Elizabeth Johnston is the homeschooling Christian mother of 10 who goes by the name “The Activist Mommy” online and went viral with her multiple rants against Teen Vogue for daring to publish an article about anal sex.
She may be gaining popularity right now, but she’s been in conservative Christian circles for a long time, and she was writing about how to raise children in a Jesus-approved way more than a decade ago. Her old website was called Why the Truth Hurts. She and her husband posted on it back in the day when they only had four children. The site is no longer accessible.
But that’s why Satan invented the Internet Archives. It turns out we can look through several of the articles they wrote and get a sense of just how warped their idea of parenting really is.
Just to be clear, a lot of conservative Christians espouse these views. But when a Christian “mommy” is getting praised online for how she’s raising and protecting her children, it’s worth digging into what that means outside of burning magazines she doesn’t like. I don’t know which articles she wrote — many of them appear to be written by her husband — but the website certainly implies that she agrees with all of it.
Check out this article, for example, riffing on the concept of “training up” a child… which is the method made famous by Michael and Debi Pearl all about how to beat your child lovingly.
What do we learn from the Johnstons’ Big Book of Advice?
1) Don’t let anyone find out you’re beating your children
Almost all spankings will cause a brief red mark on the skin, especially on fair skinned children. Be sensitive to this, and don’t let your child out in public in shorts if there are red marks on the child’s legs.
2) Beat your children at home
… don’t spank publicly if at all possible… the proper training at home will prevent the need for corporal punishment in public. Don’t presume that nobody’s looking — there are video cameras in the shadows.
3) Always use the right tools
Hands, surprisingly, can cause bruising very easily. The aim is not injury but a temporary sting, and a paddle or a switch can do this much better than a hand. The pain of a pop on the forearm with a switch, or on the buttocks with a belt, or on the thigh with a wooden spoon should never cause lasting pain or dysfunction, but only a temporary sting that should pass in a few seconds to moments. If the child is wearing a diaper, be especially careful not to swing your hand at the child’s padded buttocks. Because of the padding, parents are inclined to swing harder, and they can dislocate the child’s hip or hurt his back with a heavy swing on a diaper. It’s much safer to use a wooden spoon on the open thigh than to risk injury by spanking a padded bottom with your palm.
4) Don’t let anyone find out you’re beating your children (again)
… insist that your children cry quietly. Strong, loud, uncontrolled crying is a manifestation of rebellion, and should not be tolerated. A spanked child should cry quietly and not excessively. Excessive screaming might also prompt a concerned neighbor to call the HRS on you.
5) Always get a lawyer for when you’ve gone too far
The HRS has zero tolerance for spanking, and if they learn that you “hit” your children, they will not hesitate to take your children, and then you will be at the mercy of a liberal court… If the social worker at your door asks you if you have guns in the home, or if you believe in the Bible, or if you homeschool your kids, or what church you attend, you do not have to answer. Tell her that you love your children and that you’re uncomfortable with the spontaneous interview, and that she can ask her questions in the presence of your attorney at a later date.
If you’re offering advice about which household utensils are best to hit your kids with, maybe you’re a horrible parent.
If you’re beating your child so hard that neighbors might call a social worker on you, maybe you’re a horrible parent.
If you’re trying to cover up the physical marks left on your child after you beat them, maybe you’re a horrible parent.
If your parenting style involves making sure there’s a lawyer present for when you’re questioned about the child abuse, maybe you’re a horrible parent.
And if your first reaction to a magazine article you don’t like is to burn it in a fire so your kids can’t get access to it, maybe you’re a horrible parent. (It’s also a pretty dumb move since that article is online.)
John Gleason, the Godless Engineer, brought this all to my attention and made a video describing many of the issues described above:
I really like what he says near the end: “The fact that Activist Mommy is getting so much praise out there for ‘protecting children’ while at the same time beating her kids” is absurd. And that’s why it should be exposed. He also suggests that Johnston knows her maltreatment of children won’t come across well, which is why she goes to great lengths to tell people how to hide the abuse.
I reached out to Johnston yesterday to ask if she stood by these comments made on her site several years ago. She never responded.
(Note: There’s a lot more about Johnston and her husband in this article published at The Advocate, which links to several of their really despicable views. Even if Johnston claims some of them are no longer applicable, there’s no shortage of ones that are jaw-dropping.)