Christianity is defined as a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, using genres like the Bible to teach it’s followers. Since its beginning, it has spread across the globe in various shapes and forms, leading to a religion with many different denominations. As a discourse community, Christianity fulfills all of Swales’ 6 characteristics very well, but since many of the communities vary, I will focus more on identifying my personal denomination as a discourse community [Swa]. In this paper I argue that my church uses genres such as the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and their mission statement to achieve their goal of helping others find spiritual enlightenment in Christianity.
To create a foundation for my research, I used information from John Swales and Tony Mirabelli to get an idea of what a discourse community really is and how they may use multiliteracies. I also used James Paul Gee’s concept of primary discourse communities and Charles Bazerman and Victoria Marro’s ideas on how texts in discourse communities may get them to work towards goals.
I conducted my research on my community by reflecting on my experiences within my church. My church is a non-denomination church, so we aren’t as strict as the Catholic church but we accept that sin is everywhere and committed by everyone, including our highest members. Members of the church are very familiar with different references regarding the bible and are very comfortable and trusting of one another. In the end, they all want a closer relationship with God and would like to help others achieve the same.
A discourse community is defined as a group of people involved in and communicating about a particular topic, issue, or in a particular field. Swales states that discourse communities must fulfill six characteristics, the community must have a common set of goals, they must have a means of communication between members, members of a community must commonly take action, a community must have genres, a community must have a specific lexis, and a community must have some form of hierarchy [Swa].
My church fulfills most, if not, all of these requirements. Emotional labor, which “requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” is a common practice in Christianity, being used as a method of handling moments of tension or frustration to defuse the situation and remain docile [Mir11]. A church can also be seen as a primary discourse, which is a discourse we first use to make sense of the world and interact with others [Gee11]. With its intention of overall guidance, the church can certainly be seen in this way.
As Marro describes, a single goal laid out for the community may help it move towards completion, just as my church does [Mar]. The bible, the main genre of my community, is a built upon by several people overtime and we all build upon the church overtime as Bazerman describes when talking about how overtime, collective knowledge guides a community [Baz14]. My church clearly performs as a functioning discourse community and works very hard towards its main goal with its genres.
The Bible is probably the most important genre of my church. It is regarded as a guide book on how to be a true Christian and become close with God. The Bible is a genre that includes any Christian or someone that may want to study the way of Christians and it excludes those that wish to follow other gods or those that may oppose God or the idea of one in general. The entire book itself can be categorized into smaller books, chapters, and verses. The bible contains a lexis that is composed of Hebrew and other terms often involved in religion like Heaven or communion.
To truly appreciate this genre, participants must be actively seeking a relationship with God in their lives. The readers of the Bible are often encouraged to question their own life choices and to view the world as sinful but savable. It’s clear that my church uses the bible as an ultimate guidebook for its members to achieve its goals.
The 10 Commandments are another very important genre of my church. They are seen as a set of laws put in place by god. The commandments are meant to include everyone and to define what sin is. This genre is organized in a list, stating what you shouldn’t do. It has been accepted by all as a list of crimes man should not commit. Overall, my church views the 10 commandments as the highest law and if they 10 are completely followed by an individual, they will practically be a perfect person, making them much closer to God in personality and spirit.
The final genre that holds great importance to the church’s goal is their mission statement. My church’s mission statement reads as follows, “Leading people to an ever-growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ” [Chr14]. This mission statement holds the true goals of our church and is inclusive of anyone that joins. The statement doesn’t just include members as those on the receiving end but also as those who lead. This genre displays the true intentions of the church, making our goal known to all members and completely possible, allowing all members to assist one another as they themselves are being assisted.
These genres help the members work towards the goal of the church whether if they realize it or not. By accessing these genres, members help one another on their journey, as well as helping themselves on their own journey. More research can be collected regarding the lexis of the community and it’s genres. Other researchers that wish to continue investigating this community may want to understand the genres within the community and their views on life and spirituality.