Creflo Dollar, corporal punishment and fear as a parenting tool

Pouya Dianat AP In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007 photo, Rev. Creflo Dollar gives his Wednesday night service at World … Continued

Pouya Dianat


In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007 photo, Rev. Creflo Dollar gives his Wednesday night service at World Changers Church International, in College Park, Ga. Dollar has been arrested after authorities say he hurt his 15-year-old daughter in a fight at his metro Atlanta home. Fayette County Sheriff’s Office investigator Brent Rowan says deputies responded to a call of domestic violence at the home around 1 a.m. Friday, June 8, 2012. Rowan says the 50-year-old pastor and his daughter were arguing over whether she could go to a party when Dollar “got physical” with her, leaving her with “superficial injuries.”

Blog sites and mainstream media outlets have been buzzing all week about Atlanta-based megachurch pastor Creflo Dollarbeing arrested after his 15-year-old daughter called the police with allegations that he had physically abused her. Dollar reportedly told police he tried to restrain his daughter, but denied allegations of choking in a sermon. My Washington Post colleague Barbara Reynolds recently came to Dollar’s defense by saying that “if all that happened was what many of us of a certain generation refer to as a smackdown,” then the pastor shouldn’t have been arrested.

I respectfully disagree.

If the allegations are true as described, then Dollar crossed a dangerous line. The alleged behavior reflects an alarming conception of parenting and fatherhood that is likely informed by conservative Southern and Christian sensibilities rooted in domination and patriarchy.

As an Eritrean-born American, I was often warned by family members against adopting this country’s liberalism as a way of life. They didn’t want me to take on a mindset and behavior that went against our culture and traditions. So much of what I have witnessed and encountered in the context of Southern culture seems to align with the rigid, hierarchal beliefs found in African cultures like my own. There’s a fixation with orthodoxy and order in patriarchal cultures like the ones that shaped myself and Creflo Dollar that often breeds dogmatic thinkers.

This is fertile ground for a parenting style that not only embraces corporal punishment as a necessary tool of discipline but views it as beneficial to the child. But there’s a difference between discipline and abuse, and that line can get very blurry when a parent believes that their authority justifies “loving acts of violence” against children in their care.

There’s also a difference between using physical force to prevent harm from coming a child’s way, as Reynolds suggests Dollar did, and allowing oneself to be so consumed by rage that there’s a desire to harm the other. While our conclusions can only be drawn from the statements made by those involved, I don’t think anything that could justify Dollar choking his daughter, if he in fact did so.

Some guardians are simply obsessed with maintaining control and do so through the use of fear. Reynolds doesn’t think this is a bad strategy, stating, “One of the best ways to control our bad kids is to scare them half to death. If your child is convinced you are capable of being a serial killer or your former job was torturing prisoners at Guantanamo, they are more likely to obey.”

I am not a parent, but my own teenage years and experiences doing juvenile justice work have taught me that fear often breeds and heightens the rebellion it seeks to prevent. The more an adult seeks to control a young person via fear, the more that young person is likely to look for ways to defy that adult’s authority (whether overtly or behind their back).

There are those who will want to know whether or not Dollar’s teenager daughter is a “good” or “bad” teen, but I don’t believe that any child deserves to feel “threatened” and live in what can easily become a prison of perpetual fear.

As a spiritual leader, Dollar is most likely familiar with 1 John 4:18, a critical passage in Scripture that suggests that fear and love cannot be housed together, speaking to God’s love for us and the love that we should offer in return. It states, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Fear has the capacity to distort a young person’s conception of love, as they begin to see intimacy through the lens of control and punishment. The immediate gratification of forcing a child or teenager to adhere to one’s rules by any means necessary should be juxtaposed with long-term consequences brought about by a misconception of love. How will the threat of physical violence inform their romantic relationships in the future? It’s a heavy price for that individual to have to pay for the rest of their lives.

Parenting grounded in corporal punishment and inflicting fear also taxes society. Reynolds herself points to studies that show that children who are spanked regularly are more likely to be “destructive, aggressive and mean-spirited.”

This is not an ideological argument that I am making in opposition to spanking. This is instead a warning to parents who weaponize fear in the face of a young person. Be prepared for all the possible outcomes of that strategy. No adult wants to live in that volatile climate. Neither does a child.

Rahiel Tesfamariam is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post and The RootDC. She is the founder/editorial director of Urban Cusp, an online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Follow her on Twitter @RahielT.

Written by

  • Hummmmmmmmmmm

    I guess she won’t be getting a car for her 16th birthday.

  • Bbird

    One of the key questions looming large in the debate about Creflo Dollar is whether he is telling the truth. If you listen carefully to the denial he voiced to his congregation one week ago, he did not actually say “I did not choke my daughter” or “I did not punch my daughter”; instead, he said, “she was not choked” and “she was not punched.” This kind of weirdly indirect way of speaking looks like a classic example of the common strategy used by people who are guilty but hate the thought of really boldly lying about it. Experts in statement analysis (google the term to see what I mean) would find several red flags his statement . If he did not choke his daughter, he would just come right out and say, “I did not choke my daughter.”
    His daughter may or may not be somewhat spoiled (most well-to-do Americans are, at least to some extent), but that’s not the issue. The issue is which one of them is telling the truth. I’m persuaded that so far, she is, and her dad is not.

  • Roxanne

    I stopped reading at the 8th paragraph. (I am not a parent but…)

  • Plzhandlethetruth

    No matter what people’s favorite celebrity, Political leader or Clergy does some people are ready to defend them for any moronic and devilish thing they do.
    Both Bishop Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar got standing ovations for allegations of behaving badly. Seems some people can’t separate the messenger from the message. Dollar and Long are not Jesus and not even close! I’m not brainwashed so I dare not worship any mere human with flaws like all the best of us.

  • Plzhandlethetruth

    This is the same man who said he would shoot people in his congregation for not tithing (paying ten percent & called them crooks) even though tithing was an Old Covenant law before Jesus died to give Christians his gift of grace (favor not merited). This man does not even understand Jews to date do not tithe but give voluntary offerings and he needs to know who God gave that commandment to…a whole other nation in a separate dispensation. But you have thousands of his followers willing to defend his errors and verbal bashing. Shameful how may people have lost their ability to think for themselves or read their bible with understanding.

  • HaveItAll

    I agree with you 100%! Thank you for writing this article! I pray for Creflo Dollar in order not to be enraged at his excuses for doing this to his daughter, if indeed it is true.

  • Bbird

    Yes, that’s Creflo Dollar, fantasizing about gunning down non-tithers and throwing them into a mass grave behind one of his massive church buildings. For those of you who haven’t seen this video, it’s easy enough to find on the web. His emphasis on money in his preaching, his lavish lifestyle, and his wild distortions of scripture make it pretty plain to see that he is a false teacher motivated by love of money and personal power, not by love of Jesus Christ. The trouble is, many people simply don’t want to know the truth about him; they prefer to believe he’s a godly man, contrary to the “wealth” (pun intended!) of evidence showing that he’s not.

  • calitrells

    The writer does not have a teenager, if you do not have a teenager, please do not comment. Until you do, you will not understand the toils of trying to save your child from despair. They are not mature, though they think they are. However, if you jump grown up in an adult face, you just might get beat grown. So children have a role and the parent has a role. Both need to stay in there place, and no one will get whooped! When we do our best as parents, we have to put our foot down at some point. I am not a perfect parent, but I am a good one, and the schools know that. That’s my two cents.

  • calitrells

    Are we looking for perfect parents or good parents, no we may not do everything right, but 99.9% of the time, we do. 1% error does not disqualify us as parents. I promise you, the teen is regreetting calling 911, because that’s how they are. Especially girls, they dramatize a situation, and then later recant their story. I learned this in parent/teacher conferences. He may have restrained her to keep her from fighting him, but i don’t think he choked her. You can use restraint even in the school system, whatever it takes to prevent injury to the person or the other person they are fighting.

  • calitrells

    I do not agree with Creflo’s bling bling lifestyle, but we are not looking at that issue right now. We are looking at the issue of whhether he punched or choked his daughter. I am not a fan of Creflo, but I do have a teenage daughter. I believe she is dramatizing (most teenagers do), and she will recant the story in a week or two. I agree no one needs two Roll Royce’s, but this is not the issue concerning him today.

  • OneMiddleClassAmerican

    The problem is that society has taken authority from the parent’s, school teachers, etc. Sure there is a fine line between corporal punishmnent and physical brutality. After all the bible say’s spare the rod spoil the child. I wish some 15 year would challenge my authority in my house. Grant it Pastor Dollar should have used some restraint, but these kids know what their doing when they push you. They’ll threaten you with a call to the authorities if you threaten them with a spanking. If the county or city wants to govern how you want raise your child let the county ot city government take them.

    God Bless Pastor Dollar

  • OneMiddleClassAmerican

    To the idiot who compared Pastor Dollar’s situation to Eddies Long’s. There is no such comparison. Pastor Dollar used poor judgement when he attacked/punished his daughter. Pastor Long should be locked up and have the key thrown away for taking advantage of a person of the same sex. You have to be real carefull following these so called men of GOD who are really under cover brother’s..

  • Shannon

    Your article is very well written and I enjoyed it ! Mainly due to the fact that is very unbiased and let me commend you for picking up on the needs for youth Wow !! I very much enjoy Cleflo Dollars teachings and don’t believe he should have been arrested , however if his daughter called the police she was scared and this is a problem ! I am not sure what is going on with all the sudden no warrents for arrest but another man was area set for odd reasons as well the Ottawa Sun on june 9th 2012 Micheal Corens Article writes about an even more alarming police arrest !!! and I wonder how many others !

  • lilchas

    Is the practice of African Americans doing violence on their children another legacy of slavery? Just asking.

  • ProveMeWrong

    Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

  • ProveMeWrong

    Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.


    How sad. My father never had to use physical violence to raise 4 kids by himself (my mother died when we were young). Yes there were arguments, disagreements and pushback, but from the start it was clear who had the authority (and no society could “take it away”) and the responsibilty. A loving ADULT who set a good example of how a Christian should treat others. (as per Christs instructions). All four turned out to be responsible adults.

  • saudi1

    if American Blacks don’t correct the use of the word beat is a racist tool used to let children run wild. Parents that don’t give a sh*t about their children always say ‘they’ll grow out of it’ or ship them off to somewhere not near them so the schools can ‘raise’ them. If the child is left to raise itself, most likely they will enter the judicial system as unwanted guests. That we’ll be paying for.

  • saudi1

    what the push back wasn’t reported – you must have been really scared!! what a horrible father you had

  • saudi1

    yeah, why can’t I go to a party at 1am. you are soooooo mean daddy, I’m going anyway, no no you can’t hold me back OUCH!!!!!!!! I’m calling the cops! yeah parenting rights are not up for discussion. Of course had she been killed the pendulum would have swung the other way. Such a fickle bunch are we……


    @saudi1 — oh yes it was horrible, after all, he set limits, made rules, consistently enforced them and disciplined us through revocation of priviledges etc. and occasional guilt trips -“I’m so disappointed, I thought I had taught you better” .

  • SAMontgomery

    Sorry, but there’s never any reason to hit anyone else–child, adult, elder, or anyone.


    Never, never, never, never, never.