Last night I went to a debate between Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Reverend Michael Brown on the topic of Jews for Jesus and discussion on whether Jesus was the Moshiach. The debate was held at a Holiday Inn near the Pitt campus, was about 2 hours long, and was really interesting. Both of them were great debaters -- for the first few rounds, they had a magic around them that made me feel that they were alternating on being more convincing in the debate. The sad thing was that the audience, naturally, couldn't see it because they were already firmly in their religion's camp -- cries of "Amen" and "Yes" were peppered throughout the audience when they were talking, and some of my neighbours (to whom I gave a fierce glare when it got too loud) said things out loud in response to points. Boteach was more fiery, and at tomes seemed to rant. I've never been very inspired by emotional grabs of that sort in debates, and so was actually put off a bit by it, but judging by its effect on the Judaist parts of the audience, it was effective, and certainly was sincere either way. Brown gave an impression that the thing was more of a show to him. As this was a debate, both asked some questions that were too tough to answer that were dodged. Brown noted that if Jesus was not the Moshiach, then none is coming, because the Moshiach was prophesied to come before the second temple was rebuilt. Boteach noted that if Jesus was the Moshiach, then the concept of Moshiach was demeaned because none of the critical things the Moshiach was supposed to do (peace on earth, etc) were done by him. The largest intellectual concept that was tackled in the debate was the difference between the Judaist and Christian notions of sin, redemption, and judgement, and I feel that that's going to make the biggest impact on the audience. I was already familiar with the difference, but most christians have probably never been exposed to different ways of thinking on the topic. The Jewishness of Brown was not at all visible -- his theology was entirely vanilla evangelical protestant, and while he argued that Jesus brought him closer to his Jewish roots, this seems to be meant only in the sense that Christianity is a funhouse mirror of Judaism -- no cultural Jewishness was visible. I'm glad I went.
Afterwards, I ran into a friend with whom I talked about a presentation he's giving at a conference on advances in a subfield of math where proofs are treated as mathematical entities. I had not thought that this could be fruitfully done, but am now interested enough that I might want to pick up a book on the topic (maybe after I finish the Muqaddimah and also finish with my soon-to-arrive book on Ataturk). I finished my evening at Coffee Tree, where I talked about the conference and eventually about perspectives on gender divide with a few people on each side of the counter in a casual forum.
Tonight, I'm talking at PUSH on debunking Astrology and fortune telling.