Beating Children In The Name Of God

Last week Care2′s Paul Canning wrote about a law passed by the Michigan Senate that would allow bullying if it were “religiously or morally motivated.”

In another indication of the rise of legitimized child abuse, last Monday the New York Times published a story about child deaths in homes that have embraced the teachings of To Train Up a Child, a book by Christian preacher Michael Pearl that advocates using a switch on children as young as six months old.

Raising Children Like Training Stubborn Mules?

The methods, seen as common sense by some grateful parents and as horrific by others, are modeled, Mr. Pearl is fond of saying, on “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.”

From The New York Times:

Debate over the Pearls’ teachings, first seen on Christian Web sites, gained new intensity after the death of a third child, all allegedly at the hands of parents who kept the Pearls’ book, “To Train Up a Child,” in their homes. On Sept. 29, the parents were charged with homicide by abuse.

More than 670,000 copies of the Pearls’ self-published book are in circulation, and it is especially popular among Christian home-schoolers, who praise it in their magazines and on their Web sites.

Switch Use At 6 Months
The Pearls provide instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.”

To Train Up a Child takes the “spanking vs. no spanking” debate to a whole new level as it advises parents to whip their unruly, rebellious, short-skirt-wearing six-month-old babies with a wooden spoon, spatula, or this flexible tubing, their favorite.  The Pearls like the tubing because it doesn’t leave bruises.

If your child responds to your spanking/switching/hosing with anger rather than the appropriate fear and submission, the Pearls offer a simple solution to your problem: spank him again.  If that makes him angrier, just keep spanking.

Spanking In The Name Of Jesus

All of this in the name of Jesus. And all of it eerily similar to the preachings of James Dobson, founder of the “Focus on the Family” religious empire and radio program.

In 1977, Dobson wrote a book called Dare To Discipline, whose purpose was, essentially, to get parents to beat their children.

In his book Dobson glorified a sadomasochistic/spiritual ritual of “discipline.” He said he wanted to stop a “liberal” trend in America that was moving away from the godly thrashing of infants. He wanted to help “restore” America to God and the good old days of child hitting. This fit in well with the notion of God as retribution-in-chief that evangelicals endorse.

A Terrifying Trend

This is a terrifying trend. Perhaps with the prosecution of the parents who on September 29 were charged with homicide by abuse after the death of their child, the cruel logic behind this discipline will be brought to light.

I hope so. As someone who was brought up in the Church of England, I have to question how these child disciplinarians can be called “religious.”

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Photo Credit: iStock




Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Danielle A.
Danielle Medina5 years ago

I'm a born again Christian and I think this is totally against what the Bible means. Anything other than your hand or a wooden paddle (as in the kind that comes with a bouncing rubber ball attached to play ping-pong) on any place other than the buttucks is abuse....and to BEAT a child with anything instead of merely spank them is abuse....and to spank them at an age where they are too young to comprehend right and wrong is abuse. The parent must be calm, not a hypocrite, and the child must have known beforehand that they were doing wrong when they did it to warrant a spanking. I also feel spanking should be a last resort.

I know people who grew up undisciplined and grew into tyrants who have narcississtic personality disorders, always thinking of themselves first...sometimes you NEED "the board of education applied to the seat of learning."

Rebecca W.
Rebecca W6 years ago

I did vote "leaning yes" but it should be noted that I mean "only in a controlled, disciplinary fashion" and not one that would constitute abuse. ie. on the clothed bottom only, using only the bare hand, with a few (responsible number of) strikes.

Rebecca W.
Rebecca W6 years ago

Lika S. - I couldn't have said it better. There IS a huge difference between discipline & abuse and many more people need to understand that.

mary l.
mary l6 years ago


peggy p.
peggy p6 years ago

too much harm has come to too many in the name of religious training

janine k.
janine k6 years ago

I never spanked my child ever. I thought it was sick. There is something REALLY sick about taking a person's pants off and hitting them. I think it might set somebody up for strange sexual and psychological issues.
I just wanted to love my child and go sailing. I think the kayak I got him was the best thing besides the freedom of the bicycle. Nice things.
In my generation, everybody got hit, spanked, belted etc. I think it either teaches you to do the same or to learn that spanking just teaches violence. I AM TOTALLY AGAINST SPANKING or any OTHER BEATING of children. Always have been. Soap in the mouth? Never.

Carola May
Carola May6 years ago

It's always interesting to me how Care2 only prints articles about so-called Christians whenever they do something bizarre, stupid, bigoted or awful, like this, but they never print similar articles about Islam's perverts like this C2NN member post of the imam who inflicted a horrendous beating on a little 7 y/o boy, hung him upside down in a tree and beat him for an hour, breaking his leg, giving him internal injuries and knocking him unconscious. All because the little boy forgot a verse from the Qur'an (probably being forced to memorize it in Arabic, a language he doesn't even understand or speak, which is usual). Oh, & the police will not prosecute the imam. Very typical in Islamic societies.

This story should have made the headlines on Care2 but their anti-Christian, pro-Islamism bias is too strong for fairness in reporting, like their big deal made about some backwoods preacher who burned one Qur'an, but they didn't say a word about the pogrom going on right now in Iran against Christians & the Muslim clergy burning 6000 Bibles, did they? Of course, Christians didn't riot around the world, burning mosques & Qur'ans, & killing Muslims like Muslims do every time someone 'offends' them. So who cares? Mustn't ever show Islam in a bad light. What hypocrisy.
(And no, I am not a believer in any religion, but I believe in fairness and that is something not to be found on this very biased site)

Doug Alley
Doug Alley6 years ago

Scott is right. The beating in these cases is bad enough, but the emotional abuse leaves scars which may never heal. The real problem behind all of this is that somehow the abuser feels more righteous every time they abuse their children, because some how in their sick minds they think they are doing God a favor by forcing their children into their sick little world. The mental abuse always incorporates shame into the process which leaves a lasting impression of imperfection on the child who is being shamed. Shame translates into you are not a good person and do not deserve anything better than this, not now not ever. It is only years later that the child might understand that he or she grew up in a dysfunctional family and is not at fault at all.

Scott H.
Scott H6 years ago

I keep seeing all these comments about spanking. The article was NOT about spanking. It was about outright cruelty to children. I grew up in one of these type organizations. I witnessed kids being tied up hand and foot, tied to a bed at night, placed in corners for whole days to stand motionless with bags over their heads,deprived of food and water and placed in the sun, beat until their upper legs were black and blue. And that was just the physical abuse. The psychological abuse was even worse. That is not spanking, that is not love, that is just plain abuse and should not go on. Don't try to minimalize this by talking about spanking. Come tubing on infants? Seriously...when you start relating that to a light swat on the is not the same...not even close and you might as well be the cheering section.