In the past few days, I've been focusing on something I like to call "Dominionism's dirty secret"--the rampant promotion and encouragement of "Bible-based" child abuse. In some ways, dominionist culture really is a "culture of abuse", from "Bible boot camps" to regimented baby-raising, "chastening rods", and creepy "purity balls".
Today, we wrap up the focus by looking at the strange demon-haunted world of Bill Gothard (who also promotes abusive "Bible boot camps" and paramilitary training for "Joel's Army" kids), Lisa Welchel (yes, folks, Blair from "The Facts of Life" likes to use Tabasco as a discipline aid), James Dobson, and a web promoter of childrearing advice for the "Quiverfull" set.
As Bill Gothard and James Dobson are particularly influential--in fact, Dobson heads the largest dominionist group in the US--this has frightening implications for kids raised in these groups.
Demons? In your Cabbage Patch Kids? (According to Bill Gothard, it's more common than you think)
Bill Gothard has been all too familiar on these pages. From his promotion of the bizarre concepts that Cabbage Patch Kids are possessed by demons, to his Joel's Army paramilitary camp, to his Joel's Army gulag he formerly ran in Indianapolis--you could say ol' Bill has been quite the regular here.
Today's post is not going to be the exception here, either. As it turns out, Bill Gothard is also big on handing out advice to parents, especially in the "Quiverfull" movement--including to none other than the very poster-children of "Quiverfull", the Duggar clan--already up to seventeen little God Warrior sproglets.
For those unfamiliar with the whole Quiverfull thing, here's a mini-primer. In essence, "Quiverfull" promotes women doing without any form of birth control or regulation of the number of kids one has at all (not even by the rhythm method) and even promotes quite explicitly having as many future God Warriors as is possible.
The "Quiverfull" movement is very closely connected to the scarier parts of the Joel's Army movement--which teaches explicitly that the generations of kids growing up nowadays are a "Joshua Generation" meant to establish a dominionist reign of terror over the rest of us to "Secure God's blessing" before the Rapture occurs--and, after the Tribulation, to come back down from heaven and throw the lot of us into the Lake of Fire.
In other words, the view is not dissimilar to that stated by the King of England in the movie "Braveheart" to justify "first night" (the rape of women on their wedding night by the English): "If we can't burn them out, we'll breed them out."
Anyways, back to Gothard--and why I fear for the Duggar kids and anyone else who is using his writings to raise their kids.
Now, we've covered the "deliverance ministry" stuff and the Joel's Army paramilitary training and the gulag he ran. What I've not quite noted is that Gothard has a very, very extensive history of promotion of religious abuse and specifically religiously-motivated child abuse in general.
Gothard is known to have set up an extensive system of control that rivals the cultic systems in Scientology or the Moonies for levels of coercion; in addition, he claims that illnesses are caused by "generational curses" (in "deliverance ministry" circles, caused by something as simple as your mom having worn a peace sign in the 60's or your great-grandmother having had her fortune read at Coney Island--or your great-great-great-great-grandmother having been a Cherokee or being brought across the oceans from Africa in a slave ship and not having been Christian in the first place), has promoted involuntary exorcisms on the unwilling (which is not only incredibly abusive and capable of causing permanent psychiatric injury but is actually fatal to a known ten to fifteen people a year in the US), is known to use abusive "shepherding" tactics (of the sort that are now widely recognised as highly abusive), runs front groups to try to market dominionism in public schools as "character education" programs, will in general not discuss his tactics unless you have been recruited into his programs (a dead giveaway we are dealing with a frank cult here), and promotes "Quiverfull" stuff in his own way by claiming in essence that "God will provide" for women having extreme amounts of kids and that parents shouldn't have Caesarian sections (and again attributes infertility to having Cabbage Patch Kids in the house)...among other things.
In addition to all the other fun stuff I've mentioned, Gothard is also very explicitly dominionist (as if you hadn't yet guessed this), has encouraged others to set up incredibly abusive "Bible boot camps" not unlike his Indianapolis misadventure, and attempted to suppress publication of a guide critical of his tactics.
In other words, if you know someone involved in the whole "Quiverfull" thing--they've been very likely getting a whole earfull of Gothard stuff.
Gothard's teachings have in fact been described as those of a Bible-based cult--which I am inclined to agree with, having grown up in a coercive group where Gothard's writing was heavily promoted and having written on the subject of abusive dominionist groups throughout most of my diary entries on DailyKos. My experiences aren't unique--apparently Gothard's stuff is heavily promoted within the Assemblies of God in particular (which is the denomination I am a walkaway from); disturbingly, Gothard is also heavily promoted within the dominionist "home education" movement.
And knowing this, it is probably not going to come as too much of a shock to find that Bill Gothard is also one of the major promoters of religiously motivated child abuse.
One of the earliest documented reports of religiously motivated child abuse in neopente dominionist groups is in a "Working Together" article from February 1983. (Yes, you are reading that right--nearly 25 years ago.) Even at this early date, Gothard gets prominent press:
Not all child abusers are Christians, and not all Christians are child abusers. But a surprisingly high number of reported child abuse cases occur in Christian families. Moreover, the abuser often bases the justification for their behavior on Christianity. A father, when confronted by state child abuse prevention workers, resisted their assistance and said: "What do you mean I can't beat my child? I'm a Christian." This Christian father who had paddled his son with such force that he caused injury, had not been confronted by his church, had not repented, had not sought help to control his anger and violence. He had been taught that his responsibility as a parent involves the regular use of corporal punishment and used it to the extent that it was abusive. Herein lies the problem.
The Christian community must face these facts and determine why circumstances of severe child abuse are occurring in Christian contexts. We must challenge the teachings (that children need corporal punishment) which have been adhered to so long that they have come to be associated with orthodox Christian belief. This mistaken belief leads, in too many cases, to child abuse.
There are two sources of the theological justification for the use of corporal punishment. First, the belief held by some conservative Christians that children are evil, i.e., that because of Original Sin children are by their very nature evil beings. Thus, beatings are regarded as a way of chastising a child so as to bring him/her to righteousness. Related to this theological underpinning is the "spare the rod and spoil the child" theology frequently invoked by Christian child abusers. The most common understanding of this scripture is that all children need to be hit with a rod in order not to be spoiled. Both these theological assertions are distortions of the Biblical tradition.
The quasi-religious teaching which reinforces Christian child abuse is the hierarchy of power relationships in families. One of its most famous contemporary proponents is Bill Gothard, developer of the Basic Youth Conflict Seminars. Gothard teaches that women and children should submit to the authority of the father. Ironically, he offers as an image of appropriate parental roles the father as hammer and the mother as chisel. The child is to be shaped by parental tools. That this imbalance of power and perpetuation of male supremacy in the family is part of the problem is undeniable. An imbalance of power creates the conditions for abuse of power and authority which can lead to the abuse and exploitation of children.
Another site highly critical of Gothard notes that he may have been among the earliest promoters of religiously motivated child abuse, dating all the way back the the 60's:
In the late ’60s most seminars were small enough to fit into school gymnasiums, and the audience could ask questions. During one Q-and-A session, a mother of two from Gothard’s home church disagreed with his insistence that children always be spanked when they disobey. She argued that all children are different, should be treated as individuals, and presented examples from her own family. But the never-married, childless Gothard was sure the Bible taught otherwise. Fortunately for him, seminar attendance would soon become so large that Q-and-A sessions would be impossible.
The same site notes that Gothard has been an early promoter of isolating kids from a major source of mandatory reporters--teachers in public and private schools--and having kids taught within the dominionist home-education industry:
This must have been a very unpleasant experience for someone who has since proven himself to be a very driven, goal-oriented individual. Perhaps it also (at least partially) accounts for Bill Gothard’s antipathy for traditional formal education. While he himself has the benefit of a Masters degree, he now openly discourages families from sending their children to school, promoting his own home-schooling curriculum instead.
In a pattern that would be repeated by James Dobson (and most other books promoting religiously motivated child abuse), Gothard promoted his works as dominionist alternatives to the works of Dr. Benjamin Spock (who is pretty much seen as a godless "hippie" among dominionists):
To understand the tremendous popularity and growth Gothard’s seminar enjoyed in the late 1960s and early ’70s, you have to know something about the social turmoil of those years. Gothard titled his seminar, "Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts," and it would have been difficult to find a more marketable name for many parents who felt helpless to deal with strange new influences over their children. Conflict between youths and the over-30 generation dominated American society, and even caused problems in other countries.
By 1967 the United States looked as though it was about to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Baby Boom Generation. Fully 50% of all Americans were 21 or younger. By the end of 1968 the ability of this age-group and those who influenced them to turn the socio-political landscape upside-down and change the direction of governments had been dramatically demonstrated on the streets, in newspapers, and on TV screens.
In 1968 it seemed as though "Murphy’s Law" was operating in full force. Everything that could go wrong did, and at the worst possible moments. As the year began, "The Baby Book Doctor," Dr. Benjamin Spock was indicted with four others on January 5 for conspiring to encourage draft law violations. For older Americans Spock became a symbol of the problem of "permisiveness" in society. Perhaps the real problem, many speculated, was that millions of youngsters were simply spoiled by Spock’s methods, and current expressions of civil disobedience were merely mass post-adolescent temper tantrums.
. . .
For all too many people, long after the images of violence in Viet Nam faded away, the images of hippies and yippies brawling with police lingered in the minds of the older generation. After all, they would encounter these kids in America’s cities and suburbs on a daily basis, and had been warned that many of them were drug-crazed. Violent scenes from both inside and outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago did little to change anyone’s mind. People in the anti-war camp tried to use those events as evidence that the American government had become an out-of-control authoritarian regime, while those who were convinced that the war was right saw the protesters as an unruly band of trouble-makers who had no respect for authority.
Bill Gothard basically took the status quo’s propaganda and gave it pseudo-biblical underpinnings. Millions of American Christians seized upon it as a kind of "Anti-Hippie Insurance" and began sending their kids to the Basic Seminar in droves.
. . .
Gothard’s magic cure for all the problems that ailed the youth of the late ’60s and early ’70s could be summed up in one word: "Authority." Everything he taught flowed into or out of the central principle of submitting to authority.
Gothard made authority such a basic principle to all of life that even faith itself — considered by evangelical Christians to be the most basic life pricinple — was based on it. And Gothard wasn’t talking simply about submitting to God’s authority as the basis of faith. Rather, he was talking about submitting to human authority — i.e., "those in authority" that God has placed over us. Gothard told his audience that the secret for achieving "great faith," spiritual growth, protection from temptation and guidance in life, was complete, loyal submission to the following human authority figures: parents, government leaders, church leaders, and employers.
. . .
Gothard’s system is based on the assumption that human authority structures are a central moral and spiritual principle. His corrective measures for dealing with abusive authority is a system for "making a proper appeal" that discourages disobedience to corrupt authority with its complexity and burdensome introspective requirements.
(Interestingly, you see the whole obsession with "Authority" also in the neopente "cell church" movement and within dominion theology in general and its Joel's Army variant in particular. The whole obsession with authority, in fact, pretty much is at its core the central dogma of the Assemblies and its daughter churches, far more than the Bible.)
At least one expert has expressed grave concern that this could lead to coverups of child abuse and spousal abuse, among other grave concerns:
Gothard has been accused by fellow Christians of everything from misinterpreting the Bible to ignoring spousal abuse to being a borderline cult leader. According to materials Gothard has published, his more radical ideas come from his belief in a "chain of command," which holds that authority figures -- from preachers to politicians to middle managers -- are put in their elevated positions by God. Mess with your boss, you're messing with Christ. Women are taught to be submissive and obedient to their husbands. He teaches his followers that political leaders are ordained by God and therefore to be obeyed. Gothard doesn't focus on the Ten Commandments -- he teaches his seven "universal, nonoptional Principles of Life," and he extends those principles to what food to eat and what clothes to wear. Breaking any of Gothard's principles leads to the highway to Hell, quite literally. Another path to Satan is the drums. The "backbeat" common in rock music is evil, according to his teachings, as are chords played in the minor key, which is a subversion of God's harmony.
Follow the rules, go to Heaven. Break them, and Satan will get a foothold on your soul.
Gothard disdains "knowledge," which he says only "puffs up a man," in favor of the more abstract "wisdom." "The reasoning of man will bring destruction," he tells people during seminars. To guard his followers from the evils of public schools, Gothard sells his own brand of Bible-based home-schooling. He also has his own unaccredited law school and college where his unique brand of Christianity is taught.
. . .
When asked about Bill Gothard, both Stafford and Forman are stumped. Neither did his homework on the curriculum -- they've never heard of Gothard and weren't aware that the man behind Character First! is an evangelical minister. When told about Gothard's emphasis on the "chain of command," Stafford immediately recognizes the danger in such teachings. "I can see how that could lead to a continuation of child abuse," he says.
. . .
According to IBLP pamphlets, Gothard, who has a habit of unconditionally labeling things either right or wrong, began ministering in high school in reaction to his classmates' "wrong decisions." He spent years ministering to youth gangs before developing the seminar in 1964. Gothard has never been married and has lived most of his life with his parents. His institute was rocked by scandal back in 1980 when it was discovered that his brother, who helped create IBLP, was having sex with a half-dozen of Gothard's female employees, according to news accounts. Both Gothard and his brother resigned, but Gothard soon came back to his ministry, and it has since grown enormously.
Gothard's seminar is focused on his seven principles: design, authority, responsibility, suffering, ownership, freedom, and success. Violating the rules will lead, he says, to a "life of continuous failure." But if the rules are followed, wealth will likely follow (he teaches "20 Aspects of Financial Freedom"), and bad habits will be broken.
Several times throughout the seminar he mentions "wrong clothes," and says that when a teenager is wearing them it means he or she has deep spiritual problems. Same with rock music. Teens are told not to date but instead to "court," a process by which "two fathers agree to work with a qualified young man to win the daughter for marriage."
Gothard teaches in his seminars that obedience brings godliness. Authority figures -- the father, the politician, the minister, and the boss -- are to be obeyed as if Christ were giving the orders. Gothard's ideas of family life are rigid, as wives are taught to be submissive and men are encouraged to be the absolute head of the household. Quotes from the Bible are used as backup to his assertions. The biblical justification for always being subservient to the boss comes from 1 Peter 2:18: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear."
Authority figures, according to Gothard, are on a higher spiritual plain than ordinary folk, and obeying them will help one get closer to God. He tells his followers that they are to obey everything, except orders to do "evil." If your boss is dead wrong, Gothard says it's OK to make a "Godly appeal" to him, but if the appeal is refused, the worker must live with it.
"Suppose Jesus Christ Himself was the manager of that store," Gothard asks a teen in one of the stories he tells. "Would that make a difference in the quality of your work?"
"It sure would!" answers the teenager.
"Do you realize that God expects you to consider that you are actually working for Jesus Christ on your job?"
As far as "wrathful" parents, Gothard teaches that they serve to develop character in children: "God even works through the wrath of parents to reveal character deficiencies in the son or daughter to develop additional character strengths or to reflect healing."
A number of ministers and theologians have found defects in Gothard's teachings. Christian scholar and psychologist James Alsdurf wrote a book in the late '80s about domestic violence among churchgoers and came to a conclusion: Bill Gothard's teachings can lead to a continuation of domestic violence.
Gothard is "a good example of how a segment of the church deals with this issue," Alsdurf told the Washington Post. "What he does is totally dismiss it as an issue by saying there are no victims."
. . .
Baptist pastor G. Richard Fisher wrote in a published article called "The Cultic Leanings of Bill Gothard's Teachings" that Gothard has a habit of "legislating, directing, and regulating just about every phase of life." Some of Gothard's rules that Fisher, a former enthusiastic follower of Gothard, and others have noted:
*Married couples are never to divorce for any reason, including adultery.
*Adult children are told not to leave home or get married without parental consent.
*Married couples must abstain from sex during the following times: during the wife's menstrual cycle; seven days after the cycle; 40 days after the birth of a son; 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and the evening prior to worship. Gothard claims that periodic abstinence will help produce healthier children, can cure infections, and decrease "the danger of genetic abnormalities."
*Listening to rock music, even Christian rock, is forbidden.
*Borrowing money or buying on credit is forbidden.
*Married women aren't to work outside the home.
Gothard even has rules on selecting makeup, preparing shopping lists, planning meals, picking dental plans, and choosing hairstyles, clothes, and vacation spots. Followers have said in published reports that he bans televisions in homes that buy his home-schooling program and that his ministry denounces almost every book but the Bible.
Adopted children, Gothard teaches, carry the sins of their biological parents with them. According to Fisher, Gothard wrote a letter to his followers in 1986 warning them of the evils of Cabbage Patch Dolls, which were very popular then. The dolls, which are "adopted" by their buyers in a written contract, caused strange, destructive behavior, according to the letter.
"It gets very, very weird," Fisher says. "And these people who follow him are frightened to death that they might break one of his rules."
In fact, it is hard to overstate the level of coercion in Gothard's programs:
For those who want to opt out as far as possible from participation in the world around them Gothard has constructed his own cradle-to-grave (or womb-to-tomb) spiritual environment — an alternate reality with its own jargon, customs and institutions. In his culturally monastic Christian utopian vision, large homeschooling families abstain from television, midwives are more important than doctors, traditional dating is forbidden, unmarried adults are "under the authority of their parents" and live with them, divorced people can’t remarry under any circumstance, and music has hardly changed at all since the late 19th century.
Among other things, Gothard's empire now extends to a bogus medical academy which is in fact a fraternal organisation of doctors who push his bogosity, he pushes the dominionist "parallel economy" even moreso than most (even "Christian Contemporary" music is seen as Satanic), and (in a move that is designed to even further isolate kids with the misfortune to be born into a "Gothard household") even promotes the use of home births as a method of avoiding the medical system altogether:
Bill Gothard also pushes the evils of hospital births. One should give birth at home with a midwife. Gothard wants to train future doctors by watching other doctors, not by going to medical school which is wrong.
And now you know why I mortally fear for kids like the Duggars.
"The Facts Of Life" never covered Tabasco abuse (though don't put it past Lisa Welchel)
Lisa Welchel is probably best known (in the non-dominionist world, anyways) for her role as Blair Warner in the television show "The Facts Of Life".
In the dominionist parenting community, though, she's also known for her book "Creative Correction".
That book--also featured on Stop The Rod--could be better described as "101 Ways To Torment The Living Hell Out Of Your Kids".
Whilst some of the suggestions aren't as extreme as those promoted by the likes of the Tripps or Pearls or Gothard (or even James Dobson), she does incorporate some pretty bizarre things in her books:
a)"Dear God, Thank you that my parents love me and that because they love me, they correct me when I sin. Thank you that the spankings drive out the foolishness in my heart." (p. 265, from a sample prayer for kids)
b) "Having a struggle at bedtime? Try this: Next time you’re dealing with the usual bathroom trips, cups of water, giggling, and talking, call off bedtime. Declare, ‘Nobody has to go to bed tonight!’ Inform them that they may stay up as long as they like—the operative words being stay up. Then have each child stand still in the middle of a separate room of the house." (pp. 143-144. Of note, sleep deprivation and forced standing in one position are two common torture tactics that are outlawed in most civilised countries--and which are noted to have been used at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.)
c) "As we walk along together shopping, I will suddenly give them silly commands that they must obey without arguing, such as ‘Walk backward,’ or ‘Stop and touch your toes,’ or ‘Give me a kiss.’ Occasionally I’ll throw in a real command, like ‘Don’t touch that,’ or ‘No, you may not have an Icee.’ My favorite curve, however, is to say no to some reasonable request, like ‘May I go to the bathroom?’" (p. 138. Not allowing kids to use the bathroom when needed is abusive.)
d) "Two summers ago I drove with the kids, my mother, and my grandmother in a camper from California to Texas. My grandmother, ‘Nanny,’ asked me not to spank the children while on the trip because it upset her." (p. 157. This is rather telling; corporal punishment tended to be rather accepted by the "Greatest Generation" and earlier as a rite of passage, so it must have been a real "whuppin'" to upset 'Nanny'.)
Welchel is probably best known for her promotion of "hot saucing"--placing hot sauce on the tongue of a young child (often as young as two years old) for cursing, "sassing", lying, or "backtalking". In essence, it's a modern version of the practice of making kids eat hot peppers for these things (which has been promoted in the southeast US for some time) but with far stronger pepper extracts and targeted at far younger kids.
Hot-saucing is itself considered abusive by many CPS agencies, both Tabasco and Texas Pete have issued formal statements condemning the use of their products as "chastening aids" (with McIlhenny, the makers of Tabasco, describing it as "strange and scary"), and most child experts outside the dominionist community also find it cruel and potentially dangerous due to both swelling from the "heat" and the risk of a possible allergic reaction.
The Washington Post has more:
Hot sauce adds a kick to salsa, barbeque, falafel and hundreds of other foods. But some parents use it in a different recipe, one they think will yield better-behaved children: They put a drop of the fiery liquid on a child's tongue as punishment for lying, biting, hitting or other offenses.
"Hot saucing," or "hot tongue," has roots in Southern culture, according to some advocates of the controversial disciplinary method, but it has spread throughout the country. Nobody keeps track of how many parents do it, but most experts contacted for this story, including pediatricians, psychologists and child welfare professionals, were familiar with it.
The use of hot sauce has been advocated in a popular book, in a magazine for Christian women and on Internet sites. Web-based discussions on parenting carry intense, often emotional exchanges on the topic.
But parents aren't the only ones asking "to sauce or not to sauce?" Several state governments have gotten involved in the debate. In Michigan in 2002, a child care center was sanctioned for using hot sauce to discipline a child. The mother of the 18-month-old boy reportedly gave the child care workers permission to use the sauce to help dissuade her son from biting other children.
Virginia's child protective services agency lists hot saucing among disciplinary tactics it calls "bizarre behaviors." The list includes such methods as forcing a child to kneel on sharp gravel, and locking him in a closet.
. . .
Lisa Whelchel, actress and author of "Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline" (Focus On the Family/Tyndale House), defends the practice.
"A correction has to hurt a little," she said. "An effective deterrent has to touch the child in some way. I don't think Tabasco is such a bad thing." Her book suggests a "tiny" bit of hot sauce be used, and offers alternatives such as lemon juice and vinegar.
Discipline involves "drawing a line to protect the child," Whelchel said, "and if they cross that line, there will be pain." Whelchel said she believes that disciplinary methods should be left up to parents -- who know their child best, are devoted to the child's well-being and can administer punishment with love.
But Betty Jo Zarris, manager of Virginia's child protective services program, said: "We have to have some community standards for what's appropriate to do to children. Common sense would tell you [hot sauce] is not appropriate for a child. The common man on the street would know this is offensive."
. . .
Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist in Boston, fielded occasional questions about hot sauce when he was resident therapist for the Web site Family Education Network. "Tabasco is the most mainstream iconic punishment in our culture," he said.
Like many people, Kendrick uses the brand name "Tabasco" as a shorthand. Tabasco is the proprietary name of a single brand of sauce, made by the McIlhenny Co. of Avery Island, La. The owners of the company condemn the use of their products for child discipline. In an interview, company president Paul McIlhenny called the practice "strange and scary" and "abusive."
Kendrick says parents who use the technique are "at the very least . . . ill-informed." He pointed out that many parents are not aware that hot sauce can burn a child's esophagus and cause the tongue to swell -- a potential choking hazard.
"There are many different kinds of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it won't sting, or say they only use one drop, are wrong," Kendrick said. "It's done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous."
Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, inflames membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth. While many adults find this feeling pleasurable, capsaicin can cause negative reactions even in the third of the adult population that has no tolerance for ingesting it, according to Joel Gregory, publisher of Chile Pepper magazine.
There are additional risks for children. Giorgio Kulp, a pediatrician in Montgomery County, said that the risk of swelling as well as the possibility of unknown allergies make the use of hot sauce on children dangerous.
And rest assured, parents have been charged with abuse even for following the relatively mild (well, mild in comparison to some authors) suggestions by Welchel, as demonstrated in Tacoma, Washington in 2005:
Police found the children, a 9-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, tied to a water heater in their family's garage after a neighbor reported hearing "muffled screams."
Court documents obtained by KIRO 7 Eyewitness News described other allegations of mistreatment by the children's father and stepmother, Brad and Rachel Lambert.
Bonney Lake police said Rachel Lambert claimed the children's behavior had gotten progressively worse over the past month and that she disciplined the children by feeding them jalapeño peppers, the documents indicated.
The 10-year-old boy said "he had a hot pepper placed in his mouth and then had his mouth taped shut," the documents indicated. He told police "he swallowed the pepper so it would not be in his mouth anymore."
And sadly, they are far from alone
I wish I could say it was just these authors promoting this type of abuse.
I really wish I could say it was just these authors promoting this type of abuse.
Unfortunately, I'd be lying.
An example of the kind of childrearing abuse rife in the dominionist community--and not published in specific books--is Raising Godly Tomatoes, a website aimed for the "Quiverfull" set. (It is explicitly promoted on the Livejournal "Trainupachild" community, among other places.)
The advice on this page is a hodgepodge of not only advice from the Pearls and Gothard, but also some pretty horrifying homegrown advice as well. Among other things, the page uses the charming example of the rape, pillage, murder and enslavement of Israel's people as an example of how discipline should be done in the home:
(after a long segment of scripture-twisting of passages relating to the punishment of Israel for turning away from Judaism)
COMMENT: When the Lord punished a nation, it was severe, disobedience was not taken lightly. When a nation was defeated, they were murdered, raped, pillaged, and enslaved.
(after scripture-twisting involving the sons of Eli, who were specifically being punished by God for attempting to take a temple offering to eat it before the fat had been burnt off of it in specific violation of religious law (temple offerings were traditionally consumed by the priests after having been offered in fire and the fat melted off as God's portion)):
Eli warned his sons of their shameful ways, but he did not rebuke them with the severity their deeds merited. Instead, Eli mildly reasoned with his sons, saying, "Why do you do such things?" But the sons no longer heeded their father, and he didn’t restrain them. Consequently, his entire family was judged, including his descendants, forever.
Much like the other sites, it promotes whacking kids for tantrums as well as "retaliation whackings" for kids who complain about "chastenings"; punishing kids for being in bad moods (this is disturbingly common); promoting literal thought reform techniques directed at kids to "change emotions" about situations; promotes outright religious coercion of kids that is more likely to make her kids walk away as adults; and finally also promotes hiding kids from potential reporters before whacking them.
The page also promotes a concept known as "tomato staking"--in essence, not allowing a child "not to be trusted" to have any privacy whatsoever and requiring them to be within a three-foot radius of the parent. Among other things, the site does not specify an upper age limit for this; among other things, the page describes the "tomato staking" of a ten-year-old child, and also promotes tactics used in "discipling and shepherding" cell-groups for raising kids. (Yes, we're talking the same tactics now known to change basic personality types in grownups--and may well permanently warp little kids exposed to this.)
And last but not least...James "Dogfighter" Dobson
I am not going to write too extensively here, partly because I've done a post dedicated to James Dobson's promotion of religiously motivated child abuse before (and thus I risk repeating myself)--the scary thing is, he's actually a relative lightweight compared to some of the stuff promoted in dominionist childrearing circles.
This is, of course, not to say he's all that warm and friendly either.
This is a man who (in the intro to his most famous childrearing guide, The New Strong-Willed Child) literally used animal abuse as an example of how children's wills should be broken (featuring him literally beating the hell out of poor Siggie, the family Dachshund, in a manner that should make anyone who's so much as watched "Animal Cops" on Animal Planet recoil in horror) and also reminisced fondly on how his mother used to flog him with a girdle on a fairly regular basis. (If anything, Dobson is a veritable walking study in multigenerational child abuse--only in his case, he's transmitting it through a publishing empire that pulls in close to $140 million a year.)
Much of the advice is rather similar to the advice given in the other books--the claims that infants and children are "manipulative", the advice to start whacking kids well into the early toddler stages with "chastening rods", the deliberate humiliation of kids and making them think they have wronged God as well as Mom when they misbehave, and so on.
For example, after describing the incident that I refer to as the "Scourging of Siggie", Dobson quips:
"But this is not a book about the discipline of dogs; there is an important moral to my story that is highly relevant to the world of children. JUST AS SURELY AS A DOG WILL OCCASIONALLY CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF HIS LEADERS, SO WILL A LITTLE CHILD -- ONLY MORE SO."
"[I]t is possible to create a fussy, demanding baby by rushing to pick him up every time he utters a whimper or sigh. Infants are fully capable of learning to manipulate their parents through a process called reinforcement, whereby any behavior that produces a pleasant result will tend to recur. Thus, a healthy baby can keep his mother hopping around his nursery twelve hours a day (or night) by simply forcing air past his sandpaper larynx."
And yes, this pretty much is a summary of the tone of Dobson's works. One expects to see this sort of thing in "hardcore childfree" columns; one does not expect to see it in the writings of someone described as "Dr. Spock for the dominionist set", a guy who has a syndicated newspaper column in many papers across the US promoting this stuff.
One of Dobson's favourite tactics is something that is very common in the dominionist community--namely, making the kid get their own "chastening rod" to be beat with:
My mother always used a small switch, which could not do any permanent damage. But it stung enough to send a very clear message. One day when I had pushed her to the limit, she actually sent me to the backyard to cut my own instrument of punishment. I brought back a tiny little twig about seven inches long. She could not have generated anything more than a tickle with it. Mom never sent me on that fool's errand again.
(I myself attempted to get out of one of these "beatings" by bringing in a log--figuring in my four-year-old wisdom that if my mother couldn't lift it with one hand she couldn't beat me with it. I got two beatings for that one--one for the original misbehaviour (the usual sibling rivalry), and the second for bringing in a log in an attempt to avoid a "switching" until I cried. And yes, Dobson does rather explicitly promote whacking kids to the point of tears on page 36 of "The New Dare To Discipline".)
Dobson also believes in retaliatory spankings for kids crying after a spanking beyond a certain time limit:
Q: How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished or spanked? Is there a limit?
A: Yes, I believe there should be a limit. As long as the tears represent a genuine release of emotion, they should be permitted to fall. But crying can quickly change from inner sobbing to an expression of protest aimed at punishing the enemy. Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining, and the change can be recognized in the tone and intensity of his voice. I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.
(p. 135, The New Strong-Willed Child)
One of his other books (The New Dare To Discipline) is not any better:
a) Three-year-olds who aren't tired are seen as "brazenly defying" their parents.
b) Dobson literally attributes the decline and fall of Western civilisation to the failure to whack kids. An example:
From Genesis to Revelation, there is consistent foundation on which to build an effective philosophy of parent-child relationships. It is my belief that we have departed from the standard which was clearly outlined in both the Old and New Testaments, and that deviation is costing us a heavy toll in the form of social turmoil. Self-control, human kindness, respect, and peacefulness can again be manifest in America if we will dare to discipline in our homes and schools.
(p. 250, The New Dare To Discpiline)
c) On page 28, he recommends forcefully shaking a child for spitting. (Hello? Shaken Child Syndrome, anyone?)
d) Page 36 describes giving "Vulcan death grips" as a method of chastening (squeezing the trapezius muscle of the neck can incapacitate ADULTS much less kids--it is extremely painful)
e) Page 65 recommends to start beating kids at 15-18 months of age (yes, admittedly, not as extreme as the Pearls or Tripps, but not good either). This includes whacking for incidents of toddler "defiance" which are generally recognised by child development experts as the first signs of children establishing their own autonomy and identity as individuals (yes, it's actually a good thing when your toddler says "No!"--it means she's developing as a person).
f) Incredulously, Dobson claims that bedwetting can be an "act of defiance" and recommends whacking kids for wetting the bed "if an act of defiance". (Last I checked, most every legit pediatrician agreed that bedwetting was the result of physiological issues--the kid's nervous system and bladder aren't mature enough to maintain nighttime continence. Late bedwetting tends to be the result of physiological problems like nerve issues, small bladders, or antidiuretic hormone deficiency. All are able to be treated or mitigated and are not the fault of the kid.)
g) In a manner almost identical to that of the Pearls, Dobson promotes the dominionist myth of "Tyrant babies":
A child's resistant behavior always contains a message to his parents, which they must decode before responding. That message is often phrased in the form of a question: `Are you in charge or am I?' A distinct reply is appropriate to discourage future attempts to overthrow constituted government in the home.
(p. 29, The New Dare to Discipline)
h) Dobson advocates tough-love from the time Junior exits the womb:
If discipline begins on the second day of life, you're one day too late.
(p. 28, ibid.)
i) Like every other promoter of religiously motivated child abuse, Dobson promotes his abusive tactics as a religious mandate:
My primary purpose...has been to record for posterity my understanding of the Judeo-Christian concept of parenting that has guided millions of mothers and fathers for centuries.
(p. 18, ibid.)
j) Disturbingly, he uses his own history of rather extreme child abuse as an example (in the same manner that he used the Scourging of Siggie in The New Strong-Willed Child). He begins a rather wistful recollection of his own beatings by his own mother:
I learned very early that if I was going to launch a flippant attack on her, I had better be standing at least twelve feet away. This distance was necessary to avoid an instantaneous response--usually aimed at my backside.
(p. 23, The New Dare to Discpipline)
On pages 23-24 Dobson recounts being flogged on a regular basis with a girdle "with a multitude of straps and buckles" by his own mother; at the end, he states "Believe it or not, it made me feel loved."
Tomorrow (unfortunately, there's no room for it in today's discussion) we go into just why the religiously motivated child abuse industry has not been shut down.