From the Editor
The Not-So-Slippery Slope
Conservation, environmentalism, progressivism, creation care; does it matter what we call it? Tossing labels around, especially anything with “ism” on the end, is a recipe for divisiveness and conflict. And although disagreement en route to the truth is certainly important and necessary if we are going to get to the bottom of any controversial subject, most people seem to quit when it’s time to get into the challenging details. Especially when it comes to politics, religion, and the environment, most people just want to scream platitudes at each other and go their separate ways. Whether it’s ignorance, intellectual laziness or conscience-soothing, the Slippery Slope argument is one of the most misused lines of logic behind these platitudes and one that stops real discussion in its tracks.
One of the biggest reasons that this strain of logic has problems is that it is based on assumptions, whether they be assuming that current realities will endure or assuming that many future possibilities actually come to pass. The added danger when we start talking about the environment is that the assumptions that we are extending out into the future are often being extrapolated out hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. When I fly an airplane from Phoenix to Los Angeles and I am 1 degree off heading, I will arrive 6 miles abeam the city after traveling 375 miles: certainly close enough to see the city assuming there aren't too many clouds. However, when I continue on to Hawaii, another 2,500 miles away, if I am just 1 degree off heading on that leg, I will miss the islands by 42 miles. I am here to tell you that I won't see those islands if I miss them by 42 miles, even at 35,000 feet in the air. Clearly we need to look into the future to make educated decisions about the present, but we need to be very careful about just how we use the data that we have collected during our extremely short time on earth.
Sometimes these extrapolations are almost comical, yet they seem to work politically by appealing to some of our worst fears. I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say that banning assault weapons does not lead to communism, allowing prayer in schools will not lead to state-enforced religion, and entertaining the idea of carbon offsets or alternative fuels will not derail the capitalist system and send the country into a great depression. Now to be fair, these fears do lurk in the back of our minds and we need to deal with them. However, we deal with them in the same way we deal with any irrational fears: with evidence, facts, and sound arguments.
Then, when we’ve researched the facts and formed a realistic argument about the actual issue, and not some hypothetical future issue, we set it up against the two truths we know are not debatable. We know they aren’t debatable because Jesus boiled them down for us, he said that all of the other commandments hang on these two truths: to love the Lord and to love each other as ourselves. That’s it. When the decision that we come up with allows us to follow these two clear (but not simple) commandments, then that decision is sound and worthy of pursuit. But if it doesn’t, then we must go back to the drawing board. As we learned in our basic ethics or philosophy class: the ends do not ever justify the means.
I am so thankful that rather than having to navigate the minefield of relative truth, where what is true for me is different than what is true for you, the Bible gives us some solid handholds to grasp on to. It’s only when we ignore Jesus’ words or try to explain them away in some complicated argument that we begin to slide down that proverbial slippery slope.
So when it comes to conservation, creation care, environmentalism, or whatever you want to call it: let’s not lose sight of our basic reason for remaining on this earth, to spread God’s love to everyone around us. And when it gets a little murky and the arguments get a little convoluted, let’s go back to an old adage and maybe update it a little for today… “Really, would Jesus do that?”
Pursue, Explore, Celebrate,