Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Persuasive Writing and Evangelism

My Storm Queen is taking a writing class at our learning center this year, and I love both the teacher and work she has assigned. Each week has been organized in the same fashion, with a journal assignment, a grammar/language review sheet, and then the main assignment. Unfortunately for my Storm Queen, the last few weeks have been on persuasive writing, which is NOT her forte! While she is a natural writer, and a talented one for her nine years, this is a new venture for her and has been a real struggle. One assignment she just didn't do (not for lack of trying!), and the other was completed with great angst. To make matters worse, this latter assignment was a "vote for me for class president" exercise, which is extrememly difficult for one who has self-image problems to begin with. She began by saying "NOONE would vote for me for THAT!", and through writing it she realized that she has no desire to enter politics anyway (I guess that's an "up" of writing!). With some prompts that I gave her to think about, she did finally come up with some positive traits to include, and she got the work done.

I realized as I was helping her that the Authoress doesn't like persuasive writing EITHER, preferring to spend whatever time she can in her more creative pursuits. I tried to explain to both of them that a good part of high school writing and a LARGE chunk of college writing IS of the persuasive genre, so it's a skill to work on, even if it doesn't feel natural. We all came to the conclusion that what makes it hard is that it IS work, and takes time and revising to really do it well. I also realized that one of the reasons it seems so un-natural for them is that I've raised them to NOT worry about what others think of them, but to be their own unique selves. In reality, however, we all DO worry about what others think of us at some level.

Next year I'll be teaching a high school literary analysis class, and one of the things I want to help the kids master is that persuasive writing--at least in the context of literature--isn't so much trying to have others believe your interpretations are the best, but that you can articulate what your interpretation IS and then support it clearly with examples. In the end, you're not really trying to "win" people over, but clarify what YOU think and believe.

I was reflecting more on that this morning in my prayer time this morning, and came to realize that my faith conversion follows this same pattern. In my conversion journey, I was influenced not so much by people telling me with great passion that what they believed was the right way to worship, but by people who lived by their convictions and could explain them clearly.....WITHOUT trying to force me to adopt their own beliefs. Over time, this is my problem with alot of mainstream Protestant evangelism -- so much of it is having someone else tell me that "this is what I should believe". In a way it's ironic that I've come to embrace the Catholic Church, which also has a set doctrine of what we should live by, but the difference to me was the latter was presented in a different way. The lives of the Saints REALLY drew me to the faith, because their writings didn't "tell" me what to do, but TOLD me what THEY did. I realized that they were writing just as persuasively, but their point of view was more internal, where alot of evangelical writers seem to me to write with the external view of "what others will think of this".

I may not be communicating as clearly as I want to yet....I need to dwell more on this, as it may explain more on my general belief of evangelism. I have always believed that one is more effective by quieting living out one's faith for others to SEE rather than a "go out and get 'em" approach.

I had no idea that couple of weeks of persuasive writing assignments would give me so much to think about! As for the "up" mentioned in the title of this post, the Storm Queen would definitely say that it's THIS week's assignment, which is something entirely DIFFERENT!


Angela said...

We are in such agreement on this. It is a sad statment on Protestantism that most have gone so far from just from "letting their light shine."

Our gang is such an opinionated bunch, and we have little problem with direct persuasive writing. What I would love is for them to learn how to use various devices: analogy, inference, or narrative to persuade as well. (just one more thing to add to your overflowing lesson ideas!)

Kyle Mahaney said...

I too hate persuasive assignments.