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Why Do So Many Evangelicals Abuse Their Children?

jesus spanking sinners

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

Why do so many Evangelicals 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:

  • Every human is born with a sin nature (original sin)
  • This sin nature is inherited from the daddy of the human race, Adam
  • Humans  have no choice in this matter

So, from birth, children are sinners. They have no choice in the matter. They are what all human being are — sinners.

The implications of this belief are 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

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 his eyes, 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 murders five people. Sin is sin. Sinners sin. That’s what they do.

Ugly isn’t it? When you shine the clear, bright, light of reason on the doctrine of original sin it reveals its hideousness 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 babies are indeed born sinners, they are not accountable for their sins until they reach the age of accountability. Some churches say accountability begins at age twelve. Others say it is an indefinite age, and once children can understand the difference between right and wrong and understand the penalty for sin (death and Hell), they are then accountable for their sins.
  • Some Calvinists, especially Reformed five-pointers, baptize babies as a sign of the covenant between the parents and God. Baptized children are raised as 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 to sin, Satan, and the world. Most children raised in churches like this make professions of faith at a very young age. My wife was five and I was six when we made our FIRST (certainly not our last) professions 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 born-again Christians. Sunday school, junior church, and youth group are 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 rebellious towards God. They are the enemies of God. They deserve judgment and Hell, or so say Evangelicals anyway.

One of the tools that God allegedly gave to parents to use with their children is the rod of correction. Spanking, whipping, beating, and hitting children are all used to teach them that sin has consequences. In a very warped and perverse way, children are told their moms or dads hit 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 accepted and endured the violent wrath of his Father. Why? Because he was bearing our sin (substitutionary atonement). 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 Evangelical parents think it is normal, even spiritual, to spank, whip, beat, slap, or hit their children?

The Bible teaches it is a parent’s duty to beat his or her 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

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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 many American families. Every day, the news has another story of parents who abused their children. I wonder if the abusers are ever questioned about what religious training they received? I suspect religious indoctrination and conditioning played a big part in their disciplinary practices.

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, everyday occurrence (as I experienced first-hand). We call it corporal 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 countries that sin against us until they stop doing so. 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 peacemaking must begin at home with our children and families.

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

How often have church children heard from their pastors: 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 interpretations and applications of verses that advocate beating children often provide a blueprint for child abuse. For those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, 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 beat 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:(link no longer active)

Spanking teaches a child to develop inner self-discipline.

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.

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

Spanking is the most effective tool for child discipline.

Spanking insures a good parent-child relationship.

Spanking works.

Spanking is Biblical, Christian behaviour.

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, the 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)

Evangelicals will object to me calling “Biblical discipline” child abuse, but it is clear, at least to me, that hitting, whipping, beating, spanking is just that.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I was shopping in a local grocery store and saw a small boy hit his brother.
    His brother promptly began crying.
    And the mother grabbed the child by the arm, slapped him in the side of the head and said, “DON’T HIT.”

    Gee. I wonder where the little boy learned to hit in the first place.

    Hitting children is a violent act.
    All the talk about love and Jesus is just a pile of shit.

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    Fascinating how that illustration just inserts Jesus into the equation for no reason at all. You hit a hornet’s nest with a stick, the hornets get mad and sting you. Cause-and-effect. Neat and clean, that’s it.

    So what the eff-all does Jesus have to do with it? Nothing. So what exactly are they saying? Jesus “protects” you somehow until you do something dangerous, and then he doesn’t? Isn’t that when you’d need protection the most? It’s like selling you insurance you can never place a claim on when something goes bad. What’s the point?

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    I do not believe that fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is the basis for this abuse. People are fucked up. The bring with them a history of generational abuse through disrespect of children. They were one of those kids. The outcome of abuse without intervention is continued abuse. Most often the children of boozers become boozers for some magical reason!
    Even Steven Anderson acknowledges the great stories of people speaking against spanking and says they will beguile good KJV people because they are liars and want to deceive and destroy God’s holy command which is to hit your children, take a rod to them and give it to them good!
    Again, this is not religion as a cause but as a tool for a sick man who needs to harm, to control his surroundings, his loved ones, and if given the chance his community and the world! Religion is a tool delevoped on the way out of the caves, to assist in continuing to harm, continuing to fear, continuing to accept less that human freedom.
    Ted Tripp enjoys harming children and needs God to justify it because? Because it makes him feel something he has had to bury away about his own life, something to do with the harm done to him. He must pass that on because he will not face it. Religion fills the bill. Same goes for Steve The Abuser Anderson. He probably lines his kids up for a good beating to make them love sweet Jesus. Boy is he in for a surprise in a few years.

    • Avatar

      I have to say, one of the bases for generational abuse in my case was indeed fundamentalist christianity, sprinkled with a bit of Borderline Personality Disorder, massive anger issues, mental illness, and substance abuse. My dad’s side of the family has many members with current and past substance abuse problems. His father was an alcoholic, and my dad didn’t drink at all; he didn’t have to. He was a dry drunk, modeling his father’s angry and chaotic behavior. My brother and I have had to work very hard to distance ourselves from that life and to build new ones that reflect positivity, compassion, kindness, and humor. I do agree with you that a basic disrespect for children is also in play here. Horus knows we were not respected.

      I’ve always wondered about that Anderson character, if he hits his kids and if so, how hard? Because he’s got a mean streak a mile wide and would definitely WANT to get your spanking in WHILE he’s still angry because he’ll hurt you more (and he LIKES to hurt) and you’ll by Gob not need to be told twice next time.

      Those sons of his are getting older, though, and you never know when one hormone-fueled teen is going to get enough lip from that twat and knock his block off with a haymaker punch. I think I’d order PPV for that.

      • Avatar

        Me too, Jada… I think that ‘fucked up’ pre-dates Christianity in generational abuse though. Christianity has developed over time to harm by template. I just don’t see that it rates more authorship than the human reality. It is a human delusion, all this woo-woo: Evangelical fundamentalism is a particular flavor and style of human abuse that is passed on as the gang colors, so to speak.
        When we rid ourselves of this kind of woo-woo, we will still have to face the fact that we harm ourselves and others. Christianity is the rod I have partially removed from my life over the years, though I still jump into the fray sometimes as if I was a fundamentalist prick, damning others and namecalling, hurling shallow judgement…. It never entirely heals….
        Regarding Steve the corrector, he has preached on the Biblical demand to spank your kids and you can bet he lets them have it! Would he admit the severity and frequency? Probably not unless it gives him more attention. I would like to be informed of Anderson’s sorry history because it had to have been truly barbaric to create this kind of preacher-beast. I have seen his early video where he has fancy dyed hair and takes to the pulpit with a case of early Christian virus but I do not know his early history at all, what kind of ‘love’ he lived through to become so thoroughly hateful. I have a recent and till now private wish that Polemon GO will choose his church in Tempe to hide a Pokemon. Just imagine the fury at the pulpit, the demon let loose in the sanctuary…. well, two demons, in fact, one imaginary and one who beats on children for Jesus.

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    “Never give a child that for which he cries.” Orlly, Jack Hyles?

    Well, let’s just flesh this out a bit more, shall we, Jack? Never give a crying child a band-aid for her skinned knee? Never change a crying baby’s diaper? Never feed a child who’s hungry? Never console a teen who might be dealing with something difficult? Never hand your kid over to your spouse if that’s who the kid is crying for? Seriously? Oh, thousands of examples in addition to these, but some people are lower hanging fruit than others and thus richly deserve public humiliation. Makes you kind of wish we’d bring the stocks back. I suspect there would be a very high turnover, and most of them would be ‘good christians.’ Ha, if only.

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    If the child cries because they have realized how terrible their are, that they are fucking ugly worthless and useless without the Passion of Christ Jesus’ blood in them, then of course you comfort them. Band-aids? Diaper complaints demand the rod and the proper love of a Michael Pearl. Get them early, while you can or they won’t smile sweetly and be polite in public! Yes, indeed bring back the children-sized stocks but use them discreetly because this world is given over the devil and cannot endure true Christianity. Don’t speak of Godly correction outside the family, git it?
    Have a glance at Anderson’s sermon on correction for the words of Christ himself.

    • Avatar

      These quotes from evangelicals were hard to read. My mom spanked me but stopped when I was 8 and started hitting her back when she spanked me. My grandma had the spanking and talking to method much like we read about above. No doubt she learned it from some of these types of pastors. My uncle told me when he was a kid my grandma would swat him just about any time he walked past her because she figured he had done something wrong she didn’t actually see. The only one that her punishment never worked on was my brother who would have many consecutive trips to the bedroom for the spanking and talk. She had to give up with him because his will wouldn’t be broken.

      I have a coworker from Poland who asked me about why spanking is frowned on in the US. She was bothered about being called out in public for spanking her kids at the mall or playground.

      We never spanked our kids. Frankly, disciplining without hitting takes a lot more creativity and communication skills. Hitting is just easy, but it teaches kids to fear and that bigger people get to lord over smaller people.

      I hated reading these justifications for beating children- even beating infants who have no verbal communication skills yet! These authoritarian structures create more authoritarians.

  6. Avatar
    Mike Smith

    Boy did this strike a nerve! Scripture says “By their fruits you will know them.” Looking at Jack Hyles’ kids, (especially Dave) I don’t think that really worked that well for him. 3 of the 4 kids have been divorced and the 4th one chose not to be divorced though she had grounds. I also remember growing up under this same teaching, getting beat with a belt, with my pants pulled down (even during puberty) and even a couple of times my legs bled. Ironically, I do not hold a grudge to my father who has since passed on, but I put the blame squarely on Jack Hyles. It is also no wonder that Dave turned out to be an abusive narcissitic pedophile rapist. They say that two professions that contain lots of abusers are pastors and policemen. And we know why. That line where Jack Hyles advocates telling the kids that the disciplining parent is standing in the place of God is very telling. Kinda gives you a very skewed view of God.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Emersonian–I agree.

    As someone who grew up Catholic, it seems to me that the Catholics’ second-biggest obsession (after the Virgin Mary) is the Baby Jesus–which is odd, when you consider scripture verses that say a baby is an enemy of God.

    I also believe, as someone who was sexually abused by a priest, that view of children is exactly what enables what I endured: It’s the notion that children are “less than,” more like objects or toys than people.

    That way of thinking also goes hand-in-hand with a hierarchy that places men (at least, certain men) at the top and everyone else far, far down the slope. Nobody beats on someone who has, or is vested with, more power.

    Now, I am not a child psychologist. But I think I understand enough to know that beating kids for “bad” behavior (or, worse, pre-emptively) is at best counterproductive because, most of the time, kids don’t make a conscious decision to misbehave. Punishments, whether physical or of any other kind, only work when the wrongdoer chose his or her behavior and can likewise make the choice to change, or at least express contrition. Modern parenting and education, as well as criminal justice theory and practice, acknowledge as much,

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Gary Ezzo should be in this list of child mistreaters. ” Growing Babies God’s Way,” that’s one of his books. Then there’s Larry Tomczack, ” God, the Rod, and Your Child’s Bod.”( no, I didn’t make this up). Ezzo and wife are shunned by the daughters, and grandkids. As I recall it, they just had the two daughters and their kids, no sons.In most churches you’d see this b.s. all the time !

  9. Avatar

    i can’t now find the blog that I once read. It was for those who were survivors of spankings and beatings by religious parents. They shared the traumas it had left them with as adults. Some said they couldn’t now form normal consensual relationships. More than one said this was because to relieve the pain and humiliation, they masturbated and knew their parents believed this was further evidence of their ‘depravity.’
    Some have said when discussing being hit as children, ‘It never did me any harm, I grew up just fine.’ To which others respond, ‘If you think that’s true, then you didn’t grow up just fine at all.’
    The ban on physical punishment of children by parents becomes law in Wales next March. Our Welsh Assembly Government is shortly to launch an advertising campaign to explain this new law. Hurray to that.

  10. Avatar

    A long time ago I read a book (possibly “Hanta Yo”) set among Native Americans and from the min set oftheir culture. ONe elder comments that hitting a misbehaving child just drives the “badness” in deeper. Counterproductive! On several occasions I have seen an adult scolding a child for misbehaving, but apparently the adult never told the child what was expected.

  11. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Bruce, your concluding remarks are oh, so, right . . . but what do I know, I am a depraved atheist.

    And what the Christian community skips over is how can a curse make one sinful. And how the heck is this inherited from ones parents for generation after generation onto helpless babies. Christian’s say that when witches curse things that is an abomination. Why, because cursing is a reserved for God alone? Did not Jesus say his followers could do all they he could do and even more?

    The Bible is drenched in blood magic, even the crucifixion of Jesus is such. But magic is anathema to fundies everywhere. Why? Doesn’t the use of magic show one is coming closer to God?

  12. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I couldn’t read through some of the quotes.

    I was a depressed, only child of parents who’d been raised in authoritarian traditions where you misbehaved, there were consequences. They talked a lot about spanking, and how their friends’ misbehaving kids deserved “good spankings” all the time. For me, a scolding was devastating. My mother could rip me in two without touching me, thanks to my depression. Because nobody can be more cruel to a depressed person than themselves.

    The only time I really upset my father, he sent me to my study space without dinner. I’d said something foolish in passing about not liking what my mother had cooked for dinner, and that triggered his memories of starving children outside the Army base in the Philippines in WWII. I was horrified, he never got upset with me. My mother was often angry, frustrated, or in pain, and I’d get scolded more-or-less randomly. It was painful. My dad corrected, he didn’t get angry, he always explained why X was wrong and I would promise to not do it again (and keep my promise). So his anger baffled and terrified me.

    My mother was proud of having such a great kid, that I was never spanked. (To her dying day, years after I’d started mental health treatment, she denied that I could possibly have ever suffered from depression.) My mother-in-law pestered about this no-spanking thing for years. She’d spanked all her kids at one point. Every kid occasionally deserved a spanking, as far as she knew. Did I really not get spanked? One day I got tired of eliding and redirecting, and told her point-blank that for a kid with severe depression, a scolding is sufficient. That got me a lecture about how in her day, people just dealt with their depression and didn’t let it affect them. I walked away, and was probably distant for at least a couple of years.

    These people who beat the crap out of their kids for being kids are creating terrible scars. If the kid is sensitive or depressed, the scars can last a lifetime. I escaped, because the depression made me a really compliant kid, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d been normal.

  13. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Hello, Matilda. The blog you mentioned that you were looking for may have been ” Homeschoolers Anonymous.”. It’s not active anymore,and it’s archived now, and you can still read their shocking accounts. One of the most powerful bloggers is Shade Ardent, who was raised in the IFB church.

  14. Avatar
    Professor Pupdog

    When one swats or beats a dog for doing something “bad” or not listening, does he believe he is trying to bring the dog closer to God? Or to put it another way, when one paddles a child, is he treating the child as a dog?

    For grown children, spanking may be insufficient and ineffective. Thus, William Einwechter, in a 1999 article in The Chalcedon Report, called for stoning.

    Calling it “love” might just be an excuse for doing violence.

  15. Avatar

    Well my parents tarred my tail some when I was a kid…..and guess what I needed it. Some kid’s just don’t learn from time out etc. It’s great and all if your kids don’t need a pop on the butt in the end to be well behaved, but some parents are stuck with children who really need it. Don’t judge as you don’t know the kid and what it takes to manage them.

    Before anyone says I condone abuse I talked about a spanking. Not beating with a belt etc.

    I know from my own childhood though I would have laughed at a time out and some of those other punishments.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I am of the opinion that any hitting of a child is abuse. Sure, there are degrees of abuse. I am not suggesting that smacking a child’s hand is the equivalent of whipping a child with a switch. However, both require a parent to hit their child. There are better ways of disciplining and correcting children than hitting them.

      I don’t buy the argument that says: my parents whipped me and I turned out just fine. I would contend that no we did not turn out just fine, especially if we, when parents, whipped our own children.

      • Avatar

        Bruce speaking as parent that started off with the idea of no spanking I changed my mind when my son basically laughed at other techniques. So I added the rare spanking and now the other methods have more weight to them. Some kids don’t need spankings to listen. Some do. It’s really according to the kid. I mean we have to live in the real world and there is a reason every culture throughout the ages has had spankings. It works. If this other stuff was truly effective for all kids spanking would have died out ages ago.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Are you suggesting that I don’t live in the “real” world? 🙂 In the “real” world, violence is pervasive. Over 100 million people died from wars in the 20th century. Should we continue war just because that’s what we have always done? Surely, there is a better way. Spanking hasn’t died out because violence against children is deeply embedded in the DNA of many world cultures, not because it “works.”

          We are on opposite poles on this one, a rare occurrence. Better write this date down. 🙂

          • Avatar


            I would suggest that if you think certain things will simply go away if given enough time. Spanking hasn’t died out because it works. War hasn’t died out because people are ultimately selfish . Do you think we should get rid of the military on the hope others will do the same? I cannot be upset with people violating the ideals of a possible world as opposed to living in the real world.

  16. Avatar
    Alan Jones

    Thank you for your research and article.
    When there are how-to-child abuse books, as well a deeply flawed bible justifying child abuse there is no wonder our prisons are filled with ruthless people born of ruthless parents.
    As a child of the 1950’s I still remember the bulging veins in my father’s while he yelled he had a god-given right to beat me within an inch of my life. When as a result of a beating my blood spattered on the wall and floor – further beatings followed for the mess I made.
    When a religious text promotes abuse it is easy for emotional disturbed parents to use that as validation for their actions.
    I do not see evidence of a loving god.

  17. Avatar

    It really struck me as I was reading this that they make a lot of claims of the benefits of spanking without citing any evidence. They’re like snake oil salesmen – use my product and it will heal all that ails you. As someone who was soundly whipped as a child I can tell you that most of their claims are false.

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