By Aimee Stauf (originally published in PHC Herald)
Patrick Henry College
PHC students cluttered together in the student lounge at King’s College in New York City for a British Parliamentary debate tournament the weekend of Feb. 2-3, waiting for the motion that would splinter the collection of college students to prep for the debate.
This house believes that watching porn harms the viewer.
It took Rachel Aldrich a split second to realize that she was picked to argue against that motion, in favor of pornography. Her partner, Kira Clark, spoke up. They couldn’t debate that round.
“Even though [Clark] made the call, there was not a moment of disagreement on what needed to be done,” Aldrich said. “We didn’t feel like we could conscientiously defend it.”
While the two teams assigned to oppose that motion abstained the round and forfeited their chance to compete in semi-finals, two other PHC teams did advance, with duo Lanson Hoopai and Lydia Bode competing in the final round.
Hoopai and Bode are one of only three PHC teams to debate in the final round of a tournament. Last semester, partners Ryan McDonald and Joseph Samelson won the novice final round, but that round was just for less competitive, first year British Parliamentary debaters.
Since the final round is not ranked, that means a second, third, or fourth place for Hoopai and Bode. This is only Hoopai’s second tournament, so he was not expecting to advance to the final round. “When they pointed to us, my heart just literally stopped,” Hoopai said. “I didn’t expect that at all.”
But the thought of the two forfeited PHC teams also lingered at the back of Hoopai’s mind. “The two novice teams are breaking [into semi-finals] partially because our more experienced teams had to give themselves up for the Christian cause,” he said.
Even after the “porn” round, debaters continued to discuss the topic of morality and pornography for the rest of the tournament.
Clark spoke with Toby, a debater against whom she has debated at previous tournaments.
“He’s very intrigued by Christian conservatives, specifically by Patrick Henry students because they seem to defy every stereotype he has about Christian conservatives,” she said. “He had questions regarding the Christian faith and how that plays into life and how we address people with different perspectives.”
McDonald also had the opportunity to share his beliefs. “It was probably the best witnessing opportunity that we’ve had in a long time,” he said, referring to a debater, Danny, who came up to him after the round with questions about McDonald’s beliefs. They continued their conversation throughout the rest of the tournament.
McDonald said that debating in a tournament with those who do not believe in Christianity reminds him to focus on the purpose behind debate. “We’re able to use success in debate as a springboard upon which we can share the gospel,” he said.