This Time of Year – Discipline, Dad, Christmas

This Time of Year – Discipline, Dad, Christmas

As the one-year anniversary of my father’s death rolls around this month, I found myself thinking about my childhood. My father was convinced that the JWs were going to help him mold a perfect child. To this end, the belt was considered a method of “loving correction.” I ran across some JW quotes and it all came together for me today in a way that finally makes sense. In any case, I thought I would share a couple of these with you. If you can’t see what’s wrong here, I don’t believe you can really consider yourself a loving parent or a religious person. I have long since forgiven my father – but it’s a little hard to forgive the people advocating cruelty as pleasing to god.

“I thought I had tried everything, as the saying goes, to make my children behave, still they were rebellious and antagonistic in our everyday relations. I had been a witness of Jehovah for five years, but my husband was violently opposed and I was forbidden to read any of the Watch Tower publications to the children.. I decided to set aside time for daily Bible reading. This raised a howl of protest from my boys, ages 7, 5 and 3, as it always seemed to come at their most enjoyable time. After the account of creation they lost interest and the howls grew louder as I turned off the television every night and announced it was time for Bible reading. Many times I sat with the Bible in one hand and the rod of correction in the other.” {WT Oct 15 1956 637}

“While in school he can shun the extracurricular activities that are so detrimental to him.” {WT May 15 1956 305-6}

“There may be rare instances where a child is so hardened in its stubbornness that even the rod of correction cannot drive it out. In the days of Israel parents were instructed by Jehovah to take such a rebel to the city fathers and they, in turn, took the incorrigible one out and stoned him to death. There were no juvenile delinquents under such a system. (Deut. 21:18-21) So also today, the New World society of jehovah’s Witnesses can not and will not tolerate juvenile delinquency to exist in its midst.” {WT Feb 1 1960 80}

“Building a Happy Family.. From experience many parents have learned that the best way to train their children in Christian ministry is to get them started in the house-to-house distribution of the Watchtower and Awake! journals. (Acts 20:20) Also, when wrongdoing occurs and discipline must be administered .. Some need firmer discipline down low enough and hard enough.” {WT Aug 1 1962 460}

“All children of Adam need correction, and at times firm discipline requires the rod, in the administration of pain.. jehovah’s discipline is thus not a watered-down discipline such as that advised by some worldly authorities who would always hold back the rod.. ‘Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.’ At times, then, a parent will need to
speak to the child by the administration of pain.” {WT Aug 15 1963 497-8}

“Failure to wield the rod of parental authority means abdication of your god-ordained position in the household and opens the door to anarchy..The rod and reproof are what give wisdom” {WT Mar 1 1964 138}

“Parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have another very sound reason for channeling their children’s lives into useful trades. They know from fulfilled Bible prophecy that today’s industrial society is near its end. Soon it will be given its death stroke by Almighty God himself. After that, in God’s new order a reconstruction work will be done to transform this entire earth into a paradise. Trades of many types will be very useful then, as will skills in agriculture and homemaking. So by guiding their children away from the so-called ‘higher’ education of today, these parents spare their children exposure to an increasingly demoralizing atmosphere, and at the same time prepare them for life in a new system as well.” {AWAK Jun 8 1967 38}

“‘What Influences Decisions in Your Life?’ Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them “brainwash” you with the Devil’s propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. The world has very little time left! Any ‘future’ this world offers is no future! .. Make pioneer service, the fulltime ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal. This is a life that offers an everlasting future!..
{WT Mar 15 1969 171-2}

“Do Your Children Confide in You? ..Do not hesitate to use the rod in administering discipline. ‘Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.'” {WT Oct 1 1971 592}

“A Happy Family Life – How We Achieved It.. Many times discipline was administered .. by use of the literal ‘rod of correction.’ When Dad was away at work, Mother carried out the necessary duties to keep the family in line. We had deep respect for her right hand, with which she aimed the strap in the right direction, just before we managed to duck under the bed.” {WT Mar 15 1976 168}

“The Challenge of Rearing Three French Boys.. what made it especially challenging is that in 1953 I was appointed ‘congregation servant,’ as the presiding overseer of a Christian congregation was then called by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Taking oversight of congregational activities took much of my time and energy, so Andree had to assume a large share of the early training of the boys. It was difficult managing them.
At times it was necessary during meetings to take them outside for some discipline.-Prov. 23:13,14.. The ‘rod of discipline’ had a literal application,
in keeping with the inspired advice..” {WT Nov 15, 1977 682-3}

“Parental authority includes the ‘rod’ of discipline. Proverbs 23:13, 14 states: ‘Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.’ At times, children may feel that the discipline is not properly administered, but they must remember that it is to God that the parents are accountable for the exercise of their authority, and that if discipline is improperly administered, God can, nevertheless, make it work out to the good of the obedient child” {WT Sep 1 1978 5}

“At times, however, discipline must be firmer than mere words.
‘Bruising wounds are what scours away the bad;
and strokes, the innermost parts of the belly.'” {WT Feb 15 1980 27}

“Discipline Disarmed.. the Federal Republic of Germany joined Sweden in restricting parents’ authority to discipline their children. (See Awake!, 6/22/79, p. 29.) Parents are forbidden to use ‘degrading upbringing measures,’ such as spanking, when children disobey.. The government argues that children lose their ‘human dignity’ when they are spanked. However, under the new law, ‘human dignity’ may well be replaced with childish arrogance.” {AWAK Apr 8 1980 29}

“Training Children in the Way of Life.. Sometimes at meetings children become restless after an hour or so. They may turn around and try to get the attention of others. Or they may bring toys or other objects for their personal amusement and this results in distracting others. We must not forget that even the ‘little ones’ in Israel were commanded to assemble to ‘listen’ and ‘learn.’ (Deut. 31:12) In order to find an excuse to move around, children occasionally get into the habit of running to the restroom a number of times during the meeting, causing considerable
disturbance to others. Yet these same children can play for hours at a time without experiencing any such problem. If parents insist that each of their children use the restroom before the meeting begins, there is usually no real need for them to disturb the meeting a short while later.”
{KSER Sep 1981 4}

“A spanking may be a lifesaver to a child, for God’s Word says: ‘Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol (the grave) itself.’ Again, ‘Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.’ (Proverbs 23:13, 14; 22:15) If parents hold their children’s life interests dear to them, they will not weakly or carelessly let disciplinary action slip from their hands.” {YCLF 132}

The same few quotes, over and over again, repeated almost into a mantra. Through it you can see – the loving parent is the one that restricts the child’s contact with outsiders and with secular education what might encourage critical thinking or logic. Good parents don’t need any other methods than psychological terror and beatings – in a few cases, enough to kill the child – and they think this is the will of the god of love. I believe discipline is necessary, and that children need limits and boundaries that expand with their development. There are perhaps a very few occasions where a spanking reinforces a message physically. But even the most conservative parents used to spank their children perhaps a dozen times in their lives. I have swatted my son’s bottom a couple of times – such as when he ran out into the street after having been warned previously and repeatedly about the seriousness of that action. There is also a difference between a swat on the bottom with your hand and a prolonged beating with a belt or switch – a big difference. My father was perhaps in the middle range – he hit us too often and too much, but didn’t do any serious damage, like some. I always got the sense that he truly believed this was the right thing to do.

Although we never talked about it, I believe that he had overcome a lot of these teachings that were so harmful to him and to our family. He was a wonderful grampa, and I had forgotten how good he was with really small children – say, up to about 3 or 4. Once, when he was feeling badly and easily irritated, he started to shout at my son. Although I had never really stood up to him, he was after all now a frail little old man – nothing to be afraid of anymore – and I took him aside and warned him that he had better be aware there would be consequences if he were abusive in any way toward my son (I didn’t put it quite like that – he really brought out the blue collar in me… grin). But I only had to say it once.

If there is an afterlife, I hope my dad found some of the answers he was always looking for. I know that he loved me and was proud of me by the end. But the way the JWs affected and molded him had a pretty bad influence on my own self-confidence and feeling of not belonging in this world.

I don’t blame him anymore. I honestly believe, though, that the JWs create a psychological atmosphere that is complex and very very destructive. I remember feeling so self-righteous because I was so convinced that I had the truth – but I never talked with God, if you understand what I mean by that. I stood up and proudly explained why I didn’t celebrate Christmas – but at home I secretly sang Christmas carols in my room, with tears in my eyes. Now I celebrate all the holidays – I’m aware of their histories – and Christmas is a very very very strange accretion of missionary layering and borg-like assimilation anyway – but I celebrate the heart of it all – I try to remember joy in the darkness, warmth in the cold, forgiveness in the atmostphere of heartlessness. And to me, that’s what Christmas is.

Some Rightwingers are now trying to claim that the left, esp the ACLU, is trying to “take the Christ out of Christmas.” I have no problem respecting all traditions of the season by saying either Happy Holidays or wishing custom-specific greetings. I honor all sacred traditions. But it especially troubling to me to see this newest attack. The ACLU actually works for religious liberty and the separation of church and state – which these guys should welcome if they thought about it, and a few, like Falwell, have used the ACLU too!

The other thing that bothers me is that if there is a spirit of the season, I don’t think that spirit is moved by messages to only shop where people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” – that’s like saying -“we’re crucifying prices” or something like that. Christmas isn’t really about shopping, is it? Meanwhile, while we fight about these hot-button but honestly rather trivial issues, America and all its national values – everything that made us special to me at least – are being destroyed.

I see a continuum between the fear-based psychology of the JWs and the machinations of the current right-wing political propaganda machine.

A true patriot would look at the important things that are being undermined and taken down.

A truly religious person would know that these issues being used to expand hatred can only be anti-religious.

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