Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Reaching Others: The Rhetoric of Proselytizing and Community of a Christian Campus Organization

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

John Makay (Advisor)


This study examines the proselytizing rhetoric of a campus religious organization (CRO) using a combination of rhetorical, ethnographic and autoethnographic methods. In order to do this, the study first places CRO within historically and doctrinally within the framework of the Restoration Movement. Secondly the study describes the ways in which proselytizing can be done in a sensitive manner. Seven criteria are proposed in order to gage the sensitivity of proselytizing rhetoric. Next, the study explains how the tools of rhetorical theory and criticism can be applied to a community such as CRO by appropriating some of the tools of an ethnographer. These tools include participant observation and depth interviewing in order to gain access to the rhetoric of a community. An explanation is included in this description as to which communities can be studied as rhetors. Once this is done the worldview into which the rhetoric of CRO attempts to inculcate in others during their proselytizing is described. The study then critiques the techniques used for swaying others toward that worldview using the combination of ethnographic tools and rhetorical criticism in order to evaluate the rhetoric of CRO with regards to sensitivity. This critique shows that according to most of the criteria, CRO’s proselytizing rhetoric is alternatively sensitive and insensitive. Finally the study autoethnographically examines the writing process itself and the limitations of rhetorical criticism and ethnography as tools of studying phenomena with strong spiritual components.