Posts Tagged ‘Debate’

A Guide to Debating Online (Without Losing Friends)

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 11.23 am

My latest piece at Relevant offers some tips for how to have online debates about theology without being totally rude. 90% of this works for politics, too.

Another day, another Facebook debate.

It’s all too common. You’re scrolling through your feed and you see someone arguing a point that you know is wrong and you’re certain you can prove it. So you type in your two cents, positive that any thinking person will see the sense in your argument and back down.

And not two minutes later, your “friend” responds—not only unconvinced, but undeterred and perhaps even angry that you don’t see her side. She responds with even more nonsense that you know exactly how to counter.

Game on.

Of course, strident disagreement, especially in the area of theology, is nothing new. The Apostle Paul wished that false preachers would castrate themselves, and the Martin Luther Insult Generator will give you an idea of how the Father of the Reformation talked about his challengers. (My favorite: “Even if your writings were from an angel from heaven I would take this horrible document, and, after having used it as toilet paper, wipe its nose.”)

But debating online doesn’t have to involve insults and farewells. We can take our stances seriously and still be on speaking terms when the debate is over.

My own history of blogging about controversial topics has been remarkably conflict-free. With 100,000+ followers and 6,000+ posts on my political blog, I can count the amount of hate mail I’ve received on two hands … well, maybe a couple toes, too. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

Tone Is Everything.

You can disagree vehemently with other Christians and stay (or become) great friends. The key thing is to maintain an empathetic tone and only go after beliefs, not people. As Thomas Jefferson wisely said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

Be Open to the Possibility That You are Wrong or Haven’t Heard all Sides of the Story.

This is really cliché advice, I know, but it’s so important. I’ve had to publish corrections when readers have pointed out that my original posts were inaccurate, and it can be really embarrassing. But it happens, and I promise it’s much less of a big deal than it feels like it is. Your readers will respect you more, and even if you never end up on the wrong end of a discussion, maintaining a humble attitude will always make you more persuasive.

Pay Attention to Your Own Reactions.

Did your face get red when you read that rebuttal of your latest point? Do you feel prickly all over when you scroll through the Twitter feed of a famous pastor whose theology you don’t share? Maybe something more is going on here than just a debate on the Internet. If you find you’re unduly emotionally worked up about an online conversation, consider sitting this one out.

Read the whole thing here.

On Non-Substantive Critiques, or, stop arguing like a jerk.

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 5.13 pm

If you watched the 2013 Oscars last night (I didn’t), you know that the surprise presenter for the Best Picture award was First Lady Michelle Obama, and she wore a pretty dress. The presentation was broadcast live from the White House.

If you read about the political reaction this morning (I did), you know that a lot of people were extremely upset.

Writes Washington Post Right Turn columnist Jennifer Rubin,

Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election). I’m sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas….

No one, it seems, gets within a mile of the White House with any sense of restraint.

On Twitter, likewise, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. And, of course, the ever scandal-mongering commented that Michelle Obama’s appearance was “just obscene, and rather frightening in what it suggests about how low we have fallen as a nation.” Mrs. Obama, it seems, ruined the Oscars.

Now, there is ample room to criticize the personality cult that surrounds the White House, and the Breitbart post kind of went in that direction. The President is not our national dad or the “boss of the country,” as some have bizarrely suggested, and a healthy cut-back in the celebrity that the Oval Office brings is much overdue. America often maintains an obsession with the presidency which isn’t conducive to reasoned critiques of any administration’s policies.

But I’m pretty sure that most of the criticism of the First Lady’s appearance is not coming from a position of principle. After all, our last First Lady, Laura Bush, made an Oscar appearance in 2002 in a pre-recourded short, and I recall no such virtuous outrage. And Reagan himself sent a taped appearance to the Oscars in 1981.


Questions I’d Submit for the Next GOP Debate

Posted on September 21, 2011 at 9.58 pm

The cool folks at DC Decoder are rounding up short sets of questions/expectations/hopes for the next GOP debate from a handful of political bloggers.  I’m not totally sure what the end goal is, but it sounds like a sweet idea.  They were kind enough to ask me to participate, and these are the questions I submitted:

  • If you support a strong defense, do you want to keep our military spread thin in 130 nations and more than 650 bases worldwide?
  • If you claim to adhere to the Constitution, do you support undeclared by Congress — and therefore unconstitutional — wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and arguably Pakistan and Somalia?
  • If you claim to adhere to the Bill of Rights — notably the Fourth Amendment — do you support the PATRIOT Act?
  • If you are a fiscal conservative, name two specific spending cuts you would support immediately as president and estimate the amount each would save per year.
  • If you affirm the Declaration of Independence, please explain why the freedom to pursue happiness excludes recreational drug use which does not interfere with anyone else’s liberty, person, or property.
  • If you are pro-life, please explain if your principles extend to unborn Iraqi and Afghan children. If not, explain why not.
  • If you consider yourself a Christian, please quote any Bible passages you are aware of in which we might find Jesus changing people’s morality through legislation, keeping in mind that Jesus himself states that he supersedes the law of the Old Testament.