Mrs M is a member of a Facebook discussion page aimed at allowing Christians to share ideas and discuss important issues.
She regularly reads excerpts to me and we continue with our own discussion.
I have been saddened recently with the direction some of these web based discussions have been heading which I believe reflects a wider trend.
It seems that regularly someone will take the discussion off at a tangent to an altogether different topic.
This technique is known as creating a straw man. It describes how an individual might seemingly answer a posed question by creating an associated scenario. She/he then begins to dismantle their own construct as if offering an answer to the original proposition.
My wife recently posted a YouTube clip of a church leader describing how we should force children to display appropriate gender behaviour.
He asserts than boys should dig ditches and girls should smell good. He says that a father should hit his son if he develops a limp wrist.
He does this with what his audience appreciate as humour so you could be forgiven for assuming he is not too serious. Unfortunately I suspect he believes what he says.
Now you might think that the subsequent discussion on the Facebook site might centre on discovering what truly represents male and female behaviour.
After all the whole thrust of his argument is that parents should rightly define whether their offspring is acting appropriately.
Unfortunately a straw man has been created and the discussion effectively diverted to become centred around whether it is acceptable for parents to use physical punishment towards their children.
This may well be a worthy subject for debate but it is not the central question being posed by either video content or by my wife in posting it.
Following this discussion was another about the recent rape of a young woman by a footballer.
The original discussion was raised about the abuse of women and the general treatment of women.
Once again a certain commenter decided to create a straw man about the foolishness of young women getting drunk. Again this may well be subject worthy of discussion but it is not the central theme of the argument.
The discussion was about the treatment and abuse of women. The creator of the straw man wants to almost ignore this and focus on women getting drunk.
So let us stop creating straw men and focus on the main topic at hand; perhaps then we can get back to a proper dialogue.