Yesterday, we looked at a particularly horrific example of religiously motivated child abuse: a teenaged girl who was dragged behind a van at a "Bible boot camp" run by a neopentecostal church in San Antonio, TX. The day before that, we looked at how cell churches maintain a "rod of iron" of conformity even among the adults, much less the kids.
The sad thing is, "Bible-based" child abuse does not in general start with these camps. There is, very sadly, an entire culture that encourages horrific forms of religiously motivated child abuse from the time that children leave the very womb in many a dominionist group.
We begin the focus by looking at the worst offenders in the dominionist community for "Bible-based baby beating", as well as the incredibly bizarre (and disturbing) practice of daddies dating daughters at a dominionist "purity ball" in a town that has been described as the national capital of the dominionist movement.
The following material is likely to be intensely triggering to child abuse survivors, including (but not limited to) survivors of physical and mental abuse and childhood incest.
I apologise for this in advance. I do, however, feel it is necessary to expose the full horror of religiously motivated child abuse. I am not going to object if those of you who are survivors of child abuse do not wish to read this diary (though I do appreciate commentary from those who do).
For the rest of you--yes, this is going to be upsetting. Unfortunately, this is a reality for literally millions of kids (and also explains why I have such grave, grave concerns regarding dominionist "parallel economy" alternatives to things like pediatricians' associations).
The hell begins at birth
The horror of dominionist "Bible-based" child abuse begins, all too often, from the very time that baby goes home from the hospital.
One of the more popular books among dominionist childrearing circles is Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo's book "Babywise"--promoted in the dominionist "Quiverfull" circles as "Growing Kids God's Way". The books are popular enough that there are online forums promoting the Ezzo material (including the Livejournal community "Babywise" and--frighteningly--the books are now being promoted in homeschooling circles in the United Kingdom as well.
To say "Babywise" is "not so wise" (as an article critical of the book quipped) is possibly the understatement of the millenium.
The Ezzos are known to promote some of the most abusive books known targeting the dominionist "bible-based baby-beating" crowd because the schedule of infants (from the time they emerge from the womb) is strictly regimented and parents are encouraged to ignore the cries of their wailing infants for hours on end to "train" them. Not only this, but the Ezzos happily promote striking tiny babies to "chasten" them. (This is, alas, a nearly universal practice in dominionist childrearing circles, as we'll see.)
The Ezzos specifically promote something called "parent-directed feeding" (or PDF for short--not to be confused with the Adobe Acrobat format); in essence, this is a "mommy-centered" rather than "baby-centered" method of childrearing, with such basic things as when and how long baby gets to nurse set to a strict schedule.
A description from the Livejournal "Babywise" community comments:
The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby's world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby's day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant's unknown needs.
It should not take an expert in child development to see where this could cause problems.
Use of the books as directed (which involves setting up a very strict schedule for baby, including with feeding and sleep, from the time they are born in complete disregard for the actual needs of the infant) has been linked to hospitalisations for dehydration and failure to thrive as infants are basically starved to death:
Though "Babywise" does say, "With PDF, a mother feeds her baby when the baby is hungry," it also instructs parents to do otherwise. In a question-and-answer section, parents of a 2-week-old baby, who did not get a full feeding at the last scheduled time and wants to eat again, are instructed that babies learn quickly from the laws of natural consequences. "If your daughter doesn't eat at one feeding, then make her wait until the next one."
Unfortunately, the schedule in "Babywise" does not take into account differences among breastfeeding women and babies. According to one report, differences of up to 300 percent in the maximum milk storage capacity of women's breasts mean that, although women have the capability of producing the same amount of milk over a 24-hour period for their infants, some will have to breastfeed far more frequently than others to maintain that supply. Babies must feed when they need to, with intervals and duration determined according to a variety of factors in temperament, environment, and physiological make-up. Averages may fit into a bell-shaped curve, but some babies will require shorter intervals. (Daly S., Hartmann P. "Infant demand and milk supply, Part 2. The short-term control of milk synthesis in lactating women." Journal of Human Lactation; 11; (1):27-37).
Examples of the many other unsubstantiated medical claims in "Babywise" include:
* "Lack of regularity [in feeding intervals] sends a negative signal to the baby's body, creating metabolic confusion that negatively affects his or her hunger, digestive, and sleep/wake cycles."
* "Demand-fed babies don't sleep through the night."
* "A mother who takes her baby to her breast 12, 15, or 20 times a day will not produce any more milk than the mom who takes her baby to breast six to seven times a day."
* "Mothers following PDF have little or no problem with the let down reflex, compared to those who demand-feed."
* "Colic, which basically is a spasm in the baby's intestinal tract that causes pain, is very rare in PDF babies but is intensified in demand-fed babies."
* "In our opinion, much more developmental damage is done to a child by holding him or her constantly than by putting the baby down. In terms of biomechanics alone, carrying a baby in a sling can increase neck and back problems, or even create them."
* "Some researchers suggest that putting a baby on his or her back for sleep, rather than on the baby's tummy, will reduce the chance of crib death. That research is not conclusive, and the method of gathering supportive data is questionable."
My review of the low weight gain and FTT accounts associated with "Babywise" revealed several disturbing trends. Parents were often adamant about continuing with the feeding schedule, even when advised otherwise by health care professionals. They were hesitant to tell their physicians about the schedule, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause for the weight gain problems. Many elected to supplement or wean to formula rather than continue breastfeeding at the expense of the schedule. The parents' commitment can be especially strong when they are using the program for religious reasons, even though numerous leaders within the same religious communities have publicly expressed concerns.
(Let's review. Apparently "Back to Sleep" (which is pretty damn conclusively proven) is a myth, putting these kids at risk for SIDS; the book promotes punishing a two week old baby who doesn't get enough to eat when nursing; and the book tells parents to disregard medical advice. As we will see below, at least one mommy in the group ended up being told by her own pediatrician her daughter was starving to death.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics has specifically warned against the practices promoted in the book as has the Canadian Child Care Federation and a major site for new mothers. One of the big risks, at this, is that babies don't form proper attachments (and thus are set up for lifelong anxiety disorders as they never really learn to trust):
Why is "On Becoming Babywise" so controversial?
Most, if not all, medical and childcare experts advise against following Ezzo's strict, by-the-clock method. They say it contradicts recent research that emphasizes the critical importance of early child-parent attachment. They also point out that babies are extremely variable, and each one has different needs for eating and sleeping. A number of pediatricians have observed PDF-reared infants who have problems such as insufficient weight gain, dehydration, and difficulty thriving. Psychological and child development experts are concerned about potential emotional disturbances with this approach and cite evidence of such problems among some GFI families. One review expressed significant concern that the Babywise method could potentially lead to child abuse.
Medical and childcare experts aren't the only ones who are concerned. Numerous leaders in Ezzo's own religious community have publicly expressed concerns that he misrepresents Scripture and gives medically unsound advice.
In addition, an article in the Bradenton Herald noted how the Ezzo material is potentially highly dangerous as well--including a tiny four-month-old baby who was not only starving but literally had given up the will to live:
A new Mom came to Debby Kearney searching for help. Something was very wrong with her new baby.
Between her first two to four months of life, she gained only two ounces. She should have put on at least two pounds, maybe even four, in that time.
A lactation consultant in private practice in Orlando, Florida, Kearney has logged thousands of hours helping breastfeeding mothers. She suggested the mother breastfeed her baby girl more frequently, common advice she'd give for a baby not gaining properly.
She was stunned when the young mother refused.
"The baby quit showing any signs of hunger. They ran this baby though every test imaginable and could not find an organic cause", Kearney said of the case about two years ago. "I think the baby showed every sign of clinical depression."
Something similar -- although not as severe -- happened again a few months later. Another mother. Another problem. Another reluctance to nurse her baby more often.
A report by two pediatricians in Child Magazine, later reprinted in Pediatric News, notes that the material is dangerous and also notes the promotion of "Bible-based" baby-beating:
Furthermore, the authors recommended spanking (with an instrument that is not too stiff) to punish certain behaviors. (Their advice on "chastisement," as they call it, reminds us of that dispensed by the Rev. John Robinson, who wrote in the early 1700s that "by the time a child is 1 year he must be taught to fear being beaten with a stick. The unpleasant noise of crying will be rarely heard in the house and the family will live in as much quietness as if there were not a child among them.") Ezzo’s suggestions for using physical punishment and other "parent-centered" methods of childrearing are hardly likely to produce well-adjusted children.
Of particular note, the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Orange County has issued a general statement of concern in regards to religiously motivated child abuse in religious parenting programs that focuses specifically on abusive practices in the Ezzo books.
And believe you me, the group does promote things that would be considered bona-fide child abuse in most jurisdictions.
The LJ community booju_mooju (a freeform community on family and parenting issues) has given a particularly good glance of the full extent of the material promoted in typical Ezzo support forums (including the "Babywise" forum on Livejournal). A few highlights from the latter include:
a) Beating an 11-month-old girl for being squirmy when dressed.
b) "Hot-saucing" a one-year-old kid and "flicking the mouth" of kids that bite. (More on "hot saucing" in a bit--it's been increasingly promoted by dominionists as a punishment tactic to the horror of hot-sauce manufacturers.)
c) Letting a five-month-old baby scream continuously for an hour because Mommy didn't want to get up at 5am.
d) Promoting letting a thirteen-month-old child scream alone in a room for an hour.
e) Letting a fifteen-month-old baby with a brain cyst cry for hours at a time because they were trying to force her to nap (even though the mommy acknowledged that the kid may not be able to do so because of her brain lesion).
f) Letting a three-week-old baby ...
g) ...and then kvetching because her doctor told her that her kid was experiencing failure to thrive at her fifteen-week checkup.
h) literally forcing one's fingers down the throat of a child under 9 months of age to force them to vomit because they had "something in their mouth they weren't supposed to" (the child started to gag himself in imitation at 9 months of age)
i) Whacking a fifteen-month-old baby for having a temper tantrum (if baby is already having a meltdown, whacking isn't gonna help).
Sadly, this sort of stuff is typical in Ezzo support forums.
If it were just the Ezzos (who are sufficiently infamous that an entire site exists just for exposing the abusive tactics promoted in their childcare guides), that'd be bad enough.
Chastening, and "death by chastening rod"
Two other darlings of the dominionist "Bible-based" childrearing set are Michael and Debbie Pearl. Their books, including "To Train Up A Child", are popular in dominionist "homeschooling" circles as well as their website No Greater Joy; disturbingly, they've also shipped several copies of their abusive manuals to US Armed Forces servicemen as complimentary baby-beating books. (In fact, according to at least one article on the Pearls written by the Raleigh, NC News-Observer, over 500,000 families nationwide regularly use the Pearls' books and over 2 million copies have been sold worldwide of their books.) Much like the Ezzos, online support forums exist for parents using these books as well (including the eponymous LJ community "Trainupachild", which promotes not only the work of the Pearls but Tedd Tripp, Bill Gothard, and others).
The Pearls are, of note, promoters of child-rearing techniques that make even James Dobson's look tame in comparison. Of note, they are also among some of the very few authors whose works are--if used as directed--directly attributable to the death of a child by suffocation and by PVC pipe used as a "chastening rod":
A few years ago, Lynn Paddock sought Christian advice on how to discipline her growing brood of adopted children.
Paddock -- a Johnston County mother accused of murdering Sean, her 4-year-old adopted son, and beating two other adopted children -- surfed the Internet, said her attorney, Michael Reece. She found literature by an evangelical minister and his wife who recommended using plumbing supply lines to spank misbehaving children.
Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings.
Sean's 9-year-old brother was beaten so badly he limped, a prosecutor said. Bruises marred Sean's backside, too, doctors found.
Sean died after being wrapped so tightly in blankets he suffocated. That, too, was a form of punishment, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.
The Pearls' advice from their Web site: A swift whack with the plastic tubing would sting but not bruise. Give 10 licks at a time, more if the child resists. Be careful about using it in front of others -- even at church; nosy neighbors might call social workers. Save hands for nurturing, not disciplining. Heed the warning, taken from Proverbs in the Old Testament, that sparing the rod will spoil the child.
Oh, yes, that rod.
Being whacked with a 1/4" diameter flexible supply line isn't fun--it hurts, it can cause whiplike injuries to the kid, it doesn't break like wood.
That is in fact also the precise childrearing advice the Pearls give--to get one's self up to the plumbing supply section of your local Home Depot or Lowe's and get yourself a length of supply line to whack the hell out of your kid:
As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.
If anyone wants to get a good look at what they advocate whacking kids with--get thineself to Lowe's, or Salon Magazine has a pretty good visual in its article in regards to the Pearls.
Their tactics aren't just restricted to whacking kids with plumbing supplies, either. A list of highlights:
a) Whacking two- and four-year-old kids with aforementioned plumbing supplies for picking their noses and thumbsucking. (Whilst we do agree these are filthy habits, it's not worth inducing a possible complex when Junior hits the Menard's or Ace Hardware for home repair supplies in his college years.)
b) Whacking a seven-month-old infant for the unforgivable crime of being fussy and not wanting to go to sleep.
c) Yanking a baby's hair to discourage it from hair-pulling.
d) Beating kids with plumbing supplies for being "Twinkie Twerps" (the last I checked, it was a rite of childhood to try to steal from the cookie jar!)
e) Yanking the hair of tiny, tiny babies for being a bit rough with nursing.
f) Claiming that all infants are in fact evil, evil manipulative little bastards. (Last I checked, little Stewie from "Family Guy" was a cartoon, not reality.)
g) Promoting this sort of 'training' from birth, including letting babies alone to cry for hours on end. (Shades of the Ezzos!)
h) Again, confuses the world's infants with Stewie Griffin of TV's "Family Guy" in portraying infants as actively plotting to manipulate their parents to their infantile wills. (In fact, their scenario (told from what they see as baby's point of view) could make a great scenario for that show--not that the Pearls approve of such a heathen show as "Family Guy". However, treating your baby as if it were Stewie Griffin is a piss-poor method of childrearing.)
The abuse isn't just restricted to kids, either. The Pearls also run an agony column for wives in dominionist households; in one particular letter, they literally tell a woman she should stay with her husband even if he's abusing her and the kids because "God hates divorce". In another agony column--which should pretty much end any discussion how dominionists actually feel about reproductive issues and is but one step removed from Margaret Atwood's horror novel The Handmaid's Tale--a woman is told that it is ultimately her husband's decision, not hers, whether or not she is to go on the Pill and what her reproductive destiny will be. (Ironically, the woman writing in was part of the "Quiverfull" movement and did not want to go on the Pill! Literally, all that would be needed would be for her to legally change her name to "Offred" or something like that, and you'd get the idea. :P) In another column, the Pearls declare authoritatively that all assertive and "uppity" women are possessed by "Jezebel spirits". (Did I mention that the Pearls are seriously into the whole "deliverance ministry" thing, and have claimed that if you don't knock the hell out of your kids that it will inevitably cause them to be possessed by Satan?)
Even the News-Observer article notes things like a form of "hot-saucing" (involving giving bitter herbal remedies) to kids "whining about being hurt", chasing down kids to beat them (and in fact giving them additional "chastening" for running away and even promoting sitting on kids to administer the required whackage with the trusty plumbing equipment), whacking kids for complaining about the other spouse whacking them, whacking kids "10 times a day at noon each day" for lying (and being made to pull their own switch), and recommending not only the use of material from Home Depot's plumbing section for "correction" but promoting the use of footlong willow branches for "chastening" the under-1-year set and 3-foot branches and belts for older toddlers and kids.
Disturbingly, the Pearls' tactics are so far out there that they led to an investigation by Tennessee child welfare officials:
Michael Pearl and his wife, Debi, don't understand all the fuss. Their five children, now grown, turned out well. They are self-assured young men and women raising their own babies to be God-fearing mothers and fathers. Besides, the Pearls say, the top investigator for the Tennessee Department of Human Services inspected their techniques a few years ago and gave them his blessing. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment.
Stop The Rod, an activist group started by a Christian (non-dominionist) homeschooler mom who was mortified at promotion of "Bible-based baby beating", has also noted that Tennessee's child welfare agencies have investigated the Pearls. However, the most bizarre commentary on the matter may be from the Pearls themselves, who literally accused critics of being demon possessed.
Toddler Torture with Tedd Tripp
Another favourite of the dominionist childrearing set is Tedd Tripp, whose book "Shepherding A Child's Heart" actually makes some of the suggestions by the Pearls seem acts of loving-kindness by comparison. "Stop The Rod" again has the definitive info, but a few highlights of note:
a) "I recall many conversations that went like this:
Father: You didn’t obey Daddy, did you?
Father: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do if you disobey?
Child: Spank me?
Father: That’s right. I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or for me, would it?
Child: No. (A reluctant reply)" (from p.31)
b) "There is validity to this concern. You must be careful to avoid unnecessary exposure to being reported by someone who does not approve of spanking. Spanking should be done in the privacy of the home." (p. 114, in response to a parent who expressed valid concern that his tactics would lead to an arrest for child abuse. Yes, you are reading this correctly; Tripp is expressly educating parents to hide signs of religiously motivated child abuse.)
c) "Even a child in the womb and coming from the womb is wayward and sinful. One of the justifications for spanking children is that ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him’ (Proverbs 22:15). The point of the proverb is that something is wrong in the heart of the child that requires correction." (p. 21)
d) "Obedience means more than a child doing what he is told. It means doing what he is told---
Without Delay." (p. 138)
e) "Acquaint your children with authority and submission when they are infants. This training starts the day you bring them home from the hospital." (p. 134)
f) "You exercise authority as God’s agent. You must require obedience of your children because they are called by God to obey and honor you. Parents should be ‘benevolent despots’". (in foreward, p. xvii)
g) "Obedience is not simply an issue between the parent and the child. It is an issue between the child and God in which the parent is God’s agent." (p. 139. Yes, you are reading this right; parents are explicitly promoted as "God's regent" and in families using this system, common child disobedience or even signs of independence are seen as directly disobeying God Himself.)
h) "It is imperative that children learn to honor and obey. The disobedient child has moved outside the place of covenant blessing." (p. 135. It is important to note that the above is a "Joel's Army" codephrase; the "Saved" are seen to have a "place of covenant blessing" (and thus this is the reason for "name it and claim it" and political dominionism in general), and kids who disobey are seen as having directly disobeyed God and thus are cursed and cast out by God Himself.)
i) "The fool’s life is run by his desires and fears. This is what you hear from your young children. The most common phrases in the vocabulary of a 3-year-old are, ‘I want...’ or ‘I don’t want....’ The fool lives out of the immediacy of his lusts, cravings, expectations, hopes and fears." "Watch a baby struggle against wearing a hat in the winter. Even this baby who cannot articulate or even conceptualize what he is doing shows a determination not to be ruled from without. This foolishness is bound up within his heart. Allowed to take root and grow for 14 or 15 years, it will produce a rebellious teenager who will not allow anyone to rule him. The spanking process drives foolishness from the heart of a child. Confrontation with the immediate and undeniably tactile sensation of a spanking renders an implacable child sweet." (p. 106. Yes, kids can seem quite "sweet" if they are in fact terrified of you.)
j) "Faced with being kind to one who abuses you, there is nowhere to go but to God, who alone can enable a person to respond in love. When your child’s heart desires revenge, when she must love an enemy, when her faith demands she leave room for God’s justice—there is no place to go but to the cross." "Getting help from Christ was powerfully illustrated in the life of our daughter. As a ninth grader she seemed to get on the wrong side of her Spanish teacher. Through four years of high school she struggled with feeling angry over being sinned against. We spent many hours talking about how to respond. We discussed the impossibility of her loving this lady apart from God’s grace. We encouraged her to find hope, strength, consolation and comfort in Christ." (p. 58.)
k) "The rod is a rescue mission. The child who needs a spanking has become distanced from his parents through disobedience. The spanking is designed to rescue the child from continuing in his foolishness. If he continues, his doom is certain. Thus, the parent, driven by love for the child, must use the rod." "Failure to obey Mom or Dad is failure to obey God. This is the issue. The child has failed to obey God." (p. 110)
l) "When your child is old enough to resist your directives, he is old enough to be disciplined. Rebellion can be something as simple as an infant struggling against a diaper change or stiffening out his body when you want him to sit on your lap. When our oldest child was approximately 8 months old, we were confronted with parenting our first mobile child. We had a bookshelf constructed of boards and bricks. Fearing the shelf would fall on him, Margy told him not to pull himself up by the shelf. After moving him away from the shelf, she left the room. As she peeked in on him, she observed him surveying the room. Not seeing her, he headed back toward the forbidden bookshelf. Here was a young child, not yet able to walk or to talk, looking to see if the coast was clear so he could disobey. Obviously, he was old enough to be disciplined." (p. 154)
So, let's review (and keep in mind I only listed about half the stuff that Stop The Rod did)--disobeying pisses off God Himself, it is your job to literally beat the hell out of your child from the time they are in the cradle lest they end up in Satan's Army, and kids are taught there is no escape from this particular type of holy hell other than by praying very fervently for God to save them from this.
I can testify (growing up in a family using a similar method of discipline) that being taught that being naughty pisses off not only Mom but Jesus can produce a hell of a complex in a kid. :P
I have not even touched upon things like "revenge chastening" (aka beating the kid for being angry about being beaten), whacking then hugging the kid (let's just say this can lead to some very interesting confusions later in life), and promoting self-worth as "pride" (and thus as a mortal sin).
There are still worse promoters, though.
Reb Bradley and Richard Fugate--a dangerous duo
I have partnered these two together, in part because Reb Bradley's material is largely based upon Fugate's material (as noted on Stop The Rod).
Both promote the same material in essence as Tripp's books--namely, that children are born sinners, that they are all bound to jump into the welcoming arms of Satan unless you beat the hell out of them as soon as they're off the bitty, and to abuse them if they seem like they're resistant to the abuse.
First, Bradley's highlights:
a) "Whenever possible, an unruly child should be taken somewhere private and disciplined, where others will not be disturbed." (p. 62)
b) "If after a time of chastisement, a child lacks proper humility, the chastisement obviously did not work, and should be repeated a second time." (p. 73)
c) "A child who is not spanked can hardly be called a son or daughter." (p. 69)
d) "Children must not be allowed to interrupt parental discussions, and offer their opinions without permission or invitation." "Do not always allow them to decide what they will order at restaurants. On occasion, exercise your parental prerogative of ordering for everyone." (p. 91)
e) "The general rule for our children: If you have not been granted authority, do not make decisions on your own. If it does not belong to you, do not touch it. If you have not secured permission, do not offer your opinion." (p. 129)
f) "Sass is any response to an adult statement that is given without permission or invitation." "Sass is any response except Yes Dad, Yes Mom, May I appeal? or some other respectful request for permission for further discussion." (pp. 125-126.)
g) "To test a toddler’s understanding of your vocabulary, without showing him anything, offer him a familiar treat, like ice cream or a bottle. Does he respond? If he does, then he is old enough to understand a simple direction such as, ‘Come here, son,’ and should be chastised each time that he chooses to defy your authority." (p. 134)
h) "A child who is learning to submit his will to his parents should be required to respond... ‘Yes, Mom’ or ‘Yes, Dad,’; ‘I will obey you, Dad’; ‘I will stay in bed, Dad.’ Children can respond with anything you require of them, like my wife’s favorite: ‘Yes, Mother, most beautiful among women.’" (p. 142. The last part is highly creepy, seeing as this is from Song of Solomon 1:8--and the verse is part of a love-song between Solomon and his bride. Shades of those creepy "purity balls"!)
The original source material from Richard Fugate is even more chunder-inducing, including not only a whole mess of "scripture-twisting" but encouraging beating of kids to the point of raising welts on page 173 (and dismissing them as essentially side effects on page 174), whacking kids beginning in the crawler stage with 1/8" dowel rods on page 177 (thereby setting the lower limit of around six months old), and even (incredulously) even promotes a veritable arsenal of "chastening rod" sizes geared towards different ages:
- 1-2 "Tot Rod"--3/16" x 24" dowel
- 2-4 "Mob Control"--1/4" x 24" dowel
- 4-8 "Train or Consequences"--5/16" x 27" dowel
- 8-12 "The Equalizer"--3/8" x 27" long dowel
- 12 & up "Rebel Router"--1/2" x 33" dowel
(Of course, the "Attention Getter" for toddlers is defined under note 1.)
(At this rate, Home Depot, Lowes and other home repair outlets are going to need to start monitoring purchases for possible "diversion" to religiously motivated child abuse!)
Page 127 also promotes beating babies: "A wriggling six-month-old baby who intentionally refuses to be diapered can be taught the meaning of "no" in one or two simple lessons. When he tries to crawl away during a changing, he can be told "no," pulled back, and held in place for a moment. The next time he tries to crawl away, he should be told "no" once firmly and lightly tapped once or twice on the upper leg with a small switch. The shocked look and tears will indicate you got his attention and that the command "no" has taken on a real meaning. An angry cry and continued squirming may indicate a strong-willed child who will require more pressure in both intensity and frequency."
A quote from page 54 describes dominionist family relationships starkly in regards to family votes: "Granted, the voting was not equal: the three children each had one vote, Mother had four votes, and Dad had eight."
In the "Please tell me you are joking" Department: "purity balls"
As if direct references to Mommy using the Song of Solomon (easily the most explicitly erotic book in the entire Bible--one that even gives a whole new meaning to the term "spiritual pornography" at times :D) aren't squickworthy enough for you, there's always the concept of the dominionist "purity ball"--a whole different category of potential religious child abuse.
A "purity ball", for those uninitiated to this (and who were asking all manner of questions about the whole "date your daughters" thing in our expose of the "Bible boot camp" yesterday--usually phrased in a variation of "OMG, he did NOT just say 'date your daughters'..." <insert spewing and retching sounds here>) is a little ceremony that dominionist groups have been pushing in their endless War On Premarital Coitus that has a very decidedly creepy twist:
Purity Balls can vary in many particulars, but fathers who attend typically pledge before God to protect their young daughters' purity in mind, body and soul. Daughters are expected to remain virgins, abstaining from pre-marital sexual intercourse.
Fathers must sign the "Covenant of Purity and Protection," witnessed by their daughters, and openly commit to the pledge, a typical example of which might be:
I, (daughter’s name)'s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.
I should note that the Wikipedia article also considerably understates what actually goes on at these get-togethers (that frankly sound like a paedophile's wet dream). Glamour Magazine depicts a more typical "purity ball":
In a chandelier-lit ballroom overlooking the Rocky Mountains one recent evening, some hundred couples feast on herb-crusted chicken and julienned vegetables. The men look dapper in tuxedos; their dates are resplendent in floor-length gowns, long white gloves and tiaras framing twirly, ornate updos. Seated at a table with four couples, I watch as the gray-haired man next to me reaches into his breast pocket, pulls out a small satin box and flips it open to check out a gold ring he’s about to place on the finger of the woman sitting to his right. Her eyes well up with tears as she is overcome by emotion.
The man’s date? His 25-year-old daughter. Welcome to Colorado Springs’ Seventh Annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball, held at the five-star Broadmoor Hotel. The event’s purpose is, in part, to celebrate dad-daughter bonding, but the main agenda is for fathers to vow to protect the girls’ chastity until they marry and for the daughters to promise to stay pure. Pastor Randy Wilson, host of the event and cofounder of the ball, strides to the front of the room, takes the microphone and asks the men, "Are you ready to war for your daughters’ purity?"
. . .
The older girls at the Broadmoor tonight are themselves curvaceous and sexy in backless dresses and artful makeup; next to their fathers, some look disconcertingly like wives. In fact, in the parlance of the purity ball folks, one-on-one time with dad is a "date," and the only sanctioned one a girl can have until she is "courted" by a man. The roles are clear: Dad is the only man in a girl’s life until her husband arrives, a lifestyle straight out of biblical times. "In patriarchy, a father owns a girl’s sexuality," notes psychologist and feminist author Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. "And like any other property, he guards it, protects it, even loves it."
When it’s time for dads and daughters to take the pledge (some informally exchange rings as well), the men stand over their seated daughters and read aloud from parchment imprinted with the covenant: "I, [father’s name], choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity...." The men inscribe their names and their daughters sign as witnesses. Then everyone returns to their meals and an excited buzz fills the room.
. . .
With his bright smile, steady eye contact and the erect posture of a small but confident man, he reminds me of the magnetic self-help guru that Tom Cruise portrayed in Magnolia. "Way to go, men!" Wilson says. "I applaud your courage to look your daughter in the eye and tell her how beautiful she is. If you haven’t done it yet, I’ll give you a chance to do it right now."
No, I am not making this up. I could not make this up if I tried. They are literally holding mock weddings of girls to their own dads in these "purity balls". This is stuff that I am very, very thankful was not in fashion so much when I was growing up in a dominionist household, because frankly this is chunder-inducing to me.
Most of the kids who attend these are, to put it mildly, sheltered to an extent that apparently even kissing is a form of sex, and--increasingly--marriages are de facto arranged:
Randy Wilson’s 19-year-old, Khrystian, is typical: She works at her church, spends most weekends at home with her family and has never danced with a male other than her father or brother. Emily Smith, an 18-year-old I meet, says that even kissing is out for her. "I made a promise to myself when I was younger," she says, "to save my first kiss for my wedding day." A tenet of the abstinence movement is that having lovers before marriage often leads to divorce. In the Wilsons’ community, young women hope to meet suitors at church, at college or through family connections.
. . .
When I point out to Christy Parcha’s father, Mike, that experience with relationships, bumps and all, can help young women mature emotionally and become ready for sex and marriage, he warily concedes that’s true. "But there can be damage, too," he says. "I guess we’d rather err on the side of avoiding these things. The girl can learn after marriage." Like other fathers I speak with, Parcha says that if his daughter were to fail in her quest to be pure, she would be met with "grace and forgiveness."
But, he continues, "I am not worried about that. She is not even going to come close to those situations. She believes, and I do too, that her husband will come through our family connections or through me before her heart even gets involved." Randy Wilson’s oldest daughter, Lauren, 22, met her fiance, Brett, a young man from the Air Force Academy, at church, and other fathers and daughters mention this to me as a hopeful sign that God will open similar doors for them. God has been throwing some curveballs lately, though; a week before the ball, Mike and Christy Parcha’s pastor, Ted Haggard, a man who has openly railed against gay marriage, made headlines nationwide when he admitted to receiving a massage from a man (one who claimed Haggard had paid him for sex), showing how at odds what is preached and what is practiced can be.
. . .
When Lauren Wilson hit adolescence, her father gave her a purity ring and a charm necklace with a tiny lock and key. Randy Wilson took the key, which he will hand over to her husband on their wedding day. The image of a locked area behind which a girl stores all of her messy desires until one day a man comes along with the key haunts me.
And no, sexual maturity isn't required to participate. Menstruation and the use of training bras isn't required to participate. Knowing how to read stuff more advanced than "Veggietales" picture books is not a requirement:
The majority of the girls here are, as purity ball guidelines suggest, "just old enough...[to] have begun menstruating...." But a couple dozen fathers have also brought girls under 10. "This evening is more about spending time with her than her purity at this point," says one seven-year-old’s dad, a trifle sheepishly. The event is seemingly innocent—not once do I hear "sex" or "virgin" cross anyone’s lips. Still, every one of the girls here, even the four-year-old, will sign that purity covenant.
Yes, you read this right. Seven-year-olds, even four-year-olds, are being taken to these things. Signing "purity contracts" at ages when they probably don't even know that "boys have a penis, girls have a vagina" (much less how the plumbing works).
Of course, it could be argued that even the older ones don't understand what they're giving away to dear old Dad. A USA Today article on the phenomenon of "purity balls" discusses how these disturbing events pretty much are the moral equivalent of the infamous Sea Org "billion-year contracts" in Scientology:
Yet there is something profoundly disturbing about these purity balls and all they represent. They reflect, and worse, they romanticize, several of the most pernicious aspects of patriarchal religion. From their inception, Wilson envisioned them as events where young girls "could walk into everything that their femininity is about, their beauty, their dress, their makeup." Daddy's little girl — and some of them are little indeed, ages 10 and up — gets to dress up and be treated like a "princess," often with reference to Psalm 45:13: "All glorious is the princess within."
But the pampering comes at the price of her sexual self-agency. Many of these girls are pledging away something they don't even understand they have. Those old enough to comprehend the pledge they are making to dear old Dad know they are literally placing their sexuality in his hands. Daddy's little girl is his baby, until he hands her off to her husband. Another of those "chastity chic" T-shirts, distributed by California-based Wait Wear, proclaims: "Notice: No Trespassing on this Property. My Father Is Watching."
Compared to these girls, the fictional subject of the movie "Carrie" might as well be a member of the National Organisation for Women. :P
Tomorrow, we focus on some of the "lighter" promoters of religiously motivated child abuse and the practical problems encountered by those trying to escape these situations.