How to Succeed in Your Letter Writing on Campus
A long-term writing program is most successful if a pool of at least six dedicated student writers join together. Although occasional letters from one or two can be very significant, if liberal editors are intent on censorship, they will claim that persons who have been published more than once are making the school paper their soap box. They will assert it is time to give other students a turn (even though other students probably don't want a turn.)
With a larger reserve of writers, rotation of letter writing deprives the editors of such an argument. If six or more writers are published, even as infrequently as once every three months, it means that at least eighteen articles (more than one out of every two issues) have impacted the campus during the school year.
Above everything, student writers should be consecrated to God to the best of their ability. They should be without rebellion to God. They should try to seek God's will and to sense when it comes. They must be able to wait on God and not rush rashly forward into possible controversy.
They must view their involvement in a long-term writing program as a solemn, missionary activity. They must realize that, if their letters are not written in the Spirit, at God's leading, they can, in fact, do more harm than good.
They must be able to work together as a coordinated team. They must be able to recognize a spiritual burden from another member and defer to it. They must be able to submit to constructive criticism, or even spirit-led reproof from the group.
And yet they must be able to think independently and act, if necessary, according to God's leading - not manís.
If self-will and fleshly immaturity is present in a Truthtellers group, problems of rivalry, hurt feelings under criticism, and fear of controversy and persecution will fragment and bring your efforts to nothing.
Courage before man comes into being only as we fear God. Your group can go forward to victory over powerful forces of evil only by focusing constantly upon God and His presence surrounding you to guide and to save.
The Lord is angry about great evils such as abortion, homosexuality, or pornography. If our hearts are in tune with Him, His anger will reflect itself in our righteous indignation. "Be angry and sin not - let not the sun go down on your wrath" (Eph 4:26). Thus, strong feelings of anger against sin provide a ferment out of which vital, powerful letters can emerge.
On the other hand, it is important that we project calmness and rationality to a world only too anxious to accuse us of being hotheaded or judgmental. It is noteworthy that in many of the great "showdowns" between the Biblical prophets and the forces of evil and darkness in the world, such as Elijah before the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:25-41); Micaiah before Ahab (I Kings 22:12-27); and Paul before Festus (Acts 25), these great heroes of the faith presented themselves with calmness and even humor.
Let's talk about the format of the letters we write.
Before writing a letter, you should feel strongly about the issue. People are curious about strong points of view. They may even be persuaded toward them, if such passion is balanced by logic, documentation, and fair play.
The average letter to the editor is between two and three hundred words, so it is important that the letter you write deal with only one main subject.
Try to keep your sentences short, and break up your letter into as many appropriate paragraphs as possible.
Even in a short letter, you should begin with a statement clearly informing your readers as to what the issue is about. Having satisfied their curiosity as to the subject, the letter should have a middle section, providing argument and documentation.
You can then end with a conclusion challenging the reader concerning his newly found information.
Common pitfalls in letter writing include: not coming to the essential point quickly enough; trying to include several distinct topics in one article; faulty reasoning; inadequate documentation; unnecessary sarcasm against an opponent; long, wordy sentences; or, simply not having something important enough to say.
All great writers and communicators borrow ideas. Such is the very definition of becoming educated. Pablo Picasso said: "I do not borrow ideas. I steal them." A member of your Truthtellers team should not wait until the 'heavenly muse' is speaking only to him/her but should be open to the ideas and burdens of others. Who knows if the Holy Spirit wants to motivate you through another?
Again, all professional writers and journalists routinely submit their copy to the review of trusted colleagues. The revisions and additions that result are not considered plagiarism, but the fruits of constructive criticism and discussion.
They will contend that, in a secular forum, you are writing too many religious articles - articles that do not represent the broad diversity of the paper's readers.
A religious article is one that deals primarily with issues of religion, just as a scientific article is one that deals primarily with science. Thus, just because an article touches upon, or is related to issues of religion does not make it a religious article, any more than one which touches upon, or is related to science makes it a scientific one.
An article becomes "religious" by the preponderance of discussion of religion within it. If only 25% of the ideas have religious connotation and the rest have social, political, or scientific connotation, then it would not be a religious article, but a social, or political or scientific one.
If, however, over 50% of the ideas were religious in nature, it begins to define itself as religious.
Yes. You have as much right to testify of your peace and joy through Christ as a new age believer would have in saying he had found transcendence through meditation. Both are considered free religious expression under the Constitution.
Practically speaking, however, Christian testimony will be much more likely to be considered "narrowly religious" than that of Eastern religions.
When Christians argue or testify concerning very sectarian issues, such as immersion vs. sprinkling in baptism, speaking in tongues, or eternal security, they are narrowly religious. Such points of difference should probably be kept within religious publications.
A simple profession of how you have found peace through Jesus is, however, a universal idea, and, despite objections by the world, not narrowly religious.
Maybe. Maybe not. Yet rejection of such a letter is hard to protest as censorship. The public views freedom of expression in the taxpayer-supported newspaper to include broad issues, not the airing of religious quibbles.
Thus, just as a letter setting the record straight on the real reason why the writer has broken up with his girlfriend is considered too small to merit publication, so what are perceived as the minutiae of religious doctrine are viewed with disfavor.
Society today strongly disapproves of mixing church with state. The image of a tax-supported campus newspaper becoming a soapbox for religious proselytizing is abhorrent to most people. If the editors can successfully portray Truthtellers as writing only religious letters, they will have the support of a world that will endorse the editor's censorship. They will agree that such "proselytizing" should be kept in the church where it belongs.
While truly "religious" letters (especially those dealing with universal issues) have every right to be published, Truthtellers on campus should not admit to any more such articles than they have to. They should point out that the ideas contained in their letters objecting to evolution, abortion, homosexuality, etc., are primarily ethical, sociological, scientific, or political in nature - not primarily religious. Yes, your letters may contain religious ideas or pretexts; but protest must be made against your letters being stereotyped as religious ones.
Instead, you must insist on your right to speak out on the broad moral, ethical issues of our time without being censored. If you describe your letters in that way, the American public will come to your side in support.
The editors have the right to limit how many back-and-forth replies may be printed concerning a controversial topic. While they are obliged to print enough responses over a period of weeks that the public will have been reasonably informed of an issue's pros and cons, they and the public do not have to be victimized by extremely prolonged debate on their pages.
Such a policy of approved censorship is endorsed by college, state, and legal authorities, as well as the journalism establishment.
In our case, the editors were so intent on censorship that, upon the occasion of one or two articles unfavorable to homosexual abuse of young boys, they declared that the issue had "run its course" and they had the right to ban further printed discussion in the paper.
Further, they were quick to create a myth that the level of "endless back and forth" had become intolerable, and they had no choice but to end debate.
Such a misrepresentation sounds good when the editors relate it to a newspaper reporter, or the general public. How do they know that, in reality, only one or two letters have constituted this "endless back and forth"?
Thus it becomes the task of the Truthtellers to point out, from their carefully preserved newspaper articles, the distortions by the editors.
You should write as often as you feel God leading you to speak.
One or more letters once a week, from different members of your group, is not too often. However, it is best to allow roughly a month between letters by specific individuals. It is also essential that you continue to vary the subject matter, not repeating one theme more often than necessary.
One of the first tasks to be undertaken as a letter-writing program begins is to go to the journalism department and ask to see the paper's by-laws. If your newspaper has them, they will probably contain specific guarantees of freedom of expression without discrimination according to race, creed, etc.
If your letters are logical, well-documented, and void of anything offensive to the general public, and deal with a wide variety of issues, and are still censored, you may well have a case for the violation of your civil rights. If so, you should inform your editors of their discrimination and violation of the terms of their charter.
The editors must be informed that, while privately owned publishing firms have complete discretion to reject material submitted to them, college newspapers, being funded by the hard-earned tax dollars of the parents who send their children to such colleges, are virtually obligated to print all student letters.
Campus editorship is a training ground in a publicly owned newspaper for eventual employment in, most likely, a privately owned and funded newspaper. Editors are way out of line if they forget who pays the campus newspaper's bills and, instead, reject submission as if their campus newspaper paid its own costs.
If, having had a number of well-reasoned letters to the editor rejected, you are clearly the victims of a consistent policy of suppression and discrimination, and free speech is no longer a possibility in your newspaper, then it may be time to paint signs and stage a demonstration.
First: Such an action must occur only after all entreaties to the editors have failed.
Second: You must have the moral high ground and a position of logical advantage over the editors.
Third: The group must, after much prayer, be convinced that such is the will of God.
Fourth: All necessary permits from campus security must be complied with.
Fifth: Newspapers, TV, and radio must be contacted just before the demonstration begins.
The demonstration is not primarily a time to engage in argument over specific religious / political issues. Rather, the main emphasis should be that students' rights of free expression in a publicly owned newspaper are being violated.
Yes. People want to sign a petition in favor of free speech. The names can, later, be presented to a diversity council or the administration of the school.
States and large cities uphold the constitutional rights of students through bureaus of labor and industries, civil rights divisions, etc. Contact them and state your case.
Meanwhile, rest assured that the editors are not enjoying the stigma of "censorship" you are taunting them with. Keep up the pressure. Don't accept compromises that deprive you of your full right to free speech on virtually any topic you desire.
And finally, don't destroy your signs. Be ready and willing to use them again in further protests until free speech is guaranteed.
As Samson "sought an occasion against the Philistines" (Judges 14:4), the student apologist must attempt to find a position of advantage over liberal opponents.
The great WWI German ace, Manfred von Richtofen was asked why he stayed in the air victorious while so many of his comrades went down in flames. He replied, "I never engage in combat except from a position of advantage."
Since Christian Truthtellers are involved in a war of words, arguments, documentation, statistics and public relations, it is vital that we choose our fights. We should confine our letter writing to those broad issues of right and wrong concerning which we not only feel strongly, but also know, and can prove, that we are morally and logically right. This means walking away from smaller, less vital, or less provable conflicts.
For much more information on Shaking Campus Liberalism
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