The Blindfold, the Abyss, and the Forbidden Forest: What Christians don’t get about sin warnings

Wallace Henley, writer for Christian Post, thinks Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson said a great thing when he recently denounced homosexuality.

His article Phil Robertson, the Blindfold, and the Abyss presents Phil’s words as an honest warning, not a threat or hatred. He contrasts this with other, less “loving” reactions using the allegory of a blindfolded man about to walk off a cliff.

A man hiking over a vast desert is struck by a sandstorm. His eyes sting from the eyelid-penetrating grains. He jerks his bandana from around his neck, and ties it over his eyes. He leaves one tiny sliver open at the bottom so he can see at least the ground he's walking upon.

The wind howls nonstop. He trudges on like this for hours. His limited view makes him ignorant of the fact he's been slowly ascending a mountain, and is approaching a cliff-edge at the bottom of which is an abyss.

The flat ground near the rim is occupied by two religious parties. As the blindfolded man approaches they spy him through the whirling tempest of sand and began doing what religious parties tend to do: debate.

One side hesitates to correct the man, or to warn him he's still blindfolded and can't see the abyss he nears. "Let him walk in the direction he has chosen. It is his path. If we rip off the blindfold we will be judgmental, implying it's wrong for a man to cover his eyes in a sandstorm. If we cry out that he is a blindfolded man approaching a cliff we might damage his self-esteem, since there are hate-mongers who think a man who would come near the precipice of a mountain wearing a blindfold is stupid. We must love him, not correct him."

The other party sees the blindfolded man, concludes he's a wicked fool, that he has willfully chosen the path of death and deserves to go over the edge. "Die, you wretch!" they scream.

The man cannot hear because the wind howls. The coddlers care so much they let him go over the edge, fearing offending the man and wounding his self-esteem more than rescuing him. The cursers rejoice as the foolish scoundrel plummets into the abyss. Later they picket his funeral.

You hear this a lot—that Christians spewing hate aren’t really spewing hate. They’re trying to protect those poor foolish people who just refuse to take the blindfold off.

But really—how does the blindfold make sense in this allegory? Does Henley really think there are gay people in America who haven’t heard the message that all gays are sinful and going to hell? Does he really think you can live in this country without running across a conservative Christian?

And he assumes an abyss, too; a stark, gaping abyss that is very obvious if you just take the blindfold off. That’s not an accurate analogy.

Instead, imagine that same man with the blindfold, walking through a sandstorm. He approaches, not a cliff, but a line drawn in the sand. Beyond that line is a dark, forbidden forest which is said to be filled with all manner of evil.

Two religious parties are camped near the line. When they see the man coming, they both rush out and begin hollering at him until he takes the blindfold off and looks at where he is.

“Don’t cross that line!” says one party. “If you venture over the line into the Evil Forest, you will be devoured by the Unspeakable Evil and never been seen again.”

“That might be,” said the other party, “but there’s some question about whether the Unspeakable Evil really lives there, or if it was all a mistake.”

The man debates with the religious people for a while, and finally makes up his mind. “Thanks for warning me,” he says. “But I think your great evil is just hogwash. I’d rather chance that in the forest than stay here in the sandstorm where my eyes will soon be ground out by the sand.”

At this point, do the religious people allow him to go on his way, confident that they did their best? Do they even ask him to return if he can, to tell them if they were wrong about the evil?

Or do they oppose him? Do they follow along with him as he walks toward the forest, calling him names and demanding he step back across the line? Do they try to trip him, push him, slow him down and then claim he’s tripping because he crossed the line, not because of their actions? Do they pass laws to make crossing the line a crime, or making those who cross the line give up their rights?

If all else fails, do they seek to kill him, or encourage others who would kill him?

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