By Rev Paul N. Papas II
October 3, 2017
If you have a problem with someone don’t take it out on everybody else. How do problems get solved, by an open an honest debate. Unfortunately it appears many have lost the art of debating.
Debating is an age-old way of discovering facts and persuading others, it is an argument with rules. Debating provides practice in developing sound and logical arguments.
It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword; for the most part this is true when we look at some of history’s greatest speakers and writers using their powers of language to persuade. Words change opinions, words shape the course of history and when the swords have been put down, it is words that form countries from the ashes of the bloodshed of the old.
The man who arguably began the concept of the debate, Plato was a fine writer and philosopher and makes up a trio with Aristotle and Socrates. Many of his ‘dialogues’ are in written form and address specific issues brought up with other Greek thinkers. He is most famous for the Gorgias Dialogue in which he seeks the true definition of rhetoric one of the key principles in the debating process. He also critiques Athenian oratory in the text. (1)
You probably have heard of the Lincoln – Douglas Debates which many say Lincoln won. Lincoln did not win that election however he was later considered for the Republican nomination for president where he was elected twice because of the debates.
Modern debates have made and broken candidates. It has been said that Nixon lost the election in 1960 because Kennedy was better in the debates.
Politics was not as contentious then as it is today. Some people today have their minds made up and they don’t want to be confused with the facts. It used to be considered an honor and a pleasure to serve in public office. Many today believe they have a right to be in a certain office and throw tantrums when their coronation is canceled by the employer, We The People.
Here is an example of a lighter moment that helped win the debate and the office:
“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” Ronald Reagan quipped during the 1984 presidential debates when asked if, at 73, he is too old to be President. The line — a classic example of Reagan’s sense of humor — even solicited a laugh from Democratic opponent Walter Mondale. (The Republican actor-turned-statesman ended up winning by a landslide).
Once upon a time high schools and college debate teams were very popular. For awhile debate teams were cut from official activities. Recently debate teams have been returning. The lack of debating skills learned and honed on debate teams or otherwise has manifested itself in many of today’s contentious business, public, and political meetings. Yelling, violent protests, and demeaning statements have become common ways today to ‘persuade’ others. These people have not learned that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
The yelling, violent protests and demeaning statement can cause or exacerbate fear, anxiety, PTSD, physical injury, and do suppress free speech. That is not the USA I grew up in and should not be accepted as a new normal.
Everyone has an opinion even if it does not agree with yours. Can you see theirs? In a debate you just might find some common thread which could begin the process of coming together on some issue or issues.
The USA I grew up in the teacher read the 100 Psalm in the classroom everyday in the beginning of each school day.
“ Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Can we come together?
Yes, if more people learn and practice the art of debating we can. Will you do your part?
Come Together – John Lennon/The Beatles (Live In New York City)
Reverend Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (MA and AZ) and Founder of the Family Renewal Center (AZ)