With God, everything is permitted

Like killing children. Charlie Fuqua, candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, recommended child execution in his book, “God’s Law: The Only Political Solution”:

The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. … This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children. I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death. Why is this so? Other than the love Christ has for us, there is no greater love then that of a parent for their child. The last people who would want to see a child put to death would be the parents of the child. Even so, the Scrpture provides a safe guard to protect children from parents who would wrongly exercise the death penalty against them. Parents are required to bring their children to the gate of the city. The gate of the city was the place where the elders of the city met and made judicial pronouncements. In other words, the parents were required to take their children to a court of law and lay out their case before the proper judicial authority, and let the judicial authority determine if the child should be put to death. I know of many cases of rebellious children, however, I cannot think of one case where I believe that a parent had given up on their child to the point that they would have taken their child to a court of law and asked the court to rule that the child be put to death. Even though this procedure would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, it would give parents authority. Children would know that their parents had authority and it would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.

I can think of at least 3 problems with this plan. First, in order for a threat to be effective, it has to be credible. The target of the threat must believe there is a possibility that it will be carried out. That’s what makes it so ridiculous for Fuqua to try and walk the line of “we need this as a disincentive to bad behavior, but I’m sure no one will ever actually execute their kids!” If it never happens, it starts to lose its power to influence anyone, as it becomes difficult for people to believe it could actually happen. If he really finds child executions so dreadful that he seeks to downplay how likely this is, maybe he shouldn’t want to make explicit legal allowances for it. And if he does believe that the goal of discouraging disobedience is so overwhelmingly important that it warrants the execution of children, then it makes no sense within his own value system that he would want to get in the way of doing what he believes is necessary to achieve the very objective he considers so crucial. It’s almost like the guy who supports child execution is being irrational or something.

Second, people have killed their children for religious reasons on plenty of occasions, both intentionally and unintentionally. People also kill children for reasons other than religion. What grounds does he have to be so certain that parents have never, ever wanted their children dead? And how can he possibly believe that the world he envisions, with a religious community that has a social norm of executing children for parental disobedience, would be at all averse to doing just that?

Third, you seriously want to make mere disobedience a capital crime for children when there’s already substantial debate over whether the death penalty, an irrevocable act which allows for no reevaluation or correction or pardon after the fact, is appropriate even for morally culpable and mentally sound adults? What is wrong with you? Knock it off!

With God, everything is permitted

18 thoughts on “With God, everything is permitted

  1. 1

    About this bit:

    I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death.

    I’m an ignoramus, and even I know better than that! Fred Clark over at slacktivist posted an instance just last week. It’s the story of Jephthah and his daughter; Judges 11:30-40.

    (In Jepthah’s defense, he probably never existed. The passage doesn’t sound like history; it’s more like a cautionary folktale about the dangers of careless oathtaking.)

    1. 1.1

      Ah, but Jepthah didn’t have her stoned because she was disobedient, so it doesn’t apply. Nor does Abraham’s failed execution of Isaac, because that was because God ordered it as a test. Isaac had done nothing wrong.

      What Jepthah’s daughter did to “deserve” being killed was to come out singing and dancing to greet her father coming home victorious from the wars. Unforgivable, that. Not something a parent can overlook.

      Seriously, though, I wonder at the confusion of respect with fear and of authority with power. And at the blindness that thinks all parents love their kids. Charlie Fuqua, get your nose out of the Old Testament and watch the news occasionally!

  2. 2

    Parents kill their kids all the time. This “Christian worldview” doesn’t seem to anticipate the problem of incompetent, abusive parents, or that adults sometimes want children to be obedient not because an adult really has any better idea about what should or should not be done, and that other adults are likely to take the side of other adults the same ways that cops stick together.

    Overall, there’s a problem confusing ‘obedience’ and ‘morality’ which I think is really the problem here. I don’t think parents are entitled to obedient children. It’s 100% the wrong way to think about child welfare or what possible positive functions a family might have.

    1. 3.1

      This man is whacked. First of all, God is an invention used to keep people afraid. Secondly, this story just proves that people who believe in the invisible man in the sky have no corner on the morals and ethics market. Children ought to “pray” that their parents are atheists so they are not subject to idiotic belief systems.

  3. 5

    I can think of at least 3 problems with this plan.

    I can think of a fourth: The only people who have to obey a cult are those who belong to it. Those who demand that non-cultists obey are against democracy and want to replace it with theocracy.

  4. 6

    “I cannot think of one instance in the Scripture where parents had their child put to death. ”

    At the risk of being fucking obvious – howsa bout Jesus, the son of Yahweh?

  5. F

    I brought you into this world, and I can take you out. Sweet! Get it into the constitution ASAP. How righteous is that? Ima open up a stone cold can of child execution on you, boy. Yea, that’s the stuff.

    I wonder what methods of execution are available.

  6. JP

    For context, the passage Fuqua is referencing, which I haven’t seen directly quoted in any of the articles or posts on this, is Deuteronomy 21:18-21. It reads,

    “18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”

    Please note that, in addition to disobedience, the son’s crimes are gluttony and drunkenness. Notwithstanding the fact that food and wine in excess might certainly have been available to some children during that time, these are sins that in the context of the Bible are overwhelmingly, perhaps even exclusively, applied to adults. Even if one can manage to ignore the blatant disregard for human life on display in the passage, I don’t see how anyone could read it and infer it’s talking about a *minor*, even considering the disparity between socially-accepted levels of maturity then and now.

    Fuqua is an ass on every level. I cannot fathom how anyone could not only write a piece of garbage like that in the first place but then proofread it, edit it, nod approvingly over it, and submit it for publication. The whole thing’s put me off my food.

  7. 10

    Okay, so I had much the same emotional reaction to this everyone else seems to have. The problem with it is it’s just dishonest and stupid. The reason measures like this are controversial is at least in part because they simply Do. Not. Work.

    Obedience and the sort of “discipline” he appears to be referencing are both based upon respect. And barring serious mental problems that one should seek help for, it is impossible to respect someone who you know does not respect you. Fear -can- be a motivator but it’s a very unproductive one and it makes an exceptionally poor substitute for earning someone’s respect. They’re like sugar and salt. Although some salt in food that’s already sweet can make it seem sweeter, salt generally can’t be used as sugar. And used completely without sugar it has nothing even remotely like the same effect.

    Children listen to their parents because as they’re growing up they learn that their parents respect them and respect themselves enough to speak up if the child is being irrational and inconsiderate. “You are not being a good enough sock puppet for my broken ego” is simply not an excuse to threaten a child. If you are or know someone who starts to think this is okay, seriously encourage them to seek professional help. You won’t get a pat on the back or people prattling on about “family values” if you do but it’s the right thing to do. And seriously, this stuff is obvious.

    1. 10.1

      It should be obvious, but some parents avoid the obviousness. There are people who teach that fear is the beginning of respect. There are people who are glad they suffered corporal punishment as children and insist they will pass it on to their own children. There are torture camps, “reparative therapy,” and “corrective” rape. There are cities which fail to provide shelter for homeless kids, and then arrest and jail homeless kids for survival sex.

  8. 11

    *raises finger.
    Uh we call children *children* for a reason. Because they are uncapable of being fully responsible for their actions – due to not fully understanding the consequences or being capable of controlling their impulses?

    I’m finding it very difficult every step of the way of being a father, but that does not negate the need to be clear on what children are – the parents are the ones responsible for a child’s actions.

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