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!


Reference:
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

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