I just read an article that disturbed me so much that I just had to respond immediately. Even though spanking supposedly has a Biblical basis, I disagree that it is right or beneficial to the child. I agree with Robert J. Burrowes, who wrote, “If we want to end violence against women then we must finally end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children” and “It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?”
I especially disagree with the idea that beating a child with a rod (or any other weapon, including your fist) can’t kill a child, as expressed in the Old Testament:
Do not withhold discipline from youths;
If you beat them with the rod, they will not die.
This quote seems to encourage not only parents but everyone to beat children with a rod. It is in total contrast to the rest of the Bible that teaches that God is loving and merciful. Unfortunately, beatings have killed countless children.
When one takes a single quote out of the Bible and uses it to justify evil, that is wrong. An excellent book was written by an Anglican Bishop entitled Sins of Scripture. Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love1. It describes how select verses from the Bible have been used maliciously to justify not only violence against women and children, but also the destruction of the environment, sexism, homophobia and other sins.
Some people believe that the Bible is the actual, literal word of a male God. In the past, this has led many people not only to reject important aspects of astronomy and biology, but also common decency. Did an all-loving God really write the following?
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.
(1 Samuel 15:3, New International Version, NIV)
Was an all-loving God speaking through the mouth of Jephthah when he made and then kept his promise to the male God to kill his own daughter?
And whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
(Judges 11:31, English Standard Version)
After a military victory, Jephthah saw his daughter coming out of his house and said:
Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! - but is bound by his vow - I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.
(Judges 11:35, English Standard Version)
I don’t think an all-loving God said this. Fortunately, there are many good people who also think that such verses are hateful. They could never come from the mouth or the brain of a loving God – even if he does have a Y chromosome and male parts (which I seriously doubt, even though it was written that God created man in his own image, Genesis 1:27, English Standard Version).
It’s not just the Old Testament that has serious mistakes and evil phrases. Some of them in the New Testament have been used to try to justify slavery as being God’s will.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
(Ephesians 6:5, English Standard Version)
There is another way of looking at the Bible. Much of it may have been inspired by a loving God (who loves women and children too), but it was written by men. It was written in a time when men “knew” that they were superior to women. A loving God may have tried to tell the male authors that women and men were equal, but the men did not understand. Similarly, when a man wrote:
All the living things on earth died - birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people.
(Genesis 7:21, New Living Translation)
A loving God may have tried to tell the man that there was an animal that does NOT get old and die – the “immortal jellyfish” or Turritopsis nutricula2. They revert to the sexually immature (polyp) stage after becoming sexually mature. The man who wrote that part of the Bible might have thought that God was just clearing “his” throat or speaking gibberish because the concept of jellyfish was unknown to him.
Did an all-knowing male God really say this to Noah?
And you are to bring two of every living thing into the ark--male and female--to keep them alive with you.
(Genesis 6:19, New International Version)
An all-knowing God (regardless of sex) would have known at least as much as we know now. Bacteria are neither male nor female. Noah brought much more than just two bacteria with him everywhere he went. His own microbiome contained far more bacteria than he could have ever imagined. Also, asexual reproduction occurs in many forms of life, including animals. Moreover, there is an organism (Physarum polycephalum) in the Paris zoo that is called a slime mold. It is about one billion years old and has 720 sexes.
There are other examples of clear mistakes in the Bible. The universe is not just 6000 years old. The Earth was not made before the rest of the universe. There was not a world-wide flood like the one that is described in the story about Noah.
When read in its entirety, many people believe that the Bible describes a loving God. Such a God would NOT approve of physically abusing or killing innocent women and children.
As described by Robert J. Burrowes in this journal, “Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The political leader who wages war suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on women suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist or religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child”. I agree with this completely. When a child is spanked, he or she will remember the pain and suffering – not the reason why he or she was spanked. Unfortunately, when the beating is severe, the child often does not remember – but the sibling who watched it happen does remember.
Robert J. Burrowes wrote further: “And here is an additional incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable. How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behaviour is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to socialize children to fit into society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviours in relation to violence. But it is far more complex than this and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.
We live in a world that is threatened by Nuclear Holocaust and Global Climate Change. Gun violence in the USA occurs all too often. Chronic stress, especially in childhood, often leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression and premature mortality. Men who conform more to masculine standards (be tough, stoic, dominant, daring and in control) are more likely to assault and rape women, consider suicide, take risks with sexual partners and when driving, avoid seeking help and refrain from active fathering. Through love, education and a bit of personal effort, such men can change – they are not hardwired that way.
Unfortunately, there are also some women who seem to believe that violence against children is good. Fortunately, the title of the article in question was a question – not a statement. Despite the contents of the article, the editor of Wall Street International decided to raise the question, “To Spank or Not to Spank?”. Fortunately, better and wiser men and women have written eloquently about the damage that violence (including spanking) against children does3. This includes one author who wrote: “On the Israeli kibbutz where I grew up, spanking children was practically unheard of ”. So, my criticism of the Bible verses that say: “Do not withhold discipline from youths; If you beat them with the rod, they will not die and Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” should NOT be taken as a criticism of the Jewish faith. My feeling is that the people living in the Israeli kibbutz where Dr. Naom Shpancer grew up would also disagree that children should be spanked. I hope you, the readers, do too.
1 Spong, J.S. Sins of Scripture. Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love. HarperCollins Publishing, New York, 2005.
2 Ma, H. and Yang, Y. Turritopsis nutricula. Nature Science Volume 8, pp. 15-20, 2010.
3 Burrowes, R.J. Violence Against Women. Why the UN Secretary-General Got it Wrong. Wall Street International, 8 June 2018; Burrowes, R.J. Ending Violence. Tackling the Impossible. Wall Street International, 8 May 2019; Caron, C. Spanking Is Ineffective and Harmful to Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says. The New York Times, 5 November 2018; Shpancer, N. The Spanking Debate Is Over. The empirical, theoretical, and moral arguments against spanking are compelling. Psychology Today, 5 February 2018.