In a 1959 survey of 2,706 ministers of the Churches of Christ, an American denomination that grew out of the nineteenth-century reform movement of Alexander Campbell, the rhetorician James Swinney discovered 215 preachers who said that they had conducted public oral debates as a way of attracting converts and defending their tradition. During the previous half-century, they had held around 4,400 debates, each lasting from one to fourteen days, mainly in the rural areas and small towns of the South and lower Midwest. Another student of Campbell's movement has compiled a list of more than 9,000 such debates, around 500 in the nineteenth century and more than 8,500 in the twentieth. The forensic superstars included regional celebrities like J. D. Tant of Texas, who held more than 350 such contests between 1885 and 1941 and who argued that four people would attend a debate for every one who attended a worship service. His assertion calls for qualification, but it reminds us of a practice that once attracted widespread attention and that has continued to flourish in parts of American Protestantism.