For all our conversations here at NLQ over the horrible child abuse disguised as discipline you’d hope that the world outside of the fundamentalist evangelical Christian bubble would be free of this abuse, that parents would realize that most studies on physical violence as discipline show it does more harm than good. Sadly that’s not the case. This weekend the news proved yet again how pervasive these harmful patriarchal bad theology really is. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of ‘reckless or negligent injury to a child’ by a grand jury in Texas.
The first I was aware of the arrest was on Saturday when my husband started complaining of a conspiracy to keep Peterson from playing that was personally affecting him and his fantasy football teams. My husband lives for fantasy football and has said all sorts of rather ‘out there’ claims during the season. I tend to tune out the shouts, curses and wild utterances during football season that erupt from my husband while watching football. But this story caught my attention since it’s so much a part of what we’ve discussed here at NLQ.
After reading what happened and having friends in recovery from religious child abuse contacting me to talk about how triggered they felt I had to tell my husband that he was wrong, dead wrong. There was no conspiracy, just the poisonous teachings of evangelical religion and guys like Michael Pearl insisting that the only way to make a child behave was with beatings. That dangerous theology has managed to worm its way into the lives of people not particularly religious, like Adrian Peterson.
The photos of Peterson’s four year old son’s injuries are really hard to look at, (Trigger warning!) oozing welts going down his legs and back, showing not what you’d see from a few corrective taps to a well-padded behind, but overkill. Child torture. Far beyond what a reasonable definition of child discipline might be. He whipped the boy with a tree branch.
Sounds like something straight out of ‘To Train Up A Child’ by Michael Pearl, doesn’t it? Michael has also advocated cutting a switch from a tree to hit uncooperative toddlers on the butt and legs. Pearl’s book and methods have also been cited in the child abuse deaths of Lydia Shatz, Hana Grace-Rose Williams and other children in the world of evangelical Christianity. Pearl himself accept no blame for the fact that parents have used his advice to grievously injure their children.
The only good thing that could possible come out of this is the same thing that happened in the evangelical sphere, it will hopefully spark a conversation in the public arena about what exactly effective child discipline looks like, the dangers of using physical violence to achieve desired behaviors and where the law should stand in the protection of children.
Think Progress had a good article on Saturday about the entire unfortunate situation – Adrian Peterson’s Child Abuse Allegations Reopen Debate Over Corporal Punishment. They cited good reasons why physical violence as discipline isn’t the greatest idea.
But opponents of the practice cite studies that have found a link between corporal punishment and an increased risk of mental health issues, bullying, and physical aggression toward others. Other research has found that physical punishmentsaren’t actually effective compared to other punishments, like time-outs and the removal of privileges. Indeed, there’s an element of irony when you consider that kids are supposed to learn not to hit other people by being hit by their parents. (Peterson says he gave his son the “switch” after the child pushed another one of Peterson’s children off a video game.)
Suzanne is an empty nester lives near Washington DC with her husband, cats and various rescue birds. She worked at a residential treatment center for children and is also the administrator of NLQ. Was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 7 years ago. Her blogs are True Love Doesn’t Rape and Everything and Nothing