Another Slippery Slope

Many people use the “slippery slope” argument when warning others about what they perceive to be the danger of a certain way of thinking or behaving.

When worship music took a turn toward contemporary styling back in the 60s and early 70s, I heard many pastors preach against “the devil’s music” (it was actually 20 years later in my church circle–that’s how behind the times we were). They claimed that this was the first step down a “slippery slope” that would lead to all sorts of sinful behaviour in churches including drugs, drunkenness and sex amongst the young people. (Obviously, such pastors weren’t aware what was already happening in their youth groups . . . but I digress.)

When the issue of women clergy began to be an issue (and some still believe it is), the slippery slope argument went something like this: “You permit a woman to be in the pulpit and women will get the idea that it’s OK to tell men what to do, they’ll start doing this at home, and the family will experience upheaval and possible disintegration.”

When the Emergent Movement started gaining momentum and receiving attention, preachers like John Piper (among a multitude of others) warned that those who accepted such a theological shift would find themselves on a “slippery slope” that would lead to ultimately denying the existence of God.

Which brings me to today.

The most prevalent argument in conservative circles today is that accepting homosexuality will inevitably lead to a breakdown of morals; legalising gay marriage will surely lead to the breakdown of the family unit. Some take it further and actually name the sins that will follow as we travel down this “slippery slope.”

Bruce Reyes-Chow has made a excellent point on the Patheos blog how that not promoting and legalising equality for LGBTQ people is also a slippery slope, as demonstrated by the recent exploits of now-infamous Pastor Charles L. Worley and his declaration that LGBTQ folk should be locked behind electric fences and kept there until they all die out.

. . . [I]t would be easy to dismiss him as some radical, fringe person that should be given little attention or thought. After all, no reasonable and faithful person would ever think these things, let alone say them.  My friend Eugene Cho, in his excellent post chastising Worley and others, says, “No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.”

For the most part I agree, most people who think homosexuality is a sin, probably do not think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up until they die off. And then I think back to some meetings/debates among those whom I would consider “thoughtful and faithful” communities in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). When it came to homosexuality, the slippery slope argument was always busted out, “homosexuality will lead to … [insert perceived sexual 'deviance'].” After an awkward moment of “Whoa, did he just say what I think he said?” most of us would simply dismiss these folks as fringe, after all, the slippery slope argument is unwinnable — and what does it matter anyway?

And then you hear people like Worley and others who do in fact verbalize what we know already happens, people take anti-LGBTQ thought, theology and rhetoric and walk down that slippery slope to the point of killing people who are gay. I am generally not a slippery slope kind of person, but in this case, I will borrow a page from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe that the affirmation of of homosexuality, as choice or creation, will lead to the destruction of all that is good and holy and say this:

You can wrap your theological position in all the “speaking the truth in love” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric you want, but if you hold the idea that affirming homosexuality will lead to the destruction of societal “norms” then you had better claim the other side: anti-homosexuality rhetoric will lead to the death of human beings because they are gay.

He continues:

. . . [T]hose of you who continue to give life and validation to anti-homosexuality thinking must know that you have been given the privilege of being thought of as reasonable and faithful. This protection has given you a false security that your words, no matter how diametrically different they may sound from Worley’s, do not lead to violence.

They do.

(Click here to read the rest of the post.)

I suppose the biggest problem I have with slippery slope arguments is that they tend to be mostly conjecture. We don’t really know where following a certain path will lead because we haven’t yet been down that path. All we have to go on is history.

Has contemporary music in church brought illegal drugs, booze and sex into the sanctuary?

Have women in leadership positions in our churches resulted in the breakdown of families?

Has the Emergent Church been the birthplace of increasing numbers of atheists?

Will granting equality to our LGBTQ family & friends bring about a rise in perversion and the destruction of the family unit?

Based on all information available–and the testimony of history–the answer is and must remain “NO.”