Rhetorical strategies analyzed by social movement theory as applied to conflict within the Restoration movement



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This thesis uses the rhetorical requirements for social movement leadership outlined in Herbert W. Simons" theory of persuasion for social movements as a guide for the analysis of rhetorical strategies utilized by leaders of various segments of the Restoration Movement. Simons" theory is elaborated for purposes of this study by reference to the general social movement theory which he used—particularly the writings of Herbert Blumer, Carl Dawson and Warner Gettys, Rudolf Heberle, Eric Hoffer, and Richard Niebuhr. Special concern is given to the rhetorical requirements for leadership of a faction within a larger movement. Simons" theory as elaborated provides rhetorical requirements which leaders must fulfill in order to form a faction within a movement- 1) Leaders must polarize the thinking of the larger movement; 2) Leaders must provide their developing faction with a sense of group identification; 3) Leaders must separate their developing faction from the rest of the movement; and (4) Leaders must maintain the isolation of their faction from the rest of the movement. The present study examines the way in which the above list of rhetorical requirements has been fulfilled by the rhetorical strategies utilized by leaders of various segments of America"s largest indigenous religious movement—the Restoration Movement of the Church of Christ, Independent Christian Church, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Non-verbal elements of polarization, identification, separation, and isolation are viewed. The nature of issues, prestige of leaders, and availability of communication channels are non-verbal elements which previous investigators have used to explain the fragmentation of the Restoration Movement. This study goes beyond these non-verbal elements to focus on the verbal element in the rhetorical strategies. The conclusion is that the verbal element in these rhetorical strategies for polarization, identification, separation, and isolation has had a significant influence on the formation of factions within the Restoration Movement. When movement leaders used rhetorical strategies which fulfilled these rhetorical requirements, the Restoration Movement divided into factions. When the rhetorical strategies employed by movement leaders failed to fulfill these rhetorical requirements, the Restoration Movement experienced doctrinal diversity without any division into separate factions. An outline of factors emerges to consider when determining whether the Restoration Movement is likely to divide into factions over a given issue. This outline stresses the role of rhetorical strategies—a factor previously ignored by students of the Restoration Movement.