One of the more well-known ideas about cultural change is the “slippery slope.” The notion is that when you take a step down a slippery slope, you are at risk of losing your footing and can end up sliding all the way down to the bottom—no matter how determined you were to walk only a certain distance down the slope. The term is often applied to first steps that seem innocent enough, or at least few would sensationalize, yet they are steps that put you at risk for sliding further than anyone would have envisioned.
Typically, this is cast in terms of moral steps—i.e., you begin with accepting homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle and you end up with gay marriage or, more to the point, any number of other imagined sexual liaisons being affirmed that were previously considered immoral.
But there is another slippery slope that is taking hold. It’s the slope marked with signs that read “tolerance,” “discrimination,” and “hate.” Specifically, it’s placing such signs on areas of simple, but profound, moral disagreement. If I believe that homoerotic behavior is against my personal beliefs, deeply rooted in conviction and religious faith, then I am considered intolerant—someone who engages in discrimination and part of a “hate” group. It doesn’t matter that I am not socially or legally intolerant. It doesn’t matter that I do not engage in economic discrimination nor that I have any “hate” in my heart at all.
I disagree; therefore, I am practicing discrimination. I am intolerant. I am a hater.
Further, this disagreement is now license for any and all available punitive action as a result of that labeling. I was reminded of that anew with three stories from last week’s news.
First, Chick-fil-A was prevented from servicing the San Antonio airport because of its “anti-LGBTQ” views. This was not based on the privately owned company refusing service to anyone from the LGBTQ community or refusing to hire them at their restaurants. No, it was simply because they give money to the Salvation Army as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, both of which adhere to a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. And, as Christian organizations, they do not feel biblically free to place a practicing homosexual in leadership.
But according to Think Progress, which complained to the San Antonio council, this amounts to discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Translation: Christians will not be allowed to hold to Christian values, no matter how much they refute actual discrimination against the LGBTQ community. As a result, without allowing Chick-fil-A to explain such differences, Councilman Roberto Trevino said in a statement following the vote that their stance was about being a “champion of equality and inclusion,” refusing “anti-LGBTQ behavior” and ensuring everyone feels “welcome when they walk through our airport.”
Next, there was the pastor with videos on YouTube who taught the biblical view on homosexuality. An employee at YouTube complained, which led to the video ads being banned. Why? It was deemed “homophobic.” If you were to watch them, it was clear there was nothing homophobic about them; just biblical teaching. Even making it clear that homoerotic behavior was no greater a sexual sin than any other. But again, Google (the parent company of YouTube) immediately labeled it as “disparaging” of others – intolerant, discriminatory and hateful – for choosing to embrace and espouse a counter-ethic.
Finally, a woman in the U.K. who is a devout Catholic did not refer to a transgender person in the way the transgender person felt was the appropriate sex. This led to a six-month-long police investigation. Though the “mis-gendering” flowed from her religious convictions about “what it means to be male and what it means to be female,” the investigation was pursued under the guise of a “hate crime.”
The new slippery slope is clear: it is no longer about acceptance or tolerance or equal rights—it is about the refusal for anyone to disagree. And if you do disagree, you should be penalized in whatever way possible: refused participation in the economy, silenced in the public sphere and, if needed, criminally prosecuted.
It seems like I’ve read about this cultural scenario before… oh, yes… I remember now. The book of Revelation in the New Testament.
Maybe the end times are closer than we think.
James Emery White
Kelly Tyko, “Chick-fil-A Banned from Opening at San Antonio Airport, Council Members Cite LGBTQ Issues,” USA Today, March 22, 2019, read online.
Samuel Smith, “Google Banned Christian YouTube Ad on Homosexuality After Backlash from Employees,” The Christian Post, March 20, 2019, read online.
Martin Evans and Gabriella Swerling, “Devout Catholic ‘Who Used Wrong Pronoun to Describe Transgender Girl’ to Be Interviewed by Police,” The Telegraph, March 20, 2019, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.