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Individual or Group Responsibility? June 16, 2008

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Current Events, Ethics, Nina Rosenstand's Posts.

An interesting case happening in Denmark: a religious organization (Faderhuset, the Father House, a Christian organization) has been reported as having encouraged its members to use physical violence and other harsh methods as the preferred form of discipline toward their children, based on selected quotes from the Bible. Cases are being investgated involving severe corporal punishment of small children. This in itself will make most of us cringe, but here comes the interesting moral issue: According to Danish law, corporal punishment of children is illegal (I haven’t checked what constitutes corporal punishment, but it sounds as if it is a very sweeping rule: no hitting, of any kind). But freedom of speech is also a very firmly established principle, as everyone knows who followed the “drawings” debacle. So what the legal system can do now is prosecute the individual parents for child abuse/neglect, but not the Fatherhus organization as such, because their “advice” to their members comes under freedom of speech and freedom of religion. So this becomes a question of moral responsibility rather than a legal issue: Should an organization that exercizes strong psychological influence on its members be held accountable for encouraging illegal activity, or should it be up to individuals whether they want to follow the “advice”? A question that reaches way beyond this particular case, and relates to cases of Internet websites advocating violence against certain people and groups.



1. Paul Moloney - June 17, 2008

Even if the parents are prosecuted, the cause remains untouched, which is an unchristian interpretation of the Bible. Prosecution can mean persecution to the parents or members of the sect, which would in turn confirm their misinterpretation.

Even if one concedes that the Bible is literally the word of God, in the sense that is inspired by God, it does not mean that that word has to be interpreted literally. It is mere human opinion that the everything written in the Bible is to be taken literally. In fact, no one takes everything in the Bible literally, not even those that claim to do so. If those that claimed to do so actually took everything literally they would be Catholic. The Catholic Church takes literally the words of Christ and claims the Eucharist to be the Body of Christ. On the other hand, the Catholic Church does not take everything in the Bible literally. Other denominations take the same words of Christ symbolically, which means they also do not take everything literally.

Those that take the creation story literally do not take everything else literally, so they actually have no argument. They do not explain how there could be seven days of creation when the day as we know it was created on the fourth day.

It can be demonstrated that a literal interpretation of everything in the Bible is not divinely inspired. If it were then Christ would have taken everything literally; he did not. He was asked about Elijah the prophet coming before the messiah. He responded by saying he had already come. Elijah the prophet had not come. Jesus was referring to John the Baptist. John the Baptist is not literally Elijah. John the Baptist came in the power and spirit of Elijah rather than in person.

If Christ did not take everything literally, though there could be literal interpretation, then it does not seem Christian to take everything literally. In fact some people become unchristian by taking everything literally.

2. forrest noble - June 17, 2008

Spare the rod spoil the child has been my experience. Without actual spanking, just the fear of getting one can teach a child from doing destructive or mean things. I think society, in general, understands this principle. In modern times I believe that kids are too kocky concerning authority and laws which will, for many, stifle their functionality in society and life in general.

I used to snap my belt and that usually was enough. Even if a weak swat on the butt which didn’t even hurt but hurt their feelings and made them think twice about hurting their little brother of sister again. Spoiled children often never recover, looking for charity rather than work and expecting that life owes them a living.

I say a little swat on the arse does wonders, even though Dr. Spock didn’t agree. From what I have read concerning corporal punishment, as long as the child has clear knowledge that you always love them, such punishment is often later recognized by the child as being a good thing. Never in anger however; maybe an hour later. I called the belt the black surprise “that will dance a little on your pontums (bottom) if you badly misbehave.

I can’t see how religion would fit into this kind of punishment excepting maybe by tradition. Unless such punishments were brutal I believe society should leave child rearing to the parents. The laws are in place but sometimes applied in a trivial manner.

At least that’s my take on it.

your friend forrest

3. Stephen - July 5, 2008

I’m going to agree with Forrest. When I was growing up my father used many of the same tactics Forrest described using on his children and there was never a question in my mind that my parents didn’t love me or were doing it out of anger. Now that I’ve grown up I look at the kids today and the kinds of behavior they get away with in public (restaurants are usually the worst) and am shocked. There is no way I would ever have gotten away with being disrespectful in public and I have no resentment for how I was dealt with if I ever did act out.

I’m not advocating parents to beat their children senseless and I do not know the severity of the cases involving the church but I’m guessing it must be bad enough to make news. Although now days even a light swat could be enough for child services.

I doubt anything will happen to the church even if the individual parents are prosecuted. That whole strength in the face of trials thing Christianity advocates makes me believe that even if they get shut down, relocation would be easy enough.

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