Donald Trump Teaches Preaching

Editors’ Note: This post originally appeared at the blog Liturgy on May 23rd, 2016. Readers may also be interested  in a similar post that appeared on the charismatic evangelical website CharismaNews

Donald Trump

We, who preach, can learn from great public speakers. I regularly watch clips of Barack Obama – he, I think, is a great public speaker. He clearly draws on the great African-American preaching tradition.

A friend recently sent me an article on What can Donald Trump teach us about preaching? Analysis of the way Donald Trump speaks indicated:

  • His vocabulary is very simple: 172 out of 220 words are one syllable—that is 78%.
  • He uses very simple sentence structures.
  • He uses a few key words and repeats them all the time.
  • He addresses people directly using second person plural verbs.
  • He consistently ends sentence with strong punchy words—and goes to some effort to do so

I’m not suggesting that preachers mimic Donald Trump’s salesman-like speaking style (nor am I suggesting preachers mimic his content!) I’m simply suggesting that reflecting on his speaking style is of value (as is reflecting on the speaking style of other communicators). Part of the problem with many sermons is that they are often simply theological texts read aloud. Preachers spend hours producing carefully-crafted texts which they then read aloud in the pulpit.

Even putting those texts through something like a Flesch–Kincaid readability test (or similar online tool) can give you an indication of the difficulty of the text you have produced. Donald Trump is understood by a 9 year old. My own preaching texts (I tend to use what I have as a basis for my preaching, rather than as a text I read aloud) tend to be at the 11-13-year age level.

Drawing on another source – how does this compare to the Trinity Sunday sermon you heard (or gave)? Peter Sellers in Heavens above:

Rather more tongue in cheek – we can also learn liturgical gestures from Donald Trump.

Here is orans:

orans

And here is orans after touching the consecrated bread:

orans 2

© Rev. Bosco Peters (www.liturgy.co.nz)

3 comments

  1. There may be those would prefer Mr Trump to celebrate ad orientem. At least then we could see the back of him:)

  2. Simple sentence structure? The man can’t put together a simple sentence! And half the time, the content of the comment is undecipherable!

  3. Preachers should put their use of the first person singular (and the plural that is a sly way to be self-referential) from their preaching on a diet.

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