5 Tips for Debating without Embarrassing Christ
It’s hard to read the comments on a YouTube video or blog post and not feeling like you’re dredging the bottom of the human experience. When you combine contrary personal opinions and anonymity, people can get awful.
Christians aren’t immune to getting sucked into these squabbles. Whether they’re debating the existence of God with an atheist or setting each other straight on some biblical principle, you’ll often find them online—guns blazing.
If you feel absolutely compelled to weigh in on online debates, here are some quick tips to stop from making Jesus look ridiculous:
1. Just relax
You’re not curing cancer here. Whatever debate you’re currently embroiled in may seem like a big deal right now, but in less than a week, you’ll have forgotten about it. Chances are very good that nobody’s opinion will be different at the end of this discussion.
Step back and ask yourself, “What’s my end goal here?” And more importantly, “What’s my exit strategy?” If you can’t answer those two questions, find something valuable and constructive to do.
2. Don’t be provoked
The internet is teeming with trolls. Their only goal is to poke at you until you lose it—don’t oblige them. Don’t be condescending, don’t be rude, don’t call be people names, and for God’s sake, DON’T START TYPING IN ALL CAPS.
3. Don’t make winning the goal
The web provides awesome opportunities to dialog with people who see things differently. To challenge each other’s perspectives, and hopefully learn to respect opposing opinions (believe it or not, yours is not the world’s only valid viewpoint).
I’ve never seen anyone “win” an argument in a comment thread. I can’t even imagine what winning would look like. I’m not sure I’ve seen someone abandon their faith or denominational principles in the heat of an online debate. In fact, they seem to get more entrenched—not less.
I have, however, seen Christians who’ve laid out airtight, rational arguments but have lost the debate by virtue of their behavior.
4. Practice some humility
Nothing is more refreshing (and somewhat disarming) than someone who can argue a conviction with a generous spirit. Try listen to the other person. Acknowledge interesting, intelligently presented points. If you have the guts, you can even admit that you might be wrong.
A lot of Christian debates get started when someone definitively states their denominational, religious, or political opinion as if it’s definitive, inarguable truth. It takes a pretty reasonable person to accept the fact that there are intelligent, educated, and sincere people who, when presented with the same data, will come to a different conclusion.
5. Don’t forget, Jesus loves this individual
I know it sounds trite, but Jesus came and offered his life because people are intrinsically valuable to him—even if they believe stupid things. If you’re a follower of his, you are partnering with him to redeem this world to himself.
You don’t have to argue every person into believing in the Gospel, but don’t behave in a way that’s going to make it harder for them. It doesn’t matter how terribly they talk to you. The onus is on you to be respectful and loving. Their disrespect does not release you to be a jerk.
A lot of internet discussion is noise and clutter. If you can’t treat people with love, you’re just another clanging cymbal in the cyber cacophony.