PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE IS A CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY by Edwin H. Peart, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
"THERE NEVER WAS A TIME WHEN A MAJOR SOCIAL PROBLEM WAS SOLVED BY BEATING A CHILD. AND THERE NEVER WILL BE SUCH A TIME" - DR. C. EVERETT KOOP-FORMER U.S. SURGEON-GENERAL
"THEN THERE WERE BROUGHT UNTO HIM LITTLE CHILDREN, THAT HE SHOULD PUT HIS HANDS ON THEM, AND PRAY: AND THE DISCIPLES REBUKED THEM. BUT JESUS SAID, SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN, AND FORBID THEM NOT, TO COME UNTO ME: FOR SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. AND HE LAID HIS HANDS ON THEM, AND DEPARTED THENCE" - MATTHEW 19:13-15
Child abuse is a serious problem in both the United States and Canada. As Christians, we should be in the forefront when it comes to protecting children from things that harm them but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Too many Christians have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to children's rights and have left it up to the Government and the secular media to do their work for them. Why you ask? Because, unfortunately, too many Christians are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. They still cling to the idea that if you don't spank your children, you are not raising them God's way. When you confront them about this, they call you in a most unchristian way everything under the sun and start quoting the Book of Proverbs. But does Proverbs really tell us to spank our children? The Bible tells us to study so that we can better understand what God's Word is really telling us. Alas, too many Christians do not study the Word for themselves and follow the proper rules for interpetation but instead follow after the traditions of men.
What does Proverbs really say? Let us get back to the source. Since it was the Jews that gave us the Old Testament I have here quotes from three Jewish Rabbis. Judaism is our foundation stone, not false religion, so what the Rabbis have to say is Scriptural:
Many people who strike their children do so not because they are evil or mean, but because they believe that they are doing God's will. They often cite the phrase in Proverbs: "He who spares the rod hates his son." The problem is that pulling one line out of the Bible ignores the rest of the text. Much of the Book of Proverbs is filled with good counsel on how to be a better person. Isn't it possible that the rod Proverbs refers to is to be used to point to lessons on the wall? When we fail to properly educate our children, we not only spoil them, we show them the opposite of love. We must use the rod to point out right from wrong, not to beat our children into submission the way slaves have been beaten throughout history. When taken in its entirety, Judaism can hardly sanction the use of violence against children. The mix of discipline (teaching) and love is the recipe for a good future for our sons and daughters-RABBI LARRY KAPLAN
Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment only send our children the message that problems should be solved through violence. They serve only as an outlet for parents' frustration with lack of control and don't engage the child's behavior or its underlying causes. They can also easily slip into more serious forms of abusive behavior as each new infraction is met with a higher level of violence. This is not how we should be parenting. Let's all agree that the rod-and our children-should be spared-RABBI JOSHUA WAXMAN
I agree with Rabbi Waxman that corporal punishment sends the wrong message to children about solving problems with violence and therefore should have no place in family life-RABBI SUSAN GROSSMAN
A good way to sum up the Jewish point of view with regards to the Book of Proverbs is the fact that in Israel where the Sabbath Day is faithfully observed, all corporal punishment of children is against the law.
Proverbs 23:13 says that if you beat your child with a rod, he will not die. If we take this literally, we make the Bible a lie because it is a known fact that many children die every year as a result of beatiings with rods and other devices. This problem is easily resolved when we apply the fact that the Hebrew of the Old Testament is a language that uses a lot of symbols, metaphors, and exaggerations to illustrate various points. Proverbs is a book of poetry so it is logical that the writer would use a well-known tool to form an image of authority. I believe that this is the point that God makes about the rod in the Bible-parents should take charge of their children. When we come to the rod verses in Proverbs and subsitute parental authority for beating and spanking, this concept rings true every time. Proverbs 23:2 says "And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite." If we took this literally, overweight Christians would have to commit suicide. Thankfully we don't because if we did, there would be a lot of dead bodies around. Therefore, there should be no problem in applying a little common sense in seeing the rod as figurative rather than literal.
The Bible talks about people who call good evil and evil good. I have encountered this first hand in various articles written by people who call themselves Christians and who support corporal punishment of children. Here is an illustration:
"I am convinced that not spanking children is the most common form of child abuse in our society"-This person later on in the article misuses the Constitution by telling spankers to lawyer up and not let social workers into their home without a warrant. He shows contempt for anyone who calls in the law and implies that they are a bunch of do-gooders. This sounds more like something a mob boss would say and do, not a Christian.
The person above recommended that I read a book on child rearing put out by a Christian couple who are friends of his. I read it online and it truly made me sick to my stomach. I am a resident of Canada and the Criminal Code of Canada which applies in all Provinces and Territories has very strict guidelines with regards to reasonable use of force to discipline children . The Basic Guidelines are:
punishment cannot be used on anyone under 2 years of age or over 12 years of
- Only an open hand may be used. Foreign objects such as belts, paddles etc. are strictly forbidden.
- A child cannot be hit on the face or the head.
- Corporal punishment must be for corrective purposes only, and must not be motivated by anger or frustration, cause any lasting bodily harm or be inhuman or degrading.
- Corporal punishment is banned in all Canadian schools, public and private.
If I followed most of the advice that the above couple wrote about in their book, I would be in trouble with the law and could very well end up in prison and have the stigma of a criminal record hanging over my head once I got out. Whipping babies and toddlers like they recommend is cruel and inhuman. I would not treat a dog or a cat that way.
We are not under the law, but under grace. Therefore, all teaching of children must be grace based. Does it work? Here are two modern day examples:
- Father Edward Flanagan who founded Boys Town (now Boys and Girls Town) believed that there was no such thing as a bad boy and did not believe in corporal punishment. Father Flanagan went home to his reward in 1948 but his work is still operating according to his beliefs and has expanded to several locations in the USA.
Maria Montesorri who founded the Montesorri Schools was opposed to slapping children's hands because she believed that children's hands are tools for exploring, an extension of their natural curiosity and slapping them would send the children a powerful negative message. Maria Montesorri went home to her reward in 1952 but the Montesorri Schools are still operating successfully around the world with their no corporal punishment policy.
I firmly believe that Christians will not be able to stem the tide of child abuse until they realize that corporal punishment of children is wrong and stop doing it. We cannot be a witness to the world if we set a poor example ourselves. The world will just laugh at us and call us hypocrites. Grace based discipline has support in the New Testament in at least three places:
"What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"- I Corinthians 4:21
ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nuture
and admonition of the Lord."- Ephesians 6:4
"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged."- Colossians 3:21
In the past, the Bible was used to support slavery, segregation and the suppression of women among other things. Today, we now know that such things are wrong. Let us now go one step further and say no to the corporal punishment of children. Jesus had nothing but love and kindness to show towards children. Let us follow him and go and do likewise. Our lives will all be much richer for it.