John Bradshaw – His influence on my writing
It is hard to believe that over 25 years has passed since I was first introduced to the teachings of John Bradshaw by a dear friend (thanks Helen), but I think it is important to talk about Bradshaw a little bit as I have not really given him the credit he deserves.
I have mentioned him in my book (pg.8) as one of the key people in my early formulation of some of my own ideas. Bradshaw was the one who pointed me to Alice Miller's work “For Your Own Good.”
I did not really get interested in Bradshaw’s books per se, which were much more oriented to the everyday person, but I did get one of his tape series on religious addiction, which was excellent.
Bradshaw very early on in his work (which was really massive in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) with the rise of public television and his series “On the Family” was one of the first things that began to get me interested in social issues and researching the issue of corporal punishment.
Bradshaw was (and I am sure still is) a believer in Christ, but he was an academic (I guess like me). Bradshaw said he earned three MA’s, studied to be a Catholic priest and later in life became an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church. When you listened to Bradshaw, he would quote Alice Miller, Augustine and Aquinas in the same breathe. He had the heart for pastoral ministry, but the academic bent for deep theological discussions.
Bradshaw was one of the first ones to raise the issue of the rod (or as he called it ‘the stick’) in my mind. I can remember his series where he talked about the measure of men in European culture was “how long their stick was to beat their wives and children with.” This early comment by Bradshaw really is one of those key moments I think in my own work.
I can even remember once just under 20 years ago when I personally contacted Bradshaw and he actually wrote me back with some encouragement on an old .aol email address. I still have that copy of that email around in my files somewhere as a treasured moment of connection to a mentor whose work influenced my own dramatically.
Today, though it is becoming clear how much Western European culture today influences the whole corporal punishment debate. While the stick for wife beating has largely moved into the background (I hope) due to the rise in power of women in the last 100 years (among many other reasons), it still remains entrenched in the male psyche as the primary tool for “disciplining” children.
This is going to follow the same trend for children, I believe, as it has for women and it will take many years to do, but the tide is definitely turning and this is something that many of us will watch in our lifetimes.
What people like Bradshaw meant to me are that they were the theological pioneers, who were holding on to their belief in Christ while reading and learning from Alice Miller. People like Bradshaw in particular (because he was living at the time) were a great comfort to young thinkers like me who were having scary thoughts that challenged cherished beliefs we were all raised with. Others that came along later were Rev. Dwight Moody and finally the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among many others. To these I can add many Rabbinical Scholars like Rabbi Moses Weinstein and Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe.
What these people showed me is that it was not only possible but it was healthy and invigorating to stretch your mind, to challenge long held beliefs, to test hypotheses and to be willing to find ways to look at things just a little bit differently. This is the way, I believe, that learning is advanced.
Thank you, John. Your willingness to share your thoughts helped me so much in my spiritual walk and I continue to walk in those same shoes you introduced me to some 25 years ago and I am not planning on changing them anytime soon. Hope to continue to learn from you for many years to come. God bless you, John Bradshaw.