Recently, a number of websites (here, here, & here) have followed the “Domestic Discipline” movement, a movement that believes a Head of Household should spank their submissive partner in case of infractions in a marriage. If the spanking isn’t successful, then further infractions could include corner time, a more severe spank, and a list of other methods. It is expected that each partner is in cahoots with this approach and many times, it is the wife (who is always the submissive partner) who actually desires this kind of marriage.
Over at “Beginning Domestic Discipline” a website devoted to helping couples achieve this way of life, their FAQ page reads like a rap sheet for spousal abuse excuses. At one point, the writer advises the reader to wait until after marriage to bring up whether your marriage should pursue Domestic Discipline. They advise singles to not look for a spouse who already believes in this type of marriage relationship. It is unwise, in their opinion, to use DD as a contact point for starting a relationship, rendering either partner unawares of the other’s intentions. I could go on about the unhealthy and brainwashed nature of this abuse but I’ll leave the rest to your own reading.
What struck me as I was reading this, was the similarity that it has to certain Christians’ views of God and our relationship to God as adults. In a conversation with my father, he mentioned that he really enjoyed relating to us as children, but looked forward to the relationship we would have as adults. In many ways, this is a healthy understanding of how to view God’s perspective on our growth into spiritual maturity. Many adults experience an absence of God in their adult years. This, for some, is a deal breaker for their faith altogether, as Peter Enns pointed out in his recent post – “The 5 Main Challenges to Staying Christian…” For those that stick it out, we come to realize that while existential youthful experiences with God were important, they don’t last. And that’s ok.
An Old Testament professor of mine once quipped, “The saints experience more absence than presence of God.” The reason that this is a good thing, as I see it, is the same reason it was good for me to cut the apron strings, move out, become emotionally independent of my parents (though not completely) and have my needs met internally more and more as I moved into adulthood. That is the trajectory of spiritual vitality – less direct connection with God and more indirect participation in the life of God through cultivating the wisdom that he provides liberally. He doesn’t want us to stay at home forever. Instead, like my father, he looks forward to enjoying spiritual adulthood with us as we work together to bring heaven to earth, to “restore pangea” one might say. A health article in the Daily Beast covering the DD movement, cites the opinion of a forensic psychologist,
Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who evaluates and treats sexual psychopaths and is the author of a book on abuse in Christian homes, says CDD isn’t about religion—it’s an outlet for emotionally disturbed men with intimacy deficits.
“No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship,” Alsdurf says. “A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people.”
Jim brings up a provocative assessment of these relationships – the infantilization of the submissive partner and the lure it has for men with pathologies and intimacy issues. Does this say anything about our view of self and God when it comes to our own concepts of how God works in the world – or more specifically – in the church, Christ’s bride? Does the bride of Christ want this kind of relationship? Could the strong emphasis on obedience, punishment and fear of offending God in the church have anything to do with our own infantilization?
Many theologians have assessed the two primary limitations that humanity experiences – our finitude and fallenness and the negative effect that these two aspects have on our ability to flourish in God’s good world. Yet – there is something missing. In my studies, I have discovered a third category of human brokenness that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough – the brokenness of infantilism.
So what does this have to do with the church? Come back for Part 2 where we’ll discuss how the church suffers, not from just our finitude and fallenness, but also from our infantilism.
To read more about the effects of Spiritual Infantilism, read, “Infantilism At Its Best“