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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brains of a sheep...

Once again I feel compelled to write a blog entry in response to a comment left on my blog:

Some anti-spankers claim that the 'rod' in the Bible was never meant as a means of 'hitting' the sheep but of 'guiding' them. A shepherd would never hit his precious sheep, they say.

Now I have never owned sheep, but I did grow up on a dairy farm, so I know something about herding animals. When you herd cows, you bring along a stick or a whip. You use it on a cow who strays from the herd or gets out of hand in any way. That doesn't mean beating the animal into unconsciousness but 'spanking' her, if you will. No sane farmer would injure his cow with a stick or whip, not only because she is worth a lot of money but because most farmers love their animals (I did).

Again, I don't know too much about sheep, but my semi-educated guess is that a farmer might have to sometimes use physical force against them with his rod. So so much for the view that the 'rod' in the Bible was merely a means of guidance.

Then again, some of those anti-spankers appear to have the same amount of gray matter as the sheep do, so don't expect them to understand this!

The last paragraph is meant to be a joke... well, sort of!


Hmmmm...well for starters, I'll readily admit to being a "sheep" in some respects...I mean after all, God often uses the sheep/shepherd analogy in scripture to describe his relationship with us, so I must be like a sheep, right?

None the less, I think the "same amount of gray matter as the sheep do" is a disrespectful remark, and the "well, sort of" is very telling as to how "joking" it is meant to be. Lovely, just lovely...very edifying.

Now as to the issue of hitting sheep, yes, sheep and cows are VERY different. I lived on a beef cattle farm for a while as a child (my family rented the main farmhouse, while the farmer lived in a smaller house on the other side of the barn), and I've conversed with people who've worked with sheep. Cows (cattle) are very docile and "steadfast" creatures (well, unless you run up against an angry steer...), where as sheep tend to be skittish.

I've got to wonder where it was that Emily was herding those cows...my experience living on the farm was that all the farmer had to do was open the barn gates for dinner, and the cows came mooing right along to get their grain. Actually--they were usually all grouped around the gate long before the farmer would arrive to open it--even if they had been in a far field for the day. Getting them to the field was accomplished with a dog--a collie--that would run along behind the herd barking up a ruckus while the farmer led the herd on his tractor.

Sheep would generally be herded in much the same way--the shepherd LEADING, with some dogs in the rear to keep the group together. The rod would be used to nudge a sheep back to the group...but not to strike the sheep. I'm told that because sheep are very skittish, striking a sheep enough to cause pain would cause the sheep to panic and run most likely in the opposite direction of what you want--if the sheep did run toward the herd it would probably be so excited it would set off the rest of heard.

One of the major problems with the sheep analogy though is that most people who try to make it (not Emily in this case) actually go with the myth "the shepherd might have to break the leg of the sheep, then carry the sheep around his shoulders while it healed..." Beyond the idea of this spooking the rest of the herd, there are other flaws with this idea:

  • The sheep is not potty trained...nuff said on that one?
  • Sheep are grazing animals...you can't just put the sheep down for three square meals a day and expect that to be sufficient
  • The sheep could weigh 100 lbs or more
  • Breaking the bone would make the animal worthless as a temple sacrifice, thus greatly reducing its value in Biblical times
  • Quality of medical care may have been such that this could easily lead to an infection that could actually kill the sheep.
  • What happens when sheep #2 "needs" to have a leg broken for discipline before sheep #1 is healed?

And I've gotta say...as I said, I lived on a beef cattle farm. There wasn't a lot of love lost between the farmer and the average cow...because the cow was going to be shipped off to slaughter. A bit more of a "relationship" was allowed to develop with the bull, who was expected to stick around for a few years doing his part to keep the population up. Maybe things are different at a dairy farm where the cows stick around longer, and Emily lived at a dairy farm. But barring that, I do question the idea of "loving" the cows.

In closing, I've got to hand it to the spanking advocates out there. You are doing more to convince my husband not to spank than I have been able to...he's been saying for a while that he wants to keep spanking in his "back pocket" as a possible tool to use...but just look at his comment in response to Emily:

I'll remain lost in my little brainless, whoops... I mean sheep for brains non-spanking little world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Sarah again.

I've spent some time around sheep and everything you say is true. Skittish, simple-minded animals.

Something interesting--my grandfather-in-law was a sheep farmer. Whenever he went out to his flock, he would walk among them talking to them. They knew his voice and were calmed and comforted by it when there was a disturbance in the flock. His lead sheep would come when he was called, and the rest of the sheep would follow.

Kind of nice.

6:16 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Goldie said...

LOL good post! I'm still shaking my head over Emily's joke, though. C'mon, if pro-spankers (whoever they are) have so much grey matter, then how come they see no difference between their own children and farm cattle?

I'm neither "pro" nor "con" on this issue. I think spanking is not a mortal sin, but neither is it a God-given ritual that we absolutely must perform on our children. I totally believe one can do without spanking completely, if they have enough time for their kids, creativity, and, well, grey matter! (I spanked on occasion - I'm not a perfect Mom!)

7:41 AM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

That's beautiful, Sarah.

Great post, Jenn.

10:28 AM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

In GKGW 1997, around page 317, Gary Ezzo writes,

"I personally had to do that [break the leg of a sheep] with a young ram in my flock who was constantly breaking through the fencing. . ."*eyeball roll*

1:21 PM, February 21, 2005  
Blogger greasy joan said...

Gary Ezzo is a complete flake! I wouldn't put any stock in a word he says.

I'm kind of an oddity among my Christian parent friends. I am a card carrying LLL Leader, and have been for well over a decade. My first and foremost tool is KNOWING MY CHILDREN and LOVING MY CHILDREN. I have a gaggle of them, some of them easygoing and one in particular, well, fiesty and determined. I have had to get kind of "I'm the boss" strong armed with her... (She is 3).

Thanks for the insight.


2:24 PM, February 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read a lot about shepherds and sheep, especially ancient practices, but also people who shepherd today, and almost all of them say there are times to use force on sheep. They never say they go beat on them but there certainly seems to be a place for a "forceful tap" every now-n-then.

To suggest that NO physical force was used EVER is to...ignore a lot of shepherds words to the contrary! Unless you just like to pick and choose which shepherds opinions you listen to (which I guess you would only do if you have an AGENDA as opposed to legitimately seeking truth for truths sake).

I am not really on a side of for or against. I just find your militant "against" position to be annoying. Emily didn't say anything all that crazy. I thought she had some good points, but I guess I"m coming at this with a more open mind.
Be willing to accept truth wherever it comes from instead of only when it fits into your already-decided opinion. God might surprise you.

10:09 PM, February 26, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

Be willing to accept truth wherever it comes from instead of only when it fits into your already-decided opinion. God might surprise you.I have been completely surprised, to be honest. . . I've had to re-examine the assumptions I grew up with in the Christian sub-culture, and realized that there were lots of gaps in my knowledge about theology and the Bible--as well as many decisions (like on parenting as we've been discussing) that were made with certain assumptions about what was "Christian."

I think the "Agenda" comment is pretty loaded and not conducive to dialogue on this subject. as opposed to legitimately seeking truth for truths sake. . . Well--it may appear that way to you, but I'm not where I am in my theology and parenting applications because I chose that end and set off to justify it.

Quite the other way around--it's been through life, mistakes, God walking alongside me on the Way, and studying the Bible, theology, and praying how it looks lived out.

6:59 AM, March 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting topic of conversation.
Let me recommend checking out a site for what I think is a balanced approach to the spanking issue. At the bottom of the page is a Series called "Parenting (is not) for Dummies" The third message in the series deals with spanking. I'd love to hear any thoughts or responses.
P.S. I happen to know the teacher has raised three children who are in their mid to late 20s and all passionately serving God. (I like to know the results a teacher has had before I follow his advice.)


12:36 PM, January 06, 2007  

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