Who would Jesus smack?

Benjamin L Corey has written a brilliant piece on Patheos this morning about smacking and challenging the Christian community about smacking (or spanking as Americans call it) and the harm it does to children. The thing about his article is that it is not focused on ‘the rights of the children’ as many who support smacking would then roll their eyes, it’s focused on a study done by Columbia and Princeton that shows many negative links between smacking your child and what that then statistically can lead to.

Firstly let me say that I don’t want to get into a conversation about ‘it never hurt me’ as that attempts to negates the research and implies if it was not damaging to you, then it’s not damaging to anyone. What this research shows is the links between smacking and issues like ​“mood disorders, depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders were associated with adults who were spanked or physically punished as children, at a higher rate than adults who were not.” What this also means is that if you survived smacking undamaged then you are lucky and you should be fighting today to help parents understand that the research is clear and smacking should not be a tool in a parents discipline armoury. You should be fighting for children today that are not as luck as you and will be damaged by it.

Here are some selected sections from the article


Christian culture often seems addicted to corporal punishment (something Matthew Paul Turner calls the “false gospel of spanking“), and like so many of the other Golden Calves, folks grow incredibly defensive when one tries to question or critique the practice. However, if we are to call ourselves Jesus followers, I believe we must continually question everything as we seek to further develop ourselves into the image and likeness of the one we are attempting to emulate: Jesus.

And so, would Jesus spank kids? The very thought of that seems absurd to me, and the image attached to this article certainly strikes me as a Jesus foreign to the Gospel accounts of the New Testament. I can’t fathom Jesus doing what Adrian Peterson did– taking a tree branch to a small child and beating them six ways from Sunday. I can’t imagine Jesus ever whipping off his belt, drilling holes in a paddle, or advocating that we actually hit people to teach them that hitting is wrong. I believe it is time for Christians to reject spanking, and here’s why:

Studies on spanking kids reveal that Jesus was right– the use of violence only creates a cycle of more violence.

A study conducted by Columbia and Princeton actually revealed a shocking fact: aggression and unwanted behaviors are directly linked to spanking. In the study, spanking only escalated the presence of unwanted behaviors at future ages, triggering what the researchers called an “arms race” requiring the parents to actually spankmore, which in turn triggers more of the negative behaviors (including violent behavior), locking the parent and child into a hopeless cycle. The study states:

“Even though the study shows that spanking and misbehavior tend to feed each other, the investigators also found strong evidence that spanking a child within the first year of life likely is the catalyst that starts the cycle.

These findings put an end to the “chicken or the egg” debate over which comes first, the spanking or the childhood misbehavior, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental & behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

“I see it starting with the egg, with the egg being the spanking, and then the spanking then leads to more aggressive behavior, and the aggressive behavior then leads to more spanking,” Adesman said.”

The key to having a well behaved child at the benchmark ages of 3, 5, and 9? The study shows the key is nonviolent parenting. This shouldn’t be a shock to us however, because Jesus taught 2,000 years ago that violence only creates a cycle that cannot be broken until one opts out of the violent system completely. This means that Jesus invites you to opt out of hitting your kids ever again.


Other studies have shown the link between childhood spanking and higher rates of mental illness as an adult (as well as lower IQ’s and decreased cognitive ability)and Jesus obviously wouldn’t want you to do anything that could knowingly trigger life-long hindering, and potentially fatal illnesses in your child. The study from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals:

Finally, and this study is perhaps the most tragically ironic: spanking is shown to actually damage the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The damage caused to the brain is a reduction of gray matter, which is directly linked to depression, addiction, and other mental disorders. Furthermore, and this is where things get really ironic, we must ask the question: what is this importance of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain? According to a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, here is the sad correlation:

Let that sink in: the more you spank your kids, the less gray matter they have in their prefrontal cortex. The less gray matter they have, the less they are able to evaluate how to make a wise and good decision. This means that spanking is getting you exactly what you do NOT want: a child who is less able to make good choices.

“Mood disorders, depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders were associated with adults who were spanked or physically punished as children, at a higher rate than adults who were not.”

“The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex), the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences…”

Combine that with other studies showing they’re less intelligent and more depressed, and you’ve got a pretty damning case.


To read the article in its entirety click here


There are some in the media world who speak up on the importance, and right, of smacking you child, most of them, the vast majority of them are Christians. I hope they get a chance to read Benjamin’s article and I look forward to their response.



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