Thursday, September 08, 2011

Theological Propaganda?

I am in the process of reading a book; a book that received much attention, far and wide, when it was published earlier this year. I found myself asking the question, "What am I really reading? What is it about how this book was written?" After a while the word "propaganda" came to mind.

Now there are words of a negative connotation that you don't want to toss loosely around when talking of those whom Jesus said are our neighbors, even with those neighbors whose theology and message we take strong exception to.  "Propaganda" is one of those words. It is one of those words we could quickly toss out as part of an ad hominem argument; and that even as ad hominem arguments are one of the techniques of propaganda.

Nonetheless if the shoe fits, then we are also obligated to speak truth about what our neighbor has said.

At this point we need to refer to the Propaganda Critic WWW site which has built on the work of the original Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA). To quote from this site:

"The IPA is best-known for identifying the seven basic propaganda devices: Name-Calling, Glittering Generality, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, and Band Wagon. According to the authors of a recent book on propaganda, "these seven devices have been repeated so frequently in lectures, articles, and textbooks ever since that they have become virtually synonymous with the practice and analysis of propaganda in all of its aspects." (Combs and Nimmo, 1993)"

The above quote lists seven basic propaganda techniques. It is not my intent to expand on the seven techniques. For that discussion I greatly encourage you to go to the P-C link above. If you have been around Christianity for any time, you will also recognize that some of the techniques listed are also marks of cultish behavior found in some churches.

All that said, there were several things about the book I'm reading that raised a flag; a total lack of footnotes or bibliography, partial quotes from Scripture used without any reference to the wider context of the quote, broad sweeping assertions or unqualified statements and subtle ad hominem allusions.

And I've seen this before in other theological contexts from those who would take great exception to the author I'm reading. The rhetorical techniques fit the definition of propaganda; theological propaganda.

Let the reader beware...

~ The Billy Goat ~

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