Writing as a Christian Means Joining a Banquet, Not a Battle

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How we can use our words to feed each other rather than destroy each other.

How do you write a review for a book titled Charitable Writing? Charitably, of course. Which means your words must embody what the book’s authors call “the distinctive Christian understanding of love, which used to go by the name ‘charity’ in English.” Fortunately, while love covers a multitude of sins, I don’t need an extra measure of charity to respond enthusiastically to this artful volume by Richard Hughes Gibson and James Edward Beitler III, both professors of English at Wheaton College.

Though the book has a clear target audience—professors and students of writing within academia—its message is vital in an uncivil world where argument often means war, public and private discourse divides, and words are wielded as weapons. How do Christians reclaim language and writing in such a world? As people of faith, called to love God and neighbor, might we write according to another rhetoric, another syntax, another grammar—the “grammar of faith”? If so, how might that happen inside the walls of academia and in the dreaded and much-maligned college composition class?

Three Core Concepts

Here is my main complaint: Where was this book when I first needed it 35 years ago? (But that is uncharitable and selfish.) Within the first chapter, I was transported back to the University of Oregon and teaching my first freshman comp class, where I stood before my skeptical students, sweaty hands behind my back. I wasn’t clueless: I’d completed a yearlong apprenticeship that included cutting-edge readings in composition and educational theory. I had written papers, student-taught, and questioned my professors. I was intellectually prepared. As a Christian, though, I …

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