With some regularity Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education receives correspondence from people who begin by identifying themselves as Christians and then go on to describe their sense of alienation and isolation within their churches or within their families because they refuse to spank their children. Consider two typical examples."To this day no single major religious leader has made ending intimate violence a top priority." Riane Eisler
Compounding the problem illustrated by the above examples, when one does an extensive review of reports in the media about arrests and prosecutions for child abuse by educators, more often than not the incidents involve operators or employees of religious schools. These incidents usually come to light only after a child is injured or killed. What goes on before that threshold is reached is anybodyís guess. Ironically and tragically, if a person deliberately sets out to abuse children -- and there are sick people who do precisely that -- the most likely path for such a person is to establish a private school with the word "Christian" in the name, locate the school in a remote rural setting where enforcement of child abuse prevention laws is lax or non-existent, staff the establishment with like-minded employees, and advertise for business. Surely the major faith-based organizations can't be unaware of whatís going on under the apparent auspices of the Christian religion. Surely they must recognize the connection between their tacit approval of "the rod of correction" and the horrendous child abuse rate in the United States. Nevertheless, they remain mute on the subject.
- A father writes, "Our pastor asked my wife and me, Ďwhen do you plan to start spanking your son? Heís not a baby any more, you know. Donít you think heís ready for his first spanking?í We were stunned. We didnít know how to answer. We had decided before we were married that we would not raise our children the way we were raised, that we would not spank. Now, my wife and I donít feel comfortable at church. Every time the pastor greets us, we imagine he is silently asking, 'Well, have you started spanking yet?' "
- A mother writes, "My mom and dad are furious with me for refusing to spank my daughter. I tried to explain to them that I donít believe in it and manage very well without it. They tell me the way I am raising her goes against the will of God. My daughter sees very little of her grandparents now. I can't let them baby sit. In fact I am afraid to leave them alone with her for a minute. Itís sad, but what else can I do?"
The dilemma that faces Christians who are committed to nonviolent methods of raising their children is this virtual absence within the established Christian community of a formal rejection of corporal punishment. If there is a church, a denomination or a sect that explicitly disapproves of hitting children, thus far theyíve kept their light under a bushel.
As a modest beginning, we would like to propose the development of an informal support network that could convene under the title "Christians for Nonviolent Parenting." We believe it would fill a need, and open a brighter future for children of the faithful. For more information, please contact Al Crowell at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the section on this Web site, now under development, devoted entirely to this subject. Click on www.nospank.net/cnpindex.htm.
Jordan Riak, Executive Director, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education
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