Sometimes a miracle is a bearded dude turning water into wine and whatnot. Other times, a miracle comes in the form of really beating the crap out of some bratty kid.
Meet Bible Baptist Church Pastor Eric Dammann, who literally wails on kids for Jesus. In a recent sermon caught on video, Pastor Dammann either worked a miracle or committed a vile act of child abuse, depending on your perspective:
Dammann says that "Ben" was "a nice kid, but one of those — he was a real smart aleck. He was abright kid, which didn’t help things — made him more dangerous."
"We were outside one day at youth group, and he was just trying to push my buttons. He was just kind of not taking the Lord serious."
"So I walked over to him and went BAM! Punched him in the chest as hard as I could. I crumpled the kid. I just crumpled him," Dammann brags. "Then I leaned over and said, 'Ben, when are you going to stop playing games with God?' I led that man to the Lord right there. There's times that that might be needed."
Makes total sense to me.
The video was posted on the now-deleted Vimeo page Rooted in Christ Videos, which has conveniently disappeared as the video has picked up steam and begun to be noticed in mainstream media like Gawker and Raw Story.
Again, there's only two ways to explain this type of behavior. One, Dammann is the anointed hand of god, smacking the Holy Spirit right into unruly children. The other is that Dammann is a coward who punches children who challenge his convictions. I guess there's a third possibility, that the pastor is the kind of guy who lies about hitting kids to impress people, which really isn't much better.
Dammann was quick to claim the story was out of context. "I do not endorse child abuse or the punching of children," he told the NY Daily News. "My intention in the sermon was to make a point of how God can use our mistakes. The viral clip does not show the whole sermon, where I say what I did was wrong." I guess it's okay if he regrets it, kind of, sorta, right?
It's easy to condemn Dammann, but there's a whole bunch of other people equally of deserving of your disapproval too. The Guardian notes that Fresh Fire Ministries preacher Todd Bentley was banned from entering the UK in 2012 for claiming he could cure people of their chronic and terminal illnesses by smacking them real hard in the face. Berean Baptist Church pastor Sean Harris was recently caught advocating fathers to beat their potentially gay sons: "Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist." In his book To Train Up a Child, Church at Cane Creek preacher Michael Pearl advocated child abuse that resulted in several deaths. The New York Timesdescribed the book's explicit "instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, 'can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.'"
Most religious people don't hit kids (duh) and plenty of people harm children without any kind of religious agenda. But a 1995 study found sufficient evidence to conclude that religiously based or justified mistreatment of minors was distinct enough to qualify as a unique form of abuse. Alternet's Valerie Tarico, among others, have written about supposed acceptance of physical abuse in some evangelical households. Religious dogma abuses children in other ways, like forcible LGBT conversion therapy that has been linked to suicide (rejected LGBT teens are much more likely to kill themselves). That's just in the U.S.; zealots continue to use religion as a justification for child abuse across the world, including in some Islamic countries.
Religious abuse of children is a distinct threat worth worrying about. It probably happens much more often than Americans would like to admit.
That's not even considering how fragile your relationship with God must be if you feel compelled to smack a child who mouths off. If you can't handle dissent without using force, then you shouldn't be anywhere near children. If they didn't have God to lean on, people like Dammann would have a harder time convincing the gullible otherwise.