|The figure of Jesus confounds
all those principles of Poisonous Pedagogy still upheld by the
Church, notably the use of punishment to make children obedient
and the emotional blindness such treatment inevitably entails.
Jesus was respected, admired, loved and protected, his parents saw
themselves as his servants and it would never have occurred to
them to lay a finger on him. Did that make him selfish, arrogant,
covetous, high-handed or conceited? Quite the contrary.
Jesus grew into a strong, aware, empathic
and wise person able to experience and sustain strong emotions
without being engulfed by them. He could see through hypocrisy and
mendacity and he had the courage to pillory them for what they
were. He had no need of power over others because he was entirely
at one with himself.
Yet for all that, no representative of the
Church has ever, to my knowledge, admitted to the patent
connection between the character of Jesus and the way he was
brought up. Would it not make eminently good sense to encourage
believers to follow the example of Mary and Joseph and regard
their children as the children of God (which they are) rather than
treating them as their own personal property?
It is time to relinquish destructive models
and to mistrust the principle of obedience. We have no need of
obedient children brainwashed by their upbringing to be the ideal
victims for the empty verbiage and the blandishments of terrorists
and lunatic ideologists and ready to fall in with their commands,
even to the extent of killing others. We need children with open
eyes and ears, children prepared to protest against injustice,
stupidity and ignorance with arguments and constructive action.
Jesus was able to do this when he was twelve years old and the
scene in the temple demonstrates eloquently that he could refuse
the obedience asked of him by his parents without hurting their
With the best will in the world we cannot
truly emulate the example of Jesus. To do that we would need to
have been through an entirely different kind of personal history.
What we can do, as long as we really want to and are not thwarted
by external authority, is to learn from the attitude displayed by
Joseph and Mary. They did not need their son's obedience and they
felt no urge to punish him. Only if we fear the confrontation with
our own histories will we need to have power over others, and if
we do that we will need more and more of it all the time. Parents
want power and obedient children because they feel too weak to be
true to themselves and their own feelings, too weak to admit those
feelings to their children. But it is precisely this kind of
honesty with our children that makes us strong. To tell the truth
we do not need to have power over others. Power is something we
need to spread lies, to mouth empty words and pretend they are
true. It is for this that we require mindless gullibility from our
children or from whole nations. And because such power can never
be a substitute for the real strength of the truth, the insane
logic of such a development is bound to culminate in wars and the
dreadful toll of human life they invariably exact.
It is entirely realistic to imagine that if
the wisdom of well-informed experts (like Frédéric Leboyer,
Michel Odent, Bessem van der Kolk and many others) were to reach a
large number of parents and those parents had the support of
religious authorities in following the example of Mary and Joseph,
the world would be a much more peaceful, honest and rational place
for our children than it is today.