Priest Rhetoric in Church Essay


            I watched a videotape of a priest conducting a sermon in one of the local churches in the community. It was a Sunday and the church was filled with people, most of whom were listening closely to the words of the priest while a few others were busy doing either sleeping or something else. Standing just behind the wooden podium, the priest gave a complete sermon for roughly around 15 minutes. His hands were “lively” throughout the length of his sermon, doing all sorts of gestures possible. I noticed that his voice thickened with force each time he went on to stress a point and to recall the lines taken from the Bible. To tie the lessons from the Scriptures with everyday life, he gave several examples that, I think, all people have already experienced at one point in their lives. It seemed that there never was a dull moment in the “speech” of the priest although some of the reactions of the people might indicate otherwise.

            For the most part of the sermon, pathos was clear right from the beginning. The priest provided arguments that generally appealed to human emotions in a number of ways. For instance, the priest said that Easter celebrations is not only about finding renewed ways to receive Jesus Christ but also about forgiving those who have wronged us and beginning life anew. The human failure to do so may only deprive our selves of clearing our sins and those of others which can bring more human suffering and, in the end, the judgment from God. Forgiving others, the priest said, can also give happiness to our lives as we rid our troubles of worrying about what others have done and of seeking retribution that does more harm than any good. It was evident that the priest heavily relied on the appeal to human emotions in order to give force to his points without having to rely too much on any other available reason.

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            The priest’s choice of words also seemed to be effective in touching the emotions of the people listening to his sermon at that time. For one, a majority of the people nodded each time the priest mentioned the ideas that to err is human and to forgive is divine and that forgiveness is one of the paths to the salvation from the eternal fires of hell. I could only begin to imagine having to live an eternity in hell, which is also perhaps why the audience seemed to completely agree with the sermon of the priest. The word “hell” might have easily caught their attention and spurred their imaginations into a state of fear, furnishing their minds with the idea of a lifetime of pain that can easily be avoided if only people learn to forgive. The phrase “eternal fires of hell” perhaps even nails the point even further as it stirs the emotions of the audience deeper, taking their feelings to the point of almost sensing with their bare skins the conditions indicated by the phrase.

            Perhaps the most notable part of the sermon which clearly showed pathos is how the priest worked on building the feeling of “pity”. The priest began with the idea that people oftentimes turn shy when confronted with the thought of approaching others to ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, those who have been wronged are too proud and self-centered that they do not care to make the first move in forgiving. Thus, those who have wronged others can hardly be forgiven while those who were wronged hardly forgive. People then live their lives with heavy hearts and they become untrue to their selves. In the eyes of God, the priest continued, such a society is undeserving of the rewards of heaven and that what it will only get are the punishments from hell. People should learn to take pity towards others and rid themselves of the heavy feeling by seeking forgiveness and forgiving others. While it is not entirely clear how it will apply to those who have already forgotten all or most of those who wronged them, the use of pathos touched the emotions of the audience. Some of them nodded repeatedly while some others especially the old folks almost flushed with tears.

            The sermon was not entirely boring although it was not also too lively. It was not entirely boring because I noticed that a majority of the people were listening carefully to the words of the priest. They gave various reactions that indicate that they were touched in a way by the sermon. For my part, watching the rhetoric in videotape was mentally enriching as I learned the nature of a speech that makes use of pathos. Although the sermon lasted for only around 15 minutes, it contained the essentials for a speech that makes use of the Aristotelian pathos with actual results in the form of the reactions of the people inside the church. The sermon was not entirely lively because there were times that the priest repeated his statements without rewording them. The result: I noticed that some of the people in the church appeared to have lost interest and decided to bow their heads and take a nap. Had I been actually there, I might have also felt that the length of the sermon will be no less than a redundancy; listening to its first few parts will suffice to grasp the message of the entire sermon.

            The content of the sermon was something that I expected prior to watching the videotape. I already knew or had the idea that sermons typically make use of appeals to human emotion. Perhaps the only things that I did not anticipate were the specific contents of the sermon. I had the idea that the sermon will largely rely on pathos but I had no idea what the priest will use for examples and metaphors. I was not also completely moved by the sermon maybe because I watched it only on videotape. Being in the actual place of the sermon might sway me to become firmly convinced with the words of the priest.