update on the Lydia Schatz case and why it is not about spanking

There is another good piece and an update on the Lydia Schatz case as it unfolds that was published this morning. It is interesting to see how the Pearls and their teachings are now coming under the light and are being examined by both Christians and those who are opposed to Christianity and both on blogs and in the print media. As Kathy has pointed out, NOW is the time for this issue. And as my husband says, when the tide recedes and all that garbage is metaphorically lying on the beach for all to see, which side of this issue will you be on?

Earlier in the week I saw the discussion of the Pearls’ teachings referred to as “one form of child discipline” I have been thinking about that every day and jotted down a few thoughts. Maybe they will be helpful to someone else and I hope you all will add your own thoughts as well.

I understand the Scripture passages that are used to support spanking and I understand the interpretations many Godly pastors and teachers and parents have when they say that those same passages do not promote spanking. I have read all sides of the issue and have come to believe that:

~ There are Godly parents who choose to spank their children and there are Godly parents who choose not to spank.

~ Spanking a child can be appropriate in some instances but that it should be a rare occurrence and that if marks or bruises are left, it has gone too far. Spanking should not be the mark of good or Godly parenting on either side of the issue.

~ Many things are considered worthy of chastisement that are really normal age-appropriate behaviors and often homeschooling parents, in their zeal to have perfectly well-behaved children, don’t understand this. For example, expecting babies to not make any noise or babble in church or toddlers not to wiggle and to sit completely still for hours at a time and spanking them until they comply is not based on either Scripture or a real knowledge of child development.

~ The theological basis for many of the more austere teachings that I believe go beyond the boundaries of “ok” spanking are not filled with mercy and grace but rather are a reflection of legalistic notions. Lots more I could say here. Those teachings extend to the roles of men and women, the courtship vs dating with integrity vs betrothal ideals, what is modest and not modest dress, etc. Way too many topics that are interwoven with homeschooling are preferences that have no place in the encouragement of homeschooling families.

~ We need to show grace to each other when it comes to convictions regarding the sort of spanking that I described above.

~ When we spend our time concentrating on one anothering in our homes rather than meditating on who is in control, we are treating our children as brothers and sisters in Christ as well we should.

However, that being said, the Pearl situation is NOT a discussion on spanking. There is no excuse for anyone to call their teachings “one form of discipline” rather than to loudly and emphatically condemn them for what they are. In fact, in the State of Illinois, the actions the Pearls recommend could be considered assault and battery and even what is known as “witnessing” if other children see or hear it being done to another child.* I asked an attorney who is familiar with child abuse cases and who is not opposed to spanking, to tell me at what point a spanking becomes abuse according to the law. He told me that when a mark or bruise is left on the child, a line has been crossed in physical discipline. If you look at the Pearls’ teachings as well as those of some of the others who are big in homeschooling circles, as I shared in that initial post on my blog, you will see that they all advocate what goes beyond the law and Kevin Swanson even tells parents they have to be willing to do so.

I hope that helps you understand where I am coming from on this issue. I know far too many people have been completely silent about how horrible the death of Lydia Schatz is because they don’t want to offend or alienate those who like the Pearls. But as the story unfolds, as more and more of these teachers who promote abuse are quoted, and as adult children who were abused in these ways tell their stories, I have great hope that hearts and minds will be changed. I believe this most certainly is what it means to have our hearts turned toward our children, admonishing them tenderly in the Lord and not exasperating them!

* According to Illinois law, assault is defined as an act that makes another person have reasonable apprehension of battery. Battery means intentionally or knowingly and without legal justification causing bodily harm to another person, or making an insulting or provoking physical contact with a person.

Illinois Circumstances That Constitute Witnessing Comp. Stat. Ch. 720 § 5/12-3.2[In criminal law] For purposes of this Section: • ‘’Child’’ means a person under 18 years of age who is the defendant’s or victim’s child or stepchild or who is a minor child residing within or visiting the household of the defendant or victim. • ‘’In the presence of a child’’ means in the physical presence of a child or knowing or having reason to know that a child is present and may see or hear an act constituting one of the offenses listed in the section below.

Consequences Comp. Stat. Ch. 720 § 5/12-3.2In addition to any other sentencing alternatives, a defendant who commits, in the presence of a child, a felony domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated battery, unlawful restraint, or aggravated unlawful restraint against a family or household member shall be: • Required to serve a mandatory minimum imprisonment of 10 days or perform 300 hours of community service, or both • Liable for the cost of any counseling required for the child at the discretion of the court.

One more added thought…even World Magazine has spoken to this issue.

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  1. susan t says

    Thanks for updating. Thank you and all the other bloggers for keeping this heartbreaking story on the front burner. I was reading through the links from Kathy (above) and found this gem from Water Lilly “Spanking in anger isn’t the problem http://mommypress.com/waterlilly/2010/02/18/spanking-in-anger-isnt-the-problem/

    I read it after reading the comments on the World Mag article (above)… At World mag, it is intersting how the pro-Pearl commenters usually mention Mike Pearl’s comment… something about not spanking in anger and then suggest/assume that Lydia’s parents must have been angry. In other words, they deny that/distract from Mike Pearl’s directive to apparently have l o n g discipline sessions and the possible (deadly, abusive) effects thereof. The tone of the pro-Pearl comments also tends to be condescending and often contains some “warning” to be careful of loose lips/tongues wagging…. And the only mentions of the sinless perfection doctrine/ideology are from commentors presenting facts. These commentors seem generally concerned for all and tend not to attack other commentors.

  2. Susan says

    I stumbled across your site while trying to research this story that I was certain was a smear. As a Jew, I am very sensitive to any religious group being unfairly targeted. While I am sickened to find that the story is true, I am heartened by the pained disavowals I am seeing here, and rest assured that whenever I hear anything about this story, I will point the condemners to people like you!

  3. annie says

    This is not about the Pearls writing, or the bible, or any other religious book. This is about two people who are child torturers and murderers. How can you all get so carried away with a book when a child has been beat TO DEATH–think about it, visualize it in your mind, play it out start to finish without vomiting or weeping uncontrollably– and then tell me what the real issue is here. The Pearls are not to be scapegoats for two vicious murderers. Do not let yourself miss the WHOLE POINT here. Also, and in my opinion, most importantly, what justice will be done? Will the life of this child and her sister be vindicated? Will the justice system prosecute these murderers to the full extent of the law? Do not be let yourself be distracted from what is really important here. Just because these people are using the popular excuse of religious extremism does not make what they did any less horrific–or any more horrific. It is what it is. They did what they did and it was entirely their choice. No one made them do it–they chose to beat a child TO DEATH together. This girl did not have a chance. I encourage you to play it out in your mind and then realize that to be distracted by religious “this or that” is to be distracted from the point: vindicating the merciless torture and beating to death of a child. Shame on all of you.


  1. […] Tulip Girl’s updated list on links to articles about the death of Lydia Schatz and the Pearl connection it is also encouraging to see how this list has grown over the weekend. I pray that more and more individuals and groups will be willing to stand among those who see this for the horror that it is. It is also important that we make it very clear that this isn’t about “spanking,” it … […]

  2. […] 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 […]

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