The “slippery slope” of victimization

Growing up Independent Baptist, I got to hear a lot about slippery slopes.

Mainly I heard about them regarding music. “If you young people start listening to that Christian rock, before you know it you’ll start dancing around a devil fire.” Or something like that.

If you start listening to Christian music “with a beat,” you’ll proceed bit by incremental bit downhill into flagrant sin and degradation. Here’s a sermon about that. (link.)

(For anyone reading this without a background as a fundamentalist, that’s what’s meant by the slippery slope argument.)

Same thing with associations and lifestyle. Lot was the example here. He started out in the valley, but ended up in the vile and wicked city of Sodom that was destroyed. What happened? He went down the slippery slope of compromise. Here’s a sermon about that (link).

The same claim is made about doctrines. Some have said that acceptance of various perhaps-seemingly-benign doctrines is the beginning of the slippery slope to abandoning the truth of the Bible. Here’s an article about that. (link)

When I was trying to come out of fundamentalism, one by one everything that wasn’t super clear in the Bible I put on the table for re-examination. One of them was the concept of the “slippery slope.” Is it real? I asked. Or is it made up, like so many of the fear-mongering teachings I experienced?

It stayed on the table for some time, years maybe.

I began to see how the “slippery slope” applied in some ways the fundamentalist teachers of my past had never mentioned. For example, a Christian wants to earn a lot of money so he’ll have a lot to give to the work of the Lord. But then when he DOES begin to earn a lot of money, bit by bit his heart is pulled away to the material things and the power and influence money can buy. His heart slides down the slippery slope from amassing money into loving money. Sin.

Or a pastor or teacher who started well and loved the Lord and walked in the Spirit becomes more and more popular and bit by bit it affects him in ways that can hardly be adequately explained. He becomes full of himself. His heart slides down the slippery slope from being well-loved to self-exaltation. Sin.

Then in recent years I became aware of another one, a very troubling one. It cemented in my mind that the slippery slope argument, at least in one case, is definitely true.

It is in a certain form of the submission teaching.

Obey your husband in everything, they say, except when he’s asking you to sin. If he’s the only one that’s sinning, then you still obey, and God will deal with him.

What if my husband speaks in a degrading way to me?

Well he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he drags me by my hair down the hall to the bedroom?


Well, he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he ties all four of my limbs to the four bedposts?

Well, he’s not asking you to sin, so you just endure it. God will deal with him.

 What if he brings a woman into the bedroom and wants to have a “threesome”?

Oh, whoa, wait a minute, that’s wrong. That’s sin. The marriage bed is for just you and your husband, so you need to say “no” to that.

Oh whoa wait a minute yourself.

How can you tell a woman she should obey her husband in everything except when he tells her to sin, if all the previous obediences have been silencing her, stripping her of any dignity, and ultimately leading up to that sin?

An abuser’s demands to sin almost never spring up out of the blue, in isolation from everything else. By the time it comes to demanding “sin” of her, the sin on the abuser’s part has often already been so egregious that her voice has been completely taken away from her.

If the slippery slope argument ever applies anywhere, it applies here.

Instead of telling a wife to wait until her husband tries to get her to sin, the church of Jesus Christ can be telling wives that they can stand up against their husband’s sin.

Don’t let women go down the slippery slope of losing their voices in one sinful situation after another, until ultimately they’re being forced to do things that they would never have chosen to do, would never have dreamed of doing.

Encourage them to speak and stand for what’s right. Encourage them to live lives of dignity and respect.

Encourage them to refuse to ignore the sin in their homes, even if it is “only”  the sin of their abuser.

 

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David Finnamore
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David Finnamore

That strikes me as a simple category confusion. Abuses are not leadership. So, it’s not an either or, teach them to obey except… OR teach them to stand up to abuse. It should be both, right? The general principle of obeying in so far as possible without disobeying a higher authority is seen in other realms, too, such as in Acts, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” The apostles teach and model it, including with respect to marriage (1 Peter, I think it’s cheaper 3?) Shouldn’t we teach women to stand up to abuse along with teaching them that, not instead of it?

Nancy
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Nancy

Teaching women to obey their husbands is an antiquated policy in my opinion, at least in the society we live in. Both work, both buy/sell and make decisions. They should be partners and love each other enough to agree on important things but blind obedience? I just do not think that works for anyone.

truthseeker00
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truthseeker00

Thanks for these thoughts. It has occurred to me recently, with my first child about to get married, that the problem begins when you reduce people to categories. Instead of urging this young man and woman to be one another’s best friend, lover and encourager, The Chruch would reduce them to categories: marriage, husband, or wife. Then, someone else sets the standards and makes the decisions on what a ‘godly marriage’. ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ should look like. Lost in the attempt to have a ‘christian marriage’ or be a godly ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is the joy and learning process that a relationship is meant to be.

Two individuals, with a unique set of ideas, talents, hopes and quirks can be the beginning of learning about what love means. They can join hands and hearts and seek to learn how to love one another as best they can, learning through the process the meaning of grace, forgiveness, second chances and all of the things that show us how amazing God’s love for us truly is.

Or they can be reduced to meeting the approval of self-claimed ‘authorities’, like parents, pastors, etc., just as so many have exchanged a real relationship with God with meeting the standards of The Church. There is a huge difference between learning to love someone and trying to be a ‘good husband’ or a Proverbs 31 wife. One requires thinking always of the other, one demands always thinking of yourself.

Rachel Nichols
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If a man is addicted to booze and demands his wife give him more beers to drink, giving him the 6-pack would be enabling his alcoholism. By allowing him to beat her and not doing anything that’s enabling his addiction to violence. And the church leaderships who pretend it isn’t happening are the worst enablers. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience I read that wife abuse is worse in the church than in the world. (Ditto for racist behaviors.)

joepote01
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joepote01

A very good post, Rebecca!

Yes, accepting abuse incrementally is a very slippery slope, indeed. Thank you, for so clearly explaining how that works.

In terms of slippery slopes, I’ve come to see the path toward legalism as one of the most dangerous slippery slopes for Christians. It’s great to study, read doctrinal statements, develop doctrinal positions, etc. However, too often theologians, teachers, and preachers get so committed to a specific doctrinal position they loose their ability to see and meet needs…to love as Christ loves…to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

In Christ’s earthly ministry, the only people group He was unable to minister to were the self-righteous religious leaders who were entrenched in their legalistic doctrinal positions. Sadly, that is true of many “Christian” leaders, today. The recent Paige Patterson scandal and his telling an abused wife she cannot divorce her abuser is a good example…but only one of many.

Thank you for the thought-provoking post! 🙂

David
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David

Rebecca,

The biggest “slippery slope” I see from the examples you are using, is couples are getting married without being mutually in love.

I got into an on-line discussion with a Reformed Preacher, after he proclaimed on his blog, “if you are living together you need to get married” I responded back, if they don’t love each other they shouldn’t get married. I went even further suggest that I would in fact discourage a couple living together to get married.

The foundation of abuse involves lack of knowledge of being truly in love, lack of emotional connection, lack of mentoring, lack of communicating of what it really means to mutually surrender to one another. To let go of past bad teachings and start fresh.

That doesn’t help those who married someone who married someone they don’t love or don’t love them back.

But to those who haven’t married but are considering marriage (like my daughter) they need to look deep enough into the heart of their suitor. I have been emphasizing that how they communicate or pursuing similar wants and goals in life without colliding but instead compromising, is a way one or the other isn’t force feeding their will on each other.

The last time I suggested to my wife that I wanted to grab her by the hair and drag her on the ground from her cave into my cave, she set me straight by waving her little fist at me and wished me good luck in trying that, but somehow I have the feeling you aren’t talking about kidding around.

BreatheAgain
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The extremely low standards that wives are supposed to accept are horrifying. WWJD? Not this.