Tools of Persuasion in an Open Letter to my Christian Friends
Christians have rejected homosexuals in their community for many years. Among the outcasts, author Ed Madden writes “An Open Letter to My Christian Friends”, where he appeals to Christians for acceptance for the gay community. Ed Madden illustrates the oppression gays have suffered because of Christians’ rejection of homosexuality with his personal experience, and he requests that Christians stop denying homosexuals. He establishes credibility about this topic with his own personal story while he kindles compassion from his readers and employs the use of statistics to support his claim. His claim is predominantly based on pathos, but he also effectively implements the use ethos and logos to strengthen his claim and persuade his audience to accept homosexuals.
In his letter to Christians, Ed Madden establishes the background and purpose for his article by reflecting on his life story. The strategy of Ed Madden’s letter is chiefly constructed to appeal to his readers as a familiar, fellow Christian who is requesting equality. He effectively achieves this image by portraying himself as the dedicated Christian as he narrates his journey and conflicts in Christianity. Similar to many other Christians, he attended church and a Christian college. However, unlike many Christians, Ed Madden realized he was different from those around him because he was repressing his sexual identity. Even though he risked a great deal of his social and religious life, he revealed this information to his family and church and was rejected by both. Ed Madden then articulates that the aversion to homosexuality in the Christian community stems from the lack of discussion and negative attention on the subject. He concludes his appeal by recounting sad anecdotes from other gays, citing statistics of gay oppression, and questioning selective values of Christians.
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Throughout his letter, Ed Madden quotes his personal experience with religious homophobia to build credibility and appeal to ethos. Ed Madden recounts, “When I decided to be honest with my family, I further learned how Christian and family values are acted out when you happen to be gay. What are those family values? That honesty has a cost. That family love is conditional. That brother may reject brother. That the use of scripture is selectively enforced…That homosexual is the worst possible thing one can be” (Madden 651). This statement establishes Ed Madden’s knowledge about the topic of religious rejection of homosexuals. It establishes that Ed Madden is credible about this subject because he experienced the rejection first hand. His personal story not only boosts his plausibility but calls the reader to view rejection from his point of view: nonsensical and unethical.
In addition to an effective ethos persuasion, Ed Madden strongly employs the use of pathos. The author predominantly bases his letter on pathos which effectively leads the reader to feel sympathetic for homosexuals. For example, Ed Madden employs emotional appeal from his audience when he says, “Remember that there are lots of frightened gay teenagers, who are studiously learning how to hate themselves and how to lie, who have all their self-hatred and fear affirmed every time they hear messages of demonization rather than messages of compassion. Remember that lots of other teenage kids have grown up in a Christian community that taught them that it is perfectly acceptable to despise and hate gays and lesbians, even if they’re in your own family, and it is perfectly within the bounds of Christian love to reject your own brother or sister if they happen to be gay or lesbian” (Madden 652). The use of emotionally-charged words, such as “frightened gay teenagers” and “studiously learning how to hate themselves” elicits sympathy from Ed Madden’s readers. Furthermore, Ed Madden’s choice of words, like, “despise and hate gays and lesbians, even if they’re in your own family” makes the situation of religious homophobia personal to the reader and prompts the reader to empathize for gays and lesbians. His tone is very serious, personal, and thought-provoking leading the reader to earnestly take into account the ordeal homosexuals experience.
Additionally, Ed Madden has a strong use of logos persuasion. He uses statistics and reasoning tactics in his article to support his argument that homosexuals should be accepted in Christian communities instead of rejected. For example, Ed Madden quotes in the article, “I realize some gay men and lesbians may try to change, or deny and repress the deep fact of their orientation. I respect them for their orientation. I respect them for their decisions. But what if they were allowed to be honest? It is no wonder that one-third of teenage suicides can be tied to issues of sexual identity. Many of us know we are gay, and we imagine ourselves therefore fully deserving of hatred and rejection, even though we may have never had sex or fallen in love” (Madden 652). Ed Madden’s use of the suicide statistic strengthens his argument that gays and lesbians should be accepted. Furthermore, Ed Madden’s analysis of his observation on repressed sexual orientation is important because it appeals to the reader’s sense of reason and intellect. He reasons with his audience that the rejection of homosexuality leads many gays and lesbians to commit suicide because they are unable to receive acceptance for their sexual orientation. While his idea is personal to him, it also conveys a positive effect on the readers due to the fact it is also logical reasoning.
In Ed Madden’s “An Open Letter to My Christian Friends”, his persuasion is successful for many reasons. Chiefly, Ed Madden’s choice of words creates the image that he is a part of his audience: a fellow Christian, instead of an adversary simply dismantling their beliefs. In addition, his tone reveals that he is biased to support gays and lesbians yet he is amicable. His tone also reflects that while he does not share his intended audience’s perspective on homosexuality, he respectfully disagrees with them and wishes them to respect his own opinion. Ed Madden’s personal story demonstrates his credibility on religious homosexual rejection while employing emotion appeal from his intended audience and effectively supporting his claim with reasoning and statistics. His strategic appeal to emotion, reason, and ethics effectively supports his claim that Christians should accept homosexuality and persuades his audience.