Thursday, September 18, 2014

Violence is (Usually) Not the Answer

For the past week or so, the news has been plagued with reports of yet another NFL player arrested/charged with domestic or child abuse. My Facebook news feed is inundated with these reports. And while it sickens me to read this reports, or to even see the headlines of them, I am also grateful in a way...

This issue is in no way limited to the NFL. Football players, athletes of any sort, celebrities - these are not the only people who abuse their significant others or children. However, while the issue is not reserved for NFL players, the subject is gaining widespread media attention because of their celebratory status. And this is not a bad thing. Abuse is something that should be talked about. That being said, allow me to talk about it yet again...

Spare the Rod - A Biblical Approach to Discipline?

What bothers me the most about the stories of child abuse is that the perpetrator and his/her supporters often quote the Bible.
 Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24)
 Yes, at face value, this verse does appear to say it's okay to hit your child. God obviously is saying so. Our own Father gives us permission. But is this verse speaking of a literal rod? Are we being told that it's acceptable, and even required, to beat our children with a rod, staff, stick, paddle, etc?

Or, perhaps, we're being told we are to use authority with our children. We are to teach them right from wrong. We are to guide their behavior, teaching them to make wise decisions, and that wrong decisions have consequences. I don't think anyone would argue that we, as parents, should do doing this teaching. But this authority does not have to come with physical violence. In fact, it shouldn't come with physical violence.

If You Beat Them, They Will not Die (is God a liar?)

Let's look at another typical Bible verse that is used to defend hitting a defenseless child:
Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with a rod, they will not die. (Proverbs 23:13)
 According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway (full citation and link to the statistics article is at the end of this post), an average of four children die daily in the US from child abuse and neglect. Nearly half of these (44.3%) are from physical abuse. That is approximately two children daily who are dying because a parent or guardian has chosen to beat their child. And this is just in the United States. Two children whose parents followed the literal translation of Proverbs 13 and 23, dying each day because of this.

So did God lie in the Bible? It specifically states the child will not die.

Or did God not mean it to be taken in such a literal form? Was God simply instructing us to disciple our children in the ways of the Lord?

Did We Forget the Lessons on Violence?

Do not envy the violent and do not choose any of their ways (Proverbs 3:31)

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: ... enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, ... and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Hitting a child, or anyone, is violence. And it's teaching violence. It is causing a child to stumble. It is often done in anger - another thing we are to be beware of and control. And instead we're teaching our children it is okay to use your hands/fists/objects to express your anger.

Now, I probably should clarify here, that while I do not think spanking is the best option, those who spank open-handed, on the bottom, not in anger, and only rarely (for those "big" transgressions children sometimes do), are not necessarily wrong or a child abuser. However, it is my experience that most parents who do spank do so in anger, for nearly every offense. And I still believe that it is a violent method of parenting which does teach a child to handle problems with violence.

We've Learned Violence Isn't Appropriate Elsewhere...

We recognize that it is not acceptable to beat those who work for us. Most of us recognize we are not to beat parents, wives, husbands, friends, strangers. But when it comes to our own children? So many people still believe that parents, teachers, ministers, etc should have the right to raise a hand (or a rod) to those who cannot defend themselves.

Please, when you're angry because your child has done something wrong (or, when you're just angry in general), walk away. Calm down. Discipline yourself in controlling your anger before you decide to teach your child what they've done wrong. An angry parent will scare a child. A calm, loving parent will teach a child.

God bless!

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014).
Child abuseand neglect fatalities 2012: Statistics and interventions.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Children’s Bureau.

All Bible Verses are from the New Revised Standard Version

Monday, September 15, 2014

Break the Cycle of Violence

"This is how I was disciplined."

For those who haven't been paying attention to the news, Adrian Peterson - running back for the Minnesota Vikings - has been indicted for child abuse.

For those who have never read my blog - I am very much against child abuse. I am even more against those using the phrase "this is how I was disciplined" as an excuse for abusive behavior.

I was abused. My parents used whatever object they could find to hit me, or just resorted to fists, hands, feet, or whatever other body part they felt like using. Because of the "discipline" I was subjected to... because I knew the pain and scars it caused... I made the decision to never hurt my children in this way.

I have been accused of being a lazy parent because I don't spank or otherwise hit my children. But it has been my experience that spanking, hitting, or otherwise hurting a child is actually the lazy way to do things. To not hit - but still discipline - means a parent has to know their child. They need to understand what will affect their child (such as taking away a cell phone, or television time). And more importantly, they need to take the time to actually teach their children right from wrong, rather than rely on beating the message into the children. They need to be consistent with the teachings. They need to weigh the severity of the behavior, and determine a meaningful consequence. They need to recognize good behavior at the same time, and determine a meaningful reward.

Your child pushes another child (such as the case with Adrian Peterson's child)... what message are you teaching by hitting the child repeatedly with a stick? You're teaching the child violence - plain and simple. You are teaching violence to correct the child's violence towards another.

But a greater issue than even that is to blame it on your own upbringing. Basically, by saying "this is how I was disciplined" you are saying, "this is how my child is going to be when he is a father. He is going to beat his child. He is going to cause open wounds, bruises, and other marks on my grandchild. And I'm ok with that."

Please! Recognize the seriousness of child abuse. Recognize what messages we're really teaching children when we hit them. You do not need to strike a child EVER to teach them love and respect. If you take the time to teach them with words and by modeling the behavior you expect, you'll teach them a lot more than you ever could by hitting them.

If you were abused as a child - get help. Recognize that there are other ways to discipline, and be open to learning these other ways. Break the cycle of violence today!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Trashy Cover, Loving Story

I was a pregnant waitress, almost nine months along, working the overnight shift.
She was a stripper, working at the strip club/bar just a dozen or so blocks away.

I'd served her food and coffee every night after she got off work for a couple weeks. The drunks in the restaurant would try to take her home. The older people coming in for early morning coffee would sit on the other side of the restaurant. And I would simply talk to her about her life, and my life, in between waiting on others.

The night before she was heading out of town to go work at another strip club, she came in as usual, and left me a good size tip on the table. She paid her bill and left; then came back in a few minutes later and handed me more money. "This tip is for your baby - get him something nice. Thank you for the short friendship."

I could have written her off because of her current career choice. She could have written me off for being pregnant with my sixth child. But the truth ran much deeper than what could be seen on the outside.

"Don't judge a book by its cover."

We've all heard that old adage. And we've all heard the arguments about whether or not we, as Christians, should be judging others. In fact, I know many people who believe we should judge (as long as we aren't telling the person they're going to hell) others based on their sins. These are the kind of people who probably wouldn't have waited on this person. Or, if they did, they would have preached to her about how sinful she was and how she had to turn her life around now or face hell. Or, in some other way try to make her feel like crap for the choices she'd made.

But how many would have looked beyond her job? How many would have been given the opportunity to hear this woman's story? This was a woman who'd managed to overcome many obstacles in her life - abuse, rape, etc. She was a believer in Christ, and very loving and forgiving to those who'd hurt her in the past. She was trying to raise a young child on her own - the product of a rape, though she never acted like this child was anything less than a gift.

And here she was, barely able to make ends meet, giving me well over what she could afford to make sure my baby was taken care of.

Yes, she was a stripper. She was also a wonderful, beautiful child of God.

Don't judge until you've read the whole story

Personally, I don't think we should be judging at all... but to avoid the whole argument of we should judge the sin, not the sinner; or that the Bible tells us we're allowed to judge as long as we're judging righteously; or any of the other arguments that tend to follow any statement I make regarding "do not judge"... I will simply say, do not judge until you've read the whole story.

What does this mean?

Get to know the person. That homosexual you want to inform is going to hell? Sit down and listen to him. Don't preach. Don't tell him what your beliefs are. Sit and get to know him and his story. That woman who is walking into an abortion clinic? Talk to her. Have an actual conversion. Listen to her. Find out her story.

We all have a story. Within each of our stories, we are going to find a lot of sin, a lot of doubt, a lot of hardship. We're going to find a lot of accomplishments, a lot of obstacles we've overcome, a lot of joys. And by truly listening to another person's story, we're going to find that there is so much more to that person than what you see. There is more to someone than their sexuality. There is more to someone than that they're considering abortion (or already had one). There is more to someone than the sins for which you want to persecute them... 

Just as there is more to YOU than what someone else is seeing right now.

God bless!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Just Got Raped

 I've noticed a rather disturbing trend in word usage recently. I've seen it plastered on Twitter and Facebook; I've heard it callously thrown about by teenagers at school, church, and in the home. I've heard it used in cafes, restaurants, bars, and out on the street. And it truly bothers me.

The word?  "Rape."

"I just got raped by that game."
"I raped that math test!"
"He just raped me at basketball."

Or, even worse...

"I'd rape her."
"Want to rape me?"

Every time I hear this word, I remember. Every time any person whose been raped hears that word, he/she remembers.

Rape is not a joke. It is not a word to be taken lightly. It is a serious crime that happens to many people, violating their body, destroying their sense of security, harming their ability to trust and love, causing numerous physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wounds.

Chances are, every person who callously uses this word is saying it in front of at least one person who has been raped or sexually assaulted. Chances are, each time you say it, at least one person is cringing and holding back tears from the memories that you brought back to the surface with that one little word.

Yes, it is just a word. You don't mean to hurt anyone. You're saying it lightheartedly and in jest. But to someone whom has been raped? It is not just a word. It's a painful reality. It's a frightening nightmare. It is not a joke. It is not funny. It is not lighthearted.

Please - find a different word or phrase when talking about how bad you did on a test, or how you beat someone in a game. Rape is not a word that should be used here. And for my "or, even worse" examples - you should never be referring to a girl or guy as someone who you'd rape, nor should you be suggesting someone do this to you.

Parents, teachers, pastors, adults, friends - please help those who use this word callously to understand the damage they potentially are doing to another.

Thank you and God bless!

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Have Found Jesus! (the not so miraculous stories)

Bible Study reconvened Wednesday night after a long summer break, and with it - a new study. For the next 8 weeks, we'll be discussing spiritual gifts. In our introductory lesson last night, there was a focus on the miracle of conversion. Stories were shared in the accompanying video about how someone found Christ after years of being enslaved to drugs and alcohol, and about how this discovery completely changed his life, and eventually the lives of others.

Stories were shared within the group of people who had similar experiences.

Please do not misunderstand this post - I am not saying such miraculous conversions don't take place. It is very possible someone finds Jesus, and their life is completely turned around at the snap of a finger.

However, it is not always this way, nor does it need to be.

My own story is one of these not-so-miraculous tales

I have always had Jesus. I was born to a family of believers. Despite their own shortcomings (alcohol, abuse, etc.), they were believers. I was baptized as an infant and attended church during my early years. We prayed before meals, and at bedtime. I just always believed.

But, as what happens with many of us who have grown up believing, I have had little episodes of "oh hey! This is what it means to be Christian!" or "Ah ha! God is with me!" or "Hot diggity! I AM a beloved child of God!"

One of these episodes was when I was around 11 or 12 years old, when I was in the care of a couple who always spoke of God. It made me want to learn more. Another episode was when I was 15 or 16. A youth pastor was very influential and revived my desire to know Christ. I began teaching Sunday School to mentally disabled children and adults, and loved going to Church again. The biggest (and longest) episode started about two and a half years ago, and lasted until six months ago, when another influential Pastor came into my life and revived my desire to have a relationship with Christ.

At no point did any of these little episodes suddenly, miraculously, turn my life around. They were just little spurts in my spiritual growth. And I continue growing. Sometimes, true, just like a child gaining in height, the growth is minimal or non-existent. Sometimes, it's slow but steady. And sometimes, it's a growth spurt.

Why remember your story? Why tell it? 

The short story is - it doesn't matter if it's a miraculous event that brings you to your knees and turns your life around; or if it's a slow and steady (and sometimes stagnant or quick) growth. What matters is the story. But why? Why is the story so important?

For yourself - it is important (in my opinion) to look back on your spiritual growth. What was happening in your life when growth ceased? What was happening when there was a growth spurt? Sometimes, things that trigger a slip in faith may happen again, and we can be better prepared, knowing these are the times to pray harder rather than let that faith slip again.

For others - telling our stories makes us real, and helps others see God as real. When we share our stories (even those which may seem mundane to those who've experienced the miraculous conversion), we share God with others. When we share the not-so-incredible stories, those who are like us realize their story - their walk with Christ - is just as valuable and important and precious.

So, remember your own story. Look back on your own walk with Christ. Remember that every dip and every climb is equally important and special. And share your stories!

God bless!