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Friday, February 17, 2017

Spare the Rod? Why Christians Spank Their Kids.

Young me was spanked very infrequently, a smattering of spankings probably numbering less than 10 my entire childhood.

My home was also Christian in the sense that my parents were devout believers, raised my siblings and I to know Jesus, and took us to church every Sunday.

However, in my estimation, fatigue, not faith, made the difference between the few spankings I received compared to my siblings (as the last of six children, my parents were simply spanked-out and lenient).

Indeed, according to the data, evangelical Christians like my parents spank more than the non-Christian population, suggesting a positive correlation between this dynamic, biblically-based brand of Christianity and corporal punishment.

Yet and still, spanking itself has taken a hit in the past few decades due to stigma and study after study failing to find any benefits of this trusted form of correction.

Particularly significant is a 2016 meta-analysis of 75 studies ranging over 50 years which found “no evidence that spanking is associated with improved child behavior.”

So if the data suggests spanking does not work, why do Christians continue to spank, and that at a rate 15% higher than non-believers?

As an evangelical “insider”, I offer three possible reasons:

First, tradition.

Any "Fiddler on the Roof" fans ("Tradition, tradition..." )?

Spanking with its long history is embedded in our cultural psyche.

Furthermore, a quick inductive observation suggests spanking runs in the family.

If you were spanked, it is likely whichever parent spanked you was also spanked and that whichever parent spanked them was spanked and so on.

The common refrain is “I was spanked and I turned out fine.”

Fair enough.

The aforementioned meta-analysis did find spanking “associated with increased risk of…detrimental outcomes”, but noted that such associations were “small” and cannot be said to alone account for the outcomes they were associated with.

As long as we’re not talking about beating a child (think Adrian Peterson) or otherwise inflicting injury, I assume most Christian anecdotally draw on their experiences having been spanked and whatever benefit they perceive came from them and simply make their decision to spank on that basis.

Second, a perceived association between non-spanking and culturally conditioned or liberal forms of child rearing that challenge biblical thinking.

Highly regarded preacher and former seminary professor John Piper (who is very pro corporal punishment) had this to say about the origins of no-spanking thought:

“The heart of the issue is: Why does this person feel this way? What worldview inclines a person to think that you shouldn't spank a child? Where does that come from? Well it comes straight out of this culture…”

Reformed New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner, reviewing a book on spanking, “wonders” if the no spanking author (himself a Christian) “is prone to domesticating the Bible to fit modern conceptions”, adding “God’s Word does not necessarily fit the cultural mores and thought conventions of our day.”

He further cautions the author against "land[ing] in the lap of liberalism.”

Examples can be multiplied, but as long as the case against spanking can be linked to liberalism and cultural accommodation in the minds of Evangelicals, they will most likely stick to their...spoons?

Third, (as implied above) the Bible.

No less than four biblical texts speak positively about corporal punishment, each located in the book of Proverbs.

While some (including myself) question a literal application of these passages, surely these proverbs would have been understood literally by the ancient community that received them.

And with a similar understanding in place, present-day evangelicals have paddled away.

Writing for Focus on the Family, Chip Ingram states, “[r]egardless of the method, the Bible's word on discipline clearly demands that parents be responsible and diligent in spanking, but strongly prohibits physical abuse of any kind.”

Dr. Paul D. Wegner, professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary, makes a nuanced and more scholarly case for corporal punishment in his article subtitled “To Spank or not to Spank” published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

John Piper writes plainly, “If Jesus were married and had children, I think he would have spanked the children”, citing the teachings in Proverbs.

When it comes to their children, evangelicals prioritize the Bible, which has meant prioritizing spanking.

I don’t desire to debate the merits of spanking or the biblical case for it here.

I plan on not spanking whatever children I have because I was hardly spanked (the power of tradition!) and I don’t think it has any compelling benefits.

Furthermore, paddling or swatting blurs the line between force and violence too much for this pacifist.

I mean, would Jesus spank the children?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


In a moment, my life was over and yet had only just begun. 

From black to light in an impossible moment everything changed and the first thing I beheld: his face. I’d never seen him before; I’d seen him a million times. In the days of my fears, in the days of pain, loss, and sin—great sin—I’d seen him.  

A laugh catches in my throat and the tears pour. How do I move? Where do I go? Do I reach for him? Do I just stay here on the green grass of Paradise melting? 

He doesn’t wait. For me to decide. He never did. The only thing louder than my sobs, the beat of his heart. The heart that stopped for me. When he said it is finished. How long were we there? A minute? A lifetime? He says my name. My name. He knows my name. I could stay here forever. Forever. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Learn War No More: Christians in the Military as Proof of Apostasy.

When the Church sends its young people off to war, that is apostasy and it should concern all of us.

The U.S. Department of Defense issued a report on the religious affiliation of Active Duty personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces, revealing "[a]bout 7 out of 10 (69.8%) active-duty service members identified as Christian in 2014, according to the Defense Department. They range from 345,888 non-denominational Christians to two members of the European Free Churches

The survey was voluntary, so one can expect the number of religious personnel in any religious demographic to be higher than reported.

Of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ: 10,700 service members.

Of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): 7084 service members.

Of the Church of Christ: 10,776.

That equals 28,550 service member from the Restoration Movement tradition, a reality that grieves my heart deeply.

While a simple survey fails to gauge the spiritual depth and maturity of any Christian, what bothers me is that be the numbers an accurate reflection of Christian commitment among military men or not, the evangelical, Bible-believing churches of America have decided that to serve a worldly government in its army, the pinnacle of national idolatry, being willing to serve and die for one's country, is tolerable if not laudable.

This is a strange and twisted irony for the followers of the Prince of Peace.

In many Christian circles, few things are more sacred than the soldier.

A soldier can get a congregation to its feet quicker than a praise song or a baptism in some places.

I grew up in church hearing things like, "only two people were ever willing to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American soldier."

I stood inside a giant scaffolding flag erected inside of a church building to honor a service which Jesus Christ did away with when he told Peter to put his sword back in its place.

We drape the American flag on the cross of Christ and send our young people off to military with a prayer and our blessing.

We valorize and lionize military service while reading over the Bible's admonishment to live at peace with everyone, to not return violence for violence, and to love one's enemies.

While the willingness of a person to die for a cause may be admirable, the practical working out of that willingness is not necessarily so.

Such is the case with followers of Christ in the military.

Jesus refused to kill or take up arms against his enemies, as did the apostles and other New Testament Christians, the apostolic Fathers, and other early church fathers up until around the fourth century..

They viewed themselves as a separate people with a different calling.

As late as the Council of Nicaea in 325, re-joining the military after conversion could mean 13 years--yes, years--of church discipline (see Canon 12 of the Council of Nicaea).

You can scour the New Testament for every verse that explains how Christians should treat their enemies and you will come up empty for any verse justifying military service and all that entails.

On the contrary, Jesus tells us that his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), which is under the immediate rulership of Satan (1 John 5:19) through his temporary ownership of all the world's earthly kindgoms (Luke 4:5-7).

We respect earthly government as God's way of preserving order and justice (see Romans 13) but it lies outside of the "perfection of Christ" and is not an option for Christians.

For professing Christians to make up the majority of the U.S. military and for the majority of Christian denominations to tolerate if not approve of military service for Christians is to our deep shame.

Indeed, is is my shame because this sin is my sin.

I sang the patriotic songs.

I stood to my feet in praise of soldiers and soldiering.

I pledged allegiance to the flag.

I believed and spread the lie.

This apostate form of Christianity is as much my problem and fault as anyone else.

I carry that burden.

But it does not have to continue this way.

The Church always has and will always have the ability to return to sound doctrine--up to a point.

It starts with personal repentance followed by congregational accountability and solidarity.

Even while some Christians are feeling more comfortable than ever with the current state of politics,  I see a remnant who are saying no to nationalism, militarism, politicism, and seeking to understand what it means to pray "they Kingdom come."

May their tribe increase. Before it is too late.