WWJD? Probably Not Punch A Kid In The Chest Like This Pastor Did
Got a ‘smart-aleck’ kid? One whose intelligence and curiosity are a real
pain in your ass stumbling block on his path to salvation? A pastor at a New Jersey Baptist church has an innovative solution: why not just punch that child as hard as you can?
Via Raw Story, Pastor Eric Dammann, the senior pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, is the unlikely (and frankly unwanted) star of a YouTube video clipped from one of his sermons – one in which he discusses his past as a youth pastor. One of the young souls under his care in particular, a boy named Ben, is described by Dammann as “a nice kid, but […] a real smart-aleck. He was a bright kid, which didn’t help things – made him more dangerous.”
Now, I used to be a teacher. I am well aware that a bright child does not necessarily equate to an easy child. Or, say, a compliant, manipulable one. Bright kids were the ones who would be done with classwork ten minutes before everyone else. Bright kids were the ones who’d try to lead the class off on tangents, either due to genuine intellectual curiosity or genuine interest in not taking notes on the human digestive tract for a few minutes. Here are some examples of ways to keep a bright kid from ‘pushing buttons’, as Dammann complains: try to engage them as a helper and co-teacher. Have them explore more challenging topics instead of slumming around in the basics with the rest of the class. Give him opportunities to stimulate and grow that curiosity and intellect instead of shutting it down. And definitely, definitely do not do what Dammann did:
“I walked over to him and I went, bam! I punched him in the chest as hard as I – I just crumpled the kid. I just crumpled him. And I said – I leaned over and I said, ‘Ben, when are you going to stop playing games with God?’ I led that man to the Lord right there.”
I was that annoying kid when I was Ben’s age. I wanted to know where ancient Chinese and South American people went after they died if they never heard of Jesus. I asked about why there were two different lineages for Jesus’s earthly dad Joseph given just a few books apart in the Bible. I didn’t understand when my questions got answered by teachers with irritation and subject-changing, but I understand now. There are a lot of wonderful believers that don’t look with disdain on questioning and curiosity – I know a great many Methodists, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims who would be appalled at this kind of behavior. But Eric Dammann is not one of them.
If your particular flavor of faith values violence against children over intelligence and inquisitiveness, it’s you who is the ‘dangerous’ one, not the smart-aleck kid who doesn’t take you seriously enough for your liking. If you think the Biblical Jesus would have been done with punching kids with all your strength in order to get their attention, you must have been reading a different version of the Bible than the one I’m familiar with. And if you genuinely think you are leading children to Christ by hurting them, instead of just causing them to tell you whatever you want to hear in the hopes of making you stop, you might want to stop and try a little of that ‘questioning’ business on your own beliefs.