Perhaps some of you watched the 20/20 investigation of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches. I watched most of it but had to turn it off eventually because I was beginning to feel panicky.
Although my childhood cult was not part of the IFB, the doctrines and practices were very, very similar. So was the abuse.
I have posted the above segment because I want to address a huge problem in Christian fundamentalist churches: the church-sanctioned spanking of infants
Yes, many of these churches advocate spanking babies. In my childhood cult, parents started spanking their babies around 4 months old.
In this segment, you see a survivor say that one pastor encouraged parents to start spanking 2 week old infants for "crying too much."
I know it might sound ludicrous to anyone who has never encountered churches like this but I can tell you from firsthand experience, babies were spanked. I saw it with my own eyes.
Furthermore, I want to address the evasive answers of Pastor Brian Fuller, the IFB pastor who acts as a sort of apologist for IFB churches. [Pastor Fuller's own church is the one whose previous leadership egregiously mishandled the rape of a 15 year old girl in 1997--a year before Fuller came to the church]. When asked directly if he condones spanking, he says he teaches "Biblical discipline."
In other words, the answer is yes. Yes, Pastor Fuller's church teaches/sanctions the spanking of very young children.
He tries to make it sound like he endorses a wide variety of disciplinary tactics; ie. time-outs and revoking privileges. But anyone who has grown up in churches like this knows that spanking is the primary form of discipline.
I'm not talking about the occasional swat to the behind. As I wrote in my post about Mike & Debi Pearl's "child-training" methods, this kind of corporeal punishment is systematic, repetitive and merciless. The underlying belief is an idea called "First Time Obedience." This means the first time a parent issues a command, the child is expected to respond immediately and without question.
Any tiny falter, any delay is met with a swift, hard, multi-swat spanking. This is because many fundamentalists believe that the child's will must be "broken."
It is my firm belief that the Christian community as a whole needs to unequivocally reject this manner of "child-training" as cruel and abhorrent.
As a caveat and to be fair: I don't think it's right to group all IFB churches together. Not all IFB pastors are abusers just like not all Catholic priests are molesters.
However, it only takes a few morally bankrupt individuals to bring down an entire religious system.
I believe the stories that are emerging from the IFB are really only the tip of the iceberg. If the IFB hopes to maintain any sort of moral credibility it will need to do a thorough and extended examination of the ways in which abuse is perpetuated and victims are silenced.
Lastly, this past weekend, the parents who beat their child to death using the "Biblical" child-training methods of Michael and Debi Pearl pled guilty as part of a plea bargain. They will not go to trial. Kevin Schatz will serve at least 22 years of a life sentence and Elizabeth Schatz will serve 13 years.
Requiescat en pace, Lydia Schatz.
But I'm still wondering: how many more children must die before the Christian community--as a whole--widely condemns these kinds of "child-training" practices?
May God have mercy on us all.