Writing and arguments

January 14, 2004

The revised chapter four might be pretty good, I always have trouble judging the quality of my work.

It is also going to be a very short chapter, under 40 pages. At several points I am afraid that I am being too short and too elliptical - it is always hard pushing down just hard enough on the cheese knife, and giving the reader enough detail so that they can follow what is going on without drowning them in complexities. My cheese slices tend to vary widely: too skinny, too thick, and back to skinny again. When you add this to my troubles in framing an argument, well, I write some total crap.

What I have not decided is what I should do about a side point. Let me explain that here, as a public think piece. I am writing about Protestant leaders during the first half of the nineteenth century. I am tracing the changes in their conceptions of church and church, how the evolving climate of church and state affect interdenominational relationships, and how religious groups develop a currency of legitimacy and mutual recognition. This chapter is focusing on the emergence of evangelical identity.

One of the recurring aspects in the rhetoric of evangelicalism is an opening to "Christians of whatever denomination" who happen to agree with the basic premises of the speaker. Often this appeal to all denominations is made as part of an attempt to delegitimize, unchurch, and even bring down civil penalties on another religious group. When engaging in this sort of political rhetoric, the attacker leaves himself open to the charge that they are seeking the exclusive sanction of the state, that they are trying to replicate the British Establishment only with the speaker's religious denomination in the catbird seat. To divert these accusations, polemical bigots tried to say that it is not Presbyterians against Catholics or Methodists against Universalists, it is all Protestants against popery or all who believe in eternal punishment against those who would subvert the meaning of oaths.

I think that these points will go into extended footnotes, not into the main body. They are asides from my core argument.

They also remind me that I wanted to blog about oaths, honor, and the differences between the book and the film version of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. But that is another essay, to be written when I am not being productive.

Posted by Red Ted at January 14, 2004 01:44 AM | TrackBack