Announcement: As of May 4, 2012, Samuel Martin's book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy" is now available for free - For details, please see - http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pen-is-mightier-than-punch.html
Corporal and Eternal Punishment: Time to disconnect these two ideas once and for all – Part One
Very early on in my studies into this issue (early 1990’s), I remember watching a video (or perhaps it was an audio cassette tape) of a talk given by John Bradshaw and he was speaking about Hell. He was giving recollections about his upbringing in a Roman Catholic educational environment and this talk he gave included two things which really impacted me greatly early on in my interest concerning this issue of corporal punishment.
Bradshaw was talking about nuns in his school who showed him pictures of Hell as a deterrent to bad behavior. He even joked about it saying that he had no idea where the nuns got these pictures of Hell from, but he does remember them showing him the pictures and threatening him with Hell fire if he did not behave well.
The other thing he mentioned in the talk was his personal experience of being burned with a candle as a type of taste what was coming to him in the future by his religious teachers in the school environment.
I don’t remember the precise quote or the exact context of the discussion, but I do remember at that time, I was deeply influenced by that issue. (I myself have never been burned with a candle.)
But what John said next after sharing his own experience of being burned was that he had shared this information in a workshop and just by chance he asked if anyone else had ever experienced something similar and a full one third of the attendees in the event raised their hands! Burning children with candles to give them a little taste of their eternal destiny is not some isolated one off thing. It used to be very common behavior in some religious circles.
This for me was and still is an awful example of some child discipline gone very, very wrong, but let us not play down this issue as not important. It is very important because in our day when well-intentioned fundamentalist Christian ministers continue to trumpet corporal punishment as God’s chosen method for disciplining children, when ‘pastors’ urge parents to ‘punch’ their children to eliminate behavior they believe is undesirable and when eternal punishment is brought into the whole equation of child rearing with the intention of literally attempting to scare children into behaving better, we really need a wakeup call on what kinds of awful messages we are communicating to our kids. It is a very common phrase that we find in many well-intentioned but seriously misguided Protestant circles who think we need to “beat the devil out of children” and to this we can seemingly add “burn children to give them a little taste of hell fire.” This is really monstrous because it is largely based on an incorrect understanding of the verse from Proverbs 23:13, 14 which says the following in the King James Version:“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”