Opinion: Chastisement

POSTED: 11/15/11 4:30 AM

Our dear Lord has weird lodgers is an expression often heard in the Netherlands to explain somebody’s outrageous behavior. Now it turns out that the Lord has weird lodgers on his payroll as well.
The daily newspaper Leidsch Dagblad reported yesterday about preacher A. Vlietstra of the Hersteld Hervormde Kerk in Katwijk. It’s always tricky to translate religious names or titles, but we guess that Restored Reformed Church comes pretty close. Restored or not, it seems now that this church needs some urgent repairs – not the building mind you, but the message that preacher Vlietstra showers upon his flock.
Vlietstra tells his faithful that parents have to beat a sinning child. The Dutch Youth Institute, the Advice and Reporting Center for Child Abuse and the Defence for Children foundation say that the preacher’s advice is unacceptable, harmful and punishable.
Hmm. Vlietstra bases his “advice” on seventeenth century texts. Here is his first blooper: these texts are “definitely not outdated.”
So Vlietstra happily tells parents of newborns that when a child sins, chastisement is a necessary answer. If parents don’t do this, they go against God’s will. That’s not necessarily true, but it is Vlietstra’s opinion.
What chastisement does the preacher exactly have in mind? A slap on the wrist? A black eye? A firm belting? Vlietstra does not get into specifics. But he did point out to parents that elderly children must be punished more severely. Stubborn kids must even be “strictly chastised.”
A serious crime and horror, poor Vlietstra says, should not be punished mildly.
Well, then. We always thought that the preachers of violence lived in mosques, but now we know better. Vlietstra has started a jihad of his own against one of the most vulnerable groups in any society: children. His call for corporal punishment is outlandish if we want to remain only slightly sarcastic, and outright criminal if we prefer to say what we really think about this religious scoundrel.
Khadija Arib, an MP for the Labor Party, has asked the state secretaries of Public Health and Justice their opinion about Vlietstra’s ideas. Maybe the SGP, one of the supporters of this government, will whisper in their ear that what Vlietstra preaches is, indeed, the will of God and that she’ll be politically better off to leave him alone.
But Arib wants to know what the state secretaries are going to do to stop Vlietstra.
Let’s make an educated guess here. Does nothing sound about right, even if in certain dictionaries torture is given as a synonym for chastisement?

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