Thursday 28 April 2016


Spanking was de rigueur in the Worldwide Church of God. Parents were expected to spank (smack) their kids, as anyone who read The Plain Truth About Childrearing knew. Stories were told of the Ambassador College workshop producing wooden paddles so noisy youngsters could be disciplined during services at the Feast of Tabernacles. Today, the leading ex-WCG crusader against this kind of practice is Samuel Martin, son of former AC theology prof. Ernest L. Martin. There's no doubt in my mind that Martin has it right; spanking kids is a stupid, repugnant practice.

And the research backs it up. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (summarized here) reveals the links to difficulties kids face later in life. Of course, this was by no means just a COG issue. It's believed that, worldwide, 80% of children are spanked. Even in countries like New Zealand where the practice is illegal, conservative lobbyists wail, gibber and bemoan the development and there is widespread sympathy for parents who break the law. To which one can only reply, read the research for yourself.

The crazy thing is that in the church we were taught that God was the ultimate abusive parent, getting prepared to spank (that's the word Rod "Spanky" Meredith used again and again to describe it) the nations of modern (make-believe) Israel - the United States, Britain and the "white commonwealth" (whatever that is). Even now, the Eternal of Hosts has the divine paddle raised to wreak his displeasure. Famine, flood, epidemic, earthquake... look out below!

It's a fairly sick portrait of God.

(Samuel Martin's book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me, is available to download here.)


Anonymous said...

Pillory is far preferable.

Especially if rotten eggs and vegetable matter is readily available.

Public humiliation is a most effective tool in shaping behavior.

Start early and keep at it.

"Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it", "it" being psychosis, neurosis and schizophrenia and if you have really done your job right, perhaps a malevolent narcissist, sociopath and psychopath.

Redfox712 said...

This practice is a terrible and shameful legacy Armstrongism gave to their followers. Shame on HWA, Garner Ted Armstrong and the rest for being such a terrible influence on their members and poisoning family relations.

Byker Bob said...

As pretty much commanding the liberal usage of alcohol contributed to the demise of those predisposed towards alcoholism, the child-beating principles were devastating when received and practiced by parents who had been abused during their own childhoods, parents with anger issues, the violent ones amongst the simpletons, the wine bibers, and most of the rest of the ACOG demographic, who became infected nearly to the same extent as the rest of these hapless damaged individuals. And, yes, this dastardly process bequeathed upon the children a concept of God as their parents on steroids. Rot your kidneys, rot your brain, rot your heart, cucaracha!


Redfox712 said...

In something relevant to this topic here are PCG's Andrew Müller and Robert Morley talking about how "shocking" and "crazy" things are in Scandinavia from a recent broadcast of theirs. (Trumpet Hour, April 22, 2016, 6:45-7:55.)

Müller: Sanders tries to tout Scandinavia (like Denmark, Sweden, Norway) as more as his model. Although those nations aren't nearly as nice a place to live in as he makes it sound like. And in a lot of ways aren't really socialist. ... They don't own the means of production. They're still capitalist nations with just a really, really huge bureaucracy. Really. With the progressive income tax. ...

Morley: And some of them like Norway have a lot of oil resources.

Müller: Yeah. And they've got natural resources that help them out somewhat. And even then, I mean, there are a lot of things that happen in countries like that that would be shocking to an American mindset. ...

Müller: I've just read another case, which is actually quite common over there, of the government stepping in and taking, like, three children away from their Christian parents because they spanked them occasionally. No trial. No federal judge. Just a bureaucratic agency...

Morley: Bureaucrats arrive at the door and knock at the door.

Müller:...can take that which, yeah. That would make front page headlines in America. But in Europe I don't think that gets much of a rise [much attention] anymore.

Morley: That is just, just crazy.

Steve D said...

I read once that the expression, "spare the rod and spoil the child," does not refer to a physical rod or stick. The "rod" is like a measuring stick or as Amos used, a plumb line. The rod is a standard for behavior. In other words, set a standard and limits as to what the child should be doing. Train them, not beat them. What is your understanding of this passage?

Anonymous said...

When I first began attending the WCG in Kansas, we met at a dance hall a little outside of town. There was a large stage in the center and two dressing rooms, one stage left and one stage right. Stage left was the speakers "ready room" and stage right was the "spanking room".

When kid acted up during services, the parent would walk the kid up to the spanking room, on full display to the audience. And then you would hear the sounds of spanking and crying, no doubt, to the gratification of the audience.

Armstrongism was all about law and punishment for law-breakers. They had and still do have only a tiny atrophied doctrine of grace, a word you seldom hear or see written in their communications. Yet the concept of grace is what separates Christianity for the rest of the religions.

The spanking room was like a little sidebar on law and order and punishment at every service. And the symbolism was not lost on the audience. Through fear, this kept people in line and it kept them tithing. It was a sweet deal for the ministry because it helped keep the money flowing to Pasadena (the Armstrongite ministry's principal purpose) and the lay membership took care of the indoctrination themselves once spanking became a part of the infrastructure of Sabbath services.

And of course, Armstrongite lay members, steeped in Pelagianism, regarded it as a merit badge to spank publicly. How could a guy be acceptable to god, get promoted to deacon and then local church elder unless he spanked liberally.

I could go on. The pathology is fascinating and appalling. I am just glad that Armstrongism is a small and dying sect.

Unknown said...

Police Dogs, Whales, Dolphins, Horses etc , all can be taught to do amazing stunts, productive work, and incredible loyalty all without the use of whips, paddles or corporal punishment of any kind.

Reward is always a far greater and healthier motivator than fear. Ask any animal trainer what works... it is not by inflicting pain.

Successful human organizations and businesses also understand that financial incentive, praise and recognition are the most profitable way to produce results.

Certainly things like "time outs" and "restrictions" are far more effective than inflicting corporal punishment.

Anonymous said...

The Armstrongist churches of God deserve a time out AND a spanking.

Guess the beating will have to wait until just before the Lake of Fire.

A few years back, a man I had known for some time in the WCG and beyond died suddenly. I talked to his son. His son said he was glad his dad died.

Pam said...

Steve D... Although we might wish the OT says otherwise, and want to soften its wording with "apologetics" (which all too often ends up meaning "apologizing for" things that sound awful...) here's how one of the "using the rod" passages, Proverbs 23:23, puts it. There is NO question that this is not just talking about a "measuring plumb line" or some such...

New International Version
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.

New Living Translation
Don't fail to discipline your children. They won't die if you spank them.

English Standard Version
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

New American Standard Bible
Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.

King James Bible
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Don't withhold discipline from a youth; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.


What is particularly sad is that, in a number of authoritarian cults worse than the old WCG, many children HAVE died from "discipline with a rod."

The common saying "spare the rod and spoil the child" appears to be a "loose paraphrase" of Proverbs 13:24. Check how THAT is translated in several translations below. The Hebrew term translated "rod" as used in this passage is identical to the term "rod" in Proverbs.

New International Version
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

New Living Translation
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

English Standard Version
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

New American Standard Bible
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

King James Bible
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.


Let's be brutally honest with the Bible here...the OT also says THIS about "beating" in Exodus 21...

20“If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21“If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.

For those who want to soften the barbarity of the OT, THAT passage takes a heap of apologizing too...

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, I am going to delve into Biblical Theology here.

The OT without a doubt governs and sometimes advocates corporal punishment. There is no escaping it. But that was under what Paul referred to as the "Ministration of Death" and the "Ministration of Condemnation."

He also speaks of the "sufficiency of God who has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life."

There is a big difference between the conduct of operations under the OT as compared to the NT. The words in Proverbs may be taken as universal statements of wisdom by some but I believe they are rooted in the OT view of things. It is brutal.

And, of course, Armstrongites were of impaired eyesight when it came to distinguishing between the OT and the NT. That is why they do not have a robust doctrine of grace and this really place them outside the pale of Christianity. Bringing forward the Ministration of Condemnation just happens to fit beautifully into the fund raising activities of the Armstrongite congregations - always driven by fear.

Why did God permit some of the ancient tribal practices. Another topic. But we might ask why he permits the world to be as it is now. There is a plan that accommodates this but I am not conversant with it.

Redfox712 said...

On another topic: Ever wanted to know what PCG's leaders think about media outlets?

Byker Bob said...

There is an old, old, story, possibly from Shakespeare, or maybe apocryphal. The punchline is "The law is an ass". I apply that to HWA's law, not the law of God (whatever that ends up being).

In Armstrongism, it was widely taught that the New Covenant was simply the Old Covenant with the addition of a Messiah, and a Holy Spirit which empowered one to keep the Old Covenant. Obviously, all of the writings of Paul were either grossly misunderstood, or rejected to arrive at such a conclusion.

Additionally, the Jews, preservationists of the oracles, don't even share the understandings shared in the WCG child beating booklets. Many of the old guard WCG ministers and AC and Imperial faculties have fessed up and stated they did not abide by the church's teachings on child rearing. Yet another indication that our prior affiliation was FUBAR. Better to go to TLoF, than to live for all eternity if Armstrongism were actually to be the government of God for ever and ever.


Steve D said...

Pam: a Jewish source suggests that the expression, "whoever spares the rod HATES his child" is understood by some, to be a rhetorical exaggeration. Permissive parents don't hate their children. Perhaps the proverbs in general are a literary form that is not to be taken too literally. But then again, C of G's were always taking to much of the Bible literally. BTW, have you had experience sending in pointed questions on the C of God websites? Questions that might raise a bit of doubt in their minds concerning their positions? What has been your experience with their responses?

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing to me about Samuel Martin's argument is his research citing ancient rabbinical sources and commentary that even the corporal punishment approved in the Bible never was of small children--only of young men. Furthermore it was not for behavioral modification as much as an ancient theory of pedagogy or learning: if a young man was being taught and got an answer wrong to a question, the idea was that if you beat the crap out of him, that would teach him to pay better attention and improve the chances that he would get the correct answer the next time, and thereby learn faster.

That was the basic idea anyway; to help the young man more effectively learn what his elders were teaching him and be more attentive to their wise words by beating him when his attention strayed. Samuel Martin's interesting point is that whatever views one may have today concerning the merits of this ancient educational theory for the purpose of improving the learning process in teenage young men, it never applied to toddlers or small children.

Incidentally, has Mark Armstrong ever repudiated the horribly damaging advice promulgated for years in his father's booklet, "The Plain Truth About Child-Rearing?" He would be in a position to do real good in the Church of God community--a small step toward redemption and healing--by absolutely repudiating the toxic advice and legacy of that booklet--and who he is would give his words credibility if he were to do so in a strong voice.

If he does not do so, he remains part of the problem, which holds true for all of the other COG groups' leaders as well--all leaders who continue to advocate and legitimize the intentional physical infliction of pain and humiliation on defenseless small children ... which has justly become illegal and criminalized in a growing number of nations, 30-some now at current count, including nations such as Israel, Germany, most European nations, New Zealand, and more, all since Sweden started as the first nation to do so in the 1980s. It is comparable to the worldwide movement to abolish slavery of earlier centuries, which although slavery had been done for thousands of years, succeeded. Except the worldwide movement to ban corporal punishment of children is succeeding far faster than did the earlier abolitionist movement against slavery.

Any sincere COG person who is open to sober consideration of this issue, Samuel Martin's honorable work is thoughtful and factual and worthy. To go even deeper, seek out the writings of the late Alice Miller, a remarkable, courageous Swiss dissident psychiatrist influential in Europe, who wrote powerful, impassioned, deeply thought-provoking books on this subject that I do not think anyone can read and remain unaffected. Be forewarned though: reading Alice Miller may take thoughtful readers brought up in WCG culture into personally uncomfortable and painful issues going to the core of Armstrongism's effects on children (even though neither she nor her books had anything to do with COGism). For example, Alice Miller goes straight for the jugular and questions the traditional interpretation of the Fifth Commandment as at the heart of the problem, going deep into the history of how that has been interpreted and why...

-- Scroller (Greg D.)

Pam said...

@Steve D: "a Jewish source suggests that the expression, "whoever spares the rod HATES his child" is understood by some, to be a rhetorical exaggeration. Permissive parents don't hate their children. Perhaps the proverbs in general are a literary form that is not to be taken too literally."

There is no question that the term "hate" is used as hyperbole ("exaggeration for effect") there. I think even the WCG taught that. Just as the passage in Luke 14:26 where Jesus said...

" “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."

The WCG made it clear that Jesus was using hyperbole and actually "meant" something like "does not love less by comparison" or something.

Yes, the OT passage doesn't "mean" that you literally "hate" your child if you "spare the rod." That's hyperbole. BUT ...there is no way to get around the fact that it is saying if you TRULY "love your child" will not "spare the rod." The passage seems to strongly imply that SOME kind of regular physical discipline involving pain is at the center of appropriate child rearing.

Just as the OT strongly insists that a man has the right to beat a servant to the point of death, and if the servant just lingers a couple of days before dying, the "master" gets off scot free rather than being considered a murderer. We can WANT it to not say that, and try to soften it, but that passage is NOT "hyperbole." And I don't care how much even "Jewish scholars" might like to apologize for it :-) and try to imply it was just hyperbole too...if they do, they are just not being honest with the text.

Pam said...

@Steve D..."BTW, have you had experience sending in pointed questions on the C of God websites? Questions that might raise a bit of doubt in their minds concerning their positions? What has been your experience with their responses?"

No, I don't send questions to COG groups. I have watched others try that for years and have seen pretty close to zero fruit from the efforts. Life is too short to waste on spitting into a wind coming from the other direction. :-) I prefer to invest my time in sharing my thoughts on subjects important to me in settings where the chances are greater that someone might actually benefit. Including directly to "the public" via my websites and blogs.

Byker Bob said...

When moderators of the pro-ACOG sites can't deal with certain honest questions, they censor and ban. It is a total waste of time to attempt to conduct any sort of real, give and take discussion with them. The minute a new poster becomes tired of gratuitously deferring, or of walking on eggshells, he or she is gone. You are not going to find anything of value on those sites anyway, so why even bother? As they would say, "Let the dead bury the dead."