I hope that as more groups purchase the Equipped for Life Course, they will be prepared to participate in more outreach events like polling tables. Having a strategic plan in mind and practical supplies on hand can help your event be a greater success. Speaking as the president of a Students for Life (SFL) group that does regular outreach, here are my ten tips:
#1: Code of Conduct Agreement
I highly recommend asking each volunteer to sign a code of conduct agreement prior to arriving at outreach so they know what sort of behavior is expected and prohibited. It can be as simple as a non-violence pledge and the information of an emergency contact. You’ll want to keep these forms in a folder or binder with you at the outreach site in case something goes amiss. It also makes it really easy to respond to angry pro-choice people that say we’re like people who bomb clinics. You can just say, “No, we aren’t,” but it’s more convincing to say, “No, we aren’t, in fact everyone from our club has signed a volunteer agreement stating that they are opposed to violence against abortion practitioners and their facilities.”
If it would help you get started, you can feel free to download the volunteer agreement ERI uses when leading outreaches and edit it however you see fit.
#2: Schedule Volunteer Shifts
You will need to have volunteers sign up for shifts throughout the day, preferably that overlap by 15-30 minute intervals so you can switch out gracefully. Keep in mind that you may run into a situation where several volunteers at a time will be in the middle of dialogues, so try to have as many people scheduled at the event as you can without creating a crowd around the table.
I asked Rebecca Haschke from Justice For All to join me for a practical dialogue tips session at the 2017 Students for Life of America conference in D.C. so that we could spend the last part of the session doing a mock dialogue!
- Josh Brahm – Tip 1: Ask Lots of Clarification Questions – 00:00
- Josh Brahm – Tip 2: Don’t Make Arguments with Question Marks – 05:25
- Rebecca Haschke – Tip 3: Listen to Understand – 08:03
- Rebecca Haschke – Tip 4: Find Genuine Common Ground When Possible – 22:51
- Josh Brahm and Rebecca Haschke – Mock Dialogue – 28:05
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.
You can’t dialogue well about abortion or anything else unless you learn to listen well. It should be obvious to anyone that if you want to listen well you shouldn’t interrupt people when they’re in the middle of a sentence. Something much less obvious is that you shouldn’t interrupt people when they’re in the middle of an important thought. An excellent listener should develop both the wisdom to recognize and the patience to allow space for a thinking pause.
There are two types of pauses that can take place after someone finishes talking: 1) a conclusion pause, and 2) a thinking pause. A conclusion pause takes place when the person has concluded his statement and is ready for you to jump in with your thoughts. A thinking pause takes place when the person hasn’t actually concluded; when he intends to continue but needs to stop to think.
The problem is that these types of pauses strongly resemble each other. When someone needs a five to ten second pause in between sentences, he doesn’t usually tell you, “Hang on, give me a second to formulate my thought.” You can’t count on everyone to be that articulate of a communicator.
The change we’ve made to the way we argue for equal treatment for the unborn, and why we made it.
It’s been almost a year since I started this blog and by far my most popular post is my explanation of the basic Equal Rights Argument that I and my colleagues at Justice For All have been using in conversations with pro-choice people. It became so effective that I called it the “most undervalued argument in the pro-life movement.”
We’re arguing that if adult humans deserve equal treatment, that must be because they all have something in common, and it must be a property that they all have equally. We try to figure out what that property is that seems to be grounding equal treatment, and then ask whether the unborn also has that property equally. If they do, then the unborn deserve equal treatment.
What is the property that human adults have equally? Originally, we were saying that it seems like we all have “humanness” in common. If someone asks why “humanness” matters, I would say something like, “I believe there’s this guy who walked out of his own tomb 2,000 years ago. He believed in the Torah, which says that God made humans in His own image, that He did something special with humans that He didn’t do with other animals, giving me a reason to believe that ‘humanness’ might morally matter.”
But as I’ve used this argument lately, I’ve noticed there’s a pragmatic problem: it’s not terribly convincing to pro-choice atheists who immediately brush off the argument as inherently religious. That’s a practical problem, but I think there’s an even greater problem philosophically: the “humanness” argument can’t account for the right to life of fictional aliens.
Remember that scene in Men in Black where Tommy Lee Jones is hilariously interrogating Frank?