INTERVIEW WITH TRENTHORN
PLM: Hi,this is Brett Attebery from Pro-Life Magazine and I’m here today to speak with TrentHorn about his new DVD called “Making the Case for Life.”
Trent currently serves as a staff apologist for Catholic Answers, and he previously served as the Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Phoenix. He has a Masters Degree inTheology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and specializes in training people to defend the pro-life view.
In addition, Trent specializes in training Catholics to intelligently and compassionately engage people of different faiths or no faith at all in genuine dialogue. He is also author of the book “Answering Atheism. How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity.”
Trent currently lives in San Diego with his wife Laura.
Trent,thank you very much for being here today. I appreciate you taking the time.
TrentHorn: No problem. Always glad to share more about this important topic.
PLM: I heard about your DVD “Making the Case for Life” so I bought it, watched it,and said I’ve got to get Trent on the phone and talk about this because I liked it so much. Please give a little background about the DVD and why you decided to create it.
Trent Horn: Sure. In college I became very passionate about the pro-life movement. I was involved with a pro-life exhibit that would travel the country. They visited my campus. They’re a group called Justice for All. They would put up these big photo exhibits with pictures of the unborn before and after abortion. I would talk to students. I would even sometimes fly to other states to go wherever this exhibit went because I thought the conversations were so important to have.
And then after college a few years later I went to work for this group full time. During these years I had hundreds of conversations with pro-choice students and faculty on university campuses, and I really honed how to talk about the issue of abortion in a compelling and gracious way. And through that time I also read a lot of books written by very good pro-life philosophers and apologists.
What I wanted to do with the DVD was take all of that and put it into a short 45 minute presentation to help people understand how to talk about the issue of abortion, how to overcome the landmines in conversations that can make things very uncomfortable, and how to just communicate the truth winsomely. And I felt a DVD to model these approaches would be the best way to do that.
PLM: One of the key things that hit me during your presentation on the DVD is that you talk about speaking the truth in love. Can you share an example from your own experience in talking about abortion how you learned the importance of that lesson?
Trent Horn: Sure. I actually share this on the DVD. I remember a young man who was arguing with me about the issue of abortion on a college campus and I was in full debate mode. I was destroying his arguments and making him look silly. But at the end of the conversation he just said I wasn’t listening to him and he walked away.
Now even though I was right, it didn’t matter because he didn’t feel that I cared for him or his position. And so I learned from that to model what St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, “Always speak the truth in love.” So you can say the correct thing, the truth, but you have to speak it in love so that the person will hear that and be willing to adopt it.
So that’s what I try to model in this DVD and my other work. How to communicate the pro-life message winsomely and doing it in a gracious way.
PLM: When we discuss the issue of abortion with someone pro-choice who we either know or don’t know, do we need to know every fact about the pro-life pro-choice issue, both sides, in order to be persuasive?
Trent Horn: No. You don’t need to know everything about the issue. Though having knowledge about the issue certainly helps and makes the conversation easier, what I find that is more important as a skill is learning how to ask the right questions and how to keep the conversation on topic so that you’re not distracted and you stay on the one subject that matters most which is “What are the unborn?” If they’re not human beings then abortion doesn’t matter. But if they are human beings then abortion can’t be justified.
So learning how to ask good questions and stay on that topic can be even more important than having a lot of knowledge, though everything we learn, each new fact, does make future conversations easier. But that shouldn’t make people afraid to go out and speak. I would say go have conversations. Just be humble and ask good questions about what the other person believes to help guide them to the truth.
PLM: It’s interesting you talk about“asking questions”because you said something in your presentation that really struck me.You said that one of the techniques is to ask “dumb” questions. Can you explain what you meant by that?
Trent Horn: A “dumb” question is a question that both sides already appear to know the answer to, so it would seem like a dumb question to ask.When you’re talking about the issue of abortion and I say that abortion should be illegal, and the other person says that abortion should be legal, and then I say, “Could I ask you a question? What is abortion?”
Now that would seem like a dumb question because we know what abortion is. We’re both talking about it, whether it should be legal. But it’s not really a dumb question because both of us have different assumptions about what abortion is.
I assume it is a procedure which directly takes the life of an innocent human being. And the pro-choice advocate assumes that abortion is a medical procedure that prevents a human person from coming into existence, like an advanced form of contraception.
So by asking these “dumb” questions like “What is abortion?” “What is a human?” “What is a child?”, questions that seem obvious to people you expose hidden assumptions in the argument and then you can talk about whose assumptions are right and whose are wrong by asking those questions and getting back to the one issue that matters most.
PLM: There are social issues like poverty, overpopulation, and many others that we hear pro-choice supporters use sometimes to justify the practice of abortion. Can you give some advice about how to effectively answer those issues when someone who is pro-choice brings them up?
TrentHorn: The technique that I teach in the DVD to do this was developed by a pro-life apologist named Scott Klusendorf, and it’s called “Trot out a Toddler.”
Basically how it works is this. If someone brings up are a son to defend legal abortion that has nothing to do with what the unborn are, so let’s say poverty, or overpopulation, or whatever it may be, just simply agree for the sake of the argument, agree with anything. Say, “Yes, poverty is difficult.” “Yes, overpopulation is concerning. ”But then apply that same argument to killing a two-year old.
Should we kill two-year olds who live in poverty? Should we kill two-year olds to ease overpopulation?And the person will say,“No. Obviously you can’t do that.” Then you ask one of these“dumb”questions. You would ask, “Well why can’t you?”And if the answer is well because a two-year old is a human being, then you can bring up the fact that if the unborn are human beings then we shouldn’t kill them for the same reason.
And you’ve now effectively side-stepped these social issues like poverty and brought the issue back to the one point that matters most which is “What are the unborn?” and that’s where we need to stay as pro-life advocates in order to show that our position makes rational and scientific sense.
PLM: In your presentation you give a number of easy-to-remember tools that we int he pro- life movement can use to effectively discuss the issue of abortion. I want to give you a real life example of something that happened to my teenage daughter that happened in an exchange with one of her friends who is pro- choice. I want to get your advice on how you would have advised my daughter to handle this situation.
My daughter’s friend emailed an image to my daughter that showed an adult hand holding a new born that I would say was around two weeks old. Next to that was another adult hand holding what looked to be about a 12 week old fetus. Below both of these images was text that said “Which would you choose?” and below that question was the text “Exactly!” with the obvious implication that the newborn was somehow more valuable than the fetus.
Could you explain how my daughter could have effectively refuted that image, and at the same time not turn it into something that might risk her friendship with her friend?
Trent Horn:What I would say is the question, “Which would you choose?” is incomplete. I don’t know what you’re asking. It would be like if I asked you “Where is it?” You would say, “Where is what?” I can’t answer that question. In the same way “Which would you choose?” I would say, “Which would you choose,what?” Choose to kill? Well certainly wouldn’t the answer be neither? Which would you choose to value? Well why not both?
And then I might ask the question, “Does size make us valuable?” Is a newborn baby more valuable that a fetus and worthy to live because they’re bigger? Well by that logic if we compared two pictures of a five year old and a newborn and said “Which would you choose? Exactly!” we would have the same kind of argument. I would say that I’m not going to choose either because they’re both valuable even though one is older and more developed. So likewise can’t we say that the 12 week old fetus and the newborn are equally valuable even though one is just younger than the other? Why not do that?
PLM: Towards the end of your presentation you make the statement that you think many people continue to support abortion because they just don’t see or understand how bad abortion really is. How do you suggest that we share with those we know who are pro-choice exactly what happens during an abortion procedure so that they do start to understand how bad abortion is?
Trent Horn: I think that we can at least talk about abortion without using sterile terms. So we can talk about how abortion dismembers children, or that it decapitates them, and say that this really concerns us and shy away from the sterile language.
The other thing we can do is show people images of what happens in abortion and just say to them,“Look, I won’t do this without your permission but I really care about this issue and it really bothers me. Would you be willing to look at what happens to unborn children when they are aborted so you can just at least see where I’m coming from? I’m open to what you believe but I want you to be open to what I believe.”
And then you can show them images from the Centre for Bioethical Reform (cbrinfo. org).They have a lot of photographs that are authenticated by photographers and abortion providers that show what abortion is. And I recommend showing photographs from the first trimester of pregnancy which is when most abortions take place.
I think that most people won’t have that visceral opposition to abortion until they really see what happens to the victims. We have to just graciously ask for permission to show them these pictures and say, “This is what concerns us, will you at least see what concerns me and reflect on that?”
PLM: I like what you say there because if you just suddenly sent someone a picture like that it might seem from their perspective very intrusive. Yet if it’s someone who doesn’t understand how bad abortion is and you give them the invitation as you are suggesting, they might say, “Yeah,sure” because they might really not know how bad it is.
Trent Horn: Right.
PLM: In addition to your presentation on the DVD you included three sections of bonus material. One is Quick Answers to Common Questions. The second is Dialogue in Action. And the third is called This Is Abortion. Please talk about what is included in each of those sections and why you felt it was important to include those as well on the DVD.
Trent Horn: Sure. In Quick Answers to Common Questions, I talk about very common pro- choice arguments that are not covered in my main presentation. I talk about “back alley” abortion, or what if a woman’s life is in danger, or you shouldn’t be talking about this because you’re a man. I think it’s important for pro-lifers to see how to quickly answer these very common questions.
In the section called Dialogue In Action you get to see about 30 minutes worth of extra footage of me engaging pro-choice advocates either on university campuses or on the radio. So you can see how these techniques I teach aren’t just ivory tower techniques. They really work, and people can see how they work in a real conversation and model their conversations after that.
Finally the section This Is Abortion has a video which we had permission to show from Abort73. com simply called “This is Abortion” and it’s a collection of graphic images set to music that shows what abortion does to the unborn so if you’re using the DVD in a group setting at the end of the talk you may say, “Now everyone I think we should see what abortion actually does to the victims so here are these graphic images.” This gives the presenter an opportunity to warn people so they can look away if they want to. But that’s on there as well if the presenter thinks it would be helpful.
PLM: Where can people get your DVD “Making the Case for Life?”
Trent Horn: I would recommend they go to Catholic Answers. They can go to shop.catholic.com and just click on DVDs. I think it’s the first DVD there,“Making the Case for Life.”
PLM: Great. Trent thank you very much first of all for putting together this wonderful pro-life work. It’s fantastic and I highly recommend it. And thank you again for taking the time today to talk with us about the DVD. I really appreciate it and best of luck with it and thank you for everything you do for the pro- life movement.
Trent Horn: No problem. Thank you for having me on today.
Trent currently serves as a staff apologist for Catholic Answers and he previously served as the Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Phoenix. He has a master’s degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and specializes in training people to defend the pro-life view. In addition, Trent specializes in training Catholics to intelligently and compassionately engage people of different faiths, or no faith at all, in genuine dialogue. He is also the author of the book,“Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. ”Trent currently lives in San Diego with his wife Laura.