Friday, March 17, 2006

That Darned Slippery Slope

There's a new article out in Newsweek about the dreaded slippery slope theory that conservatives have been bringing up about gays and gay marriage for the last several years.

There's a post up about the slippery slope and how the sky really is falling over at the Exodus Blog.

I'd like to make a few quick points.

First, don't be deceived, slippery slopes are a fallacy. One could attach a "slippery slope" argument into nearly any debate. The problem is that it doesn't need proof and the "proof" that is often cited to show it's happening may appear to be on message, but it is usually the result of arm-chair quarterbacking and the misunderstanding (intentionally or unitentionally) of information.

Second, the slippery slope argument is nothing new. Rest assured that it was used in the case of racial segregation, interracial marriage, nearly every religious debate ever discussed, etc. The sky didn't fall then, and it won't now.

Third, the slippery slope that supposedly links gay marriage and gay rights with polygamy is backwards. In the case of polygamy, polygamists have been fighting for marriage rights and recognition for hundreds, if not thousands of years (and it Biblical times, they had full marriage rights in many cases), way before gay rights was even thought of. So to now say that gay rights are creating a slippery slope that leads into polygamy is absurd and backwards. You could just as easily say that the popularity of polygamy in the last 2 decades (yes, it was getting press in the 80's and 90's too, without gay marriage) has led to the gay rights struggle. Either way, you'd be wrong because they are two different issues.

Progress is progress. It doesn't happen because of some elusive slippery slope but because people begin to realize what is right. Refusing to make it legal to let people discriminate against gay people in housing, employment, and other areas isn't creating a slippery slope, it's doing the right thing.

Here's the point. Slippery slope arguments are distractions. Just because HBO made a movie about polygamists doesn't mean gay marriage caused it anymore than interracial marriage caused it or inter-religious marriage caused it. Don't fall for it, just do what is right. And, making discrimination legal isn't right, no matter what your justification may be.


At 17/3/06 10:04 AM, Blogger grace said...

I agree with you Brady. Slippery slope arguments are used constantly in every context and I've never been comfortable or supportive of those sorts of arguments.

Here's some slippery slope type thinking for you...."I should NEVER have spoken to my children as babies and fostered their thinking and verbalization they are teenagers and they're talking back to me!" The horror.

We can do what's right without using lame slippery slope arguments. Making decisions based on those sorts of arguments just doesn't make sense to me.

At 17/3/06 10:16 AM, Blogger PBCliberal said...

You're right. Its not a slippery slope where one event causes another event to inevitably happen; its part of the package you get when you take the government out of the marriage business.

Its very similar to the rise of the Universal Life Church, which was part of the package with the decision in the infamous "Church of I AM" in the 30s. If the government doesn't have the right to pick good doctrine from bad (Texas is fighting over this now), you wind up with some pretty wacky "churches."

I think our response to their polygamous concerns ought to be: "...And your point?"

I was amazed to see the Mormon Church be one of only two religious groups to file a brief against gay marriage in Hawaii. Here's a denomination whose founders believed the government should stay out of its marriage vows until it was forced (through the lure of Utah statehood) to go against its founding elders. The score: Federal government 1, Angel Moroni 0.

Polygamy does an excellent job of exposing the religious right's hypocracy. Folks who want to reduce the size of government and get it out of the business of meddling in peoples lives, are suddenly clamoring for a constitutional amendment to codify into law the "homosexual proscriptions" in the bible that are confusing and contradictory.

Yet polygamy and concubines are much more clearly supported in biblical text, yet the 100 percenters who insist we live by every jot and tittle of scripture don't really want the world the way they claim god commanded.

If its a "slippery slope" then let's start actively slipping down it. Let's outlaw the lending of money, the eating of pork, the wearing of clothes of mixed fiber. And bring on the harems! Make mine a concubine!

We come pretty quickly to the choice so expertly posed by Jamie Raskin before the state senate of Maryland, when he advised Senator Nancy Jacobs:

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

At 17/3/06 12:47 PM, Blogger Brady said...

Hi Grace. I was just thinking about you today. Someone over at Ex-Gay Watch (a commenter) linked to you as an example of how to handle a contentious debate without offending the people you are disagreeing with, and I was glad to see others acknowledge that great attribute in you.

I love your slippery slope example, and you are right, you/we/they/everyone can do what is right without leaning on a slippery slope argument as back up. Actually, it will probably make the argument (any argument) that much more powerful.

PBCLiberal- good point about the Mormon Church. The same should also go for most evangelicals. The Baptist Church, for example, was founded on pretty strong principles of separation of church and state. It is just that separation that allowed their denomination to grow and thrive. If the government had gotten involved in banning or restricting what they believed to be the heretical Baptists (at the time), we would certainly not have the same denomination that exists today.

At 17/3/06 1:30 PM, Blogger PBCliberal said...

And of the Baptists, my special favorite are the Southern ones. They split from the "baptist baptists"...the way they tell it...over the question of autonomy of the individual churches from control of the central church hierarchy.

Today, they'll tell you that it was mere coincidence that they happened to be having a big internal battle over whether people should be held as slaves, and the northern baptist churches not only thought slavery was wrong, but that the church should compel each and every one of its congregations to stop this nonsense over slavery being in the bible, and blacks being the wandering tribes of israel and take a stand that men can't own men and women.

We should wear as a badge of honor, that the southern baptists are at it again. The only thing they've found in 150 years that trumps the autonomy of their churches is gay marriage and the ordination of women.

Makes one proud they're not a Southern Baptist.

At 17/3/06 2:33 PM, Anonymous Jay said...

Have you ever read any Robert Heinlein? Great SciFi author! He creates very interesting societies in his books and explores marriage ethics outside of standard Western/Judeo-Christian society.

Whatever...slippery slopes are only a danger to those afraid of change...and most who fear change are really afraid of taking the responsibility shaping our own society. They prefer to rely on what worked for the past rather than serve the needs of the present.

But I say we are capable of climbing these difficult mountains, and refuse to use my fear of falling as a reason to stay in the foothills. We can make it! We are perfectly capable of exploring our own identities and finding new meaning in our lives and relationships. And should we fall...should we stumble in our noble endeavor, then we have the courage and determination to pick ourselves back up and start up the mountainside again.

There was a people once who said, "It is a land of Giants! We shouldn't go there! We'll be killed for sure!" Forty years later their children finally made it where they refused to go.

There are no Lord is with us. And that slippery's the only way forward.

At 20/3/06 10:03 AM, Blogger Brady said...

PBC- Interestingly enough, most of my dad's family is Southern Baptist, and I grew up in that church. I love the down-to-earth style of worship and fellowship, but the politics leave a bit to be desired for me.

Hi Jay-
I haven't read him, but that sounds very interesting. I love your statement that the slippery slope is the only way forward. Very nicely put.


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