Why Do So Many Evangelicals Abuse Their Children?

Why Do So Many Evangelicals Abuse Their Children? February 5, 2015
Image from Bruce Gerencser.net
Image from Bruce Gerencser.net

by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Now there’s a title sure to get everyone’s attention!

Why do so many Christians abuse their children?

The reason is primarily a theological one. (though they might not even realize it is)

Most Christian sects believe in some form of original sin.(depravity)

The theology goes something like this:

  • A person does not become a sinner they are a sinner, from birth until they die.
  • A person has a sin nature inherited from the daddy for the human race Adam.
  • A person has no choice in this matter. They are a sinner.

So, from birth a child is a sinner. They have no choice in the matter. They are, what every human being is, a sinner.

The implications of this teaching is huge.

The Bible says:

A baby is born speaking lies The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3

A baby is conceived in iniquity and sin Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5

A baby is the enemy of God Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4

A baby is alienated from God The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3

A baby is born into the world under the wrath of God For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Romans 1:18

A baby is headed for hell the moment it draws its first breath

I am sure someone will object to some of the verses I just quoted. “Those verses apply to ADULT sinners.” 

Really? Have you thought out the implications of your theology.? Is there any difference in God’s eyes between a baby sinner and an adult sinner? Does God have a sin chart he uses to keep score and rate the quality of the sins committed?

I thought in the eyes of God that every sin is the same? Sure, the consequences are different from sin to sin, but God sees every sin as an affront to his Holy nature. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God. In the eyes of God there is no difference between when a baby “lies” about being hungry, wet, etc just so he can get his mother’s attention, and a serial killer who kills five people.  Sin is sin. Sinners sin.  That’s what sinners do.

Ugly isn’t it? When you shine the clear, bright, light of reason on the doctrine of original sin it reveals its ugliness for all to see.

Some sects realize there is a big problem with the whole notion of original sin, so they invent doctrines to address it.

  • Catholics and many Protestants baptize infants, washing away their original sin. They are then safe until they reach a place of accountability for their sin.
  • Some Baptists and Evangelicals teach that while a baby is indeed born a sinner, the baby is not accountable for its sin until it reaches the age of accountability. Some Churches say accountability begins at age twelve.  Others say it is an indefinite age, and once a child can understand the difference between right and wrong and understand the penalty for sin, they are then accountable for their sin.
  • Some Calvinists, especially Reformed five-pointers, baptize their babies as a sign of the covenant between the parents and God. The children are raised as if they are children of God until they prove they are not.

In Baptist and many Evangelical churches an emphasis is placed on evangelizing children. The theory is that if you don’t win them when they are young you risk losing them. Most children raised in churches like this make a profession of faith at a very young age. My wife was five and I was six when we made our FIRST (certainly not our last) profession of faith. It is not uncommon to hear testimonies about little Johnny coming to his mother asking her about being saved. And right there by the bed they knelt and Johnny prayed out loud and asked Jesus into his heart.

The programs of child evangelizing churches reflect the importance of making sure children become Christians. Sunday school, junior church, and youth group are all geared towards children becoming Christians, and most importantly, staying in the church. Without children in the church pipeline, attendance and offerings dwindle, as is the case in many Evangelical sects today.

Why do children need to be saved? For the same reason adults do. They are sinners. They are in rebellion against God. They are the enemy of God. They deserve judgment and hell, or so says the Evangelical zealot.

One of the tools Christians are told that God gave to parents to use with their children is the rod of correction. Spanking, whipping, beating, and hitting a child is used to teach a child that sin has consequences. In a very warped and perverse way, children are told their mom and dad hits them because they love them.

After all, the Bible clearly teaches that God whips his children because he loves them. Who wouldn’t want to follow in the steps of Jesus?

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:7-9

My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:11,12

This is aptly illustrated in the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus bore the wrath of his father. Why? Because he was bearing our sin. Our sin deserved the wrath of God and Jesus took that wrath upon himself. In other words, God beat his son Jesus for what we did.

Is it any wonder that the average Christian parent thinks it is quite normal, even quite spiritual, to spank, whip, beat, slap, or hit their children?

The Bible teaches it is a parent’s duty to beat their children.

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge. Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.Proverbs 23:12-14

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

There are two major cultural influences that encourage the abuse of children.

First, while we are not a Christian nation we ARE a Christian nation. The teachings I have mentioned in this post are believed and practiced by a large portion of American families. Every day, the newspaper has another story of a parent who abused their child. I wonder if the abuser is ever questioned about what religious training they received?

The Christian ethos runs deep in our culture. Being whipped for transgressions is thought to be as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Paddling school children for misbehaving is finally becoming a thing of the past in America, but many of us can remember a day when someone getting paddled was a common, every day occurrence. (as I experienced first hand) We call it corporeal punishment, but its real name is child abuse.

Listen to older Americans as they complain about how unruly kids are today and how disrespectful they are. “Why when I was a kid my momma got a peach switch and beat me when I misbehaved.“ “When daddy got home we knew we were gonna get it with his belt. We learned to behave because Daddy beat us.”  “A little beating never hurt anybody.”

What’s the message that the Bible, God, the church, and older Americans are sending? That violence is a good and necessary tool to use when children disobey. (sin) I should note, in passing, that this thinking permeates our culture. Our government leaders do this every day when they say, in their justification of war, that violence will bring peace.  Through violence we whip the country that sinned against us until they stop sinning against us. In short, violence begets violence. Violence never begets peace, At best, it brings a cessation of hostilities. If we want true, lasting peace, we must be peacemakers, and our peace making must begin at home with our children and family.

Second, preacher’s have a huge influence over families. Their sermons on the family, parenting, marriage, and children have a deep and abiding influence.

How often have church children heard from their pastor:

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Colossians 3:20

Of course verse 21 is NOT heard as often:

Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

While preachers will say they are just repeating what God said, their interpretation and application of verses that advocate beating children often provide a blueprint for child abuse. For those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, books written by men like John R Rice and Jack Hyles provided us with the Biblical justification for violence against our children.

In many instances it was generational abuse. Our great-grandfather beat our grandfather, who beat our father, who beat us, and we, like those before us, beat our children. It’s an ugly chain of violence, one that must be broken.

As I scoured the internet for source material from the God wants you to beast your children perspective, I was humored by how nuanced they have become. This is the right way, this is the wrong way. This is “biblical” discipline, this is child abuse. I see their justifications and explanations as an admission that the Evangelical church has a huge problem with God-sanctioned, Bible approved, pastor encouraged, child abuse. Countless Evangelical how-to books have been written, yet parents continue to violently abuse their children, sometimes even putting them in the hospital or killing them. Thanks to the internet, we now know that abuse in the name of God happens far more often than Evangelical church leaders would dare to admit.


Here’s the advice Focus on the Family gives about spanking

This is an extremely practical method that will save you a lot of second-guessing. Remember the point of a spanking: It’s to sting, to provide a painful deterrent to misbe­havior, not to injure.

The Bible never implies that the rod of discipline should be violent. It offers no specifics about how hard a spanking should be, and there’s no reason to assume that it’s talking about a brutal form of punishment. Just the opposite, in fact. A parent who reaches back and swings hard is acting out of anger and frustration, not out of love and desire for the child’s welfare. That’s unbiblical by anyone’s definition.

When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropri­ately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That’s all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept —  and it’s okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t really discipline, and ultimately it isn’t very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child’s behavior.

Have the child lean over his bed and make sure you apply the discipline with a quick flick of the wrist to the fatty tissue of the buttocks, where a sting can occur without doing any damage to the body. You want to be calm, in control, and focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body.

From Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child:

“One mother, while reading an early manuscript of this book, was being pulled on by her whining twelve-month-old daughter. When the mother came to the part (above) about not allowing a child to whine (“If they are tired put them to bed.”), she decided to apply what she was reading. She put her daughter down and told her to go to sleep. The sleepy child responded by crying in protest. Following the book’s instructions, she spanked the child and told her to stop crying and go to sleep. The child had previously been trained to spend an hour intermittently crying and getting up, only to be fussed at and laid back down. Nevertheless, the spanking subdued the crying and caused her to lie still. The mother continued her reading, and after a while she looked up to see that the child had very quietly slipped to the floor to browse through a book. The mother smiled at how sweet and quiet the child was. Without interruption, she continued her reading.

Reading further, she contemplated the fact that the child had not obeyed. “But she is being so good and is not bothering me,” the mother thought. She then realized the issue was not whether the child was bothering her, but whether or not she was learning to obey. She rightly concluded that by allowing the child to quietly sit on the floor at the foot of her bed, where she would eventually go to sleep, she was effectively training the child to be in rebellion to the rule of law. Out of love for her child, the mother inconvenienced herself and shattered the quiet solitude by spanking the child and again telling her to stay in the bed and go to sleep. An hour later the waking child was cheerful.”

“Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.”

Here’s what John Piper says about spanking:

Would Jesus spank a child? If so, where would you point someone biblically who can’t imagine him doing this?

If Jesus were married and had children, I think he would have spanked the children.

The place that I would go to help a person see that he would, when they can’t imagine that he would, is Matthew 5 where he said, “Not a jot nor a tittle will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.” In other words, all the Law and the Prophets stand until they’re done. And the Law says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” That’s a paraphrase. The book of Proverbs says, “If you withhold the rod, you hate your son.” Jesus believed the Bible, and he would have done it.

Now, that does not address the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is: Why does this person feel this way? What worldview inclines a person to think that you shouldn’t spank a child? Where does that come from?

Well it comes straight out of this culture, I think. There’s a sign that used to be on the side of the 35W bridge, on the right as you go north. And the sign simply said this: “Never, never, never, never, never hurt a child.” That’s all it said! And spanking is equated with hurting children. It’s against the law in Sweden to spank a child. And it’s against the law, I think, in some states in America. I’m not sure.

Well, I will go to jail over that issue! Talitha is to the point where I don’t think in terms of spanking my 13-year-old daughter anymore. But I did when she was little.

I could give a whole theology of spanking here, but maybe I’ll just boil it down. Why does this person feel squeamish about spanking? My guess is that it is a wrong view of God.

Deep down, does this person believe that God brings pain into our lives? Because Hebrews 12:6 makes the direct connection: God disciplines every son whom he loves, and spanks everyone that he delights in (my paraphrase). And the point there is suffering. God brings sufferings into our lives, and the writer of the Hebrews connects it to the parenting of God of his children.

This is a wrong view of God! God uses suffering to discipline his children. So do we.

Now, you don’t damage a child. You don’t give him a black eye or break his arm. Children have little fat bottoms so that they can be whopped.

When my sons were three and four years old, at their worst stages, drawing with orange crayons on the wall, they knew what was going to happen. So one day, just to give you an illustration of how this works emotionally, I found an orange mark on the wall in the hall upstairs from a crayon. Just about Barnabas’ height. And he’s three or four.

So I get Barnabas. I say, “Come here Barnabas. Did you make that mark on the wall.”

“Yes.” At least he’s honest.

I said, “We have a rule against that. You know you cannot draw on the wall with your crayons. You’re old enough to know that.”


“So what should happen?”

“A spanking.”

I said, “That’s right.” So I take him in the room, and whop! And he cries easy, so he cries. And when he’s done crying, there’s a big hug. And I say, “Don’t do that again, OK? Daddy loves you and we don’t mark on the wall, OK?”

Three minutes later he is bouncing off the walls, happy happy happy.

Now if I had said to him, “You go into your room and you sit there and you stay there until you feel appropriately guilty, and then we’ll see if you come out and do the right thing,” what a wicked way to punish a child!

Spanking is so clean! It’s so quick! It’s so relieving! A kid feels like he has done atonement and he is out of there and happy.

To these modern ideas of timeout, or sitting in the corner, I say, “Bologna! Give me a spanking! I want to go play!”

I just think spanking is really healthy for children. It is a measured deliverance of a non-damaging act of mild pain that makes the child feel the seriousness of what he’s done. It is not beating. It is not abuse. There is a clear difference. The very word “spank” exists because there is such a thing as a loving way to whop a child on his behind or his chunky thigh.

According to Baptist Mom, Nicole Munoz:

  1. Spanking teaches a child to develop inner self-discipline

  2. Spanking is punishment for a crime, payment for a debt. In other words, once paid, they have a clean slate. Spanking takes away the guilt, because the crime has been paid for.

  3. Spanking properly prevents abuse because the parent does not build up anger toward the child and then explode on the child.

  4. Spanking is the most effective tool for child discipline.

  5. Spanking insures a good parent-child relationship.

  6. Spanking works.

  7. Spanking is Biblical, Christian behaviour.

  8. Spanking teaches a lesson and decreases child violence.

According to David Stewart:

The Bible teaches that a parent who loves their child will spank them. Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” America’s prisons are filled with youth and adults whose parents didn’t agree with God. No parent is right with God who allows their children to run the streets, not knowing where they’re at all times and keeping tabs on them. It is every parent’s responsibility to protect their child, to keep away from bad influences. The Devil knows that children are very impressionable and he has a bid for your child!

God put that padded area in the back for a reason. A child should only be spanked on the buttocks, which is why God made that area well upholstered. Child abuse is a sin. No parent should ever knee-jerk their child in anger. A good ole belt across the rear-end hurts like heck, but won’t break a bone. Sticks or boards are hard and should not be used. Hard objects should not be used, which may cause injury. In the old days, parents would make a flexible switch from a small tree branch. Perhaps you think that whipping your child is abuse, but not disciplining a child (so that they grow up to spend their life rotting behind bars in prison as a criminal) is a thousand times worse!…

According to Jack Hyles, in his book,How to Rear Children:

The Bible is clear that little children are born in sin. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Because of this God has given parents to children to discipline then, to spank them, and to teach them the awful results of wrong. The plain teaching of the Scripture is that the parent who disciplines his child does the child and parent a great favor. Let us notice these favors.

The parent who spanks the child teaches him to have wisdom. Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof have wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” The child is taught the wisdom that sin does not pay and that it brings displeasure, discomfort, and heartache. He will learn to associate wrong with punishment and thereby flee from it.

The parent who spanks his child provides himself with a happy future. Proverbs 29:15b, “. . . .but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Oh, the heartbreak endured by parents who have failed to discipline their children. Many such are decaying old folks’ homes across the nation and around the world. They sit by silent telephones and search through empty mail boxes made so by the ungrateful child whose life is bringing shame and reproach to Mother and Dad. While these lovely souls pine their hearts away in remorse, their old-fashioned counterparts enjoy security, protection, provision, and love from those whom they spanked and disciplined as children.

The parent who spanks his child guarantees him a clean life. Proverbs 20:30, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” In other words, the parent who disciplines cleanses the child from evil character and inward sin. The child has been taught that sin brings trouble. He learns to fear and hate it. Someday he will rise and call his parents blessed.

The parent who spanks his child offers for himself more opportunities for service to God. In writing to Timothy in I Timothy 3:4,5 Paul says that a pastor should be one who “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” He also disqualifies from the office of deacon one who does not control his children properly. I Timothy 3:12, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” Hence, one who does not follow God’s plain teaching about discipline is not qualified to hold either of the offices in the New Testament church. God will not use men who disobey Him in this vital matter. One reason God blessed Abraham so mightily is the fact that he could trust him to “command his children and his household after him,” according to Genesis 18:17-19…

The disciplining parent adds years to the life of his child. Exodus 20:12, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” What a favor the parent has done to the child when he disciplines and spanks him. He literally adds years to his life.

The parent who corrects his child will probably save the life of the child. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” Now at first reading we might be led to believe that the teaching of this verse is that the rod itself will not kill the child and certainly this is true if administered properly, but there is another teaching here: The child who has been spanked and taught that doing wrong brings bad results, tragedy, and punishment will less likely brawl or be killed in a car wreck because of drinking while driving. He is not as likely to die of some terrible disease caused by sin. In other words, he will be taught to live a safer life than he would have lived had he not been disciplined. Ah, how fortunate is such a one.

The parent who spanks the child keeps him from going to hell. Proverbs 23:14, “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” A child who is spanked will be taught that there is a holy God Who punishes sin and wrong. Hence, he will learn to heed authority and obey the laws and rules. When he then hears the Word of God he will obey what he hears and will accept the Gospel as it is preached. The parent has kept his child from hell by teaching him truths that can be learned only by discipline and the use of the rod.

The spanking parent teaches his child how to equip himself better for the future, for he will obtain a better education. When the child has been taught to respect authority, obey the rules, and keep the laws before he starts to school he then transfers this obedience and respect to his school teacher. Because of this he receives a better education, better equips himself for life, and will be of more value to society and reap a larger financial reward. Hence, the parent who disciplines his child Scripturally is putting money in his pocket and success in his future.

Jack Hyles gave this spanking advice to parents:

Let the child realize that you are simply representing God in the execution of the punishment. Explain to him that parents represent God before their children and that they are ministers to execute His judgment. Psalm 103:13 says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” So God is like a father and He chooses fathers and mothers to represent Him in the punishing of little children. Let the child realize that if you as a parent do not punish him properly, you are being disobedient to God and committing the same sin the child is committing. Explain to him that you are a child of God and if you refuse to obey God in the execution of His judgment upon your children, God will pour out His wrath upon you. For you to be a good child of God requires that you be a good parent to the child. Let him understand this. He will get the idea that God is a holy and just God, One Who loves and yet One Who wants us to become out best. For this to be so He must punish us when we are deserving.

Sometimes spanking should leave stripes on the child. Proverbs 20:30 says, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” Our natural man rebels a such punishment, but we are reminded in I Corinthians 2:14 that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. Hence, we have to trust the God Who knows more than we and obey Him.

I can recall when I was a boy we had a peach tree in the back yard. I do not ever recall seeing a peach grow on that tree. When I think of the old peach tree I think of Mother walking back from it with a branch in her hand, peeling the leaves off as she came. I then recall her using that switch to spank my little bare legs. I can still see the stripes often left by that switch, and I thank God for every one of them. Today I call her “blessed” because of her faithfulness to the teaching of God and her willingness to obey Him. Placing stripes on me as a child kept me from bearing more painful ones as an adult. Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers. . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The word “nurture” means “chastening.” It is the same word that is used concerning the scourging of Christ as He was beaten with the cat-o’-nine-tails. The wise and spiritual parent obeys God and follows His commandments, not his own reason.

Begin early in spanking the child. Susannah Wesley said she spanked John and Charles before they were a year old. Certainly the wise parent will start by at least this age. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” This means there is a time in a child’s life when no hope is left. During the formative years, yea, the infant years, the child should be spanked. As soon as his is old enough to walk away from his parents he should be spanked if he does not walk where they say he should walk. As soon as he is old enough to understand what they say he should be spanked if he disobeys what they say. This Scripture admonishes us that even when a child is so young that his crying reaches our sympathy, and though it is hard for us as compassionate parents to spank one who seems so innocent, we should nevertheless discipline him. Parents should not have to remove vases and delicate glass ornaments from living room tables. A house need not become disorderly and full of riots because a baby has come. Start early in disciplining the child.

The parent should build such a close relationship that the worst part of the spanking is the broken fellowship between the child and the parent. I can still recall how disappointed my mother’s face looked when she spanked me and I can recall how I dreaded displeasing her even more than I dreaded the spanking, (and believe me, I DID dread the spanking). When the love and affection is close between the child and parent and the relationship is what it ought to be, the worst part of a whipping is the broken fellowship. In other words, when the parent is not disciplining, the relationship should be so wonderful, the fellowship so sweet, and life so happy that the severance of that in itself is terrible punishment for the child to endure.

The spanking should be a ritual. No mother or father should jerk the child up and in a fit of temper administer a spanking. In fact, no punishment should ever be given in a fit of temper. The ritual should be deliberate and last at least ten or fifteen minutes. (In the long run time will be saved using this method.) It should be a ritual dreaded by the child. He should not only dread the pain but the time consumed in the ordeal.

The punishment should always be far in excess of the pleasure enjoyed by doing wrong. The child should realize he will always be the loser by far and that the discomfort will be so multiplied that soon he will have forgotten the pleasure derived from the wrong.

The parent should state very clearly to the child the wrongs and the punishment for each one. As near as possible these wrongs should be listed with the punishment that is to be inflicted for each one. If the punishment does not seem to correct it, then perhaps it should be increased. Some parents have made lists of possible wrongs and have carefully gone over this list with the child explaining exactly what each punishment would be. The punishment is inflicted without exception so that the child will know exactly what to expect.

Before punishing the child tell him clearly what wrong he has committed. Talk sternly and deliberately without a display of temper. Let him know exactly what he has done wrong. Then require that he state to you exactly what the wrong was so that what he did is very clear to you and to the child. Then, ask him what the punishment is. By this time he will know. Let him know that to be just and righteous you must inflict the punishment reminding him that you are doing it in the place if God against Whom he has really sinned.

Never give a child that for which he cries. The baby who cries for attention and gets it will become a child who cries for a toy and gets it, then a teenager who whines and complains for every whim and gets it, and then a young adult who will demonstrate and riot in order to get his wishes. Riots are not started in the streets but in the crib.

The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child’s will is broken. It should last until the child is crying not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue.

After the spanking tell him why you did it. While he is still crying have him sit down. Explain to him again what the crime was and that you had no alternative but to obey God and punish him for the crime. Ask him again to repeat to you what he did that was wrong. Allow the impression of the association between the wrong and the penalty to be cut deep in his mind.

Then the wise parent should assure the child of his love and explain the reason he spanked him was because of that love. He should then have the child remain in the room alone. (All spankings should be administered in privacy and with a closed door.) The parent should have a brief prayer with the child. Lead him to realize his sin was against God. Ask the child to pray asking God to forgive him. He should then have time to be alone in the room to think over his wrong for a few minutes. After two to five minutes the parent may open the door and allow normal activity to resume.

Jamie Pritchett, author of Kid’s Need Lots of Love and Spanking, wrote:

…But I also knew people whose children were absolutely delightful to be around. They did not interrupt; they did what their parents asked immediately and politely – even cheerfully; they happily played independently of their parents; and between parents and children, pride, adoration and love were mutual and obvious.

These were the kind of children I wanted and I knew I could be a great mom to children like these. But how do you get a well-behaved child? You can’t just put in an order for one and expect to receive it.

I had already observed many times which discipline methods did not work to bring about polite and obedient children. So I sought to find out what parents of well-behaved children did differently. Whenever I met someone whose children were well behaved (and whose family was close and loving), I would ask, “How do you discipline your children?” Invariably, the answer was some sort of controlled spanking for disobedience and then some sort of loving explanation as to why the child received a spanking. Also, invariably, that method was started early in childhood (about age one), and tapered off by age nine with a rare spanking after that – because by then spankings were rarely needed.

Most of the people I interviewed were Christians following the Biblical directive of discipline with the “rod.” I looked up all the Bible verses concerning child discipline. There were several, but some were particularly pertinent. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) How true! And we have all seen it! “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17) Also true. All the children I had observed who had been disciplined according to those Biblical directives were the type who would delight any parent’s heart.

For me, the method of discipline seemed obvious. I wanted polite, affectionate and obedient children. I would do what worked and what I had seen proven over and over again. When my twins were born I was doubly glad that I had researched so thoroughly because caring for twins is so exhausting and stressful in the early years. I know I could not have coped with one ill-behaved child, much less two! I started disciplining my girls when they were about a year old, and I’ve never regretted using this method. At age 13 my daughters are polite, well-behaved at all times, and we are very close. Every stage of their lives has been a delight – even through the “twos” and now into early adolescence.

Sadly, sadly, I see in the newspaper and on television these days: “Don’t ever strike your child!” or “Spanking is child abuse.” And I wonder where these people are coming from! By my definition (and millions of other parents) a “spanking” or using the “rod” as some people term it, entails a couple of swift whacks on the child’s clothed behind with a ruler, wooden spoon, or paddle. And that’s all. No ranting or raving. No screaming or raging. No harsh or hurtful words. No sarcastic or cutting remarks. Just a quick spanking and then a few minutes lovingly telling the child why he was spanked, how much he is loved, and how to keep from being spanked in the future…

…All discipline systems are not alike. There are some discipline methods that sound great and are “politically correct”. But do they work? Do they produce polite, obedient and cheerful children? Unfortunately, most do not. The method that I’ve described – spanking under control, followed by a loving talk, does work. (From Mark and Sallie Benedict’s Christian Parenting Network)


Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser He writes from the unique perspective of having been a pastor for many years and having seen it all in churches. His journey out of being a true believer and pastor has been an interesting and informative one.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have six children, and ten grandchildren.


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  • Nea

    Thank you for pointing out the pernicious, abusive violence of the doctrine of original sin. I’ve had believers on this blog get very offended when I pointed out that part of my atheism was becoming very tired of going to church and having to say over and over “I am a horrible human being, I will always be one, I have always been one, hope you forgive me for it because I will always be horrible due to someone else’s decisions.” I am not trash simply because I exist. No one is trash for just existing.

    As for “great great great grandpa whipped his son who whipped his son who whipped his son and they’ve all turned out fine upstanding men,” I would like to point out that in this country great great grandpa was probably also a slave owner, with lots and lots of Bible verses to back him up. Our minds changed on the morality of that, despite the people who bought into the system.

    We need to change our cultural minds about assault and battery being age-appropriate because tradition and bible too. ..

  • gimpi1

    This is a sad commentary on the roots of abusive practices that worm their way into our families, passed on generation to generation. Original sin is one of the most destructive doctrines ever conceived.

    An aside; one thing that always amazes me is the casual statements of “fact” that are made by people promulgating these ideas. I read, “Spanking prevents abuse, decreases childhood violence, is the most effective tool for childhood discipline, will keep your kids from growing up to be criminals, and even lengthen their lives” without a single citation or piece of evidence offered. Do parents in these church-run seminars never ask questions? Does the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” mindset extend to anyone speaking inside the church building? Anyone who claims to be a conservative Christian?

    Perhaps that’s how dogma like “original sin” can survive. Anyone who questions them winds up leaving the club.

  • BlueVibe

    I was spanked twice. The lesson I learned was that when you are frustrated that somebody didn’t do what you wanted right away, you hit them, so I turned around and beat the tar out of my younger brother. My mother decided that wasn’t at all what she had meant to teach us and never hit us again. We were mostly very well-behaved kids (according to Mom, who would not sugar-coat this), although I suspect proper Biblical parents would have seen a lot of swat-worthy behavior. My mother has said since that “discipline is what you do so you’re not tempted to punish later” and that, no matter what anyone tells themselves, she’s convinced now that spanking is always punishment, since it never seems to happen until *after* the child does something for which the parent feels discipline is needed. Her father was a hitter and she hated it.

    I was raised Quaker and they gave up on the idea of original sin ages ago, thank goodness. I’ve read a few historical accounts that said they were less inclined than some (at least, by 19th century standards) to hit their children, but I haven’t had time to look into it seriously so don’t quote me on that.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Okay, was anybody else squicked out by the image of Jesus spanking an 8-10 year old on her bare buttocks?

    Corporal punishment of children by spanking is of fairly recent vintage. A whap on the butt between adults was portrayed as playful salaciousness in Tudor England.

    Punishing adults by beating them on the buttocks emerged as a way to punish black slaves without creating scars which would lower their market value. Conscripts in the British Navy were also sometimes paddled to punish them, though in that case reducing the punishees’ recuperation time may have been a factor in the choice of punishment method. I’ve read that nations which came under control of the British Empire at some point have maintained spanking in schools far longer than other countries, which makes you think.

    In any event, it’s the nineteenth century when spanking kids to punish them seems to have really emerged as a disciplinary technique.



  • Astrin Ymris

    I think the Catholic belief that physical pain is needed to “atone” for sin also plays a role. It’s not enough to repent and “go forth and sin no more”; a certain amount of suffering is required to balance the existential scales as well. (Though how MUCH torment any given sin “required” was often determined on kyriarchal grounds in practice.)

    Protestants seem to have carried this notion away with them when they split from the Church– including the socioeconomic status and gender bias part.

  • Julia Childress

    Good comment. In my experience with conservative Christians, they tend to view events as linear. Sort of like a chain: one link leads to another link. It’s simple: if you don’t discipline children, they will become criminals. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. If you don’t want men to lust after you, then dress modestly. Having a hard time finding a job? You must be lazy. Once I left the fundy world, one of the biggest challenges was coping with ambiguity. Instead of a chain, my eyes were opened to the fact that events are more like a chain link fence with each link connected to multiple links. This chain link idea makes fundies’ heads explode. That’s one reason why they tend to want to isolate themselves. If you live in a world of easy explanations, then you can more easily remain unaware of things you can’t explain. If you question the dogma, then you usually do end up leaving the club. Sometimes because they don’t want you anymore, but more often because you no longer want to be among them.

  • gimpi1

    I like your image of a chain-link fence. That’s how I see things, linked in ways that aren’t obvious until you look closely. I can also see how hard it would be to keep that “single links all lined up in a row” worldview if you let yourself get out of the box. With people who’s lives have gone very differently all around you, the ambiguity of life is hard to ignore.

    However, that doesn’t explain why the first links in the chain aren’t questioned. To me, your first example: “If you don’t discipline your children, they will become criminals,” brings a slew of questions to mind: Define ‘discipline.’ What percentages? Do you have citations? Have you accounted for other factors?

    Of course, that may be why I have never been drawn to fundamentalism.

  • I wasn’t just squicked. I was ENRAGED. Jesus would NEVER strike a child. For ANY reason, at ANY time! And I have to believe that he would STOP someone from striking a child if it was going to happen in front of him.
    *growl* Any God who would countenance striking a child is NO GOD OF MINE!!!

  • charlahades

    I went to Catholic school and while they didn’t talk much about self punishment, and I never heard a word about spanking children, but we had one nun who seemed to like the concept. “Offer any suffering up to God.” I’d skip lunch so I’d feel the pain of hunger or pinch myself until I bruised. That’s hard stuff to let go of.

  • Jenny Islander


  • Catherine

    I’m rather stunned by the fact that Focus on the Family is the least depraved-sounding of all of these…

  • Astrin Ymris

    Yeah it kind of embeds the concept that “Suffering is a good thing.” independent of any actual goal that you might achieve by withstanding it. Giving up Starbucks for a month so that you can donate the money saved to a charity is on a par with self-flagellation. Fasting for 24 hours is as beneficial as volunteering to build houses with Habitat for Humanity for three days.

  • Julia Childress

    The leap from no discipline to criminal activity is hyperbole, but it contains the essence of a strong fundy belief: you want your children to be obedient, to both the parents and to God. If you don’t make them obedient, then they will be on their way to the fast track down that slippery slope to criminal activity and ultimately to hell. Hell is their real fear, with embarrassment a close second. Remember that these people are not interested in empirical evidence (don’t forget that God said it, I believe it, that settles it). Logic has no place in fundamentalism. It’s funny that my husband and I were raised in the same Southern Baptist Church. His parents were way more conservative than mine until mine moved to Fundyland. My in-laws beat their kids with belts and switches because “it’s what God requires”. My parents, even after they became super-fundy, did not strike us. My mother said that when the bible speaks of discipline, it really means to mold like clay, not literally to beat children.

  • Friend

    In my state, it is illegal to use corporal punishment on adopted children. Being adopted myself, I did not experience a sudden yen to commit crimes when I moved here.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    You must live in Maryland. We do and used a Christian adoption agency. Maryland’s rule on not spanking adopted kids made some clients apoplectic.

  • Friend

    Some people see it as Big Brother intruding in family matters. I see it differently: the state has faith that children can be raised without spanking. What an eye opener!

  • B.A.

    I prefer your mother’s explanation.

  • B.A.

    Same here.

  • B.A.

    And the words next to the picture were just as horrible.

  • My only dispute is that spanking and harsh physical punishment have been part of many cultures since the beginning of time. Harsh corporal punishment was part of the educational system until recently. Even I was whipped – with a heavy wooden paddle, for misspelling 2 words on a test. It was the lat day of teaching for that specific teacher. I think a religious explanation is far to simplistic.

  • Sorry, but someone whipping their children had nothing to do with owning slaves. It was just as common in the North as the South. It was even more culturally imbedded in the English prep school system than over here. One of the things I truly resent is this blanket demonization of anyone who came from the South. A quarter of my family did – and they weren’t evil.

  • Nea

    My father and his entire family, all of whom I love, come from Arkansas. This has no bearing on my point that things that were considered biblically acceptable four or five generations ago are no longer considered acceptable now. Or that this attitude of beating sin out of children comes from a sense not of responsibility but of ownership of those children.

  • gimpi1

    Yes, frankly the emphasis on obedience is one of the things I find the most distasteful about fundamentalism. At the risk of a Godwin, one of the reasons Fascism was relatively easy to establish in Germany is because of the culture of obedience to authority. You see the same thing in Islam, even the name of which means submission to God. I think one of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them to think for themselves, and question things that don’t add up.

    Of course, I pretty much have a “question authority” bumper-sticker on my soul.

  • Astrin Ymris

    *shudders* Yep, let’s inculcate the belief that whatever crappy stuff happens to you is Your Own Damn Fault early!

    Plus, parents get to handwave away their responsibility for never vaccinating their kids using this “logic”. “You got the measles because you read ‘Harry Potter’ on the sly, not because you’ve never even seen a certified medical provider in your life, let alone had a measles vaccine!”

  • Astrin Ymris

    So do I and all but one of my grandparents, but I don’t have problem with Nea’s remark. Possibly because I know that slavery existed on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line prior to the Civil War.

    Besides, there’s no discrepancy in noting that kids– particularly lower SES ones– have been “beaten” since the beginning of recorded history, but the primary reason that corporal punishment is still defended today is due to religious reactionaries of all stripes proclaiming that it’s “God’s Will”.

  • I think it’s too much of a blanket condemnation. There are so many other factors. Frankly I don’t think a parent is abusive unless they have been treated this way or have other factors. There are abusive parents in all walks of life.

  • I don’t know any rational parent who would do that. The word is rational.

  • Friend


  • Nea

    I agree that a *rational* parent wouldn’t do that, but what percentage of parents are rational? Not enough. We know the names of children who were beaten to death in the effort to correct their sins.

    And in the meantime, Rand Paul just outright said that parents own their children. He *actually used* the word “own.”

  • Astrin Ymris

    I’m not talking of parents who are abusive because of unrealistic expectations, addiction, or mental illness: I’m talking about people who promote and champion corporal punishment as being not only acceptable, but necessary.

  • It’s narcissistic. These people are disturbed. They are abusive. I wonder how many were abused as children?

  • It’s a big deal libertarian thing. They’ve been writing about it for a good 25 years. It’s more like if they feed their kids, cloth them, protect them, they own them – rather like little slaves of their very own. If they own them, then they can do what they want to them, without the norms society places on them. That’s why I say, it’s not just religious. It’s almost a perfect storm of religion, libertarian, John Birch Society, and please don’t leave out Rushdoony or Gothard. I swear it’s as much political.

  • SAO

    Yep, Jesus would never have said any wimpy, liberal, Godless thing like, “turn the other cheek.”

  • SAO

    Rand Paul is a looney who has bought into a gazillion conspiracy theories, but discovered that in the trainwreck of the GOP, he looks plausible, so he’s working on cleaning up his act and doing a good job of appearing like a credible candidate, but he’s been in the public eye for a while, so he’s on tape or paper for saying some really crazy stuff.

  • SAO

    This was very interesting and might be the roots of the three strikes, you’re out laws that fill our prisons with petty offenders.

    I must say, if I were going to have a rule on spanking, it would be: Open hand only. If it stings your hand, you hit too hard. And then there’s the general rule of parenting: if what you are doing isn’t working, more of it won’t work any better. It’s time to re-think the situation.

    Maybe we could get laws passed that call hitting with an implement abuse — that might get enough support to pass. It’s always a question of the good being an enemy of the best.

  • In actuality, the “turn the other cheek” statement makes better sense if you think about the physics of one person backhanding the other, which is what would have happened if a person was to be struck on the appropriate cheek by a person who was culturally prohibited from using their left hand for anything. Turning the other cheek to them was a way of insisting that you be treated as a *human being* rather than a child or a servant, who were culturally appropriate for being backhanded.
    It was a way of looking at those who would abuse you and saying, “I dare you to do that to an equal because I *am* your equal.”
    Which is yet another reason why I CANNOT imagine my Jesus striking a child.
    So yeah, been thinking about it a lot lately.

  • Nea

    I swear it’s as much political.

    There I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Nea

    How often have we seen “Well, *I* was spanked and *I* turned out okay”? If you define spanking as abuse, then they were abused children, following the patterns they were taught.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Quite possibly that’s what lies underneath their rationalizations, but as reading the accounts of former Quiverfull adherents shows, the psychoparents are using “Because Bible” to convince sane parents to hurt their children. And that’s a bad thing.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Re: “…It’s more like if they feed their kids, cloth them, protect them, they own them – rather like little slaves of their very own. If they own them, then they can do what they want to them, without the norms society places on them…”

    In other words, “My freedom entitles me to take your freedom away from you! My rights trump yours. My personal space extends anywhere I declare it to go, even if that means inside your body.”

    Yeah, I’ve noticed how plutocracy and Dominionism are enmeshed with each other. It’s why I often use the umbrella term “Religious Right” to encompass the totality of the toxic belief system.

    And it has nothing in common with the Teachings of Jesus, which were pro- social justice and anti- kyriarchal. That’s why the CPM quotemines from other parts of the Bible a lot more than it does the Sermon on the Mount.

  • SAO

    I think what she was saying is that in the past people owned slaves, which was legal and not considered a sin, but today, it’s both illegal and almost universally condemned as immoral.

    By analogy, the fact that our predecessors beat their kids doesn’t make it right any more than the fact that they may have owned slaves makes slavery right.

  • Lauren Borrero

    I’ve seen that picture before and I was disgusted when I saw it. Who ever made that picture probably never read the Gospel because Jesus would never hurt someone weaker than him. If anything he said that it is better that someone have a millstone tied around their neck and thrown into the sea than for them to harm a child.

  • Evelyn

    I heard an evangelical sermon once on how the pastor knew original sin was a thing because two year olds. He was completely overlooking the fact that two year olds do not exist in isolation.

    Anyway, it was a life-changer for me when I was exploring and learned that Catholics and Orthodox have a very different view of what original sin does (hint: it’s not depravity–yay!!) and they believe that people are basically good. I had been taught my whole life that people were deeply evil at heart, but years of working with families convinced me this couldn’t be true. Some people are truly evil parents, but most of them seem to be doing the best they can with a really shallow toolbox and in lousy situations.

    One of the funnest things about being Catholic is that I can cheerfully call John Calvin a heretic.

  • American Hustle

    Another religious nut. How can you claim you believe in Jesus but support transgender and homosexuality? You’re stupid, just another stupid lady bored with her life trolling online. Don’t be a hypocrite. Let me guess, youre probably a hippie with nappy hair, single, living cats. Yea definitely you.