Minister: Spiritual abuse the worst form of child abuse

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
With April being "National Child Abuse Awareness Month," many people are thinking about the evils of sexual, physical and verbal child abuse.
   The worst form of abuse, however, is spiritual child abuse, according to the Rev. Stephen Witt.
   "I believe the worst form of child abuse in Carter County is spiritual," said Witt, president of the Carter County Ministerial Association and the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. "I think we're only going to live so many years on this planet, yet we spend all of our time invoking temporary values on our children as a whole, without instilling eternal values in them.
   "If we as parents would step up to the plate and stop sending our kids to church and instead bring them to church, we would see the Word of God begin to change us and them. I think one of the greatest forms of abuse is to not expose your child to the real meaning of life. I think if you want to see problems in the future, then you neglect the spiritual things now. If you teach a child that there is no God, if you teach a child that we are just animals, how can you be mad or upset if they act like an animal? We're not animals. God created us special, and I think the greatest form of child abuse today is spiritual. And I think because we have neglected the spiritual needs of our children, we've seen those children grow up and we've seen it manifest itself in emotional and physical abuse in our families. The only way to stem that tide is to start with the heart and work outward, let the Word of God sink in and let that new heart that God gives them begin to change their mindset."
   Witt believes child abuse begins "with what we are creating in our society. We devalue human life with abortion. We've killed off roughly one-third of our population, saying it's a fetus not a child. So we begin now very early devaluing human life and bringing it down to a lower level. It's not worth as much. It's not something we need to protect at all costs.
   "Because of that, we create a mindset of we're just animals; we're not people. We're not a special creation of God. If that mantra continues to get publicized, I think it will continue to add to the problem of child abuse."
   If abortions continue to occur at today's rate, within the next decade the "devaluing of human life" will continue to escalate, Witt believes. "I think what we'll begin to see is with organizations like NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union actually defending grown men molesting young children, which they are doing."
   Witt says he will never forget a televised news report relating to this issue. "The representative from NAMBLA looked at the screen, when the reporter was basically saying, 'This is an atrocity, and you can't get away with it.' He said, 'You said the same thing about abortion 30 years ago, and look where it's at today. It won't be long 'till this issue is looked at the same way.'
   "I think he's right. I believe you don't feed someone poison in a large dose. You feed it to him in small increments. I think the problem of child abuse is getting greater and greater. One of the main reasons is that we don't value human life. I still think that's a symptom, because I think the main problem is more spiritual than physical."
   A person's spiritual mindset can only be changed by "changing paradigms. The way we think has to be changed. There are two ways you can try to change the way a person thinks. You can try to influence the external factors in that person's life. And you may or may not have success. You can try to take them out of that environment, and maybe that will help, try to reprogram them to your way of thinking, try to go at it from the outside in.
   "But I find in the church what we've seen really works in people's lives is to change people from the inside out. When they're introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, than automatically the Holy Spirit begins to insert in their heart and mind how much the Lord values children.
   "When Jesus was very tired, His disciples tried to prevent children from coming to Him, and Jesus said, 'Don't forbid these kids to come to me.' Jesus had a great regard for children. He said that if anyone causes these little ones to stumble that it would be better for a millstone to be hung around their neck and cast into the depth of the sea."
   The power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God can help a child abuser to change direction, Witt believes. "The Lord will begin to insert those Biblical truths into their lives, and from the inside out, you'll see their lives begin to change," he said. "Children will take on a new meaning, and the issues like abortion will begin to dry up, and that's the mission of the Church."
   As much as it would be desirable to legislate an end to abortion and child abuse, Witt believes the real long-term solution "is we have to begin as a church to mobilize more, go where the families are, begin to reach out to them and show them that God is truly love. If they see that, even the hardest heart can be softened by the power of God as He sees it working through the Church."
   A pastor who knows or suspects a child is being abused is obligated to contact the authorities, Witt said. "If you know that it is going on, you have to report it to the authorities. We'd have to call the police department and tell them what's going on. I don't have the training or the capacity to try to investigate something like that.
   "I'm willing to counsel and to encourage, but, at the same time, I don't want to disobey one law. That would be the wrong statement. If I knew child abuse was going on, I'd have to report it."
   Accountability groups for Christians can help to lesson the impact of child abuse in the Church, Witt believes. He cites Promise Keepers as an example of such groups. "If you break down what Promise Keepers is all about, it's really all about how to be the best Christian, the best husband, the best father that you can possibly be."
   A person who is a child abuser must be honest and "go back to the Word of God and see what the guidelines for being a good parent are, spiritually, emotionally and physically. The best way to get help is to go to the Word of God and make those adjustments that the Word tells you to make, and take accountability for those things that you have done and are doing."