Today’s entry was originally going to be two separate posts, but I decided to combine them because they are both linked to Christian ideologies that end up in both the abuse and the death of children. On the surface, they appear to be very different, but the unchecked and/or enabled natural progression of any mental illness almost always results in a bad outcome.
One one side of the coin are parents who are in favor of corporal punishment for their children because they believe that god had told them to. On the flip side are the parents who have murdered their children because they believe that god had told them to. Some of you may cite postpartum depression or another mental illness as the root cause of some of the child-murders. Well, delusion is also a mental disorder and it mean something that is believed to be true or real but that is actually false or unreal or an inability to distinguish between what is real and what only seems to be real.
How far can the leap be from believing that an imaginary being who created the universe is telling them to physically abuse their child to believing that this same being is telling them to sacrifice their child for any number of reasons, particularly if there exists another, potentially more damaging mental illness?
Let us begin with the former, those Christians who believe that the creator of the universe tells them it is OK to physically abuse their children. Because they believe the bible to be the inerrant word of god, suitable for teaching and reproof, they garner their justification for corporal punishment from any one of the following bible verses:
- Prov 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently).”
- Prov 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
- Prov 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
- Prov 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
- Prov 23:14: “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel).”
- Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
If you ask most conservative Christians, they will state that it is necessary to start disciplining children at a young age. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) recommends spanking children in some situations as early as 18 months old. For some Christian parents, corporal punishment is the only effective method and non-violent parenting techniques are not often considered. Of course, this is in spite of the fact that in twenty-four countries around the world, it is illegal for a parent, teacher or anyone else to spank a child. One-hundred-thirteen countries prohibit corporal punishment in schools. Yet in all of North America, physical punishment by a parent, as long as it is not severe, is still seen by many as necessary discipline, and condoned, or sadly, even encouraged. Paddling school-aged children is still practiced in many parts of the country, as is the case where I live in Alabama. What these people fail to understand is that hitting children teaches them to become hitters themselves. This is backed up by extensive research, which is available on any self-respecting search engine.
Over the years, I have personally seen kids hit with switches, paddles, bats, bike chains, open hands, closed fists, axe handles, canes and even a dildo. Yeah, figure that one out… Problem is, I was an Evangelical Christian at the time and it was perfectly acceptable. Everyone did it, and the more they did it, the better parents they were. In fact, a well known evangelical website states:
It is our opinion that the use of paddles, hands, belts, whips or anything other than a rod falls outside of what God says we are supposed to do in terms of administering corporal discipline… a thin dowel rod most closely matches the ‘rod’ of discipline being referred to in the Bible for children. A dowel rod can be purchased at any home improvement store. We prefer the 1/4″ diameter for our medium aged children and a slightly thinner one for the younger ones.
If this advice were given anywhere outside of a religious context, the abuser would be thrown in jail. It is high time the woodshed be burned down. There are better, more productive methods of disciplining a child other than what amounts to physical child abuse.
As far as the other side of the coin, parents who murder their children, I find myself not knowing whether to cry or scream when I read about these poor, defenseless children being tortured and murdered by the very people that they have been trained to trust for comfort and well-being. Imagine the sheer confusion at first, then the fear, then the pain that these children faced:
- Antonio and Eric Lopez – 9 and 2 years old, respectively – Magdalena Lopez murdered her two sons Antonio and Erik on July 19, 2005 in Dyer Indiana. Police reported that she beat her two sons to death with a ten-pound dumbbell because she thought they’d be better off in heaven. Both deaths were caused by massive skull fractures. Mrs. Lopez was quoted as saying, “They’re in a much better place now.”
- Margaret Schlosser – Suffering from postpartum depression, Dena Schlosser severed both of her daughter’s arms in Plano, Texas on November 23, 2004 in a bout of religious fervor. Ten month old Margaret did not survive.
- Joshua and Luke Laney – Suffering from postpartum depression, an intensely devout Deanna Laney murdered two of her young sons, 8 and 6, and severely injured a third near Tyler, Texas on May 10, 2003.
- Samantha Mae Martin – Sherry Marie Delker murdered her 6 year old daughter Samantha on March 29, 2002 in Austintown, Ohio. Mrs. Delker admitted to running her daughter down with her car outside a church. Police said she wanted to send her daughter to a “better place.”
- Noah, John, Paul, Luke and Mary Yates – 7, 5, 3, 2 & 6 months respectively – A severely depressed Andrea Pia Yates drowned her five children Noah, John, Paul, Luke, and Mary in the bathtub of her Clearlake area home in Houston, Texas, on June 20, 2001.
- Nicholas, Emily and Thomas Lemak – 7, 6 and 3 years old respectively – Marilyn Lemak murdered her three children on March 4, 1999 in their Naperville, Illinois home. Mrs. Lemak feed the children peanut butter laced with antidepressants, laid them down to sleep, then smothered them with her hands. She wanted to kill the children and herself so they could be reunited in a happier place. “She perceived herself as a loving mother tenderly taking her children into another existence,” stated psychiatrist Philip Resnick.
- Kouaeia, Samson, Nali, Tang, Aee and Tung Hang – 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 years old, respectively – On September 3, 1998, Khoua Her strangled her six children in St. Paul, Minnesota. She then hanged herself in a failed suicide attempt. Khoua had become a Christian after immigrating to the United States, and thought she would be reunited with the children in the afterlife. Prosecuter Chris Wilton stated, “I know that she did this for religious reasons.”
- Justin and Shelby Riggs – 5 and 2 years old, respectively – Christina Marie Riggs smothered her two children Justin and Shelby with a pillow in Sherwood, Arkansas. She then attempted suicide by swallowing twenty-eight Elavil tablets and injecting enough potassium chloride to kill five people. Incredibly, she survived.
- Christina and Jason Gindorf – 23 months and 3 months, respectively – Suffering from postpartum depression and feeling totally alone and helpless in the world, Debra Lynn Gindorf fed her twenty-three month old daughter Christina and three month old son Jason lethal doses of crushed sleeping pills in a cup of juice. She then unsuccessfully attempted suicide. She believed she and her babies would be reunited in heaven, where they would be safe and happy together for eternity.
These are some the same people who believe that human tissue with a cell count one-tenth of that in the eye of a flea is on the same level as a living, breathing human child. They talk a pretty good game about the sanctity of life and how pro-choice people are pawns of Satan, and in some cases, should be and are killed for it.
It can be said that there is no more powerful force in the world than that of religious belief. This has been proven time and time again, through wars, inquisitions and other acts of terror perpetrated against humanity over the millennia. A powerful force, indeed.
There are many sources of information that explain, even from psychiatric sources, why a parent would kill their own child. While many of these people are on the far end of sanity, somewhere, somehow religion crept in and their mental illness drove them to horrific acts against the most innocent of us. There is so much wrong with many of the concepts and precepts of fundamental evangelical religions and their promise of reward and punishments in a non-existent afterlife that it is no wonder we read about these crimes on a too-regular basis.
People hear voices in their heads telling them to do bad things all the time. Paranoid Schizophrenia is a very real mental illness that, left unchecked, results in very bad things. Add religion into the mix and you’ve got a veritable Molotov Cocktail of delusional ideology in an unstable mind. Mental illness is hard enough to combat. Exacerbating it with the belief in a supreme being – one that wrote a book that is supposed to be his word, but is elusive and enigmatic, filled with nonsensical paradox, and the results are much less than favorable. It’s like giving a pyromaniac matches and dynamite and expecting favorable results.
And don’t for one minute, think I am intentionally leaving Islam out of this. The horrific things that fundamental Muslims do to their children, from genital mutilation to honor killing, will be the topic of a future post all on it’s own.
It has been said that good people do good things, bad people do bad things, but to cause a good person to do bad things takes religion.