Greetings from Long Island. Despite NY’s best efforts at hiding road signs, I made it back onto the Island for the tenth “Great Debate” this coming Thursday evening. I hope to see all of our friends here in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area in just a few nights.
I need to bring something to the attention of those who pray for Alpha and Omega and the work we seek to undertake through this blog, the Dividing Line, etc. Very few understand that the debates that have blessed so many over the years are the result of the hard labor of a small number of people. Wonderful folks here on Long Island invest great sums of time, and money in arranging for the room in which the debate takes place, arranging the myriad of details involved in such a gathering, and advertising it so that a new audience is reached each year. But there is another investment as well, one that is very large.
Let me give you a little history. Did you know that video tape exists of my first debate against Gerry Matatics (Long Beach, 1990), and the first two debates against Fr. Pacwa (El Cajon, Jan. 1991)? Don’t bother going to our DVD page to find them: we don’t have them. Roman Catholic realtor and sometime apologist Scott Butler owns them. And he doesn’t distribute them. Why? Well, the first one isn’t out because he and Catholic Answers got into a spat over details of the distribution, so it was simply shelved. The two Pacwa debates (attended by a large audience and by such notables as Bart Brewer and Scott Hahn) did not, in Butler’s opinion, go real well, so, they are shelved, too. Now, it does seem odd, does it not, that though these debates featured me, I have no control over them? That is because back then we were, simply, clueless about such things. Butler told us, long ago now, that if we wanted to pay half of his production charges, we could have a copy of the debates. We did not then, and probably do not now, have that kind of money, so those debates, as valuable as they would be, remain locked away, undistributed.
Over the years we have learned our lessons, slowly. We learned a lot through the Barry Lynn debacle and the resultant lawsuit, and we have learned the hard way that we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves to get these debates video taped and recorded. So, here is what you may not know: Rich Pierce has over the past few years purchased and collected the equipment to record our debates, including sound boards, mixers, video cameras and all of the rest of the equipment you need (we even recently got speakers so we can do house sound, since that has been an issue a number of times). Yes, that cost a lot of money, and Rich has even had to learn how to use digital editing programs on our computers to produce the final products (a very time consuming process as well, I assure you). As a result, when a Roman Catholic like Mitch Pacwa or Bill Rutland or someone else enters into one of these debates, we send them a “contract” regarding the video taping. Unlike Mr. Butler of long ago, we do not ask them for any funds. Instead, in return for their participation, they get an unedited master video of the debate to do with as they please. They have equal rights to distribute the tape if they choose to do so, just as we do. And it costs them nothing. We provide the equipment, the people, the recording, and send them the tape, all at no cost to them.
Now, consider this coming Thursday evening. Consider the costs: hotels, travel, shipping, equipment, food…mainly for myself and Rich, who will be flying out the day before the debate. These costs are not split with my opponent. His transporation costs are covered from the ticket sales. He is not asked to provide anything to support the provision of the recording of the event. Some, but not all, of my costs are covered by wonderful believers on Long Island, and by the churches that have me speak when I am here. When you realize how fairly our materials are priced, you can see that in reality, if we ever do actually recover the costs of these debates, we do so years after the fact.
We have encountered some extra costs this year. I am not talking about emergencies or anything of the kind. I refuse to do the “Give now or all is doomed!” thing that evidently does work very, very well, from what I see on certain “Christian” television networks. Every fair reader of this blog knows we almost never talk money, almost never talk funds. It is not that we don’t have those needs, we do. But to do apologetics the way we believe it must be done requires that we refrain from doing things others evidently have liberty to do. In any case, if you have found the debates, and especially the Great Debate series, worthwhile (and I get the comment all the time that such-and-such a debate against Catholic apologist X was invaluable in bringing this person out of Roman Catholicism, or keeping this other person from going in), and would like to help make this one happen, we need to hear from you. There is a “support us” link on the bottom left of your screen that gives you info on how you can help. Rich will be letting me know what kind of response he sees before he flies out Wednesday, and that will determine how we handle some things on this trip. And, of course, if you already give, we thank you, and ask that you especially pray for this debate, and my health as well, as we seek to set forth the gospel this Thursday night.