I disagree: when is it not appropriate to beat your wife?

I just know I’m going to get grief for this, but long-time readers know I have a mischievous streak that causes me to always sympathize with an obvious villain.  I was pleased to see the obviously gallant Michael Avramovich, in his recent Mere Comments post, doesn’t just invite Muslims to be “partners for social justice” or some liberal crap like that; he invites them to leave their false religion and embrace Jesus Christ as their Saviour.  The dude talks like a Christian.  However, we must be careful that it is Christ Himself we promote to the infidel and not our contingent cultural norms, rightly though we cling to them ourselves.

Avramovich is outraged at Muslim cultures’ supposed permissiveness towards domestic violence.  The Koran says that a husband may punish a disobedient wife by swatting her with a toothbrush-size stick, which a millenium-and-a-half later has led to the following:

one-half of ever-married Egyptian women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: She goes out without telling him (40 percent), neglects the children (40 percent), argues with him (37 percent), refuses to have sex with him (34 percent), or burns food (19 percent). Seventeen percent of the women surveyed agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife for all five reasons.

And yet the Muslims say they don’t endorse spousal abuse!  Surely this is a case of the sinister “taqiyya” in action.  Well, wait.  It depends a lot on what these Egyptian girls understand by the word “beating”.  Here’s a question for you:  what is your position on spanking?  Is corporal punishment of children a human rights abuse that should be outlawed?  Not being a liberal twit, I assume your answer is “no”.  Well, then, does that mean that you endorse child abuse, since you’re okay with using “violence” against children?  In the context of children, most people realize that there’s a difference between swatting a kid on the behind as a calm, measured disciplinary action and flying into a rage and breaking his arm.  Now, suppose we had a custom of spanking our wives when they’re disobedient, which is worse than flicking them with toothbrushes.  “Outrageous”, you say?  Well, if corporal punishment is such a uniquely horrible form of punishment, shouldn’t we reserve it for adults rather than for children?  “But it’s demeaning because it’s a punishment for children”, you say?  Well, as soon as we start applying it to adults, that will cease to be a problem.  Now, I personally don’t use corporal punishment of any kind on my wife or daughter, but I wouldn’t say that the natural law absolutely forbids it.  Of course, some brutal men go much further than toothbrush swatting or spanking, but such abuse is condemned by Islam as much as by Christianity.  It could be that those Egyptian gals really think it’s okay for them to be thrashed to within an inch of their life for burning the food, but I doubt it.  Cultural context is everything.

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24 thoughts on “I disagree: when is it not appropriate to beat your wife?

  1. A man rules his slaves despotically, his children monarchically and his wife politically
    .
    Aristotle.
    That’s the Natural Law. If you agree that your congressman is entitled to smack a disobedient constituent, then of course, a man is entitled to smack his disobedient wife.

  2. What’s striking (pun intended) to me is how high the numbers are. Egypt is pretty modern if around half the women disapprove of the Koran’s teaching.

  3. The way we act in marriage cannot be considered a “social norm”. Marriage is highly religious and should be a picture of Christ and the church. If these Muslims are to embrace Christianity as their own religion, then they must be taught first that the relationship between Christ and man is not based on fear of punishment but on free will. Christ gives us the choice to love Him by our free will, that is what makes it love, that is what makes it beautiful.

    It would be so much more disappointing for a husband to have a wife who submits to him and serves him out of fear than it would be to have a wife who desires to please him and wants him out of love and respect for him.

    • I very much like our custom, but the thing is, centuries ago, wasn’t it considered acceptable for a Christian husband to reasonably “correct” his wife? If so, then this can’t be a Christian vs. Muslim thing.

      • I don’t consider people from history to be a credible source of truth. People from the past were just as sinful as people today.

      • Hi Sis,

        I would put the rule “never use corporal punishment on your wife (CPW)” under the category of “good customs”. It is not a strict requirement of the natural law, but it promotes the natural law better than the alternative policy. CPW is more open to abuse; it can lower the wife’s authority in the eyes of her children; and given adult pain tolerances, it’s not likely to be much of a deterrent anyway, at least not if limited to the levels natural law (or the Koran) allows.

        I would say that slavery is another case of this. It seems hard to believe that every slaveowner is by that fact a sinner and that centuries of Christendom went by without anybody noticing it. Those who want to condemn slavery via natural law run into the problem that it is a difficult thing to define, and many different conditions have been described as slavery. (According to the Marxists, wage labor is itself a form of slavery. Try to rigorously define slavery, and you’ll see this isn’t as crazy a claim as it sounds.) However, most forms of the master-slave relationship are prone to abuses that are difficult to check, and it’s better to arrange an ecomomy without them to the extent one can.

      • “Just as sinful”? Are you so sure? This sounds quite uncharitable, for one thing, and also quite unreasonable. Our ancestors did not butcher their children wholesale. They recognized the integrity of the marriage bed and did not endorse buggery (or, for that matter, any of the sins which cry out to Heaven for vengeance). They rendered all due worship to God, reverence to the Church, and obedience to civil authorities. They did not teach theological nonsense. And so on.

      • But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6

        Ours and their righteousness count for nothing, it is like a filthy rag in the sight of God; therefore we are equally sinful in His eyes. Our only hope being in the death of Christ and not in our own righteousness.

    • Modern sentiments all. Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Fear of God’s just punishments is a perfectly good reason to love Jesus. A free choice to love Jesus out of fear of God’s just punishments is a free choice, and beautiful, too.

      • Right. If “free will” means “freedom from any consideration of possible consequences of one’s choices,” we may as well stop talking about it, cause it doesn’t exist.

      • when I think of fear of the Lord, I think of
        1. going to Hell and being abandoned by Him forever
        2. God striking me dead as I stand and sending me to Hell forever
        3. natural consequences for my actions

        I don’t think of physical punishment.

      • Death and Hell don’t count as physical punishments? I mean I guess Hell isn’t (until the Resurrection), but that’s a small sliver of eternity we’re talking about.

      • the truly awful punishment of Hell is not death and suffering, it is being separated from God forever.

    • Sis, you misunderstand the concept. What the Quran says is:

      “and [finally], strike them (which should not pain for her, e.g., given as small Mishwak stick in Tafseer)”

      If it does not pain her, then it is not to inspire fear. The basic problem which the Quran is dealing with is that some women let their mouths overtake their brains and they will nag without stop. A painless slap acts as a reset to stop the blabbing and to hopefully restart the thinking. If some elements of Islam are misintrepreting this as permission to beat one’s wife, then they don’t understand the Quran. Here is a good explanation of the concept from a Westerner:

  4. There is no statement in scripture that allows or validates husbands to physical discipline their wives. However, physical discipline of children is mentioned. Also, Christ never physically disciplined his disciples (Christ and the church metaphor as relating to husband and wife)

    • Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anywhere that the Bible explicitly forbids it, either.

      Christ’s disciples aren’t really the same thing as His children. We’re kind of all His children (or rather, all His bride). And yes, he did beat some of us, i.e., the moneychangers in the temple.

      Now, none of this means we *ought* to go beat our wives, or even that we necessarily should, ever. After all, God does plenty of things we shouldn’t do on our own. But if we’re going to go with the sola scriptura method of things, there’s more than one way of approaching the question.

      • Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. Matthew 21:12

        There was no physical punishment between Jesus and the moneychangers.

        Christ’s relationship with His disciples is an example of the relationship between Christ and the church which a marriage is supposed to represent.

        I don’t think the bible forbids it, but it is not the example we have that we should follow.

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  6. In the context of Lawrence Auster’s highlighting and explanation of the limitations of blogging, I understand that Mr. Avramovich might have more to say on the subject of sin in Muslim societies that would suggest that women there commit it too. However, speaking generally, I am still waiting to see such a missive from him or anyone else from the West especially concerned with sin in foreign lands. As it is, I am starting to be suspicious that the emphasis, such as it is, is more enlightening in understanding the state of things in the West than in Muslim society.

    There does seem to be a lack of scope in Avramovich’s post, and whether there is actually a violation of the laws of God in the situation he brings up, it seems that if he is very concerned with the souls of Muslims, he would do well to give Muslim men a little latitude to sin according to the dictates of their culture as a starting point, and refrain from assigning particular malice to them as a group of people. For Avramovich it seems like Muslim men would be okay if only they would sin like Muslim women instead of the Muslim men they are. There is, after all, something more desirable about being “weary and burdened” as Avramovich suggests of the women generally, than being “abusive, whether physically, sexually, or psychologically” as he suggests of the men.

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  8. We have been talking about this here:

    http://verusconditio.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/the-alpha-men/#comment-242

    I don’t think there is anything in the Christian dispensation that would forbid a husband punishing his wife for disobedience. Even physically. Whether it is prudent is another thing. I spanked my wife as foreplay yesterday, and I told her it was partly as punishment for being irritating recently. How serious was I? Not sure.

    I am amused by the mental image of Christ wielding a whip against the moneychangers, and its being somehow magically kept away from the bodies of the evil men themselves.

  9. “And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew.”

    Douay-Rheims Bible.

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