Another child has been "chastised" to death after her parents followed the "Biblical" child-training methods of Michael & Debi Pearl.
Mike Pearl is justifying his teachings and solely faulting the parents. Again.
But do we, as Christians, really accept Lydia Schatz's horrific death as yet another irrelevant, isolated incident? Or are Michael & Debi Pearl partially to blame?
This is an extremely difficult post for me to write because my radical fundamentalist church ordered their books by the boxful. I saw first-hand how these "child-training" methods were implemented.
I can tell you that while Mike Pearl might justify his methods as "limited" and "controlled," the reality is that babies and toddlers are subjected to systematic, repetitive, hard spankings.
(If you're unfamiliar with the Pearls, you can read articles they've written on their NoGreaterJoy.org website and an excellent breakdown of his teachings here on TulipGirl's website. Also, Lynn Harris of Salon.com wrote a comprehensive article here)
Practically speaking, a child is spanked into submission.
I had childhood friends who were given 25-100 swats per day. I sat through many meals where a child was removed from the table and spanked repeatedly for not eating his supper. Sometimes the child was taken away three or four times and swatted 3-5 times per incident.
I observed so much harsh spanking in my childhood and teen years (their first book was published in 1994 when I was a junior in high school) that I refused to implement the Pearl methodology on my own children.
Here's the thing: most of the parents I knew were not monsters. They were joyful, Bible-believing Christians who truly desired to raise godly servants of the Lord. But they had been led astray.
And according to a woman who knew them personally, so were Kevin & Elizabeth Schatz . At least, that's the impression they gave to the outside world.
But now their child is dead. Can we blame the Pearls for Lydia's death? Not directly, no. The Schatz's obviously took the Pearls' methods to an extreme. They alone are responsible for that unspeakable act–and will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison for it (and rightfully so).
But the point remains: are the Pearls' methods abusive?
Let's be clear: the kind of spanking the Pearl's advocate is a far cry from an infrequent pop to a child's backside. The Pearl's "child-training" method is characterized by systematic, repetitive swats/licks with a "rod of reproof"; ie. they recommend a length of "1/4" plumbing supply line.
The real issue here is that the Pearls teach systematic chastisement. Nearly every infraction is punishable by hard, multi-swat spanking. This means the number of swats/licks a child receives per day can reach abusive levels very quickly.
The Pearl Way is an entire methodology based on a belief that the child's "soul must be punished." The only way to accomplish this total, unequivocal breaking of a child's will is through systematic, repetitive corporeal punishment.
This system of behavioral conditioning begins at a very young age–often before the child turns one. (In his book "To Train Up a Child," Michael Pearl mentions swatting a less-than-one-year-old baby)
Mike Pearl claims he doesn't condone child abuse or teach corporeal punishment. But application of his methods definitively prove otherwise.
So, how did Kevin & Elizabeth Schatz become parents who eventually beat their child to death?
I have no answers for that unspeakable act. But I do know the temptation of falling prey to the pretty promises of Mike & Debi Pearl.
Perhaps the Schatz's fully believed that if they consistently and methodically applied the Pearl's "child-training" techniques, they too could have picture-perfect, God-honoring, cheerfully obedient children.
After all, Mike Pearl practically claims that consistent application of his teaching will yield wonderful results–just like his own children! It's all a simple formula, really.
Which is precisely why he claims that aberrant application–not his methods– are to blame for Lydia Schatz's tragic death.
Do we, as the Christian community, accept Michael Pearl's excuse?
To make a poor analogy, consider the current massive recall of Toyota cars. Do all Toyotas have the same fatal flaw? No. But the flaw is significant enough that drastic measures are being taken. Today, in fact, the CEO of Toyota is being critically questioned in a Congressional hearing.
This is how I view the Pearls child-training methods. Sure, maybe some parents are able to safely "drive" the Pearl model. But there is a significant flaw in the Pearl method and tragically, for at least two young children, it has proved fatal.
How many more children will die before the Christian community holds Mike & Debi Pearl to account?
Here is how it can be done:
- Educate yourself: TulipGirl does an excellent job breaking down the Pearl's teachings
- Speak out: the Pearls' ministry relies on independent distributors. If you see these books at your church or homeschool group, please voice your concerns
- Become an advocate: speak to your pastor, send emails to national Christian leaders, retweet this post, blog your concerns. The voice of dissent must come from within the Christian community. This is our sacred obligation to our children.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE, LYDIA SCHATZ
UPDATE: if you'd like to retweet this post on Twitter, try using the hashtag #NoMoreDeadKids & #stopMikeandDebiPearl. Attach this link: http://bit.ly/bsJctS