“Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7
“Jesus said to His disciples, It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:1-2
As I was growing up, on Friday nights my friend Marsha and I would sometimes stay in each others’ homes. When we were younger we played with Barbies and as we got older we listened to our stack of 45 records. Having no siblings of my own, I always enjoyed their family meal time and the lively interactions between Marsha and her brothers and sisters. But most of all, I was in amazement of Marsha’s mom. A beautiful dark-haired woman with soft white skin who sewed wonderful dresses for her girls and made the best lasagna in the world, she was also a screamer and every good cuss word I knew I learned around that family dinner table.
Marsha’s family was also very religiously devout and she was never allowed to miss any church or church related activities. Ever. And this brought a lot of confusion into my 4th grade mind. How does someone who professes to be a Christian and who is so committed to the church, justify using such abusive language, especially repeatedly taking the name of God in vain? Such blasphemy will certainly be punished by death, we are assured in Scripture. If you are a believer, I am certain this picture causes you to cringe as it did me.
So, as I have considered last week’s news reports of yet another child beaten to death in the “name of Christ,” this time over a child’s spelling error (I cannot think of any reason whatsoever that would justify such a horror), I cannot help but think of the blasphemy of God’s name these parents have committed. Evil in the name of “godly discipline” is still evil. Murdering a child, for any reason, is still murder. Hiding behind God as you murder a child and evoking His name in the process is blasphemy of the worst sort. It ought to make us do more than cringe.
Lest anyone think this sort of abuse is an isolated case, let me remind you of some of the situations and teachings I know of that I believe qualify as abuse against children, most of them involving physical abuse, all of these done in the “name of Christ,” many of them also done or encouraged in the name of “homeschool discipline.”
~ Mike and Debi Pearl The highly favored book To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, is credited by both the Schatz family and the Paddock family as their go-to book on child discipline. Here is just one quote from TTUAC: “If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg; an unbiblical philosophy and theology of power and control is behind their suggestions for discipline. Please follow the link for much good information and analysis of the Pearls and their teachings on raising children. (Note: Citing his own wife’s example and teaching, I once had a pastor tell me that removing a wiggly toddler from worship service and holding him down until he thought being in worship was better was the way parents were to behave in his church. When I informed him I would not be treating any children in that manner, but rather would be reading to them and coloring with them instead, I was rebuked.)
~ Hephzibah House for “wayward” girls Personal testimonies of physical, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse abound as grown women are now coming forward to warn of this “ministry.” I know of several homeschooling families who have seen this place as the solution for daughters who were in rebellion, real or imagined, to authority.
~ Bill Gothard’s Indianapolis Training Headquarters and Alert Programs Established in 1993 as both a training center for homeschoolers who were part of the Advanced Training Institute and as an arm of the juvenile court system in Indianapolis. A 10-part investigative news report, complete with hidden camera footage and personal testimony, reported: “Inside a converted 300-room hotel, the prayer closet is a little room where kids are taken when they disobey staff at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC). Once locked inside, the misbehaving youths are forced to sit and pray to Jesus, sometimes for days at a time. Some juvenile ITC residents have said the evangelical Christian teens and young adults who staffed the center sometimes forbade them from going to the bathroom, forcing them to sit in their own urine for hours. Some have complained of beatings with paddles by untrained staff that left bruises and welts. When not in isolation, the kids are forced to march and chant and pray, with gospel music playing almost constantly.”
The ALERT program for young men, a paramilitary experience that promotes “character training” includes similar tales. The father of one young man who attended an alert training told my husband how their son was injured during a 20 mile hike in an isolated training center in the north woods. When he asked for medical attention, he was chastised for being wimpy and forced to march the distance back to camp, experiencing severe physical pain and verbal abuse as he did. When he was finally able to get medical attention, doctors treated him for a broken leg and sent him back to his family.
~ William Einwechter, pastor, homeschooling advocate, writer, and highly promoted and revered conference speaker with Vision Forum, advocates laws that would require the stoning of rebellious teenagers as part of his “dominion theology.” Here are some of his thoughts: “The word “rebellious” means, literally, to strike or lash, and is used of those who contend against authority and refuse to heed their words. The “rebellious” individual lashes out in contempt against those who have authority over them verbally, and perhaps even physically.
In light of this, it is important to note that the Law of the Covenant prescribes death for anyone who strikes his parents (Ex. 21:15) or curses his parents (Ex. 21:17). There is, therefore, reason to suppose that the son in this case law has broken the Law of the Covenant in one or both of these ways. The parents also describe the character of their son as being a “glutton” and a “drunkard.” These sins are put forth as examples of a life lived without restraint.
In the case of such rebellion and riotous living, and after all attempts at discipline and control have failed, the parents are to bring their son before the magistrates for judgment. If the magistrates concur in the parents’ estimate of the situation, they are to order the men of the city to stone the rebel with stones so that he dies (vv. 20-21). The purpose to be served in the execution of the rebellious son is to “put evil away from among you” and that all will “hear and fear” (v.21).” (Note: Any mention within some homeschooling circles of sins that parents commit against their children is often met with rebuke and belittling, minimizing the behaviors that drive children to rebellion. Adult children who continue to suffer from such behavior growing up are told to “get over it” or “just stop it.”)
~ Richard Fugate His book What the Bible Says About Child Training is a popular find at homeschooling conventions and was the first book I read that talked about physically beating a child until you see repentance. Fugate, stating that the Bible “commands” the use of the rod, advocates using actual “rods,” listing the various sizes appropriate for each age group and includes the note to parents that “welts” and “stripes” will result, depending on how rebellious the child is. One mother interpreted Fugate’s writings in this way in an online forum: “Have you read Richard Fugate’s book, “What The Bible Says About Child Training”? It is the only book I can truly recommend on discipline. (You can borrow mine if you want but I would recommend buying it eventually.) I use a wooden dowel for spanking; believe me it is painful. The discipline must be more painful than the joy of getting what they want when they disobey. Most moms go wrong in that the spanking isn’t severe enough, or long enough. If you just give a few swats, it will only make them mad, not bring them to repentance! I give about 5 hard swats and I tell them that if they disobey again it will be harder and more swats. It really hurts and they are in pain and screaming. If he just sniffles, you are doing more damage than good.”
These examples don’t even touch the emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse that is often part of the mentality within the church on raising children. From naming “shyness” as a sin to telling daughters they have no calling of their own from the Lord to excommunicating children who make different, not sinful but different, life choices than a parent would choose, abuse rears its ugly head in many ways. I pray that the church will wake up and see children as Jesus saw them, as crucial to His kingdom, precious in His sight, the least of these. May this latest carnage serve as a wake-up call.
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40
More good insights on abuse of children from Katie.
Great thoughts on the spiritual (and other) abuse of daughters from Hillary.