This is also the same Victorian Europe where Freud first published what later became his *Oedipus/Electra Theories*. Initially, the theories expressed the belief that children were being sexually abused on a mass scale by their parents in the very strict punishing environment in every home.
When his theory was put forth, it resulted in a harsh outcry from the general public resulting in the loss of his funding. Freud then changed everything to argue that the children were creating these fantasies. Still, this supports the idea that there continues to be a blurring of the lines between the erotica of spanking and the removal of sins through physical punishment.
There is one currently popular parenting program that relies heavily (almost primarily) on spankings as a means of removing guilt and sin from a child. This program also promises to help ensure your child’s purity with a way of presenting sexual instruction to children that relies solely on symbolic illustration. It leaves children knowing nothing about sex! It gives children the idea that they will learn all they need to know on their wedding night and in the context of their marriage.
I believe this is a very dangerous idea. When combining adult centered, punitive parenting (that requires children to blindly obey all adults) with a practice of keeping that child ignorant of sexual activity, it can make the child more susceptible to sexual abuse and less likely to question or report it.
One very interesting aspect of the argument for a Biblical practice of spanking is the handful of “rod” verses from the Old Testament. The OT was first the Jewish book of instruction and I find it very telling that the Jewish history of the teachings of spanking do not include the strong insistence on corporal punishment that is found in many Christian circles. In fact, Jewish Law forbids parents from causing injury to their children.
There is also very clear instruction in Leviticus 19:14 “Do not put a stumbling block before the blind” which is applied to avoiding spanking an older child who might be tempted to strike back and lack the self control not to do so, which would cause him to violate the commandment to honor his father and mother. Because the spanking might result in the child violating a commandment, the parent is forbidden from administering the spanking.
According to Eliezer C. Abrahamson, Talmud Torah Center for Basic Jewish Education, Lakewood, “The Talmud teaches us that a father who strikes an older son is to be excommunicated. Jewish legal authorities inform us that while this law only mentions an older child, it is actually true of any child who might possibly react improperly.” (Bergen Record, Hackensack, New Jersey, 7 December 2000; Should parents spare rod when punishing kids?; Lisa Haddock Staff Writer )