Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Roman Myths: Example 127,956. "Packing" the Audience
09/06/2010 - James WhiteEvery few weeks a thread pops up on the Catholic Answers forums relating to yours truly. Most are normally "eye-rollers" involving the penchant of folks to only want to listen to one side, find a quick and easy rebuttal that has little to do with truth, and move on. But recently one has popped up regarding the issues relating to Peter Stravinskas and the proposed debate that ended up being done by Christopher Ferrara (on the Immaculate Conception). Here was my last commentary on the situation. As you may recall, Stravinskas was threatening to take legal action over utterly un-actionable statements on my part simply announcing the cancellation of the debate, and why (that being his demand to control what would, and would not, be posted on line as far as clips from the debate---a demand never made by anyone before, and a demand I will never allow). During the course of our interaction, Stravinskas has been arrogant, unkind, and insulting. But given that he lives in a world where everyone calls him "Father" and defers to him, I doubt he is even aware of his behavior. In any case, he has made a false allegation against me, and I would like to point out that he, and everyone else repeating it, is once again showing their predilection for falsehood.
Stravinskas had originally claimed that I had in some sense packed the audience with my followers. This false assertion is picked up by "bona fides," one of the forum members:
But it was very clear to me from the video in the #2 link that White had salted the audience with deeply studied Protestant "experts" and that the audience was overwhelmingly stacked against Fr. Stravinskas.
This is simply absurd on its face. The debate was widely advertised on WMCA radio. Chris Arnzen did everything in his power to get both Catholics and Protestants to attend. Does this writer seriously think I was running about Long Island looking for "deeply studied Protestant experts" to attend the debate and ask audience questions? Most folks know I do not find audience questions particularly useful, and do not think a debate would be missing anything at all if that time was given to the prepared speakers instead of the unprepared audience members, who, 85-90% of the time are not even asking a question, they just want to join in the argument! When I debated Hamza Abdul Malik just a few years before on Long Island, and 80% of the questions were by Muslims or non-Trinitarians, had I just forgotten to "salt" my audience that night? When a group of little old Catholic ladies sat on the front row during the priesthood debate with Mitch Pacwa, verbally "participating" regularly, was Pacwa then to be charged with "salting" the audience? I might well consider that allegation when it comes to the amazing audiences we encountered in Fullerton in our two debates with Tim Staples, including the ever-popular "Eucharist!" shouting argument used there (and the repeatedly whispered "Heretic!" that my children heard coming from those seated around them)! But it is just absurd beyond comment to accuse me of "salting" or "packing" the audience. I had absolutely nothing to do, whatsoever, with the composition of the audience. I spoke at various churches, people attended. I assume Stravinskas did (or could have done) the same thing.
The audience question that I have posted on YouTube was offered by a man I had never met before that evening, as far as I know. He did come up to me, either before the debate, or during the break, I don't remember which, and asked if I thought his was a good question. I wasn't overly excited about it, ran a few possible responses through my mind, and said, as I recall, that it was at least on topic. But I haven't any idea who the man was or is, and he came up with the question solely on his own.
The rest of "bona fides" comments were equally absurd, and he ends with this insightful commentary:
People like White are opportunist and dirty-players. White tries to claim that father caused him to scrub/cancel a debate that he admits was never contracted. What a double speaking serpentine tactic. White plays dirty and has to resort to cheap tricks to advance himself. And that's the whole problem with debating White - its not at all about building up the Kingdom its about advancing White's finances and ego. Men like White eventually go down hard and in flames. It will be truly "interesting" to see it when it all comes back on himů
And all that for presenting a biblical case for justification against the Roman myth of purgatory! Amazing how personally insulting and nasty these folks can be while complaining about others! But this is what you should expect on web forums---the anonymity of the keyboard often removes all semblance of civility and maturity. In any case, Stravinskas then commented in the thread. He repeats his false and groundless accusation that I said he had "backed out" of the debate (I challenge him to produce this statement---I have posted the e-mails for anyone to read). Notice his words, "Therefore, my refusal to participate on July 20 was not "backing out" (as though I was intimated by the theological acumen and debating skills of Mr. White); rather, he had failed to comply with the original demands." Honest folks can read what I wrote and discern that Stravinskas is not only unfair, he seems to think he's a mind reader as well. He then writes, "Mr. White danced around the issue in several emails." Notice the repeated disrespect (and dishonesty, in light of the posted e-mails). Read through those e-mails, notice Stravinskas' repeated insults, and then note his words:
I cannot say the same for the man for whom he seeks speaking and debating engagements; one need only read Mr. White's post to discover nastiness and arrogance writ large.
Projection is such a common thing. In any case, he then repeats another false accusation: "My fundamental (no pun intended) mistake was even entertaining a Round Two with the man. As someone noted earlier here, he had packed the audience for Round One with groupies from hundreds of miles away." Again, this is a lie that, evidently, Mr. Stravinskas (see how easy that is?) is intent upon repeating. Ironic, given his threat to take legal action, that he would keep repeating a manifestly false statement. I wonder what evidence he has that I "packed" the audience? He might wish to make sure that evidence is solid.
But Stravinskas didn't stop there. Remembering how poorly he did in our 2001 debate (that happens when you show up without even attempting to study or understand your opponent's position), it is ironic that he then says:
Debating White just gives him a forum. Let him wallow in silence, conducting his meetings in some now-unused phone booth. As I noted at the end of my entry, experience -- both personal and historical -- demonstrate that little or nothing is gained from debates.
The overflowing kindness of this priest of Rome surely witnesses to the nature of his vocation. Remember, Stravinskas knows so little about my life and work he thinks debating is my source of income (a truly humorous assumption on his part). But the most ironic thing is that this is posted on the web forums of Catholic Answers---an "apostolate" built originally upon challenging folks to---debate! My first debate challenge was from none other than Catholic Answers. Obviously, debate has become less and less a part of their work. But to add to the irony (one might even consider it hypocrisy) guess what banner ad showed up the first time I looked at this thread? The non-debate on the Bible Answer Man broadcast between myself and Jimmy Akin. You really wonder at the mindset of folks who can see those ads, know that there have been other debates they don't even mention (my recent encounter with Tim Staples on purgatory being a notable example), know that what they are selling is now over a decade old, and yet they will put up with rhetoric like that posted above. Well, as I've always said, for the true follower of Rome, whatever makes Rome look good will be accepted, whatever doesn't will be rejected. Sola ecclesia's circularity is amazing to observe.
But for the record: it is a lie to accuse me of "packing" or "salting" the audience. I suggest Stravinskas either document the allegation, or withdraw it. All repetitions of it only demonstrate an utter disregard for honesty on the part of anyone engaging in such false witness.