You may have noticed that the presidential debates are no longer real debates, but rather dual press conferences in which each man is judged according to what “vibe” he puts across to the audience. In a real debate, people put forward linear, logical, well thought out arguments in support of a position and then someone tries to debunk that position by presenting a philosophically and evidentially well-supported argument against it. Our culture no longer values this process. We are looking for good emotions, not deep thoughts. We want a president to make me feel good about him, not convince me that he is right. Because of this, debates are now all about style. We choose a “winner” of the contest by evaluating posture, facial expressions and tone of voice; after all, these are things that produce emotional responses in us. This is not a good development and does not bode well for the future of our nation.
Unfortunately, politics is not the only arena in which we make decisions based on emotion rather than logic and evidence. It is also how we choose religions. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not a religion has any evidence supporting its truthfulness or not; as long as it makes us feel good about ourselves, we’ll buy it. As such, real religious debates are about as common as political ones. When is the last time you heard two people honestly discussing whether or not Joseph Smith or Mohammed were really prophets of God? Or whom do you know that honestly chose a religion because the hard evidence convinced them it was true?
There are a few out there, I know, but they are few. Thankfully, one such man is trying to change all that. Lee Strobel does his his best to make people consider the evidence. He is an lawyer and author who is now venturing into television. His show, Faith Under Fire, debuts tomorrow night. It is being billed as the Hardball (the political debate show on MSNBC) of religion. As glad as I am that he is there, and as much as I encourage you to check out the show, I don’t expect a ton of people to suddenly be convinced of the truth of Christianity and changing their religion because of this show. The problem is that it is on television.
I’ve talked before about how television is a medium in which rational debate is next to impossible. The TV screen simply is not conducive to intelligent discourse. Television is inherently about visuals and emotion, and therefore does entertainment very well. However, it is not a good place to make people think. TV numbs the brain – it does not stimulate it. Show’s like Hardball are successful because they entertain, not because they convince anyone to change the way they think. The format is to pit two or three dogmatic, outspoken people against each other over an issue and let them yell at each other. It is not rational argument – it’s a side-show. I hope that Faith Under Fire can strive for a higher level, but the fact of television is that if it doesn’t entertain, it doesn’t stay on the air long, so we’ll see what happens.