Warning: Graphic Image
This wasn’t the post I had planned on publishing next, but after reading an article yesterday titled —
“Why Are Americans So Inclined to Disrespect Children?: Even those who work with kids are unlikely to always afford them the dignity they deserve.”,
— I was reminded of my childhood — being taught about the flames of torture in a hell that a supposedly loving god created. I was indoctrinated from an early age by the Roman Catholic Church, and attended Catholic schools for a couple of years. Using biblical teachings to instill obedience was not uncommon. I felt utterly voiceless as a child.
At a very young age I learned that the Christian god got pissed off at his creation — humans — and thought that the only ‘moral’ solution was global genocide. This “loving act” included children and infants. I was a sensitive kid, and empathic early on. When I’d listened to the story of Noah’s Ark, I had visuals in my mind of that dreaded scene; I was overcome with fear and trepidation. This fear of god’s wrath played a major role in the night terrors I experienced for many years when I was a kid. At one point it got so bad my parents took me to see a doctor. My dad was in the Air Force, so the doctor’s office was at a military hospital.
He assured my parents that this was nothing to be concerned about and that it would pass. He also told them that I was probably “acting up” to get attention. This doctor, who was a young military GP, did not have the credentials to make such an assessment. It was the first and only time he examined me. He asked my parents if he could speak with me alone. Since many saw doctors as though they were gods themselves, they agreed. I was around the age of 7 at the time. He took me into a room, sat me on a gurney, and said “do you know what this is?” pointing to the gurney. I said, “no sir”. He said, “this is a special operating bed we use to cut open children — children who lie.”
Our brains are sculpted by our early experiences. Maltreatment is a chisel that shapes a brain to contend with strife, but at the cost of deep, enduring wounds.” —Teicher
I can’t even begin to tell you how scared I was — terrorized. I felt so alone, and became even more afraid — that when I had another night terror it would only make my parents angry.
Night terrors commonly occur when brainwaves slow to a low alpha – high theta brain wave state, just before falling asleep. It’s when the imagination is the most active and vivid.
Why is it that parents and religious teachers don’t put themselves in the shoes of children, and realize that sharing stories like Noah’s Ark and hell is cruel and a form of child abuse? Probably because societies have historically and traditionally viewed children as property and therefore dehumanized them. My parents didn’t teach me about Noah’s Ark and hell. The Roman Catholic Church did. They instilled the “fear of god” in me at a very early age. Go to most department stores in America, where they carry nursery accessories, and you will see Noah’s Ark themes in crib and bed linen, pictures, mobiles, etc. Interestingly enough, the Noah’s Ark theme is one of the most popular decor themes for children’s rooms.
The quote in the header from Psychologist Alice Miller (who is now deceased) had a PhD in philosophy, psychology and sociology. Dr. Miller authored 13 books, and dedicated her life’s work to raising awareness about the consequences of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual.) Her research is being confirmed by recent discoveries in neuroscience. Child abuse in all its forms profoundly affects the developing brain.
From Ounce of Prevention.org — “Starting Smart: How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development”:
“Negative early experiences can also profoundly affect the development of the brain. Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect are pervasive social problems. Each year in the United States there are more than a million substantiated cases – and many more than that probably never come to light. Maltreatment increases a child’s risk of developing depression, self-destructive behavior, eating disorders, attention deficit disorders, drug and alcohol problems, sexual promiscuity and delinquency.
At the moment, we know the most about how traumatic experiences affect the brains of children who develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Similar to adults with PTSD, these children have trouble sleeping, can’t control their memories of the trauma, and seem to be on constant alert (Kaufman & Charney, 1999). While experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, children have difficulty learning and maintaining positive relationships with family and peers.
Although the ability of the brain to put abused children on constant alert may help them to survive in traumatic environments (for example, the battered child may be able to better avoid the abusive father when he is in a bad mood) it exacts a cost, for the child and for society.
It is important that we not assume that a poorly parented or traumatized child is incapable of healthy functioning later in childhood or adolescence. Research on the developing brain suggests continuing opportunity for change into adulthood and provides no evidence that there is some age beyond which intervention will fail to make a difference.”
While the studies are encouraging regarding probable rehabilitation from the harmful effects of child abuse, it doesn’t necessarily negate the long-term physical health problems in adulthood. Peer-reviewed studies show that adverse childhood experiences can also lead to disease and early death.
From the Center For Disease Control:
“The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.
More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. To date, more than 50 scientific articles have been published and more than 100 conference and workshop presentations have been made.
The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.”
In 2008, I ran across a website (link below) while doing research on the effects of religion and childhood brain development. Posted was a story being taught to young children from Grace Baptist church in California.
It’s a lesson adapted from II Kings 2:23-25.
SUBJECT: The Prophet, The Children, and The Bears
“Listen up kids!
Today I’m going to tell you a story from the Bible. Because it’s from the Bible, you know it’s interesting, true, and important. The story took place almost 3,000 years ago in the land of Israel. This is not fairy tale; it’s not a bed time story. It really happened. And what happened way over there a long time ago has something to teach you and me.”
He tells these young, impressionable children about the biblical prophets, Elijah and Elisha and how they were called by ‘God’ to bring ‘his’ message. You can read the full lesson from the pastor here, including an audio.
“Elisha put the coat on and made his way to the city of Bethel. The name, Bethel, means “the House of God”. The city had a rich history. Long ago, Jacob had met the Lord there; later, the tabernacle had been there for a long time. You’d think the people of Bethel would be the holiest people in Israel!
But you’d be wrong! In fact, the people of Bethel were among the worst sinners in Israel. For many years the grown-ups had worshiped The Golden Calf – which was an idol the Lord hated.
Rotten parents had rotten kids! When the kids saw Elisha, they weren’t happy to have a prophet in town and they weren’t thankful in the least.
Instead of greeting him with kind words, they tore into him with a vicious joke. Now, there’s nothing wrong with joking. And if you want to say something funny about me, I don’t mind. But the joke the kids told that day wasn’t innocent, it wasn’t funny. It was cruel and hateful. When they saw God’s prophet, they mocked him, saying,
“Go up, you bald head!
Go up, you bald head!”
Calling a man “bald head” was not very nice. But that wasn’t the worst part of the joke.
No, it was “Go up” that was so offensive. Why? Because it meant, “Why don’t you go up there where Elijah is-and leave us alone!”
“When Elisha heard what they said, he got very mad. But not only did he get mad, but the Lord did too! Elisha cursed the kids in God’s name, and two mother bears came out of the woods, and tore those kids to pieces.
Why? Because they did not respect the prophet of God. Which is another way of saying they did not respect the Word of God.
Can you imagine how scary it must be to be attacked by a bear? Can you imagine how much the long claws and the sharp teeth must hurt when they sink into your arm or leg? Can you imagine how the parents felt when their kids didn’t come home?
But this really happened! There was a road or a field in Bethel littered with little arms and legs and dead bodies. 42 kids killed for not respecting God’s Word.”
“The lesson is this: You must respect God’s Word.”
“Disrespecting the Word makes God very unhappy. And gets you into trouble.”
Read here under How To — what he tells these children — how they should respect the Bible bible, “God’s word”.
“Kids, everything in the Bible is true, but not everything is equally important. Respecting God’s Word is one of the most important things you can do. And not respecting it is one of the worst sins you can commit.
So why don’t you respect it? When you don’t feel like it, think back on the kids who didn’t. And learn from their mistakes.
God bless you, every one. Amen.”
Why is religious terrorism allowed to be taught to children? Why is this legal? Churches are getting tax-exempt status by the U.S. government while terrorizing children. As I wrote this post, I was reminded of a movie I watched when I was a kid — Bless the Beast and the Children, a 1971 film adaptation of the novel of the same name, by Glendon Swarthout. There’s a scene where the children are gathered in the coral being shot at by hunters, sportsman/women who are their parents. It is incredibly sobering and symbolic of how many cultures (including America) perceive and treat children.
A tune is playing in my head featured in the movie, sung by Karen Carpenter. Bless the Beast and the Children There are a few images in the beginning that are heartwarming.
“Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, keep them warm
Light their way when the darkness surrounds them
And give them love, let it shine all around them”
US Copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107