Do You Shoot the Messenger?

I have been speaking out publicly about the negative effects and lack of Biblical justification for hitting children for almost a year now. Since I began, I have experienced various reactions to my advocacy on the part of my friends and family, ranging from silent Facebook “unfriending” to written reproof to complete severing of contact with myself.

When I learn that a friend or family member has been angered by the blog posts I write and the articles I share, my attempts to speak with them are typically either outright denied or entertained only briefly. When they are entertained briefly, I have found there to be a common thread. In every such case, the person has said to me something to the effect: “Stephanie, I disagree with you on parenting issues. But that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is how you speak about the issues. Your words are judgmental and aggressive.”

When I ask someone to explain to me how my words are judgmental and aggressive, they pause briefly before going on to say, “I can’t explain it. They just are.”

I will be the first to say that my attempts to advocate for children are not free of mistakes, that they are not free of sin. How could they be? I am, after all, a messy, ill-equipped sinner. But I take heart! Not only have I been reconciled to God by the work of Christ on the cross, I also have example after example available to me in the Bible and beyond of messy, ill-equipped sinners being used by God to bring about his holy, sovereign plans.

Is It Really My Words?

Having mulled over the above for quite some time now, I have posted here two articles that I urge you to read. In doing so, you will have the opportunity to examine if and how your opinion on a topic impacts your perception.

For example, if you believe that spanking is a justifiable means of discipline, I can guarantee that you will be characterizing me as judgmental and aggressive just a few sentences in to Article #1: “How dare she speak so harshly! How dare she judge me as a parent!” If, however, you believe that abortion is not a justifiable means of birth control, I can also guarantee that you will find neither judgement nor aggression in all of Article #2: “The truth must be spoken! She is right to call abortion what it truly is!”

Let’s get started.

Article #1

Spanking is rarely talked about.

I’m not talking about the word “spanking.” We hear this word a lot. But we rarely hear about it. Spanking almost always refers to something else. We hear that spanking is fundamentally about a parent’s right to discipline their children how they see fit. And that spanking is a litmus test for good Christian parenting. And that spanking results in obedient, well-mannered, happy children.

But none of those things is what spanking really is. Spanking is the intentional hitting of children.

Death is in the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Spanking is a clear example of this truth.

The abuse of children can be tolerated and even championed as a social good so long as we don’t call it what it is. Call spanking an individual parent’s right and you can write it into the legal code. Call spanking a compassionate tool used by good parents seeking to prevent their children from one day going to prison and you can swing popular opinion. Call spanking a God-ordained method of disciplining children that can successfully be done “in love,” and Godly people will follow the urging of pastors, Christian leaders and authors, family members, friends, and memes to preserve the practice of spanking in their homes.

But you won’t hear those who advocate spanking say, “We will fight for the right to hit our children!” Because calling spanking what it is might awaken uneasy consciences out of a euphemistic stupor to realize that millions of the most defenseless human beings in America are being hit by men and women who are ignoring Christ’s words in John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…”

Death is in the power of logic contradicting, term redefining, and deceptively clinical tongues. We have allowed legal child abuse in this country because we’ve called it something else.

Life is in the Power of the Tongue

That’s why Christians, the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14) must keep speaking the truth about what spanking is with relentless clarity. “We destroy arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by not yielding the ground of clear truth. Because life is in the power of truth-speaking tongues.

Therefore, we will keep saying:

Spanking abuses children and we all know this.

Our legal code demonstrates that we know this because the phrase “physical or emotional harm” is included in the federal definition of child abuse, making legalized spanking a schizophrenic, arbitrary, and tragically defective legal ruling.

Spanking is mercilessly violent. Children with heartbeats, brainwaves, and a nervous system that allows them to feel pain are literally beat by those that should be protecting them.

“When adults do not understand the connections between their previous experiences of injury and those they actively repeat in the present, they perpetuate a destructive cycle and inflict their own suffering on their offspring. The next generation continues to carry the damage that has been stored up in the mind and body of their ancestor.” – How Spanking Harms the Brain, Psychology Today

The number of children abused by spanking every day dwarfs the number of women who are raped and other abusive horrors taking place daily in the United States.

  • More than 35 million American children wake up every day in homes that utilize the abusive disciplinary practice of spanking.
  • The International Center for Assault Prevention estimates between 80% and 98% of children are subject to abuse in the form of physical punishment around the world.

“Physical violence is often accompanied by psychological violence. Insults, name-calling, isolation, rejection, threats, emotional indifference and belittling are all forms of violence that can be detrimental to a child’s well-being- especially when it comes from a respected adult such as a parent.” – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

And we will speak many, many more clear truths until spanking is made illegal.

Here’s the point: truthful tongues save those who are oppressed. Legally protected spanking is an evil that occurs and is tolerated because of deceptive words. And it’s truthful words that are required to clear the fatal fog with clarity.

Keep Speaking

I don’t know if our speaking truth will succeed in helping to change the legal acceptance of spanking. Research reveals encouraging developments. But as John Piper says, “We are not called to win; we are called to witness.”

However, history does show that the faithful, relentless, prophetic witness of the saints over many years results in the remarkable spread of the gospel and the end of thousands of horrible social evils from the individual to the national levels.

So we must keep speaking. We must call spanking what it is: the abuse of children and a vicious established legalized evil and injustice.

Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we just remembered because of his relentless truth-telling in the face of established, legalized racial evil, once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”

We dare not be guilty of this. The Lord who said, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death” will not accept the excuse, “Behold, we did not know this” (Proverbs 24:11–12).

May truth be in the power of our tongues.

Article #2

Abortion is rarely talked about.

I’m not talking about the word “abortion.” We hear this word a lot it in the public square. But we rarely hear about it. Abortion almost always refers to something else. We hear that abortion is fundamentally about a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. Or abortion is a litmus test for judicial nominees. Or abortion is symptomatic of what’s wrong with the social discourse in America.

But none of those things is what abortion really is. Abortion is the intentional killing of unborn children.

Death is in the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Abortion is a clear example of this truth.

The killing of children can be tolerated and even championed as a social good so long as we don’t call it what it is. Call abortion an individual’s right to privacy and you can write it into the legal code. Call abortion a compassionate choice offered to a frightened girl to save her future or to save a child from an undesirable quality of life and you can swing popular opinion. Call abortion a liberation of women from the social and economic oppression of male dominance and passionate people will march on capitols chanting demands to preserve the human right of abortion on-demand.

But you won’t hear the street marchers chant, “We will fight for the right to kill our children!” Because calling abortion what it is might awaken uneasy consciences out of a euphemistic stupor to realize that millions of the most defenseless human beings on the planet are being denied the self-evident, Creator-endowed human right to life.

Death is in the power of logic contradicting, term redefining, and deceptively clinical tongues. We have allowed legal child-killing on-demand for 41 years because we’ve called it something else.

Life is in the Power of the Tongue

That’s why Christians, the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14) must keep speaking the truth about what abortion is with relentless clarity. “We destroy arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by not yielding the ground of clear truth. Because life is in the power of truth-speaking tongues.

Therefore, we will keep saying:

Abortion kills children and we all know this.

Our legal code demonstrates that we know this because it grants an unborn child the rights of personhood in areas such as tort, criminal, and property law, making legalized abortion a schizophrenic, arbitrary, and tragically defective legal ruling.

Abortion is mercilessly violent. Children with heartbeats, brainwaves, and a nervous system that allows them to feel pain are literally torn to pieces.

“93% of all abortions [in the United States] are performed on healthy mothers, with healthy babies . . . Less than 1% are performed because of rape or incest.” (Abort73)

The number of children killed by abortion every year dwarfs the Holocaust and other homicidal horrors of history.

  • Approximately 3,300 children are killed by abortion every day in the United States. Americans kill 1.2 million unborn children every year.
  • The World Health Organization estimates between 40 and 50 million children are killed around the world by abortion, approximately 125,000 every day.

Unborn girls are killed at a higher rate than unborn boys. Estimates are as high as 163 million unborn girls have been intentionally killed since the 1970’s because they were girls, resulting in what some are now calling a “gendercide” (see Abuse of Discretion, 334).

And we will speak many, many more clear truths until abortion on-demand is ended.

Here’s the point: truthful tongues save lives. Legalized abortion is an evil that occurs and is tolerated because of deceptive words. And it’s truthful words that are required to clear the fatal fog with clarity.

Keep Speaking

I don’t know if our speaking truth will succeed in helping to change the abortion laws. World Magazine reports encouraging developments. But as John Piper says, “We are not called to win; we are called to witness.”

However, history does show that the faithful, relentless, prophetic witness of the saints over many years results in the remarkable spread of the gospel and the end of thousands of horrible social evils from the individual to the national levels.

So we must keep speaking. We must call abortion what it is: the killing of children and a vicious established legalized evil and injustice.

Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we just remembered because of his relentless truth-telling in the face of established, legalized racial evil, once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”

We dare not be guilty of this. The Lord who said, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death” will not accept the excuse, “Behold, we did not know this” (Proverbs 24:11–12).

May life be in the power of our truthful tongues.”

Concluding Thoughts

Surely you recognized that Article #1 and Article #2 are nearly identical, that they differ thematically, and that they share the same surrounding language. In fact, Article #1 was derived from Article #2, which was written in its entirety by John Bloom and titled Relentlessly Call Abortion What It Is. You can find this excellent article on the Desiring God blog here.

From the few others that I have heard from so far, it is absolutely eye-opening to learn how this exercise brings to light how a stance taken in opposition to our own can so quickly and thouroughly color our perceptions in regards to the tone and character of the messenger.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment below or message me personally at graceformysheep at gmail dot com.

I Know A Baby

I know a baby whose momma was grieving the loss of another unborn baby during pregnancy.

I know a baby whose momma feared every single day of her pregnancy that her body would fail him.

I know a baby whose momma was not able to gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.

I know a baby whose momma thought circumcision was cleaner, healthier, more attractive.

I know a baby who thought cry-it-out was necessary for independence and assertion of authority.

I know a baby who was born in a hospital.

I know a baby who has worn disposable diapers.

I know a baby whose momma struggled to walk and was in therapy for months due to symphysis pubis dysfunction.

I know a baby whose momma was treated for deep vein thrombosis with twice daily abdominal injections.

I know a baby whose momma used a nursing shield. For months.

I know a baby who has been given a bottle.

I know a baby who has been given formula. Several bottles of formula.

I know a baby who has been given a pacifier. And refused it over and over again to his momma’s then dismay.

I know a baby whose momma feared being seen nursing while uncovered.

I know a baby who has been nursed over a public toilet.

I know a baby who has slept in a swing. For hours upon hours.

I know a baby who has slept in a crib.

I know a baby who did not get to meet his Poppy before he succumbed to Lou Gherig’s right before his first Christmas.

I know a baby whose momma struggled with postpartum depression.

I know a baby who has been spoon-fed purées.

I know a baby who has been carried in a carseat.

I know a baby who has been pushed in a stroller. And sometimes still is.

I know a baby whose needs have pushed his momma to the brink of exhaustion, the brink of sanity, the brink of faith.

And I know a baby whose momma, while she is flawed beyond repair, has been sustained purely by His grace.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

(This baby is my son. This momma is me.)

Manifesto of an OCD Momma

*Disclaimer: Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious struggle that many people face daily in their own lives and in the lives of those they love. Unfortunately, our society at large is neither kind towards those who face this struggle, nor does it boast a clear understanding of what it entails. For example, it is not at all uncommon for someone to proclaim, “I am OCD about my house being clean,” or to hear someone say, “She has OCD about how she looks.” These comments are not only ignorant, they can be very hurtful. In this post my intention is not only to comment on parenting practices, but to also comment on our society’s desire to label and discard those who are different. However, if you find my words distasteful or offensive, please do not hesitate to contact me or comment below, as that is not in any way my intention.

Moment of Truth

The other day, someone I love and care about very much declared to me angrily that I have OCD (for those less familiar with mental health jargon, obsessive compulsive disorder) when it comes to parenting and that there is “something wrong” with my brain. Her words pierced me deeply – the labeling, the disdain, the absence of kindness.

Verdict: Guilty as Charged

Since then I have done a lot of praying, a lot of thinking, a lot of soul-searching. The evidence all points in one direction. Not only do I in fact have OCD, I have an extra stigmatized, albeit rare variety classified as “OCD: Seeing Through the Smoke-Screen of Mainstream Parenting Practices.”  And yes, I definitely have a severe, pervasive and incurable case of it.

Even though her words were really hard to hear (being serious here), I am not actually shocked to learn that my rejection of consumerist, convenience-oriented, parent-centric parenting practices have landed me a “mentally ill” label. If my rejection of mainstream parenting practices did not immediately land me in the “sick box,” what would the crib, stroller, and clip-on toy manufacturers do? What would the formula and baby food industries do? What would corporate America do? What would the “baby sleep trainers” do? What would Dobson, Tripp, Pearle, and Fitzpatrick do? What would obstetricians and hospitals do?

They would lose money. And this would be utterly catastrophic. But don’t worry. There is hope for them. By labeling me as crazy you are helping them protect their bottom line. By distancing yourself from me you are helping them protect their bottom line. And by labeling me and distancing yourself from me because I parent differently than your husband, mother, friend, baby book, church, pediatrician, etc. have instructed you to parent, you are letting me know that you are not at peace with your own parenting choices. Your momma heart must be so heavy. I grieve for you.

Symptomology

But what if you aren’t worrying about the bottom lines of the baby industries? What if my parenting choices don’t rile up repressed feelings of fear for you? What if you have sensed for some time that you have “OCD: Seeing Through the Smoke-Screen of Mainstream Parenting Practices” too? Admitting there is a problem is half the battle, so in hopes of helping you decipher if you yourself belong in the “sick box,” I have outlined many of my parenting obsessions and compulsions below. Please note that you need only possess one or more of these obsession/compulsion pairs to be certifiable according to your friends, family, and complete strangers. For your children’s sake, for your sake, and for our world’s sake, I pray that you are just as sick as I am.

Complusion: Babywearing

Obsession: Knowing that this…

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…not only leads to less crying and fussing as it is the way babies and young children were designed to be transported, it is physiologicallyneurologically and psychologically preferable to this:

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Compulsion: Breastfeeding a toddler

Obsession: Knowing that this…

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…is not only normal, it is nutritionally, intellectually, immunologically, and psychologically superior to this:

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Compulsion: Bedsharing

Obsession: Knowing that this…

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… not only reduces the incidence of SIDS, decreases “sleep obsession,” increases breastfeeding, and results in more sleep for moms, it is physiologically better than this recent fad:

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Compulsion: Comforting distressed babies and children

Obsession: Knowing that this…

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… is a biologically hard-wired response to a distressed child. Leaving children to “cry-it-out,” on the other hand, negatively impacts lifelong health,  decreases intelligence, impedes self-regulation, fosters mental illness, impoverishes brain development, and corrodes trust. What’s more it is a myth that “self-soothing” results from this:

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Compulsion: Using gentle, punishment-free discipline that guides rather than harms

Obsession: Knowing that this…

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…is both respectful and effective and does not result in permanent brain damage, increased rates of aggression, higher incidences of obesity, increased violence and depressionhigher incidences of cancer, heart disease, and asthma, and sexual impairment like this does: 

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*I recognize that I have not fully showcased here all of my obsessions and their corresponding compulsions. As my teething boy permits, I will be sure to update.

How “Sick” Are You?

In the meantime, I would love to hear from those of you who also live with this “disease.” What are your parenting obsessions and compulsions? How did you find out you were “sick?” How have your friends and loved ones reacted?

Five Questions For You

Dear Christian Parent Who Spanks,

I understand that you believe that God desires for parents to hit their children. Even though I disagree with you on this, I beg you to please stick with me for a few more minutes. I have a few questions for you that I sincerely believe will help me to reach a better understanding of your perspective.

Your staying?! Thank you.

Here goes!

Question #1: Do you believe a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol is correlated with developing high cholesterol?

Question #2: If yes, how did you come to possess this belief?

Question #3: If you came to possess this belief by information gleaned from doctors (who gleaned it from studies), why do you respect this information?

Question #4: Are you aware that numerous studies are showing that spanking children is correlated with negative outcomes? If you are not aware of them, I have included a few links here:

Question #5: Do the studies on cholesterol carry more weight in your mind than the studies on the negative impacts of spanking children? Why or why not?

I want to hear from you! Please comment below or contact me privately at graceformysheep  at gmail dot com.

Thank you very much for taking the time to engage in this discussion.

Your sister in Christ,

Steph

Letter To A “Sleep Training” Baby

Dear Precious Little One Left To Cry,

I cannot imagine how confused you must be. Just moments ago you were nestled warm and safe in the arms of your sweet momma, the primary being God has entrusted to nourish, comfort, and care for you during this brief yet delicate time in your life.

But now you lie alone in the dark, removed from her familiar, comforting embrace. You cry out for her, communicating in the way God designed you to. Perhaps you are still hungry? Perhaps your diaper is suddenly full? Perhaps your hands are cold? Perhaps you are scared? Perhaps your clothing is bunched beneath your back? Perhaps your stomach hurts? Perhaps your toe is caught on a thread in your sock? Perhaps your muscles ache? Perhaps you are lonely? Perhaps you crave nearness to your momma like I desire nearness to my Heavenly Father?

Just moments ago your momma had scooped you up when you cried out for her. This is what she has done ever since you were born, and you have come to trust that your needs matter to her, that she is your small, albeit secure island in the midst of a raging world. In this instance you were hungry, and although she speaks an entirely different language than you do, a language with words, your momma worked quickly to translate your cry, brought you to her breast, and thus your need for nourishment was met. As you suckled, you relaxed in her arms, your trust in her affirmed.

Letter To A “Sleep Training” Baby

But now she is not coming to scoop you up into her arms, to translate your cry, to meet your need. Completely helpless and dependent, you cry out again for her, your God-given instincts compelling you to use your voice to get her attention. Still she does not come. Still your need for her remains.

You continue to cry out for your momma – five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty minutes – your breath catching, your head throbbing, your body trembling from the stress hormones that flood your tiny veins. What you cannot yet understand is that your momma has fears that are holding her hostage outside your nursery door. You see, Little One, your momma has lived for many years in a culture that has ceaselessly shouted to her that neediness and dependency are more than not okay – they are to be purposefully avoided at all costs. Oh how my heart breaks for you, Little One. Oh how it breaks for your sweet momma.

Perhaps she has been told by a friend that you should be “sleeping through the night” by now? Perhaps she has been told by a pediatrician that you are capable of sleeping for x hours because you are x months old? Perhaps she has been told by her mother that she needs to stop “coddling” you now or you will still be needing to be rocked/nursed to sleep when you are in college? Perhaps she has been told by a “baby whisperer” that your sleep is something she must be in control of? Perhaps she has been told by fellow believers that you are capable of destroying her marriage if she “gives in” to her instincts to comfort you? Perhaps she has been told by a pastor that good Christian parents demand obedience from their children in all things, at all times? Surely she has been told by the culture at-large that success stems from independence, and that dependency is failure.

While I do not know the specific reasons, I can say with certainty that your momma fears in a very real way that your wakefulness is an indication that she is failing you, the very being she loves beyond measure. And this fear is so palpable and so strong that it is preventing her body from throwing open the door to your nursery, running to you, scooping you up in her arms, and comforting you as God designed her to. Instead, she stands paralyzed, her heart racing, her mind spinning, her palms sweating. She may be silent, Little One, but she is hurting so badly.

Soon your little body will exhaust itself, your crying will cease, and sleep will come over you. The Lord is good, he is gracious. He will not allow you to continue in agony much longer. I pray your relief comes soon. When you are grown up you will not be able to recall specifically this night or any others like it from your infancy. You may, however, always wonder why you fear night’s darkness, the sensation of being alone, or the sound of a baby crying.

But your momma? She will always remember this night and any others like it. Someday her heart will break when she recollects how she ignored your cries for her comfort, how her paralyzing fear to meet you in your neediness was not of the Lord. I pray you will be gracious to her, and that the Great Comforter will wrap her in his arms and comfort her with his truth.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 ESV

With love for you and your momma,

Steph

Proverbs Series: Introduction

“But Stephanie, Proverbs and parenting without punishment are mutually exclusive! They absolutely cannot go together!”

Join me as I embark on an in-depth exploration of the Book of Proverbs here at Grace For My Sheep. Please pray with me that the Lord will work through this study to share His truth, encourage us as parents, and ultimately display the gospel.

In this series I will be focusing primarily on the verses that have come to be regarded amongst Christians as applicable to childrearing in particular. These verses, which I am obtaining from the English Standard Version, include the following:

  • “On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.” Proverbs 10:13 ESV
  • “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24 ESV
  • “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” Proverbs 19:18 ESV
  • “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15 ESV
  • “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13-14 ESV
  • “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 29:15 ESV

Please know that while my personal relationship with the Lord combined with my exploration of his Word has led me to feel very strongly that the Lord does not desire for parents to physically harm their children in any way, I do welcome you to share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences here, even if they are contrary to my own. I would be wrong and entirely hypocritical if I encouraged my child to speak openly with me and then forbid others to do so as well. When we come together as believers to discuss difficult topics, we not only grow in our understanding of the Truth and of one another, we encounter opportunities to put the gospel into action.

Stay tuned!

Proverbs Series: Part #1 coming soon…