There is much in the media this week about corporal punishment due to some high profile cases involving NFL players. It has generated much talk on the radio, on the internet, and in the news. I therefore thought it time I write something about this as a pastor.
Corporal punishment is employed by a majority of parents in our country. An even higher majority received corporal punishment as children. And, there is a Bible verse, from Solomon no less, encouraging it “Spoil the rod and spoil the child” he famously wrote. I, myself, have spanked my children at times. So, by far, the safest route would be for me to write something in favor of it. But I’m not.
I do not believe that corporal punishment damages the psyche of most children. I do not think it makes children grow into violent people as adults either. I do think Solomon believed what he wrote when he wrote it too. But I am opposed to corporal punishment because, bottom line, I do not think it works. Think back to when you were a kid and adults spanked you, did it change who you were to get spanked? Did it change your outlook on life? Did it seriously influence your behavior when you were away from the person who spanked you? For me, the answer to all of those questions would be no. I also know that just as plenty of good people were spanked as children, plenty of bad ones were too. I don’t see it influencing at all if someone turns out good or bad. I do acknowledge that it may cause children to temporarily change their behavior to suit the adults in the area. But, in the end, it can easily can encourage more crafty bad behavior as much as anything else.
As a pastor, I don’t toss Solomon’s maxim off easily. But I do always turn to Jesus and look to him as the ultimate example (I could go off on a tangent of how we “religious folks” tend to quote the Old Testament more than the New but I won’t). While Jesus did once use violence to make a point – driving the money changers out of the temple – there is no image of him doing this or encouraging it between powerful adults and far weaker children. I think Jesus would encourage parents or those in charge of children to use their minds more than their brawn to discipline them.
Another part of the Bible does come into play as well. When asking if someone should eat food sacrificed to idols, Paul, on the one hand, says there are no other gods so it isn’t a real sacrifice anyway (I am greatly paraphrasing here) but he also said not to do anything to make other people sin. I think as Christians we need to recognize while most parents employ corporal punishment not to really hurt but to scare their children into better behavior – there are people who go overboard with this and think they have God’s license to do so. There are children who come away with physical bruises, or worse, from parents who think they are doing “God’s will” as they use their might against their own offspring, supposedly to “correct them.” I think God’s people need to forcefully say that this is not what God wants.
I do think failure to discipline a child will spoil the child. Solomon was right on that. When my parents or administrators were disappointed in me, when they convinced me my actions were not helpful, and when I saw the fruits of my own bad behavior, it helped me change course. But being hit with a paddle had nothing to do with that.
Failure to discipline is a problem in our society. I just think we are better than using rods to do so.
What do you think?