January 25, 2007

Christian Extremists Want Right to Abuse Children

The headline of a recent story on ChristianNewsWire caught my attention: "No-Spanking Bill is an Abuse of Parental Rights." It turns out that Christian extremists in California are up in arms over a bill brought by a California Democrat to prevent parents from spanking their children.

In today's America, thoroughly fractured by Christian extremism, the Democrat who authored this bill is being cast as anti-family.
Parents who love their children and want to train them to respect authority are rising up against a proposed bill in the California Legislature that would criminalize parents who spank their children during the "terrible twos," even if the spanking was a one-time occurrence or infrequently done.
To understand what is going on here, one must understand that Christian extremists have a very different view of family than rational folks do. Preventing parents from hitting their children is in fact anti-family if we construe "family" exclusively in the Christian extremist sense. To understand why this is the case, I refer the interested reader to George Lakoff's excellent Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think. You will discover that corporal punishment is entirely consistent with what he refers to as the "strict father" version of morality advocated by Christian extremists and social conservatives.

The article quotes Randy Thomasson, President of the Campaign for Children and Families, as saying the following:
Some parents spank and some parents don't, and that's their right as parents. Government regulation of parents' discipline wipes out the right of parents to raise their own children. This is wrong. God gave children to parents, not to the state.
That last sentence is terrifying because it implies that children are somehow their parents' possessions. It seems like this opens the door to a whole range of abuses. Going by strict father morality, any interference with parenting practices will be demonized because parents are thought to have free reign. Physical discipline is considered necessary to raise moral children.
When appropriate spanking is lovingly administered, it can help a disobedient youngster to become a well-adjusted adult who respects authority. But the lack of parental discipline and a philosophy of permissiveness can produce a rebellious, compulsive teenager.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that any meaningful analysis of religious extremism must confront their parenting practices. Clearly, this has implications for ongoing efforts to oppose Christian extremism.

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