Philosophy majors can be incredibly obnoxious. I should know. I was one.
Philosophy is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for evil. In the hands of a surgeon, a scalpel can be used to save a life. In the hands of a murderer, the same scalpel can be used to end a life.
Philosophy can be used to help people to believe true things. Not all of the topics that philosophers are interested in are terribly practical, but some of them have a significant effect on how we should live our lives. To give just a couple of examples, philosophy can help us come to more reasonable beliefs about whether God exists or not and what he is like if he does. Philosophy can also help us to understand ethics, how we should treat each other.
Unfortunately, philosophy can also be used to deceive people. If you study ideas enough, you can become very adept at bluffing. One of the particularly annoying ways that philosophy majors bluff is name-dropping philosophers they’ve read, sometimes subtly (but usually not).
For clarity, name-dropping is mentioning the names of famous people you know with the intention of impressing others. It isn’t name-dropping to quote something from someone and appropriately credit them.
Name-dropping can be frustrating and intimidating to some pro-life students, so here are my three suggestions for how to deal with name-droppers.
It has been a transformative year at Equal Rights Institute.
In our second full year as an organization we gave 27 speeches in Illinois, California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington, DC! Thanks to some great logistical planning from Jacob Nels, we also did five full-day seminars in California, Michigan, and Virginia. All in all we trained approximately 1,377 people!
It’s easy to think of these people as statistics. We have gotten fantastic responses from the students we have spoken to. Here’s just one testimonial from Anthony Jones, the Vice President of Robinson Rams for Life, a high school Students for Life club that I spoke to recently while in the DC area:
Mr. Brahm brought clarity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to our club in regards to the pro-life position. Although some of us had previous experience in defending life, the presentation enhanced everyone’s knowledge and gave us greater confidence to dialogue persuasively. Students came into the event with varying beliefs about abortion, but they all left with the common knowledge of a logical and charitable approach that championed equal rights. Once Mr. Brahm had concluded, one student exclaimed: ‘That was the best pro-life argument I’ve ever heard,’ already confirming that the presentation had made a tangible difference in equipping our club to accomplish its mission more effectively than ever before.
I created this list using the Google Analytics for the ERI blog, instead of complicating the process by incorporating stats from LifeNews.com, where many of our articles are later republished.
Our blog received 42,500 unique pageviews from more than 22,000 unique people this year. That’s a 46% decrease in pageviews from last year, which is entirely unsurprising to us, as we purposefully deprioritized writing blog posts this last year while we wrote and edited the Equipped for Life Course, increased our speaking trips, and moved our office across the country. As a comparison, in 2016 we only published 12 articles when we had published 40 articles in 2016! Regular blog posts will be a priority again in 2017, and I fully expect our numbers to jump back up as a result.
On to the list!
#5: Why We Need Male Sidewalk Counselors
Ever since I hired Jacob Nels in 2014, not long after launching ERI, I’ve told him that I want him to continue to occasionally sidewalk counsel. After hearing a lot of what Jacob has to say about the subject, I’ve come to believe that Jacob has come up with some very helpful techniques that would be helpful to other sidewalk counselors. Expect to see more articles and eventually a video addition to the Equipped for Life Course on sidewalk counseling tips. Until then you can hear Jacob share some of his tips in episodes 11 and 12 of the Equipped for Life podcast, both of which will come out this January.
The Equipped for Life course has only been out for about four months, but we’re already getting a sense for how it’s helping the people who’ve taken it.
My favorite bit of feedback we’ve received is from Rachel Crawford, the president of the University of Michigan Students for Life group. (Full disclosure, Rachel is also coming on staff next year, so she’s not unbiased, but her students are.)
One of the main concerns Tim and I had while creating this course was that people would take it, but wouldn’t then do the next step of talking to pro-choice people in their lives or during campus outreaches. What has happened with Rachel’s club gives me some hope that that’s not going to be a common problem.
This is how Rachel recently described the impact of the course on her club during an interview for the Equipped for Life podcast:
This was my students’ first exposure to Equal Rights Institute. They’re unanimously coming back to me and enthusiastically requesting we have more outreaches.
We went out and did outreach all day on a Saturday recently. Even the shy and quiet students, after watching some of the course or completing the entire course, were coming up to me saying, “I’m really quiet and I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to have a conversation today. But I totally stepped out of my comfort zone, and I totally gave it a try, and oh my gosh, I’m so happy I did! Can we do this next week?”
All of these students were super-excited. And we had the fortunate ability to have this outreach in the fall semester. We’ve had about 30 new students joining our club this year. The new students are telling me that “the dialogue tactics are helping me understand the proper mood and tone of the conversation. They’re making me feel more confident about opening a dialogue because I’ve learned about body language or learned about asking more clarification questions.”
Then the more experienced students are like, “I’ve been reading apologetics books all through high school and I’m super-excited.” Those students are really refreshed by the materials and the actual content of the more advanced parts of the course.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my closest childhood friends. Our conversation quickly turned to the election because he and his wife have been agonizing over what to do with their votes. These are very godly, very pro-life people. They take this decision seriously and are still trying to figure what to do. My guess is that they will probably begrudgingly vote for Trump, and I won’t.
And that’s okay. We will still love each other after the election.
The question I’ve been concerned about lately is: can pro-life people do the same with their friends and colleagues who make different voting decisions next month? Or will the pro-life movement face an unprecedented and catastrophic level of division?
I told my friend yesterday, “I just want this election to be over. We’re all sick of it. But here’s my hope for what happens next: I hope that all of the people who have agonized over this decision can come together afterward, even though some of their friends also agonized over the decision and made a different choice.”
This election has been a uniquely divisive one. It’s probably the toughest election pro-life advocates have ever had to deal with. We are all doing our best in an awful situation.
I’m not saying both sides are right. On the question of whether to vote for Trump, there is an actual right decision and an actual wrong decision, but it is admittedly very difficult to determine which decision is right. I definitely have an opinion, but I believe reasonable and virtuous people can disagree.