An unsettling book that traces the roots of child abuse and the increasing violence in society to the Bible, particularly the teachings of Proverbs. According to Greven (History/Rutgers Univ.), it is from there, and not from the more loving teachings of Christ, that most Christian religions have taken their cues on the upbringing of children, including the call for physical punishment, often severe enough to draw blood, and for sufficient psychological force to break the child's will. It is in that tradition, Greven finds, that Americans rationalize punishing children. He offers the stories of evangelists Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Tummy Bakker, and many others who've been beaten as children or who advocate beatings. Even so gentle a childrearing authority as Dr. Spock considered mild spanking appropriate in, certain circumstances. Greven, who specializes in the family and in Protestant religious thought, goes on to connect the physical punishment of children with depression, aggression, and other long-term consequences. He sides with Swiss former psychoanalyst Alice Miller in condemning any physical punishment as profoundly damaging to children and to the adults they become. For anyone who has even swatted a child across the bottom in a passing pique, this is a disturbing read—and a provocative one: its conclusion, although too sweeping, outlines alternatives to punishment that, in Greven's view, could change the world.
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