One Sunday morning, when I lived in Anchorage, I was headed to church. I put on my dress shoes, and as an afterthought, grabbed my garbage to throw in the bin across the street. But when I stepped onto the street, which was sloped toward the bin, my smooth bottom dress shoes acted as skis. Without lifting my feet, I slid across the street and gently bumped into the bin. I thought it humorous and pitched in the garbage. But then, I had to get back across the street. What took me 30 seconds to do one way took me fifteen minutes in the other direction. I was late to church that Sunday.
I think of this situation every time I see the “slippery slope” argument offered (and it is offered quite often in our society). It is to say, “If you do A, then B will happen, then C will happen, and so on until you get to the point that ‘If you do A, then Z will happen’ and there is no stopping it.” It is like saying, “If I take out my garbage in the winter in Anchorage on a Sunday morning, I will always be late to church.” There were other options. There usually always are other options.
The big problem with the Slippery Slope argument is that it leads people never want to compromise. They fear any compromise will lead to them violating some core principle they have. But with no compromise, how can you have a country? A church? A school? A society? How can you even have a family? If anytime you try to meet someone in the middle, you believe you will inevitably slide into violating what you stand for, you are paralyzed into never doing anything with them.
Do we need to have some principles on which we do not compromise? Of course we do. But our core principle cannot be that we will not compromise in any way with our spouse, neighbor, friend, church member, or fellow citizen. The last time that happened systematically in our society, about 150 years ago, we ended up fighting civil war over it.
I just encourage everyone out there to watch out for the slippery slope argument. It is a logical fallacy. Ask yourself, in whatever the instance, does this specific question really threaten a core principle (or do I just fear it will lead to that)? Am I willing to break a relationship over this? Am I being realistic in thinking that the person I am in relationship will accept that I will not compromise at all?
We need to break through the paralysis that is running through our society (from all sides) and again figure out how to claim the middle ground – together.
What do you think?
Until next time,