For those of you wondering why my Twitter feed was so active last Friday night, let me take a moment to explain the significant event that took place at my church that evening. ABC News (Nightline) organized a debate at the Ballard campus of Mars Hill Church featuring Pastor Mark Driscoll, Annie Lobert (executive director of “Hookers for Jesus”), Bishop Carlton Pearson, and Dr. Deepak Chopra. The topic: the existence of Satan. Click here to see Nightline’s website on the event.
I scored one of the few available tickets and brought along my laptop, so I could “live Tweet” for the many people who couldn’t be there. Partly, this had to do with geography, and partly, it had to do with limited ticket availability. In addition, ABC wouldn’t let anyone record the event, so their final cut would have been the only version out there of the event. I also wanted to make sure that Jesus got fair representation.
You’re probably wondering how in the world I managed to write so much, so fast. It was an approximately two hour taping, so I did have a lot of time to cover. But, I also have a bit of experience taking notes at debates, since I did a lot of debate in high school and college. I’m also a very fast typist, which helps.
What follows is my entire “tweet script” of the event. After that, I’ve also included my final analysis from the debate. For the purposes of this blog post, I removed some of the tweet tags and lingo to fit this medium. I also fixed my grammar and spelling errors that I made in my haste to post in the moment (so help me, I’m an English instructor).
My overall reporting strategy was to be fair and unbiased, even though I couldn’t help myself from inserting a few little commentaries here and there. It’s quite possible that once the ABC special airs, you’ll find places that I messed up quotes, misattributed things, or missed key argument points. For this, I apologize in advance and ask that you extend me some grace as you keep in mind the speed and haste with which I produced this document. But as a whole, I hope it represents the overall tone and key points of the debate. I’m also not the only one who tweeted during the event. You can see the full tweets from all who attended by using this search link.
Lots of exciting buzz going on in here. ABC said I can’t take pictures. Shoot. Words will have to suffice.
I swear, I didn’t take this. http://twitpic.com/2aro9
Overhearing a conversation about the benefits of meditation, the non-Biblical kind. There’s a first for church.
Welcome team is rolling out the red carpet. Feeling very welcomed. Somebody reserved 3 seats next to me while I was wandering around. Wondering who is going to claim them. Might be interesting
Sitting next to some people from the Genesis center, a new age place. Meeting all types of interesting people tonight.
Pastor Mark takes the stage. Thunderous applause drowns out Dan Harris
And tonight at Mars Hill Church, the men on stage are wearing black, including Bishop Pearson, who is wearing black with a whole lot of bright purple.
Dan Harris: “It’s possible that some on this stage believe that others on the stage are doing the work of Satan.”
Pastor Mark gets the first word. Very poised. Preaching the gospel, from the start. Yup, there’s Jesus in there.
Chopra: “We are divine and diabolical at the same time…this is the human condition.”
Chopra: “Healthy people do not have any need for Satan.” Chopra’s advice for us: “Be done with Satan and confront your own issues.”
Lobert: “As I continued to get raped and beat up by my client…I understood what I was seeking in my flesh would end up destroying me.”
Pearson: “The first person I cast the devil out of was my girlfriend.”
Pearson: “We were prepared to meet the devil, and he showed up. He always shows up when you have faith in him.”
Pearson: “Christians will sometimes defend the devil more than they will defend God.”
Switching tapes, so we’re pausing for moment for the commentator to compliment the debaters.
4 min to answer, 2 min respond, 1 min rebuttal. Then open to internet and audience questions.
Awesome. Pastor Mark just fist bumped Dan Harris during the break.
Pastor Mark up first.
Pastor Mark is now quoting scripture. Colossians 2.
Pastor Mark: “If you don’t have choice, you don’t have love.”
Chopra responds. Claims that the Big Bang contradicts what Pastor Mark said. (What’s evolution got to do with it?)
Chopra is upset that Pastor Mark is assuming that God is a He. Is willing to acknowledge some sort of divine thing out there.
Chopra: “Nature is capricious, but nature is not evil.”
Breaking format. Lobert speaking now.
Chopra asks how we know God is He. Pastor Mark responds, “Easy…Jesus.”
Lobert and Driscoll fist bump. On camera this time.
Pearson (directed at Lobert): “There is whoring in the church too.”
Pearson quoting scripture, saying that all God created is good, so how could he create bad?
Pearson: “I have preached the typical fundamentalist gospel all my life…you believe what you create…you become what you think about.”
Pearson: Calling Jesus’ virgin birth part of “mythological Christianity” along with the Devil.
Pearson: “Leave the Devil where y’all found him.”
Pearson: “I believe in the mystical Jesus rather than the mythical Jesus.”
Pastor Mark responds. Telling Pearson that the Satan he presents isn’t the one from the Bible.
Pastor Mark: “How do you account for the fact that “Evil, injustice, and sin still occurs?”
Pearson is setting up Pastor Mark to preach the gospel. Asking what did Jesus accomplish on the cross. Watch Pastor Mark go!
Chopra: “Evil has only appeared in the world when human beings have shown up.”
Moderator is asking Pearson if he can pick and choose what he can believe from the Bible.
Pearson says, “Actually yes,” to huge laughter from the audience.
Pearson is trying to say the Bible isn’t trustworthy, translations and such. Can’t wait for Pastor Mark’s well researched response.
Pearson: “Christianity has borrowed a lot of myth. We cannot prove any of the letters to be authentic.”
Lobert responds. Bible “It’s the word of God. Anything you add to it or take away makes it null and void. There has to be a standard.”
Pastor Mark: “Some of the claims are poor academically.” (I hate to say I told you so…but here he goes….)
Pastor Mark: “Do you really think people got together and voted” on this form of faith? Great tension breaking joke.
Pastor Mark teasing Pearson for judging Lobert for wearing expensive jewelry and doing something that she shouldn’t do in the Bible.
Pastor Mark to Pearson: “You believe in the resurrection and not the Devil?” meaningful pause.
Pastor Mark to Chopra: “I love you. I want good for you.”
Chopra: “We can choose evolution or entropy.”
Another tape break. Makeup reapplication for debaters. Pastor Mark is getting his forehead powdered. hehe.
Chopra: “The divine and the diabolical are different faces of the infinite.”
Pastor Mark: “There are more wars and death than ever at the same time there is more enlightenment.” Two contradictions by Chopra.
Pastor Mark: “I put my faith in the man that this book (pointing at the Bible) tells the story of.”
Chopra is trying to quote scripture. Confusing everyone.
Pastor Mark managed to understand Chopra’s ramble and said he needed to not spout Aramaic but go to Hebrew.
Pastor Mark: “God is gracious and loving, so I trust God to do what is best.”
Lobert: “I saw demons, was raped by them.”
Lobert: “God loves sex. In the context of marriage.”
Lobert: “When I came to, I saw red eyes and black faces. How do you explain the face. The feeling you’re getting pulled into hell.”
Lobert: “A demon will never tell you to save someone…it will tell you to sleep with 10 guys, make some money.”
Chopra: Says that whatever Lobert’s interpretation is, “It works for her.”
Pearson says of Lobert’s experience: “She created that.”
Pearson: “I know preachers who can’t sleep at night. It’s not just prostitutes who experience that.”
Moderator: “Essentially you’re psychologizing what to her is a very real reality.”
Pearson: “The pimp is the devil”
Pearson is calling Lobert “sweetheart.” Condescending?
Pearson to Lobert: “The more you believe that will happen, the more it will happen.”
Pearson is talking about what “we believe” in African “spiritism” and “voodoo.” He reconciles that with being a “Christian” too?
Changing a tape and opening it up to questions
Watching chivalrous Pastor Mark fill up Lobert’s water mug before his own.
Now they are answering audience questions.
Man asking questions to all: “What happens end time? All persons saved?”
Pastor Mark dives in to that one: “Some separated from God, some with him forever.”
Woman to Pastor Mark: “What if there was no good and evil?” Pastor Mark claims public school education…doesn’t understand.
Hypothetical question raised to Pastor Mark about no good and evil. Pastor Mark looks flabbergasted.
Pastor Mark: “If you believe everything is one, you can’t believe in good and evil. If you believe in God, he’s the objective standard.”
Pastor Mark to Pearson: “You think that if I punched you, you wouldn’t say that was bad?”
Moderator to Chopra: “You make it sound like it’s a big practical joke.”
Pearson: “We have demonized so much!”
Another question from an audience member. To Chopra and Pearson. “You said, “All belief is a cover up of insecurity.”" Touché.
Another question from audience to Pastor Mark. Calling him selfish for holding to a Truth. Needs to entertain another idea.
Chopra: “As soon as you define God, you limit God. “
Question to Chopra and Pearson: “Why is their Truth of science stronger than Lobert’s experience?”
Chopra is claiming to be more enlightened than the audience member asking question.
Chopra to audience member: “I want you to be saved” back to him “I want you to be saved.”
Chopra to audience member: “I wrote two books on Jesus, read them.”
Pastor Mark: “We can’t blame the devil for everything. The decisions we make, the errors we make.”
Pastor Mark: “Bush is totally not under my jurisdiction.”
Pastor Mark: “They don’t murder men for feeding the poor, they murder men for claiming to be God.”
Pearson: “Jesus is not to be worshiped”
Pastor Mark to Pearson: “Is evil going to be in heaven?” Answer: “Of course not.”
Chopra: “Our goal is to seek the enlightenment that Jesus spoke of.”
Pastor Mark: “If your mind is the product of evolutionary consciousness and development, how do you trust it so implicitly?”
Chopra: Doesn’t trust his mind. “I do trust my spirit implicitly.”
Pastor Mark helping out Lobert. Retelling her story as an example of EVIL.
Pearson blaming “animalistic spirit” for evil…for Hitler, for recent Chimp attack in news…for Lobert’s attack.”
Pearson: “I think I have some measure of the anointing.”
Pearson: “Most fundamentalists of any religion, their thinking is obscured.”
Chopra: says Gandhi carried the Sermon on the Mount with him.
Time for closing statements.
Lobert .She’s crying. “God is love. He exists. The Devil exists. They’re both real. You can’t have one without the other.”
Pearson. Quoting Darwin. Says he’s been “in Deepak’s camp for many years.”
Pearson: “Nobody is attacking Jesus. We love Jesus.”
Pastor Mark is reading from the bible for his final statement. That’s it. “We know that the Son of God has come…we are in Him…”
Pastor Mark “He is the TRUE God and eternal life”
Chopra quoting the Essenes, whom he claims influenced Jesus.
That’s it! Standing ovation for the debaters.
I just hugged a New Ager and invited him back to our church anytime. This was so cool.
Amy’s Post-Debate Analysis:
What an exciting event! I’ve never been to a debate like this, and I don’t expect I’ll see anything like this again. Part of the excitement had to do with the audience, who were simply buzzing. The people on stage played their part, too. The most remarkable part of their role was that they managed, for the most part, to remain civil while talking about a subject over which people have fought bloody wars. And typically, people just aren’t civil when discussing this. It was refreshing to experience.
Oddly enough, the debate didn’t focus on Satan very much. The main focus ended up being the Bible and whether it can be trusted, and who is Jesus? Evil got lots of mentions in there too. But Satan himself didn’t get a lot of airtime. And while the debater in me wants the form to be honored a bit more, the Jesus lover in me is glad that the focus shifted. But I am concerned that the editors at ABC will be cutting out all the good Jesus stuff in favor of the limited Satan stuff.
People have been asking, who do you think won the debate? While it’s true that traditional debates have a winner and loser, this setup didn’t lend itself to that kind of determination. Nobody really stuck to the “rules” anyway. Plus, I’m about as biased as you can get. Of course, I think Pastor Mark and Lobert, on the “Satan Exists” side won. But, I’ll give some justification for that position.
Pearson was very humorous, but not in the same way that Pastor Mark was. Pearson was funny because we liked to laugh at him. He regularly set himself up for ridicule. It was really hard to respect his position when he was saying that evil existed, but somehow, it wasn’t going to be in heaven, even though everyone could go there. He also got a lot of laughs, at him, not with him, when he claimed that he could pick and choose what he wanted to believe in the Bible. His credibility went out the window entirely when he claimed to believe in voodoo and spiritualism, in addition to his Christianity. And we all stopped listening when he started talking about menstrual cycles (I didn’t quote it because I couldn’t figure out his point). This guy made his own religion in his own image.
Chopra gave Pastor Mark the biggest battle, but he was also so much in a different camp, they were arguing from completely different planets. While Pearson had at least some Judeo/Christian values mixed in his jumble, Chopra was thoroughly new age at the core. My biggest problem with Chopra is that he didn’t seem to answer the questions posed to him but instead, wanted to spout his platitudes. These little truisms and proverbs were the types you’d meditate on, not logically debate. Here are some key examples: “We can choose evolution or entropy,” “The divine and the diabolical are different faces of the infinite,” and “As soon as you define God, you limit God.” These are vague proverbs with little practical application, and they don’t make logical arguments in the debate context. His tone also made him seem very arrogant. He wasn’t joking with the others as Pastor Mark and Pearson were. At one point, he told an audience member that he was more enlightened than she was, making him sound like a chauvinist and an elitist. I hope ABC includes that little snippet, but somehow, I doubt they will.
Pastor Mark preached the gospel and read the Bible. Can we ask more of him? I should have expected this strategy, but I was pleasantly surprised. His opening statement was the Gospel, how Jesus died in our place for our sins, defeating Satan, sin, and death. When he finished, the Mars Hill people were practically jumping out of their chairs. I was one of the screamers. I’m sure you’ll hear me on the tapes, joining the masses. He also closed with the gospel, but this time, he merely read it. And it was all about Jesus. I’m not sure the passage even referenced Satan. It was 1 John 5:20, and I don’t know if he even mentioned the verse 19, which mentions Satan. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Pastor Mark seemed to be the only one that was challenging each and every member of the other side, bringing evidence against their points, logically articulating why they were wrong. He also defended Lobert, who at one point was under attack, ironically, about her demonic attack. The other side looked bad for continually slamming her and her experience, when she was obviously a victim. They showed little to no compassion for her, and that was the strongest argument against their side.
The Nightline debate airs this Thursday night at 11:35 on ABC. Please be praying for the ABC editors who are busily trying to trim down 2 hours of footage to 20 minutes. Pray that Jesus gets fair representation. Pray that he is glorified in the program.
I’m so glad that I could be a part of this and serve in this small way. Here’s hoping that my notes don’t need to stand in for the Truth after Thursday, that the debate gets fair coverage.