This world. This place. This life.

All slopes are slippery


During my time among fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, many of them worried about slippery slopes.  It was a slippery slope when someone said that the bible was “inerrant in the original manuscripts,” not simply inerrant (there was wiggle room in “infallible,” too).  It was a slippery slope when you started thinking too much about those prohibitions in Leviticus about shrimp and polyester.

I am a poster child for the dangers of slippery slopes.  How else can you explain my long, sliding tumble from the Plymouth Brethren to the Unitarian Universalists?  How else did a female child from a patriarchal, anti-clerical, anti-gay home find her voice, her vocation, her sexual identity?

But here’s the thing I think they didn’t understand:  all slopes are slippery.  We’re all sliding and tumbling, colliding with each other, influencing each other.  Changing.  Becoming.

Yesterday on Facebook I wrote to a friend from college:  “You know, whenever people ask me how I got from the Plymouth Brethren to Unitarian Universalism, the first thing I talk about is Drew IVCF.”

Sometimes I talk about it as if it were the simple act of leaving home for college that began the process of change.  And that’s part of it.  But the real change came among the members of IVCF–evangelical and mainline Christians who were close enough to my fundamentalist Christian identity to be safe, but different enough to open my mind.

Here’s the thing, though.  Fear of the slippery slope was pretty common among IVCF, too.  Not the slippery slope that they had been for me, but the slippery slope that loomed on the left side of their imagination.  When they looked at the changes occurring in me, they didn’t see my parents’ worst nightmares; they saw me becoming more like them, more like an evangelical Christian, and they welcomed those changes.

With the exception of people like Fred Phelps (and whoever is his left-wing equivalent), we all act as slippery slopes for each other.  We all influence each other in ways small and great, incrementally or dramatically.

Slippery slopes are a phobia of mine.  Not the metaphorical kind, but the real ones, the ones that happen often here in Alaska in the winter.  Any slight downhill, slick with even the thinnest sheen of ice has my leg muscles tensing, my shoulders readying for a fall.  And that fearful state makes the thing I worry about more likely.  Tensed for a fall, a fall is more likely.  Even with ice grippers on my boots, it takes me forever to get anywhere.

Sometimes I worry about metaphorical slippery slopes.  What if I hear a story on Fox News and it changes my mind?  What if I have a conversation with a Republican that makes sense?  What if I open my mind to words like “prayer” and “God”?  I don’t want to go slip-sliding all the way back across the spectrum.

But I’m learning to navigate these slippery spots with more courage.  If the worst happens, if I fall, if I change, it will all be OK.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.   —Julian of Norwich







4 thoughts on “All slopes are slippery

  1. Hi. I’m Jim and I’m a new UU from South Carolina…and in “recovery” from Christianity. (Maybe that’s harsh, and that could change.)

    For as much as the evangelicals worry about slippery slopes, the evidence is overwhelming that even they have evolved.

    Exhibit A–Sarah Palin. Back in 1989 the “pro-family” types insisted that a woman with children should stay at home, the man should be the breadwinner and the head of the household, etc…

    Now they are falling all over this woman who still has children under 18 (including a special needs child). But the right-wing is so clannish that their principles are the slipperiest slopes around.

    I have been seen several of your posts through the tag surfer and the new subscription gizmo over the last few months. And my father-in-law was a PCUSA minister…he passed three years ago.

    Peace and smiles…Jim

  2. Welcome, Jim! It’s an interesting journey, this process of coming to terms with religious history. I’ve been thinking lately that there’s an important balance–between being committed to healing, and being patient with oneself.

    Fear-based religion holds on to the illusion that there is somewhere to stand that doesn’t tilt, that doesn’t change, that doesn’t evolve. But it is just that, an illusion. Everyone changes. Some of us more dramatically than others! 🙂

  3. The best antidote to slippery slopes is not vertigo but good traction: like boots with good treads which give one good understanding.

    When I was in college in Colorado (1960’s), I found good traction when I trod into a local U-U church a few blocks away. When I moved to California four years later, I slipped down a slippery slope and found my self in another U-U church which was a disaster. I stopped attending as soon as I was admitted into membership.

    Long story short, after 50 years of wandering in the wilderness, I am rechurched in a holy, holy place.

    Falling down a slippery slope? I look upon it as a long and arduous climb to the top!

    • Hi, Doc. Welcome. Yes, I agree that even within a tradition that feels right for us, there can be places that make us feel off-kilter. And I guess I’m also saying that places that are right for us at one point in time, might not work out as we continue to grow and change.

      I think a lot about the places we need at particular times. For example, sometimes I really wish I’d done my ministerial training at a UU seminary. But at the time when I was in seminary, Princeton was as much of a stretch as I could tolerate. Stepping stones across a river is the image I usually see.

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