Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CRU/LGBT Panel Discussion - How Cru performed poorly

Here are some ways I felt Cru performed poorly.

1) VERBOSITY. The Cru panelists, likely out of worry that they might offend LGBT members because of their beliefs, treaded lightly over any thorny issues. However, they did so by waltzing around questions, rather than answering them, giving responses that implied the answer but did not directly say it. This was poor form. For instance, one panelist used the analogy that “that question is asking about step 10, but we need to first go to step one, and then step two …” While this is a response, it is not an answer to the question posed; the question was not about step one, but rather about step 10. LGBT audience members already know that Cru does not condone homosexual relationships. That’s right, they already knew. So when the panelists danced around the issue, the LGBT audience saw it as a farce. They came for discussion, and discussion can only happen when both sides are frank with each other.

2) MODERATION. The moderation of the debate provided a great introduction to the rules of the debate, how much time each side would have, how to ask questions, and other relevant information. It was brilliant to have text messages for asking questions; particularly young LGBT people can be out for blood and revenge, so requiring the textual means of asking questions has amazing potential. However, the debate moderation was poorly done during the question and answer session. Particularly poor was when the audience directly started asking questions to the panelists, rather than going through the text message medium agreed upon ahead of time. This began to lead to chaos in the audience and disrespected those who were following the instructions. Future moderation should ensure that all people follow the rules and the audience saves interactions for following the discussion.

3) PREPARATION. First, I should state that it is obvious that the Cru panel prepared for this discussion. They had thoughts about theology and worldviews that flowed from one panelist to the next in a way that was predetermined. That said, they could have extended that preparation to the answering of the actual questions in certain cases. The most prominent example was question 4, which asked about Rachel and Leah, as well as the Roman centurion and his servant. While bringing up David and Jonathan (which hadn’t been specifically asked, so this required thinking), the answers were quite short in an unsatisfactory manner. The audience to address on this is your LGBT audience, and their knowledge of these passages may be quite detailed, since their only interest in the Bible may be these small snippets. To simply say that Rachel and Leah were fighting over a man doesn’t answer any of the “gay theology” out there on this passage. On the Roman centurion and his servant, the answer appeared even more flip, being “I don’t see what in this passage might make you think it’s a homosexual relationship.” If this is what the panelist truly thought, it seems that they did not do their homework, which would have turned up the original Greek language arguments floating around in recent scholarship. No, we should not have a Classic Greek class in this discussion; but we should acknowledge that there may be something there more than just meets the eye.

4) AGENDA. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “gay agenda”. Regardless of its Hello-Kitty-bound existence or lack thereof, there is definitely a “Christian agenda” in evangelicalism (believe me, I used to pursue it). Often the agenda is referred to evangelism, spreading the truth about God. Before an LGBT audience, it may be one of the few times you can ever evangelize so many gays at one time. But, and this is important, it is not the right time to evangelize them! When Steve Elworth was interviewed by the Daily Illini, he stated the goals were 1) to form relationships with each other and 2) to learn more about each other. As a disclaimer, I think spreading the truth and doing so through evangelization is a noble pursuit. But as I learned in church, evangelization is best done in relationships, such that people will accept the information. I do not envy the position Cru was placed in that night, trying to explain their worldview but not coming off as preaching the gospel to the heathen. But having talked to many LGBT audience members, it appeared to many that the line had been crossed and answers were left unaddressed at the expense of explaining the evangelical worldview.

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