I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

25 November 2013

German churches up in arms over abuse study

German Bible - Photo by J. Stahl

In following the story of the Twelve Tribes, I had become aware of a study on religious families and their children, tendencies towards abuse and such being carried on within Germany. I had heard about the study, but not being registered to either the Evangelical, Free Evangelical or local Catholic Churches; we were not polled for the study, though we are a religious household.

I am somewhat curious as to what was in the survey itself. It seems rather revealing that the Free Evangelical churches are showing many of their members do, in fact, regularly beat their children. For those who do not know, this is illegal to do in Germany. [Here is a helpful pamphlet in German about that.]

One of my many concerns within the homeschooling movement and the greater German church community (especially after coming out of this environment in the United States) is to get away from the punitive and corporal punishment mindset, seeing children as sinful inconveniences unless they're perfectly behaving like little adults and back to what the Bible actually teaches; namely love and parenting being a job of parent and child to do together.

My second major concern was finding on that teachers such as Michael and Debi Pearl (To Train Up A Child / Wie man einen Knaben gewöhnt is now removed, but No Greater Joy volume 1, volume 2 and volume 3 remain), Reb Bradley, Richard Fugate, Ted Tripp has three books represented [this remains, and as does this also], Paul Tripp's books are still on the market, Larry Tomczak's "God, the rod and your child's bod", James Dobson's harmful books, Bruce Ray's Withhold Not Correction [also a Spanish edition!], Gary Ezzo's books, Elyse Fitzpatrick's, Lou Priolo's books, L. Elizabeth Krueger's, Roy Lessin's and a couple other religious punitive-based child training manuals can be found.  There are of course, other fundamentalist punitive parenting manuals out there, including pamphlets that are still in circulation that have now become available for download - such as "Under Loving Command, Your Children: Fun or Frenzy?" - These started being handed out in the 70s and early 80s to newlyweds, new and older parents. You can find out more about it here.

Finding those books means that there is a market here in Germany. That, as someone who was raised so punitively, terrifies me. It terrifies me because this means there are other children being raised this way, who will not know a day in their lives where just being children is not a sin.

I had heard that some time back, that one branch of the Evangelical Churches in Germany had made statements against corporal punishment and other punitive discipline methods, which created some shock when I saw the results of this study: 45,000 students from 9th grade forward and about 11,500 adults were polled (so over 50,000 individuals) and they found that one in six very religious children are smacked by their parents or given other punitive disciplinary methods against their undesirable behavior(s). In the Catholic and other Protestant students, the rate is considerably lower, if not rare.

The results of the study were published here, and does run through Google Translate in a mostly discernible manner into English. The name of the study is "Christian religiosity and parental violence. A comparison of familial socialization of Catholics, Protestants and Members of the Free Churches."

More on the study and why everyone's up in arms:

With parents from free churches that have no academic training, but declared themselves as "religious" or "very religious", the trend is even more pronounced: More than a quarter of the surveyed children from these families has at some juncture suffered massive violence in their household. The study's authors also provide a possible explanation: There is "a Christian tradition of parental driven beating as discipline for children."
NDR - Freikirchen wehren sich gegen Gewaltstudie

The findings in the survey are quite shocking to me

I'll post some of the figures below for those of you who don't have time to sift through a pages long PDF:

Table 1, study

Table 2, study

Comment, study

Figure 8, study

 Now, these are in order, but without all of the information behind what makes this all so shocking. What I want to point out is that this is consistent with studies done in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere as it pertains to parental violence towards children and it's affects on the children involved. One study paper that someone had pointed me towards a couple of years ago was "The Long Shadow: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse." Psychology Today has several articles about this phenomenon as well. One that stands out in my memory is "The Lingering Trauma of Child Abuse." [note: My list is not exhaustive, but just to give an example of what one will find on the subject.]

 Articles referenced within this NDR article and the PDF are as follows: the late 90s the German Parliament had established a Study Commission to look at so-called sects and mind-control groups. The study found that in fundamentalist Christian communities there is a widespread "...significant advocacy for physical punishment..."
NDR - Kinder schlagen im Namen Gottes 21.12.2011 Critics say the national church must be clear in distancing themselves from such fundamentalist positions. Shouldn't you make it clearer that you do not agree with such  positions [about corporal punishment being biblical]?

[Kerstin] Gäfgen-Track: In the case of these parenting books and this position, I can speak for the national church, because we draw a very clear line of demarcation. We have nothing to do with such, so we want to continuing having nothing to do with such. We wish to strongly condemn such counselors. [Ted Tripp and so on]  
NDR:  "Wir verurteilen das aufs Schärfste" 21.12.2011 they contradict the law and [Christian Beliefs], there is a secret culture of spanking among devout Christians... Parents who follow these beliefs belong to denominations such as those [found in the] Evangelical Free Churches and the Jehovah's Witnesses who are apt to taking the Bible literally, and consider doubts about the Word of God as whisperings of Satan.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Liebe geht durch den Stock 30.9.2010
...It is striking that the violence of evangelical parents seem to have a lasting effect on their young. With [such] systemic beatings, it may be that parents seek to break the will of children so that they would assimilate the beliefs of adults; warn psychologists..
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Schläge im Namen des Herrn  17.10.2010

There was a study published in April of this year (2013) by infoSekte in Zürich, Switzerland entitled "Erziehungsverständnisse in evangelikalen Erziehungsratgebern und -kursen" that is 61 pages long, detailing "Problematic trends such as corporal punishment or psychological violence arising in connection with certain child rearing methods ... [and] possible effects of certain parenting styles." Also explained in the document is how Switzerland signed and ratified the UN Rights of the Child in 1997; and such parenting styles are incompatible with such an agreement.

 This study does go on to list the books by title and publishers here in the German-speaking areas of Europe. I was readily able to find them all, but do not wish to send traffic their direction. Also in the study were two interesting tables:

infoSekte: Erziehungsverständnisse in evangelikalen Erziehungsratgebern und -kursen
The table is divided at the top by parenting style: acceptance and engagement with the child, measures of control, and how much autonomy the child is given.  Below that, to the left are the styles of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved.

Authoritative: Parents are loving, attentive, patient and sensitive to the needs of the child. / Parents provide the maturity of the child reasonable requirements that are consistently explained and enforced. / Parents allow the child according to his maturity to make his or her own decisions.

Authoritarian: Parents are cold and hostile and often put the child down. / Parents often employ force to put limits on the children through violence and punishment. Parents often employ psychological control through withdrawal of love and disregard for the individuality of the child. / Parents decide for the child. Parents rarely listen to the views of the child.

Permissive: Parents are loving, but spoil the child or react with too little attention / Parents make few or no demands. / Parents allow the child to make many decisions before he is developmentally able to.

Uninvolved: Parents are emotionally detatched and withdrawn. / Parents make few or no demands. / Parents see the decisions and positions of the child as equally valuable as their own.

Now, I am showing the tables out of order to lesson the blow of the first table. If you find that this will be triggering, simply skip over this image and description to where I mention the next infoSekte paper on child-rearing practices.

infoSekte: Erziehungsverständnisse in evangelikalen Erziehungsratgebern und -kursen
Table 1 : Four ideal types of Evangelical parenting methods

The tables are divided with the following headings in blue:

Understanding education / dogmatic work oriented / dogmatic truth oriented / authoritative - dogmatic / authoritative - participatory

Worldview & Image of People
Principles: rigid final principles, subjugation under the highest authority- / last rigid principles remodeling in the faith / principles of the child's needs derived single rigid principles / principles of the child's needs derived
Image of the child: the rebellious child / the deviant child / autonomous but gefärdete child / the autonomous child
Understanding of Child-rearing
Basic Child-rearing perspective: view the child from the principles here / view of the child from the principles here / view of the child is in principle / partial view of the principles here / perspective of the child
Educational goals: submission / adaptive / conflict between autonomy and beliefs / believe the child has autonomy.
Methods of education: corporal punishment as the central method / strong directing (interventionist) corporal punishment as a last medium / directing and supportive, in certain areas intervening / directing and supporting
Incidence of violence
Physical violence: (serious) physical violence as a systematic method / corporal punishment is fundamentally affirmative / differing views on body punishment / denial of physical violence
Psychological violence: in connection with physical violence and the goal of subjugation in close belief system / in front of all in connection with interventionist education methods in a tightly held belief system / in connection with conflicting objectives and beliefs / approach affects mechanisms contrary to psychological violence

infoSekte also has a paper entitled Das Problem des Kindes ist, dass es ein Sünder ist“ Körperliche Züchtigung in Gottes Namen. It is 13 pages long and explains some of the issues with Evangelical Christianity in Europe and how children are perceived sinners rather than individuals who are slowly developing and learning right from wrong.

A child is understood as a little person with a depraved nature and sinful heart. In their hearts, they instigate a rebellion against God, which is known as "Spiritual Death". (Turning away from God) The findings of modern pedagogy such as the great importance of self-worth, self-efficacy and so forth are caricatured as wrong and that the "outside world" are selfish and arrogant and will bring ruin to the child. Corporal punishment provides children with the possiblity towards holiness and a share in godliness.
infoSekta: Das Problem des Kindes ist, dass es ein Sünder ist“ Körperliche Züchtigung in Gottes Namen.

The UN Rights of the Child is the very same document that many Christians in the United States have pushed for a refusal to ratify since the 1990s. [The US has signed, but not ratified as of this date in time.] Also something to note; Michael Farris has really pushed Home-schoolers into a frenzy over it as taking away parental rights to discipline punitively and claim it is "biblical". For the uninitiated to my blog, Michael Farris is the head of Patrick Henry College, The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and loosely affiliated with Schuzh, which defends many German Home-schoolers in court. You may have recently seen Michael Farris in the news pushing against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 If you get a chance, please do read this study. I understand that 61 pages is awfully long, but it is worth it. There is a serious problem when familial violence becomes a normal and accepted piece of one's culture and religious upbringing and we normalize it to the extent that no one is shocked at all.

Issues brought forward by the Twelve Tribes in Germany are not at all shocking in many parts of the United States because such methods have become so normalized that so many people believe it is the right thing to do. Anything contrary is "unbiblical". That is not to say that there are not Christians, like myself, who believe that corporal punishment is actually what is contrary to the Bible.

If one wishes to claim that the Bible teaches beating their children, I would have to recommend you go back and actually investigate those claims for yourself as this is not understood to be the case within the Jewish community; and from whom we get the proof-text "spanking"/"smacking" passages from. It is a purely Christian phenomenon that came into place some time in the middle ages, as far as I can find at this juncture. Before, corporal discipline was for adult members of the faith who wished to submit themselves to flagellation.

One book that discusses this phenomenon and suggests a better way is Samuel Martin's Book; Thy Rod And Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy.  I have others, should you wish to peruse them, but they are not free.

There are wonderful articles referenced here in an older post on my blog and I also have a ton on my Pinterest parenting boards, should you have an account there.

If you don't know about the Pearls and their harmful teaching, I'd be happy to throw you more than the recommendation to read Hermana Linda's Blog and this review of the Pearl's ministry.  I would also like to mention that any court willing to speak with me personally is more than welcome to discuss punitive upbringing, homeschooling, corporal punishment proof-texts, etc.  I'm not an expert, but I've lived through it and am working to change things with my children and advocating for others to the best of my abilities.

Update: Michael and Debi Pearl and critiques about them and information on the Hana Williams case were on CNN last night's Anderson Cooper. If you still doubt the methods this couple advocates, look no further. Controversial parenting book linked to the deaths of several children.

There was an older video that was sent to me from 2012 that was put out by ARD discussing Michael and Debi Pearl's "To Train Up a Child" or as it's known in German, "Wie man einen Knaben gewöhnt". While this book is not currently on sale, it can be purchased second-hand or under the table. I am not certain if it has any bearing on the Twelve Tribes case, but it definitely has bearing on the recent discussions as of late concerning parents who willfully use corporal punishment against their children and try to use the Bible to justify it.

Reporter: We've already discussed radical Muslims in our series report  just now, but there are also radical Christians.  They live in a sort of parallel society among us. They reject emancipation, believe that teaching evolution is a lie, homosexuality is a sin and they also have their own counselors on upbringing. [displays "To Train Up A Child" By Michael and Debi Pearl] I will read a small extract here on compliance here on page 49: "Spankings are for the soul what healthy blood flow is for a sore. When a child gets corrected at the right time and with a thick rod is healed in the soul and can be kept away from hell."

And then it is also described in detail - how to use corporal punishment, when to spank and with what to beat your child so that he or she becomes obedient.

"This can't be for real", I'm sure you're saying, as we also said; but it is sadly the truth.  Martin Klein...?

Martin: Thrashing with a switch or whipping with a leather belt - abuse against children as a perfectly normal way to bring up your children. Every day life in radical Christian families in Baden-Würrtemberg...

Andrea Kerner, name changed to preserve privacy; details how in the family of her brother who are deeply devout Christians regularly beat their children.

Andrea: It was very important to them that children were swiftly spanked, whether with a belt or a switch. The eldest daughter has told one of my children that she was laid across a chair and then got it with a switch, uh, her punishment.

Martin: Here, the Bible is served as a justification for violence against children. There is evidence, say the radical Christians, as it is stated in the Old Testament: "Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him, but whoever loves his son disciplines him from early on."

Andrea: We were shocked and then tried to speak with the parents, my brother and his wife, but it wasn't fruitful at all.  They were absolutely convinced about using these methods and we were unable to sway them at all.

Martin: Corporal punishment for children in the name of God is not just a rare ocurrance in the background of ultra devout Christians. An actual parenting book that this scene comes from is called "To train up a child" which is published by Heidelberger Verlag, Europäischer Missionspresse. This book gives detailed instructions on how to most effectively beat a child.
Quote: "If you have to sit on your child to smack it, then do not hesitate. (...) Start to beat it slowly. (...) when the beatings are not hard enough, the child will still be rebellious. If that is the case, take your time to explain and continue beating."

At the child protection coalition in Baden-Würrtemberg, they are shocked.

Verena Mohnke: What was shocking for me was that children are not being disciplined but conditioned via pain. And I cannot reccommend such a thing to anyone, that it possibly could be good for the rest of one's life - whether bodily, or for the mind and soul of that person.

Martin: Corporal punishment as a measure of upbringing: Our civil law book says, and I quote, "Children have a right to a non-violent upbringing. Physical punishments, psychological injuries and other degrading measures of upbringing are not permitted."

Just one example outside a neighborhood of Russian-German super devout Christians.

We hear from a social worker that spankings, thrashings and such for children are regularly found in this milleux as an every day training method. [sign: District Office Hohenlohe] The district social offices of the city are aware of the problem, but no one wants to discuss this in front of our cameras.

Back to Andrea Kerner. A couple years ago she has been to the district family court of Schwäbisch Hall who took interest in the case of  her brother and sister in law's training methods. But the court did not deem the well-being of the children to be in immediate danger.

Andrea: We were simply disappointed. Because we had also read in the newspapers about children who died from being beaten [because of the Pearl's methods]. You also always hear blame about the environment of the children - no one had known, no one had heard anything. We gathered our courage to contact child protective services and it was somehow always being downplayed and in the end it had no effects at all on my brother and my sister in law.

Martin: Corporal punishment in the name of the Lord, dubious parenting counselors in the hands Bible-believing Christians and the civil law book forbidding force. Is the state powerless to help?

I would like to leave with a closing message by Robbyn Peters. It is "Violence: A Family Tradition". For those who are still unconvinced, I ask that you please consider Robbyn's words and investigate for yourself.

For additional information in German about these issues, please click here, here and here.

For a study that Christian Pfeiffer collaborated on, see here.

Edited 7.2.2014 to add a video.
Edited 9.2.2014 to add more information and links.

Edited 13.2.2014 to add two links and paragraphs from the links as well as images from study. 
Edited 30.08.2014 to adding three links. 
Edited 07.09.2014 to add one link. 
Edited 09.10.2014 to add one link.

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