Recently, Christian Fundamentalist Lori Alexander took to her blog to promote beating children as God’s approved way of controlling children. In particular, Alexander objects to Dr. Spock’s no-violence approach to effectively raising children into responsible adults. Alexander will have none of that. Beat your kids, she says. God demands that parents use a rod on the backside of rebellious children. Not beating your children means you love them more than you love God; that you are more concerned with their welfare than you are being obedient to the violent tribal deity of the Bible.
Dr. Spock: “[Physical punishment] certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” (p. 173)
Lori Alexander: This is in direct contradiction to what God tells us in His Word. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Oh, but the rod isn’t a physical instrument,” people will tell me. Really? Please study all of the verses that mention the rod and you will see that this isn’t true. How does God discipline us? Is He only positive and encouraging? No! “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Chasten means “to correct by punishment; to punish; to inflict pain of reclaiming an offender; as, to chasten a son with a rod.” Scourge means “to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.” Who are we to think we know better than God? No, God doesn’t mean that we should physically abuse our children in any way. [actually, he does] We use the rod of correction as a tool to make them obey and this teaches them self-discipline which benefits them for life. Many things in God’s Word have been taken to extremes and have caused harm for people. This is not God’s way. His way ends in peace and goodness not in evil and harm.
Spock: “My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.” (p. 173)
Alexander: On the contrary, pain and fear are great motivators for good as I shared in the above verse about how God disciplines us. My children were all spanked when they sinned against us or others and none of them were bullies or got into physical fights with others. They were kind to others, respected authority, and were a joy to raise. A one year old can’t comprehend “liking people” as much as they can quickly comprehend a small amount of pain that is swiftly administered for disobedience.
Spock: “I don’t think physical punishment is necessary or particularly effective.” (p. 215)
Alexander: It sure has been for centuries before you wrote your book, Dr. Spock. Children were much better behaved than they are now. God’s ways will always trumps man’s ways.
Spock: “All schools should be friendly, creative places like the best I’ve seen. We should wean ourselves away from physical punishment.” (p. 33)
Alexander: When I went to elementary school, the principal had a wooden paddle in his office and he used it! Children were well-behaved for the most part. There was nothing going on like there is in the schools today. A swat on the back side is a quick, effective method against disobedience.
Spock: “Recently I visited a small private school . . . with the idea of asking children . . . what advice to parents they’d like me to incorporate in the forthcoming revision of Baby and Child Care. In a thoughtful mood, the class was unanimous that parents should not hit their children. . . One child added that if you’re crying and your parent tells you to stop and then hits you when you don’t stop, it only makes you cry more.” (p. 229-233)
Alexander: And asking children how they should be disciplined is a wise thing? If he asked adults how they would like their government to run, I’m sure some immature adults would say that they shouldn’t be put in prison for abusing drugs, driving drunk, and getting tickets for speeding and running red lights. Children do NOT know best how they should be raised. Why not interview parents of adult children who are now upstanding citizens and ask how they raised their children instead?
Spock: “I hope American parents can outgrow the conviction . . . that physical punishment is necessary to bring up well-behaved children. . . There are parts of the world where it has never occurred to any adult to strike a child. I have known personally or professionally dozens of families in which the parents never lifted a hand–or otherwise punished or humiliated their children–and yet the children were ideally cooperative and polite. Children are eager to be ever more grown up and responsible.” (p. 13)
Alexander: Yes, I am sure parents can raise good children without ever spanking them but it takes a lot more time, energy, and effort and to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen many who are successful at it. In order for spankings to work, a parent must be consistent, firm, and loving. It doesn’t work without these three key ingredients. [In other words, busy parents beat their children so they will have time to do other important things such as reading the Bible and going to church.]
Spock: “There are several reasons to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right. Some spanked children then feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one reason there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation.”
Alexander: No, it teaches children that they must obey and respect the authority in their lives, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and government which is a good thing. My children never beat up on the smaller ones. If they did, they would have been spanked and would have never done it again!
Most American children do not choose which, if any, religion they want to follow. (please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) Children, almost without exception, adopt the religion of their parents and family. Often, religious worship is part of the ebb and flow of family and community life, so it should come as no surprise that children embrace that religion. And therein lies the problem. Most Americans believe that worshiping God is very important, and many of them take it a step further in believing that it is essential that their children worship a specific God, namely the Christian God.
In most Christian sects, children are encouraged to make a conscious choice to worship Jesus. In the Catholic church,children, often as young as 7 years old, go through the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. In the Lutheran church, children, usually around the age of 12, go through the rite of confirmation. In the Evangelical church, children are encouraged to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is not uncommon to hear adult Evangelicals say that Jesus saved them when they were 5 or 6 years old. In the Baptist church, it is not uncommon to hear testimonies of youthful conversion and a re-dedication to that conversion during teenage years.
Regardless of the Christian sect and its initiation practice, young children are encouraged, and often expected, to embrace the family God. Many secularists, including myself, think that children should not make the choice of a particular religion until they are old enough to do so, say, teenage years or older. If, as most Christians say, believing in, and worshiping Jesus is vitally important, then shouldn’t children wait to embrace Christianity until their reasoning skills are such that they can intellectually understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a member of a particular church?
Many Christian sects either baptize or dedicate infants, resulting in that particular sect putting its mark upon the infant. They are saying, in effect, this baby is ours. From that point forward,children are indoctrinated in their parents religion. While many Christian sects hide their motivations for indoctrinating young children, Evangelical groups such as Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), are quite clear about why they go after young children. Thirty years ago, David Shibley, a proponent of CEF methodology, wrote about the importance of evangelizing children:
I want my two young sons to have bland testimonies – no sensational stories about rescue from drugs, perversion and rebellion.
I want it to be natural for them to trust the Lord Jesus early for salvation and then to trust Him for everything thereafter. I believe in the validity of child evangelism.
For one thing, statistics are on its side. 19 out of 20 Christians receive Christ before the age of 25. After that, the odds against conversion become astronomical.
Early conversion saves not only a soul, but potentially points an entire life toward service to God and man. In 15 years of ministry I’ve met no one who is sorry he came to Christ early in life. I’ve encountered many who are sorry they didn’t….
Shortly before his second-century martyrdom at age 95, Polycarp said, “86 years have I served the Lord.” 18th Bible expositor Matthew Henry was converted at the age of six, hymnwriter Isaac Watts at nine.
W.A. Criswell, pastor of the large First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, was saved when he was eight. Evangelist Stephen Olford came to Christ on his 7th birthday.
65% of those enrolled in America’s largest seminary Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were converted before their teens.
Children are reached more easily than adults. Jay Kesler, president of Youth for Christ International, has well said, “Any evangelism after high school isn’t evangelism. It’s really salvage.”
Young children are notably tender. Their sincerity is never in doubt. Their heart attitudes contribute to genuine conversion. And Jesus told adults that they must become as children to experience the new birth (Matt. 18:3).
True, children who make an early profession of faith sometimes struggle with assurance and make a second public commitment later. They often say, “I didn’t know what I was doing the first time.” More likely, however, the personal worker attending the child didn’t know what he was doing.
We need not fully understand the Gospel to be saved; we need only believe and receive it. What adult fully comprehends the rationale or the magnitude of redemption?
Some argue that children are unable to stay true to their commitment. Yet the late English preacher Charles Spurgeon noted, “Out of a church of 2,700 members, I have never had to exclude a single one who was received while yet a child. Teachers and superintendents should not merely believe in the possibility of early conversion, but in the ferquency (sic) of it.”
Child evangelism assists in the formation of character. The Bible clearly teaches that man’s only capability for good lies in the imputed righteousness of Christ. We do not expect unconverted adults to act like Christians. The same should be true for children.
Christians seem to be the only ones who believe they should wait to influence children’s minds. Advertisers don’t wait. Child abusers don’t wait. Neither do humanist educators, false religions and cults, or Satan.
The church that reaches its children has a better chance of reaching its adults. Often newly-converted children win their parents and grandparents to the Lord. Those children grow up to be adults who can nurture their own families to faith in Jesus Christ.
Lest we forget, Christianity is always just one generation from extinction. We must reach the coming generation with the Gospel.
The late G. Campell (sic) Morgan, for many years pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel, said that the church that always seeks the child is the church that is “seeking the Kingdom … A vision of the desire for the Kingdom of God is the master passion in all work for children.”
To many of us, this is a ridiculous question. For in fact, we were saved as children. Statistics are on our side as well, revealing that 85% of Christians made the decision to trust Christ somewhere between the ages of four and fourteen. Further, those of us who have been actively learning and practicing the discipline of soul-winning have probably led a child to Christ, perhaps even one of our own….
Though some have tried to alter or add to the meaning of the word believe (mentioned as the sole condition for salvation over 150 times in the New Testament), its definition remains as God intended it. “What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the Gospel is true. Faith is… taking God at His word. It is nothing less than this. But it is also nothing more.”
This is a message that is all inclusive–no strings attached. Even, and especially, a child can grasp this message and place his faith in Christ for eternal life, and many do.
R. A. Torrey said, “It is almost the easiest thing in the world to lead a child from five to ten years of age to a definite acceptance of Christ. . . . The younger the children are when you seek to lead them to make an actual acceptance of Christ, the easier the work will be, and the more satisfactory” (from Frank G. Coleman’s, The Romance of Winning Children [Cleveland, OH: Union Gospel Press, 1973], p. 14). Thank God for the faithful witnesses who led me–and perhaps you–to Christ at an early age!
Sam Doherty, a man who has dedicated his entire life to evangelizing children, wrote a handbook for Child Evangelism Fellowship titled U Can Lead Children to Christ: A Step by Step Guide for Counsellors of Children. (link no longer active) Doherty lists four reasons why it is imperative that Christians evangelize children:
Children can be saved
Children need to be saved
Children are open to the gospel
A Child Saved is a Life Saved
According to Doherty:
They (children) are spiritually dead
They have a sinful nature which shows itself in sinful acts
They are outside God’s Kingdom
If they have reached the age of accountability they are under God’s condemnation
Doherty believes that once children reach the age of accountability, the age when children know the difference between right and wrong, they are in danger of going to hell if they don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. Who wants his child to go to hell, right? So then, it should come as no surprise that many Evangelicals press their children to profess faith in Jesus at a very young age.
Let me give you an example of how this works in the Evangelical church. Ron Adkins is pastor of the Methodist church a few blocks from my home. This church was the last church my wife and I attended before we deconverted in 2008. According to Ron’s bio on the Ney/Farmer United Methodist Church website, he was saved at the age of seven and his wife asked Jesus into her heart at age eight. Should it come as any surprise, then, that all four of the Adkins’ children were saved at age five?
In the type of Baptist churches in which my wife and I grew up, children are sent to Sunday school and children’s church so they can be exposed to the church’s teachings on heaven, hell, Jesus, salvation, death, and God’s judgment. Children are often emotionally and mentally coerced into asking Jesus into their hearts. Children’s church teachers will often ask their young pupils: do you want to go to hell when you die? or how many of you want to go to heaven when you die? What young, immature and impressionable child doesn’t want to avoid the flames of hell or enjoy the wonders of heaven?
In many ways, Evangelicals who evangelize children are like door-to-door salesmen selling their customers on the importance of owning their product and the danger of putting off a buying decision to another day. Years ago, I sold Kirby vacuüm cleaners. I would praise the virtues of the grossly overpriced vacuums, trying to get prospective customers to see how much better their lives would be if their households owned a Kirby. If the positive approach failed to work, I’d resort to the methods meant to show them how poorly their current vacuüm was working. I’d even go so far as to use my demo Kirby vacuüm to sweep the prospective customer’s bed, showing them all the dead skin and “mites” the mighty Kirby removed from their bed. The goal was always to get the customer to make an impulsive decision. And this is exactly what happens in many Evangelical churches. Uninformed children are wowed with the wonders of heaven and threatened with the horrors of sin and hell. Most children who are exposed to these kind of sales techniques will make “choose” to get saved.
Once children are saved, their parents and churches continue to indoctrinate them in their sects particular teachings. Remember, these children do not have the rational capacity to make this choice, nor have the been exposed to alternative religions. Are confirmed, initiated, or saved children really making an informed decision to believe the central tenets of Christianity? Of course not. They lack the requisite intellectual skills necessary to make such a decision. Wouldn’t it be better to expose children to a variety of religions, along with humanism and atheism, and allow them to make a reasoned choice of which to follow when they are old enough to do so?
Unfortunately, what is best for children often collides with the objectives of organized religion: increasing membership and income. To put it bluntly, the goal is asses in the seats and money in the offering plate. Without a steady stream of people who were indoctrinated as children and teenagers, churches would suffer declines in attendance and offerings. While Christian sects, churches, and parents argue that they are most interested in making sure children believe in Jesus, the truth is that they know without young, impressionable, and easily-manipulated children being assimilated into the church, Christianity would die. If they wait until children are in their teens to indoctrinate them in the ways of Jesus, they know they run a huge risk of children leaving the church when they reach adulthood.
In fact, things are so bad for American Christian churches, that adults, despite being immersed in the teachings of Christianity, are leaving the church anyway. The percentage of “nones—those with no religious identification—and the increase in the indifference of young adults towards religion, has resulted in much hand-wringing in the Christian community. What should we do, pastor after pastor asks. Our churches are getting increasingly older and young adults are leaving and never coming back. These pastors know that if they don’t do something to stem to tide of young adult membership loss, their churches will close and they will be forced to get real jobs.
What prompted me to write this post is an article on ESPN about whether children should be permitted to play high-impact sports. Dr. Bennet Omalu,”the first to publish findings linking head injuries, particularly concussions, to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players,” thinks children should not be permitted to play high-impact sports “until they reach the legal age of consent, usual 18.” In a New York Times article on the subject, Dr. Omalu states:
Our children are minors who have not reached the age of consent. It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old. We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.
We have a legal age for drinking alcohol; for joining the military; for voting; for smoking; for driving; and for consenting to have sex. We must have the same when it comes to protecting the organ that defines who we are as human beings.
If children are not old enough to understand the risks of playing football, and, as Dr. Omalu says,if they should be prohibited from playing it until age 18, shouldn’t the same hold true for indoctrinating children in the teachings and practices of a particular religion? Shouldn’t they be of age and have all the relevant facts before they make a decision to embrace a God, or no deity at all?
While it is naïve to expect Christian parents to keep their children away from their tribe’s religion, society should require them to not unduly indoctrinate their children. That we don’t reflects the fact that we give Christianity a pass on almost everything when it comes to children. We allow Christian parents to pull their children out of public schools so they can be indoctrinated by evangelists, posing as teachers of knowledge, for their particular sects beliefs. We also allow Christian parents to homeschool their children. Millions of American children are homeschooled or attend Christian private (and parochial) schools. These children are taught reason-defying myths such as the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and wine and crackers miraculously turning into Jesus’ blood and flesh once they are prayed over. They are regularly reminded that they are sinful, broken humans in need of forgiveness and salvation, and that heaven awaits them if they believe, and hell awaits if they don’t. These type of teachings do incalculable emotional harm to children, often resulting in low self-esteem or psychological problems.
Worse yet, these children are taught lies about the natural world they are very much a part of. Many Evangelical homeschool parents and private schools teach children that the earth is 6,020 years old, evolution is a lie, and the teaching of the Bible accurately reflects the one and only way to understand the world. While parents and teachers will most likely teach their wards science, they often teach a Christianized version that repudiates biological evolution. They also, thanks to a literalistic reading of the Bible, reject most of what cosmology, archaeology, and geology tell us about the age of the earth and the universe. As a result, children who have embraced this kind of indoctrination are crippled intellectually. Ask any secular college or university professor how difficult it is to reason with children who have been indoctrinated with fundamentalist Christian beliefs. The intransigence of these students is heartbreaking. Stunted intellectually, they often go through life ignoring vast swaths of human knowledge because it does not fit the narrow confines of what they were taught as a child. Of course, this is EXACTLY what Christian churches and their leaders desire: intellectually-neutered people who continue to look to them for answers.
Religious child soldiers carrying AK-47s. Bullying anti-gay Jesus kids. Infant genital mutilation. Teenage suicide bombers. Child Hindu brides. No matter where you look, if adults are participating in dogmatic religions, then they are also pushing those same ideologies onto their kids….
A child’s mind is terribly susceptible to what it hears and sees from parents, family, and social surroundings. When the human being is born, its brain remains in a delicate developmental phase until far later in life.
“Kids are impressionable,” said Dr. Eunice Pearson-Hefty, director of the Teaching Environmental Science program of Texas’ Natural Resource Conservation Commission. “Anything you tell them when they’re real small can have a lasting impression.”
It’s only later, when kids hit their teens that they begin to think for themselves and see the bigger picture. It’s only then they begin to ask whether their parent’s teachings make sense and are correct. However, depending on the power of the indoctrination in their childhood, people’s ability to successfully question anything is likely stifled their entire lives…
…”Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults,” says Giovanni Santostasi, PhD, who is a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and runs the 10,000 person strong Facebook group Scientific Transhumanism. “An appropriate analogy of religion is that’s it’s kind of like porn–which means it’s not something one would expose a child to.”
Unfortunately, even though atheists, nonreligious people, and transhumanists number almost a billion people, it’s too problematic and unreasonable to imagine taking “God” and “religion” out of the world entirely. But we do owe it to the children of the planet to let them grow up free from the ambush of belief systems that have a history of leading to great violence, obsessively neurotic guilt, and the oppression of virtually every social group that exists.
Like some other atheists and transhumanists, I join in calling for regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let’s say, 16 years of age. Once a kid hits their mid-teens, let them have at it–if religion is something that interests them. 16-year-olds are enthusiastic, curious, and able to rationally start exploring their world, with or without the guidance of parents. But before that, they are too impressionable to repeatedly be subjected to ideas that are faith-based, unproven, and historically wrought with danger. Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner. A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose religious paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.
While I think we are several generations away from neutering the effect religion has on American children, we do owe it to them make sure they are taught to think critically. I’ve long been a proponent of junior high children and older being required to take classes in World Religions, logic, and philosophy. This would expose their evolving minds to methodologies and thought processes that will enable them to make informed choices about religion. Doing so will certainly swell the ranks of the non-religious, and it is for this reason the religionists will fight tooth and nail any attempt to remove them as the sole arbiter of religious belief.
The fight is on and I’m convinced that skepticism and reason will win the day.
Both my wife and I first made professions of faith at age five. As is the custom in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, both of us made rededication decisions as teenagers.
In an earlier blog post, The Dogma That Followed Me Home, Cat Givens described the horrifying abuse she suffered at New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. This school used the Accelerated Christian Education/ School of Tomorrow curriculum. I too attended an ACE school, and abuse was rife there too. While New Bethany was a particularly extreme example, physical abuse is endemic to Accelerated Christian Education. It is at the heart of the theology that inspires the curriculum. Their beliefs about the nature of the child inform the whole way the schools are built.
Accelerated Christian Education believes that children are inherently wicked, full of original sin, and that this must be driven out of them by breaking their spirits. This results in ruthless discipline. Among the Scriptures that inspire this belief are:
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Several years ago, I had dinner with a supervisor from my old ACE school. She told me, as though it were completely natural, “sometimes when you look into the eyes of a child that’s being naughty, you can just see this spirit – it’s demonic.”
It’s this theology that leads to ACE’s system of separating children into carrels, with high partitions on each side to stop them from communicating with their neighbors, shown in this ACE promotional video. The message is simple: With your inherently sinful nature, child, you cannot be trusted.
This need to break the child’s will is a staple of Christian Right thinking, says Arizona State University’s Professor David Berliner. In “Educational Psychology Meets the Christian Right,” (website link no longer active) he quotes extensively from fundamentalist literature on child raising. This is John Robinson, leader of the Puritans and hero to modern fundamentalist educators:
“Surely there is in all children … a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon.”
Who is more a fundamentalist icon than John Wesley? This is his mother’s view on child-rearing:
“A child must be conquered. . . . And when the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies … may be passed by. . . . I insist on the conquering of the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education … [and] when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents.”
The tone has barely changed in the intervening centuries. Berliner cites Jack Hyles, from 1972:
“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.”
Berliner notes that this way of thinking is utterly opposed to the healthy development of the mind. “Various subject matter fields now require of a learner curiosity, agency, and thoughtfulness – characteristics that cannot develop well when obedience is the primary goal of child rearing.”
This view of the child as needing to be broken, like a horse, led to hideous abuses at my school. It was not only spanking. In drama classes, if a movement was painful, the teacher made students repeat it endlessly. A classmate recently emailed me to describe a time her sibling was made to snap his fingers until they were covered in blisters. In a choral verse class, children had to hold contorted positions on stage for 10 minutes or more at a time, and the teachers screamed at them if they were seen to move at all.
The same student also described the experience of being paddled at an ACE school:
“I was at [the ACE school] aged 3 – 7, and i cant remember what happened exactly when, but i got paddled a lot and remember having big red marks on my thighs from it and it hurt and was really terrifying! And straight after being paddled [the teacher] asked ‘do u believe that i love u?’ and i said ‘no’, cz obviously i knew that she hated me, and she said ‘YES I DO LOVE YOU!’ and it was just weird and confusing for a small child! and the things i remember getting paddled for were dragging my gym bag along the floor cz it was too heavy, and for drawing a cat on my pace, and for saying i havent had a biscuit when actually i had had a biscuit, which was a malicious lie!
“And [the teacher] would make you say a prayer after being paddled to apologize and I said ‘I wont do it again’ in my prayer and she interupted and said ‘YES YOU WILL DO IT AGAIN’! again, weird and confusing for a child!!”
Earlier editions of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual have clear instructions for supervisors on how and when to use the paddle to administer spankings (cited, for example, in Roger Hunter’s “The Shock of the Old: The Militant Church and Education”). The Catholic Herald (website link no longer active) described the paddle in one British ACE school as “a cricket bat-shaped US import.” The latest edition of the manual is sanitized, and only says that students who receive more than six demerits should be referred to the school administrator for appropriate punishment. It then quotes three of the Scripture verses most commonly used to justify corporal punishment, including Proverbs 22:15.
The probable reason for this sanitization is that school spankings are now illegal in a majority of territories where ACE is sold. That doesn’t mean spanking is entirely a thing of the past. My school ran a discipline policy that required parents to come in and paddle their own children if the teachers deemed it necessary. If parents declined, their children could not attend the school. The Branch Christian School is one school running a similar policy today.
In places where paddling is still legal, including 19 US states, of course, it happens openly. You can read online the policy at Victory Christian Academy, Florida, (link no longer active) for example. It’s almost word-for-word the same at each school that uses it, because it’s lifted from the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual. The same discipline policy appears in ACE schools across the world.
What can students get paddled for? That’s for the school to decide, although past ACE manuals have included suggestions. One of the schools that has posted a non-exhaustive list is Cornerstone Academy, Amarillo (link no longer active). The punishment can be awarded for such obscenities as (this is just a selection):
Disobedience to school authorities and school policy
Being disrespectful to proper authorities
Cheating in any manner
Lying in any manner (word or deed)
Stealing or borrowing without owner’s permission
Griping and complaining or chronic bad attitude after being cautioned
Being disruptive in class after being cautioned
Touching any student in an inappropriate manner
Vulgar or offensive slang expressions
Consistent failure to have required items for school activities
If there is any question over whether religion can make good people do evil things, fundamentalist child abuse is the answer. My ACE supervisor used to tell the class all the time how much it hurt her to have to paddle us, how awful and painful it was, but she had no choice because God commanded it. No evidence that it might be harmful was considered. No alternative interpretation of the the Bible was countenanced.
It is this doctrine of the child as naturally rebellious against God that must be challenged. It is the idea that the child must be made unquestioningly subject to the teacher’s authority that is the problem. That, and the interpretation of Scripture that makes corporal punishment a non-negotiable imperative, are the great danger. Any attempt to improve fundamentalist curriculum content is a treatment of the symptoms, not the disease.
Did you know that training a child is a lot like training a dog? Using Proverbs 22:6, train up a child in the way he should go:and when he is old he will not depart from it, as a foundation,Allen Domelle, editor of the Old Paths Journal and an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist, compares training a Rottweiler to training a child. Domelle writes:
In recent years, I have owned several Rottweilers…One of the current dogs I got from them is Tydy. Tydy is a female Rottweiler who weighs in at about 100 pounds, and is all muscle. She is a beautiful dog! Like all Rottweilers, Tydy is a strong-minded dog and needs a strong owner. Don’t get me wrong, she is the most loving dog you can be around, but she is a very strong-willed dog which requires my wife, daughter and me to be sure to be strong, calm and assertive owners.
When I got her as a pup, I immediately started training her. For the most part, she was a pretty easy dog to train. One thing I quickly noticed about her is that it is very hard to break her focus once she gets sidetracked. She is a well-trained dog that I can take to any public place, but I have to be sure to stay engaged with her and keep her focused on what I command her to do.
One morning I was taking her for a walk, and I decided to try something different to keep her from being sidetracked when other people, dogs or distractions walked by us. I took a bag of dog treats and got her nose working instead of her eyes. I quickly found out that I could keep her focused by making me more attractive than those things that would normally sidetrack her. I learned to get a treat out and hold it by her nose which caused her to stay focused on me every time something came that usually sidetracked her. I learned by doing this that she wanted to stay with me more than she wanted to focus on anything else.
That morning it made me realize the importance of parents keeping God’s way attractive so that their children don’t get sidetracked by the Devil and the world. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Just like I train my dog to obey me, every parent has a responsibility to train their child in the right way of life. The age-old problem that most parents face is keeping their children walking in the right ways. I am by no means an expert in child rearing, but I learned that morning walking my dog that if parents would keep the right way attractive, then fewer children would be sidetracked by the world and the Devil.
The principles in training a child and a dog are very similar. It takes time to train. God did not tell us, “Teach a child in the way he should go,” but He commanded us to “Train up a child in the way he should go…” If we are going to keep our children walking in the right ways after they leave home, then we must keep God’s way more attractive than the world’s. There are several thoughts that come to mind when I think of keeping the way attractive.
Here’s a few of the comparisons Domelle makes between dog training and child training:
Training a dog is not always accepted by those who don’t know how to train dogs. Many who don’t know anything about training dogs will think you are being mean to the dog by not allowing the dog to do what it wants to do, but in the long run my dogs have much more freedom than theirs because I can take my dog in public off leash and they can’t. The dog trainer always has to keep a closed ear to the critics and keep their eye on the way they know will turn out a good dog.One thing you must always remember is that doing right is always right even when it seems nobody else is doing it. You must keep in mind that God’s way is always right whether or not others are doing it. If you do train your child in the way, you will find there will be times when criticism comes your way, but you must not forsake the way. Jesus says in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Don’t ever doubt the way because people have said that it doesn’t work. Don’t change the way because society doesn’t agree with it. The way is always right even when the whole world doesn’t agree with it. You know where God’s way is taking your children, so don’t leave it because another way seems more attractive.
Training a dog takes patience, hard work, time and determination. If training a dog was easy, then everybody would train their own dog. We know it’s not easy because most people want someone else to train their dog for them. They want others to do the work that theyshould be doing. What most dog owners don’t realize is that they can get the dog professionally trained, but if the dogis going to continue to act the way it should, then the owners are going to haveto be consistent with the rules of training when the dog comes home. This won’t always be easy. That is why you have so many dogs that are out of control.Training children is not an easy task, but let me assure you that you are up to the task. Just like people want someone to train their dog, many parents leave the spiritual training to the church, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders or to the Christian school, but God places that responsibility on the parent. Training children takes wisdom, time, patience, hard work, communication and determination by both parents. If training children were easy, then every child would turn out right. What I have found out is that most parents struggle with their children because they have not taken the time to train them. They tell them what to do, but training is showing them how to do it and following through with each directive. Training children in the way is not going to be easy, but it is very much worth the time and effort when your children continue walking in God’s way.
You can read the entire article here. (link no longer active)
While I certainly can find points of agreement with Domelle, I find it troubling that he would equate training a dog with training a child. Dog owners often take their dog to obedience school. I suspect, knowing that Domelle is IFB, that Domelle thinks that the home and the church is akin to a dog obedience school. Train them when they are young and they will obey and turn out well. Teach a child to come when called for, sit or run when commanded to do so, and urinate and defecate in the proper place, and all will be well, right?
Fundamentalists like Domelle think that every problem can be solved with discipline and obedience. Read the Bible, pray, attend church, tithe, and witness. These must be drilled into a Christians head until they become second nature. These are the first steps, the first works, that a Christian must take on the path of obedience. Once indoctrinated, they are more likely to obey the other laws, commands, and precepts found in the Bible. Start young, and as the child grows older it will be easier to get them to accept whatever the pastor says is truth. If the pastor says, THE BIBLE SAYS, that’s the dog’s, I mean the child’s cue to perk up, listen, and obey.
Like every IFB preacher, Domelle sees Proverbs 22:6 as a blueprint for raising children who turn out right, Domelle believes parents must train their children in THE WAY to have any hope of their children turning out as God-fearing, pastor obeying Christians. According to Proverbs 22:6, if parents train their child in the proper way, when the child is old they will not depart from their training. However, as the readership of this blog can attest, this training does not automatically result in adult children loving, serving, and obeying the Christian God.
Polly and I were blessed with six children. From birth, we trained them in THE WAY, yet none of them are in the Evangelical church today. Why is this? Shouldn’t the early dog God training have ensured their obedience? All of them were late teens and older when we stopped walking in THE WAY. Why are none of them Evangelical today? The most religious among them is a Catholic, and in Domelle’s IFB world, Catholicism is a cult, a false religion. Was there some flaw in the training they received that resulted in all six of them abandoning the faith of their childhood? One would think after fifteen to twenty-nine years of indoctrination that they would have stayed on the straight and narrow. But, they didn’t. Why?
Domelle’s child rearing model is based on strict rules and obedience. Do this and thou shalt live, is the gospel of Evangelicalism. For all their talk about grace, the Evangelical really believes in a gospel of works. Believe the right things + live the right way = a divine doggie treat called heaven after death. While many Evangelicals will likely object to my characterization of their beliefs, once all the flowery theological jargon is stripped away, what is left is a belief system that requires fidelity to certain beliefs and a life lived according to those beliefs. Anyone who doesn’t believe the right things and live the right way doesn’t get a divine doggie treat when they die.
While I am hesitant to use my children as an example, I think doing so will help illustrate the fallacy of Proverbs 22:6 and the Domelle Child Training Program®. Ask anyone who knew our children when they were young and they will tell you that our children were polite, respectful, obedient children. All of them made a profession of faith, were active in church, and when they were old enough to work they gave liberally to the church, missions, and the needy. They were, in every way, the perfect example of obedient Christian children. Yet, look at them today. What in the H-E-L-L happened?
When their father, the only pastor they ever had, left the ministry and later left Christianity, they were forced to fend for themselves. No longer were they trained pets, obedient to every command from the earthly and heavenly father. Instead, they became wild animals roaming free without the leash of the Bible or the hovering presence of their father. Instead of following a predetermined path, each of them were/are free to wander down a path of their own choosing. No dog whistle or stern command to call them back. They are F-R-E-E, free from the strictures of Evangelicalism, the Bible, their parents, and grandparents.
To the outsider, this freedom looks like confusion. Behind their back, fellow employees whisper, (please read out loud with “concerned” Christian voice) did you know _____________ Dad was a pastor? Did you know that _______________ Dad is the atheist who writes those anti-Christian letters in the newspaper? What happened to them? Freedom is what happened to them. Each of our children are free to choose their own path. If they are happy, then Polly and I are happy.
I know some of you are sure to ask, what does your wife think of all of this? Quite surprisingly, she is in agreement with me on many of these things. Not all of them, but close enough that I can still see her standing here. Polly is no theologian, She is not trained in theology as I am. She loves to read fiction. I was able to get her to read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus and she found the book to be quite an eye opener.
Polly is free to be whom and whatever she wishes. If she wanted to start attending the local Fundamentalist Baptist Church she is free to do so and even has my blessing. For now, she doesn’t. She may never believe like I believe, but in my new way of thinking that is OK. I really don’t care what others think. Are you happy? Are you at peace? Are you living a good, productive life? Do you enjoy life? Yes, to these questions is good enough for me.
I have six children, three who are out on their own. For many years I was the spiritual patriarch of the family. Everyone looked to me for the answers. I feel somewhat burdened over my children. I feel like I have left them out on their own with no protection. But, I know they have good minds and can think and reason for themselves. Whatever they decide about God, religion, politics, or American League baseball is fine with me.
All I ask of my wife and children is that they allow me the freedom to be myself, that they allow me to journey on in peace and love. Of course, I still love a rousing discussion about religion, the Bible, politics, etc. I want my family to know that they can talk to me about these things, and anything else for that matter, any time they wish.
Opinions are welcome. Debate is good. All done? Let’s go to the tavern and have a round on me. Life is about the journey, and I want my wife and children to be a part of my journey and I want to be a part of theirs.
The sentiment I expressed in 2009, still holds today.
Training children like someone would train a dog, robs a child of their ability to reason and think for themselves. This why people like Domelle tell parents to send their children to a CHRISTIAN school or home school them, and when they graduate from high school it’s off to a CHRISTIAN college. From birth to graduation from college, the children are indoctrinated, taught to only view the world a certain way. And if they color outside of the lines? Like with a disobedient dog, they are punished. For many, this punishment is enough to make them heel, but for others, they rebel. They tire of being told what to believe, what to think, or how to live. Once free of their leash or the stake in the back yard, they run until they can no longer see from whence they came. While this new-found freedom is dangerous and fraught with difficulty, they have no intention of returning to a life defined by commands and obedience.