Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 12, 2008
Pro-lifers advised to combine grace, tactics
Engage others with a tender heart, says prolife apologist
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Like Lieutenant Columbo of the television show, pro-life activists must step into action with grace, says prolife apologist Scott Klusendorf.
Rather than antagonize opponents with angry abortion talk, right-to-life advocates must use the Columbo tactic to get the discussion going in the direction they want, Klusendorf told about 70 people attending the Alberta Pro-Life Conference 2008.
"We have to have tender hearts towards the people we talk to but we need to be tough. We have to combine grace with tactics."
Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute and author of Pro-Life 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making your Case Persuasively was one of four presenters at the annual conference at King's University College May 2-3.
A dynamic speaker, Klusendorf travels throughout the U.S. and Canada training pro-life advocates to defend their views in the public square. He contends that the pro-life message can compete in the marketplace of ideas if properly understood and properly articulated.
Stepping into action with grace means engaging the other side with a tender heart, Klusendorf said.
"We've got to engage but we've got to do it graciously. I will tell you as a pro-life apologist that the days of us being able to confront people rudely, strongly, in their face - those days are over. We will not score points doing that."
One way in which prolifers can step into grace is by combining grace with tactics. This means getting off the hot seat and into the driver seat by using the tactics of Lieutenant Columbo in the television show Columbo.
"There is no better model for learning how to engage people in a way that seems so harmless but it's so effective," Klusendorf said. Columbo, a small, disheveled detective, played by Peter Falk, is not very eloquent, kind of bumbling in his rhetoric.
Dumb like a fox
His enemies think Columbo is never going to figure out the truth. "They don't realize he is dumb like a fox."
He asks his suspects questions and builds a case against them and they don't have a clue that he is getting them to hang themselves.
At the end of every show he asks one question that just blows the lid off a case. What suspects don't realize is that he is in the driver's seat the whole time.
Prolifers do the same thing by using the Columbo tactic, which is to ask direct questions that are meant to lead the discussion in a particular direction, Klusendorf said. The main three questions that make up this tactic are: What do you mean by that? How did you come to that conclusion? And have you considered that . . . ?
"(Using these questions) will help you engage people in a way that is tactically smart," the pro-life apologist said.
"This will work even when you are talking to your neighbour over the backyard fence."
Added Klusendorf: "You see, for many years prolifers have shouted conclusions rather than establishing facts and what we do with these Columbo questions is to engage people with a winsome, gracious way but in a way that helps us to get our truth across and in a way that makes them feel like they have been invited to a conversation."
When a pro-choice supporter says the embryo is not self-aware, the right Columbo question to ask is what do you mean by self-awareness? The next Columbo question should be why does self-awareness matter in the first place?
Then one's opponent should be confronted with the question have you considered that newborns are not self-aware either? Because if it is self-awareness that gives us value then newborns and even grandmas don't count, do they?
"Make them defend (their point of view). Make them give you an explanation. Don't bear the burden of proof. We Christians bear the burden of proof far too often. We just assume it - well, we don't have to. Let them defend it."
Klusendorf also urged his audience to step into action in faith. "I think we need to stop telling people the pro-life view isn't religious," he said. "We need to say it is absolutely religious but it's no more religious than the pro-abortion one. Everybody is doing religion."
When somebody comes to you and says your views are just a bunch of religious views, ask them a Columbo question, Klusendorf recommended. "What do you mean by religion? Ask them to define religion."
Religion, he said, is a comprehensive world view of how things ought to be and everybody uses it - from pro-life to pro-choice advocates - to explain their point of view.
"Everybody is using religion and we should not hide that fact."