Financial District, NEW YORK–The students of The King’s Debate Society (KDS) exercised their rhetoric and realized the King’s vision at the second annual Empire State Debate Tournament Feb. 2-3, which hosted about 120 debaters and judges from eleven schools, some journeying from as far as Florida and Montana.
“I didn’t expect to see all of this stuff reinforcing the fact that it’s an evangelical school,” a debater from the University of Vermont said, gesturing to a nearby wall-hanging that bore 2 Chronicles 15:12-15 and was signed by faculty, staff and students.
A debater from Rocky Mountain College in Montana said, “At Rocky Mountain we have a denominational affiliation, but you wouldn’t know that unless you read the student handbook. I thought it was much different here, that Christianity is something you see on the campus.”
KDS debate coach Burk Obayashi said most of the schools at the tournament knew that King’s was a Christian school. “A lot just knew because we’ve been in the community and we have a close relationship with a lot of them,” he said.
However, most debaters and judges at the tournament said they weren’t sure what to expect coming to a Christian school in New York City. Serenity Richardson (’16) said, “I remember seeing one person walk past our front desk and laugh that we had Fox News on.”
The KDS coordinated volunteers, transported food from Costco and carefully chose the wording for every motion. The most controversial motion was “This house believes that pornography harms the viewer.”
One judge from University of Vermont said he thought it was “commendable” that King’s engaged in debate about pornography. Two of six individual Patrick Henry College teams forfeited the round on matter of conscience, feeling uncomfortable in the position of arguing that pornography is not harmful. KDS President Greg DuBois (’13) said via email that they are “totally willing to engage on the topic, but they would say that limited prep, switch-side debate is an inappropriate venue in which to do so.”
“Christians can look at a motion about porn and think, ‘I don’t agree with my assigned position, so I guess I have to forfeit,’ or they can choose to engage the idea,” alumnus Matthias Clock, co-founder of KDS and TKC Communications Coordinator, said. Clock views such motions as opportunities for people to search human nature and the soul.
King’s debaters have been engaging ideas on and off the debate floor. Clock said that when he participated in KDS he “once had lunch with an existentialist and a Muslim…at Yale. I got to have a great discussion with them about Jesus. In debate, people are getting to hear truth in a way that’s not preachy.”
Part of the King’s vision is to “exchange ideas in open debate with those who espouse different views.” Clock re-phrased it: “Debate is a search for real truth, not an assumed truth that you push on others.”
The visiting debaters and judges commented on the unique city campus. One judge said that coming from China, he realized that big campuses with beautiful lawns and trees were nothing if the school had a corrupt administration and were not teaching the right ideas in class. He said, “It doesn’t matter what your building is like. It matters what kind of minds you’re producing.”
This article has been updated to reflect the following clarification: PHC debaters who forfeited the round on pornography did not wish to stifle discussion about topic but chose to abstain on matter of conscience. The Tribune regrets not making this point explicit.