Between a Christian
While looking up Christian family organizations online, I came across your informative website. The article that drew my attention the most was the article "To Spank or Not to Spank." Your conclusion was very Biblical: "We have seen in Proverbs 13:24 & Hebrews 12:6-11 that discipline is love, that a parent who disciplines their child promptly and consistently loves them, and the parent who refuses to discipline their child is behaving toward that child like an enemy."
Looking through this article, I found countless references to parts of the Bible. Proverbs most notably, but also Kings, Samuel, Psalm, Ephesians, and Hebrews. When it comes to making a judgment about corporal punishment and children, it's clear that you have only one reference: the Bible. The one verse that perfectly summarizes this attitude is Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly."
There was interpretation and reinterpretation, references and then cross-references. However, my questions were not quite answered by your reasoning. It appears that the Bible has plenty of advice in nurturing and bringing up our children. My question was rather... how do you know that the Bible's method is right? You seemed to have the opinion, "The best way to interpret the Bible, especially difficult portions of Scripture, is the Bible itself." If we relied on this method, we'd still believe that the world is flat and that fire is an element.
What is the mechanism by which love can take the form of physical aggression? How can a human being become improved when they've been beaten and kicked, hit with sticks and weapons? The response to this environment has always been post-traumatic stress. It occurs with adult human beings and with mammals. How is it possible that it does not happen to children? They are capable of suffering, like other conscious beings, and similarly, they make judgments and evaluations of the world around them -- even if they are not aware of it.
What happens to those people who suffer traumatic, violent, and threatening experiences? They become withdrawn and suspicious, they measure their stress in terms of being held down and slapped. And throughout their whole lives, the nightmare never leaves. Morality becomes deformed, socializing becomes impossible, and a normal existence in a community requires overcoming gigantic obstacles. The real Satan that we must face is not from the Bible; it springs forward from human hands, when they think of their children and grab their belts.
This is a new person, who has never been to this world before, and knows nothing about it. That is a child, and how sad that we often forget exactly what they are. We shouldn't be shocked, then, that when someone knows nothing but being beaten, nothing else matters. And what else could be known? Love of the parents? Their tendered affection between moments when their rage overtakes them? All of that becomes a lie. It is like the flower blossoming in the distance from the gallows: a small piece of beauty that wilts, as we die inside.
How is it that a child can love a parent who beats them? Instinct. Instinct and necessity. This is the basis for the human relationship of families. It's so miserable and unbearable, that the only thing that keeps us there is the need for food. Millions of children who run away, thousands are are thrown out regularly, are proof of this.
By defending child abuse, you aren't helping people become better parents. You're helping them feel justified and okay in doing what they already doing: losing their temper, getting lazy, becoming uninterested in their children. Why is it so hard to possibly believe that you can sit down with a child, and communicate as a human being? Why would anyone think that this is impossible? Why would they think that this makes bad people? I can't imagine bad people springing from liberty and a good environment... I only see potential murderers, rapists, and future abusers in children who suffer "discipline of the rod."
Is there any single person in history who recounts their "disciplined childhood" as wonderful and glorious? No, they are only bitter for it, and if they defend it, it's because their sense of compassion has been burned and scarred. This is a world built by heavy hands and fast arms -- and, we too, shall keep the tradition. It has to be done, as the word of god. This is the reasoning of a raving lunatic, and naturally, serial killers almost always had a violent childhood. In a study of fifty murderer-rapists, 50% had been psychologically abused and 36% were "disciplined by the rod." ("The incidence of child abuse in serial killers," by Heather Mitchell and Michael G. Aamodt.)
The parents of such killers often relied Biblical teachings to make their children. Consider Perry Smith, the killer from Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." This is someone who suffered physical abuse from his parents, and once in the world, he experienced from his employers and the authorities. And, in the blink of an eye, he cuts a man's throat, and executes every member of his family. Where does this inhumanity come from?
There is this quote from your article that sticks out, "God's Word tells us that our children are born foolish (Proverbs 22:15)." Yes, most certainly; they are born only knowing that this is their world. And, knowing nothing, being brought up is the experience of imparting the older generation's knowledge on the youth. Why, then, when children are born foolish do they become murderers? Why do they become rapists and child abusers, violent lovers and cruel people? They are born knowing nothing... but after discipline by the rod, they at least know how to hurt other people. They have been taught, at least, the lightness with which this world's people treat such torture.
Looking at other statistics, this becomes far and far more profound. In one study done in 2008, 12,000 subjects were interviewed about their history of spanking. Those who were spanked had a significantly higher chance to verbally coerce partners into sex and to use force with other people. ["Study: Spanking children affects their sex lives as adults," February 29, 2008.] There are countless studies showing how child abuse is associated with lacking social skills as an adult: less sympathy, less ability to communicate with others, and less concern for other people.
And that's what spanking is: child abuse. There is no use in trying to pull out some verses of the Bible to justify it. Why would any child who grew up in such a household accept Christianity? For many of them, they've suffered more than Christ -- the blasphemy isn't in being born, it's in taking a child and striking them violently.
The Bible commands slavery in Ephesians 6:5. It defends slavery in Exodus and it commands raping children in chapter 31 of Numbers. Sure, you think you can justify the spanking of a child by quoting the Bible. Before you know it, people will justify child rape with by quoting the Bible. "Kill all adults! The little girls, who have not known men, keep alive for yourselves!" (Numbers 31) Why not justify slavery, or rape, or murder? It's all there.
If you don't believe in murder and rape, then welcome to the club: nobody who has a heart can believe in such tragic cruelty and barbaric customs. Even those who owned slaves two hundred years ago rejected parts of the Bible. And there we see it: by rejecting parts of the Bible, we become more humane. You reject the rape that Moses commanded in Numbers, the murder commanded by god in Deuteronomy. You do this without giving it a second thought. Why? Because you have grown far more humane than the authors of the Bible could have ever hoped for.
You might not worry about it, because you think you're assured an eternity of happiness and pleasure. That is the lesson of the Bible. But the lesson of the history book is slightly different. It says you'll be remembered the way we remember Christian slave owners of the past: barbarians who would read and believe anything in the Bible if it personally benefited them.
Please, reconsider your thoughts about spanking and child abuse. You cannot rely only on the Bible, because if you did, you would believe in slavery and child rape.
I patiently and humbly await your response. Thank you.
Dear Andy Carloff
It is clear that you are very passionate over this subject and I commend you for it. The abuse that goes on in this world toward innocent children is so wrong. And yes, even the church is guilty for some of its teaching and encouraging practices in the area of parenting. I would like to respond to a few of your comments before I make a recommendation to you.
You quoted something I said in my article, "The best way to interpret the Bible, especially difficult portions of Scripture, is the Bible itself." Your response to that was, "If we relied on this method, we'd still believe that the world is flat and that fire is an element". Let me encourage you to read Job 26:7-10, Isaiah 40:21-22 and Proverbs 8:27 each of these passages of scripture make it clear that the world is round.
You also made the statement, "What is the mechanism by which love can take the form of physical aggression?" The word you are using "aggression" to describe the proper use of spanking when a child is unwilling to receive discipline from a parent is not what the bible or the article I wrote depicts. As you know the word aggression means, "unprovoked attack" and that is not at all what the proper use of spanking a child is. I do agree that your word does describe many parent's incorrect behaviors in their use of spanking but ones personal wrong behaviors does not make a truth untruth. Many people drive cars while intoxicated and many innocent people even children are killed because of it so does that mean cars are bad and we should all stop driving them?
You also said, "How can a human being become improved when they've been beaten and kicked, hit with sticks and weapons" IF you had taken the time to go through the parenting materials you would have not found any of these things suggested in anyway, they are clearly your interpretation of the use of spanking. Yes this type of use of spanking as you described it does result in as you said, "The response to this environment has always been post-traumatic stress." Also, your statement, "The real Satan that we must face is not from the Bible; it springs forward from human hands, when they think of their children and grab their belts" Is understood but incorrect. Satan is real and he is the father of all lies and he has deceived many into believing in and acting the wrong way, but every man must take responsibility for his own actions. I encourage you to take some time and go through the entire parenting materials we have on line. It is easy to take anything out of context if you do not include the whole message.
Yes Andy, there is a major problem in the world in this area but let me encourage you to be willing to investigate further so you can more clearly and with balance encourage others to parent correctly.
Thanks for taking the time to look over my letter.
You suggested the reference Isaiah 40:21-22 to show that the Bible believes in a round world. Actually, that was specifically the reference that states, plainly, the world is flat: "the circle of the earth." The Hebrew word used for circle here is translated as "a flat, horizontal surface," (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Leslie C. Allen, entry #2552 volume 2, page 40.)
You had quoted the Bible, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." (Proverbs 13:24) And then, you go on to define the rod as "A rod or staff, A shaft, A truncheon, a scepter, A measuring device." I do understand that your final conclusion is "Using the hand, rather than an instrument also assures that the parent will have more control both in where their hand will land as well as the amount of pain they will inflict. Because this control is lacking when using an instrument, there is a greater potential for abuse." However, either way, one is in fulfillment with the principles of the Bible -- either way, you are promoting a morality and a philosophy that wholly accepts "the greater potential for abuse."
One way or another, physical abuse is physical abuse. It doesn't matter if it's a slap with a hand or the use of a belt and switch. This does not provide the child with the lesson that violence is wrong; it justifies it in their existence. It doesn't make the child love and respect their parents; it makes them fear and distrust them. There is no relationship quite so artificial and meaningless as one that has been enforced by hitting or slapping. It will always be something very different to the victim of this situation than their victimizer.
Far from uniting the young with their parents, it separates them and makes them feel isolated. It only takes one experience of being hit to make every parent's word a lie: kindness, love, charity, hope. These words are hollow, if they are spoken by someone who relies on force, and not wisdom, to instruct the youth. What a child thinks and expects of their parent will be something completely different and alien when they are allowed privacy -- and what a parent really understands of their child must be a hoax. It is natural for every child to put up lies and timidity to evade the forceful hand of a parent or authority. And so, the relationship necessarily drives the two apart. It does not become a house of love, but one where suspicion and fear grow.
The use of force is completely unacceptable in any social sphere. In the training of animals to the training of human beings. The use of violence anywhere IS aggression because it IS "unprovoked attack." The child who wants to be friends with "those people," or the child who cuts class and skips school, or the child who makes a mess in the house. There is nothing that can be taught in any of these cases of hitting. There is nothing that be gleaned from tears, except to respond to force, and to know, that force can make other people respond.
Using spanking isn't good parenting -- it's being lazy. If a dog can be trained with simple words, why are you so offended by using reasoning instead of hitting? The only thing that comes to mind is the amount of time it takes to strike a child versus using ideas and thoughts. As a parent, the role should be one of teacher and instructor. Using force, whether hands or belts, is using the method of drill sergeants in the military, or masters over slaves. It is the method that produces someone who is obedient, but without thought; someone who can obey, but not someone who reason about what is good.
To use force is not to bring up a child with respect for peace, civility, and sympathy; it gives acceptance and validity to the idea of using force. You quote plenty from the Bible showing how god used his "hand" to discipline the people, and why this is a reason to use spanking and not an actual rod like the Bible commands. If you want to expand the Bible's message to make it less cruel, then go all out. Why not say "What you do to the least of these, you do unto me. (Matthew 25:40) Therefore, hitting children is the same thing as beating Jesus."
If you're going to add interpretation to make it humane, please, keep going. Reducing "caning" to "spanking" isn't far enough. Thank you for listening...