The Non Sequitur of the “Slippery Slope”

Dear Big Middle,*

This is our first real blog together!

I’m glad you stopped by to read. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should probably read this first. It will help you understand whether or not these posts are even aimed at you.

I thought I would start with the easier issues first, and gradually move toward the more challenging. (At least, from your perspective…)

The easiest issue of all to refute in the case against same sex marriage is the concept of the “slippery slope.”

You’ve heard the argument before. You may have even used it in debates, because there’s something about it that seems logical to you.

The argument usually goes something like this, “Well, I understand the idea of gay marriage, but what’s to prevent a Man/Boy marriage, like NAMBLA? And, once you’ve opened the door for this, there’s no telling where it might lead.”

Other variations have gay or lesbian people marrying sheep, goats, chickens, or other animals. Rick Santorum was quite fond of this “logic.”

This is classic “slippery slope” thinking. The reasoning is that some moral position, taken by itself, might even be acceptable. But because it could lead to other, more horrendous things, it must be resisted.

slippery_slope_color

Before pointing out the logic that destroys the slippery slope argument, let me first hurriedly remind you how patently offensive it is in this situation. To even make the case means you have compared gay/lesbian people to pedophiles. (As Russian President Putin clearly does…)

The LGBT people I know are just as revolted by pedophilia as you are, and there is not one shred of evidence connecting pedophilia with gay and lesbian sexual orientation. So, beyond being logically incorrect, it’s also deeply offensive.

So. On to destroy the argument…

The argument crumbles because of one very important word in our legal vocabulary: Consent.

For two adults to be married, they must be able to give their legal consent. A person must be of legal age to be able to “consent” to a marriage. Every wedding you’ve ever attended has contained the moment where the couple “consents” to the marriage together. In the Christian service, it’s called “The Declaration of Intent.”

The basic question is “Are you ready to get married to this person?”
The person answers “I will,” or “I do,” or “I am.”

The bottom line: No consent, no marriage.

Marriage is not possible without two adult human beings who are able to give legal consent.

So, let me state the obvious.

A child cannot give legal consent. (That why you have to fill out a “consent form” when your kid goes on a mission trip…)

A chicken, sheep, or cow cannot give legal consent.

Neither can a tree.

There is no conceivable legal universe in which any of these entities could ever give legal consent.

And yet, I often hear it said, “Well, if we adopt same sex marriage then what’s to stop us from changing “consent?” It could happen.”

No, it can’t.

What stops it from happening is that “consent” is a legal concept that cuts across all the various kinds of law: Criminal, Civil, Family, Corporate….you name it.

Pick a type of law, and you’ll find the concept of consent well defined and established.

The idea that it could change in the area of marriage, but not change in these other areas is like believing you could stop gravity inside your house but leave the rest of the planet spinning normally.

slippery-slope.png?w=550&h=309This is why the whole idea of marriage between a “Man/Child” or “Man/Chicken” or “Man/Whatever your offensive item might be” is totally impossible.

It is a legal and verbal non-sequitur.

It makes as much sense as suggesting “Man/Unicorn” marriage.

So, here’s what I ask of you:
a) If you’ve been using this argument yourself, please stop. You are lying about the law. At least, now that I’ve laid this out clearly, you will be lying if you do it again.
b) If you hear others using it, please speak up. Use the moment as a teachable moment about reality of all marriage.

As I’ve said many times, one of the huge problems grappling with the issue of same sex marriage is that the average person does not fully understand what marriage is in the first place. This issue of consent is front and center of those misunderstandings.

The “slippery slope” is the non sequitur of the anti-same-sex marriage argument.

Thanks for reading.

Stop back by soon for another “issue.”

Hope this helps,

EF

*Of the United Methodist Church

Check out the next entry in this series: “They’re Not Marrying You.”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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