Friday 20 July 2007

Suffer little children

"Suffer the little children to come unto me," said the Stranger from Galilee - or the King James version thereof - and suffer they did. Church kids had a hard row to hoe with pressure on parents to keep their children in submission. Corporal punishment in the form of a solid whack was hardly unknown, and for some spanking was an art form. Garner Ted Armstrong's booklet "The Plain Truth About Child Rearing" set the tone, and the tone wasn't pretty.

Starting this weekend you'll find the first in a guest series on child discipline and the Bible by Samuel Martin on this blog. Samuel is the son of the late Ernest Martin, a major figure in WCG history who left in the mid-70s. He continued to exert a huge influence through his Foundation for Biblical Research and a variety of publications. Somewhere I still have a copy of his booklet that soundly debunks tithing.

Samuel Martin is author of Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy. It would be interesting to get feedback and anecdotes from people who grew up in the church as the series progresses.


Anonymous said...

It wasn't pretty. I know it was worse for others since I'm here typing and they committed suicide. But it's still a difficult subject for me to consider. I grew up in the church, with no shortage of Armstrong-inspired beatings. I've considered it a lot, but it still hurts. I don't think it shouldn't.

Don't worry about me , it's just a past thing that's a bit tough when the subject comes up. The subject is definitely worth bringing up, imo. I think I've been over it more in my mind covering more territory than anyone who would offer guilt-based condolences would have even considered.

It's a new day, and not that one anymore, thankfully.

DennisDiehl said...

This will be Pandora's Box. A topic where the wounded soul's of WCG, and many fundamentalist religions, have to work through.

The previous comment is very true. There is only now and feeding the past is not helpful unless done with a proper counselor in a proper setting. I don't think this posting will be helpful and may be harmful if it breaks out into "and then there was the time.." stories.

Feeding the "pain body" as Eckhart Tolle notes, (The Power of Now) does not bring the mind into anything but chaos and disconnect with the real life one is now living.

I know they are endless. The Bob Jones followers in this community are experts at spanking and OT childrearing and expectations. I meet lots of the grown, left those folks as soon as I was able, types.

On higher ground and in the present. I personally do not find any encouragin childrearing in the Bible. There are hints of nice family life in it, but it is violent towards children and totally Middle Eastern in it's mentality about children, women and small animals. They are property and their job is to conform, obey and follow the tribal way...or else.

GTA's book was ridiculous at it's inception. Would to God we had had a church culture that recognized opinions rather than mining the Bible for these principles.

Here is a brief overview of the Bible attitude toward Children I wrote if you wish. You'll have to cut and paste unless someone puts it in the title form.!&id=232895

DennisDiehl said...

PS and then I'll be quiet...promise.

I have read review of Samuel Martins perspectives and good for him. My view would be that I would no longer even try to make the Bible a book on childrearing or care to show that "the Bible never meant this and it always meant that..." The Bible is not the secret code book to topics if you can get the combo, language and inspiration right.

My experience is that those who use their own good judgement, common sense and intuition without the tribal or Biblical expectations as baggage on the topic, you'll do ok with most kids and at least get them to where they can make their own sane choices even if they are not the choices of the parent.

It is a mature human parent that can love a child without expectations of following in the family ways and religion as if it was a sin not to and give them a broad overview of how life on the planet works. I think that's all one can do in hindsite.

I have had four former teens and now middle age adults call me in the past two years to chat and ultimately tell me they were gay and what did I think?

I asked them why they felt a need to call and tell me? Each one say, because I knew you'd understand and not judge me. They also want to know if I ever thought they would be gay and the answer was always, "of course, I'm not stupid." In every case, they felt safe to be themselves and had been rejected by the tribe of course.

It was a nice moment. Not near as funny as a few months ago when a guy called who was 13 when I last knew him and he said "Is this the Mr. Diehl that said in a sermon that Jonah had one of two choices to make and he had three days to make it in. He could either obey God and become whale vomit, or disobey and become whale poop." He said he never forgot the sermon because I said "poop" in church.

Sadly and of course,,,,I did remember saying that..:) Nuff said.

Lussenheide said...

When I first started reading Church literature, I was a young teenager who was living in the slums of East Los Angeles, and who had seen every form of dysfunctionality in my own and my peers homelifes.

I agreed with nearly everything that I received in the mail from the WCG except for the GTA childrearing book.

I knew that this book was really whacked out. Smack babies because they want attention? Freakish!

When I attended my first FOT in Tucson as the only ever member of my family as an 18 year old, I was in utter SHOCK going to the bathrooms as they were close to being "torture chambers". Dads beating the shit out of their kids, and the kids howling out in agony and crying. Other Dads would encourage each other with statements like "Thats the way Jim, give him another, that will get rid of his attitude".

I was in utter shock. In school, I had tough sports coaches, and was no stranger to corporal punishment from them or from the Vice Principal at times, but this FOT experience was outrageous and cruel,unlike anything I had ever seen,...downright close to being called "beatings".

These were not unique or isolated experiences. It was a daily ritual, employed by many differing folks.

I kid you not, but a couple of years later, they announced at the FOT over the loud speakers (words to the effect of)to "Not beat the KRAP out of your kids in the bathroom" as "outsiders might not understand".

Yep, thats right, outsiders might not understand, and frankly, me, an insider, didnt quite understand either.

You have got to wonder on what Ted's upbringing had to be like. His old man abusing his daugher, a control freak , and probably beating the hell out of his sons. HWA had to be the modeling template for GTA for the writing of this book. In some ways, old GTA did not have a chance in coming out anywhere close to having a normal psychology if you give it some thought.

Im sure that the book was also a WCG "knee jerk reaction" to Dr. Benjamin Spocks liberal book about child rearing from the same era.


Unknown said...

As a child that grew up in WCG of a minister, I can only say that I am thankful my parents never treated us the way many people describe here. I can remember being spanked only once in my entire life. I do know that many people were treated much worse than us, but I know that not every parent beat their children to within an inch of their lives.

As a parent now it's very interesting that the same debates are still going on within the Christian community and within the XCG. I'm a subscriber mostly to the Sears pediatrician's method of Attachment parenting. However I have been through the Ezzo videos at services (this series has been popular in several UCG congregations). If you want to see some interesting reading on what is currently happening go to and

The philosophy that your children must behave perfectly at once and all the time is still out there. And it is not in just the XCG groups. I wish people in general could mature on this topic and not just follow "tribal" rules all the time. I find that I am weary of making sure everything looks perfect - whether it be at church or at work. I'm much more interested in how we treat each other.

Jim Butler said...

I don't expect anyone to do this, but it would be interesting to actually have specific quotes from the book, or for that matter, from The Book (that's the Bible) that clearly shows the criticism already brought up, and that which will follow, is warranted.

I haven't read the child rearing booklet in years. Don't remember what it says. I have seen and heard about the criticism for years.

Just for the record, our two kids are still in the Church of God, and we did raise them to think for themselves.

I think we all know, what some minister says about what the Bible means or how certain parents interpret what the Bible or a minister says, and what is actually meant, are often two very different things.

That's like judging true Christianity, or God, by how Christians behave.

Certainly we all know that's not too bright.


Lussenheide said...

Quote from the GTA "Missing Dimension in Child Rearing" tabled for discussion: (Keep in mind that the following is reccomended for A BABY!)...

"Place the baby back in his crib. Retire from the room. After he begins "fussing" again, walk to the side of his crib, bend over and make sure he hears you. Point your finger at him, and say once, firmly, but not too loudly, "no!" Retire from the room. Usually, he will either stop crying momentarily at the sound of your voice, or will be continuing to cry all the way through your entry into the room and your command. However, don't begin to make the mistake here that so many parents make of "not being sure" their child heard or understood them.

Usually, he will begin to cry again the moment you leave the room. Next, walk firmly to the side of his crib, and, using only one or two fingers, deftly and smartly swat him on the buttocks. You may, without removing the heavy nighttime diapers, spat him sharply very high on the side of the thigh. But first, strike yourself on the back of the hand, the wrist or the cheek to determine the strength of the swat, and make definitely sure you do not strike the child too hard. However, do make sure you strike him hard enough so that he feels it.

The child may drop off into a deep sleep within a few moments of crying. Allow him to cry until you can tell by the sound of his crying that the pain, hurt and surprise has died down and he is not still crying merely as the after-effects of his first "spanking."

This will vary, and needs a great deal of wisdom and judgment. But it also needs firmness, and assurance you are doing this the right way, and purposeful determination to carry the lesson through.

If the child then, after 10 or 15 minutes, begins to cry again -- and you can discern this is another "attention" cry, repeat the performance. Repeat it exactly as it was done before. Walk firmly into the room; bend over the crib; say "No!" to the child sharply. Already, he may very well cease crying immediately. But, true to form, the crying will probably begin again the minute you leave the room. Usually, the second sharp swat will be all that is needed for this lesson. The child will fill his lungs with good pure air, wave his little arms and kick his feet, have a good healthy cry, and usually lapse into a full, deep and tired sleep."


Jim Butler said...

Well, I had just gotten up when I posted initially. Was a little groggy.

I should have known you would post a quote, Bill. (grin)

I know we live in an extremely politically correct world. The US, and probably most of the world has been (and I'm sorry if this offends anyone, especially any ladies) "feminized." (try not to jump to any conclusions about what I mean by feminized--it's not a criticism of females by the way. As many men, possibly more, as women have been feminized-----I know the word itself is loaded with baggage)

That said, depending on the age of the baby, and to stress the point, depending on the age of the baby, I'm not sure I would disagree with what is said in the quote Bill posted.

Clearly, there is no real physical hurt to the baby. It makes clear it should be done with one or, at the most, two fingers. Enough so the baby feels it.

Perhaps some would like to post what they believe should be done is this particular situation. If so, I think age of the baby is a major factor.

Questions should be asked and principles remembered:

1. How effective, long term, have one's child rearing practices been?

2. Is there a more effective practice?

3. Child rearing practices cannot be enforced uniformly. A lot depends on the temperment of the baby/child.

4. Child rearing practices have to be thought about in very fine detail, again, tailored to each individual baby/child.

Many other questions and principles to consider.

I know many, today, consider any "spanking" to be wrong. Again, that word, spanking, has all kinds of baggage.

Again, perhaps some would like to post what they believe should be done in this particular situation. If so, I think age of the baby is a major factor.

Of course, we can always ask the "experts" on child rearing.
Especially those who have never had a kid. (which was the case with a number of ministers back many moons ago)


Neotherm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, parent(s) predisposed towards using violence as a means of correction found and continue to find in some churches (This problem is obviously not limited to the xcg's) justification and validation for their beatings and other types of abuse in the bible and furthered by garbage like, "The Plain Truth about Child Rearing".

My personal experience wasn't too bad. My folks issued a few unjustified spankings, but I never felt that I was being abused. I got marched to the men's room in the admin building at Mt. Pocono a few times for not sitting perfectly still during the service, but my father was never encouraged by anyone else in the men's room to spank me again. With that said: I remember very clearly that there was one guy named Jan(He died a long time ago) who would drive the heel of his shoe on to the top of the foot of the son of a woman at church who he was dating. This was done during services, in the room! As you can imagine, this was quite painful for the boy and EVERYONE knew what was going on. To the best of my knowledge and to everyone's shame, nothing was ever said to him about it. Of course, this was back when ushers where still taking attendance so you can get an idea of the church mindset at the time. The lack of action of the adults and pastor at the time were probably taken as approval by the man doing this. Thankfully, the woman did not marry this guy.

Going back to anonymous's post - I don't know that armstrong inspired beatings were a widespread problem, however there were a number of suicides among older teens and young adults in the church that I knew. If I were to offer a reason for them, I would say it had more to due with despair for the future (The non-future that armstrongism taught was coming our way) and very little to due with a paddling. While I don't consider a swat on the keister to be abuse, it isn't something that I use in rearing my children because I don't think it is an effective tool. Showing my oldest child the dead squirrel on the road was all he needed to know to not run in the road without looking.

Other than that - I think Dennis summed up the topic nicely.

Neotherm said...

have a couple of observations: I am disappointed that the current WCG administration in California (Tkach, Feazell, Albrecht) has not acknowledged a responsibility to people who were damaged by a variety of WCG teachings in the past, including child-rearing. It is clear that this WCG administration believes that they own all the assets of the old WCG but none of its liabilities. Diehl speaks of counseling. If some people need that, I believe the current WCG should defray the cost of counseling instead of conducting a redundant effort to spread the Gospel.

I, too, remember the whipping room at the Cotillion Ballroom at WCG Services in Wichita, Kansas. It was stage door left. The legion of the self-righteous could march their children in there for a spanking, visible and audible to all. At that time, I was philsophically supportive of this idea because, after all, I was a card carrying Armstrongite. By the time my son came along, circumstances were more liberal but my wife still regrets some of the paddlings he received.

From practical experience, I am very uncertain how to raise a child. I have seen very poor results from all over the spectrum. Even God's children are by far and large going to reject Him. (Universalitsts would contend that God's child rearing practices would result in an extraordinary rate of salvation. But I do not think that this issue pivots on child rearing practice. God can do only so much when dealing with sentient, free willed human beings.)

But Armstrongites would have us believe that they really know how to raise children. You can see the purported results of their child rearing practices by viewing the carefully screened list of graduates:

Questeruk responded to my previous comments about this by first proving that statistically this list was likely to be comprehensive. There simply are no other graduates in the UCG. Then allowed that poor students would not submit their information for publication.

My question is why are these students showcased in this precise way. Way should anyone who graduated find it discouraging to submit his or her information? You might say the format for presenting this information itself is a screening technique.

So infidels, like many of us, may behold this PDF and see that all is well, all is well with their souls.

-- Neo

Lussenheide said...

Concerning the UCG graduation page of High School Grads, one thing stands out to me.

Only 25 of the 71 listed photos were of young men.

This is only 35.2% of the total, whereas the gals represented 64.8% of the total.

Of course statistically you would expect a 50/50 mix.

I believe that the reason you see more gals than guys in that article, is that any young man with "huevos" or an ounce of "testosterone" is not going to want to hang around an organization that is dominated by an Alpha Male leadership who are constantly determined to "put you in your place" within the "hierarchy" and castrate your maleness or its independent expression outside of their narrowly defined "place for you" within the org.

Women, being more naturally submissive, will endure this a bit easier than males. Hence, the 65/35 split in the graduates distribution.


Lussenheide said...


How is that professional dog trainers like the famous Cesar Millan of the television show "The Dog Whisperer" get even the most out of control dogs to behave and perform without EVER hitting them?

How is that trainers can get a multi ton whale to jump thru hoops and do giant splashes down at Seaworld without ever Hitting them or physically hurting them?

How is that animals will do amazing things simply at the sound of a clicker and pain never was a part of the training ritual?

We are forced to ask the question then...pain and force are required of humans for training, but not for less intelligent animals?


Unknown said...

Lussenheide - I think the explanation is more simple. Girls tend to get their assignments in on time. For instance I know there is at least one graduate from my UCG congregation, who is male, who is not listed here. Not that anyone here is a fan of UCG, but it really is not as controlling as most of the other splits, or as much as it is made out to be here.

DennisDiehl said...

Luss...I believe it's dogs after the dog kind, cattle after the cattle kind and kids after the kid kind...though animals reproduce, they do not marry :) Argh...

Kids don't make out so good in the Bible. They are used, abused, disowned, fried, burnt, slapped, stoned, hit, beat, sacrificed, speared, sold, eaten, ignored, marginalized and mauled by bears.

Bible Times were something no kid in his right mind would ever wish to return to. I'm sorry that babies were born in cultures where Bible Times parents were so ignorant of what to do next they just asked the Priests.

"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod [sceptre], he shall not die."
-- Proverbs 23:13 (AV)

This is really good to know. Beating them was fine and dandy and it doesn't say spank. It says beat with a rod! Hit with a stick. Bash with a hoe. Smash with a sceptre. The reason is because "it won't kill them." Whew...good news there.

Or how about we execute stubborn kids

"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son ... Then shall his father and his mother ... bring him out unto the elders of his city ... And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die."
-- Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (AV)

Whoa! Excellent! No attempt to encourage or find out why this might be occuring in the child's life. Probably caused by the parents beating him all the time with rods, knowing full well he won't die. He might be mentally ill, but we can attribute that to demons and not take any personal responsibility. The Bible is not big on understanding how one way of being leads to other ways of being or how abuse leads to mental illness. It's all about Dad. It's all about the parents. It's really never about the kids.

There are some kids in this world today who sadly do live in Bible Times. Their parents read the Bible and faithfully follow it's loving guidelines for childrearing and interpersonal family communications.

These kids learn that all they need is "the rod of correction," or be told, "because we said so that's why." The often hear, "God is not going to be happy with you," or "you might go to hell for that Johnny." Every week they get to hear the Minister remind parent and child that they must bring up that kid in the way he "should" go, should being relative to whatever the Preacher thinks they should be, so that "when they are old, they will not depart from. it." Of course most depart long before they are old just to recover and get their minds back in tact.

There are American Bible Times Talibanic parents who are soaked in the childrearing techniques of the Bible every week or most every month. God said it, we practice it, that does it for us. Of course, when the child grows up a bit, they will walk and should.

Go get a concordance, or topical Bible and look up "snuggle, kiss, blowbelly, "a boo", picnic, swimming, hugs, vacation, free time, love you mom, love you dad, love you son, love you sis, sports, college, education, free thinking, respect, reading, children's literature, Goldilocks, quiet time, caress, self esteem, mental health, smiling, mommy, daddy, bedtime, stuffed animals, puppets, cook out, fishing, zoo, did I say "blowbellies?" .... oh you know, the good words. Good luck...they aren't there, Old Testament or New. I know this is difficult for Fundamentalists to grasp and actually they never will, but the Bible is not the best book in the world on how to raise your kids, no matter what the original Hebrew or Greek says or means.

Send for our free booklet... The Plain Truth About Child Whisperers

Anonymous said...

The US, and probably most of the world has been (and I'm sorry if this offends anyone, especially any ladies) "feminized." (try not to jump to any conclusions about what I mean by feminized--it's not a criticism of females by the way.

Huh? You use a word and then disclaim any attempts for anyone to figure out what you mean by it? What was the point, then? I think this is zoombart. (And don't read anything into that.)

That said, depending on the age of the baby, and to stress the point, depending on the age of the baby, I'm not sure I would disagree with what is said in the quote Bill posted.

The question I have is, what was the point? Why smack the kid at all? All I can come up with is control. You want the kid to be quiet to demonstrate your control of your child. Is there something I've missed?

It makes clear it should be done with one or, at the most, two fingers. Enough so the baby feels it.


Perhaps some would like to post what they believe should be done is this particular situation. If so, I think age of the baby is a major factor.

Sure. I've got two kids. It would depend on the circumstances and how much energy I had. I would consider whether or not the child was hungry, tired, uncomfortable for some other reason, sick, etc. If I had the energy, I'd pick the child up and try to comfort him/her. I'd try to meet any identifiable needs. In the end, if that failed (and I've held my babies for hours at a time when necessary), I would put him/her back in the crib and let them cry it out. If I was exhausted from a rough parenting day, I'd skip the cuddling and take a nap myself. I see no reason to try to get the kid to stop "attention" crying by smacking him other than that he/she is bothering me (which happens), which is hardly an admirable reaction for a parent, or one to be encouraged.

My father, still in a COG, is really big on training. You train children, you "train" your hair to lie properly without combing. It's really an odd perspective, but a lot can be explained by a need for control and "rightness": good people don't have crying children or messy hair.

1. How effective, long term, have one's child rearing practices been?

As evaluated by the parent? And effective at what? At producing a uniformly compliant child? At producing a happy child? At producing a productive child? At what? And compared to what? Some children will do well or poorly despite their parenting. And how large is your sample?

-- Alan

Neotherm said...

Questeruk wrote the following about my comment concerning the 2007 UCG grads: "I find it alarming that a plot can be dreamt up based on nothing other than pure speculation."

A poster named Richard referred to me as "Mr. Conspiracy."

Let me hasten to clarify that I do not believe this is evidence of either an overt "plot" or a "conspiracy". I don't believe the editors of the United News sat around a table and said, in effect, "We need to show to whomever might see this that we have an inside track with God (and you don't). Therefore, let's conveniently rule out anything that does not help us create that illusion."

Instead I believe that nothing so blatant ever occurred. I didn't have to occur. There was no plotting and conspiring. But rather, this is just the way Armstrongites naturally think. Like bees in a hive, they know what they are supposed to do because they have been indoctrinated to perform certain behaviors in a certain way.

So you can ask them directly "Did you do anything to manage your PDF about the 2007 grads for purposes of appearance?" and they will quite honestly answer "No". This is because they are not aware of this ingrained behavior.

A minister once told me while he was a student at AC Pasadena, there was a big move to get the campus accredited. So when the accreditors showed up, the AC leadership decided to put on a big variety show in the Auditorium. He said that it was all a blatant fabrication intended to give the impression that AC Pasadena was the "most wonderful place on earth." This enertainment was subsequently shown at the Feast and it was replete with saccharin smiles and trumped up good spirits. At the time the show was staged for the accreditors, he was so sickened by the artifice that he went back to his dorm and did not participate. Yet I do not think that the planners of this event plotted and conspired. They just did what Armstrongites do.

The ratio of men to women among the 2007 UCG grads is not easy to explain. But I do know that the leadership at AC Big Sandy was always pre-occupied with attractive young women. I know one faculty member who was wild about red-heads. It was very easy for an attractive young woman to get admitted to AC and to be given many opportunities. Maybe this thinking is still around at UCG headquarters. Make of it what you will.

Years ago I became aware of a subtle use of vocabulary within the WCG. Once a minister in a sermon, I believe at the Feast, gave a sermon on "young people." Into the sermon a ways, I began to realize something. When he referred to "young people" he was referring exclusively to AC students. I began to notice this as a consistent trend among ministers. It was as if young people who were not AC students did not exist. I believe this is a clear example of the kind of subliminal screening that exists among Armstrongites.

-- Neo

Anonymous said...

Child discipline has a medical term, "LOBOTOMY".


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but, my opinion of anyone who would try to justify old school WCG's child rearing practices is that such a person has the IQ of a soil sample.

Religion can be a powerful intoxicant. An intoxicant alters people's behavior from the normal, or natural. WCG childrearing practices might appeal to some on paper, but in actual practice what was taught caused people not to behave in the normal, loving, parental ways. WCG never was a nurturing church. That concept was totally foreign to them, from HWA on down.


Anonymous said...

I have to give Byker Bob some kudos for his last post. Even though we were spanked, browbeaten, and threatened with the lake of fire as children in the WCG - ALL of our youth activities of any sort with the church were heavily (extra emphasis) supervised. That isn't to say the activities weren't any fun...But when I got together with my "worldly" friends there was much more trust on the part of the adults as to how the children would behave...That trust was usually well rewarded.

I'm not a sociologist (I only took 101 in college), however I can say without qualification that the most corrupt and least righteous people I have ever known in my life, have all been members of the WCG or whatever splinter now suits their fancy...Therein lies the mistrust for the behavior of the youth.

Oddly enough - The nicest and most giving people I have ever met in my life are, without qualification, all Catholics.

Go figure.

Questeruk said...

The GTA article seems to imply that there is something inherantly evil with a baby giving an "attention" cry.

Surely a baby needs, indeed craves, the attention and love of it's parents, and the parents duty is to respond and give it this love and attention.

(had almighty and regular run ins with WCG minister 25+ years ago for applying this view to my own child).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kudos, Charlie. Just imagine what it would have meant to anyone growing up in WCG if the kids were mentored to! That would have been such a refreshing breath of clean, pure air. Unfortunately, the whole doctrinal structure did not allow for mentoring. You'd think someone would have noticed all the mentoring ascribed to Jesus in the gospels!