Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who will protect the kids from them?

Fundamentalist Christians like to pretend that marriage equality will lead to child abuse. They want to protect the children. But who will protect the children from them?

I attended a fundamentalist seminary for two years and a Christian high school for two years before that. I know what these people believe and how they act. Typically they teach that children should be beaten to discipline them and that the Bible commands this.

Consider this story out of Oroville, California as an example. According to the Chico Enterprise Record, "a fundamentalist religious philosophy that espouses corporal punishment to 'train' children to be more obedient to their parents and God is now being investigated in connection with the death of a young Paradise girl and serious injuries to her sister."

The born-again parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are being held on chargers of murder and torture. Reports indicate the parents used a rubber hose or tube to beat their kids. They had three adopted children and six of their own. Their own children have told investigators that the religious beliefs were behind the beatings. But remember, we must never question deeply-held religious beliefs!

The newspaper reports:
Prosecutors allege the two victims were subjected to "hours" of corporal punishment by their parents on successive days last Thursday and Friday with a quarter-inch-wide length of rubber or plastic tubing, which police reportedly recovered from the parents' bedroom. Police allege that the younger girl was being disciplined for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson the day before she died. The two young girls reportedly sustained deep bruising and multiple "whip-like" marks on their back, buttocks and legs, which authorities believe resulted in significant muscle tissue breakdown that impaired their kidneys and possibly other vital organs, said Ramsey.

Of course, the same parents, being fundamentalists would argue that gays shouldn't be allowed to adopt like they did because those nasty homosexuals might abuse the kids. Investigators say that a Christian website recommends the use of the rubber hose "as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement... to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents."

The attorney for these parents says they are shocked and "are grieving the loss of their daughter and (ask) that people of faith pray for everybody involved." To refer to this as the "loss" of their daughter is a misnomer. A car accident would be a loss, a deadly disease would be a loss, beating a child until their organs shut down is murder.

The seminary I had the misfortune of attending taught that beating children was demanded by God. The pastor who ran the sect produced books on Biblical child rearing advocating such methods. Let us consider the case of a preacher and his wife, who had taught at the same seminary. Rev. Joseph Combs, and his obedient wife Evangeline, had adopted (unofficially) a girl named Esther. Esther was also home schooled and was kept isolated from everyone but the church, making her abuse harder to detect. The Baptist Children's Home, where she had been placed by her mother, gave the girl to Combs without any formal proceedings. The girl had no birth certificate, school records, or documentation that she existed. No actual legal adoption took place either.

She was tortured by these people for 19 years, in the name of Christ of course. Esther was admitted to a hospital and told the authorities there that the Pastor Combs and his wife tortured, abused and raped her. A medical report said the girl had "numerous scars involving scalp, face, neck, trunk, and extremities.. some of which show an appearance suggestive of burns... the girl suffered from several broken bones—hands, leg and arm—some of which did not heal properly." Doctors said they found "layered scar tissue over much of the girl's body."

Esther was hospitalized because she tried to kill herself and it was during that hospitalization that doctors saw the results of two decades of child abuse. They said Esther was emaciated and had more scars than anyone they had ever seen. Pastor Combs said the girl "fell" a lot.

Esther, who later changed her name and moved out of state, said she "was beaten, cut, burned and chocked" as a form of discipline. Mrs. Combs once took pliers and pinched the girl's arm and twisted the skin until she ripped off a patch of skin, calling this the "mark of the beast." When Esther forgot to throw out a can lid she was disciplined by having the lid used to cut her. She was beaten with a metal baseball bat and burned with a woodworking tool. Doctors counted 410 scars on the girl's body.

She had tried to escape the torture on several occasions and ran away from home. She ended up in a children's home only to have the Baptist parents retrieve her and beat her with a rubber hose. She says she drank anti-freeze in order to die and escape the torture. Church members testified that the Pastor had told them that God had revealed the girl was brought into their life to serve them as a full time servant. The two were convicted, Joe Combs was sentenced to 114 years in prison, his wife to 65.

Amazingly, after the suicide attempt, Esther was returned to the care of the couple while police investigated. Because the pastor and his wife feared the investigation they had Esther moved out of state to hide her away. She was first sent to South Carolina and then Georgia, I would suspect this was done with the cooperation of other fundamentalist pastors.

I am racking my memory, with no luck so far, to remember some details but there was a situation that happened when I was attending the school. A Baptist evangelist from Texas ran a " home" for children where beatings were typically used, as the church taught should be the case, to teach children obedience. The home was exposed for abusing these children and the authorities began an investigation. Baptist churches and pastors throughout the country rallied behind the evangelist claiming that investigating child abuse violated their religious freedom and their rights. The Bible says, "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Elsewhere it says, " The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil" and "He that spareth the rod hateth his son."

James Alexander, a former fundamentalist pastor, explains that Christian fundamentalism is directly tied to abusive action toward children. He says he when he married and had children, he and his wife "followed the teachings of the fundamentalist Christian 'gurus' and were quite strict with our children. I saw much of the same in our church associations—all young adults with kids, all towing the line in regards to child discipline. I have no doubt that what I saw and was rapidly accepting bordered on abuse—which was one of the reasons I repudiated fundamentalism when my sons were quite small." Alexander goes further. He contends "fundamentalism naturally places children at danger and naturally tends to abusiveness." This corresponds with what I saw within fundamentalist circles, especially among the Baptists.

Lynn Harris reported on a fundamentalist book on child rearing, written by a fundamentalist minister and his wife, To Train Up a Child. According to Harris, the book recommended using corporal punishment on infants only months old. It says if an infant tries to touch forbidden objects to use a switch and slap their hands. "They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence."

In Raleigh, North Carolina four-year-old Sean Paddock, adopted by his fundamentalist mother, died when he was suffocated. Police found signs of abuse on two of the children; the result of beatings with the type of "rod" that these church leaders recommended,: a piece of quarter-inch hosing.

The Christian website, No Greater Joy, has a piece by this minister, Michael Pearl, which tells parents:
You must also condition their bodies to obedience by seizing many opportunities throughout the day to walk them through acts of obedience. As the military drills their soldiers, you must drill your children. We have discussed this many times, and since our subject is the rod, we will not go into the training aspect here, but we want you to see training and discipline in perspective.
These Christians say: "The ultimate child motivator is the rod." They say that the smallest infraction should result in a beating with the rod:
On the other hand, if you seize the smallest disturbances as opportunities to train, you will use the rod more frequently but with no stress or significant pain for either you or the child. For example, one mother is out in the yard having war with her four-year-old, trying to make him sit in the car seat. She has taken him in the house and spanked him until his legs are striped, but he still resists. She is mad. He is angry. They are fighting. Her neighbor sees it and calls the authorities. She was practicing “corporal punishment.
Rev. Pearl says:
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.
The one restraint Pastor Pearl advises:
Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble.
Who will protect the children from these people?

I should also note that this indoctrination of "obedience" is a recipe for authoritarianism. If a free society requires us to question authority, what happens if entire generations are taught to never question authority but to obey instead. The wide ramifications of this world-view are frightening.

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