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Saturday, December 14, 2013

He Thunders

A controversial topic. Why haven't I learned not to post these things on Facebook? Inevitably one person will comment and then a whole avalanche of comments will appear, advocating each side of some issue that they feel strongly about. Tonight it was a petition to have a book removed from Amazon's listing. The book, written by conservative fundamentalists, advocates disciplining children to the point of child abuse. This is something that I have zero tolerance for, hence why I signed the petition and posted the link.

Then the comments came. Someone said that if we asked Amazon to remove this book, it would lead to other books similar to it being petitioned, and then we wouldn't be able to discipline our children in the Biblical way. Someone else said it wasn't such a bad book, it was the people who used it. I replied, then I went off, emotionally too fragile to process it logically.

Why is this such a hot button for me? Perhaps because children have no one to speak up for them, therefore we are tasked with that responsibility. Perhaps because I also have zero tolerance for those who are afraid of "upsetting the fruit basket" in fear that if we do so, we will have our rights taken away from us. I realized, though, that the core reason is deeper than that. It is because the spiritual values are being distorted.

God's kingdom is a kingdom of love, grace, mercy, peace, kindness, and gentleness. Ah, you say, but you forgot one key aspect: self-control. True, I did not include it in the list, but I did not for a specific reason. To contrast the first six with self-control is not accurate, it must be included with the first six to make sense. I have heard pastors say that the fruits are progressive, with self-control being the ultimate goal. I have heard pastors say that it is a singular fruit, therefore self-control would be part of the package. I have heard countless sermons on the value of self-control, stating that the possession thereof will ultimately lead to perfection Regardless of the semantics, however, one thing is clear. God's kingdom also includes self-control. However, is self-control akin to other-control?

The topic of child discipline is one that has been hotly debated for years. The liberal camp suggests guidance while allowing the child to determine their own pathway; the conservatives firmly believe that corporal punishment is the only way. There are those who live inbetween. I am not a parent, but I was raised by a mother who did not hesitate to spank me if I needed it, and I admit there were times I did. My parents had a variety of ways to discipline, with spanking being only one of them, and as I grew older and they were able to reason with me, they took away privileges that I dearly loved. It was a far greater punishment to sit home and watch my sister enjoying Thursday night social with all my friends than it was to have a spanking. As I began to associate choices with consequences, I quickly learned to make better ones.

God has the task of parenting an entire world and He does so in love. We do suffer consequences to our ill choices; if you smoke regularly you will likely die from lung cancer, and other such similar things. However, God also gives us the freedom to determine our own destiny by making those choices. He does not require us to follow a strict pathway led out in precise measurements in order to reach heaven; He gives us guidelines and then we are free to choose whether or not we will follow those guidelines, interpreting them as we understand them through prayer, Bible study, logic, and counsel. This is a frightening thought to the conservative because they far prefer to refer to the little red books as an exact set of rules to keep them on the straight and narrow. This is also unsettling to the liberals who would rather believe there are no guidelines and they can happily sail through life as they wish, just as long as they proclaim their love for God. Balance is often far from either camp and they struggle to understand the concept of self-control within the context of freedom.

Self-control is a learned and God-given habit. We acquire it by consistent positive choices, repeating them over and over until they become automatic. We are given the strength to make those choices, however, by the Holy Spirit. Whether we acknowledge it as Christians or not, lasting self-control is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We are given the freedom to choose self-control. This is not to be confused with other-control, however. The book in question advocates parents controlling their children to the point that the child no longer has a will of their own. According to a review by the BBC, "Parents must assume that part of the child's moral duty which is not fully developed" disciplining them to the point of subjection. It is self-evident that the authors believe parents are commanded to assume the role of the Holy Spirit in their child's life. This is not the role that God has given parents, however. To guide them to make wise choices, yes. To determine every choice for them, claiming infallible authority, and disciplining them into unquestioning absolute obedience, no.

My biggest struggle is learning God is love. When I react emotionally to people's comments, it is because I do not see His love but rather a fearsome being who will not protect. This is not a god I can serve or even associate with. I must believe that God is angered when a child is abused, that He sets out to rescue, and that He who said it would be better for a millstone to be put around the neck of someone who causes a child to sin and that that person be thrown into the depth of the sea meant every word He said. God is love, but His love is not silent. This is why I too, must speak out.

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