Does spanking of babies go on in Philadelphia Church of God? Yes, and they still highly praise Garner Ted Armstrong’s book about child rearing and spanking.1 In the PCG’s “insider” magazine, Royal Vision, 2000, they ran a series of child rearing articles by Ron Fraser. Here are a few quotes, emphasis theirs, from the May-June 2000 issue.
“Many a parent will be surprised to read that by three months, on average, an infant is old enough to begin to be taught right behavior by right and proper training techniques.” (p. .8)
“Children simply have to be taught how to control their bodily appetites and functions. This takes time, diligence of effort, patience and consistency. Do it right and do it early in the infant’s life, and they and their parents, mothers in particular, will live a lot calmer, contented, peaceful lives. This will reflect upon the whole household.” (Ibid.)
“How do we do it? Loving, caring, discipline!” (Ibid.)
“Shock! Horror! You mean we adult parents have to impose our will on the helpless little infant? Yes! That’s God’s way!” (Ibid.)
As a baby grows into toddler hood, they are able to understand and cooperate more about “schedules.” However, PCG implies the need for rigid schedules and discipline.
PCG advocates breastfeeding and healthy foods. For the most part, that’s good. However, some mothers (myself included) have had limited success with breastfeeding due to health factors.
The author goes on to talk about the “rod of correction” and how it relates to spanking:
“. . . We have always understood in the Church of God, in respect of correcting child behavior, that this means a light instrument which stings when applied but does no physical damage. Mrs. Armstrong used the table-tennis paddle as an example of an implement which will do no harm to a child when applied with care and in love. But even that should never be used till the infant is around two or three years of age. Light, stinging taps first with fingers on the backside of an infant, then, as the child grows, carefully, with the hand, should suffice till then.” (p. 10)
“Lesson number one is, teach the child GOVERNMENT! That’s where it starts. Who’s boss around here? Up to the second or third month, the infant gets what he wants usually when he’s good and ready to get it, by simply demanding it! But, comes the time he demands, doesn’t get, and reacts angrily! Generally, parents should be able to determine an angry baby’s cry. It’s time for baby to learn that angry demands are not acceptable.” (Ibid.)
The author includes, “don’t strike in anger” and “be calm when you discipline,” but from what I’ve witnessed concerning discipline in PCG, it tends to be harsh, abusive, controlling and not done in love most times! In my opinion there may be a time to spank for something serious, but many times distraction, or even a time-out will work.
There should rarely ever be a need for a baby to be angry! If a parent is attuned to their baby–and is a responsive, loving parent–they will soon learn hunger signals, smell the dirty diaper, see the toy they rolled on and can’t get a hold of, etc. A loving parent will see the need coming and take care of it before the baby even has a chance to be angry and screaming. I know the times my babies had an angry cry was usually when I was “tied” up with something because I wanted to get “whatever” done. Sometimes you may have to let a baby cry a few minutes–it just can’t be helped. But are we supposed to spank a baby, because the baby got mad that I had to go to the bathroom, or put something in the oven? Of course not!
A tiny baby cries for a reason: to let us know he is hungry, or wet, or even lonely and bored. If a baby never cried, we would tend to get too involved with our work and “forget” about him/her.
The author has a comment about teaching the baby “government.” Anyone who has been involved with PCG knows that government is one of the “big” subjects in the PCG! For instance, you hear words like, “Put people in their place!” “Keep ’em down!” “Rule with a rod of iron!” I have even heard some members in PCG talk about the “soon coming kingdom of God” when they will be able to “bash heads” and “teach people God’s Law”!
By Marcia (former member of PCG)
Also read: Getting Kicked Out of PCG Caused Me to Start Investigating (Story by child survivor who tried to report child abuse in PCG to the minister)
Screaming Sessions at Children in PCG
One former PCG member described to the police authorities how some congregations in PCG have engaged in so called “screaming sessions” at children. This involves taking a child (who has misbehaved or presumably done something wrong), along with gathering a number of members together, and then sitting the child on a chair in the middle of the room and screaming and yelling at the child for a long period of time. Sometimes these sessions go on for so long that some of the adults have to take a break and then go back to continue it. This is a technique that abusive, totalistic groups have used and is very damaging to any child!
The January/February 2004 issue of the Philadelphia News had an article by Joel Hilliker entitled, “The number-one lesson of family” which talked about how he and his wife were “working hard” to teach their little two year old daughter to “obey our instructions exactly, without back talk and without a bad attitude.” He states that, “She needs this perspective because otherwise she would go through life thinking she was the boss. She would develop an attitude of superiority toward people who are superior to her–more experienced, wiser, stronger, more honorable.” This is a prime example of breaking a child’s spirit, which is totally unbiblical. If anyone would like to see the long-lasting results of this kind of child-rearing, they only need to go to the Testimonies from Child Survivors. The methods are the same–and in some cases worse–than those used under Herbert Armstrong. Either future rebellion, or a robotic obedience to all authority, is the inevitable result. In any case, the fruits are devastation of lives.
The author goes on to falsely say that if PCG parents get their children to give them “total respect” they will not only grow up to do the same with God, but they will have a long life and not “suffer a violent death from war, disease or starvation.” Furthermore, he states, “If we fail to teach her to honour us and obey God, we are guaranteeing she’ll have problems and curses in her life.” To the contrary, it is this type of harsh upbringing that will end up causing the child lifelong problems without proper intervention. PCG always places great emphasis on “obeying,” “government,” and “curses.” Toward the end of the article the author says, “So we learn how to be part of a family where GOVERNMENT IS EVERYTHING!” Yes, emphasis on “government” is everything to PCG because love, grace and mercy are not taught within the group.
As always, PCG literature includes an element of fear if one does not do as instructed by the ministry. For instance, Hilliker declares to the members: “Unless you become like a little child and you learn this lesson of how to be a child within a family, you’re not even going to make it into the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 18:1-4 is then cited. In carefully reading this passage of Scripture it is evident that Jesus is welcoming the children to come to Him. The late J. Vernon McGee stated the problem here was not in getting the little children to come to Jesus, but in stopping the adults from hindering the young ones from coming to Him. Any PCG adults who inculcate this type of child rearing are hindering children from coming to know the true Jesus, who loves them freely. The emphasis in these verses is that one must become a child in the sense of the new birth. However, PCG teaches that one is only born again at the resurrection. Perhaps PCG teachers need to read verse 6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”
[Note: Screaming sessions also go on with “disobedient” members in PCG and it is described in this letter on our site.]
NOTE: To read how psychologically and physically destructive cults are to the children raised in them, read: Captive Hearts; Captive Minds, “Children Raised in Cults” (chapter 22); Recovery From Cults, “Children and Cults” (chapter 17); Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, “Rescuing the Children” (Part 3), and Take Back Your Life: Recovering From Cults and Abusive Relationships, “Families and Children in Cults” (Part 3).