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Jun 01, 2017 1132 Julie Lai,
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5 Tips for Arguing about Tough Catholic Truths in the Classroom

Rest in peace my grades. Rest in peace all of my friends and any amount of “coolness” that I had. It was nice knowing you.

I did a class presentation against abortion during my sophomore year of high school. On that day I was pretty sure I was committing academic and social suicide.

But, hey, I am alive to tell the story. I am here to say that I won over the entire class. The teacher was crying. We even prayed a rosary together.

Just kidding. That presentation I did was pretty bad. But I have learned a lot from it. Since then I have done a handful of presentations, in-class discussions and papers on topics from the existence of God to other Catholic social teachings like pornograhy and genetic engineering.

I have learned a lot from failing and learning how to succeed. I learned that it does not actually have to be academic or social suicide. Frankly, your classmates have probably only heard what popular media has told them about these positions. They have probably never heard it said intelligently, charitably or from someone your age.

You have a beautiful opportunity to show them differently and here are some tips on how to do that:

Use Good Sources

We live in a culture where everything posted online is taken as “truth.” But you are smarter than that and so are your teacher and classmates. While they may be good places to start, avoid citing Catholic or any sketchy looking websites. There are plenty of good philosophical and secular (not religious) scientific sources to back you up. A good example of this is pornkillslove.com. At the bottom of every article there are dozens of academic journals listed, which makes them trustworthy.

Meet Your Audience Where They Are

What kind of people are in your class? What are the common misconceptions when it comes to this topic? Answering these questions are key to addressing your audience.

Here are some examples:

◗ Saying “Birth control is not just a religious issue” will open up the conversation and debunk misconceptions.

◗ Saying, “Pornography is especially damaging to women because … ” will address the people who care about women’s issues.

◗ If you are a guy and talking about abortion, saying, “I know I am a male and cannot experience what being pregnant feels like but …” acknowledges what people are already thinking.

Do Not Be Overly Emotional

Tread lightly. Remember, you are in an academic setting. Sometimes coming off too emotionally invested can make you lose academic credibility. Alarming statistics and real personal narratives should be able to speak for themselves. Preaching in this setting can come off as cheesy. Plastering photos of babies on powerpoint and using common sayings like, “Your mom was pro life” and “What if your best friend was aborted?” honestly are not very helpful and do not offer a lot of academic insight.

Be Charitable

Seriously. It is better to not speak at all than to speak without love. A good starting point is to practice charity and love with your classmates and teacher long before and after your presentation or debate. You should be doing this anyway, but especially when you talk about a tough topic. They will better understand your heart.

A second tip is to watch your tone. If people feel like you are condescending or belittling them, they will immediately close off and become defensive. One way you can do this is to acknowledge other sides and demonstrate that you get where they are coming from. Be compassionate to that.

Offer It All Up for the Glory of God

It is tempting to make this all about us and try to show off that we are the smartest person in the room. We are not. We have been graced to know truth and given even more grace to share it. Depend on that grace. It is not about what we do, but what God does with our openness. Before even writing out a single word tell Jesus that this assignment is His and you want to do what He wants with it.

If you do this, you do not have to be a slave to fear because it is not your work but His. You can be confident in that. Somewhere in between the statistics and the compassion in your voice, we can pray that others will be able to experience the heart of Jesus.

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Julie Lai

Julie Lai is a college student from California. Falling in love with Jesus has been her wildest adventure and she wants everyone to join! You can find more of her writings on Twitter @julsthecatholic. This article was originally published in Lifeteen.com. Reprinted with permission.

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