Janet Heimlich wrote “Raising awareness of the issue of religious child maltreatment and its risk factors is the first step toward protecting children. And that is something we all should strive to do, regardless of whether or not we are members of a faith community.
Schools, Colleges, Universities, Parks, Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, Homes…Children are in so many spaces!
”Welcome to Pre-Reading Assignment #2 for Upcoming Summer Sessions
Are You There for Me?
A person bows her head in her hands at a COVID-19 testing site in Boston on July 15, 2020. (John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)/ Many in U.S. face mental health issues as COVID-19 enters year two | Pew Research Center
How We Can Help? Awareness about the new epidemic of RCM is a start!
It is true that RCM (#Religious Child Maltreatment) is not new. However, during the pandemic, children trauma escalated by being more accessible to their predators. Clinical therapists are seeing an increase of violence among youth because of their suffering in silence. American prisons are filled with young and older adults who have no other place for them and are suffering from mental illness. There in an increase in the homeless rate led by young adults.
We must accept that for too long religious congregations have aided in the abuse of our children through silence. Yes, RCM gets a “pass” in society for many various reasons. For example, many cite “separation of church and state,” to turn their heads away from this issue. Do we watch as well as pray? Are we our brother’s keepers? Is it our mission to help those who are suffering in silence? How can we help those who are suffering in silence? Should we call awareness to this issue in order to help the spiritual, emotional, and physical safety of children and youth who are feeling unsafe in their communities? Jesus was not slack in support of the little children. Are we? Does separation mean to distance ourselves into silence?
The family was the first institution established by God, our Creator. The Church was the second institution. We know the enemy is on a direct path to infiltrate and cause harm to these two institutions.
When we talk about breaking the will and building trust to help our vulnerable population, we cannot neglect the teaching of cultural biases and religious background. In examining religious child maltreatment, I literally had to assess the matter of RCM in the context of my cultural biases and religious upbringing.
1. Whippings – First Introduction to Trauma
Whippings were part of my childhood and community. My parents were not abusive; they were, however, intended to do “justice” as good parents. The Church taught that it was God-inspired. So, my parents instilled that in us. Whipping was taught as to not spare the rod, or you might spoil the child. So, we adopted the philosophy as a show of good parenting skills. Yet, this type of punishment, for parents, inflicted a type of “pain” and trauma because of the tears of the child(ren) and lingering negative thoughts about the entire process. In lieu of this, spankings and taking away privileges seemed to be the most sensible approach because…
If “whupping” was the key for children safety, then the prison system should reflect that truth. Instead…black and brown Americans far outnumber other populations. To this I say, it is time to re-assess “whupping” in the context of scripture, history, and culture.
An Ally – Janet Heimlich on “Whupping”
But while hitting children is prevalent in black communities, to argue that “whupping” children was a tradition brought over from Africa, or that it is a culturally consistent practice today, is simply false. (http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2017/04/racial-trauma).
True. While it is argued that “whupping” children is distinctly the tradition of black families, studies of Africans, show that this is false. Rather, “whupping” was the teaching from slave masters for conformity to rules and to instill fear. Africans taught that children are gifts, and their spirits are representative of a spiritual birth. Moreover, physical discipline continues to be taught as a social necessity to keep black children out of the streets, out of prison or out of police officers’ sight. Again, if “whupping” was the key for children safety, then the prison system should reflect that truth. A Pew Research 2015 survey found that black parents are more than twice as likely as white and Latino parents to use corporal punishment on a regular basis; they are far more less likely to spank their children.
2. Whippings – Teaching Corporal Punishment and Causing Psychological Harm
“If we teach not “to spare the rod” as indicative of a parent who does not discipline their child, this is the parent who “hates their child,” what will be the continued outcome??
Children are introduced to corporal punishment and psychological harm early in life through “beatings.” This is not to say spankings are never appropriate; however, is it time to view the intent and purpose in our biblical teaching to congregations. Have not the educational institutions done so? Many of our institutions of religion still teach, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24). Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die (Proverbs 23:13).” Historically, for too many, this meant the harsher the punishment, the greater the love and teaching.
What is the rod? What is the purpose of the staff?
he Hebrew word for rod used in the above Psalm and Proverbs scripture passages, is ʺshabat.ʺ A shabat is specifically the rod used by a shepherd in caring for sheep. The Hebrew word mishena has the idea of “something to lean on,” “trust,” “support,” or “staff.” Together, the two words paint a picture of a strong, protective shepherd whom we can trust (neverthirsty.org).
In biblical times, a shepherd consistently used both a rod and a staff to tend the flock. Both were used to protect the sheep. The rod was used to direct the sheep and fight off wild animals. It was meant to prod the sheep into the fields and return into the sheepfold by night. The staff is longer, thinner and has a crook at the end. Sheep can be wandering animals at times. The staff was used by the shepherd to take hold of the sheep with the crook and direct the sheep into the direction he should go. Are we using the rod and staff as protective instruments of love?
A Simple Startup Plan
I am of the mindset and teaching that we are to extend the rod and staff as a protective force in caring for sheep. I am more inclined to utilize the power of prayer and the Word of God rather than a physical harm in caring for the sheep. When I think of my maternal grandmother, this was her method. I remember how she would summon us to sit at her feet for a serious talk and reflection when we made a mistake. Without lifting her hand to physically correct us, she could bring us to tears. Her probing questions and words of how she was disappointed in our actions, were enough for us. With my parents, we feared their physical wrath more than anything; with my grandmother, we did not want to disappoint her. It was just as meaningful in direction.
Jesus used/uses both the “rod and staff” to direct his sheep toward him and in the right direction on the right path. What is the guiding behavior we are seeking?
More to RCM than This
When it comes to RCM, there are various methods of abusive behaviors that have not been discussed in this article. I only introduced whippings because of the cultural and familiar religious teaching exposure. The summer sessions by our clinical therapists will help us understand the array of philosophy and psychological threats that are underway by organizers under the disguise as religious institutions to subvert God’s Truth. Rather, there is an organized network of abusive behaviors teaching that are perpetrated on our young. They are no longer hiding as much as you might believe.
As servant leaders, we cannot ignore the increase of institutions forming as religious organizations to infiltrate the minds of young people for personal gain. While this type of religious child maltreatment is not new, the methods are changing. Gaining the trust of leadership, in the church, is one way that infiltrators are networking with a common goal – to divert the family and Church. No institution of learning is exempt. No house of worship is exempt. Yes, watchmen, “Watch as well as pray.” We invite you to
Register for the one hour and half summer sessions about how we can provide “Safe Spaces for Children/Youth/Young Adults” View the link fore more information:
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