When churches hurt children

Content Note: Child Abuse, Spanking

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I’ve followed Stuff Fundies Like for years now. It’s been a great resource in my journey away from fundamentalism, helping me realize how harmful some of the stuff I’d been raised to see as normal really was. I’m far enough removed from that culture that I usually laugh at the entries, and laugh at myself for having once been so strongly a part of fundamental Baptist culture.

But a recent post brought me to tears. I couldn’t even laugh at the absurdity of it, because I know people believe these absurd teachings. 

The post can be found here. It contains a video of a sermon by fundamentalist preacher Phil Kidd. Kidd spends the sermon talking about the need for parents to get more serious about “disciplining” their children. By “disciplining” them, he means beating them until they are numb. Spanking them “until the fire alarms go off.”

This sounds extreme and some of you may be wondering, “Why bother responding to this? That preacher is obviously ridiculous.”

My answer is, because this is the kind of teachings I grew up hearing from my churches. These are teachings that I have been hurt by, deeply. They are teachings that I have seen others hurt by. This isn’t fringe for me. This is my history, and in some ways, because I still have so much family in fundamentalist circles that are preaching the SAME things, it’s my present.

In high school, I attended an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Church run by a pastor that people described as “lovable, down-to-earth, friendly, funny.” But there was nothing funny or down-to-earth about the way he encouraged child abuse from the pulpit. 

He would talk about “whoping” or “beating” his children and would encourage congregants to do the same. He would fondly recall his grandmother telling him to go grab a tree branch from the back yard when he was a child, which she would then hit him with when he misbehaved. His gleeful–truly gleeful, always accompanied with laughter and jokes–depictions of beating children reminded me so much of Phil Kidd’s rant.

It effects people. Real people.

I remember being a kid and not wanting to “tell on” other kids who bullied me or were mean to me, because I knew how their parents would respond. They would pull their child into the other room, say, “I’m doing this because I love you” and then spank them so hard you could literally hear it in the next room. No matter how mean they were to me, I could never handle putting them through that. 

The way these parents responded was seen as a good thing.

I remember being afraid of my dad. How he could instill fear in me just by making a noise and a hand motion–that of him cracking his belt like a whip. Phil Kidd and the pastor I grew up with mock adults who are bitter toward their parents or who need therapy later in life for this, but fuck them. I am bitter. I am hurt. I still remember the times my dad hit me and called it love, and I still struggle to forgive him and have a good relationship with him.

I know parents who I really believe would never even think about hurting their children if it weren’t for the church telling them they must, or they hate their children. Parents who, when they do spank their children, cry more than the child does because they hate what they are doing. But they think they have to because of people like Phil Kidd and my old pastor. I don’t absolve these adults of responsibility. Their feelings on the matter are irrelevant and they are abusing their children regardless. But I also put blame pastors like the one I grew up with for helping to create these “reluctant” abusers. I hate them for it, and I will not apologize for that. 

I hate them for hurting children.

I hate them for hurting me.

I hate them for the tension in my family that I don’t know will ever go away.

I hate them for all the families they wounded, all of the children that they broke.

I have some words (courtesy of the Bible and T.F. Charlton–who once used this passage on Twitter in context of child abusers at SGM) for Phil Kidd, for my former pastor, and for anyone in authority in the church who continues to promote child abuse:

If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Pastors who promote child abuse and call it love, you are doing the work of evil. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven–a kingdom that Jesus said is centered around little children–is at hand. 

  • Andrea_Videographer

    In the Neo Evangelical crowd, the same stuff is being sold, but under a comfy, poison blanket of grace. Paul Tripp and Tedd Tripp are the Pearls in different packaging. I unknowingly attended one of these conferences in my new “safe” church and left crying and hysterical. They talk about the “rod” they talk about spanking pre-verbal infants. They claim that you can separate your child from their sin nature if you apply the rod. All the same stuff we grew up with, and a brand new generation of young parents eagerly swallowing it up. Makes me sick.

  • http://thereforeiambic.blogspot.com/ Elena Johnston

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. That last line there shifts the phrase “child-centered parenting” into a whole new context… God-centered parenting IS child-centered parenting, because that’s how the Kingdom of God works.

    Oh! and the phrase “kingdom-oriented!” Well, of course, everything is “kingdom oriented.” The only question is which kingdom.

    Thinking out loud here, as the ground shifts beneath my feet…

  • http://www.breathinggrace.com/ Raine Carraway

    I was also raised IFB and went to a church for a while where Phil Kidd was a frequent guest speaker and “revival” preacher – his son was a member of our church at that time. Our pastor mentioned spanking his kids a few times during sermons and it made me really uneasy, but I overlooked it because I didn’t have children of my own yet and their kids seemed to be doing fine (their whole family is now out of the IFB movement and much better for it).

    Several years later, I had a small child and found out through a friend that Phil Kidd’s son was starting his own church, but it was going to be more contemporary. His son isn’t IFB like his dad anymore so it was modeled more on the ministry of guys like Mark Driscoll, Perry Nobel, & Steven Furtick. I should have known I wouldn’t fit there either, and a handful of people did warn me, but I went anyway because my husband seemed interested and I wanted him to go to church with me.

    I liked the church, mostly because I really liked a lot of the people involved and really like Paul (the pastor, who is Phil Kidd’s son). I did have a few reservations about some things but the main reason I left was because I knew spanking was considered the norm. I saw the pastor’s wife take their kids into the bathroom a couple times to spank them because they were acting up after church or during work days, and was afraid that sooner or later it would start being preached from the pulpit. I was already sort of the strange crunchy mama there (and a babywearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, homemade baby food, natural birth, etc advocate) and I really didn’t want to get into that debate or have people telling me I was a bad Christian because I don’t hit my son so I just left.

  • Alice

    I hate when people make jokes about abuse, especially when they go on and on and on. Some people seem to do it often. I should say something even though it is hard in a large group setting.


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