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.
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