cannot yet have been wounded, or his temper embittered by hostile collision with the world, but which, in young men especially, is apt to be wanting — a slowness to condemn. A man must now learn, by experience, what once came almost by nature to those who had any faculty of seeing; to look upon all things with a benevolent, but upon great men and their works with a reverential spirit; rather to seek in them for what he may learn from them, than for opportunities of showing what they might have learned from him; to give such men the benefit of every possibility of their having spoken with a rational meaning; not easily or hastily to persuade himself that men like Plato, and Locke, and Rousseau, and Bentham, gave themselves a world of trouble in running after something which they thought was a reality, but which he Mr. A. B. can clearly see to be an unsubstantial phantom; to exhaust every other hypothesis, before supposing himself wiser than they; and even then to examine, with good will and without prejudice, if their error do not contain some germ of truth…

Samuel Drew on Thomas Paine’s Rhetoric

Go Upon what peculiar excellency, the popularity of your book is founded, I will not presume to determine; but, in the perusal of its pages, I could plainly discover, that, in many places, you had substituted ridicule in the room of argument; while epithets of abuse were introduced, to dazzle the mind with their superficial glare; as though your design were rather to excite contempt than to produce conviction. Instead of meeting with demonstrative evidence, I have seen idle declamation, calculated rather to delude than to inform; I have met with premises of your own creation, which you have assumed, and from which you have argued conclusively: while in many places, from premises which would not be disputed, your reasonings are inconclusive, and your inferences unjust. You have blended together, in one common mass, the Heathen mythology, Mahometanisrn, Christianity, Popery, and Priestcraft, with all the errors, and all the vices, all the dissensions, and all the cruelties, which, by a departure from the pure principles ot Christianity, have disgraced the human character; and, with an effrontery hardly to be paralleled, have thrown the whole on Revelation. Is this fair? You have made comparisons, which are as invidious as they are unjust; but it will be only in those, who are disposed to place in the scurrility of your language, that confidence, which nothing but legitimate proof has a right to claim, that those effects will be produced, for which your book seems calculated. To yourself you seem to have arrogated the exclusive appropriation of rationality; and, in the excess of triumph, you appear to tell the world, that the barbarism and mental shackles, in which it had been held for ages, have been reserved, to be torn away by the superior genius of Thomas Paine. From this mode of procedure, it is easy to infer, in what estimation you hold the intellectual discernment, and the reasoning powers of others.

U.S. Diplomat Joel Barlow on Not Being Founded on Christianity

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As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.