Sunday 28 February 2010

Disciplined to death

Yesterday marked three weeks since seven-year-old Lydia Schatz was killed at the hands of her adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz.

Thursday marked four years since four-year-old Sean Paddock was killed at the hands of his adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock.

What did both tragic deaths have in common?

Parenting methods that followed the writings of Michael and Debi Pearl.

Countless bloggers have written about the deaths in the past month, and their words say everything my heart is feeling right now. Outrage that these "Christian parenting experts" continue to poison well-meaning parents with their writings. Sorrow and horror over the deaths of these children, and the harm - physical, emotional, and spiritual - caused to untold numbers of other precious little ones. Disgust at the manipulative twisting of Scripture that attempts to cloak abuse in a loving, God-mandated covering.

In Heartbroken. Angry. Again., TulipGirl wrote:
"Well intentioned or not, the abusive parenting influenced by Michael and Debi Pearl led to another child’s death. How many more children are being abused behind closed doors and condoned by the Church in the name of “no greater joy” and “first time obedience”? When will the Pearls take full responsibility for the harm of their teachings? When will Christian parents see through the lies cloaked in Scripture?"

Links to many of TulipGirl's extensive articles on the Pearls are included at the end of the post. Several external links are also included in her entries Vulnerable, To Abuse and Who Is Speaking Out Against Abuse?.

In Hold ‘em Down, Defeat Totally, TulipGirl responds to Michael Pearl's statement:
"If, indeed?! A child is dead, another one hospitalized for nearly two weeks, and the other seven children conveyed this so-called discipline was normal in their home. The Pearls’ teachings could no more turn someone away from “abusive habits,” as their very instructions set parents up for normalizing patterns that lead to abuse — “defeat totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. . . five to ten licks. . . continue the spanking. . . continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered.”"

The heartbreaking entry In which I discuss the unthinkable, written by close friend of the Schatz family Laurie Mathers, details the horror of coming to terms with the knowledge that the people they love could have committed such an unspeakable act:
"As the days have gone by, more and more information has been uncovered about our friends. It turns out they were following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl's "ministry" of systematic child "training". My husband and I have spent hours upon hours since this discovery poring over Pearl literature, disgusted. Horrified. I wanted understanding of what could have led to this tragedy, and I got it. The Pearl Method was the missing link. It made “sense” of what made no sense before. From what I've read, and even from some hindsight reflections of what I knew of this family, it appears they were following Pearl teachings very carefully - in doctrine and in practice. If the autopsy reports verify what preliminary findings suggest, it was the form of whipping (using the identical implement recommended in Pearl literature) taught by them which killed Lydia, and nearly killed Zariah."

As heartbreaking as it is, this is such an important entry to read.

In child abuse in the name of Jesus, thatmom writes about other incidents of abuse resulting from similar twisted "Christian" teachings:
"This is just the tip of the iceberg; an unbiblical philosophy and theology of power and control is behind their suggestions for discipline." has posted an extensive article by Lynn Harris entitled Godly discipline turned deadly:
"Attorney Mike Ramsey told Salon that the Schatzes had explicitly described to police their adherence to the Pearls' philosophy, which, as one of many horrified anti-Pearl bloggers within the conservative Christian community observes -- recalling precisely what prompted the Schatzes' call to 911 -- includes the admonition that a proper spanking leaves a child "without breath to complain.""

In This made me cry today..., Rebecca Diamond writes extensively on the discord between the theology of the Bible and that of Michael Pearl:
"They did it to her in the name of Jesus and Michael Pearl. Just in case any of my readers are confused, let me explain. You may not know who Mr. Pearl is – I’ll get to that – but I’m pretty sure you don’t know who their Jesus is either. Because that Jesus isn’t the same Jesus I serve, the one who clearly stated “Let the children come to me, and forbid them not” and “the kingdom of Heaven is of such as these” and “what you did unto the least of these my brethren, you did to me” and “unless you become as a little child, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom”."

In When Parenting Kills – What Can We Do?, Katiekind touches on the adoption aspect:
"One risk factor [the Pearls] don’t seem to consider is the effect on children of attachment and trauma issues, such as RAD (reactive attachment disorder) – something sometimes associated with older-child adoptions. It may be no coincidence that these victims were adopted three years ago from a war-torn African country. Who knows what children who are put up for adoption under such circumstances have endured. Under what circumstances did they lose their family? What did they witness personally? What did they themselves endure? What was orphanage life like? Naturally children shaped and damaged by such experiences may respond differently to Pearlesque discipline than the joyful unconditional surrender depicted by the Pearls."

In her heartwrenching entry, Perfectionism, Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience writes about her family’s personal experiences applying the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl:
"Do you not train me well enough, Lord? I don’t obey You without fail, Father. And You are an infinitely better Father to me than I am a Mother to these children. Then why did I think I could have “always” obedience from these precious ones? You discipline me, Lord--- but always in the context of mercy and love---and a Cross."

If you read anything, read that one.

How many more? How many more children need to die before the teachings of the Pearls are seen for what they really are? How much longer will this needless abuse happen behind closed doors, not at the hands of monsters, but those of well-meaning, loving parents who have been taken in by the Pearls' promises of godly children? This is not a case of taking away nuggets of gold and leaving behind the small part that tends to the extreme - no, this is a case of digging through a garbage dump in hopes of finding one small fleck of gold. Perhaps the Pearls are all the more insidious for that very reason: for all their advice of "tying heartstrings", the practicality of carrying out what they put forth achieves anything but attachment.

Continue to speak out. This abuse cannot be permitted to continue under the guise of "godly parenting". It cannot be permitted to continue, period. My fervent hope in this tragedy is that the truth of what the Pearls teach will, at long last, be exposed for the evil it is.


  1. Thank you for speaking out about this tragedy.

  2. I had no idea about this particular form of child abuse. These people are so blinded. The Pearl's methods (ministry ?! *shock*) fall into the "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof". Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3:5 to turn away from that. I'm not sure how much more clearer that could be.

    There's no way that abusing your children could be "God's way". *shakes head* I just don't understand why anyone would want to harm a child in any way. Biological child or not, how could someone willingly allow a child to go through pain and suffering? I just can't comprehend that at all.

    Thank you for shedding light to this tragic brutality.

  3. I hadn't heard of the "Pearl" method either. How tragic and sad. I can't imagine

    I have to say thank you to you Cynthia. The more I read your blog the more I'm convinced that corporal punishment is not the route I want to go and I'm glad I am able to realize this before I have children.

  4. Someone else I know how posted on facebook about this incident. I couldn't hardly believe it. That is so scary that those people have a so called "ministry" that promotes abuse. It literally makes me sick when I hear of such things. Thank you for writing this. More people need to know about this.

  5. I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment here...
    1) I'm by no means a follower of the Pearls, but have friends (that I consider amazing parents) that look up to the Pearls ideals. A lot of their statements seem over the top in terms of fearfully protecting your children... not buy any means abusive (and like i said before, i haven't read much of their stuff... have you?)
    2) can your really argue that nobody abuses/ endangers (or that there are no deaths caused by an attachment parent) their child while raising them with attachment parenting?
    3) while i think that people are reaching when they use the bible as a "guideline" for parenting (cause in reality the bible just doesn't say much about the way you should parent and that is the reason there are true bible following christians with very different parenting techniques) do you really think that they are twisting bible verses in order to get parents to abuse their children?
    I'm not meaning to attack or criticize your post... and I do feel it is a tragedy that any child should be killed and/or abused. I just think it's always good to have the other side represented.