In defense of the Pearls…some thoughts

“Missy” left a comment on my entry The Pearls, abuse and a false gospel, which was apparently copied from No Greater Joy’s Facebook page where it was copied from a squidoo lens.  I’m unclear whether permission to copy this was granted in either case, but have chosen to replace the comment with a link.  It is lengthy, but worth addressing.  Take some time to read the entire thing. All block quotes, unless otherwise marked, are from the squidoo lens authored by Regina Normanson.

There is an old joke about the student that excuses his lack of homework by saying the dog ate his completed assignment. The joke was that no one believed him, and he would still get a poor mark because the homework was his responsibility.

Of course it is his responsibility and I am not aware of a single blogger who is suggesting that Kevin and Lydia Schatz are not responsible for the abuse their children endured.  The analogy doesn’t work.  The ensuing paragraphs regarding our society’s lack of ability to take responsibility are irrelevant to the case and to the argument.  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Say the dog did eat your homework.  While it is still entirely your responsibility, will you not in future either restrain the dog or place your homework in a more secure location?

Let’s suppose that a family DID closely follow the teachings on the Pearls’ web site www.nogreaterjoy.org. If that’s the case, the parents would have read this excerpt from an article written by Michael Pearl – IN DEFENSE OF BIBLICAL CHASTISEMENT?

When is it abuse?
You are abusing the child when it starts doing harm to the child. Listen to your friends-especially to those friends that share your philosophy. Ask the opinion of people you respect. If they think you are abusive, get counsel in a hurry. Ask the opinion of your older children. If your child is broken in spirit, cowed and subdued, you have a problem. Children should be happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm and creativity. If your children are fearful or anxious, you should get some counsel.

Yes, let’s go to that very article, where the Pearls give a warning about abuse.

There is an excellent paragraph near the top under the heading “Enjoy your children.”  It gives excellent advice I would like every parent to internalize and to practice.  You see that kind of thing in their work here and there, but it really doesn’t seem to be the focus.  One paragraph in a 44 paragraph essay?  At least it is near the top, though not referred to again.

The paragraph Normanson quotes is near the end, paragraph 41.  Up until this we have learned:

  • That Christians who use the rod moderately are “meek.”  (Apparently a bad quality).
  • That if you reject the Pearl’s teaching and question their concepts, you are not fit to be a parent.  He pities your children, even.
  • That the proper tools for whipping your child come cheaper by the dozen, and their conspicuous location about the house and around your neck will keep them in line.
  • That church friends have noses longer than the pews they sit upon (and can’t be trusted to witness how you discipline your children.)
  • That you cannot put an upper limit on the number of “licks” a child receives.
  • That you continue the whipping until the child exhibits “total submission.”  If you ever stop before this point, you have lost his heart forever.
  • That if he hides, you should pursue him slowly, laughing at his “frail attempts.”

Ironically, according to those who knew the Schatz family personally, the children were “happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm and creativity.” They did not cower, nor were they subdued, nor did they exhibit any of the outward signs we connect with abuse.

Now to the book.

This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises…

This was one of the first issues I had with the book. Their definition of “training.” It is such a positive word, one that should be embraced as part of normal parenthood. Everything we do is training. Everything we do is discipline. But they equate discipline with a severe spanking and training with manufacturing an opportunity to “switch” your child so that he can learn the force of your word.  Never forget that when you read “training” in their materials, it refers to a switch (however light) with the rod.

With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice…

Really? This is just me, but I’m not a fan of statistics pulled out of the air. It always makes me suspicious of other claims in a text.

If parents are frustrated to the point of anger, page 25 says:
When children see you motivated by anger and frustration, they assume that your “discipline” is just a personal matter, a competition of interest….

Page 25.  Of a 150 page book.  We’re 17% through the book, but really, this section isn’t any help.  Unless you assume that the only way to harm a child is in anger. What if poor Lydia’s discipline session went down exactly like the Pearls prescribe?  Ten licks, talk to the child, if the answer doesn’t demonstrate complete submission, repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat.  And you can calmly spank a child to death.  But the Pearls stress that if you “let” the child “win,” you have lost their heart forever.

If a child is angered by the impatience and pride of parents, page 33 says:
Father, if you care for your child’s soul more than your pride, then humble yourself and ask his forgiveness (even if he is just two years old)…

Wonderful!  And if pride had nothing to do with it?  The book isn’t a torture manual.  There are good things here and there, but they aren’t the emphasis.  More like passing thoughts.  And so much emphasis is put on the rod and how you will lose your child if you do not win with it and how you are weak if you do not apply it quickly and unmercifully.

Normanson has a few more quotes demonstrating where in the book the Pearls warn against disciplining in anger, ongoing brutality, intimidating children with threats about God as well as an encouragement to be a good role model.  All excellent points.

But that still does not discount the passages which are more concerning.  The general tendency to isolate you from other Christians who may question these methods.  The focus on “winning” and “total obedience” and “complete submission.”  The refusal to put a maximum number on the amount of “licks” handed out. The stalking of children. The “switching” of infants.

To go back to the opening of Normanson’s piece on responsibility:  No, the Pearls were not physically present as Lydia was beaten to death.  I don’t think they are legally responsible for this death, but the fact that the Schatz’ are fully responsible for their own actions does not negate one very simple fact.

The Pearls would be Christian teachers.  This puts a greater responsibility on them than on most.  Scripture tells us,

Let not many of you become teachers my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. –James 3:1

Some good advice and a few warnings peppered through a text that has such an emphasis on dominating a child does not put this ministry above question.

About Dana

Dana homeschools her children on five acres in the country with her husband John.
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39 Responses to In defense of the Pearls…some thoughts

  1. Peter says:

    But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.

    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

    No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

    Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

    - 2 Corinthians 11:12-15

    ———————————————————————————————-

    “How many times can you insert Michael Pearl’s name? I count at least 9!”

  2. Peter says:

    “Listen to your friends-especially to those friends that share your philosophy.” – 2nd Quote, para 4

    “share your philosophy!” I assume those at Jonestown, Waco (or any example you choose), spoke with those ‘who shared their philosophy.’ I’m sure those who shared similar philosophies encouraged one another to delve further into the respective teachings.

  3. Peter says:

    Kevin and Lydia Schatz are responsible for the child’s death.

    However in this particular situation, would this have occurred if the Schatz’s had not read the Pearls book? Had not followed the Pearls instructions?

    Had the Pearls not written, expounded or delivered such an un-biblical teaching would we be disscussing it today? Had the Pearls un-biblical ministry never existed would this be a topic?

    Take the Pearls teaching away and the slow, methodical beating death of the child would not have occurred.

  4. Melisa H. says:

    I am sorry, but I have to disagree with you. I have read this book and do not beat my children. I have read this book and do not have whips, plastic tubing or whatever lying all around the house. Yes, my children get the occasional spanking. But, they are absolutely NOT abused. I guess I need to go back and reread the book because I missed out on the part of abusing your children into submission (or perhaps I tossed out that part as chaff…). When one reads ANY parenting book, self-help books, etc., one should always take what is being said with a grain of salt.

    Unfortunately, there are people out there that abuse anyway and they have not read this book – what is their excuse? They cannot blame their bad behavior on the Pearls. My mother was terribly abused and her mother never read this book. My grandmother was even more so abused and her mother never read this book. Thankfully, my mother stopped the cycle of abuse with her children (and yes, we still got spankings when needed, but we were never abused – mom was so very, very careful because she never wanted to have what happened to her happen to her own children).

    I do have a hard time with people not taking responsibility for their own actions (my thoughts before I read this or the Pearls response) and trying to blame their bad behavior on something they read. I read Stephen King books when I was younger, but that did not cause me to go out and mimic the killers or other weird stuff in the books. In all honesty, people can (and do) blame their bad behavior on things they read in the Bible. People do need to quit assigning blame to others and simply take responsibility for their actions. There are so many people in jail who blame others, their life circumstances, the wind, lack of money, their drug addiction, and whatever else they can to get away from accepting the blame and responsibility of their own actions (when the order is given to evacuate due to a hurricane, don’t blame others if you do not leave and get stuck on your roof). I know the young man who held me up when I was a young woman working at a bank teller blamed the rest of the world for his woes that caused him to need the money he took from the bank. Sad, but true.

    As far as the contrived set up, you usually do not have to set up a situation for training – I felt like he was using that to make a point on how to do the training (for those who have no children and no clue what little ones do when they are 1). The 1 yr old in our house is a walking training session, lol! I would not have to set up a “trap” to train him. I just handle it as the situation comes up (and no, he has not even been spanked/switched for that to happen and yet I have read the Pearls book). The 1 yr old responds beautifully to the word “stop” – and that may well save his life someday, because he stops on a dime when I say it.

    I know what I have written here will probably be torn apart by a couple of the regular readers but that is okay – I am entitled to my opinion, I guess.

    • Dana says:

      Melisa, I never said everyone who reads these materials beats their children. It is a danger of following the materials, not a promise.

      Those sections are most definitely in the book. You can also check the article I linked to for it is there, as well.

      I am so happy you were able to throw out the “chaff” in this book, but if you recognize it as chaff, please remember that not everyone (particularly someone who trusts the Chrisitan who recommended the material and so desperately desires to “be perfect” and to have “perfect” children and to not lose their hearts) can or will.

      I don’t know why everyone brings about the responsibility part. Of course the Schatz’ are responsible. Nowhere did I say they weren’t. In fact, I state rather clearly and directly that they are responsible and that the Pearls are not likely responsible in any legal sense.

      But they are responsible for their teaching. Before God and before man. They did not beat a child to death and I do not expect them to pay consequences for that. They do, however, publish and promote materials with a great deal of chaff and for that they will be held accountable and for that we as Christians should show concern.

      “I felt like he was using that to make a point on how to do the training.” What you felt leaves a lot open to interpretation, doesn’t it? I did not feel. I quoted the text. It is what he said, not the feelings it evoked, that I object to.

      And guess what? My children stop when I ask them to, as well. They weren’t “switched” at that age. We do a great deal of “training” but it doesn’t involve any swatting. It’s role play and they love it because it is just play to them. But then they know what is expected later.

      Of course you are entitled to your opinion. And I’m not attacking you are anyone else who has read a book and found something useful in it. I am only asking that you recognize the danger of the “chaff” you threw out and the “bones” others mention spitting out.

      Not everyone has such discernment. That doesn’t remove ANY of their responsibility, but it does call to light the difficulties of this teaching ministry. And as Christian teachers, they are held to a higher standard. The bible is very clear on that, much more so than on the “training” aspect they claim to have derived from scripture.

      Thank you for your comment and being civil. Last time I had this discussion I was call all sorts of names and am very happy that this does not seem to be characterizing the discussion this time around.

      God bless.
      .-= Dana´s last blog ..In defense of the Pearls…some thoughts =-.

  5. Crimson Wife says:

    I have a difficult time reconciling what I see of Christ’s teachings in the Gospels with what I’ve heard attributed to the Pearls (I’ve never read the book and see no reason why I ever would).
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Spring Semester Update Pt. 1 =-.

  6. SoCalLynn says:

    I first heard of the Pearl’s and their “teaching” shortly after my last daughter was born 10 years ago. What I read then of their philosophy made me cringe and feel nauseous, and certainly did not feel Christ-like to me. I feel so much more sickened by it now that someone has actually killed their child because of it. Where is the love of Jesus and the grace and mercy of our loving God in their so-called Christian child rearing philosophy? I will be praying for the remaining children in the Schatz family, that they do not harden their hearts toward God.

  7. Chris says:

    Who is “Regina Normanson” anyway? I just googled “her” and “she” has no web history at all until March 1st. The sole piece of writing on the web by this person consists of the poorly reasoned diatribe which Dana has so cogently and effectively critiqued for us.

    I can’t prove what I’m about to say, and I could be wrong, but I suspect “Regina Normanson” is none other than Michael Pearl himself trying to divert critical attention away from the role his dangerous and irresponsible teachings appear to have played in Lydia Schatz’s tragic death.

    Is “Regina Normanson” even a woman? The “Gender Genie” uses statistical analysis based upon previous research on texts by authors of known gender to identify the sex of an author with roughly 80% accuracy. Here is its url:
    http://bookblog.net/gender/analysis.php
    For what it’s worth, the Gender Genie rates the “Regina Normanson” text as having been written by a man. Anyone else is welcome to copy and paste the full text of “her” defense of Michael Pearl’s toxic parenting advice into the genie and see for themselves if they wish.

  8. Chris says:

    P.S.

    Deuteronomy 22:5 calls it an “abomination” for a man to put on a woman’s garment. Would a man clothing himself in a woman’s ID online not fall under the same prohibition?

    If “Regina Normanson” truly is Michael Pearl’s latest nom de plume, perhaps someone should sit atop Mr. Pearl and hold him down while someone else prayfully and nonabusively whips him with a length of 1/4″ plumber’s supply line until he repents?

  9. Pingback: TulipGirl » Blog Archive » Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse?

  10. Miss Roxie says:

    My heart was left still and so sad when I read about the death of Lydia, this innocent child, the condition of her sister, and the alledged abuse of the other children in this family. I am glad to see you addressing this matter, Dana. I encourage you to keep on.

    I have been handed books by the Pearls in the past. I knew something was not quite right there. That was 20 years ago when I quitely handed those book back to their owner after I looked through them.

    The owner of those books wanted me to spank one of my children because he wanted to sit with me in “big church” one Sunday night instead of going to the nursery. She even went so far as to go into the kitchen (at church) and get me a wooden spoon. I was so confused and intimidated at that time of my life by her that I wasn’t sure what to do. I took my son in a one of the Sunday School rooms, with the spoon in hand and closed the door.

    I put the spoon down at a table across the room and asked him what he wanted to do. He said I want to sit with you in big church. I said, ‘okay then, that’s what we will do.’

    When I came out of the room, I handed her the spoon, wishing I could tell her what I thought, but I said nothing, and my three year old son and I walked on up to ‘big church.’

    But it truly, truly perplexes me in the deepest core of my spirit — HOW someone could even think that such an extreme whipping or a spanking or whatever they would want to call it ~ would be the right thing to do!? I cannot understand that mindset. But, that is probably another topic.
    .-= Miss Roxie´s last blog ..Turtles Can Fly ~ The Movie =-.

  11. Hey Dana! Sorry to say, I just got to your comment on LOTP. (Bad blogger. I’ve been out of orbit for awhile.) Anyway, you said I needed to read something, but no link!!! Now I’m curious.

    I enjoyed catching up on your page. Great work, as usual!

    Susan
    .-= Life On The Planet´s last blog ..For Kim Who Is In Another Country Without Her Children =-.

  12. (Regarding this post)

    Dog Sunday ate a chunk out of Tiger’s math book.
    .-= Life On The Planet´s last blog ..For Kim Who Is In Another Country Without Her Children =-.

  13. Dana,

    Awesome. I took the quiz. There is a 96% chance that Scratchy is plotting to kill me. Sal says the reason it’s only 96% is because she is cognizant of the fact that she would have to feed herself if she offed us.

    Good news. She hates the dog.
    .-= Life On The Planet´s last blog ..For Kim Who Is In Another Country Without Her Children =-.

  14. Dana says:

    I’m beginning to worry about our cat. But then, I’ve always wondered about cats and their people.
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..In defense of the Pearls…some thoughts =-.

  15. wang says:

    A wonderful reply to an awful article!
    The more I read about this story the more my heart breaks. This is so awful. I just want to cry every time I read something new.
    I am glad more and more people are speaking out about this.
    I just wanted to point everyone to an excellent response to Pearl’s awful “laughter” that Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering has written.
    http://nolongerquivering.com/2010/03/03/no-laughing-matter-michael-pearls-callous-response-to-critics/#more-4517

  16. Linda V. says:

    Wonderful post! I can’t make the track back work, probably because I don’t have a blog, but I am linking at http://hermanalinda.witnesstoday.org/notrain

  17. Dana says:

    Thank you, Linda. Unfortunately, the link isn’t working. If you can send it to me, I’ll correct it for you.
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..The great chicken experiment =-.

  18. Mama__B says:

    Thank you for this post. Thank you for standing for truth and for shining a light on the dark lies believed by the followers of the Pearls. Just typing their names makes me feel ill. You are right, they will be judged more harshly for what they are teaching parents to do to their innocent children. I cannot bring myself to plead with God to have mercy upon them.
    .-= Mama__B´s last blog ..I love marinades =-.

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  22. Mrs. C says:

    Sadly, this will reinforce stereotypes about those wacko fundie homeschoolers who do nothing but study Scripture and whoop their kids with wooden spoons.

    *sigh*

    The truth is, the public school was abusing my child. I honestly feel like, for every story like THIS that comes out, there are probably 20 in the school systems that we never hear about. Really… I don’t know anybody remotely like this, and yet procedures for “paddling” and locking children into closets (euphemistically called “safe” or “recovery” rooms) are clearly outlined in the student handbook. No kidding.

  23. Pingback: Reactions to the Schatz Tragedy | Why Not Train A Child

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