Achieving Peace in a Time of Existential War: On Ethos, Logos, Pathos, and RHEMA

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Two people are arguing – conceptual illustration drawn freehand

Ever find yourself entering a political conversation these days with plenty of empirical evidence and yet it is as if whomever you may be speaking with of an opposing view, instead of having a rational conversation, holds their hands over their ears and shuts their eyes, as it were,  refusing any of your information?

Or their response seems to be a series of protest-poster memes, some perhaps not even related to the topic at hand?

I know.

This can be completely flummoxing, jaw-dropping, conversation killing–and frustrating.

Where the heck did THAT come from? You might think.

Particularly when, on other issues and maybe just minutes before, you and your friend, family member, loved one, or even group operated in a perfectly normal, reasonable manner.

And maybe even they are surprised at their sudden vehemence.

If so, there may well be more than meets the eye–mind, emotion and psyche–at work here, which is to my topic today.

I believe there is a way to not only rise above this kind of struggle but also to restore reason and hope in your mind and heart as well–which can be beneficial to all, if perhaps it takes a while.

See what you think, and be encouraged as we move on in this particularly challenging political season that may well extend beyond election day, as has been threatened.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

There are three “appeals” used in crafting effective arguments and analyses, as noted below, and politicians are well-versed in all:

Ethos, Logos, Pathos are modes of persuasion used to convince others of your position, argument or vision. Ethos means character and it is an appeal to moral principles. Logos means reason and it is an appeal to logic. Pathos means experience or sadness and it is an appeal to emotion. (source)

A balance of the three is top-shelf persuasion, particularly in politics where rules, regs, and policies are involved, and the health and well-being of lives are often at stake.

However, where it concerns hot-button topics, pathos is most potent.

This election season in particular, have you noticed how many arguments are crafted primarily around emotions, especially when it comes to trying to manipulate listeners?

Every issue, it seems, involves hair on fire, as they say.

Emotions are in high gear, and dire consequences are predicted–on the half hour with alarm bells sounding–if this or that solution is not immediately agreed on, or at least if this or that candidate is not elected.

But this kind of thing is always present in campaigns, right? Why so different this time?

Here are a few reasons:

  • violence, looting, arson, and other crimes are now permitted to “make a point” in political “protests” in certain cities while on-the-scene “reporters,” standing in front of burning businesses, insist these are “mostly peaceful protests”;
  • the criminal brand of protests, aka riots, that include not only all of the above but also threats of physical harm keep people fearful and on-guard, thus often in fight or flight mode which is a hindrance to working out the needed logos and ethos essential to counter the push-pull of powerful emotions in order to actually solve problems;
  • many journalists are now activists;
  • “sources” that are “anonymous” are often automatically accepted as credible;
  • the world has become accustomed to getting their “news” in seven-second sound bytes whizzing by at the speed of a finger-swipe (and few take any time to reason things out, it seems);
  • social media companies censor at will (and this is where millions get their “news” these days); and to make matters not only worse but also dangerous,
  • there is not merely a dislike of the other candidate, but visceral hatred, fostered and festering into rage* particularly in the cities now permitting criminal riots.

So it is  different this time.

Many on both sides use the term “existential” more so now than I can remember in decades of election seasons.

However, none of this is likely news, but does set the stage for what I want to discuss: the hopeful and encouraging part, the part that is above and beyond the streets and screeds, the political machinations and manipulations.

The part that is the genesis of both reason and ethics that save minds, emotions, psyches and arguably, in the long run, civilizations.

The part that involves existential issues that touch the spirit, reaching beneath, above, and in between the lines and the lies of the political game to ground us in truth that does not change with the ideological winds, truth that roots us in lasting wisdom and, with awareness and dedication, can move us forward as far as we choose to go in peace-promoting directions.

The term for this element of analysis is rhema and is found in the Christian lexicon.


The term rhema…

…is essentially synonymous with logos. In other words, the specific guidance we receive from the Holy Spirit at any given time can only be discerned by the general principles laid down in the Bible. Where the Bible is silent on specifics—such as where a young person should go to college—then the Christian applies biblical principles (good stewardship of God-given resources, protecting one’s heart and mind from godless influences, etc.) to the situation and thereby arrives at a decision.

The test of the authenticity of a rhema from God is how it compares to the whole of Scripture. Orthodoxy says that God will not speak a word that contradicts His written Word, the Scriptures, so there is a built-in safeguard to prevent misinterpretation. The obvious danger is that one who is not familiar with the logos can misinterpret or misunderstand what he or she perceives to be a rhema. (source)

And from the recorded words of Jesus, we get this additional check to see which way the wind of this or that politician or ideology is really blowing:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)

In other words, from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:22-23) on the “fruit” that is of God,

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…

Not confusion, frustration, rage, hatred, chaos, and threats to peace and safety.

Not to mention lawlessness.

For the struggling mortal, believer or not, producing such good fruit may come with challenges and difficulties of its own, but my encouragement is that as we choose to grow in the wisdom and admonition of God through His Word, His Spirit, and His Son, Jesus Christ, we will be much better able to subdue not only external but also internal struggles that will allow our spirits to rise to the occasion, above the fray on the streets and in the heart.

Of such is wisdom nurtured and by such are real and lasting solutions found.

And by our change of mind and heart, who knows, maybe others are influenced to choose a better direction as well.

Not to mention moving a lot closer to the peace Jesus promised in the opening verse.

At any rate, it beats the heck out of what’s happening on the streets, these days, that’s for sure.

Carry on.


*For more discussions on the state of political rage these days, see here.

Image of arguing people from public domain.

Image of hair on fire from source.

Image of figs from public domain.

This entry was posted in 2020, encouragement in hard times, most recent posts, ON THE STATE OF POLITICAL RAGE, spiritual survival, survival tools and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Achieving Peace in a Time of Existential War: On Ethos, Logos, Pathos, and RHEMA


    Phyllis –

    Again, WELL SAID!!! Just finished reading Isaiah 45 this morning, which settles WHO wins the all irrational kerfluffles, antecedent, present AND future…

    Thanks again, dear sister! 😄




    • pbn says:

      You’re welcome!

      Here’s another of my fave Scriptures:

      From Psalm 2:
      Why do the nations conspire
      and the peoples plot in vain?
      2 The kings of the earth rise up
      and the rulers band together
      against the Lord and against his anointed…
      4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
      the Lord scoffs at them…




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.