“Church safety is something for which the wise prepare. To wait until a crisis happens to create safety plans is too late. To believe that ‘this will never happen to us’ is risky.”
“A Wisconsin trial court judge denied a motion to dismiss charges against a convicted pastor who instructed his church members to use wooden rods to spank misbehaving children, some as young as two months old.”
“Then there’s the eight-year-old boy who was punched in the back several times for making a mistake in his studies, or the boy, also eight, who had his head pulled back by the hair for not praying loud enough, or the nine-year-old forced into the ‘Hen position’ before being punched on the back and slapped in the face for not learning his Koranic lines and talking in class.
The corruption of Christian movements and organizations is a danger illustrated throughout the history of Christ’s Church. The record of heresies, scandals, greed, immorality, abuse, egomania and multiple other sins remind all to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
Lest we who are separatists be guilty of “straining at a gnat” and “swallowing a camel” (Matt. 23:24), or of seeking to remove a mote from another’s eye when a beam blinds our own (Matt. 7:3-5), or lest we be guilty of closing our ears to distressed victims, and of affirming evil by silence, we acknowledge with grief, revulsion, and unmitigated denunciation abuse that has been revealed within some professedly fundamentalist churches and ministries.
For example, confirmed reports of severe corporal punishment cite an instance of beating and bruising children, the failure to report to authorities bruises found on children as a result of abuse in their homes, and a flaunting of corporal discipline, evidenced in such practices as giving a souvenir paddle to ministry visitors.
The same ministry context involving this shaming of children included humiliation before their peers and forcing them to wear garments of the opposite sex as a punishment for inappropriate performance. Such would doubtless be condemned as a wicked perversion if a child opted of his own volition to dress in this manner, yet for the purpose of shaming, this ministry demanded this conduct of children.
Once upon a time Father knew best, and once upon a time we allowed Him to teach us how to parent. In Deuteronomy 8:3, God acknowledges humbling Israel and allowing them even to go hungry (of course, only to a point), calling it parental discipline (Hebrew yaser, LXX Greek paideusai) in Deuteronomy 8:5. Solomon counsels his reader not to reject the Lord’s discipline (same Hebrew and Greek roots as in Deuteronomy 8) and reminds that the Lord reproves those He loves, “as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). Solomon suggests. further, “reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23b), “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge” (Prov. 12:1), and “a wise son accepts his father’s discipline” (Prov. 13:1a).
Not only does Solomon communicate the importance of discipline, but he also relays an important method, saying, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Prov. 13:24), and “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). He adds, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat [or smite] him, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13). From these contexts it is easy to see that Solomon is not advocating cruelty and physical damage. Rather, in no uncertain terms Solomon portrays physical discipline as an expression of love for the purpose of training and fostering growth—and according to Solomon, it has to hurt.
In addition to discussing purpose and method, Solomon also expresses the urgency of parental discipline: “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death” (Prov. 19:27); “You shall beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol” (Prov. 23:14). Solomon contends that if a parent is not disciplining forcefully (causing pain) and intentionally (with love and for growth), that parent is sentencing his child to walk a path endangered by stupidity (Prov. 12:1b), poverty and shame (Prov. 13:18a), self loathing (Prov. 15:32a), straying from knowledge (Prov. 19:27), foolishness (Prov. 22:15), and even premature death (Prov. 19:18; 23:14).
Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Sept./Oct. 2011.
On June 15, 2011 in the 214th District Court of Nueces County, Texas, Rosalina Gonzalez pleaded guilty to a felony charge of injury to a child. This bit of information is not particularly attention grabbing. Many would probably not give a second thought to the sad story, dismissing it as just another instance of the judicial system protecting a child, according to law, from an abusive parent. But this case was very different, as prosecutors admitted that this was a “pretty simple, straightforward spanking case” and added that Ms. Gonzalez did not even use a belt or leave any bruises.1 That the prosecution would make such an admission is significant and a strong indicator that Ms. Gonzalez, at least in this instance, was handling her parental responsibilities much like many parents who spank their children. Nothing unusual, particularly forceful or abusive was cited.
Ms. Gonzalez was arrested in December for spanking her nearly two-year old daughter, after the child’s grandmother “noticed red marks on the child’s rear end”2 and took the girl to the hospital for medical examination. Apparently those marks were enough to result in Ms. Gonzalez’ arrest and subsequent plea bargain.
As he pronounced the sentence, presiding judge Jose Longoria chided Ms. Gonzalez, saying, “You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don’t spank children. You understand?”3 With the guilty plea and those words at sentencing, Texas law may be profoundly impacted.