Saturday, March 20, 2010

Child Abusers: Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child, Right?


There are probably some fundamentalistically-oriented who are upset at my rejection of the proverb, but Scripture isn't meant to always be taken literally. Sometimes, it teaches spiritual truth through stories of human error and through proverbs that are wrong.

The spiritual meaning of the Biblical verse underlying the proverb...

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24 not "whip your kids with a stick if they are bad."

The Hebrew term translated "rod" generally means "branch" of a tree, or "stick" -- a piece of wood.

And tree or part of a tree, in Bible typology, refers to the cross of Christ.

"Son," here -- ben in Hebrew -- refers to a male child, where children in Bible typology generally refer to converts, and maleness refers to being God-empowered, or godly.

So, the verse, at the spiritual level, is saying, "Apply Christ's cross to them, to preserve their faith" -- teach them about Christ, love them as Christ would.

Not "beat them with a stick."

The worst example of such beating of children I ever saw was in the house of my Asian neighbors, a few years ago.

Many Asians come to this country with what amounts to 1950s American values -- including the bad ones, having to do with hitting and whipping children.

My Vietnamese neighbors were in the thick of their native culture's values.

At one point, the wife was sick of being abused by her financially-responsible but brutal husband. She left him, flying herself and their daughter to the home of her own mother in Florida.

A few weeks later, feeling unwelcomed by her mother in her mother's home, she returned to the house next door, and after cleaning-up the mess left by her husband when he ransacked the house to express his anger at her departure, she resolved to give her marriage one more try.

She entered into an agreement where in return for concessions by him, she would allow his values connected to discipline of their little girl to reign supreme in the house.

Now this wasn't a bad little girl. Their daughter, 8 years old at the time, was an angel.

Despite her good character, their home suddenly became a House of Terror.

While the husband was at work one day, I went to the house to talk to the wife about a real estate settlement I was managing for her real estate business, as her lawyer.

As we walked through the cleaned-up living room, I saw a yellow fiberglass rod leaning in the corner.

I said, "What's that for, Trang?"

"That's for our daughter, Peter."

"What???!!!," I exclaimed with shock. "Trang, your daughter is wonderful!!! She loves both of you. She obeys. She's good in school. Her grades are good. Why in Heaven's Holy Name would you prepare to punish her with a special weapon???!!!"

"Peter," she answered, "We only have to do it once. Then, she'll never forget it!"

"Trang," I said frostily, "She's beginning to enter the age where it is 'respect time,' not 'whipping time.' You are so wrong! And Thanh won't stop at doing it once!"

That night, at around 9:00 p.m., Trang called me over to their house to help their daughter with special math homework -- 25 time-consuming math problems of a variety which neither Trang nor her husband Thanh understood.

When I knocked on the door with "a-shave-and-a-haircut" rhythm, their daughter, recognizing my knock, ran to the door and threw it open and held out her arms. "MR. PETER!" she declared, with a broad smile, knowing that her happiness gave me such joy!

Inside, I immediately "smelled" something "sober" about the situation. Thanh was in the kitchen, for the first time doing doing household chores -- the dinner dishes -- but in silence. I wanted to tease him about the frilly apron he was wearing, but I kept my mouth shut for the sake of peace. Trang was in the living room, sweeping the floor. Their daughter was her usual happy, funny, hardworking self. We began the math problems. The daughter paid close attention, while the parents worked with mysterious silence. I looked up and saw the fiberglass rod still in its corner in the living room. We worked hard, over the next hour. Because the daughter had missed so much school during her parents' separation, I had to teach her a variety of math completely foreign to her. I apologized to Trang and Thanh for taking so much time, but they said, "It's okay, Peter." At 9:55 p.m., we were on math problem #25 -- the last one, and also the most difficult. From the kitchen, Thanh spoke to his daughter in Vietnamese...

"Dah di dah di dah di dah di dah di dah," and he held out the dish towel, obviously asking her to dry the rest of the dishes. I realized that he had been listening, and was testing his daughter just to see if she would blindly obey a difficult order.

Their daughter answered in a mix of Vietnamese and English, in a pleading voice, pointing at the clock on the wall...

"Dah di dah di dah di dah Mr. Peter, dah di dah di dah di dah go home, dah di dah di dah di dah last math problem, dah di dah di dah 5 more minutes. Please, Dad, otherwise I can't finish this last problem. It is the hardest problem."

"THAT DOES IT!," Thanh growled. He dropped the towel to the floor, and ran toward the fiberglass rod.

I jumped up and ran over to Thanh. "Thanh," I whispered, "She's just trying to be a respectful neighbor. She is balancing -- doing what you do every day! She's trying to finish homework now, so that a neighbor giving free help is not forced to wait!"

"STAY OUT OF THIS, PETER!," he growled, picking up the rod. I ran over to Trang. "Trang," I whispered, "He's about to whip your daughter for being good, not bad!"

"Peter," she whispered, "Go home. This must be done."

Upset, I picked up my books and papers and left. As the door closed behind me, I heard their daughter scream loudly and cry.

Two days later was "babysitting Saturday," when my family took care of the daughter while Thanh and Trang were at work.

Since I had tried to save her, their daughter, when she came over, lowered the waist of her pants and raised her shirt just enough to let us see a part of a deep red gash running from her buttocks below the waist of her pants to her back beneath her shirt.

"Mr. Peter," she said, "Look!"

Last year, when I was still babysitting their daughter, she asked me, "Mr. Peter, do you remember that time my father whipped me with that rod?"

"I can't forget it, honey," I answered sadly.

"Mr. Peter, can you tell me why I was whipped? I don't know. I never knew why."

"Little one," I answered, "You were whipped because your dad, at 10:00 at night, asked you to make me wait to help you finish the last of 25 math problems, while you took over drying dishes. You gently pleaded that I was a guest in your home at 10:00 at night, rendering a free service by helping you with your homework, and so it made more sense for you to finish the homework first, so that I could go home, and then you would dry dishes."

"What!!!" she responded. "But that means that my dad whipped me for being a good person!"

"That is correct, little one. You were whipped with a stick because rather than hurt a neighbor who was helping you, you tried to do things in a good and moral way.”

"Did you know that he did not stop whipping me after that? He whipped me again and again and again, with that stick, with hangers, and with a belt."

"Well, I warned your mom that he wouldn't stop."

"What did my mom say to you, when you whispered to her that night to stop what was about to happen?"

I lied to their daughter in my response -- and I wish I hadn't. I have never stopped feeling obscene for my lie: "She told me that she felt that whipping you was unjust, but that for the sake of keeping the family together she would force herself to put up with this."

I didn't tell their daughter that her mother agreed in advance to support her whipping, and that all she told me to do was leave.

The whipping just isn't necessary.

Just love them.


No comments:

Post a Comment