Why Christians Shouldn’t Spank
The county I live in has the highest occurrence of child abuse cases in the state. We also have a disproportionately high concentration of Christian ministries. Is this mere coincidence? I hope so, and it should be, for Christians shouldn’t be spanking their children.
However, most Christians have a view of God that justifies or even requires them to spank their children. This view is rooted in the church’s teaching that God punished Jesus for our sins. The logic is that God is holy and incapable of tolerating the presence of sin. But God is also loving and wants a relationship with sinful humanity. So to make it possible for God to love the rest of us, he takes out his wrath on the tortured and crucified Christ. Since God so punished his only beloved son because of sin, shouldn’t we also use violence to discipline our children?
The Texas judge caught using a belt to whip his 16 year old daughter on YouTube epitomizes this vision of God. Watching the video is like watching an 8-minute version of the most graphic and sustained depiction of the God who must punish Jesus for our sins, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Throughout the ordeal, the father yells at his child: “You caused this by your disobedience. You don’t deserve to be in this house. I oughta just keep beating you and beating you, that’s how upset I am. I’m gonna beat you into submission. I’m gonna wear your ass out with this belt.” (I omitted the expletives). These would be God’s lines in The Passion if he had any.
Theologians today ask whether God is really like this. How could God, who the Bible says created us and loves us, ultimately be like the father in the YouTube video? But that is what we’re saying if we believe God punished Jesus for our sins. God is like this, for even if in the end God finally loves us, it’s only after he beats Jesus to death. Jesus knows what God is ultimately like; we get what’s left of God after he’s finished with Jesus.
Many of us are rethinking the crucifixion and what it says about God. Instead of interpreting the birth and resurrection of Christ through the crucifixion, we interpret Good Friday through Christmas and Easter. In other words, we begin with the affirmation that God came to be with us in Christ, and that God remains with us through Christ’s resurrection Spirit. Then we recognize the crucifixion as the consequence of human wrath, of those whose power Jesus’ challenged, not of divine wrath because God had no choice but to punish someone.
It is from this perspective that I as a Christian will not spank my children. Because Jesus calls us to be more like God—the God he knew more intimately than any other human, the God who isn’t the wrathful father punishing his children for sin, but the loving parent who doesn’t allow sin to have the final word—because I follow Jesus, I strive to be like this God and will not use violence on my children.