The Guardian

The Guardian November 8, 2000


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

"Christian values"

Democracy, US-style. Or perhaps, civilisation US-style. Ric Keller, the 
Republican nominee for the House of Representatives from central Florida's 
8th district, peppers his campaign speeches with gems like: "I think 
Palestinians are lower than pond scum."

The leaders of his Party do not rebuke him, and when the American-Arab 
Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) calls his comments "outrageous anti-
Arab racism" it's treated as a joke or at best an over reaction. Naturally, 
Keller heartily endorsed Israel's bombing of defenceless Palestinian 
civilians.

Still in the US, the Los Angeles Police Department has revealed its new 
sophisticated approach to dealing with complaints of police brutality.

On October 22, about a thousand people demonstrated against police 
brutality outside the LAPD's Parker Centre headquarters. The police 
attacked them with batons, horses and motorbikes.

Still, it could have been worse: the protests  part of a national day of 
protest against police brutality  were also against the frequency with 
which the US police kill unarmed and often totally innocent people.

At least, on October 22 no one was actually shot dead by the police. And 
some people think Australia growing more like the USA is evidence of 
progress!

Christian schools are at it again, demonstrating their suitability to 
educate children in the 21st century. Hard on the heels of Central Coast 
Christian schools banning the popular Harry Potter books because 
they didn't denounce witchcraft as "evil" comes the news that some other 
NSW Christian schools are demanding the right to administer "discipline 
with love".

Also termed "loving discipline", this means flogging a child on the hands, 
legs or buttocks with a metre-long length of cane wielded with all the 
vigour a "muscular Christian" can muster.

Sutherland Shire Christian School and Nambucca valley Christian School are 
fighting a NSW law banning caning.

They claim that school policy "includes as one of its many Biblical aims 
the discipline of our children with love".

But to "discipline with love"  whether it be children or pets  means to 
use love to discipline them, not to use pain and violence while 
proclaiming your love for them.

Such hypocrisy was much in vogue with domineering fathers in Queen 
Victoria's day. They were constantly telling their poor suffering 
offspring, as pater prepared to give them a merciless flogging, that 
it was being done for the "good of their immortal souls".

Such floggers were also prone to make the equally ludicrous declaration: 
"This hurts me more than it does you."

The Old Testament, often invoked to support this regimen, was a collection 
of Jewish religious texts that recounted, among other things, the recorded 
history and the mythology of the Jewish tribes of the region (much of the 
mythology was common to other tribes as well).

It also contained moral and ethical precepts for slave society in that area 
at that time. It was Jesus' provision of radical new precepts based on 
love, tolerance and forgiveness  combined with his obvious concern for 
the plight of the poor and downtrodden  that made him such a potent 
preacher.

It would be more than a millennium before the rise of the new merchant 
class would require a new ethical code and the replacement of the loving, 
forgiving God by a vengeful, wrathful God drawn from parts of the Old 
Testament and bits of the New Testament written two or three hundred years 
after Jesus had died.

But by the 18th century, progressive-minded Christians would be fighting 
against corporal punishment just as they fought against slavery and capital 
punishment.

Now, after two further centuries of development of human society we have 
the strange spectacle of Christian "educators" demanding the "right" to 
beat children with sticks.

The children's parents also endorse what the school calls its "methods of 
nurture and discipline", convinced, as the Christian Community Schools 
group says, that corporal punishment is "biblically endorsed".

Corporal punishment is cruel. Inflicting pain on another human being is 
barbaric and inhuman. It is still grievously common, however.

The fight against torture, mutilation, flogging, solitary confinement, 
electric shock control and the rest of the barbarous means of inflicting 
pain and horror on the defenceless must include the fight to eliminate 
corporal punishment  everywhere.

Claiming that it is part of your religion can be no defence.

Driving into town the other day I found myself behind a car with a ten-
centimetre-high notice emblazoned across its back window: "Fear God".

Frankly, I have no fear of God (or any other imaginary being). But I find 
some of God's followers very scary indeed. What's best: Bilingual ed or 
"immersion"?

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