The worldview that society holds will fundamentally impact the lives and rights of every individual in that society since it will inevitably have a logical outworking in the laws and values of that society. This has recently been highlighted in the application of the secular humanist worldview that undergirds the Norwegian state. When you hold the view (as they do) that man is inherently good and that if he does something antisocial it is therefore not his fault but the result of negative experiences that he has been subjected to, it is logical that they would have a liberal political and legal system that treats prisoners as human beings in need of rehabilitation so that they can re-enter society.
The appeal of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian convicted of murdering 77 people in twin attacks on July 22, 2011 when he bombed the government’s headquarters in Oslo, killing 8 people, and then gunned down 69 more at a Labour Party summer youth camp, is a prime example. Breivik took the Norwegian State to court this year, complaining that he was subjected to “serious torture” while imprisoned. He listed, among other things, his lack of access to adult video games, his coffee being served cold and not being provided with enough moisturiser for his skin.
The Norwegian government is willing to entertain this complaint and to publicly justify their treatment of Breivik, who enjoys a 3-room prison cell (with an area for sleeping, an area for studying and an area for working out) and who can run on a treadmill, watch DVDs, play games on a Sony PlayStation and take distance-learning courses at the university. The words of Ina Stromstad, a spokeswoman for the Olso district court, perfectly sum up this worldview manifestation: “He is a citizen of Norway and even though he is convicted for a horrible crime, he hasn’t lost his human rights”. The fact that there is little or no sense of justice for those who lost family and loved ones in this senseless attack appears to be an irrelevant or secondary consideration.
Belief that children are good
This secular humanist worldview equally informs the Norwegian government’s policy on the discipline of children, which bans even the mildest form of physical discipline. Because this worldview sees all children as good, if a parent then disciplines a child, this is inherently wrong – especially if any form of physical correction is used. Any such behaviour by a parent is viewed as aberrant and likely to cause the child to subsequently manifest antisocial tendencies. As a consequence, when such a case is discovered or reported, the child must be removed forthwith and custody retained by the State in the best interests of the child. The fact that the parent/child relationship is severed and fundamentally damaged in the process, is irrelevant.
A current case highlights this, where a Romanian family in Norway had their five children (including a small baby) taken from their home and split between three different sets of foster parents, because the State did not agree with the children’s Christian upbringing (including occasional, non-injurious spanking for purposes of discipline). The parents were forbidden, for several months, from seeing or even communicating with their children. This case has elicited widespread protests across Europe and many believe that the parents are the victims of religious discrimination, particularly because they are Pentecostal Christians. Although the Norwegian authorities have subsequently returned the baby to the family, the other children remain in foster care and the State has indicated that it will apply for an order to permanently remove the children. (To read more about this case, see http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/family/50-rallies-take-place-for-christian-parents-in-norway-who-had-children-removed).
By contrast, in South Africa the vast majority of people do not hold to a secular humanist worldview, but are adherents of the Christian faith. As such, the vast majority of people in South Africa believe that the State does not have the right to interfere with their God-given responsibility to raise their children in accordance with the guidance of Scripture. A biblical Christian worldview begins with the acknowledgement that man is an inherently fallen creature and his nature is predisposed to act in a self-serving, self-seeking way that will inevitably be to the detriment of himself and others. In the case of children, the Bible teaches that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” (Proverbs 22:15). While this and other related Scriptures may be interpreted in a number of ways, it places the responsibility to bring correction to their child’s behavior squarely on the shoulders of the parents. This responsibility is also a reflection of how God treats us as His beloved children and He provides the perfect model in the exercise of parental discipline. For “our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10, 11). If God takes such trouble in the discipline and training of His children, earthly parents should strive to do the same – for the good of their children!
Proposed amendment to Children’s Act
Given the vastly different worldview of the majority of South Africans, it is deeply concerning that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and indeed our Department of Social Development (DSD), are taking a similar view to the Norwegian government and proposing amendments to the Children’s Act that will have the effect of criminalising all spanking in the home. In the case of Mostert v Joshua Generation Church, the SAHRC recently found that there is no difference between “disciplinary spanking” (a physically non-injurious act, motivated by love and concern, and intending to educate and correct), and “abuse” or “violence” (physical assault, motivated by anger and malice, intending to injure or abuse, and in fact causing injury). Common sense clearly dictates otherwise, but assuming that this becomes law, then there will be penalties if parents are found guilty of the “crime” of spanking. These may include the parent being prosecuted for assault; an order removing the child from the parent and placing him/her in alternative care; and/or an order that the parent be trained in “non-violent parenting” (otherwise known as “sensitisation training”). (In this regard, see FOR SA’s recent article in Gateway News – http://gatewaynews.co.za/church-appeals-sahrcs-report-on-spanking-in-the-home/)
Not only is our worldview completely different, but the cultural and economic reality in South Africa is completely different to that of Norway. The alternative disciplinary methods proposed by the SAHRC and DSD, assume a middle-class society where all children have “time-out” rooms or toys that can be taken away from them, as a means of enforcing discipline. That is simply not the reality for the vast majority of people in South Africa. A legal ban on spanking will disempower parents in disadvantaged communities and the consequence will be that their children will grow up without a proper understanding of the consequences of antisocial behavior. The saying goes “If parents fail to discipline their children in the home with love, society will discipline them as adults without love”. South Africa already faces a crime crisis and we simply cannot afford to add to this in the name of political correctness.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is committed to ensure that every South African has the opportunity to defend their freedom of conscience and the right to choose what to believe and how to express and live out their beliefs. This includes the rights of parents to interpret the injunctions of the Bible and/or other holy texts on raising their children. FOR SA is equally committed to resist attempts by the State to undermine and limit the freedom of religion that the South African Constitution guarantees, which includes the right to preach and teach Biblical truth and precepts which we believe can only result in a just, free and prosperous South Africa for all her citizens.
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