The camel’s nose under the tent flap on the slippery slope

The camel’s nose under the tent flap on the slippery slope

Some people reject as cliche the common aphorisms related to the “slippery slope” or the more colorful “camel’s nose under the tent flap.” (An old Middle Eastern saying is that once the camel’s nose is under the tent flap, pretty soon you’ll have the whole camel in the tent.)

But the fact is that cliches become such for a reason. Here’s an example of one such slippery slope. In 1930, The Anglican Communion held a conference at Lambeth, England, on the topic of contraception. Prior to that time, no Christian church or ecclesial body had approved of contraception in any form. But not after Lambeth.

In reality, the Lambeth conference did not countenance contraception at will, in any circumstances Anglicans so desired, but only allowed it for the most extreme circumstances, such as to safeguard the life of mother, so that the couple would not have to abstain. Today, you’d be hardpressed to find even many Catholics to disagree with that.

Not so in 1930. Catholics were appalled at even the little crack in the doctrine for the severest cases. Catholic leaders (and non-Catholics as well) warned that allowing contraception even for just danger to the life of the mother would result in breaking down the distinction between motherhood and prostitution, that children would no longer be considered a gift, that it would lead to wholesale slaughter of the innocents. They were pooh-poohed as reactionary and spreading overheated rhetoric. The prophets of doom were right.

Fast-forward to 1968. Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae warns that contraception would lead to abortion and abortion would lead to infanticide leading to euthanasia and all kinds of anti-life evils. Once again, he was pooh-poohed as being out of touch and overreacting. And once again, he was right.

In fact, a straight line can be traced from that first allowance for evil little you open the door even wider. Even pop culture recognizes it, if subconsciously; look at Star Wars with its warnings about the dark side of The Force. Even a little dalliance with evil leads to a complete turning from good.

Slippery slopes are real. The trick is figuring how to get yourself back up the slope.