Many Christians are aware of their responsibility to speak up on behalf of their faith and understanding of human dignity. Sometimes however it is a lack of courage – or just due to mere inexperience – that great occasions to present Christian thoughts to the public are lost.
When you intervene at a debate it is important to keep the many undecided people in the audience in mind. A question you ask will in the end be directed to them.
Today’s letter for Europe offers practical advice how to contribute successfully at a debate. Our wish is that the “spiral of silence” would be interrupted – and the Christian image of the human person would be more prominently recognized.
Thank you for distributing this letter to friends and acquaintance who might find it helpful. As you know, we publish our monthly letter already in eight European languages.
And of course: Thank you for praying with us for a Christian Europe.
Your Europe for Christ - team in Vienna
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Intervening at a Political Debate
By Gudrun Kugler
→ Join the discussion! The direction a discussion takes is often determined by the first few interventions. In public debates even a few interventions can change, or even transform, the atmosphere. Many times, it is a well-organized minority which stirs the debate. Then, it is on us to give a voice to the “silent majority”.
→ What is not contradicted, will be seen as true. It is quite a responsibility we have!
→ “Question & Answer time” is your time, when you were not invited as a speaker. Use it well.
→ Your question is your means to convey a message to the audience. Whether your intervention supports the speaker or not, your question’s objective is to convey a message to the audience, not to convince the speaker!
→ This message could either be conveyed by the explanation you give for the question you ask, or by showing that the speaker does not have an answer.
→ Normally, you have only one question. Think carefully what you ask – what message you want to convey. Where would the audience be most likely to agree with you and walk a bit of the way with you?
→ Ask a question, don’t lecture. Lecturing in Q&A time annoys everyone, even if you have brilliant things to say.
→ If there is a large audience and many want to speak, raise your hand already in the beginning of Q&A time. That way it is more likely you will make it onto the speakers list.
→ Keep it short and simple.
Possible structure of an intervention:
- In general it is good to state your name, occupation and why you are here.
- Continue with something positive, like saying thank you to the speakers or the organizer.
- Normally, you will now say one or two sentences of stating a fact or an experience on which your question relies. This might be your main message.
- At this point (or before the previous point) you could optionally add a short note of humility, such as a short apology in case you had misunderstood or overheard.
- Then ask your question. If your question is short enough, it is okay to ask another one.
Remember to smile at all times, unless you speak about murder, death and torture.
A feminist speaker goes on for 15 minutes: Women will only be happy if they have a job outside the home. So they should put their children into daycare from the age of six months in order to strengthen their cognitive development and to foster social equality.
Your intervention could be like this:
“Thank you. My name is Anna, I am a lawyer and a mother. I would like to thank the organizers for setting up a meeting on such an immensely important issue. Forgive me if I have misunderstood a certain point in your speech, but let me ask you precisely: You speak of women finding their fulfillment only by working outside the home. When I read political documents on day care, I often find the heading ‘measures supporting the economy’. It seems to me, that our dialogue is being instrumentalized, and that women are being instrumentalized, in a dishonest debate. Would you agree with me? Many of the women who put their children under three in institutional care, say they would rather take care of them at home themselves – if only they could afford it. Would you not say that in order to be truly self-determined, women should have a real choice?”