by Johnny Murdoc
Tonight, Ben Schuldt’s Responsible Public Debate and The Ethical Society of St. Louis are hosting a debate, “Is there a sacred dimension to human sexuality?” SEX+STL’s Anna Bent will debate Matthew Anderson, author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith and contributor to the blog Mere Orthodoxy.
I’m genuinely excited for tonight’s debate, so I asked Schuldt about RPD, the Ethical Society, and the debate:
Can you tell us a little about Responsible Public Debate and why you founded it?
Responsible Public Debate is a non-partisan debate forum dedicated to promoting respectful in depth exchanges of ideas across ideological divides in this culture. I founded it because I think communication is the first step in fixing any of our problems. I think it’d be great if RPDs sprung up all over the country in every city and everyone just took it for granted that our culture regularly steps up to debate the important issues.
Responsible Public Debate is held in conjunction with the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Can you tell us a little about the Ethical Society?
The Ethical Society of St. Louis is an ethics-centered, Humanist, religious community committed to creating a world in which all people choose to live ethically. It’s kind of an atheist church where we focus on the real world instead of supernatural nonsense, though there are liberal theists who attend. Anyone out there from any perspective is welcome to attend as long as they are willing to put the humanitarian concerns of this life first.
What drew you to the topic of sexuality for a RPD discussion?
The morality of sex is important culturally for a number of reasons. For example, sex education has been shown to reduce the need for abortions, but pro-life and pro-choice positions are unable to compromise there because of beliefs about sex in addition to beliefs about when life begins. So many of these big issues are related even though sex is a very personal matter. Plus, merely living in a society where more people have a healthy understanding of sex is inherently a good thing.
What is the format for the debate?
Both positions have 10 minute opening statements. They each have two 5 minute opportunities to respond to each other’s arguments. Then they each wrap up with a 2 minute closing.
Will the public have a chance to ask questions or introduce ideas?
Absolutely. The second hour of the evening is devoted to audience Q and A. Also, the follow up group discussion two weeks later adds even more opportunities to interact with our debaters in a less formal way.
Our readers are probably familiar with Anna Bent, but can you tell us a little about Mr. Anderson?
I met Matthew Anderson through the Journey church’s Midrash forum, Theology at the Bottleworks. As I understand it, he’s one of the leaders of the Journey church. He regularly contributes to the blog Mere Orthodoxy. He’s written a book called, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith. Matthew a tall blond Canadian who is very passionate about his views and I admire his willingness to engage with people who starkly disagree with him.
Tonight’s debate will be held at The Ethical Society of St. Louis at 9001 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO:
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Responsible Public Debate can be found on Facebook and YouTube, where you can watch past debates in their entirety.