Tag Archives: Debate

Monday Morning Moment – the Art of Argument

We were younger than we thought. Fresh out of graduate or med schools. In our first big real-world work. Most Saturdays in those days, we met for breakfast at Horton’s (now a Chipotle) and lingered over coffee. Talking about life and how to solve the problems around us. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes we got loud and passionate…but never unkind. We loved each other after all. We also cared about the same things but often saw those very same things differently.

Each going our separate ways those Saturdays, we had learned from one another. Always coming away with a larger sense of what it takes to make a better world. We valued our debates, our arguments, as much as our happier takes on life. Civil and thoughtful – with space to disagree.

A few years later, we all relocated across the US, in next real-world jobs. I took a teaching post at Yale University. My first foray out of the South. There, I had the same experience as with our Saturday morning breakfast club. Lively debate on life, university regulations, student issues, course content, and the politics of the day. I was definitely an outlier on some of the topics, being one of the youngest on faculty and from a part of the country sometimes maligned for its thinking. Still, the grace and respectful interest given to me by my colleagues again gave room to grow…maybe for all of us as we wrestled together things that mattered. The experience of belonging also breathed consideration into our arguments. We shared commonalities. A tenure track respected no one over another.

Recently, a lawyer friend of mine, in Seattle, sent me the following article on this topic of argument or dissent:

The New Truth – When the Moral Imperative Trumps the Rational Evidence, There’s No Arguing – Jacob Siegel

What we are witnessing, in the rapidly transforming norms around race, sex, and gender, is not an argument at all but a revolution in moral sentiment. In all revolutions, the new thing struggling to be born makes use of the old system in order to overthrow it. At present, institutions like the university, the press, and the medical profession preserve the appearance of reason, empiricism, and argument while altering, through edict and coercion, the meaning of essential terms in the moral lexicon, like fairness, equality, friendship, and love. That the effort wins so much support speaks to the deep contradictions and corruption of American meritocratic institutions, and of the liberal individualist moral regime it seeks to replace.

Moral revolutions cannot tolerate ambiguity, but there is so much that I’m not sure of. How does one argue with this new form of truth? Not in the old way. Not by taking the bait.Jacob Siegel

Siegel writes about the lost art of argument. His is a long and scholarly piece very worth the read. In brief, he states a strong case of how American culture, in particular, has become intolerant of reasoned debate. Pick the issue, and folks line up on one side or the other. If you are not on my side, then you are dead wrong. More than just wrong, you are a racist, sexist, fascist, Communist. And so it goes…far from the days of civil disagreement.

Photo Credit: Prezi, Christopher Lasch, Stephanie Rugo

I am still hopeful.

In the midst of all the meanness, especially in this election year, with political debates upon us, I believe we can turn this around.

Surely, we see the danger of hateful, polarizing exchanges. Part of our dilemma is that we are less face-to-face than we used to be. Before email and social media. Before COVID.

It’s too easy to use social media to make a public case on an issue and then dare someone to expose her biases and disagree.

I’m so thankful to have friends and family who allow for arguments on issues of religion, politics, etc. but without attacking.

The key to the art of argument is our persistent care for the person across from us. We may not love them, may not even like them, but we refuse to belittle or grow contempt for them. We refuse.

We determine to show respect, no matter how hot the argument becomes. We learn how to deescalate because the person matters more than the problem.

Scott Sauls speaks often on this matter of argument. His Tweet below expresses it better than I can.

Twitter source: Scott Sauls

“Attack problems not people…especially problems that attack people.”

Although in the public arena we see too much ungracious confrontations, we can find exceptions. I’ve taken to watching Blogging Heads on YouTube. On split-screen, two people (often educators but others as well) tackle some of our most pressing societal issues. They have been immensely helpful to me. Equipping their listeners on how to problem-solve and see issues in ways we might not have before. Mentoring on how to have respectful, thoughtful discussions on topics they may or may not agree on…but they amicably agree to disagree.

Twitter source: Ian V. Rowe

The art of argument (debate) doesn’t have to be lost. We can choose to weigh in on matters of extreme importance without taking the other person to the mat. Stating our reasoning without condescension. Listening, learning, allowing that we could be missing some part of the issue. Whether or not we get the same treatment, we both lose if at least one doesn’t remember the person in front of us has greater value than winning the the argument.

In closing, you’ll find two clips from Denzel Washington‘s 2007 film The Great Debaters. The plot is based on the true story of the rising debate team of the historically black Wiley College. The time was the 1930’s during the era of Jim Crow. The place, Texas. Washington played the role of Melvin Tolson, the outspoken debate coach. These two clips are riveting examples of an argument and a debate…and how it might be done again.

Thoughts? Please. In the comments below.

The Art of Having a Productive Argument

The Lost Art of Argument – Stephanie Rugo

YouTube Video – The Art of Argument – Jordan Peterson

Social Control and Human Dignity – Ben Peterson

Worship Wednesday – Forever He Is Glorified – Kari Jobe

blog-fix-our-eyes-on-godPhoto Credit: GodsWordImages

Last night, I watched all 90 minutes of the vice-presidential debate. If these two public servants were running for president instead of being the vice-president candidates, my voting choice for this Fall’s election would be much simpler. Watching them actually gave me another window to see into the convoluted soul of politics. As is their job on debate night, they sparred relentlessly over issues and, both of them, successfully  continued to expose the weaknesses of the other’s running mate. Nothing new there.blog-election-vicepresident-debatePhoto Credit: ABC News

What was different last night was the obvious discomfort each had with some of the issues that, because of the nature of their jobs, they had to legally support even when, in doing so, required them to go against their faith. The death penalty, for one, and partial-birth abortion for the other. I couldn’t imagine. Something else that stood out was their respect and regard for each other which had to be put aside for the sake of the required rancor of the evening’s spectacle. They both hammered away at the other’s presidential running mate…knowing the attacks had to be personal to them as well. Such is the nature of political debate.

Both the presidential and vice-presidential debates zoomed in on some of the terrible brokenness of our nation and the world. The racial and cultural divides in our country. Syria. Political unrest around the world. Corruption. National debt. Syria. Abortion. Displaced and marginalized peoples. Syria. Nuclear armament. Wars. Poverty. Energy. Immigration. Syria. Our Supreme Court.

Like those who chose not to watch the debate or turned it off early to use their time differently, I can’t bear to watch too much cataloging of the world’s woes when it “seems” there is so little we can do. My tendency is to go to fear…for our nation and for all nations.

Then I’m reminded:

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7blog-worship-wednesday-spirit-of-fear-achristianpilgrimPhoto Credit: AChristianPilgrim

In watching the whole debate, I saw two men, not just posturing politically…they were two men of faith trying to make sense of brokenness and with the hope that a political party in power can make a difference against it.

That, however, is not what I take hope in…especially this year.

Will there ever be an American President for all the peoples anymore? If there ever was. However, there is a God who sees and who loves us all…every single one of us. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (in image at top of page) comes into focus for me.

Fixing our eyes on God doesn’t mean we close our eyes to the realities around us. The mandate is to do whatever we can to apply a counter-pressure against the warp of sin in this world. The Scripture is clear.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. – Isaiah 61:1

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – JesusMatthew 25:34-40

This election year, more than any other, I cling to a God who is not finished with us yet. A God who from forever has set a course to be in relationship with as many of us as will turn to him. A God, who through Jesus, came after us….and continues to do so. Today, I don’t cling to a political party or a world power to right the wrongs…I cling to the cross of Christ.

Fixed on Him (moment by moment, sometimes, wrestling myself out of the grip of fear), I am confident that whatever happens in this election, God will be forever glorified…as we see His story (history) completed and our lives redeemed.

Worship with me. Also if you would take the time, watch the YouTube video linked below of Kari Jobe singing the song Forever with a short spoken word message by Isaac Wimberley. Powerful.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeatedblog-empty-tomb-lionlambbowmanvillePhoto Credit: LionLamb-Bowmanville

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive*

*Lyrics to Forever written by Kari Jobe, Brian Johnson, Jennifer Johnson, Gabriel Wilson, Joel Taylor, and Christa Black Gifford

YouTube Video -Kari Jobe Forever (Live) – with spoken word by Isaac Wimberley

Explore God – Is Christianity Too Narrow? – Podcast, Cliff Jordan, Movement Church