When a follower of the Christian Domestic Discipline movement decides what to hit his God-fearing wife with, research is important. A hairbrush, for example, is “excellent for achieving the desired sting” but can break easily. Alternatively, a ping pong paddle is quiet and sturdy but may not sting as much as is required to get the message across.
These bits of information are among the tips and tricks detailed in the Beginning Domestic Discipline’s “Beginner’s Packet,” a 54-page document that lays out the basic principles and practices of CDD.
The packet’s writers describe the movement as follows:
Domestic discipline is the practice between two consenting life partners in which the head of the household (HoH) takes he necessary measures to achieve a healthy relationship dynamic; the necessary measure to create a healthy home environmental and the necessary measures to protect all members of the family from dangerous or detrimental outcomes by punishing the contributing, and thus unwanted, behaviors for the greater good of the family.
CDD is a lifestyle in which spanking and other punishments (loss of privileges, time outs, etc.) are used to maintain an orderly, Christian household, according to christiandomesticdiscipline.com. The man is dominant, and the wife is submissive, as detailed in the Bible, the site explains.
These explanations are at odds with what some outsiders might dismiss as an offshoot of the BDSM community, in which spanking and other punishments are used erotically as a way to achieve sexual satisfaction. But as the private Yahoo! group Christian Domestic Discipline notes, “This is not a typical “spank” site. We are NOT a dating service, a list for personal ads, bratting, erotic stories, or alternate lifestyles.”
While CDD community forums and sites have existed for years, the community was recently thrust into the spotlight following a piece in the Daily Beast. The article, which estimates there are several thousand CDD adherents, includes interviews with Chelsea and Clint, the authors of the Beginning Domestic Discipline “Beginner’s Packet.”
Clint and Chelsea (as well as the testimonies of other couples found on CDD forums) appear to portray CDD as a positive lifestyle choice made between consenting adults. XOJane blogger Laura Rubino, too, notes that during her own investigation of the community, most posts from the women are positive.
“Many of them report feeling extremely calm and relaxed after being disciplined, and believe it is an expression of their husband caring about them and their marriage, enough to help them modify their behaviour,” Rubino writes. “After the spanking, they are granted a clean slate. They don’t need to endure the days of tension and shittiness that can follow an argument unresolved through discipline.”
However, Rubino is not without grave reservations (as is Jezebel’s Callie Beusman), and the Daily Beast uncovered evidence that some women feel trapped and even frightened by what their home life has become.
“No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship,” Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who is an expert on Christian domestic abuse, told the Daily Beast. “A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people.”
The community’s stated basis in Christianity is also murky, according to some.
Bryan Fischer, a controversial conservative Christian radio host, has claimed in the past that the Bible teaches Christians that men are the breadwinners and heads of the household, but when reached by The Huffington Post, Fischer dismissed any connection between the Bible and the basic principles of CDD.
“This is a horrifying trend — bizarre, twisted, unbiblical and un-Christian,” Fischer, a former pastor, said in an email. “Christian husbands are taught to lay down their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and to treat them with honor as fellow-heirs of the gift of eternal life (1 Peter 3:7).”
“God in the New Testament clearly asks wives to arrange themselves under the leadership of their husbands (in Greek, the word “submit” means “to arrange under”),” Fischer continued. “But there is no place where husbands are instructed to make their wives do it or punish them if they don’t.”
In 2009, Jennifer Macon-Steele wrote a column for Yahoo! Voices that suggested CDD was a growing trend among some conservative Christians in the United States. Acknowledging the questions and criticisms leveled at the lifestyle, she said CDD practitioners she had spoken with looked at it as an extension of their spirituality.
“They argue that they deserve to practice their religion in any way they see fit and to interpret the Bible in their own way. They also make it clear that women in these relationships have accepted and consented to the discipline,” Macon-Steele wrote, concluding, however, that “the answers to the questions surrounding this lifestyle remain unclear… the effects of this remain to be seen.”