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I imagine that for some of the early abolitionists in the South, the process was similar. They reminded themselves that most Christians around them believed that the Bible supported slavery. They minimized it by saying that the pastor only taught that slavery was Biblical once in awhile. Mostly it was just included in passing references or anecdotes. I think that they knew and understood the culture, because they had grown up in it. They probably had people that they loved and respected who were slaveholders. They didn't want to act out of pride or arrogance. Perhaps they tried to tell themselves that it wasn't a foundational point of doctrine--just one of those areas where people had to follow their own conscience.
But eventually, the conviction would grow in their hearts that how we view other human beings, created in God's image just like us, our brothers and sisters in Christ, really does matter. That the command to treat others as we would like to be treated is foundational. That how we study and interpret Scripture is part of the basis for trust in a pastoral relationship. That how a pastor views God and people will color the rest of his theology, too.
I live in the buckle of the Bible belt. And most people here take the "belt" part very literally. It is extremely common here for pastors to preach on spanking. The vast majority of churches in the area regularly offer classes where parents are instructed to spank early (often before a year), and often--at any sign of disobedience or defiance (which usually means any time the parent suspects the child of questioning the commands).
My parents, grandparents and in laws were all pastors. I understand that they are human. I know that *I* make mistakes, and that humility and the willingness to learn from others is important. I don't expect us to see everything exactly the same, and there are plenty of areas where I could just agree to disagree. But I have come to the place where this is foundational for me. It is about our understanding of the very nature of God, about the atonement of Christ, about grace. Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of these, we do to Him. I cannot align myself under a pastor whose view of these issues is radically different from what I believe the Bible teaches. And knowing what I know how about how terribly spanking can damage families, I cannot support a person in a position of authority who continues to exhort parents to spank.
It feels a bit lonely. I am afraid that my friends and family will think I am making too big of a deal about it. It sounds safer to just maintain the status quo. It also feels discouraging, considering the dominant culture here. I suspect that some of the things that are preferences for me (like the style of worship) will be sacrificed. But I want and need to be an active part of a local body, and I have to be able to be fed without screaming inside that we are all being poisoned.
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