“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.” Herbert Ward
I was sent the following audio clip from an alert reader. In this seven-minute discussion, Piper clarifies his thinking on spanking Although I agree with some of his points, I found a few things he said troubling. In particular, he focuses on the issue of God as a God of wrath. Here is the link to the relevant audio at Desiring God. A summary follows.
Piper states the following:
"God does “not” stick us in the corner facing the wall! He “spanks” us and He does it often with great pain. Another way to say it is, I doubt that it’s easy for a child to come to terms with the Biblical God of wrath if he has never tasted “severe” wrath from his father or mother in growing up. A wrath that is controlled.”
The reader who called this to my attention made the following comments. She wishes to remain anonymous but I am grateful for her communication.
“Piper goes where no preacher has gone before, that I have heard of, to say that spanking a child, the threat of it happening, the knowledge that a parent is going to hurt them physically, teaches the child “to come to terms with the Biblical God of wrath”.
Spank your child to teach him about God’s wrath? How many times would you need to do this to communicate the lesson? God is the provider. Does Piper believe in letting his children starve for a day or two so that they know the real pain of hunger and the satisfaction of eating?”
I find this link between simple discipline and the God of wrath to be most troubling. The God of wrath, as expressed in the Old Testament, often ordered the destruction of people groups, sometimes ordering the slaughter all of the adults, children, infants and animals. He caused the ground to open up and swallow people. How does a parent provided, to quote Piper, enough “severe wrath” to convey the depths of wrath of such a God? And why would one want to do such a thing?
Later on in the clip, Piper says that it is OK to inflict pain on a 6-month-old infant so that the child will not bite his mother’s breast while feeding. He calls it a flick on the foot but does not define it. Let’s try to figure out the reasoning here. We flick a baby’s foot so that he/she feels pain. Therefore, said baby now understands that God is wrathful and that he/she best mind his manners or it is into the lake of fire. Have I got this right?
Once again, I am confused. When my child bit me at 6 months of age, I simply said, “Ow” and removed my baby from her feeding. After doing this three or four times, no further bites occurred. Infliction of pain on her was unnecessary for rectification. I have to ask the obvious question. Do these parents actually think that the baby is intentionally inflicting pain on the mother? Frankly, this appears paranoid.
How in the world do I provide enough pain so that my baby or toddler will “understand the wrath of God?!” Most Christian have trouble understanding this issue. How can a baby link a flick on the foot with God’s retribution? Is Piper saying that I must provide severe punishment in order for my child to understand God’s wrath? Such a belief could lead to untold amounts of abuse for children by stupid parents who will carry this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.
TWW has become increasingly alarmed at the number of churches and Christians who seem to be advocating inappropriate corporal punishment. We are also concerned about the apparent lack of comprehension on the pain of domestic abuse as exhibited by Piper and others. Here are several examples of some things that raise serious concerns.
- Whopping, during a diaper change, a wiggling 3-month-old infant with a glue stick.
- A poster on this blog recounted a pastor’s wife who admitted to spanking a child 30-40 times in one day.
- We have heard that there are pastors who cajole and order women to return to physically abusive situations.
- We have heard of pastors who stock “spanking implements” that are given to church members.
- Some parents are using plumbing lines and other methods in order to conceal evidence of bruising by their corporal punishment.
- Some parents are starving their infants because of a misguided belief that infants can be “spoiled and become obese” because of feedings on demand.
Piper seems to have added a new spin on punishment. Is he saying that it is now the parent’s role to provided physical demonstrations of the God of wrath to their children? This is potentially dangerous advice. Once again, we reiterate that there are parents out there who will take him up on his offer, and in so doing, go over the edge in their punishment.
In the interest of protecting the most vulnerable amongst us, TWW has decided to intervene. We don’t call ourselves The Wartburg WATCH for nothing!
When we read of the pastor’s wife who allegedly spanked her kid 30-40 times a day, we realized that Child Protective Services would be very, very interested in such activity. We also recognized that the national media would find a church that advocates spanking infants worthy of investigation.
So, here is what we propose. Please email TWW at our contact email with your concerns and stories. Your identity will be held in strictest confidence. It is important to state I was a public health nurse. I did child abuse and neglect follow up for several years. Needless to say I also had experience with domestic violence since domestic violence and child abuse often go hand in hand.
Here are a few things that we could do.
- Collect anecdotal reports to see if there is a pattern with particular churches or theologies.
- Contact a church and tell them we are following up on a report by anonymous individuals that the church is advocating physical punishment of infants, severe physical punishment of children, or encouraging women staying in abusive situations. We can inform churches of their obligation to report abuse of infants, children, and women. We can, but do not have to, blog that we have contacted the church. However, we will keep accurate notes of our actions.
- If we are deeply concerned about the well-being of infants and children (as I was when I read about the abusive pastor’s wife) we can, and will, report it to Child Protective Services in the area of that church’s location. Reports to CPS can be done on an anonymous basis. We will also assist any individual who wishes to make such a report.
- We might also contact certain members of the media who are interested in child abuse and domestic violence and give them information to aid in their investigation.
- We will assist any individual in finding resources such as domestic violence counseling, battered women shelters, family counseling, and Christian resources in this area to the best of our ability.
Here is our theory. If a church or group is questioned by outside organizations, they may be a bit more reticent in advocating abusive measures. Maybe a little embarrassment might help curtail this nonsense.
I want to end this with an anecdote. A few years back, when I was involved with some kids who had been sexually abused, a lady in the involved church said that I should leave well enough alone since God will provide His judgment in the hereafter. In other words, shut up and stop upsetting the apple cart. I said that, sometimes, in this life, God can intervene and provide punishment to individuals who have done wrong. That is why we have criminal courts and jails.
Well, a seminarian involved with the situation, wrote that he didn’t “agree with my trajectory” when I said that there sometimes can be judgment in this life as well. I wrote an article about this interesting statement and explained that trajectory is the measurement of the route of a missile. I said, “You want trajectory, I’ll give you trajectory. INCOMING…………..” I then proceeded to chastise this individual who wanted us to shut up about the sorry goings on at a particular church.
Since that time, the term “trajectory” has become the newest “cool” term used by the Calvinista crowd. It’s a replacement for the overused word “winsome” and is following on the heels of the term “unpack.” So, using a word that Calvinista groupies will find comforting, here is my trajectory. We will no longer put up with people disguising obvious child abuse and domestic violence in theological doublespeak. If churches are so sure of their approach, they will not mind being “watched.” You know, “let your light shine before men.” Well, get ready, because “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Lydia's Corner: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20 Luke 9:7-27 Psalm 72:1-20 Proverbs 12:8-9