Mike & Debi Pearl and the cognitive dissonance of "Biblical" child-training

There is a serious sickness in the Christian, fundamentalist sub-culture. You know it when you hear Michael Pearl say in the same breath that yes, a 7 year old deserves 10-15 "licks" for one act of misbehavior but no, the Pearl books have nothing to do with the spanking deaths of children like Lydia Schatz. My therapist has a name for this. It's called cognitive dissonance. It happens when a teacher, pastor or person in authority advocates abusive methods while simultaneously recusing themselves from the actual, direct results of that abuse.

Here's an example from my own childhood inside fundamentalism (this is a direct quote from a teacher who exerted significant teaching control over many in our church):

If a wife is out of control, a husband is justified in slapping her to help her snap out of it. However, we are not responsible for domestic violence.

Can you see the sickness?

Parents should spank their children 10-15 times per episode of disobedience. However, if parents abuse their children, that's not our fault.

Sadly, many Christians buy into this line of thinking and defend the Pearls. Look, they say, the Pearl principles are solid and "Biblical." If a parent misuses these principles, well, that's the parents' fault.

I would like to know which part of spanking a five month old baby is a sound Christian principle? Which part of 10-15 "licks" per act of disobedience is a Christ-honoring method of discipline?

And here's the other part of the sickness: The "Good Fruit" Defense.

Well, Pearl-defenders say, I know people who used the Pearl's books successfully and responsibly! And their kids turned out great!

Here's my super profound response to that: so what?


So what if some kids turn out great? Kids survive abusive childhoods all the time and turn out "fine." Kids turning out "fine" after being raised in The Pearl Way does not change the fact that the Pearl Way is abusive.

I'm GLAD when kids turn out "fine" after being spanked thousands of times throughout their childhood. But the reality is that many, many children do NOT turn out "fine." Some end up dead. Some drag the heavy weight of trauma into their adult years. Some of them (myself included) go through years of therapy to try and understand and reconcile the Abuse In the Name of God that we witnessed firsthand.

When Mike Pearl says he's never met a well-adjusted child who WASN'T spanked, what this should show us is how few people he's met and how limited his experience is. But instead, Pearl defenders jump all over this "evidence" and act as if it's some profound epiphany. See? See? ALLLLL well-adjusted, happy children are spanked!

The blindness is just baffling. Why, WHY are Christians so quick to defend their own? When we see sickness in our community, we MUST cast it out! Why do you think this story is now getting secular media coverage?


I honestly believe that when Christians refuse to root out sin among their own, God allows that sin to be broadcasted from the rooftops.

For some of us, this reckoning has been a long time coming.

update: if you have pro-Pearl comments to make, there are plenty of places on the Internet to do that. But I'm not allowing those comments here on my blog. This blog is a safe place for people who have been hurt and out of respect for US, I'm not going to waste one more minute of my life, time or energy arguing with those of you who who want to hijack my comment box as your own personal pro-Pearl soapbox. Carry on.