It has taken a couple days for me to process exactly what Michael Pearl said in his response to the thousands of moms, dads, adult children, younger children, pastors, teachers, and even many nonbelievers who have spoken out against his teachings on “child training.” I was seriously speechless for a couple hours, having a very difficult time coming to grips with his lack of compassion before I could even get to the arrogance and in-your-face attitude of his letter.
My husband kept asking me if I was actually surprised. I really wasn’t, remembering Debi Pearl’s story about cleaning up the garbage bag mess Michael made because she didn’t want to damage his ego…..that and knowing that patriocentricity is all about the family’s obedience to God being evidenced as they revolve around the father’s world.
I have read through as many of the Pearl kudos I could stomach this morning and the one thing that keeps amazing me is the notion that Michael Pearl promotes “child training,” “not abuse,” and that he should never be considered responsible for what happened to Lydia Schatz at the hands of parents who embraced his “training” techniques.
Yes, I believe the Word of God teaches that each of us is responsible for our own sin. Scripture teaches that we will all stand one day before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for those sins. But what role does Michael Pearl play in this situation? Is he responsible at all?
I do not believe that those Christian parents who follow the Pearls’ teachings and employ abusive “discipline” or “child training” techniques with their children set out to do physical, emotional, or spiritual harm to their little ones. I think they honestly believe that they are doing what God commands, which is what Pearl teaches. In fact, he tells Christian parents that they MUST follow his teachings or they will raise children who are “Nazis” and no one wants that. But God tempts no one with evil. James 1:13-15 reminds us of this truth and that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire and desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
The Pearls’ philosophy demands that parents place themselves in a position of control and power over their children, luring and enticing the parent into self idolatry. It teaches that a parent is to conquer the child’s will and body, doing whatever is necessary, emotionally or physically, to achieve success. It places the parent, especially the father, in the position of sovereign over the child, giving him prophet, priest, and king status, even saying that a father can offer righteousness to a child through the use of the rod. It is the same desire for power over God and creation that Satan used for his own purposes in the Garden. And this desire for power and control over children conceives the sin of abuse, which, in the case of little Lydia Schatz, caused her death.
Much has been written about the Pearls’ theology of sinless perfection. A lie from the pit of hell, it dangles temptations that homeschooling moms can so easily fall into. We are tempted to desire the perfect children, babies who stay on blankets and who don’t explore the world around them, their little hands reaching for forbidden objects on a coffee table. We are enticed and lured by that image, not to mention the convenience, and quickly fall into the sin of abuse by ignoring the very real God-given stages of development of our children.
We are tempted to have the perfect marriages so, in the name of submission, we make excuses for our husbands’ sin of not providing for his family by saying he is “visionary” or his lack of help in the home by claiming he is a “command man” who mustn’t be expected to do woman’s work. And rather than have a truly “heavenly” marriage, one where each serves the other with grace and love, we play a role in a drama that leads to emotional and spiritual death.
It is interesting to me that those who are the first to relieve Michael Pearl of any responsibility for his teachings are homeschoolers. Are we not the ones who carefully choose curriculum that reflects the worldview we hope to inculcate into our children? Don’t we hesitate to allow them to hear teachings or be exposed to movies, books, websites, or even friends who might influence them to do evil? Aren’t we the ones who warn our sons that pornography leads to adultery, terrible perversion, and, in some cases, murder? Don’t we admonish our daughters that imitating the worldliness of Hollywood can lead to immorality and abortion? So why should we be surprised when the false teachings of sinless perfection lead a parent into self-worship, abuse, and murder? Aren’t we the ones who believe that ideas have consequences?
Michael Pearl’s ideas have consequences. He told his readers that he recommended that children be disciplined with a piece of ¼” plumbing supply line and that the Bible says it is to be used on the back, which he defines as “anywhere from the shoulders down to the feet”, even telling parents that “the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective.” Lydia Shatz received just such a beating before her death; her sister received kidney damage as a result of the same method of “child training.”
Don’t tell me Michael Pearl bears no responsibility.