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Religious Figures and Persuasion - Priests and Persuasion

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Priests and Persuasion

Persuasion can be very vaguely defined as the ability to influence. Oftentimes persuasion attempts are so subtle that the intended target is oblivious to the fact that they are becoming the subject of these endeavors. Behavior is often imitated unintentionally without any model of persuasion being presented, or made apparent. When it comes to the art and tradition of persuasion, no other institution has had such a powerful influence as that of religion.

In the last half century, religion doesn't seem to be as "mainstream" nor contain such a cultural stronghold as it once had. An estimated 82 % of Americans identify themselves as Christian. However, of this number it is not hard to take notice that the bulk majority of these do not religiously attend church. These specific people belong to a group that can be referred to as casual Christians. Unlike their devoutly religious counterparts, the casual Christian is well known in the American culture for attending church regularly; on Christmas and Easter. It is for this reason that an in-depth look at the types of persuasive methods employed by religious figures was taken, comparing the content of messages used in mass and how they differ between normal mass and the special Easter and Christmas mass.

The observation procedure entailed attending two masses; one being the first Sunday of lent with the second as Easter Sunday. The intent was to compare persuasive messages and attempts and how they may vary between these two days. This is due to the fact that people traditionally attend church on Christmas and Easter Sunday, regardless if they are regular parishioners or not. Since there is such a noticeable influx of people in general, along with those that may be unfamiliar with the faith or not even belong to it at all, the priests are very specific about changing the way they communicate to accommodate the situation.

The first mass observed was that of the first week of Lent, commencing on February 29th at 10:30 am. The overall themes were to remind everyone of Noah's ark, the covenant, the desert and the significance of the 40 days immediately following Ash Wednesday. Then a sermon was delivered entitled "The devil made me buy it." He started off speaking in a very formal manner, and then went off the cuff and told a personal anecdote, telling of how he ran away from home as a child thinking he could take care of himself and eventually came back seeking maternal shelter. The entire story was connected to the devil trying to convince all, that choosing material items over God may seem to bring happiness, but in the end everyone will realize, as the child in the story, that one cannot survive without the shelter of the Lord. As always communion was done and donations were collected at the end of mass. Before dismissing the group, the deacon "prayfully asked" for personal donations from students in the crowd, stating that although they might be financially unable to give to the Lord, "God will bless you with what you need." Easter mass took place April 12, 2009 at 10:30am. The church was adorned with flowers, mostly Easter lilies and the priest was wearing a white robe. The church was overflowing with permanent residents, students and their families. The priest's homily was a little different this day because of the occasion and the number of people present. His main points during the lecture were why we celebrate Easter, the importance of Jesus, how we can use Jesus' example of sacrifice to make us better, holier Catholics. The priest kept some of the bible references to more well-known passages and referenced famous Catholics when using some quotes. For example, he mentioned Mother Teresa and

The influence setting took place amongst a priest and deacon, along with a congregation of a semi-diverse 161 people. These consisted of infants, children, families, students, young/student-families, etc. In fact, there was the same number of student families as older families present. More than half of the congregation consisted of college students, leading the priest to cater the homilies toward the personal gusto of those seeking higher education. The church itself has a lot to do with contributing to the overall atmosphere of the persuasion techniques used in mass.

"Live green plants reminding us of new and growing life are always appropriate enhancements of the baptismal space as is the use of flowers, especially during the Baptismal life and Easter season." (CITE). This serves as a good example of the influence and meaning behind even the smallest of details in the church environment and how everything is done deliberately and with purpose, to be followed with a specific behavior or compliance gained. After no more than walking into a church or cathedral conducting mass, the effect of a higher power, peace, prosperity and hospitality can be felt, even amongst non-Catholics or non-believers.

The narthex is meant to create a welcoming environment, as it symbolizes the transition between everyday life and entering the community of Christ. It is for this reason that people are always personally greeted upon entering and exiting the church as this acts as the first and last space occupying the sanctum.

The place of worship itself, or the nave, is configured no differently than that of a stage, with the priest being slightly elevated above the seated assembly. Historically, it was designed to represent sailing ships cruising through the sea of life with the final destination of salvation and ever-lasting life. The seating area itself is kept free of clutter and distraction, or any other object that may distract one away from God in his personal place of praise.

There is a reason that most churches that fall under the category of Christian faith and regardless of specific religious affiliation have a near-to-exact church layout. This most likely has to do with the mirror exposure theory, which states that exposure creates familiarity, which then creates feeling and breeds an overall lower resistance to messages. Amongst members that are not of the Catholic faith this becomes most powerful as they are immediately greeted upon entering the church, and made to gain a sense of familiarity and belonging to their environment, thus making them more receptive to attempts at persuasion.

There is a strong pressure in our society for compliance with the requests of an authority figure. This comes from systematic socialization practices designed to instill in members of society the perception that such obedience constitutes correct conduct. In addition, it is frequently adaptative to obey the dictates of genuine



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