August 22, 2009
The Dean of Auckland’s Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, The Very Reverend Ross Bay, has expressed concern at the attitude of some Christians that it is their God-given right to use corporal punishment in the discipline of their children.
Commenting in the light of the recent referendum on the use of smacking, Dean Bay says that the view of some Christians is based in an image of God that characterises God as ready to punish human beings for the slightest misdemeanour. “The Christian image of God is what we find in the New Testament of the Bible, and is the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ,” says Dean Bay. “This is the God who does not wield power to force human beings to conform to divine purposes. What we see in Jesus is self-giving love poured out in a surrender to evil. The power of that divine love is what in turn overcomes evil.”
Dean Bay says that this activity of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus should always be the starting point for a Christian image of God that affects human behaviour. Jesus’ attitude to children is seen in his welcoming them for blessing when the adults around him are telling them and trying to send them away. Dean Bay says that it is unfortunate that these images are made secondary to an approach founded in the ancient proverb of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’.
“I am concerned that a particular stance on child discipline has too often been characterised as ‘the’ Christian view. Many Christians would think quite differently in relation to this matter”.
Nevertheless the Dean takes a realistic view about this issue. “The irony of the referendum is that people were being asked to affirm something for which the current law already makes provision. If there is an issue to be addressed it is around the interpretation and application of Section 59 by Police and CYFS. Hopefully the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday will offer some clear guidance in this regard”.
Meantime the Dean hopes that the image of the God of love and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ will be the image which characterises all human relationships, especially relationships where one person holds power over another.