Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
10.3.2020

How to Destroy a Debate

Winning, Democracy, and the Very Possibility of Public Discourse

Matthew Croasmun

,

Ryan McAnnally-Linz

,

Miroslav Volf

,

Burning debate podium, presidential debate podium, flames
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Episode No. 31
10.3.2020

How to Destroy a Debate

Winning, Democracy, and the Very Possibility of Public Discourse

Matt Croasmun, Ryan McAnnally-Linz & Miroslav Volf

Heading
10.3.2020

How to Destroy a Debate

Winning, Democracy, and the Very Possibility of Public Discourse

Matthew Croasmun

,

Ryan McAnnally-Linz

,

Miroslav Volf

,

Heading
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
Photo Collage: Evan Rosa
10.3.2020

How to Destroy a Debate

Winning, Democracy, and the Very Possibility of Public Discourse

Matthew Croasmun

,

Ryan McAnnally-Linz

,

Miroslav Volf

,

Heading
Copy link

episode notes

In this episode, Matt Croasmun, Ryan McAnnally-Linz, and Miroslav Volf discuss the Trump-Biden presidential debate from September 29, 2020, and its implications for public discourse and the very possibility of democratic deliberation.

And yes, we know that that is not the headline anymore. The truth is stranger than fiction—again. The fact is lots of people are still sick. This pandemic is real.

But we’re not trying to keep up with the latest headlines. The purpose of every single episode of this podcast is to help you envision and pursue a life that is worthy of your humanity.

And we think there’s something important to say about what we saw (or maybe more appropriate—what we can’t unsee) in the presidential debate. Something deeply significant for what it means to share common life together and jointly pursue the fullest vision of flourishing we can imagine.

Earlier this week, we saw the symptoms of a truly unhealthy public discourse. But we are not referring to the aggressiveness or the intensity. The conditions for debate assume that we contend, fiercely even, for what we take to be right. But what makes this country’s public discourse so sick, so fragile, is something that has infected it from within—something that threatens the very possibility of debate.

In this conversation, the following two points are foundational, and both come from Miroslav’s book, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World.

We have two basic responsibilities if we’re contending for particular normative visions of flourishing in a democracy. That is, if you have a vision of the good life and you think it’s right.

First, we need to commend our vision of flourishing life—we ought to defend it robustly.

And second, we must help maintain the possibility of pluralistic discourse—disagreement, debate, deliberation—about flourishing life.

So, we uphold our views, articulate them, defend them, and extend them. But we encourage dialogue. We listen carefully. We’re intellectually hospitable. We’re humble and open-minded and ready to learn.

And if we are not prepared to maintain the possibility of public discourse, or if indeed we imitate the behavior on display earlier this week, well, that’s how you destroy a debate.

Show Notes

  • The two responsibilities for flourishing in the public square: 1. Commend your vision of flourishing life. 2. Help maintain the possibility of pluralistic discourse about flourishing life.
  • The game of democratic liberalism: self-referreeing, calling your own fouls, and when a pick-up game threatens to devolve to a brawl.
  • What goods are there in maintaining pluralistic discourse itself?
  • Truth matters for a certain kind of vision of humanity.
  • Virtue doesn’t need adornment because it is its own greatest ornament. (Seneca)
  • "Democratic practices are expressions of our deep humanity.” (Miroslav Volf)
  • What are the deep Christian commitments that cohere well with democratic values? Why should a Christian care about the rules of the democratic game?
  • "Because Christians value the salvation of the soul!” (Miroslav Volf)
  • Should Christians see winning in democratic politics as advancing the interests of God?
  • Seeking whatever means achieve political ends is radically un-Christian.
  • The basic commitment is to love one’s neighbor.
  • Listening as a Christian practice of love and hospitality. (Luke Bretherton: Christ and Common Life)
  • What is the goal of debate? Does the debater listen only to rebut? Or does the debater listen to become wiser?
  • Bad faith actors
  • Getting drawn into the maelstrom. "They go low, we go high"
  • "Be careful not to saw off the limb you’re sitting on."

Matt Croasmun, Ryan McAnnally-Linz, and Miroslav Volf discuss the Trump-Biden presidential debate from September 29, 2020, and its implications for public discourse and the very possibility of democratic deliberation.

In this episode, Matt Croasmun, Ryan McAnnally-Linz, and Miroslav Volf discuss the Trump-Biden presidential debate from September 29, 2020, and its implications for public discourse and the very possibility of democratic deliberation.

And yes, we know that that is not the headline anymore. The truth is stranger than fiction—again. The fact is lots of people are still sick. This pandemic is real.

But we’re not trying to keep up with the latest headlines. The purpose of every single episode of this podcast is to help you envision and pursue a life that is worthy of your humanity.

And we think there’s something important to say about what we saw (or maybe more appropriate—what we can’t unsee) in the presidential debate. Something deeply significant for what it means to share common life together and jointly pursue the fullest vision of flourishing we can imagine.

Earlier this week, we saw the symptoms of a truly unhealthy public discourse. But we are not referring to the aggressiveness or the intensity. The conditions for debate assume that we contend, fiercely even, for what we take to be right. But what makes this country’s public discourse so sick, so fragile, is something that has infected it from within—something that threatens the very possibility of debate.

In this conversation, the following two points are foundational, and both come from Miroslav’s book, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World.

We have two basic responsibilities if we’re contending for particular normative visions of flourishing in a democracy. That is, if you have a vision of the good life and you think it’s right.

First, we need to commend our vision of flourishing life—we ought to defend it robustly.

And second, we must help maintain the possibility of pluralistic discourse—disagreement, debate, deliberation—about flourishing life.

So, we uphold our views, articulate them, defend them, and extend them. But we encourage dialogue. We listen carefully. We’re intellectually hospitable. We’re humble and open-minded and ready to learn.

And if we are not prepared to maintain the possibility of public discourse, or if indeed we imitate the behavior on display earlier this week, well, that’s how you destroy a debate.

Show Notes

  • The two responsibilities for flourishing in the public square: 1. Commend your vision of flourishing life. 2. Help maintain the possibility of pluralistic discourse about flourishing life.
  • The game of democratic liberalism: self-referreeing, calling your own fouls, and when a pick-up game threatens to devolve to a brawl.
  • What goods are there in maintaining pluralistic discourse itself?
  • Truth matters for a certain kind of vision of humanity.
  • Virtue doesn’t need adornment because it is its own greatest ornament. (Seneca)
  • "Democratic practices are expressions of our deep humanity.” (Miroslav Volf)
  • What are the deep Christian commitments that cohere well with democratic values? Why should a Christian care about the rules of the democratic game?
  • "Because Christians value the salvation of the soul!” (Miroslav Volf)
  • Should Christians see winning in democratic politics as advancing the interests of God?
  • Seeking whatever means achieve political ends is radically un-Christian.
  • The basic commitment is to love one’s neighbor.
  • Listening as a Christian practice of love and hospitality. (Luke Bretherton: Christ and Common Life)
  • What is the goal of debate? Does the debater listen only to rebut? Or does the debater listen to become wiser?
  • Bad faith actors
  • Getting drawn into the maelstrom. "They go low, we go high"
  • "Be careful not to saw off the limb you’re sitting on."

Matthew Croasmun

Matthew Croasmun

Associate Research Scholar

Matthew Croasmun is Associate Research Scholar and director of the Life Worth Living program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and lecturer of Humanities at Yale University.

Heading for a Downloadable Resource

Article

Lies and Dys-order

Ryan McAnnally-Linz

Article

What More Than Bread Constitutes Our Lives?

Matthew Croasmun

Gathering Joy
Video

Gathering Joy

Willie Jennings

The Future of Theology
Video

The Future of Theology

George Marsden

Life Worth Living and the University
Video

Life Worth Living and the University

Jonathan Holloway

Life Worth Living and the Utilitarian Tradition
Video

Life Worth Living and the Utilitarian Tradition

Julia Wise

Reading Theology as a Scholar and Teacher of Religious Studies
Video

Reading Theology as a Scholar and Teacher of Religious Studies

Tyler Roberts

Virtue and Flourishing
Video

Virtue and Flourishing

Katie Grimes

Theology in Our Pluralistic Moment
Video

Theology in Our Pluralistic Moment

Katherine Sonderegger

A Muslim Vision of the Life Worth Living
Video

A Muslim Vision of the Life Worth Living

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

2015 Christ and the Good Life Course at Yale Divinity School
Video

2015 Christ and the Good Life Course at Yale Divinity School

Miroslav Volf

Character, Flourishing & the Good Life: A Conversation with David Brooks and Miroslav Volf
Video

Character, Flourishing & the Good Life: A Conversation with David Brooks and Miroslav Volf

David Brooks

David Brooks & Miroslav Volf

Following Jesus as a Secular Progressive?
Video

Following Jesus as a Secular Progressive?

Tom Krattenmaker

Tom Krattenmaker & Tony Kriz

Theology of Joy
Video

Theology of Joy

N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright & Miroslav Volf

The Joy of Humility
Book

The Joy of Humility

Drew Collins

Drew Collins and others

The End of Youth Ministry?
Book

The End of Youth Ministry?

Andrew Root

Andrew Root and others

Exclusion and Embrace
Book

Exclusion and Embrace

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Always On
Book

Always On

Angela Gorrell

Angela Gorrell and others

For the Life of the World
Book

For the Life of the World

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

The Emergence of Sin
Book

The Emergence of Sin

Matthew Croasmun

Matthew Croasmun and others

Envisioning the Good Life
Book

Envisioning the Good Life

Matthew Croasmun

Matthew Croasmun and others

Flourishing
Book

Flourishing

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Public Faith in Action
Book

Public Faith in Action

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Joy and Human Flourishing
Book

Joy and Human Flourishing

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

A Public Faith
Book

A Public Faith

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Do We Worship The Same God?
Book

Do We Worship The Same God?

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Allah
Book

Allah

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Captive to the Word of God
Book

Captive to the Word of God

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Against the Tide
Book

Against the Tide

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

A Common Word
Book

A Common Word

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

The End of Memory
Book

The End of Memory

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Free of Charge
Book

Free of Charge

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

The Future of Hope
Book

The Future of Hope

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Practicing Theology
Book

Practicing Theology

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

Work in the Spirit
Book

Work in the Spirit

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

A Passion for God's Reign
Book

A Passion for God's Reign

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

After Our Likeness
Book

After Our Likeness

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others

The Future of Theology
Book

The Future of Theology

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf and others