The Straw Man argument is a logical fallacy. You hear it a lot on political talk radio. It goes like this: Party A makes a recognizable caricature of Party B's position. Party A then argues against the caricature as if it were Party B's position. Straw Man arguments can carry a certain emotional resonance. They can even fool the inattentive. But careful observers will recognize that while Party A has kicked the stuffing out of a straw man, Party B's true position is left unscathed.
I came across a classic straw man on the Faithful Transition website. If you are not familiar with it, the website's masthead describes its purpose thus:
Sponsored by the WordAlone Network, this website is meant to provide guidance to individuals and congregations who are seeking to affiliate with LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ) and/or the new church body NALC (North American Lutheran Church) being designed by Lutheran CORE.
I actually do not object to Faithful Transition's purpose. For those whose conscience is so bound that they can no longer remain members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), some helpful guidance might be useful. But about that straw man, the cartoon below was posted on May 15 by Pastor Steve King under the title "We've Hit What?"
I have to wonder just how this cartoon furthers Faithful Transition's stated purpose. Maybe half-truths, misstatements and distortions of this sort make it easier for the disaffected to leave the ELCA.
Understand, I am about as ELCA as a person can get. I agree with the 2009 Churchwide Assembly decisions regarding sexuality and standards for ordination. I even agree with the "local option" which allows congregations to refuse same-sex partnered clergy. I know that this cartoon is supposed to represent the ELCA's positions, but frankly, I do not recognize myself in it.
I have a strong understanding of biblical authority. It is not identical to WordAlone's, of course. I like to think that it is more reasoned and consistent. I reject "Lack of Biblical Authority" as a label that sticks to the ELCA.
I have argued elsewhere against the idea that the ELCA has embraced Universalism. So, "Universalist Rejection of Christ" is nonsensical as far as I'm concerned.
As for "False Gospel of 'Affirmation'" I am not entirely sure what that means. It is another rather nebulous charge along the lines of "Gospel of Inclusion" or "Gospel of Conformity." I would guess that "Affirmation" is supposed to mean something like Gospel without Law. If so, then this, too, is a distortion of both my position, and, as I understand it, the position of the ELCA.
When I first saw the cartoon, I thought, "Two can play at that." So I did Google search for images of icebergs, found one at this website, and used MS Paint to add some text. The result:
When I got done with my little art project, I looked at it and thought, "I'll bet that WordAloners looking at my cartoon would recognize themselves in it about as much as I recognized myself in their cartoon." Building straw men is fun. Kicking them to bits is even more fun, but in the end, what purpose does it serve? It only occasions anger and creates division. It may also violate that pesky Eighth Commandment, you know, the one about bearing false witness.
So, here's the deal. WordAlone, cut the crap. If you must leave the ELCA, leave. If your conscience is bound so that you must stay and disagree, then stay and disagree. But let's all quit building straw men, shall we? Let's show a little respect for one another's positions.
I mean, I will if you will.