NZ man almost kills daughter for not attending church

I was saddened last week to see this story about a New Zealand man who hit his daughter in the head with a lump of concrete when she refused to go to the mormon church with him.

Now, I think this man is an abuser, and would be an abuser no matter which religion he were in. This quote is particularly telling:

He had been ejected from an anger management course because of his views and had an inability to understand “whacking someone on the head is unacceptable”.

It’s just a sad story all around. My sympathy lies with his daughter, and I hope that he gets the help he needs. It does not appear that he is on that path. I also hope that his local ward deals with this type of behavior appropriately, although I think the argument can be made that abuse is not always handled in the best manner.

But as I was discussing this on FLAK with other board members, it was surprising to find out just how common it is for teenagers to experience anger and rage from their parents when they refuse to attend church. And it is typically the counsel from leaders that the “youth” are better off in church, where they can feel the spirit, regardless of whether or not they are still believers. Some LDS tend to focus on absolutes, absolute church attendance (and all church activities) with their teenager, assuming that will lead somewhere good (because they are told it will lead somewhere good).

So for some families, the battleground becomes mormonism and church attendance, where it probably shouldn’t be. Because mormonism is supposed to be a volunteer religion, with voluntary activity. Church should be treated differently than something like school; where if you don’t graduate, it can create future problems.

While the “eternal salvation” of one’s teenager is very important to many parents, forcing the teenager to attend church, seminary, EFY, etc. is probably not going to breed anything positive except resentment on all sides.

In other words, I believe it’s okay for parents to have expectations for their teenagers who live in their home, but the parents really need to figure out what those expectations are and if they are appropriate/valid for the individual relationship ASIDE from whatever guidance has been given from the LDS leadership.

Maybe some LDS parents have learned this and are backing off. That’s my hope. But from my own experience, using church attendance as a battleground is a profound FAIL. It has taken me years to rebuild my relationship with my parents, for many reasons. But arguing over voluntary religious belief certainly didnt help the relationship.

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4 Responses

  1. A.J. says:

    I think this guy just didn’t like her disobeying him. If it wasn’t about going to church it would have been something else. It is all about control. My father beat the hell out of my sister when she was a teen ‘cuz she wouldn’t go to school. The guy is an abuser hopefully will be locked up.

  2. Hellmut says:

    I agree with A.J. that this guy is a wacko.

    On the other hand, Mormons tend to have a tough time to accept that religion is a matter of conscience, which implies that they should not impose it on their children.

    The notion that Mormons “know” that their religion is the “one true” church is partly to blame for the troubled relationship of many Mormons with religious liberty.

  3. chanson says:

    And it is typically the counsel from leaders that the youth are better off in church, where they can feel the spirit, regardless of whether or not they are still believers.

    It seems like forcing teens to go to church would typically just lead to more resentment and hostility. Of course I don’t have any statistics on it. I wonder how common it is for kids to be made to go to church (against their will) and they end up liking it…

  4. aerin says:

    1 – AJ – I think he has many issues, none the least of which is control and anger management. Getting kicked out of anger management is usually not a good sign.

    2 – Hellmut – I don’t know why it’s hard to accept that religion is a matter of conscience. It is in the 11th article of faith after all. Then again, after reading the AoF discussion on BCC, I am not sure that I understand how critical the AoF are for LDS beliefs.

    3 – chanson, your question is an interesting one. I do have friends who were raised Catholic, and I’m not sure if they were exactly *forced* to go to mass or not. But some are fairly active now as adults. I consider identifying yourself on fb as Catholic and posting occasionally about mass as active.

    I’m not sure if it’s a community thing OR that they had some difficult life experiences (loss of a parent, loss of someone close to them). I can’t say – I think people do find comfort in religion in difficult times. But, as I don’t remember if they were forced to go to church unwillingly, I’m not sure how that plays into it.

    And forcing is a difficult thing to define, after all, most teenagers are not interested in getting up to go to school, getting a job, etc. That’s just part of being a teenager. And I haven’t raised a teenager (yet), so I can’t say how difficult it may be. That’s why I was saying that openness and expectations need to be clearly set – with give and take on both sides. Not that you disagreed with that or anything…

    But I agree – forcing a teenager who is clearly an atheist, buddhist, wiccan (wearing a red A or whatever) to attend church each Sunday when they are not interested (and don’t share the beliefs) is probably going to have the success a parent is hoping for.

    It’s a little like dragging your teenager to numerous basketball games (or choir concerts) when they’re just not interested or inspired. Probably not going to be as successful as finding activities they *are* remotely interested in.

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