From Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust:
Moralizing surges to the fore in this unbalanced spirituality. At the very outset, it presents a warped idea of the relationship between God and humans. From her parents a child learns of a deity who strongly disapproves of disobedience, hitting one’s brothers and sisters, and telling lies. When the little one goes to school, she realizes that God shares the fussy concerns of her teachers. At church, she learns that God has another set of priorities: she is told that he is displeased that the congregation is not growing numerically, that irregular attendance is the norm, and that his recurring fiscal demands are not being met.
When she reaches high school, she discovers that God’s interests have expanded to an obsession with sex, drinking and drugs. After twelve years of Christian indoctrination at home, school, and church, the teenager realizes with resentment that God has been used as a sanction by all those who have been responsible for her discipline – as when Mommy and Daddy, at their wits’ end over her mischievous antics as a toddler, alluded to “the eternal spanking.” Through this indoctrination, God is unwittingly associated with fear in most young hearts.
Moralism and its stepchild, legalism, pervert the character of the Christian life. By the time young people enter college, they have often abandoned God, church, and religion.
Do you evoke particular images of God to control the behavior of others? Does it work? What do you think are the long term affects of a child regularly being told that their behavior disappoints God?