Either,or,if, then

by Dea Podhajsky

The mayor of my town recently issued a proclamation on masks. He refused to mandate their use citing individual freedom as his rationale. When I was a sophomore our English teacher decided that what our high school needed was a debate team. Trying to ingratiate myself to her, I went to the introductory meeting.

There were only two of us– me and Mike Meyers. Mike was not interested in debate, his parents made him attend. I, however, was interested in Mike. I had fantasies of nights working on our case. He had fantasies of heading to Colorado to ski.

We were the least prepared debate team in the state of Iowa. When we got the judges’ comments from our first and only appearance in competition, they were filled with examples of the fallacies, we had used to cover our lazy ineptitude: Begging the question, hasty generalizations, non sequitur, bandwagon , ad hominin and the one employed by the mayor either/or.

This fallacy occurs when one builds an argument upon the assumption that there are only two choices or possible outcomes when there are more. The mayor assumed that individual liberty equated to a no mask mandates. There are limits on personal liberties which the mayor must be aware of. We are mandated to wear seat belts. We are mandated to have driver’s licenses. We are taught that crying fire in a crowded theater is not appropriate.

The idea that one is either for something or against it contributes to the toxic divisions that define our times. Issues including abortion, gun control, immigration, police reform, removal of statues, and systemic racism, see us retreating to our corners. We have bought into the idea that nuance is surrender.

The mayor next wrote, “If you feel at risk, then stay home.” If/then statements on their face are preferable to either/or statements. There is a choice. However, the mayor constructed only one of several if/then statements that could have been appropriate. He might have said, “If you feel you can’t wear a mask, then stay home” or “If you are uncomfortable in a store that does not require masks, then take your money and shop in the neighboring town where masks are required.

Religion like politics has its either/ors and if/thens. An example is worship as I do or go to hell or everyone knows the Bible is a metaphor and can’t be read literally. And then there are the determinists who believe that all events that happen are pre-ordained, and/or predestined to happen which is the ultimate either or.

Recently I found the following list of if/then statements on emergingmama.com

If Jesus is Lord, then how must I respond to refugees?

If Jesus is Lord, then how must I treat all neighbors?

If Jesus is Lord, then telling the truth is important.

If Jesus is Lord, then stealing from or deceiving others is wrong.

If Jesus is Lord, then my allegiance is to the Kingdom of God.

If Jesus is Lord, then we are all one in Christ Jesus and have no divisions.

If Jesus is Lord, then all life has intrinsic worth given by the Creator.

If Jesus is Lord, then I must resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

If Jesus is Lord, then I must serve him as my Lord, in union with the Church

We need to learn to listen and reflect. We need to be less arrogant in our positions. We need to remember we are called to love our enemies.

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you. Matthew 5:44.

It’s on us.


Last modified on Saturday, 22 August 2020 18:24

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