Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Smacking Controversy, Part I

Have you ever had to listen to false accusations against someone you deeply love?  It provokes many intense emotions, including anger, sadness and frustration.  Your stomach clenches.   It is almost impossible to keep your mouth shut, even when you know that speaking up won't change their mind and will end badly.   That is the way I feel when I hear people claim that God wants us to spank our children.

I imagine that many of my loved ones who believe that the Bible teaches us to spank feel similar emotions whenever I get on my soapbox.   They love their children deeply and have no desire to abuse them.  They have reverence for the Bible and a heart that longs to please God.  They love Him so much that they would even go as far as to spank their children if that is what it takes to be obedient to God.  Just as Abraham was willing to place Isaac on the altar and trust that somehow God would bring good out of it, even it it went against everything that he believed God was, they cling to the hope that their sacrifice will ultimately result in good for their children.

If I could, I would give every single one of them a copy of this book.

Let me begin with what this book is NOT:
It is not a book about the evils of spanking.  It doesn't focus in excruciating detail (or even at all) on all the possible ways that spanking could harm your children.

It isn't a book about persuading parents to do this or not do that.  It doesn't try to marshal a bunch of reasons to spank or not spank.

It isn't emotional.  It doesn't put you on a guilt trip

It isn't dismissive.  It doesn't tell you to disregard the Bible.

It isn't speculative.  It doesn't come up with convoluted interpretations to make a point.

It isn't argumentative.  It doesn't try to present a series of arguments of why you shouldn't spank your kids.

It isn't disrespectful to our Jewish brothers and sisters.  It doesn't try to make the Law into something evil or foolish.

It doesn't use cop-outs.  "Well, yes, the Bible teaches spanking, but it doesn't apply to us because... "

It doesn't need to.

What it IS:

It is incredibly thorough.  It systematically addresses every passage that in any way is used to promote spanking.

It is well-referenced.  The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

It is grounded in solid information, not some author's whim or personal interpretation.

It is deeply knowledgeable about Jewish thought and history.  It gives a plethora of references, quotes, and other material from Rabbis throughout history to present a consistent picture of Jewish interpretations of the Proverbs and other passages.

It is unquestionably scholarly, yet also pleasantly readable.  My eyes didn't glaze over, but I just felt as though I were reading an exceptionally well-written thesis.

It is obviously written by a man with the deepest reverence for God's Word, and the responsibility of handling it accurately.  This isn't the work of a secular author who is trying to twist religious arguments to back himself up.  It is the work of a brother in Christ who fully accepts the authority of Scripture.

Honestly, I can't imagine any serious student of the Bible reading this and still believing that spanking is Biblically endorsed.  I am considering and praying about what I should do at this point, because I am leaning towards buying several copies and offering them to anyone who genuinely believes that the Bible teaches spanking. 

Gentle discipline is one of my passions.  I've read every Christian source I can find on spanking, and have many excellent resources.  This one is easily one of the best.

Part II contains more specifics on the content, but in the meantime, please check out the author's site:  http://www.biblechild.com/ and his blog, www.samuelmartin.blogspot.com

Disclosure:  I received a gift copy from the author after mentioning that I wanted to read this book in a previous post.  No conditions were attached, and I did not make any promises, even to the extent of a review post.  Once I read the book, I was so honestly impressed that I wanted to share it.  I do not receive payment or compensation for sharing my opinions of any product.


Karla said...

My name is Karla Rodriguez and I am very interested in the PDF "Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy". I live in El Salvador Central America and right now I am workin in developing a playful and educational methodology for parents to; 1) Sensibilize the evangelical religious Leaders to play an active role to protect children from physical or psychological abuse; and 2) Educate parents to prevent physical or psychological punishment as a method to educate and discipline children.

I truly believe this document will help me a lot... hope to hear from you
Best regards!!
Karla Rodriguez.

dulce de leche said...

Karla, thank you so much for the work you are doing. I will make sure that he sees this. If you would like to provide a contact email, I can pass that along. It will not be published. :)

Anna said...

Wow, that sounds incredible. This review alone is enough to make me want to get my hands on a copy ASAP. Thank you, dulce! <3