spanking

Anti-clickbait 2.0: Warning! This post asks readers to think about messy life in Russia

Anti-clickbait 2.0: Warning! This post asks readers to think about messy life in Russia

Alas, it's true. As our own Bobby Ross Jr. mentioned earlier today, nothing seems to push readers away from a news-driven blog quicker than headlines about complex stories on the other side of the world.

Well, culture-wars readers on left and right might click to read something about a Pope Francis statement attacking President Donald Trump's refusal to put gender-neutral bathrooms at gateway facilities in a new border wall. Maybe. Just thinking out loud about that one.

So USA Today had an international story the other day that I ran into on Twitter, before I saw coverage of this topic elsewhere. The headline: "Russia parliament votes 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence."

Now, that's a rather shocking headline, especially when we are talking about a culture that leans toward the authoritarian, to say the least. However, when I read the overture to the piece I found the details a bit more complex and nuanced than I expected.

Russia's parliament voted 380-3 ... to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where it does not cause "substantial bodily harm" and does not occur more than once a year.
The move, which eliminates criminal liability in such cases, makes a violation punishable by a fine of roughly $500, or a 15-day arrest, provided there is no repeat within 12 months. The bill now goes to the rubber-stamp upper chamber, where no opposition is expected. It then must be signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has signaled his support.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists that family conflicts do "not necessarily constitute domestic violence."

Now, I am no expert on Russia. Most of what I know is from books, from other Orthodox believers (my current parish includes more than a few Russians) and from an intense two weeks in Moscow a few days after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union (click here for info on that).

When I read that lede, as opposed to the headline, I immediately had several reactions as a journalist:

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That child beating case in Indy: More 'religion' coverage that marginalizes religion

That child beating case in Indy: More 'religion' coverage that marginalizes religion

You know those pseudo-fruit drinks like Tang and Country Time -- you know, tasting vaguely like orangeade and lemonade without the actual fruit? Well, mainstream media come close to that "ideal" in coverage of a woman who gave religious reasons for beating her son.

The stories, like this one in USA Today, have Kin Park Thaing quote Scripture to defend her taking a coat hanger to her child's back, arm and thigh. Nothing on what her church or pastor might say about it:

INDIANAPOLIS (USA Today) An Indiana mother who beat her 7-year-old son with a coat hanger is citing the state’s religious freedom law as a defense against felony child abuse charges, saying her choice of discipline comes straight from her evangelical Christian beliefs.
The Indianapolis woman quoted biblical Scripture in court documents. She said that a parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child,” and: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”

We'll leave aside the fact that "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not in the Bible; it's actually a digest of several verses by 17th century poet Samuel Butler -- something a religion news specialist likely would have caught. Let's look instead at the gaping holes in the coverage.

There is no denying the brutality of the mother's attack:

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Another newsy question: What does the Bible say about physical punishment of children?

Another newsy question: What does the Bible say about physical punishment of children?

AN ANONYMOUS READER ASKS:

In the U.S. there is a strong tendency among certain segments of the population to emphasize only the negatives of Islam and only the positives of Christianity. What would you say to the Christians who believe in beating their children?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

This responds to our July 26 item on verse 4:34 in the Quran that directs husbands to beat rebellious wives, currently a political issue in the Muslim world. Islamic interpreters explain that beating is a last resort and should be done lightly, not severely. The questioner raises the fact that Christians (and Jews) have a similar issue on physical discipline of children. Poet Samuel Butler coined the maxim “spare the rod and spoil the children” but it’s a biblical idea expressed in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs:

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (13:24; all translations from the Revised Standard Version). “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (22:15). “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with the rod you will save his life from Sheol” (23:13-14). “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (29:15).

However, other biblical Proverbs balance that, saying God’s people should be “slow to anger” and “overlook an offense,” while “love covers all offenses.” We find that emphasis in the New Testament Book of Ephesians: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4).

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Do you believe the Bible recommends spanking? Don't move to Norway, says BBC

Do you believe the Bible recommends spanking? Don't move to Norway, says BBC

To spank or not to spank, that is the question. Corporal punishment is legal in all 50 U.S. states, but America is a bit of an outlier on spanking as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Globally, 44 nations forbid you to spank your kids.

But here's the question journalists need to think about, after a major report on this topic by the BBC: What if your religious beliefs back corporal punishment and you move to a country where that’s not allowed? Wouldn't journalists need to explore the specifics of that belief in their reporting on this topic?

Meanwhile, this story centers on the fact that one country will take your kids away if they find out you are spanking your children -- at all. Here's what BBC found out about a famous case in Norway involving a family with five kids:

Ruth and Marius's life was torn apart without warning one Monday afternoon last November when two black cars approached the farm where they live in a remote Norwegian valley.
Their two little boys, aged five and two, and their three-month-old baby son, were in their big, bright, modern living room overlooking the steel-grey fjord.
Ruth was waiting as usual for the school bus that would bring back their two daughters, aged eight and 10.
But that Monday, it never came. Instead, Ruth saw the two unknown cars. One continued along the main road; the other turned up the farm track -- and a woman from the local child protection service knocked at the door. She told Ruth to come to the police station for interrogation.

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