Beating Babies for Jesus: Christian Zionists Tell How

November 15, 2011

Beating Babies For Jesus?

The Shady World of Right-Wing ‘Discipline’ Guides

By Frank Schaeffer

November 12, 2011 “Information Clearing House” —   There is a brutal movement in America that legitimizes child abuse in the name of God. Two stories recently converged to make us pay attention. Last week, a video went viral of a Texas judge brutally whipping his disabled daughter. And on 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. 

What many people may not realize is that in the evangelical alternative universe of the home school movement, tightly knit church communities and the following of a number of big-time leaders and authors, physical punishment of children has been glorified for years.

As the Times illustrates — “Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate” — the books of Michael Pearl and his wife Debi have been found in the homes where several children were killed. 

They’re not the only right-wing Christians who advocate these methods. Some of the most respected evangelical discipline gurus have made beating children not just “respectable” in conservative religious circles, but even turned it into a godly activity.

In 1977 James Dobson founder of the “Focus on the Family” religious empire and radio program, 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.

Dobson isn’t alone. There’s also the work of evangelical “family values” guru Bill Gothard, with a following of millions. As reported by the Cincinnati Beacon, Matthew Murray, the young shooter who killed a bunch of churchgoers in 2007, had been raised according to the teachings of evangelist Bill Gothard.

“I remember the beatings and the fighting and yelling and insane rules and all the Bill Gothard rules and then trancing out,” he wrote Dec. 1 under the monicker “nghtmrchld26” on a Web forum for former Pentecostal Christians.

Bill Gothard is the founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles in Illinois, which promotes a Christian home “education” program. As quoted in the Beacon article Murray said “I remember how it was, like every day was Mission Impossible trying to keep the rules or not get caught and just …survive every single (expletive) day,”

In The Strong Willed Child (Living Books 1992), Dobson makes a parallel between beating children and beating dogs:

“I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with Mr. Freud.

“What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!

“But this is not a book about the discipline of dogs; there is an important moral to my story that is highly relevant to the world of children. JUST AS SURELY AS A DOG WILL OCCASIONALLY CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF HIS LEADERS, SO WILL A LITTLE CHILD — ONLY MORE SO.” [Emphasis Dobson’s]

“[I]t is possible to create a fussy, demanding baby by rushing to pick him up every time he utters a whimper or sigh. Infants are fully capable of learning to manipulate their parents through a process called reinforcement, whereby any behavior that produces a pleasant result will tend to recur. Thus, a healthy baby can keep his mother hopping around his nursery twelve hours a day (or night) by simply forcing air past his sandpaper larynx.

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of ‘original sin’ which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster.” 

Dobson is mild compared to the popular evangelical authors Michael and Debi Pearl. In their book To Train Up a Child (1994) they advocate beating babies.

In the book they recommend “switching” a 7-month-old on the bare bottom or leg seven to eight times as a punishment for getting angry. If the baby is still angry, the urge parents to repeat the punishment until the child gives in to the pain. The “switch”  they recommend for an under 1-year-old is from a willow tree and/or a 12-inch ruler.

The leadership of the evangelical world, from Billy Graham to the editors of  Christianity Today magazine or the megachurch pastors like Rick Warren, have not called for the banishment of abusers like the Pearls, Dobson or Gothard. These people remain in good standing.

In the Pearls’ case, actual criminal complaints have been brought against some parents who have killed their children and who have been following the “methods” in To Train Up a Child. This book can be nevertheless be found in thousands of “respectable” evangelical bookstores. Here’s what the evangelicals approve by their silence and complicity, as noted in the Examiner and many other media sources:

A California couple has been charged with murder and torture after their discipline methods caused the death of one of their children and critical injuries for another.Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz of Paradise, California, are accused of murdering their 7-year-old adopted daughter during a “discipline session.” The couple is also charged with the torture of their 11-year-old adopted daughter and cruelty to a child for signs of bruising discovered on their 10-year-old biological son.

The parents allegedly used a 15-inch length of plastic tubing used for plumbing to beat the children, a practice recommended in the book “To Train Up a Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl of “No Greater Joy Ministries.”

The same plumbing supply tools were linked to a North Carolina child’s death in 2006, when a devotee of the Pearls accidentally killed her 4-year-old son by suffocating him in tightly wrapped blankets.

Police later found out about the Pearls’ recommendations to beat children with this type of plumbing supply tubing from a Salon Magazine article, “Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child.”

Mr. Pearl, who has no degree or training in child development, writes in his book that he and his wife used “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules” — namely, “switches.”

On their web site, the Pearls write that “switching” or giving “licks” with a plumbing supply line is a “real attention getter.” 

And it is not just individuals who are abused. Whole “Christian” organizations are involved. According to a report by Channel 13 WTHR Indianapolis (and many other media sources over the years),

“At first glance, the Bill Gothard-founded and run Indianapolis Training Center looks like an ordinary conference hotel. But some say there are dark secrets inside. “They’re not here to play,” Mark Cavanaugh, an ITC staffer tells a mother on hidden-camera video. ‘They’re here because they’ve been disobedient, they’ve been disrespectful.'”

He’s talking about young offenders who are sent to the center by the Marion County Juvenile Court. Critics of the program here, however, have another view. “This is sort of a shadow world where these kids almost disappear,” said John Krull, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. The pitch for the centers says that they were founded by Gothard because: “At the age of 15, Bill Gothard noticed some of his high school classmates making unwise decisions. Realizing that they would have to live with the consequences of these decisions, he was motivated to dedicate his life to helping young people make wise choices.”

The WTHR report goes on to detail how they help these young people make “wise choices”:

“But Eyewitness News has learned of disturbing allegations about the center, including routine corporal punishment — sometimes without parental consent — and solitary confinement that can last for months.

And just last week, Child Protective Services began investigating the center. That investigation involves Teresa Landis, whose 10-year-old daughter spent nearly a year at the center — sent there, according to Judge Payne, after she attacked a teacher and a school bus driver. What happened next outrages her family and critics of the ITC. The girl allegedly was confined in a so-called “quiet room” for five days at a time; restrained by teenage “leaders” who would sit on her; and hit her with a wooden paddle 14 times. At least once, the family contends, she was prevented from going to the bathroom and then forced to sit in her own urine.”

Dobson, the Pearls and Gothard both have a big followings in Rick Perry’s hang-em’-high “Christian” Texas. And Texas is where evangelical leader Gary North is based as he writes and preaches his Reconstructionist/Dominionist theology about applying literal Old Testament law — including the execution of “incorrigible youths” — as mandated by the Bible. So even Dobson is “mild” by comparison to the Reconstructionists who did so much to influence the far-right “Christian” politics — the likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Here is how evangelical “man of God” Dobson describes how to beat a child using his own life as a guide. He writes in The New Dare To Discipline:

“The day I learned the importance of staying out of reach shines like a neon light in my mind. I made the costly mistake of sassing her when I was about four feet away. I knew I had crossed the line and wondered what she would do about it. It didn’t take long to find out. Mom wheeled around to grab something with which to express her displeasure, and her hand landed on a girdle.

“Those were the days when a girdle was lined with rivets and mysterious panels. She drew back and swung the abominable garment in my direction, and I can still hear it whistling through the air. The intended blow caught me across the chest, followed by a multitude of straps and buckles, wrapping themselves around my midsection. She gave me an entire thrashing with one blow! But from that day forward, I measured my words carefully when addressing my mother. I never spoke disrespectfully to her again, even when she was seventy-five years old.” 

Meanwhile the evangelical leaders who embrace Dobson, the Pearls and Gothard will continue to tell the rest of us how to live “moral” lives while children are beaten in the name of Jesus.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

This item was first published at  Alternet

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“Christian-Zionism” Is Trouble for Israel and the USA

July 11, 2010

By Frank Schaeffer

[MysteryWorshiper’s note: I’ve posted this article by Schaeffer because it discusses the cult of Christian Zionism. In addition, the moderator of Anti-Zionist Canada has made an excellent critical review of Schaeffer, presented below:

While I’m in agreement with most of the obvious statements by Schaeffer there’s still some things that irk me in his assessment.
First off I don’t believe it was/is “Evangelical theological/biblical ‘reasons'” that have deformed US foreign policy. It was Talmudic, Zionist Jew policies that were surreptitiously slipped into the State Department and the White House over the past century or so that have done the dirty work of subverting those erring, ignorant Christians who, for whatever reasons, succumbed to this notion that by giving their unstinting support to this blatant, rogue, apartheid, racist, supremacist state duplicitously designating itself the center and epitome of the Biblical Israel, they would somehow be fulfilling Biblical prophecy.
I believe that Saint John the Divine, in his letters to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation, 2:9), gave the world fair warning of these times when he quotes Jesus Christ’s clear warning to future generations:
“…I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”
Any Christian or any unbiased person who has studied the question of these Ashkenazi interlopers knows that the Israel of Biblical times refers to all the twelve tribes that then composed it, not, as the Zionists would have people believe, only those of the tribe of Judah, the one tribe, that incidentally, was booted out because it was too warlike and cruel to get along with all the others in the region.
Again, it’s taken the past three hundred years and more of this incessant poisoning of the Christian churches by these rabbinical Talmudic tyrants to reach the final stages that we’re now at. The only direct fault I see for Christians (and non-Christians are no exception to this either) is that due to their trust and belief in their religious leaders, they fell prey to this false notion of the false Jews.
We overlook the big bucks that these phony Jews have poured into anti-Christs like John Hagee and by doing so again reveal the fact that other warnings by the Christed One directly related to this issue of false prophets also have been disregarded by those who profess to be “Christian” Zionists.
I particularly take exception to this comment by Shaeffer: “The state of Israel has every much as a right to exist as countries like the United States, New Zealand and Australia where the land was also (relatively recently) forcibly taken from the previous occupants. And yes, Israel suffers from slander from many hypocrites in the world (Arab and otherwise).” Both he and the Huffington Post are too Jew influenced, to the point where they don’t see, or don’t want to see, the actual reason why Rothschild invented and then established this so-called “state” called Israel in the midst of the Arab world. Schaeffer sounds like the typical shabez goi Israeli apologist who, slyly appears to be questioning this cancerous growth upon the body politic yet constantly qualifies himself by pretense.
Israel is a parasite as Eustice Mullens clearly shows and one that, left to exist, will drain the lifeblood from not only the people of Palestine and the surrounding Arab regions but from the global family of man itself. It must be dismantled somehow and its illegally gotten license to potentially use its nuclear arsenal against the world removed from the Middle East.
You cannot argue or debate or reason with a cancerous growth or with a parasite. It’s the nature of these entities to “do their own thing” regardless of the ill effect upon the host that they live off. It therefore becomes incumbent upon the host to do something to dislodge that which is slowly sucking its life away. To try and twist this basic fact of nature into some type of Talmudic hypothesis that admits otherwise is a sign of mental derangement.
That said, we have to keep hammering home the fact that these false prophets of death and deception who hide behind their mask called “Israel” are NOT the original Hebrew inhabitants of a small portion of the former Biblical area known as Palestine but are in truth hucksters and terrorists and liars and cheats who will do anything and everything that a human parasite is capable of conceiving in order to justify their existence within the context that they now operate. In this sense Frank Shaeffer and the Huffington Post are only adding additional subterfuge and falsehood in this article.]

July 08, 2010 “Huffington Post” – -Some of the nuttiest American religious leaders today (and in the past) have latched on to one form or another of Christian Zionism. These days Reverend John Hagee (pastor of a mega church with thousands of members in Houston) is a leading Far Right Evangelical and ardent fan of Israeli expansion into the disputed West Bank.

And the bestselling books of the Left Behind series of novels have fed the Evangelicals’ fixation on End Times prophecy and the “imminent” return of Christ. To put it mildly, the Evangelical theological/biblical “reasons” have deformed US policy and made America act against its self interest. This has also harmed the state of Israel.

Here’s a story in the New York Times that handily illustrates the price both America and Israel pay for allowing Evangelical mythology to inform, or should I say deform, US foreign policy.

According to the New York Times, “Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank” (July 6, 2010), evangelical fans of the Apocalypse are hock deep in aiding and abetting illegal settlements while our government looks the other way!

HAR BRACHA, West Bank — Twice a year, American evangelicals show up at a winery in this Jewish settlement in the hills of ancient Samaria to play a direct role in biblical prophecy, picking grapes and pruning vines.
Believing that Christian help for Jewish winemakers here in the occupied West Bank foretells Christ’s second coming, they are recruited by a Tennessee-based charity called HaYovel that invites volunteers “to labor side by side with the people of Israel” and “to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in Yeshua, messiah.”

“Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 3,500 years ago — and that covenant still stands,” Mr. Hagee thundered. “World leaders do not have the authority to tell Israel and the Jewish people what they can and cannot do in the city of Jerusalem.”

Conflict, Armageddon and the “End Times” is the Christian-Zionist agenda, not helping a child in Tel Aviv or Gaza live happily, have a normal life and walk to school safely. The Evangelicals who “love” the state of Israel would rather see an innocent Jewish or Palestinian child blown up in a rocket attack as long as the “Promised Land” is “fully reclaimed” to fulfill their harebrained ideas of biblical prophecy. With “friends” like the Christian Zionists Israel needs no enemies. With “citizens” like the Evangelicals rooting for Armageddon, America needs no traitors.

Hold the emails! The state of Israel has every much as a right to exist as countries like the United States, New Zealand and Australia where the land was also (relatively recently) forcibly taken from the previous occupants. And yes, Israel suffers from slander from many hypocrites in the world (Arab and otherwise).

That said, American Evangelicals have an unhealthy affinity with the idea of religion-based states. A bedrock article of faith among American Evangelicals is that America had “Christian origins,” and that today America must be “restored” to our “Christian heritage.” The “Puritan heritage” of America is constantly cited as evidence for our need to “return” to our biblical roots. (In order to “fulfill Biblical prophecy,” so-called “Dispensationalists” have been working to ensure that the world’s Jews return to Israel and occupy all of Palestine. Dispensationalists have been leading “pilgrims” to Israel ever since since Pastor Jerry Falwell’s first visit in order to win financial and political support for the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.)

As I discuss in my book Crazy For God Puritans believed that they were carrying “authentic Christianity” to America, especially as written in the Old Testament. They said that they were on a divine mission, even called themselves; “the New Israel” and a “city set upon a hill.” John Winthrop (governor of Massachusetts Bay) transferred the idea of “nationhood” in biblical Israel to the Massachusetts Bay Company. Puritans even said the Bible confirmed their status as the New Israel!

It is no coincidence that the self-consciously religious states of the Middle East are in perpetual conflict with other equally religion-based countries, for instance Islamic states like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (that postures as the keeper of Islam) and Iran are in perpetual conflict with Israel the Jewish homeland. And it’s no coincidence that America has paid dearly in blood and treasure in one Middle Eastern-incited and/or actual military entanglement after another because of our theology-based relationship with the state of Israel as well as our meddling in the affairs of the Islamic states like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

What would you expect but conflict when modernity tangles with Bronze Age tribalism that’s been given a biblical Evangelical “End Times” twist?!

As the Times story illustrates, Evangelical hardliners have a “prophetic” agenda when pushing Israel to keep all the West Bank and to be “tough on the Palestinians” that has nothing to do with what might bring peace (let alone justice) to the actual Jews and actual Arabs who are fated to be neighbors. Gleeful — shamefully tax-deductible — war mongering in the name of Jesus and/or “protecting Israel” — from a safe distance, say from Houston! — has everything to do with Evangelicals’ ideas about what will hasten the “return of Christ” and nothing to do with what is actually good for the Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, let alone the rest of us who long for peace.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back


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