A Christian sect in Bavaria (with branches in other countries) where members consistently beat their children has been infiltrated and raided by police, with 40 kids being taken away for their own safety.
The little blond-haired boy is about four years old. He simpers as a middle aged woman drags him downstairs into a dimly-lit cellar and orders the child to bend over and touch the stone floor with his hands. Another little boy watches as the woman pulls down the first boy’s pants and then draws out a willow cane.
“Say you are tired!” commands the woman in an emotionless voice. The swoosh of the willow cane is audible as it strikes the screaming child’s bottom three times. The little boy refuses to say he is tired so he is hit again and again – a total of ten times – until, in floods of tears, he finally says “I am tired.”
Within the space of a few hours, six adults are filmed in the cellar and in an underground school central heating room beating six children with a total of 83 strokes of the cane.
I’m not saying there are no atheists who beat their children. There mostly certainly are. But nobody is saying that atheism is the key to morality (the key to morality is actually a marriage of compassion and clear thinking). On the other hand, lots of people claim with the purest conviction that faith in Jesus makes people more moral. Given that I can write a blog every day where I take only a pittance of the misdeeds committed by people of exceedingly strong faith every day, I cannot accept that faith makes people more kind. In fact, while a human with no other considerations beyond their own conscience might later feel guilt at beating their child, I can actually see how believing god gave you the cosmic thumbs up to do so could mitigate the influence of a person’s conscience. That certainly seems to be what has happened here.
Its members consider the Old and New Testaments to be God’s direct word. The sect says it openly believes in “spanking” disobedient children to “drive out the Devil”. Its website insists: “We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority.”
The sect has also been accused of racism. “Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice,” the movement said in a statement. Gene Spriggs, its founder, has claimed Martin Luther King was “filled with every evil spirit there is”.
And should I ever have a child, I hope he/she would develop a disrespect for authority! Decisions should be accepted or challenged based on how reasonable they are, not because of the level of “authority” held by the person making them. If god demands something unjust and you obey because he is an authority, congrats, you’ve just accepted an evil master. And that is precisely what has occurred when these people read the prescription to beat their children in the old testament and comply. If you were a good person, you’d defy the authority of the bible in an instant rather than beat your own child.
Sven, a 19-year-old former Twelve Tribes members who ran away at the age of 14 recalls how he was beaten for imitating an aeroplane. In the hands of one of the sect’s “educators”, he was beaten for days at 2 o’clock in the morning because he kept wetting his bed. “They said I had lost control of myself”, he says in an interview.
“I was told I would die if I tried to escape,” he tells Kuhnigk, “I was a child who was not allowed to be a child,” he added.
The film shows how children are made to get up at 5am and stand though an hour-long prayer session. They are obliged to labour with adults in the community’s farm plots and workshops. They attend the community’s own strictly religious schools. “It’s normal to be beaten every day,” said Christian, another former member who escaped five years ago.
The film also shows disturbing images of a baby boy being forcefully gripped by the back of the head in a practice referred to by sect members as “restraining.”
The wisdom of god is so frequently indistinguishable from the worst of humanity.