A couple nights ago, I participated in a two-person panel discussion on the movie Collision. The film documented a series of debates on the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” between Christopher Hitchens and evangelical theologian Doug Wilson.
This was billed as a discussion (as opposed to a debate) and I thought it delivered that. I said what I wanted to say, and I think Dr. Chad Meister (the Christian on the panel; he’s on the right in the picture below) would say the same. Pastor Mark Bergin was the moderator (below, left) and he asked some very good questions to lead the discussion.
I’m told video of the event will be coming soon and I’ll post it if I get it.
Jeremy Witteveen was in the audience and he has a lot to say about the event. He’ll talk more about the panel next week, but for now, he shares his thoughts on the movie itself (he wasn’t a fan).
The Question & Answer time was almost entirely dominated by atheists. (Which is fine. I’m glad they went up to the microphone to ask their questions. I wish more Christians would’ve done that.)
The problem: Many of those atheists used the time not to ask a question, but to tell everyone about their views of religion.For example, they felt the need to comment on things Wilson argued in the movie. There was no question posed to me or Chad — it was just long, rambling, word vomit. Or they told stories about their encounters with religious people who made really bad arguments in favor of God’s existence.
If it happened once, I could just chalk it up to a self-righteous person who just enjoys the sound of his own voice.
Unfortunately, it happened several times. And it was annoying as hell: to the (mostly Christian) audience, to me, to Jeremy, and (I’m sure) many of the other atheists who came to watch.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been to plenty of atheist conventions where people have done the same thing. (Which makes no sense… who are you trying to convince with your views?!) It’s particularly frustrating because at many of these events, you come because of the speaker (Richard Dawkins, for example). You want to hear his views in the limited time you have, not the views of random people from the audience.
I wish our moderator in this case would have cut them off and just asked, “What’s your question?” but he was in a rough position as a Christian pastor — he may have been thinking of the backlash he would receive if he kept cutting off atheists who wanted to speak their minds. I don’t blame him for letting them go on… and on… and on.
I don’t know if this sort of thing goes on at non-religious events as well, but it needs to stop.
The best solution I’ve found is to collect questions from the audience before the panel discussion starts. The audience writes down what they want to ask, a volunteer collects the cards and hands them to the moderator, and the moderator chooses which questions are most worth hearing the answers to.
Have you all experienced anything like this? How have you handled it?