“That’s a slippery slope...” It’s one of those phrases I seem to hear everywhere I turn these days and it makes me cringe. It may be intended as a cautionary statement, but I have trouble hearing it that way. It sounds judgmental to me, like a way of keeping me in my place: You’d better be careful about where you’re going, Nancy, because you are coming dangerously close to slipping away into the abyss. And when you do, be assured that I will be standing on solid ground, waving goodbye to you from above. Yeah, I hear, ya.
There was a time when I would be concerned if someone warned me that I’m on a slippery slope. Fearing rejection, I only dared proceed with great caution. I needed to think carefully about how far I was willing to go, weighing every word. But, these days, the slippery-slope warning seems to have the opposite effect on me.
It’s my suspicion that often, when someone warns me that I'm nearing a slippery slope, it says more about them than it does about me. For some reason, they're really uncomfortable with what I'm saying; I'm not thinking within the limits of their expectations. And it’s dangerous, all right. Not for me, but for them! Their fear isn’t about the slippery slope I may be approaching. It’s about threatening to mess up the nice, tidy, little world they have created for themselves. Rather than warning me that I'm approaching a slippery slope, it would be more honest to say, “Nancy, I’m afraid you’re about to say something that challenges my way of thinking. Please stop!”
If the slippery-slope warning, so commonly used today, had been around in New Testament times, we would be reading it in the gospels. It sounds a lot like the things the religious leaders said to Jesus. Be careful about the subversive messages you're communicating in those parables, Jesus, that’s a slippery slope. Don’t mess with the law about healing on the Sabbath, Jesus, that’s a slippery slope. You’ve got to stop eating with the riff-raff, Jesus, that’s a slippery slope. Try to control your temper in the temple, Jesus, that’s a slippery slope.
Come to think of it, is there anyone who ever did anything worthwhile in the history of the world who didn’t spend a lot of time navigating what many considered to be a slippery slope? I can’t think of a single one, can you?
If I find myself near a place that some people would warn me is a "slippery slope", before I back away, I need to discern whether it could be God who led me there. If it is, I’m praying I have the courage to strap on a pair of skis and go for it. Cowabunga!