The Sick Biblical Literalism That Puts Children at Risk of Abuse and Even Death

Parts of this article precisely describe my personal experiences, including the bruises and welts. Unfortunately, also in my experience, most people tend to react to these kinds of stories in personal terms of blame, anger, forgiveness, resentment, and all the pop-psychology narratives without considering the systemic, religious, cultural, and interpretive problems that create new cases of blame, anger, etc. In other words, more serious and problematic than my feelings are the rampant falsehoods that multiply when people start reading the Bible and have the brilliant idea to slap a ready verse on every situation. Consider, too, that the worst of my experiences happened between 36 and 33 years ago. This article names at least one case that is only 5 years old. Even with several charismatic “revivals” and “blessings,” even with Rick Warren’s rise to stardom, even with the advent of The Gospel Coalition website, nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed.


Obey written on handIn 2008, Hana Williams was adopted from an orphanage in Ethiopia and brought to the United States where she died at the hands of her Bible-believing American parents. Their notion of Christian discipline required breaking her will, a remarkably common belief among conservative Evangelicals. To that end, they frequently beat her, shut her in a closet, and denied her meals. Ultimately, she was left outside where she died of hypothermia exacerbated by malnutrition. They were convicted of manslaughter this month.

Whoever spares the rod quoteIn carrying out their obsession with child obedience, Hana’s adoptive parents drew tips from Tennessee preacher Michael Pearl, whose spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child book, To Train Up a Child, has been found now in three homes of Christian parents who killed their adopted children. The title comes from a stanza in the book of Proverbs: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old…

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