When a parent interprets the Bible literally, the damage done to a child can be enormous. Anne Lewis writes of her father, who believed that in causing physical pain to his child, he was doing the will of God.
Mr. Lewis began treating Anne this way at the age of four. Smacks across the face, then the bottom, were replaced by severe beatings. One day he went out into the bush to find a tree from which he could make a cane. Following the teaching of Solomon, he was determined that he would not "spare the rod" with his first child.
Anne's first memory of being hit was when she accidentally knocked over a glass of water. Mr. Lewis had decided that there was no such thing as an accident. Anything that went wrong for his child was evidence of the work of Satan. Every person, according to the Bible, is "born in sin", and Mr. Lewis saw it as his responsibility to belt the devil out of his daughter. He would tell people, "Anne is like a wild horse and it's my job to break her in".
Beatings with the cane were for misdemeanors such as forgetting to say goodnight, leaving a cardigan at school, losing something, or questioning an unfair decision. Mr. Lewis expected his child to be perfect. She was not allowed to make mistakes or to imagine that she could ever have an independent thought that conflicted with his views.
Having to endure her father's abuse was bad enough, but Anne's greatest problem was with her mother. As a devout believer, Mrs. Lewis was totally submissive to her husband. What she thought of his outrageous behaviour Anne could never fathom. Never once did she try to protect Anne, or give her any affection or comfort in her pain.
Crunch time came for Anne in her twenties. Her mother had told her that she would be beaten until she was 21. So when Mr. Lewis gave her one of his treatments at the age of 23, Anne appealed to her mother. Mrs. Lewis then changed tack, claiming that the age of 21 was merely something recognised by the State, and that Anne's father had the right to discipline her for as long as she was under his roof.
This for Anne was the last straw. Although she still had some love for her mother, Anne left home, never to return. After years of therapy and working through some difficult relationships, Anne finally realised she was not the evil person her parents believed her to be. She completed higher level degrees and is now making a worthwhile contribution to society.