Debating the Absurd: Trump & Lessons from Phil Hendrie? - When Faith Gives Reason a Back Rub

Debating the Absurd: Trump & Lessons from Phil Hendrie?

The Phil Hendrie Show: Debating Comedic Characters

The Phil Hendrie Show is a podcast where Phil does various character voices who talk to themselves & to  him. Yep. A bit insane already but the comedy is quite hilarious in my opinion (though I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone as it can be pretty explicit).

So you will tune in and listen to Harvey Wireman, a lawyer & WWII veteran debating a California surfer named Jeff Dowder with the host moderating and really it is all just one person talking to himself. Pretty creative, and listening to this led me to a thought about how we debate against Trump’s claims.

Debating a fool: R.C. Collins

In the original format of the show it was featured on national radio & callers would call in, thinking Phil’s voices were real people, and argue with his characters. But the characters often defend insane positions.

For example, the character R.C. Collins is a kid at a military academy & he was defending the position that he & other “soldiers” would refuse to fight for our country if the radio stations continued to censor Eminem songs.

Many people called in and took the kid seriously… trying to reason with him, or at least shame him into setting him straight… or even yelling at him. But the character, R.C., would just mock them.

It was the ultimate case of, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

The guy that won

Finally one caller seemed to get one over on this stereotype of an arrogant person. The caller who didn’t take him seriously. He believed R.C. was a real person (even though he wasn’t), but he laughed him off. He didn’t take R.C.’s claims seriously and wasn’t fazed by it because they were so absurd. It seemed like this was the only caller that got the upper hand on R.C., the only one that won the debate.

When Trump does crazy things

Maybe we make a mistake trying to use shame or spend too much time on rational argument. Maybe we should point out that of some of Trump’s ideas are just a joke… they are so absurd.

We would need to be careful not to laugh at people (though maybe there is a place for that… I think of Charlie Chaplain’s satirical movie about Hitler) but focus our attention on the absurdity of certain ideas.

Bonhoeffer on debating with absurdity

Maybe we make a mistake spending much time debating absurdities. Dietrich Bonhoeffer mentioned that it was a mistake debating some of the people in his era… the Nazis. He lived in Nazi Germany and knew them well. He pretty much realized there is no way they would change their mind until they lost the war.

Trump may just have to literally start shooting supporters or totally fail before he loses his base. But many people aren’t so sure about him, even those who are voting for him, so such people can be convinced.

BE CAREFUL if you do this WHO you do it with…

It may not be good to target any person… perhaps only ideas should be the target. For example, Trump’s idea that Russia did not try to help Hillary. But one must be extremely careful how you use this.

Because liberals mock legitimate views too often…

One of the reason Republicans have turned to Trump is that liberals have been a bit intolerant. This is something liberal NY Times writer Nicholas Kristof has been talking about quite a bit recently. In fact, I’ve been mocked and called names by liberals myself.

Almost always in an important political issue both sides are right about something. The problem is that they are mocked for what they are right about rather than the other side admitting they are half right (more on that here).


For example, it doesn’t make you a racist if you want a wall or less immigration. That muddles the issue. Maybe you just want more job opportunities. But there is real racism & heartlessness out there. For example, kicking out an undocumented immigrant that came here as a child & is now in their 20s.

That is heartless and immoral as far as I am concerned. But that has nothing to do with a wall or the number of immigrants we take in. This issue has been confused by the overreaction of liberals & conservatives in my view (full argument here)

Love can change people…

Another reason to be careful is that, if you are a Christian you should love your enemies. One of the only times I saw a passionate person on the other end of the spectrum change their views is when they started out being really rude but I responded with love & turning the other cheek.

Yet clearly absurd things do exist

To suggest Russia didn’t help Trump when it is as plain as day & 17 intelligence agencies confirm, or to suggest we can trust Trump will change, or to suggest Trump never said something we have tape of him saying is absurd. Maybe we do a disservice to the truth by taking it seriously.

What do you think?

I don’t know for sure if this is the right route or not… what do you think?

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