Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dominionist Rationalizations for the Abuse and Torture of Children: Evidence of a Subculture of "Christian" Sadists?

If you are even vaguely concerned about the darker threads within middle-American cultural Christianity, you should read Dark Christianity from time to time. Over at bonebox.info, it's on my spirituality filter, but today I was checking out my new Technorati Tag thingie for Firefox, and clicked on "Dominionist."

I got a face full of it.

Dark Christianity - Another case of dominionist "baby-beating"?: "From the following article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

When Michael Bilodeau couldn't be there to see his 12-year-old daughter stripped and whipped with a belt, he made sure to listen in on a speakerphone from his Coral Springs home, according to police reports.

She deserved it, he told investigators, because she was a liar and 'it is stated in the Bible that it is OK to spank your children,' the reports said.

Bilodeau, 48, was arrested Saturday in Port St. Lucie on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect.

Reportedly according to police reports, the child had multiple bruises in various stages of healing; the child has been removed to a care facility by the Department of Human Resources.

Lest anyone doubt this is yet another case of dominionism-related child abuse:

Bilodeau, who is listed as running a Fort Lauderdale office furniture business, lives with his wife and two sons in Coral Springs. Three years ago, he and his wife decided they couldn't take care of their daughter, so they sent her to live with a couple they were friends with in Port St. Lucie, he told police. He made sure the friends had similar religious beliefs.

He allowed them to punish her like he did: strip her naked, put her in an awkward position and strike her repeatedly with a belt or a stick, according to Bilodeau's arrest report. The punishments came in response to the girl not using proper English, not finishing her homework, lying, or "not accepting Jesus into her heart," police have said.
(Bolded emphasis mine)

All too often the "D" in Dominionism is interchangeable with the "D" in BDSM, without any limitations imposed by the concepts of SSC (Safe, Sane and Consentual) or even RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink.) Nor am I being flip in implying that this approach to child rearing is not just abusive and not just religiously misguided; I consider it to clearly be religiously-excused sadism, where the psychological risks are not just unacknowledged, but blamed upon the victim. I would not object were it to be called Religious or Ritual Abuse, save that I think both terms imply there is a some sort of religious or ritual reason, however depraved. Myself, I think the essential motivation rises no higher than the waist.

Now, how would I know all this? Simple. I'm a sadist. A sadist raised me. Sadism is a sexual orientation, much like homosexuality, and there’s considerable discussion as to whether it’s a “choice” at all. But of course, one always has a choice as to how one goes about expressing one’s essential nature. The only untenable choice is denial. It is, of course, also the most popular choice and thereby generates a spectacular amount of transgression, guilt, remorse and revenue.

I've spent most of my life trying to balance my sadism with my ethics. It's quite difficult to come to terms with a sexuality that can lead you to do Very Bad Things. Not "Bad things" like same-sex encounters; bad things that do actual harm to people that they do not deserve in any sense.

My approach was to explore and consider various ethical frameworks such as SSC – in and out of the BDSM community. I have internalized the idea that for every sadist there is a willing masochist or three, and have learned how to whack people in such a way as to be given their number, and a high recommendations to friends. I’ve also learned that for me it’s more about the infliction than the pain; I find the infliction of pleasure is just as rewarding, a great deal safer, and appeals to a greater audience.

Dominionism seems increasingly to be the complete opposite of my approach a complex (and damned expensive) system of religious excuses for repellant, abusive, dysfunctional behavior.

An interesting paragraph from a wikipedia discussion about Sadism and Masochism lends credence to my view:

Though the idea of putting BDSM in a different article is defendable, there should something in here that points out that sadomasochists, again like homosexuals, tend to create complex subcultures (Litman 1972 is the first source for this AFAIK) and are not loners like Freud and Krafft-Ebing assumed. This, again, was hammered in by Spengler and changed the whole view of sadomasochism which up until then was seen as something that affected individuals. We're back to that modern research thing again, I'm afraid.

(Suggestions for a rewrite of a terrible article, amusingly enough.) Emphasis Mine.

Consider the links in the further excerpt below, and read them both for what they say and the assumptions about children made within them, considering also the appeals to the shared values of a very complex subculture with it's own insular jargon.

Yes, you read this right--this apparently is very similar to cases involving use of dominionist baby-beating manuals by the Pearls, one of which is linked to the death of a child; it's also similar to the tactics promoted by Tedd Tripp, another dominionist "baby-beating" manual author. Both books promote the use of "chastening rods" made out of wood or PVC pipe, and both also have heavy emphasis on "deliverance ministry" and the general concept that all children are born with "spirits of rebellion" which must literally be beaten out and that the will of children must be broken completely to "save" them.

The article continues:

Police discovered the situation Saturday when the girl was reported panhandling at a Port St. Lucie Walgreens. When police found her, she told them she ran away because she was afraid of being spanked again by her caretakers. They found numerous bruises and cuts on her legs, buttocks and back, reports said.

The girl had been missing since Thursday, the police report said, but neither Bilodeau nor the girl's caretakers reported her missing.

Police said Bilodeau admitted to punishing the girl by striking her with a belt and a stick. According to the police report, he makes his daughter strip naked "because he wants her to feel the pain."

And he wants her to feel the pain because he's a SADIST. Not because he's a Christian, and not because he gives a flying flap as to the outcome of the "chastening," other than the obvious reflexive terror and compliance with his whims. A Christian would read their Bible and know that is exactly what Jesus Would Not Do.

But then again. He wasn’t a sadist. And if one IS a sadist, one has to work with that, or have it work upon one.

AS a sadist I have religiously studied the art and craft of torture, both physical and mental, because it interested me in that sense AND because I'm curious AND because I've always sought to find ways to ethically apply my desires and need to understand the proccess to know how to do that.

Torture - and the described "chastening" is deliberate torture in the physical and in the psychological sense - is a lousy tool to create any positive, desirable mental state. It's a very good way to break people in order to remold them, but Dominionist remolding techniques are light-years behind the state of the art in coercive "re-education," even within the confines of American religious cults. (And let this link stand as an example of the fact that reality is messier than any ideology cares to admit – even my own.)

Ask any ex-cult member as to which they would prefer; "Love-bombing" or a beating followed by isolation in a dark closet. Both techniques, of course, are effective in their own ways, both are frequently used and neither is more ethical - but for masses of people AND in highly isolated, controlled situations (Such as defined in various “Christian” discussions of American Family Values) - you want the love-bombing to be constant, and the beatings to be a distant but very real IMPLIED threat. Constant negative reinforcement tends to cripple the very abilities one wishes to empower, in order to have an effective follower, servant and tool.

It is not a large leap, therefore, to assume that a prime, if unspoken, motivation for Dominionists is not control, nor the molding of the personality of children and other subject persons in effective ways but is in fact the licence to physically dominate through verbal, physical and proxy violence.

This does not lead to good results. Indeed, unquestioning reliance on these values has led us into an internal cultural conflict that the world as a whole cannot afford to allow further external expression.

I have emphasized, again, two bits--one where he admits to use of a "chastening rod", and the other being a point I have seen brought up repeatedly even in James Dobson's "The Strong-Willed Child"--that a child must be made to hurt if a punishment is to be "effective" and (in the more blatant "chastening" manuals) recommendations of whacking on bare buttocks. (In fact, at least one dominionist church's guide on "child training" specifically recommends whacking on the bare bum, and another dominionist guide (which promotes use of belts for baby-beating) even states "stripes are necessary"--in other words, if it doesn't leave marks, it's not a proper "chastening".)

Children do need structure and discipline, and I do actually believe that for some kids the best way to establish authority and set the limits they need in the way they understand is a short, sharp, dispassionate spanking. Ideally, that will be a singular occurrence and an occasion of great and obvious relief to the child.

That relief is not due to God’s mandate; it is due to the fact that they work with our biochemistry and our hindbrains. But our forebrains are far larger and if you appeal to one and insult the other, the result is nothing any reasonable person would desire.

I have found that physical discipline produces positive results only if it's a dispassionate result of the violation of a just and reasonable boundary; a known, logical and proportionate consequence. Discipline of any sort is not done in anger, for self-gratification or whimsy. If you regularly exercise dominance in order to reassure yourself as to your Manly Patriarchal Nature – you are neither manly (or indeed, womanly).

A spanking is a good way of achieving a catharsis, releasing a flood of neurotransmitters. It is best used to punctuate and emphasize the transition from "being in trouble" to "Being forgiven." That addresses very powerful undercurrents in the human psyche. But a “swat on the bum” is what I’m speaking of; and an act symbolic violence that reinforces the family pecking order (and therefore a safe place WITHIN that order) than actual physical abuse within the legal meaning of the term.

The [Supreme Court of Canada] found that the use of "reasonable" force to discipline children was constitutional. According to the federal Department of Justice, the test of reasonableness: "...involves an examination of a variety of factors including the age and character of the child, the nature of the child’s behaviour calling for correction, the degree and gravity of the punishment, and the circumstances under which the force was applied. These factors are assessed against the contemporary Canadian community’s standard of reasonableness and not against the rules or practices of an individual family. The court provided additional guidelines, based on expert evidence led in the case, to aid in interpreting and applying section 43 in accordance with the Charter. These guidelines relate to the corporal punishment of very young children and teenagers, the use of objects in corporal punishment, injury, and effective alternatives to corporal punishment, among others." The "charter" referred to is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's constitution.

They also determined that Section 43 does not apply where the use of force "is part of a genuine effort to educate the child, poses no reasonable risk of harm that is more than transitory and trifling, and is reasonable under the circumstances." For example, force can be used to remove a child from a dangerous situation, or to separate two children who are fighting. 1

Whimsical and arbitrary punishments, especially in the all-too-common cases where different children are treated differently betray this dynamic, and with it, any possible just reason for physical correction.

This entire article points to the dangers of groups and movements that are willing to tell you what you want to hear and profit by giving you excuses to do the things you would want to do anyway. To take your darkest urges and tell you that they are a mandate from on high is a shameful, deceitful tactic, for it will prevent you from ever coming to terms with your own, very human and fallible nature.

This is, of course, due to their very commercial interest in your continued delusion. And if you doubt me, consider all the appeals in your inbox for "Christian Lending," "Christian Home-schooling" and "Christian Politics."

"Who shall it profit, that I believe this?"

That is a question every Christian Sadist should ask themselves aloud, and all those who feel the need to be or the call to be Head of the family should consider from their own perspectives as well. Such privileged positions imply responsibilities, duties and above all, a degree of earned authority and practical competence.

The much-derided role of Patriarch/Matriarch is that of guide and guardian to those who need guidance and guardianship. Reactions that indicate a low threshold of need for guidance and guardianship should be cause for joy, and an appreciation for a reduced workload.

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