Thursday, January 15, 2009

disagreeing agreeably

Brief excerpts from two interesting articles on the same general topic: two people on (very) different sides of a debate who enjoy each other, learn from each other, and model the sort of civil debate that should occur much often.

First, Glenn Stanton in Christianity Today on his debates with John Corvino on the topic of civil unions and "same-sex marriage".

John Corvino and I are highly unlikely though dear friends who travel long distances for one purpose: to fight passionately with each other in front of large crowds. At the invitation of law schools and student activities groups, we have met at colleges a few times each semester for the last six years to debate the issue of same-sex marriage and parenting. We are compelled by the conviction that it's a topic too important to be left to the cheap exchange of sound bites. And we want to show young people how democracy not only allows but actually demands debate that is thoughtful, passionately disagreeable, yet civil. We have no interest in maintaining a lowest-common-denominator, kumbaya civility....

Second, N.D. Wilson in Books & Culture on his dad Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens on the question of whether God exists.

Their interaction did not disappoint.

Christopher Hitchens is accustomed to getting laughs. He is accustomed to getting nervous, shockedHitchens is accustomed to quibbling. He is accustomed to correcting an opponent on petty details for rhetorical effect. laughs. He favors language that is flippant, scandalous, and extreme....These things keep opponents on their heels rather than their toes....

Hitchens is not accustomed to being laughed at. He is not accustomed to being corrected. By his own report, he is not accustomed to an opponent who is unflinchingly unembarrassed by his faith....

Accompanied with humility, it is that voice which made Wilson the perfect sparring partner for Hitchens, the atheist wit. It is that voice which produced laughs in every venue, some self-effacing, some collective, and some pointedly at Hitchens' expense. More important, it is why the two of them could forget that cameras were rolling and mutually savor a well-turned phrase from a favorite author, or trade jokes in a car on their way to a venue packed with people ready to watch them fight.

Christopher Hitchens, quite honestly, seemed to enjoy getting his nose bloodied. It was novel. He enjoyed my father, and my father enjoyed him....

Worldviews are in play, no doubt. Ideas bang around. But beyond the abstractions, there is flesh and all that comes with it—emotion, dependency, hope, resentment, faith, anger, peace. This is a collision of men.


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