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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Christian Father of Four Shares His Journey Towards Gentle Parenting

A Christian Father of Four Shares His Journey Towards Gentle Parenting

A Guest Post From SR

Sam,

I would like to write to you about some of the experiences we have had in our no-spanking journey from a father/husband perspective. My wife often comes up with crazy ideas. Sometimes this manifests itself in something like “Cabbage Casserole” (not a good idea). At other times her ideas kind of work out (owning rent houses). So when she approached me with this crazy idea about not spanking, I wasn’t surprised. She does this kind of thing to me a lot. I understood the various sociological arguments against it, and I viewed people who espoused them as liberals whose kids probably ran wild in Wal-Mart. I used to be a school teacher and bragged about how I could tell which of my students had parents who spanked. In reality, probably most of their parents spanked. It wasn’t spanking that made the difference. In fact, the more spankings, the worse behavior. What mattered to me was not what some sociologist or psychologist said. What mattered was that the Bible told us to spank. I figured we would talk it through and I would defend the biblical position. In my mind, if God said it, it was true (“Romans 3:4 “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar”). I wasn’t expecting what she hit me with. Every biblical argument I offered, she countered. “Spare the rod…” struck down. “God disciplines the child he loves….” Doesn’t work!  “God punishes us…” Won’t hold water. I was losing the argument, badly.

She led me to your book (get it free here - whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/) so I could read and research it myself. I was shocked (but less so since she already defeated my arguments). All those years I thought I saw something in the Bible that wasn’t there. It was a big spanking mirage! I had read into the text experiences and ideas from my own family, culture, and past. If I had been completely table rasa, I would have realized that the word “spank” was nowhere in the Bible. The concept of discipline was there, but I had substituted “spanking” and even “punishment” in its place. I had to realize that “discipline” does not inherently include a form of punishment. Indeed, punishment is a pretty low level of motivation. I was convinced, so we changed and decided to stop spanking. We became gentle-parenting parents.

Since those early days (almost two years ago), we have done pretty well. I have reverted back a couple of times, but to my shame, I admit it was when I was tired or stressed. It was not a matter of doing what is best for the kids. It was me trying to get what I wanted right now because I didn’t feel I had the emotional storehouse to get through another fit-throwing episode. Instead of digging deep and being the adult I should be, I tried to manipulate through fear and pain. I hate even writing these words. Even more of an issue for me today is the struggle with verbal spankings. I don’t physically strike my children, but sometimes I use harsh rebukes in their place, possibly causing more damage. I’m a work in progress.

I am the father of four little boys (ages 3-9). I know about movement, fights, throwing things, breaking things, punches, etc. If people think that non-violent parenting only works on quiet little girls, let me beg to differ. My boys have changed so much since we have ceased spanking. They get along better with each other and other kids. They are more affectionate toward my wife and me. They throw fewer fits. But most amazing is this calmness they have. There is now an inner peace I see in their eyes and in their movements. It is hard to explain, but I see it in them and I see it absent in children whose parents spank. I don’t know if it is a freedom from fear of being hurt by their parents or if it is a reflection of the calmness my wife and I now have as well. Either way, it is the biggest plus I have seen since we changed.

In case you publish this, I want to give a little advice to wives who might be struggling with their husbands joining in the non-spanking journey. This is not easy for men. Men are taught to be tough and in control, so sitting back and talking gently to your screaming child while all of the restaurant looks on is difficult. We all know what they’re thinking: “If that were my child….” As men, we feel special pressure to appear in control and powerful. This comes out in the form of aggression and often physical punishment. We might be tempted to yank them up out of their seat and march them to somewhere where we can at the least rebuke sharply and at the most spank them in anger. This is the natural approach. It is not right, but it is what we have to overcome. I would suggest that in such circumstances that you, the mother/wife, go ahead and remove the child from the circumstances till the child calms down (and so does Dad). This usually only takes a couple of minutes, but that is all that is needed. People seeing you whisk away your screaming child and coming back with a calm child will probably think you spanked him, but you will know the truth. Besides, it’s none of their business.

Second, to admit that spanking is wrong is to admit our parents (who spanked us) were wrong. For some people, this can be a difficult admission. Be patient with him and don’t point out that his parents were wrong. You might mention how amazing the journey of life is and how much we learn along the way. Then leave it. Eventually, you or he might be tempted to convince his or your parents about how spanking is bad, but unless your parents actually spank your children, it might not be the best choice of battles. They are not in a position to spank, so why start a possible fight and power struggle.

Last, men are not always very good students or communicators. You know this. If you will provide the material for him to read and study and just let it go, you will find better results. He is probably not going to listen to you or your logic and explanation. Leave him the materials (written by Samuel and others) so he can “discover” this information for himself. It also takes men time to process things after we mull them over in our minds for a while. Do not bother him during this process that might take months. He needs time to gather his thoughts, and you asking him what he thinks or if he read the material yet, just makes him want to reject it even more. Give him the materials, and then give him time and space.  He will bring it up when he’s ready.

Sorry for such a long letter. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts and hopefully help some others in the process. Please feel free to use this as you see best.

God bless you in your work,

SR

Note: This text is has not been edited by myself in any way other than adjusting the formatting of the paragraphs.

Samuel Martin

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"So you think corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is ok because you turned out fine: Think again"


So you think corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is ok because you turned out fine: 

Think again!

Spanking/Smacking/Corporal Punishment is not bad. I am the perfect example of that. Look at me. I turned out just fine so spanking/smacking/corporal punishment is just fine in my book. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that over the last twenty years!

Make no mistake about it. This idea is one of the most prevalent among those who advocate in favor of corporal punishment of children. A simple Google search will easily confirm this.

I think many of us who have been engaged with this issue can say the same thing. Let's face it. The vast majority of people who were spanked or smacked (particularly in a Christian religious context) definitely believe this. 

The only phrase that you might hear more than this one is "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child." We all know how engrained this idea is in our culture and how people just believe totally that this is what the Bible teaches.

I have really struggled over this statement, which is the title of this post. I have always been a bit intimidated by it because I never really had a good answer for this statement that I have heard over and over and over again, until now.

I am a good person. I am!

I guess it is normal to think that one is a good person. I remember my dad saying when I was a kid: "Hey, I am one of the nicest guys I know, just ask me and I will tell you!" Now he always said that tongue in cheek, but in fact, with the many flaws my dad had, he still considered himself a patriotic, generally law abiding, hardworking, fairly decent person overall. And he was all of those things!

Now, theologically speaking, my father did not look at himself that way, but for most people, I don't think their deep theological beliefs ever really come into their thinking or their assertions about themselves. They genuinely believe that they are basically good people and that a good spanking or smacking helped them tremendously in directing them to become the "good" person they are today.

Even though life going on around me is not good, I am above that because I was spanked/smacked

Now, I think that most reasonable people looking at the general state of humanity will say that the situation could be improved. In fact, in some cases, we have to admit that humanity is not currently in an ideal state.

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:22-23 ESV)

But the interesting thing about those who were spanked/smacked, they see in their experience a type of purifying that took place by them being spanked/smacked: a kind of "trial by fire" and guess what: they have come through the fire better off for the experience.

It is so interesting to see testimonies of people who grew up in these types of environments. These people really had the devil beaten out of them. They often even use this kind of language.

They think that those who received spankings as well as those who administer them to their own kids are better than other people.

Now, this is not a new idea. In fact, the roots of it are as old as history. Note what the prestigious Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics says in an important article about Flagellants (people who hit themselves because they think it is good for them):

"Voluntary flagellation as a form of penance is as old as history and almost as wide spread as religion itself." (vol. VI, pg. 49)

Flagellants, or people who hit themselves, came to believe that they were more holy than other people.

Note another quote from Hastings who talking about some of the Middle Age Flagellants in Europe said concerning these flagellants:

"they believed that their blood would mingle with the shed blood of their Saviour and that this practice of painful, penitential flagellation, continued for 33 days and a half would wash the soul free from all sin. As these ideas came to clear consciousness in the minds of the Flagellants,. they began to feel that the means of salvation were in their own hands and that the mediation of the Church and its priesthood could be dispensed with." (ibid., pg. 50)

Today, we know these people as "holier than thou" types and make no mistake about it, these type of people are some of the most ardent supporters of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking and its beneficial aspects today.. 

They still believe that the devil can be beaten out of people, and especially children. 

There is only one problem with this. The devil cannot be beaten out of something in which the devil is not inside in the first place. 

But wait a minute! These people say: "I was evil and I deserved it." But were they really evil?

They use very literal interpretations of the book of Proverbs and totally believe in the efficacy of these types of spiritual activities of inflicting violence. The people who undertake these trials are definitely better for their experiences. 

They feed on texts like this:

"The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly." (Proverbs 20:30 KJV)

But the key question we really have to ask is: Are these people really better off for being spanked/smacked?

The Arrogance of saying "I am better off because I was spanked or smacked."

One of the things that was a realization of mine of late was the utter arrogance of saying that I am better off for being spanked or smacked. 

The important question in my mind surrounding this assertion is the following: "Better off than who?"

Well, most people are going to say that I am better off than those who were not spanked or smacked.

Now, before we entertain this assertion, let's back up just one baby step and consider the following fact. 

Any person who says that they are better off for being spanked or smacked holds a view of themselves which believes that they are better than other people!

There is no secret in this. People who say it just openly come out and say: I am better than other people. You can sugar coat it and say: No, wait a minute, that is not what we mean? Oh! Not in my book.

They are more holy
They are more righteous
They are more correct
They are better
They are more honest
They also know the truth better than other people 

This is exactly what Michael Pearl, for example, teaches:

"It has come to my attention that a vocal few are decrying our sensible application of the Biblical rod in training up our children. I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love.

Numbered in the millions, these kids become the models of self-control and discipline, highly educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements. When your children finally find an honest mechanic or a trustworthy homebuilder, it will be one of ours.

When your children apply for a job it will be at a company our children founded. When they go to a doctor, it will be one of our Christian children that heals them with cutting edge innovation. When your adult kids go for therapy it will be one of our kids-become-psychologist that directs them to the couch and challenges them to release their self-loathing and embrace hope for a better tomorrow."

 http://pearlchildtraining.blogspot.co.il/2010/03/michael-pearl-laughs-at-critics.html

They are just simply better people because they sin less than other people! 

Yes, that is correct. They are better off for being spanked or smacked.

They are "models of self-control" 
They are "highly educated"
They are "creative"
They are "honest"
They are "business owners" who are more successful, more blessed, smarter and richer than others!

It is almost as if unless you are spanked/smacked you are never going to become anything good in the mind of these dear misguided people.

So how does this view square with Scripture?
How Does God Look At People Who Hold Such A View of Themselves?

In reflecting on this idea, there is one idea that really comes to mind: 100% ARROGANCE!

There really is a supreme arrogance, a superiority, a condescensionary type of elevated look that people who hold this view seem to exhibit. At least that is my experience. I guess I could be wrong, but it seems to me to be a common trait of people who were raised like this.

They have a tendency to look down on others
They have a tendency to pontificate
They have a tendency to lecture and find fault

It really reminds me of an ancient prayer that my father used to put in all of his publications. For me, it really represents a fundamental truth that I was raised with. 

I was raised and taught that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and because of that, you need to show humility and not be arrogant or think you are better than anyone else. And I mean ANYONE!

Here is the prayer I am referring to here and many who have read anything I've written will remember this prayer. It is really a part of me personally.

From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths'
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us.-- Ancient Prayer

But to some people spanking and smacking are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and they themselves are all the proof that they need to know they are 100% correct.

I guess it is normal to think that one is a good person, that in the morass that surrounds us, we are above all of that. We are good people. We are holy, loving, virtuous, generous, intelligent, reverential, successful, etc.

The thing is, though, ARE WE all of these things?

But what does the Bible say about this orientation? 

Saint Paul: Standing in front of everyone in the Sinner Line

I am a big admirer of St. Paul. He was a straight talker! Saint Paul was a person well experienced with life. He tells us about his many experiences including many sufferings.

“But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.” (II Corinthians 11:21-33 ESV)

He also speaks often of his many joys in Christ (Romans 15:32; II Corinthians 2:3; Philippians 2:2; I Timothy 2:20).

When we read Paul’s experiences, we can see that he lived a human life much like that which you and I experience today: a life of suffering and a life where one experiences great joy.

A part of Paul’s (and ours) experiences in life lead him to express his own shortcomings and human frailties when coming to the question of the daily task of reconstructing his own character. Paul (like you and especially I) had major challenges with this issue and this is exactly what he tells us. 

Paul did not hold a very high view of himself! Note what he said:

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But in, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:7-24 ESV)

Paul saw inside of himself a delight in God’s law, but in his own experience, he found himself deficient (as are you and I) when it came to performance. His reference to his own shortcomings was not an isolated incident. He referred many times to his own personal nature, which he characterized as sinful, mortal, corruptible, and fleshly, terms an honest self-reflecting person is very familiar with. Note what he told Timothy:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  (I Timothy 1:12-15 ESV)

It is interesting that Paul did not say that he “was” previously the “foremost” sinner. No! He uses the present tense to describe his earthly condition. Let us be honest though, Paul was doing his best to pursue his Christian walk, but found that “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (ibid.)

Paul comes right out and says it. I am the foremost sinner. You just can't even think for a moment of Paul coming out and saying: "I am better than other people." Hardly! 

Isn't it interesting that even after all of his trials and tribulations, all of the miracles he wrought, all of the Scripture he wrote, what does he tell Timothy:

 "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  (I Timothy 1:15 ESV)  

Paul underwent many trials, but he never chose to elevate himself. On the contrary, he headed right to the front of the sinner line. 

Many of the proponents of corporal punishment/smacking/spanking don't seem to have this orientation that St. Paul had.

They are not more sinful than other people.

They are good people

They are better than other people because they have been "corrected." 

They have been "disciplined."

We can give some other examples from Scripture

This idea of saying that one is better than other people because they were disciplined is really captured clearly in the following parable.

 "And He spoke this parable unto certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Where do you think Paul would have oriented himself in this parable? Pretty obvious I think.

Jesus makes the whole matter clear and orients us properly

We've seen the example of Paul and how he looked at himself, but let's now look at an even stronger example, I think. It is that given by Christ Himself.

"And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:18-19 ESV)

We can go round and round on what this means exactly, but I think it is telling us that mankind needs to reach to a higher example, an example outside of himself, because I think it is fairly clear that if we look horizontally, we can all agree that man, generally speaking, is not good, no matter what these "holier than thou" types say.

Let's agree with Jesus who said: .

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:18-19 ESV)

I'd welcome your view.