Monday, November 19, 2012

Brief Advice to a First-Time Debate Participant [SK]

What follows is a re-post of comments I left on a friend's Facebook page. She bravely defended the pro-life view at a regional atheists conference. My hat is off to her.  Like those attending the conference, she's an atheist--but a pro-life one. She was concerned about the nasty comments left on the Youtube clip of her debate. 

Three thoughts: First, atheist trolls on the internet will not allow one of their own to wander off the reservation. You did that by taking a pro-life position. Thus, you are hated. Second, you need to get past reading what trolls say. They are not scholars, but bullies who try to win through ridicule and intimidation. Let them go. Third, analyze your debate objectively not subjectively. Comments on Youtube or Facebook, pro or con, are usually nothing more than an internet pep-rally for one side or the other. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I present a solid case for the pro-life view that’s clear, concise, and memorable?
2. Did I do it in a winsome manner?
3. Did I restore meaning to the word “abortion” by carefully using images that depict it?
4. Did I frame the debate around one question, “What is the unborn?”
5. Did I handle objections persuasively, yet graciously?

My educated guess, without having seen the tape (I will look at it soon), is that you easily hit within the 70% range on all of those questions.

After running your own presentation through those five questions, run your opponent’s presentation through them. That, alone, should bring clarity. Assume the crowd liked him better than you. Assume further that the majority of those present think he won. Was that because he had better arguments or because he rhetorically capitalized on having sympathetic listeners?

Sure, there is room to improve—there always is—but that’s not the same as saying you lost. I’m certain you had better arguments. You just need to work on swifter responses to his. Welcome to the debate world! We’re all working on that on-going challenge!

Finally—and I say this gently and with affection—this fight for human equality is not about you. It’s certainly not about me. It’s about the unborn humans we’re trying to defend. I’m not surprised in the least that you are taking heat. Pro-life work entails suffering! However, just because our ideas are unpopular does not mean they are not right. True, as a theist, I have more resources at my disposal to make sense of suffering. I’m convinced that God did not put me here for comfort but for his glory. It’s His story, not mine. I should expect trouble and heartbreak and I've seen my share of both. And there's more to come. Indeed, with two sons in the military, I’m just one doorbell ring away from devastating news. But I press on knowing my work has purpose in a larger cosmological story.

With kind affection, SK

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