woodshed, Mountain Museum, North Carolina
The old woodshed, where many a character has been built.
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado
The Mikado giving his list, from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado.
A Couple in the Public Stocks
A couple spending some meaningful time together in the public stocks.


Throughout history, corporal punishment has been exercised by every strong nation that wanted to remain so.

In Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta, The Mikado, the emperor of Japan sings that his object as supreme judge is to "let the punishment fit the crime," and he has invented some pretty ingenious ways to do that - like confining a billiard sharp to a dungeon cell where he is made to play extravagant matches "on a cloth untrue with a twisted cue and elliptical billiard balls." I think we need some similarly effective ways to punish people in society today who are acting irresponsibly.

Like the Mikado, "I've made a little list" of offenders that I believe not only deserve punishment but desperately need it for their own character, what's left of it; and at the top of that list are those who would corrupt children for monetary gain: child pornographers, drug dealers, pimps, the music and film industries, and certain advertisers. Next are those who have been given a sacred trust, but who have abandoned it because of weakness of character: unfaithful husbands, nagging wives, absentee fathers and controlling mothers - they're on my list. Then there are those who have been given a public trust, requiring wisdom and integrity; but who instead have allowed themselves to be corrupted and have become petty, self-serving potentates: judges, senators, representatives, state and city officials, police and, yes, even presidents. All of these deserve a special, unique form of punishment because their crimes are shaking the very foundation of our society.

Or, to keep things simple, we could return to the tried and true methods used by the Elizabethans and our Puritan forefathers: the stocks, the post and the whip. There is nothing wrong with someone getting a good thrashing, and I believe public humiliation works wonders for those who don't care. It takes that for some people. Rather than allowing children to grow up in abusive homes where the parents are both alcoholics, what if the parents were put in the public stocks every time they hit the booze. I'll bet they would discontinue that pattern pretty quickly. Rather than allowing teenage boys to follow in the footsteps of their porn-adicted fathers, what if anyone caught using pornography were tied to the public whipping post for a couple hours and given a few lashes to remember the experience. I'll bet they would stop using it. Rather than allowing the gambler to pilfer his family's finances, or the lazy person to shirk his duties, or the gang member to terrorize his neighborhood, I think a day of disgrace in the public square would cause reality - and perhaps remorse - to dawn upon their pates.

Many of the problems in our society today are the direct result of our abandoning corporal punishment in the home, church and school. It is not cruel to discipline a dog or horse with a whip when you are training them to do something; nor is it cruel to use a spoon or belt on an unruly child. What is cruel is to leave an animal or child undisciplined so that he, she or it grows up not knowing how to behave nor the difference between right and wrong. Nothing is more miserable than being ignorant, and today many of us are what we used to call "dumber than dirt." I don't care how many headsets you have attached to your skull, how many cell phones are in your pocket, or how many friends you have on Facebook, you can still be ignorant as sin. Ignorance has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with upbringing.

Yet, there is a move afoot to eliminate all corporal punishment worldwide, and guess who's behind it: the UN. According to Wikipedia, "A campaign called 'Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment Of Children' hopes to achieve full prohibition of all corporal punishment of children worldwide. The UN Study on Violence against Children sets a target date of 2009 for universal prohibition, including in the home." So far, 23 countries have legally banned all corporal punishment in their countries, and all in just the last few years. Unsurprisingly, these are all countries that are in decline, including most of Western Europe and parts of Eastern Europe. Thankfully, at least 87 countries still allow corporal punishment in schools, and most countries still allow it in the home. But if the UN has its way, parents could be imprisoned for taking Johnny out behind the woodshed.

The Bible is filled with passages that talk about the virtues of using the rod on a child. Proverbs 22:15 says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and only the rod of discipline can drive it out. Proverbs 23:14 says that you can actually rescue a child from hell (or death) by using a rod on him; and, in 13:24, it says the parent who will not use a rod on his child does not love him. Proverbs 29:15 says a rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way will bring shame to his mother; and, in 23:13, it says, "Do not hold back discipline from a child, for though you strike him with the rod, he will not die." Children not only need to be disciplined, they want to be disciplined. There is something innate in all of us that wants to know the difference between right and wrong, and wants to be rewarded when we do right and punished when we do wrong. No one wants to be an ignorant mongrel.

Not only does the Bible advise corporal punishment for children, it also recommends a good whipping for certain adults. Proverbs 26:3 says, "A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools." Proverbs 10:13 says, "On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found; but a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding." II Samuel 7:13-15 talks about God using a rod to discipline King Solomon; Psalm 89:32, about God using one on the sons of David; and Psalm 2:9, about Christ using a rod against the nations. No one outgrows the need for corporal punishment until he finds wisdom. It is wisdom that eliminates that need.

The key in all this is that the person doing the disciplining must love the one being disciplined. In the II Samuel passage above, God says that, though He corrects Solomon with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, His lovingkindness shall not depart from him. Discipline should never be carried out in anger, revenge or cruelty. It is never about hurting someone; it is about helping him, and love should always be the motivation. After a father takes his son "out behind the woodshed," he should show him he loves him in a tangible way. After he's whipped him, I can see a father hugging and kissing his son, as well as reinforcing his love with words, so the boy knows what his father's motivation was: love.

The problem the UN should be addressing is not the corporal punishment of children but bad parenting. But, like the gun issue, which is really a crime issue, we are unwilling to take responsiblity for the poor decisions we make in our society and would rather blame a thing - a belt or a gun - rather than the sinful person on the other end.

Another problem is our desire to be liked above all else. We would rather do what is wrong than lose the approval of others. That's why parents try to be their children's buddies, and won't do anything to jeopardize that relationship, including disciplining them. Churches don't want to be seen as judgmental, so they have dispensed with church discipline, for the most part. Schools want to appear tolerant, so they are unwilling to condemn any type of behavior, except prayer. Governments don't want to seem arbitrary, so they will sacrifice justice in order to do what's politically correct, if not politically expedient. It is an upside down, inside out world that is not unlike the Wonderland that Alice fell into.

What we are left with is a society that is totally undisciplined and totally without principle, which explains many of our present problems. I hate hurting people; but I hate something else even more, and that is irresponsibility and a total disregard for others. Sometimes you have to appear unfeeling by saying and doing things that hurt, even though that is not your motivation. The rod is not about hurting, it is about helping, and it does that by bringing the attention of the offender to his offense and doing it in a way he will remember.

One more example of someone that ought to be horsewhipped: recently, I was explaining to the boys in my 4th grade discipleship group about Hitler and the Nazis, because I wanted to tell them about Corrie ten Boom, a Christian heroine of WWII. One of my boys piped up and said that the United States was like Nazi Germany in the way we treated the American Indians. I knew that wasn't his idea, that it had been planted there by one of his teachers. Were our forefathers - Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Simon Kenton and all the rest - no better than Nazis? Of course not. Nazis persecuted Jews and other people groups out of hatred. Our forefathers killed Indians out of self-preservation.

Yes, we came to this country uninvited. Yes, we took the Indians' land from them. That's called settling. Anywhere people have settled, they've taken someone else's land and, more likely than not, killed the previous owners. The Children of Israel did that when they came to the Promised Land. The Saxons did that when they invaded England. Later, the Normans did the same thing. That is part and parcel of the history of the world. That is not the same as what Hitler did to the Jews, and for a teacher to tell her students that it is is deserving of a thorough horsewhipping, in my opinion. That teacher needs to be publicly humiliated for her ignorance and for her desire to spread that ignorance to impressionable children.

There are many, many people out there, from politicians to teachers to preachers to parents, that could use a good horsewhipping. I suggest that we reinstitute that wonderful custom and have a whipping post and/ or stocks set up in front of every courthouse, church and school in the land, as well as in front of companies like AIG, but most importantly in front of Congress. I believe judges should have the right to offer public corporal punishment as a sentence... after they've first applied it to themselves. If we would do this, I think we would solve our gang, drug, domestic, economic and most other problems overnight. Being taken out behind the woodshed has saved many a life. We need to remember that.


Waitsel Smith, March 23, 2009


[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page.]

Reading your commentary, "A Good Horsewhipping," felt so good! My Christian upbringing was not strong and clear as yours appears to have been. This gives me renewed energy to become better acquainted with that inspiring "Good Book." Wish YOU were running for president! :-) - Lee

Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Waitsel's Blog close window Waitsel's Blog make a comment