Dark Christianity
dark_christian
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May 2008
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The LJ Boldout and religiously motivated child abuse

Many of you by now have heard about the "Great Boldout"--the followup to the Great Strikeout of 2007 (the Strikeout having been initiated by Warriors for Innocence, whom we're reported on before)--and how fandom communities are being rather specifically targeted.

One particular official post from an LJ employee on the [info]lj_biz community seems to indicate, among other things, that communities promoting anorexia (and by "promoting", we mean "giving explicit instructions on where to get pills and how to binge/purge") are okay under the argument "Bad advice isn't illegal".

For what it's worth, I saw the bit on their new TOS prohibiting "child abuse of any sort"...what I found in a search was that it's apparently not just anorexia they are supporting.

It is important to ask that--if LJ has such a new-found committment to prevention of child abuse in light of the WfI Strikeout Fiasco--why Livejournal tolerates the presence of communities to support religiously motivated child abuse.

Yes, you read this right.

Livejournal apparently has no problems whatsoever with communities that not only beat babies but promote the works of authors whose writing, if used as directed, can result in the death of children by beatings and by starvation.

Dogemperor does the search

Knowing that LJ communities exist for damn near everything, a quick Google search turned up the following:

http://community.livejournal.com/trainupachild/
http://community.livejournal.com/babywise/

Astute readers of this community and activists against religiously motivated child abuse will recognise both of these names. For those of you who aren't familiar...they are both named after some horrifically abusive material that is very popular in the dominionist community.

To train, and occasionally kill by "chastening rod", a child

The profile page for [info]trainupachild is particularly telling:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Objectives:
trainupachild is a community for Christians to discuss everything from attachment parenting to discipline difficulties to dating/courtship/marriage. Parents with children of all ages are welcome to join, as well as those who are pregnant, just planning to conceive, have adopted children, or are single parents. Some members may even be the eldest children of large families who have great thoughts and experiences to share from years of caring for younger siblings. Come and share your thoughts and questions - your victories and failures - we all learn by trial and error.

All community entries are locked by default (members only) so there is MUCH MUCH more to this community than initially meets the eye. Our objective is to provide a place for iron to sharpen iron; a place that is safe from the mean or abusive comments that are commonplace in many other LJ Communities. trainupachild has a screening process for new members and we have disabled comments from non-members.

. . .

Parenting related links, in no particular order
Family Life
Focus On The Family
No Greater Joy
Gentle Christian Mothers
Raising Godly Tomatoes
Graceful Mothering
Ask Dr. Sears
Attachement Parenting International
the book "To Train Up A Child" online (this community is not afilliated with or named after this publication)
Book Recommendation: Sheperding a Child's Heart

Uh-oh. Whilst some of this stuff isn't too bad...some of it is very, very bad.

Firstly (as we'll see later), the community largely locked its readership because people were posting there and on [info]babywise about how the communities' favourite authors were abusive and some people were reporting them to LJ Abuse.

Secondly, some of the stuff is a veritable who's who of religiously motivated child abuse.

In particular, the site promotes rather explicitly three major players--Michael and Debbie Pearl, James Dobson, and Tedd Tripp.

Dobson has promoted animal abuse and his own flogging with a girdle as an example of appropriate models for childrearing, Tedd Tripp's book literally promotes beating children with rods "from the time they come home from the hospital", and the Pearls' books are not only horrifically abusive (including the group namesake but have even been linked specifically to the death of a young child whose parents used the Pearl's baby-beating manuals as directed.

In fact, the Tripp and Pearl books as well as similar books by Reb Bradley have been linked to what is now known as "death by chastening rod"--cases where religiously motivated child abuse has gone fatal.

If the Bible-based baby-beating weren't enough, James Dobson puts out a show for kids that cheerily promotes genocide of non-dominionists and the destruction of property as a Good Thing:
Chick-Fil-A has distributed CDs of the dominionist program Adventures in Odyssey; this show has been described as a Radio "Jesus Camp", and is broadcast on radio stations that are part of the dominionist "alternate media".  Show topics have included promotion of assistance to the Contras (under the guise of "evangelisation" of the Miskitu first nation--a very common method FGBMFI-linked groups used to funnel aid to the Contras which made the Miskitu targets of both the Contras and Sandanistas as a result; the Miskitu had been Christianised since the early 1800s and actually had a European style of government by the 1850s, and were in fact largely Protestant well before the dominionists came with their Contra funding-fronts).  Other fun radio topics include the wholescale genocide of a people simply because they were pagans and a story on how it is permissible to steal and destroy roleplaying games belonging to another person to prevent them from being "demonised".

There is one other site that may also be of concern. Among other things, one of the sites they promotes is called "Raising Godly Tomatoes"; among other things, they heavily promote the work of the Pearls and the Ezzos in their "extra credit" section (the Pearls, along with "quiverfull" sites, are also listed on their links page. The page is also apparently linked to the Quiverfull movement promoted by the Duggar family (in essence, breeding little "God Warriors" until one's womb practically falls out and isolating them from birth into well into their college years whilst indoctrinating them); the links page also disturbingly promotes a source the Duggars rely on--the horrifically abusive works of Bill Gothard:
Yes, there is a reason I fear abuse. The parents are also apparently religious (pun intended) followers of Bill Gothard--Gothard happens to be one of the major promoters of neopente "deliverance ministry" (which promotes stuff almost identical to Scientology, only "Christianised"), up to and including some major league spiritual and occasionally physical abuse.

Among other things, Gothard used to run a dominionist reform school that was shut down by the state of Indiana (who was actually paying for Gothard to run his "faith-based" "Jesus Camp gulag" and was sentencing kids to be held there) after things started coming out like kids being beaten and locked in "prayer closets".    He is also very explicitly dominionist, has actually run paramilitary training camps for "Joel's Army" kids, has encouraged others to set up incredibly abusive "Bible boot camps" not unlike his Indianapolis misadventure, explicitly promotes rather extreme forms of religiously motivated child abuse including beating of kids with rods (I'll be covering this stuff week after next in my series) which has been noted in multiple sources, promotes essentially raising kids in "Jesus Camp" madrassas, and attempted to suppress publication of a guide critical of his tactics.

Gothard is known to have set up an extensive system of control that rivals the cultic systems in Scientology or the Moonies for levels of coercion; in addition, he claims that Cabbage Patch Kids and "trolls" are possessed by Satan and that illnesses are caused by "generational curses" (in "deliverance ministry" circles, caused by something as simple as your mom having worn a peace sign in the 60's or your great-grandmother having had her fortune read at Coney Island--or your great-great-great-great-grandmother having been a Cherokee or being brought across the oceans from Africa in a slave ship and not having been Christian in the first place), has promoted involuntary exorcisms on the unwilling (which is not only incredibly abusive and capable of causing permanent psychiatric injury but is actually fatal to a known ten to fifteen people a year in the US), is known to use abusive "shepherding" tactics (of the sort that are now widely recognised as highly abusive), runs front groups to try to market dominionism in public schools as "character education" programs, will in general not discuss his tactics unless you have been recruited into his programs (a dead giveaway we are dealing with a frank cult here), and promotes "Quiverfull" stuff in his own way by claiming in essence that "God will provide" for women having extreme amounts of kids and that parents shouldn't have Caesarian sections (and again attributes infertility to having Cabbage Patch Kids in the house)...among other things.

Gothard's teachings have in fact been described as those of a Bible-based cult--which I am inclined to agree with, having grown up in a coercive group where Gothard's writing was heavily promoted and having written on the subject of abusive dominionist groups throughout most of my diary entries on DailyKos.  My experiences aren't unique--apparently Gothard's stuff is heavily promoted within the Assemblies of God in particular (which is the denomination I am a walkaway from); disturbingly, Gothard is also heavily promoted within the dominionist "home education" movement.

The page itself also rather explicitly promotes the beating of babies for Christ, including this little gem:
COMMENT: When the Lord punished a nation, it was severe, disobedience was not taken lightly. When a nation was defeated, they were murdered, raped, pillaged, and enslaved.

Oh yes, we should use murder, rape and pillage as an example of how severely to punish kids :P

Babywise: Bible-based baby starvation

The community [info]babywise promotes the works of the Ezzos (publishers of the book "Babywise"--also printed under the title "Growing Kids God's Way" for groups within the dominionist community). The Ezzos are known to promote some of the most abusive books known targeting the dominionist "bible-based baby-beating" crowd because the schedule of infants (from the time they emerge from the womb) is strictly regimented and parents are encouraged to ignore the cries of their wailing infants for hours on end to "train" them.

The books promote an extremely selfish "mommy-centered" rather than "baby-centered" method of dealing with such basic things as when baby will eat. From the the community profile:
The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby's world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby's day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant's unknown needs.

(Now, I'm not a mommy. I don't even like babies--they make me nervous. I've vowed not to have kids. But even a "childfree" somewhat-allergic-to-the-nappies-and-Bitty-set person like me knows babies have pretty much a few basic reasons as to why they cry: They're uncomfy or in pain (wet or messy diaper or colic), they're hungry, or they're lonely. When they get around the stage where they can run around on two legs pretty well, you can add boredom to the list (which is effectively a subset of "lonely" at that age). All are quite fixable assuming Mommy actually pays attention to her baby instead of trying to mold little six-month-old Hannah to her schedule. Dear gods, nobody said childrearing was easy or convenient. It is not some mystery to find out why little Hannah is bawling her little lungs out, though--there are actually a remarkably limited set of circumstances why babies cry and fuss. I know this. You know this. Mentally retarded dogs know this.)

Use of the books as directed (which involves setting up a very strict schedule for baby, including with feeding and sleep, from the time they are born in complete disregard for the actual needs of the infant) has been linked to hospitalisations for dehydration and failure to thrive as infants are basically starved to death:
Though "Babywise" does say, "With PDF, a mother feeds her baby when the baby is hungry," it also instructs parents to do otherwise. In a question-and-answer section, parents of a 2-week-old baby, who did not get a full feeding at the last scheduled time and wants to eat again, are instructed that babies learn quickly from the laws of natural consequences. "If your daughter doesn't eat at one feeding, then make her wait until the next one."

Unfortunately, the schedule in "Babywise" does not take into account differences among breastfeeding women and babies. According to one report, differences of up to 300 percent in the maximum milk storage capacity of women's breasts mean that, although women have the capability of producing the same amount of milk over a 24-hour period for their infants, some will have to breastfeed far more frequently than others to maintain that supply. Babies must feed when they need to, with intervals and duration determined according to a variety of factors in temperament, environment, and physiological make-up. Averages may fit into a bell-shaped curve, but some babies will require shorter intervals. (Daly S., Hartmann P. "Infant demand and milk supply, Part 2. The short-term control of milk synthesis in lactating women." Journal of Human Lactation; 11; (1):27-37).

Examples of the many other unsubstantiated medical claims in "Babywise" include:

* "Lack of regularity [in feeding intervals] sends a negative signal to the baby's body, creating metabolic confusion that negatively affects his or her hunger, digestive, and sleep/wake cycles."
* "Demand-fed babies don't sleep through the night."
* "A mother who takes her baby to her breast 12, 15, or 20 times a day will not produce any more milk than the mom who takes her baby to breast six to seven times a day."
* "Mothers following PDF have little or no problem with the let down reflex, compared to those who demand-feed."
* "Colic, which basically is a spasm in the baby's intestinal tract that causes pain, is very rare in PDF babies but is intensified in demand-fed babies."
* "In our opinion, much more developmental damage is done to a child by holding him or her constantly than by putting the baby down. In terms of biomechanics alone, carrying a baby in a sling can increase neck and back problems, or even create them."
* "Some researchers suggest that putting a baby on his or her back for sleep, rather than on the baby's tummy, will reduce the chance of crib death. That research is not conclusive, and the method of gathering supportive data is questionable."

My review of the low weight gain and FTT accounts associated with "Babywise" revealed several disturbing trends. Parents were often adamant about continuing with the feeding schedule, even when advised otherwise by health care professionals. They were hesitant to tell their physicians about the schedule, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause for the weight gain problems. Many elected to supplement or wean to formula rather than continue breastfeeding at the expense of the schedule. The parents' commitment can be especially strong when they are using the program for religious reasons, even though numerous leaders within the same religious communities have publicly expressed concerns.

(Let's review. Apparently "Back to Sleep" (which is pretty damn conclusively proven) is a myth, putting these kids at risk for SIDS; the book promotes punishing a two week old baby who doesn't get enough to eat when nursing; and the book tells parents to disregard medical advice. As we will see below, at least one mommy in the group ended up being told by her own pediatrician her daughter was starving to death.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has specifically warned against the practices promoted in the book as has the Canadian Child Care Federation and a major site for new mothers. One of the big risks, at this, is that babies don't form proper attachments (and thus are set up for lifelong anxiety disorders as they never really learn to trust):
Why is "On Becoming Babywise" so controversial?
Most, if not all, medical and childcare experts advise against following Ezzo's strict, by-the-clock method. They say it contradicts recent research that emphasizes the critical importance of early child-parent attachment. They also point out that babies are extremely variable, and each one has different needs for eating and sleeping. A number of pediatricians have observed PDF-reared infants who have problems such as insufficient weight gain, dehydration, and difficulty thriving. Psychological and child development experts are concerned about potential emotional disturbances with this approach and cite evidence of such problems among some GFI families. One review expressed significant concern that the Babywise method could potentially lead to child abuse.

Medical and childcare experts aren't the only ones who are concerned. Numerous leaders in Ezzo's own religious community have publicly expressed concerns that he misrepresents Scripture and gives medically unsound advice.

In addition, an article in the Bradenton Herald noted how the Ezzo material is potentially highly dangerous as well--including a tiny four-month-old baby who was not only starving but literally had given up the will to live:
A new Mom came to Debby Kearney searching for help. Something was very wrong with her new baby.

Between her first two to four months of life, she gained only two ounces. She should have put on at least two pounds, maybe even four, in that time.

A lactation consultant in private practice in Orlando, Florida, Kearney has logged thousands of hours helping breastfeeding mothers. She suggested the mother breastfeed her baby girl more frequently, common advice she'd give for a baby not gaining properly.

She was stunned when the young mother refused.

"The baby quit showing any signs of hunger. They ran this baby though every test imaginable and could not find an organic cause", Kearney said of the case about two years ago. "I think the baby showed every sign of clinical depression."

Something similar -- although not as severe -- happened again a few months later. Another mother. Another problem. Another reluctance to nurse her baby more often.

And again.

And again.

A report by two pediatricians in Child Magazine, later reprinted in Pediatric News, notes that the material is dangerous and also notes the promotion of "Bible-based" baby-beating:
Furthermore, the authors recommended spanking (with an instrument that is not too stiff) to punish certain behaviors. (Their advice on “chastisement,” as they call it, reminds us of that dispensed by the Rev. John Robinson, who wrote in the early 1700s that “by the time a child is 1 year he must be taught to fear being beaten with a stick. The unpleasant noise of crying will be rarely heard in the house and the family will live in as much quietness as if there were not a child among them.”) Ezzo’s suggestions for using
physical punishment and other “parent-centered” methods of childrearing are hardly likely to produce well-adjusted children.

Of particular note (due to LJ/Six Apart's location in California), the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Orange County has issued a general statement of concern in regards to religiously motivated child abuse in religious parenting programs that focuses specifically on abusive practices in the Ezzo books.

And believe you me, the group does promote abuse.

The LJ community [info]booju_mooju was probably the first to reveal the full extent of the material promoted. A few highlights include:

a) Beating an 11-month-old girl for being squirmy when dressed.
b) "Hot-saucing" a one-year-old kid and "flicking the mouth" of kids that bite. (A word on the "hot-saucing"--it's a tactic increasingly promoted in dominionist childrearing which has some rather severe risks, including throat swelling. Both the manufacturers of Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot Sauce have condemned the use of their products in this abusive form of discipline, with McIlhenny (the makers of Tabasco) in particular calling the practice "strange and scary".)
c) Letting a five-month-old baby scream continuously for an hour because Mommy didn't want to get up at 5am.
d) Promoting letting a thirteen-month-old child scream alone in a room for an hour.
e) Letting a fifteen-month-old baby with a brain cyst cry for hours at a time because they were trying to force her to nap (even though the mommy acknowledged that the kid may not be able to do so because of her brain lesion).
f) Letting a three-week-old baby scream continuously for four and a half hours...
g) ...and then kvetching because her doctor told her that her kid was experiencing failure to thrive at her fifteen-week checkup.
h) literally forcing one's fingers down the throat of a child under 9 months of age to force them to vomit because they had "something in their mouth they weren't supposed to" (the child started to gag himself in imitation at 9 months of age)
i) Whacking a fifteen-month-old baby for having a temper tantrum (if baby is already having a meltdown, whacking isn't gonna help).

And mind, that's just the highlights.

Among other things, the group has also had a history of being reported for abuse. Per at least one post (listing fellow abuse community [info]trainupachild as being potentially friendly), it notes that the reason for their lockdown was because of abuse reports; the group shortly set posts to being members-only but publically viewable.

I have reported this to Livejournal (in both the thread over on [info]lj_biz and in two formal abuse complaints (#797388 concerning [info]trainupachild and #797391 concerning [info]babywise. We'll see if anything is done; I seriously doubt it.

EDIT 12 AUGUST 2007:

As of today, Livejournal Abuse has still done nothing in regards to the two abuse complaints in question.

There is also some very disturbing information to suggest that we may be dealing with a pattern of favouritism towards dominionists in the US Government as well. Specifically (via the following post from Jihad Against "Innocence"), the New York Times has reported that the Department of Justice is in essence outsourcing its internet obscenity and indecency complaints to a dominionist group:
In the last few years, 67,000 citizens’ complaints have been deemed legitimate under the program and passed on to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors.

The number of prosecutions resulting from those referrals is zero.

That may help explain why no one — not Justice Department officials, not Mr. Wolf, not even the religious antipornography crusader who runs the program — seems eager to call the project a shining success.

The department Web site invites citizens to report material that they believe is obscene so it can be investigated and, perhaps, prosecuted. Clicking on the site to make a report takes the user to ObscenityCrimes.org, which is run by Morality in Media, the grant recipient.

Morality in Media is a conservative religious group that has worked since 1962 to “rid the world of pornography"...

Morality in Media is in fact a group founded by dominionist leaders which has an agenda going far, far beyond merely banning the obscene. Among other things, they've tried to force supermarket chains to remove Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines from the shelves (and have those magazines treated the same as "Playboy" or "Penthouse" elsewhere), has tried to force hotel chains to stop offering adult channels altogether (as of now, most hotel chains do but they WILL gouge you for it), and have tried to yank commercials for Carl's Jr./Hardee's and television shows well within most of America's "community standards" off the air (and was one of two dominionist groups behind the FCC's decision--later ruled unconstitutional--to fine radio and TV stations up to $500,000 per incident in regards to material considered "indecent" (the FCC of course refused to define what was "indecent") after "Boobiegate").

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