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Sin and the Myth of the Slippery Slope

slippery slope

According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. (1 John 3:4) Evangelicals, as a general principle, believe this to be true. However, when it comes to what, exactly, is the law of God — well, let the battle begin. Every sect and every pastor has their own idea about what constitutes God’s law. None of them actually follow and practice ALL the laws found in the Bible. Every follower of Jesus picks and chooses, cafeteria-style, which laws to obey and which to ignore.

Several days ago, a local group posted on Facebook that they were having a Black Lives Matter/Pride rally this Saturday. An Evangelical woman responded by posting comments about the evil of homosexuality, complete with Bible verses. I responded, so, you believe LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, non-virgins, and Mormons should be executed? After all, that’s what God commands in the Bible. Of course, she ignored my challenge to her hypocritical use of the Bible to condemn behaviors she doesn’t like, choosing, instead, to attack me personally.

This woman is not unique in any way. I don’t know of one Evangelical who believes and practices every law in the Bible. Granted, Evangelicals have all sorts of lame explanations for their duplicity, but the fact remains that Evangelicals practice pick-and-choose Christianity. (Please see Should Christians Keep the Old Testament Law?)

For the sake of this post, I am going to assume that every Evangelical extracts from the Bible certain laws, commands, and precepts to govern their lives; that transgressing these edicts are sins.

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Over the 50 years I spent in the Christian church, I heard a lot of preaching against sin — generally and specifically. I preached a number of sermons myself against this or that sin. Convincing people that they are sinners is the precursor to salvation. Without sin, there’s no need for salvation. Remove sin, fear, and guilt from the equation, and Evangelical churches will empty out overnight.

Once saved, Evangelicals continue to battle against indwelling sin. Surprisingly, having God as your father, Jesus as your BFF, the Holy Ghost living inside of you, and having at your fingertips the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God is not enough to keep Evangelicals from sinning daily in thought, word, and deed. In fact, it seems that Evangelicals sin just like their counterparts in the evil, Satan-controlled world. That’s why Evangelical preachers spend an inordinate amount of time preaching against sin to largely Christian crowds.

Supposedly, Evangelicals are to grow and mature in their faith. One would think that sin would become less of a problem as Evangelicals became more intimate with Jesus. However, as any honest Evangelical pastor will tell you, worldliness, carnality, and sinfulness are common among God’s chosen ones. Jesus is no cure for the human condition.

Evangelical preachers often warn congregants of the danger of the slippery slope. These so-called men of God believe that one behavior deemed sinful, if unconfessed and not forsaken, leads to more serious sinful behaviors. Let me give readers several examples.

Evangelicals believe that it is sinful to use street drugs. Marijuana is considered a gateway drug that opens people up to using harder, more addictive drugs. I came of age in the 1970s. I heard numerous sermons about the evils of drug use — especially marijuana. Numerous church teens were dope smokers. So were my classmates at Findlay High School. It was not uncommon to see people smoking marijuana is the restrooms. Anti-drug preachers posited that marijuana use led to more serious drug use. Start smoking marijuana, and down the slippery slope you will go, ending up a heroin addict. Don’t want to be a heroin addict? the thinking went, don’t smoke marijuana. Of course, few of my fellow youth group members or school classmates became mainline heroin users. I am sure more than a few of them tried LSD or or other psychedelics, but hardcore heroin users? It didn’t happen.

The IFB preachers of my youth loved to preach against sexual sin. I, of course, continued in their footsteps, spending significant time over the years condemning illicit, sinful sexual behavior. I embarrassingly told church teens in one sermon (1980s) that I never knew of a girl who got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first. The slippery slope . . .

slippery slope fallacy

When it came to sexual sin, the slippery slope argument went something like this. Couples who hold hands will tire of it and want more intimacy. Thus hand-holding leads to kissing, and kissing leads to petting, which leads to fornication. Want to avoid committing fornication? Never hold hands. (Never asked was WHY should we want to avoid fucking?) This thinking led the churches I grew up in and the college I attended to develop bizarre anti-human rules. I would later pass on those same rules to churches I pastored. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

A similar argument is used for pornography. People who view porn grow tired of it, seeking out more explicit content, ultimately leading to sexual assault and rape. That’s right. It is just a hop, skip, and jump from YouPorn to becoming a serial rapist.

The slippery slope is a tool used by Evangelical preachers to scare people into conformity. Remember, the goal is always obedience and conformity. Whatever a preacher thinks the law of God is, his goal is lock-step compliance with the teachings of the Bible.

Of course, this approach does not work. Outwardly, it does, but when Evangelicals are on their own, safe in the privacy of their homes and automobiles, no regard is paid to the slippery slope. Sure, sinning Evangelicals have to deal with fear and guilt, but these things are not enough to keep them from behaving in normal, healthy human ways. Any preacher is deluded who thinks that by railing against marijuana and hand-holding he is going to keep church teens and young adults from partying and fornication. Human want, need, and desire win every time.

But, Bruce, for some people, the slippery slope is a real problem. Yep, any of us can and do give in to excess. Most people can drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics. That some people become alcoholics is regrettable, but should we ban the sale and use of alcohol? The same can be said for drugs. Anything can be abused and misused. For example, Polly makes me an angel food cake every year for my birthday. I LOVE angel food cake. I mean really, really, really love it. I can, I kid out not, eat a whole cake by myself. And it is for that reason that Polly only makes me an angel food cake once a year.

We all have habits and desires that seem excessive to others not so inclined. When sin and the slippery slope are removed from the discussion, it becomes easier for us to understand why we do the things we do. Our three oldest sons grew up poor. Rarely, did they get new clothes or shoes. To this day, they talk of the ugly colored Converse tennis shoes I bought them on close-out at Big Lots. Virtually every bit of their clothing either came from their grandparents at Christmas, Goodwill, or hand-me-downs. The boys owned plenty of jeans adorned with iron-on patches. Such was life in the Appalachian hills of southeast Ohio. Fast forward to when the boys were older and had good jobs. Their closets were filled with expensive clothing and shoes. Why, they even had more than one pair of shoes! It’s not hard to draw a line from their upbringing to their extravagance as young adults. One of my sons refuses to let his children wear cast-off shoes to school. His ex-wife is fine with the children wearing $5 shoes from Goodwill. Not my son. It ain’t going to happen! Why? I suspect he remembers his days attending a private Christian school; how his shoes were old, cheap, and shabby compared to those worn by his classmates.

We have a new 2020 Ford Edge, by far the most expensive car we have ever owned. As I reflect on our evolving car-buying habits over the past decade or so, it is evident that decades of driving rust-buckets deeply affected our view of automobiles. We want, dare I say need, newer cars. I can give all sorts of reasons for buying newer cars, but the real reason is that we enjoy owning a new car. I suspect all of us have similar needs in our lives.

My point is this, once we are free of guilt- and fear-inducing sin, we are free to live life on our own terms. Each to his or her own, right? While I think the slippery slope argument has merit in some circumstances, for the most part it is little more than an attempt to control human behavior. Smart are those who recognize where in their life the slippery slope lurks. I am a retired professional photographer. Photographers must be aware of the slippery slope — also known as gear acquisition syndrome (GAS). Photography is not a cheap hobby. I have invested thousands of dollars in camera bodies, lenses, flashes, studio equipment, and miscellaneous equipment. It is really easy for me to want (need) new equipment. Every couple of years, Sony comes out with new camera bodies, always with higher resolution sensors and new bells and whistles. GAS really kicks in for me when they do. But I have learned to not give in to my wants, knowing that doing so sends me careening down the slippery slope that leads to a pile of debt. I know that it is the photographer, and not the equipment (generally), that makes the picture. Sometimes, I fail to reign in my desires. I suspect most of you know what I am talking about. We all have things we are passionate about, things we are willing to spend money on. Don’t get me started on my hats. God, I’m addicted.

For those of you who are ex-Evangelicals, did your pastors use the slippery slope analogy to demand obedience and conformity? Do you still have a problem with guilt and fear over human behaviors you know aren’t sinful, yet you can’t shake the voice of your pulpit-thumping preacher in your head? If you no longer buy into the Christian concept of “sin,” how do you order your life and make decisions these days? Please share your stories in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus Love You (Unless You Smoke Pot) by Brainsnooze

brainsnooze

Warning! Lyrics may contain offensive, vulgar language.

This is the one hundred and fifty-fifth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus Love You (Unless You Smoke Pot) by Brainsnooze.

Video Link

Lyrics

Jesus listens when you pray
Even if you’re black or gay
Jesus loves you no matter what
Except when you are smoking pot
Jesus watches from the sky
He doesn’t like it when you’re high
Jesus wasn’t crucified
For you to get red eyed and fried
Ave Maria
Here’s an idea
Let Jesus be your savior
Stop this bad behavior
If you see pot
Drop it like it’s hot
Jesus’s there in time of need
He wants you to stop taking weed
Dope won’t help you when you’re bored
Find excitement through the Lord
You think it’s cool to smoke some grass
But Jesus thinks you’re a total ass
Put your bong down and get to mass
When you’re stoned Jesus is aghast
Ave Maria
Here’s an idea
Help Jesus be your savior
Stop this bad behavior
Either repel Or get fried in hell

Quote of the Day: 1972 Government Report Said Personal Marijuana Use Should be Legal

jeff sessions marijuana

The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use.  It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance. … Therefore, the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense.

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972

Forty-five years later, marijuana is still absurdly considered a Class 1 drug by the Federal government. If U.S. Justice Department head Jeff Sessions has it his way, people will be arrested and incarcerated for personal marijuana use. Sessions is an anti-science idiot who thinks the drug policies of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon are good ideas.Sessions thinks the failed war on drugs should be ramped up, with drug users prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Jeff Sessions quotes on Marijuana use:

  • I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Sessions said while speaking with law enforcement officers Wednesday. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.
  • We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.
  • I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana… It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.
  • You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different… It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.
  • Good people don’t smoke marijuana.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Marijuana is a Gateway Drug by Paul Chappell

paul chappell

Even when initially used with a medical prescription, marijuana is a gateway drug. As a pastor, I often counsel people who have had major life difficulties because of drug use that began with marijuana. Even recently, I have counseled someone who began using medical marijuana that was prescribed by a questionable doctor in Los Angeles. This man became deeply addicted and relationally incapacitated toward his family. For the past year, his life has been out of control. His story is one of many similar I could give.

….

The greatest concern for our city should be the effect that our making marijuana more accessible would have on the next generation. The damaging effects of marijuana are not theoretical only, nor are they simple “community percentages.” They are life altering to the young people who become addicted.

Adolescent user addiction rates are high—as high as 50 percent. (That exceeds the rate of cocaine addiction.) Additionally, the risk of psychotic episodes is 40 percent greater for marijuana users than for non users, and the risk of schizophrenia is higher among teens who smoke it than those who do not. One study reported that “adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of later developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide.”

Although I am aware that the current topic of discussion for our city relates to cultivating medical marijuana, I believe it is naïve to suggest that even if the conversation regarding marijuana licenses were to stop here, there would be no immediate effect on the young people of our community. Again, in my recent conversation with Sheriff McDonnell, he told me how medical marijuana wrappings have been found in middle schools. People are absolutely buying medical marijuana and reselling for profit—including to teens. I prefer that our city have nothing to do with underage people gaining access to marijuana, even if it’s by our second-hand association through this industry.

While I commend the city for proposing distance requirements prohibiting cultivation facilities within one thousand feet of schools, it is unrealistic to think that this alone will keep marijuana out of the hands of minors. The reality is that licensing cultivation will make marijuana more accessible to young people. And it makes me question, beyond the financial concerns to our city, what moral liability comes to us by entering into this trade?

I am, of course, a pastor, and so I am taking the liberty to share biblical principles related to this issue as well.

The Bible references the use of drugs in Revelation 9:21 as it speaks of people involved in “sorceries.” Interestingly the word translated from Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is pharmakeia and relates to “the use or administering of drugs.” In our biblical opinion, people who take recreational drugs are opening their minds to wickedness and the occult. (And I think police reports could substantiate that concern, by volume if not by verbiage.)

Another Scripture verse passes judgment on those who aid in the dissemination of intoxicating substance: “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also…” (Habakkuk 2:15). Basically, the Bible is saying that when we encourage someone to partake in a substance that brings them under intoxicating influence, we become responsible for what happens in that person’s life as a result of the substance they consume. I believe Governor Jerry Brown and the liberal leadership of our state will be held accountable for their decisions on matters ranging from abortion to releasing violent criminals to legalizing marijuana. I prefer that our city not posture itself similarly by joining in these decisions.

….

Our city has been willing in the past to take a stand against prevalent culture where it was harmful to our residents. I am deeply grateful for the way, in the 2000s, our city stood against gangs and gang-related drug dealing. I remember in the 1990s when our city council passed ordinances against “sex shops.” More recently, our city stood to protect the right to open city council meetings in prayer, including praying in Jesus’ name. God has blessed us since we have taken these stands, and I believe He will bless again for choosing to stand against opening our community to marijuana cultivation.

….

Over the years, there have been other government-passed decisions that our ministry has opposed when these related to moral issues and opposed biblical principles. Should the city pass this ordinance and enter the marijuana trade, our church will continue to teach against using mind-altering substances and will stand against the distribution of such substance outside of a legitimate prescription and medicinal use of truly needed pain medicine. (While there may be a legitimate medical use, I have no assurance that there is a safe and proven process for legal distribution to and through legitimate medical outlets at this time. I think we should also remember that medical marijuana is still not approved by the FDA. Insufficient research and inability for quality control are among their reasons.)

— Paul Chappell, The Pastor’s Perspective, The Marijuana Mistake, February 11, 2017

Note

Paul Chappell is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Chappell pastors Lancaster Baptist Church, a megachurch located in Lancaster, California.

Sacrilegious Humor: Toking Marijuana Helps Man Understand Bible

This is the thirty-first installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is a pastor’s call into the Nite Lite Live TV Show.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser