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Taking Sides, an ongoing debate on controversial ideas

Editors Note: To increase opportunities for spiritual development, more than 11 different chapels are offered at Oklahoma Christian University. Assistant Features Editor Cynthia Knox organized this series to provide insight and encourage attendance of alternative chapels available to students. These stories were executed by students in a sophomore-level journalism class. We would like to thank the sponsors for their willingness to share their chapel with the Talon. If you attend this chapel, please comment and share your experience with the Oklahoma Christian community. 

By Nicole Lawrence

Taking Sides chapel lets the audience choose what they believe versus what to believe.

Taking Sides takes place every Tuesday in Judd Theater and challenges students to debate over a topic, which encourages them to think critically about questions that affect them as Christians. This chapel experience is vastly different in comparison to traditional chapel.

After check-in, Taking Sides begins with an introduction of the debate topic and two debaters. Next, each side gives their opening arguments. Then, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Brian Simmons functions as a mediator and asks questions for each side. The chapel also includes audience participation when the floor is opened to the audience to ask the debaters questions. Once the debate is over, Simmons concludes with a prayer.

“[Taking Sides] has evolved to focus more on exposing as much of the ideas discussed as possible, rather than following as formal of a debate structure as it originally did,” Takings Sides member Kevin McGuire said. “Over time, it has also shifted more from explicitly theological and religious themes, to more often focusing on Christian responses to cultural movements. Over the past 2 years, the attendance has increased from 20 to an average of 150 people.”

To prepare for each week, a team of volunteer-based debaters meets with Simmons to decide and prepare topics for each session. Abigail Kent, the communication coordinator for the team said, “the preparation is a huge part in the quality of the debate. The team members are all intelligent and know how to communicate well.”

Simmons chooses two members of the team and they have about 1-2 weeks to prepare their arguments. Sometimes, the team members are challenged with defending a side opposite of their personal views.

“I’ve had to take stances before that are different from what I actually believe, but it’s valuable to think critically and being able to present any argument,” Kent said. “Being able to see both sides of a situation is more valuable than being comfortable.”

Taking Sides explores a variety of topics, and is not limited to religion-based questions.

“We try to balance topics that are spiritual in nature with topics things that are going on in society, culture or also things that are more political in nature,” Kent said. “We try to balance between the three. Although, with the topics that aren’t excitedly religious, Dr. Simmons will usually ask us to tie those questions into a Christian worldview.”

Examples of past topics include: Does demon possession still exist and should Christians choose a candidate based on politics or morals? Most recently, they discussed if today’s society is too quick to assume blame of sexual misconduct. The team also tries to choose special holiday topics. For the week of Valentine’s Day, they will discuss whether it is appropriate for a woman to propose marriage to a man.

At the end of Taking Sides, the debate team uses Twitter polls to determine audience attitudes. Pre-discussion polls are taken to see how the audience already feels about the topic. Then, they open a post-discussion poll to see if they audience’s attitudes changed.

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