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This is a follow-up post to Positive Parenting, on this site.

The smacking debate in New Zealand continues to rage.  A few days ago, one of our Sunday newspapers ran an article on the issue.  I spluttered indignantly into my morning coffee as I read a quote from some pro-smacking character to the effect that:

“Children are not little bundles of innocence:  they are little bundles of depravity and can develop into unrestrained agents of evil unless trained and disciplined.  Selfishness, violence, lying, cheating, stealing and other such manifestations of rebellion are just the child unpacking some of this sinful foolishness from the vast store in his heart.”

I had a certain opinion on this, the politest words of which were: Who the …… was the ….. who said that?

“Ah,” says my wife (the historian) nonchalantly, “that’s from the bible.”

“The wha..?” I replied eloquently.

She disappeared off into the chaos she calls her office and emerged a short time later with a reference to a lecture she hosted recently.  “Here it is,” says she, “Psalm 51:5.”

Muttering darkly, I sifted through my book-case for my old bible, purchased for ten shillings in 1966 (approx. $1 then) and which contains a hand written dedication dated 1874 – (more about that at some future time.)  Straining my aging eyes at the tiny print I read Psalm 51:5.  In fact, I read the whole psalm, then looked up a commentary on in on the net.  51:5 reads:

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

What!? Is that it?  Here we have David grumbling because his mum seems to have been a bit of a good-time girl, how does that translate into little bundles of depravity?  Well, I suppose shapen in iniquity would be a bit on the bratty side, but hang about, read a little further:

55:7 says:”Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” 

Well, if that’s all it takes, the iniquity can’t have been all that foul.  A spot of sacred herb and a bit of a scrub-up wouldn’t work on some of the characters I’ve come across, believe you me!  I took a turn around the garden.  Hmm, no Hyssop.  I wonder if Rosemary would do the trick – got plenty of that.

OK, the pro biff yer kids types also cite Proverbs 22:15.  Back to the fine print:

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

Ouch! That seems pretty cut and dried doesn’t it?  But, hang on, take a look at this excellent post from a thinking Christian parent.  Ah-ha!  So the rod of correction is for guidance,  not something to beat the crap out of your kid with.  Interesting what you find when you actually read what is there, rather than pluck items out of context, isn’t it?

Also quoted in support of clout your kids is Jeremiah 17:9:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

I read the whole chapter  (oh dear, much more of that and I’d have been howling at the moon – where’s the prozac?) – it doesn’t seem to be about children at all, but rather Jeremiah having a good old kvetch about some place called Judah.  And all so very gloomy and pessimistic – but isn’t that how he got his name? (!)

I hold the view that children are sacred.  This does not mean that children do not need guidance and discipline.  It does not mean that children are incapable of behaving badly.  Nor does it mean that positive parenting is an easy way, or a laissez-faire affair.  Fleeting fantasies about joining an axe murderers empathy club are par for the course, as is chronic anxiety disorder, hypervigilance, several conditions that the American Psychiatric Association hasn’t come to grips with yet and reaction times that would make a striking cobra seem languid by comparison.  I’m sure we’ve all seen those little signs on cars: “Baby On Board.”  I saw one that said “Sleep Deprived Hormonally Unbalanced Mother On Board.”  I drove very carefully around that one. 

The point of this rant is that if you view your child as a little bundle of depravity and an unrestrained agent of evil, guess what you are going to see in your child?  And guess how you are likely to wind up treating him/her? (And guess how he/she will behave!)

Right.

If you have a view of your child as sacred, guess what you will see in your child?

A little bundle of iniquity who’ll block the loo with 600 metres of toilet paper the moment your back is turned that’s what!  Aaargh – where’s that rod? –  (I need it to unblock the loo!)

And finally, for those who are tempted to take scriptures too literally:  (This has been around in various forms for quite a while, but is still pretty good.)

“I do need some advice  regarding some  elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?  (In our part of the world this would be Australians.  New Zealanders would love to have Australians as slaves, and vice versa of course.)

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? She is 6 years old, healthy, and very smart. She doesn’t want to be a slave, so that might be a problem.

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness – Lev.15: 19 24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear contact lenses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though Lev. 19 expressly forbids this: How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.”

Very Truly Yours,
Anonymous

 

 

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