Case Study in the Art of Rhetoric – January 6th Capital Riot vs. Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” 

History records 2,996 total deaths during the September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks, with 2,977 of those deaths being innocent American civilians and 19 being terrorists who committed murder–suicide (with over 6,000 other innocent Americans injured). Of the 2,996 total deaths, 2,763 were in the World Trade Center and the nearby area, 189 were at the Pentagon, and 44 were in Pennsylvania.

President George W. Bush spoke to us that night: “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten us into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.”

History also records 2,532 total deaths during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii. Of the 2,532 total deaths, 2,403 were Americans, with 68 being civilians and the rest soldiers, and 129 were Japanese soldiers. Of the 19 U.S. navy ships and 8 battleships, all were attacked and 4 sunk. President Roosevelt proclaimed it “A date that will “Live in infamy.”

History also records one death during the January 6, 2021 Capital Riot by a group of criminals. Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer while forcing her way into the House chamber. There were zero innocent people (Senators, Congresspeople, etc.) killed or even injured. No rioter used deadly force (firearm, bomb, knife, etc.) when storming the capital.

Anyone using common sense would never equate the Capital Riot to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. But there is a saying: “Common sense can be the least common of the senses”. Here is Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at the 1-year anniversary of the Capital Riot: “Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived them where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault. Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendar but a place in our collective memory. Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 6, 2021.” Did she really say that? Yep.

But she was not finished: “Will January 6th be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest, greatest democracy in the world, or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come?” Sound like 9/11? No, not even close. President Biden also spoke.

“Our Constitution faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, the National Guard and brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people prevailed.” Sound like Pearl Harbor? No, not even close.

Welcome to the art of rhetoric, developed by Aristotle in his famous “On Rhetoric,” where one has 3 methods available to persuade an audience to adopt one’s version of the truth: Logos, Ethos or Pathos.

“Logos” uses facts to give reasons for believing the speaker’s claims. “Ethos” relies on a speaker’s position of authority, charisma, character or expertise to persuade the audience to believe them. “Pathos” comes from our words “pathetic” and “empathy.” The speaker appeals to our emotions to persuade us.

Clearly, President Biden and VP Harris are not using logos. They hope their “ethos” (as President And VP) combined with strong emotional content (“pathos”) will move our hearts to be persuaded they speak truth.

The central issue with their rhetoric is its message of political and religious divisiveness (read David French article “Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection”), regardless of its truth. We cannot put this all on the Democrats. We are being preached divisive rhetoric from both Democrats and Republicans.

There is an historical figure whose rhetoric still has a much different effect. Jesus Christ is a master of rhetoric that unites an audience. In the greatest public speech in history, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses Pathos to paint a positive future by following His guidance: “Blessed are: the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… those who hunger and thirst for what is right… the merciful… the pure in heart… the peacemakers… those persecuted for doing what is right… those reviled for His sake” (Matthew 5:3-12).

Rather than taking sides, listen to Jesus Christ. His promise at the end of these verses for those who listen and follow His words: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #483

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.