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The Slippery Slope



We had a discussion last night and Jeremy rightly said, "I can see an article coming from this."  We were discussing the concept of a  "slippery slope" in our Christian walk, and we came up with a number of interesting observations.  The argument I am referring to is the one that says a certain action or teaching is likely to lead to much worse actions.

For one thing, we concluded that everyone is on a slippery slope. Life itself is a slippery slope.  But either we are walking up the slope (i.e. in search of truth and the kingdom of heaven), or we are walking down the slope (i.e. in support of self and the system and its various smaller component systems). People on the mountain will often pass one another, at which point they will more or less be doing the same thing; but for the one walking up the slope, the slippery slope argument will not apply.

Let me give an example.  Two people work hard to clean up their neighbour's yard.  One person is doing it out of love, and the other is doing it because they need (or want) some money in return for what they are doing.  For the person whose motive is money, who has not learned to question where that motive can take them, there are likely to be other less noble jobs which could end up taking their time. The money-making motive is one that tends to lead down the mountain rather than up it.  And if the neighbour refused to pay, this person's attitude toward the neighbour could very easily become less helpful than the yardwork itself.  The one working for free, however, is not really in danger of such errors because their motive is fundamentally different.  When they finish that job, they will just move on to finding other ways to be helpful.

Here is another example of something slightly less innocent looking. Two people are speeding down the highway.  One is just in a hurry to get to work (or somewhere else) and ignores the speed limit signs. The other is racing to get someone to the hospital.  Speeding on the highway is a slippery slope for the person who lets impatience become an excuse for doing so, as they are almost always going to find reasons for wanting to get somewhere more quickly.  The other person is just trying to help someone in what constitutes a genuine emergency.  When the crisis is past, they will almost certainly return to safer driving.

Something else we observed is that we need to chart the behaviour of people and groups to determine whether or not there is a serious danger of them slipping down the slope.  There is a difference between being on the mountain (which is covered with slopes) and actually sliding down the mountain.  Life is full of risks, but the answer is not to hole up in a cave somewhere.  So if someone is heading in the wrong direction, they will actually do wrong things and these wrong things will gradually get worse.  We will be able to trace the growth of those wrong things.

Critics can point to virtually any group and any individual and issue warnings about virtually anything they do, and how it could lead to worse behaviours.  But if no hard evidence is presented that they are actually doing bad things, then it's all spurious.  Our community, for example, has existed for about 30 years.  In that time, we must surely have done some pretty awful things if we are really a dangerous cult.  But if, after thirty years of existence, our critics are only warning people about what our behaviour could lead to, it's a pretty sure bet that they are abusing the slippery slope argument.

I think of Liesel Appel saying on national television in England, something like this, "If they are giving kidneys today, what will it be tomorrow?  Will they be donating their other organs?"  The way she worded it, of course, was that everyone in the Jesus Christians who has donated organs has done so under instructions from me, which, of course, is totally false.  There is abundant evidence to the contrary.  So she created a slippery slope that was, in itself, built on a lie.  And this is evidence of the real slippery slope that she herself had stepped onto when she started to tell herself that she could lie about us and it was okay if it helped her to achieve her goal of destroying us.  Both her ends and her means were evil, and so she could only become more and more dishonest while she continued to move in that direction.  Her attacks on us have been consistently riddled with such lies, and it does not take much effort on our part to point them out.

Much is made of the fact that two of our members (Fran and Kim) admitted to telling a lie in order to be able to save someone's life.  (They each pretended to have known someone for a long time in order to be allowed to donate a kidney to them.)  But did it lead to them telling more lies?  No.  And as soon as they were able to tell the truth about that one lie, they did so.  Thus, no slippery slope. Charting their behaviour showed that it was a one-off event, done for a higher motive.

We Jesus Christians have done a lot of things that are controversial and that are out of the ordinary.  But if you examine any one of them, you will see that our criteria for what we have done has always involved doing good, helping others, spreading the truth, getting people to think deeply about serious issues.  It's all part of a serious climb up the mountain, and so the extraordinary actions have not led to a series of bad decisions.  If, as people say, our goal was just some narcissistic obsession with getting publicity, then along the way there would have been a lot of stupid stunts attempted purely and simply for the sake of attracting attention.  That has not been the case.

However, after having said all of that, a final observation was that, because we are all on the side of a mountain, there is always the potential to turn around and head in the wrong direction, in which case, almost anything can be abused and used for the wrong purpose. What we need to keep examining is our motives and our goals.  One of the most common areas where that turnaround can take place is in relation to promoting our own "system".  We need to stay vigilant, always questioning our own sincerity by looking for signs that we have strayed away from our professed ideals.  Early signs of backsliding (which is really just another name for stepping onto a slippery slope) may be a focus on defending the group, a focus on making money, a focus on fear of the devil, or a focus on political solutions.  There are so many directions where such turnarounds can come from.

So we have finished up where we started.  All of life is a slippery slope.  What matters most is not that we avoid risk, but rather that we keep on trying to reach the top.  Even when we do make little slips, we can pick ourselves up and lift our eyes heavenward once again.

Don't stop till you reach the top!

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