child abuse in the name of Jesus

“Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
Exodus 20:7

“Jesus said to His disciples, It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:1-2

As I was growing up, on Friday nights my friend Marsha and I would sometimes stay in each others’ homes. When we were younger we played with Barbies and as we got older we listened to our stack of 45 records. Having no siblings of my own, I always enjoyed their family meal time and the lively interactions between Marsha and her brothers and sisters. But most of all, I was in amazement of Marsha’s mom. A beautiful dark-haired woman with soft white skin who sewed wonderful dresses for her girls and made the best lasagna in the world, she was also a screamer and every good cuss word I knew I learned around that family dinner table.

Marsha’s family was also very religiously devout and she was never allowed to miss any church or church related activities. Ever. And this brought a lot of confusion into my 4th grade mind. How does someone who professes to be a Christian and who is so committed to the church, justify using such abusive language, especially repeatedly taking the name of God in vain? Such blasphemy will certainly be punished by death, we are assured in Scripture. If you are a believer, I am certain this picture causes you to cringe as it did me.

So, as I have considered last week’s news reports of yet another child beaten to death in the “name of Christ,” this time over a child’s spelling error (I cannot think of any reason whatsoever that would justify such a horror), I cannot help but think of the blasphemy of God’s name these parents have committed. Evil in the name of “godly discipline” is still evil. Murdering a child, for any reason, is still murder. Hiding behind God as you murder a child and evoking His name in the process is blasphemy of the worst sort. It ought to make us do more than cringe.

Lest anyone think this sort of abuse is an isolated case, let me remind you of some of the situations and teachings I know of that I believe qualify as abuse against children, most of them involving physical abuse, all of these done in the “name of Christ,” many of them also done or encouraged in the name of “homeschool discipline.”

~ Mike and Debi Pearl The highly favored book To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, is credited by both the Schatz family and the Paddock family as their go-to book on child discipline. Here is just one quote from TTUAC: “If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg; an unbiblical philosophy and theology of power and control is behind their suggestions for discipline. Please follow the link for much good information and analysis of the Pearls and their teachings on raising children. (Note: Citing his own wife’s example and teaching, I once had a pastor tell me that removing a wiggly toddler from worship service and holding him down until he thought being in worship was better was the way parents were to behave in his church. When I informed him I would not be treating any children in that manner, but rather would be reading to them and coloring with them instead, I was rebuked.)

~ Hephzibah House for “wayward” girls Personal testimonies of physical, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse abound as grown women are now coming forward to warn of this “ministry.” I know of several homeschooling families who have seen this place as the solution for daughters who were in rebellion, real or imagined, to authority.

~ Bill Gothard’s Indianapolis Training Headquarters and Alert Programs Established in 1993 as both a training center for homeschoolers who were part of the Advanced Training Institute and as an arm of the juvenile court system in Indianapolis. A 10-part investigative news report, complete with hidden camera footage and personal testimony, reported: “Inside a converted 300-room hotel, the prayer closet is a little room where kids are taken when they disobey staff at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC). Once locked inside, the misbehaving youths are forced to sit and pray to Jesus, sometimes for days at a time. Some juvenile ITC residents have said the evangelical Christian teens and young adults who staffed the center sometimes forbade them from going to the bathroom, forcing them to sit in their own urine for hours. Some have complained of beatings with paddles by untrained staff that left bruises and welts. When not in isolation, the kids are forced to march and chant and pray, with gospel music playing almost constantly.”

The ALERT program for young men, a paramilitary experience that promotes “character training” includes similar tales. The father of one young man who attended an alert training told my husband how their son was injured during a 20 mile hike in an isolated training center in the north woods. When he asked for medical attention, he was chastised for being wimpy and forced to march the distance back to camp, experiencing severe physical pain and verbal abuse as he did. When he was finally able to get medical attention, doctors treated him for a broken leg and sent him back to his family.

~ William Einwechter, pastor, homeschooling advocate, writer, and highly promoted and revered conference speaker with Vision Forum, advocates laws that would require the stoning of rebellious teenagers as part of his “dominion theology.” Here are some of his thoughts: “The word “rebellious” means, literally, to strike or lash, and is used of those who contend against authority and refuse to heed their words. The “rebellious” individual lashes out in contempt against those who have authority over them verbally, and perhaps even physically.

In light of this, it is important to note that the Law of the Covenant prescribes death for anyone who strikes his parents (Ex. 21:15) or curses his parents (Ex. 21:17). There is, therefore, reason to suppose that the son in this case law has broken the Law of the Covenant in one or both of these ways. The parents also describe the character of their son as being a “glutton” and a “drunkard.” These sins are put forth as examples of a life lived without restraint.

In the case of such rebellion and riotous living, and after all attempts at discipline and control have failed, the parents are to bring their son before the magistrates for judgment. If the magistrates concur in the parents’ estimate of the situation, they are to order the men of the city to stone the rebel with stones so that he dies (vv. 20-21). The purpose to be served in the execution of the rebellious son is to “put evil away from among you” and that all will “hear and fear” (v.21).” (Note: Any mention within some homeschooling circles of sins that parents commit against their children is often met with rebuke and belittling, minimizing the behaviors that drive children to rebellion. Adult children who continue to suffer from such behavior growing up are told to “get over it” or “just stop it.”)

~ Richard Fugate His book What the Bible Says About Child Training is a popular find at homeschooling conventions and was the first book I read that talked about physically beating a child until you see repentance. Fugate, stating that the Bible “commands” the use of the rod, advocates using actual “rods,” listing the various sizes appropriate for each age group and includes the note to parents that “welts” and “stripes” will result, depending on how rebellious the child is. One mother interpreted Fugate’s writings in this way in an online forum: “Have you read Richard Fugate’s book, “What The Bible Says About Child Training”? It is the only book I can truly recommend on discipline. (You can borrow mine if you want but I would recommend buying it eventually.) I use a wooden dowel for spanking; believe me it is painful. The discipline must be more painful than the joy of getting what they want when they disobey. Most moms go wrong in that the spanking isn’t severe enough, or long enough. If you just give a few swats, it will only make them mad, not bring them to repentance! I give about 5 hard swats and I tell them that if they disobey again it will be harder and more swats. It really hurts and they are in pain and screaming. If he just sniffles, you are doing more damage than good.”

These examples don’t even touch the emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse that is often part of the mentality within the church on raising children. From naming “shyness” as a sin to telling daughters they have no calling of their own from the Lord to excommunicating children who make different, not sinful but different, life choices than a parent would choose, abuse rears its ugly head in many ways. I pray that the church will wake up and see children as Jesus saw them, as crucial to His kingdom, precious in His sight, the least of these. May this latest carnage serve as a wake-up call.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

More good insights on abuse of children from Katie.

Great thoughts on the spiritual (and other) abuse of daughters from Hillary.

Virginia’s good admonition to moms and dads.

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  1. says

    Thank you for this good piece, Karen. That quote from To Train Up A Child may help enlighten some people as to why people connect the book to these horrible cases. The fact that the book has quite a lot of folksy wisdom in it is not enough to balance the bizarre, cruel and excessive examples and recommendations, and I’m always surprised when people are willing to duck those with a blythe, “oh well, we don’t agree with everything in it, but…”

    That stance reminds me of the darkly humorous old joke, “Well, but other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

  2. says

    This is part of an e-mail I received and thought I would share in case someone else missed what I was saying:
    “I love that you are spotlighting the problem of child abuse in the church. That takes a lot of courage Karen and good for you!

    However comparing the cussing of your childhood friends loving mother to the heinous crime of child abuse makes me shake my head in wonder and disbelief. I am unclear in your description if this mom is verbally abusing her daughter or simply cussing in her everyday vocabulary. You don’t come out and say she was verbally abusive, only that she used the name of God in vain”.

    You really think God will strike this woman dead for ” repeatedly taking the name of God in vain”? Is this the unforgiveable sin? Really? And all Christians will agree with you on this, if we are truly Christians? Well I am a Christian and I do not think cussing is that big of a deal. It is a man-made rule that some vocabulary is holy and other vocabulary is damned.

    Truly all Christians should use the name of Jesus with reverence, but most cuss words have nothing to do with Jesus. Feces by any other name will stink as bad. WTF is a slang expessing incredulous shock, nothing more. Ïf this woman grew up saying “dammit”or even “goddammit” then this habit of vocabulary will not keep her out of the kingdom of heaven. I don’t think God is the least bit offended, though Churchians very much get their feathers ruffled.

    Sanctifying one social class’ vocabulary above another’s was not worthy of the death of the Son of God. Yet reading your opinion of your cussing neighbor it seems that you have somehow come to believe that it is way up there on God’s list of what He wants for his people, what He died for them to experience. I think you’ve internalized the doctrines of men on this one, Karen.

    You cheapen the charge of child abuse by comparing it with the relatively trivial and (unless directed abusively at another person) harmless habit of cussing. One is simply learned vocabulary- the other a gross violation of the holy worth of another human being and A VIOLENT CRIME!

    Religion trumps reality again. I am sorry to read it on your website.”

    The point I was trying to make is that most Christians cringe when someone takes God’s name in vain but turn a blind eye to abuse of children when it is done as a “Christian conviction.
    I believe that aking God’s name in vain, whether it is a learned habit as a result of being around people who also speak that way or a conscious use of language, is not a matter of “one’s social class’vocabulary”; it is sin. Unfortunately, I hear many professing Christians toss about God’s name as though it is not sin to do so. Does doing so make one an unbeliever? No, but it is still a sin that must be confessed and repented of. The third commandment says “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.” In other words, no matter the reason someone profanes God’s name, He will be held accountable and is not guiltless. Here is what the Westminster Larger Catechism has to say about doing so:

    Question 112: What is required in the third commandment?
    Answer: The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and: Whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and Answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.

    Question 113: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
    Answer: The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning, or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots; violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; murmuring and quarreling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences; misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it, to profane jests, curious or unprofitable
    Questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, or sinful lusts and practices; the maligning, scorning, reviling, or anywise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.

    Question 114: What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?
    Answer: The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, The Lord thy God, and, For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain, are, because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment, albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men.”

    I also want to note that vulgar language is NOT the same as taking God’s name in vain. However this is what Ephesians 4:29 says about it:

    “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

  3. says

    Karen,let me say thank you again for bringing this and other issues to light in the home schooling community.

    Two Bible passages come to mind…

    “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” ~~ 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

    “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” ~~ Ephesians 6:4

  4. says

    Karen, This is a topic of interest to me and I will certainly follow up on all the links later. BUT I have had an uneasy feeling about your post since I read it early this morning. My first concern is that the source of bad parenting is not a bad parenting book. It is the abundance of the heart. Some books may provide fuel for the fire that rolls off one’s tongue but we can’t hold up a book and blameshift for our own sin.
    The second thing that left me unsettled is that it is easy to stand back and point fingers. “She was a yeller” or “they beat her to death over how to pronounce a word”. But how do we as fallen, sinful women in need of much grace ourselves make it easier for these people to confess their sins and seek help?
    Karen, I want to ask you, what help, advice, books can you offer for the woman reading here who may relate to the yelling and anger over school work and is buckling under the condemnation? For the woman who knows she is a sinner, knows she read the wrong book and would like help.

  5. says

    Bill Einwechter, who lives about 13 miles from me, is something of a “rebellious son” himself — his dominionist teachings are straight from the Mosaic Law, which places him squarely in rebellion against Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.

  6. says

    Melanie, such a compassionate and to the point comment.

    It IS easy to point fingers and I hope my finger pointing is seen as it was intended to be, pointing at those who would advocate for such abusive behaviors rather than at those who are struggling with temptation to take anger out on children. )” Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” ~ James 3:1)

    I believe all moms have been there; I know that I have. (Not to make excuses, but I have seen a marked change in what drives me crazy since I went through menopause. I do believe that hormones are a major contributing factor to mother frustrations as is sleep deprivation, both aspects of mothering we cannot change.) The reason I am so troubled by these sorts of books being the centerpiece of teachings on discipline is that they set moms up for failure. They affirm the behaviors that give in to the temptations to anger and control and perfection that so many of us struggle with and prompt us to take actions that can be fueled by our own physical limitations.

    You are correct that our sinful desires come from the heart. In fact, lately I have been thinking a lot about the supply vs demand aspect of sin. So often we Christians strive to control the outward influences in our children instead of dealing with issues of the heart. We do the same with grown-up sins. We boycott stores that sell pornography. We refuse to eat at restaurants whose profits go to Planned Parenthood. We work politically to place pro-family advocates into office. And as good as all these things may be, what really changes people, including children, is a right relationship with the Lord. We need to spend more time dealing with the demand side of the equation and present the Gospel message, which is the ONLY one that can produce real change. I heartily agree with you that sins come from the heart. (“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” ~ James 1:13-15)

    As well as offering grace to those who struggle with particular sins, we are required to still speak out against those things that cause others to stumble, against those things that violate morality, or at least we should. Sometimes it is a difficult balance. This is what I hoped to accomplish with this article since so many Christians see nothing wrong with the Pearls, Fugate, etc. And,of course, nothing gets my dander up more than things that cause homeschooling moms to become discouraged or to stumble!

    I will share some things that have helped me change, personally, as a mom, when it comes to relating to children.

    First of all was the revelation that my children are, first and foremost, my brothers and sister in Christ. They have the same standing before the Lord that I have. Setting aside all books on child training, and reading only Scripture, I realized that there is really not much in the Bible that addresses parent/child relationships. There are a handful of verses and that is it. But there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about how we relate to one another and that is what we ought to focus on. When I began approaching my children by one anothering them, something amazing began to happen. They started one anothering me as well! Not looking at our relationship in adversarial terms but in terms of building each other in the faith, admonishing when necessary, etc. changed my attitude. Of course we correct and expect respect from them but we must also demonstrate respect to them.

    Next, I purposed that a relationship with my kids would trump everything else….my personal preferences, my agenda, anyone else’s paradigm of what my household ought to look like. I put “me” on the back burner and stopped worrying about what other people think and was more concerned about what God thinks. That is summing up a lot about my own attitude toward my children in just a few words.

    As far as books I would recommend about relating to children, I would suggest Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson as a good first read. Then Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff Van Vonderan.
    To deal with the temptation for abuse, I believe we need to not set ourselves up with silly expectations and we need to be sure we are cared for physically with nutritious food, not a lot of caffeine, plenty of water and adequate sleep. We need down time, taking a break of some sort every day, like a walk around the block or reading or crafting while children nap. We need good uplifting music, spiritual food from the Word both in our own Bible reading or via grace-filled sermons. We need regular dates with our husbands, even ones when the kids are in bed. We need a few good friends for REAL fellowship. We need to remember that we are frail, that temptations WILL come. Mom maintenance is NOT “me-ology” it is wise mothering. Just like a fine automobile that you want to be dependable and running smoothly, moms need regular care.

    Here is something I referenced a few months back about “the hour of temptation” for anyone who hasn’t read it. We all struggle with all sorts of desires and temptations and we need to be prepared when they come. I still maintain that perfectionism is at the root of many of the problems people have in raising children…false notions that either we are to be perfect or that we are to raise perfect kids. By anticipating those things that are going to cause us to sin, we can learn how to avoid it and when to cry out to the Lord for His help.

    Enough rambling….I hope other moms will offer their thoughts, too. Melanie, thanks for openly sharing your thoughts.

  7. says

    I, too, have semi-ambivalent feelings about so-called cuss words. There ARE many Scriptures that pertain to the use of words, but I find that they all point back to the heart; the state of the heart of the person saying it and the exaltation or degradation of the person being talked to.

    For instance, I was utterly astounded when I came across Jesus’ words here a couple months ago:

    “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

    Obviously, Jesus was not referring to good-natured banter that you might find friendly jokes in. He is referring to the VERY MILD put down and demoralization of a person. How much more then does He care about the more overt, aggressive, and harsh verbal assaults we inflict on others?

    I think the harm in cuss words is what it inflicts on a person’s heart. When a curse word is said to me with the intent of hurting me, it does just that because of the state of that person’s heart towards me. When a person says curse words out a need to feel or appear “cool”, then they also are inflicting harm on themselves by indulging is a bankrupt form of self-filling, instead of seeking it where it may be found in Christ. Like Jesus said, it is not that that goes into the mouth that defiles us, but that which comes out of it.

    Now, sometimes there are times where we are just spilling things out to God and it is extremely relieving to have a word that actually does our emotions justice, and that, I have a hard time condemning, and I’m not sure God does either.

    Despite my first statement, I personally don’t use swear words (on a regular basis) besides “crap”, which, even that I am trying to limit because when I do let it out in the presence of my daughter, I have to tell her it’s a word that’s only for Mama’s. 😉

  8. Heather in MN says

    I’ve read your site for a few years now since finding you on True Womanhood.

    I’m confused. I read the news article twice and nowhere can I find evidence that these parents are Christians. Why did you link it as a child “beaten in the name of Christ” when Christ isn’t even mentioned in the article (or did I miss it?) It seems too obvious to say that there are scores of people who hs who have no religious affiliation at all. Many homeschoolers are child abusers who homeschool for that very reason. They don’t want word to get out to teachers or school counselors.

    Is the tool they used for spanking what you are using to link them to Pearls? It’s a possibility, but since the article didn’t mention it, I don’t think we should jump to conclusions or encourage others to do so.

    I’ve always appreciated your honesty and candor, but if they were truly followers of the Pearls or anyone else, that will all come out eventually. Let’s wait for the proof.

  9. madame says

    Thank you for being one more voice speaking against child abuse, and not just child abuse, but the unrealistic expectations that can lead to abusing our children.

    I read the pages from Fugate’s book you linked to, and have been thinking about what he teaches in the light of how Jesus treated people and in the light of how we want to be treated. If you read past the pages down through the quotes out of the book, it gets even more disturbing and unbiblical. I’m shocked that his book and the Pearls’ book are available on Amazon! Both encourage parents to do things that could get them in trouble with the law. At least Fugate encourages parents to carry out the beatings in private, for their protection (from the law). All this secrecy will lead mothers (especially) to isolate themselves and their children even more, which can increase the tension in a home where there is more than enough already.

    Do you think it would be wise to email Amazon (and other mainstream retailers) with quotes from the books and ask that they no longer sell the books?

    Thanks for your advice concerning loving our children. I’m one of those young mothers who can use that kind of advice.

  10. Abby says

    This whole subject disturbs me to the core. I grew up in a wonderful home, though I think I can relate to the yelling and cussing, we were not abused, and we were loved beyond measure. But I know that some of the things I’ve done as a mom are terrible. And I have no one to blame but me. I had a breaking point a few months ago, where I just came out of a bad spell of anger with my children, and my eyes were opened. I’m not going to be able to be a “good mom” on my own. I need Jesus more than I can have possibly imagined. The days that I depend on him to give me strength and not to be angry about petty things are good days, but the days when I get overwhelmed and forget him, those are bad days.

    But that’s just me, out there on my own, and I’ve rejected any book that tells me to sit on, lock up, or smack my kids. I don’t need any more of that toxin, it’s coming from within me. I don’t need anything else to tell me it’s “okay” when I know it’s against God’s will.

    The deeper problem is that no one asks the question, why? Why *MUST* we make our children obedient? Why must they never question, never mess up, never misspeak? Why must they sit quietly and still in church? Why can’t they make the same mistakes we made as children? Why can’t they color in church (My kids did last night during our Ash Wed. service. It kept them quiet–I even brought a puzzle for my son!), why can’t they ask questions, and why do we think that being bigger makes it okay for us to hurt our children and force them to obey? The abuse is only a symptom of the sin of desire to control. It is so much more tragic when we control others through physical harm than by more passive means, and it is worst when we do so to our children. Children are not given simply to bring us pride and do what we want, they should be taught to be autonomous, independent, critically thinking adults, not beaten into submission that they must “rebel” against.

  11. madame says

    I’ve rejected those books too. Basically any book that promises my children will turn out perfect if I do just what the author says.

    We all need to learn to deal with our feelings. If I have a meltdown when I’m overwhelmed, why can’t my children also be allowed to express their frustration? If anything, I ought to work on my self-control.
    When I was reading through the quotes from Reb Bradley’s and Richard Fugate’s books, I kept asking myself if parents hold the same high standards for themselves.
    Do they ever express anger, frustration, sadness or disappointment?
    Are they ever overwhelmed?
    When they are hungry, tired or sick, do they make concessions for themselves?

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that parents shouldn’t lower their expectations when a child is hungry, tired or sick. EVERY SITUATION is to be handled in the same standard way: with “biblical-chastisement”

    As you said, Abby, we don’t need books that will justify selfishness, pride, not dealing with anger issues, or having double standards.

  12. Jan says

    I have two thoughts. First, I grew up in a home where my parents were heavily influenced by Bill Gothard. My last “spanking” was with a wooden dowl at 15 years. I grew up believing my parents did not love me and I felt guilty about everything. God was a very distant, iron-fisted, unpleasable deity.

    Consequently, I tend to be more passive in my discipline of my 8 children. My husband always reminds me that God is a perfect parent. He is patient, merciful and loving. How can our children properly understand God unless they experience our forgiveness and gentle guidance. I’m a great believer in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  13. says

    Abby, you bring up a good point. Many times the expectations for children are absurd. One example for me is demanding perfect stillness and silence during worship services in toddlers and some people even demand that in babies. But sitting still for upwards of two hours is not how their little bodies are wired. Seeing this behavior as rebellion only show me how ignorant parents can be of child development and physiology. Loving our children certainly means having compassion for them at whatever stage of development they are in and ignoring books and teachers who say otherwise.

  14. says

    “My husband always reminds me that God is a perfect parent. He is patient, merciful and loving. How can our children properly understand God unless they experience our forgiveness and gentle guidance. I’m a great believer in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    Amen and amen, Jan.

  15. says

    Many who defend corporal punishment and take every word of the Bible literally, (“the plain truth of Scripture”) cite this verse:

    Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

    And yet it appears that it happened.

    An interesting note for those who insist that because the Bible says so, the child “will not die” if he is beaten by a rod: apparently death by rod was common enough during the time of Moses to include instruction in the Law:
    Exodus 21:20
    “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.”
    If a fully grown man or woman was known to die at times from the rod ~ how can anyone say this would not happen to a child!!??!!

  16. says

    Thank you for this, ThatMom. I have written on my blog that we need to bring back the boycott. I’m so glad to see so many other concerned bloggers writing about this as well. This story is heartbreaking, and this tragedy so avoidable.

  17. says

    Once again some great thoughts and links Karen. This story is indeed heartbreaking and reminds us all once again why we need to hold each other up in prayer and those that teach to the standards of God’s word. (I linked.)

  18. says

    Virginia, I am so happy to see that another voice is coming forward to speak against this child abuse. Please let us know if there are any others who follow suit. That is heartening!

  19. says

    Mary, yesterday I was told that the Pearls’ teachings are just one of “many opinions in child raising and homeschooling philosophies” that parents choose. How sad it was for me to see that anyone would consider their teachings as merely an “opinion on child raising” as though all views are equal. What the Pearls’ instruct people to do with/to their children is not discipline. Unless people clearly state the difference between abuse and discipline and stand against the Pearls’ instruction, they are validating the Pearls as teachers and are giving them credibility they ought not to have.

  20. Anthea says

    Hello Karen

    Your comments at 1.42 Feb 17th are important enough to be in a separate post or podcast. I am catching up with your podcasts via a podfeed site cos I ain’t got itunes.

    I concur with the comments about keeping still in church. It’s a bit hard for children. Mind you, since we are in a pentecostal church, no one is sits still and quiet for long, not even the grown-ups!

    I can’t help feeling that the quick-fix, instant cure culture of our day does not help. TV programmes like Supernanny, and the christian book, A New Child in 7 Days, hold out false promises. The sinless Son of God spent 30 years and then 40days preparing for ministry. I am trying to be as patient with our children as God has been with me.

    Pray for us in the UK as we fight to retain our freedom to home educate. The next 3 months are crucial in defeating a govt attempt to stifle us.

  21. Linda says

    Rules without a relationship, cause problems. I’ve seen some of the Pearls videos- they do not seem to be unloving type of people – they teach you to train children in other ways too. I think to some fail to make a difference between out right rebellion- needs loving discipline, and childishness. start teaching and training young is important.

  22. AJ says

    Thank you for lending another voice of reason and exposing these horrific methods of child abuse. Places like Hephzibah House beat the soul down of a child on a constant basis. It is a never ending barrage of abusive methods, such as beatings, starvation, humiliation and isolation. All together they are designed to break a child down, physically and mentally until she surrenders herself to God in order to survive her stay. Upon leaving however, God is the first thing to go in her life and once again this is done in order to survive. God’s name becomes almost tainted for the child forevermore. There is no love or mercy, only hate and vengeance in the child’s memories and thoughts of God. What else can anyone expect when their children are beaten down and abused in God’s name to the point that the pain goes deeper than the child can ever recover from? Please parents, I beg you, stop sending your little ones to these places. When you get them back, they may obey and be perfect for you for a time, but in reality, you have lost them forever.

    I am a Hephzibah House Survivor

  23. says

    AJ, dear,dear AJ,

    Thank you for so openly sharing what many, many moms and dads need to hear. I am certain your few words will touch so many hearts. I will pray that the Lord brings you through this stage of your life with a renewed sense of His presence and that you will be able to see spiritual abuse for all that it is and that it has nothing to do with the loveliness of Jesus.

    In a few weeks I will be staring my next series of podcasts looking at patriocentricity and I know you will be blessed by hearing Hillary from Quivering Daughters as she and I discuss this topic.

    {{{{{}}}}} Please feel free to drop me a note any time and to post your thoughts and concerns here as well.

  24. says

    I’m 39. I am going through a process of realizing I was abused as a child – in a Christian home – and have been abused by my husband who is a Christian and in ministry. The abuse I suffered as a little girl trained me to be obedient no matter what, taught me that I couldn’t say no and that I had no voice. It formed for me an image of God who is ready to punish me for anything and who’s approval I desperately want but never feel that I have. The abuse (training) I endured as a child also prepared me for a marriage of abuse. I wonder how many marriages in the church are abusive, covered in bible verses, disguised by incorrect theology?

  25. Rebecca G says

    I would like to comment on the Indianapolis Training Center. I lived near it when the courts were investigating the charges of abuse, and I stayed at the facility myself for a month at a later time. They were exonerated of those charges, and the city wrote them a letter of apology at the end of the fiasco for painting them in such a bad light. While I agree that some of their practices were abusive, I also believe, as the investigation concluded, that the girl who was reporting such things as being denied a bathroom trip was lying. The nature of life at the ITC was quite different from the allegations listed in the report you quoted.

  26. says

    Rebecca, I appreciate you posting this comment. I have looked for that public apology online and cannot find it. Would you be able to share the link for us? Thanks!

  27. Julie says

    A youth pastor named John recommended to my parents that they use dowel rods on the 5 of us.
    I still bear the scars mentally. It was awful abuse and they had been convinced it fell within the teachings of the Presbyterian Church to discipline in this manner. To protect the others, I once broke the case of dowel rods (they bought them in bulk) to save us and instead it was the worst beating of my life. Whoever came up with this as a way to discipline a child needs to be tried and sent to jail! As this was 30 or more years ago, I suspect he has gone on to meet his maker.

  28. Adeline says

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post. It validates everything I experienced as a child- from my father chasing my mom around the house yelling “you are commanded to respect me” to daily room checks to make sure I didn’t have anything ungodly, to months long grounding for not being cheerful at dinner. I just appreciate it. I always felt like maybe I really was a bad person because everyone else seemed so happy in church but I was so miserable. Your blog has been a blessing.


  1. […] Karen Campbell, ThatMom: Child Abuse in the Name of Jesus Update on Lydia Schatz and Why It Is Not About Spanking Pearls and Authoritarian Parenting An Open Letter to my Brothers and Sisters in Christ Who Serve in Leadership to Homeschooling Families Homeschool mom, grandmother, conference speaker, podcaster […]

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