SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD, a quote from the Bible. How should this be interpreted?
Outside the child abuse polygamy generates, other religious followers also harm children. In 2014 a woman in Indiana was charged with child abuse for beating her 7 year old son with a coat hanger and leaving over 30 bruises. She claimed she was only following her beliefs garnered from her evangelical teachings and that she was protected under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As justification for her behavior, court documents cited the Old Testament book of Proverbs claiming that a parent who spares the rod, spoils the child.
Some conservatives speak about religious liberty as if it is the ultimate trump card. Even if the law prohibits such acts or deems it discriminatory, they say, religious persons should be exempt if the law conflicts with their beliefs the same as related to child abuse polygamy.
Does religious freedom have limits? If so, then surely child abuse exceeds those limits. The lady was correct that the Bible often encourages physical discipline as cited in the above scripture. Unsurprisingly, Evangelical Christians support spanking children at a higher rate than the general population.
But what is a spanking and when does it cross the line? Many parents feel that a slap on the hand or rear is okay, but what about a belt whip or 10 belt whips? What about a whipping with a coat hanger instead of a belt? What about using anything that leaves a bruise or a whelt on the skin? Some feel that punishment should not be administered in anger. S0 what about the notion that a parent should not spank until one is calm, cool and collective. Is there anything in the Bible that talks about punishment not being carried out in anger?
My feelings are that if any discipline is administered it should not leave cuts, bruises or whelts and that the punishment should not be carried out in anger. Also a greater amount of love should be shown towards the child after the discipline lest the child consider you an enemy.
If you would like additional information on disciplining children and religion I would suggest reading the article on religion and child abuse by this author.