Monday, February 22, 2010

In Jesus' Name

Last week, I wrote about the death of Lydia Schatz. Her death has been connected to Michael and Debi Pearl's teachings about child training.

Since then, I've read a few other posts about this horrible situation that have been good food for thought, and I thought I'd share some of the thoughts with you, along with links to the full posts. They are all worth reading, in my opinion.

First, I read a post entitled Spanking in Anger Isn't the Problem. I thought this was a good one because as soon as something like this happens, people are quick to say that it never would have happened if the parents hadn't spanked in anger. However, the author points out that anger is an emotion that quickly burns out, whereas the "whippings" given in this situation continued over the course of a few hours. That would indicate that this wasn't a situation that involved anger. The author goes on to say that many parents believe that their child's salvation is the most important parenting goal. Some parents approach this by teaching their children about Jesus and modeling Christlike behavior, in hopes that their children will decide for themselves to follow Jesus. But others believe that by parenting "correctly," they will pretty much guarantee that their children will become Christians, so they seek out people who will give them methods to see that this happens-- and the Pearls (among others) offer methods that they claim will do this very thing.

Another post I read was Hold 'Em Down, Defeat Totally. The author does a fantastic job of explaining why the Pearls' methods can lead to situations like the death of Lydia Schatz. The Pearls instruct parents to defeat their children totally in discipline situations, and to continue the spanking until the child has surrendered. When you consider that, it's not hard to understand how Lydia's death may have occurred; it appears as though her parents "disciplined" her according to the Pearls' instructions, with the intention of continuing until she surrendered. This news article states that Lydia and her sister "had deep bruising and several whip-like marks on the back, buttocks, and legs. Ramsey said authorities believe this led to a break down of tissue, endangering vital organs."

I also want to share a post written by a woman who knew the Schatz family and was shocked and devastated when she heard what had happened. This post reminded me of the vital importance of love even in the face of such a horrifying situation. It is easy to be angry, and I think it is appropriate to be angry. But even so, let us pray for the parents, the other children in the family, and Michael and Debi Pearl themselves.

I apologize for posting about this again; I know it's a terrible, heartbreaking situation and it hurts to think about it. But I think it's so important to talk about this. Many, many Christians have no idea of the kinds of things that some other Christians instruct parents to do to their children, not only in the name of discipline but in the name of Jesus. And I think people SHOULD know. It would be easy to say, "Well, this is just something that happens on the fringes of society," but the fact that it happens at all means we need to sit up and pay attention. And honestly, I can't help wondering just how close to home this is. Like me, the Pearls are from Tennessee. Additionally, the Pearls are especially popular among Christian homeschoolers (not all of them, of course, but they are definitely well-known-- for good or for bad-- in homeschooling circles). I can't help wondering how many people in my town and the surrounding areas not only know who the Pearls are, but follow them. Families in your hometown could be following the Pearls' methods with their children. Yes, as Christians, we need to be aware of these things. And that is why I've chosen to write about them here in such depth. If you can handle one last link, this post says very well why it is so important to speak out. Here is an excerpt:

Please see how we in our Christian, homeschool circles can be vulnerable to false teachings. Please see how warped theology can warp our actions. This is not to excuse or justify what Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz have done. This is to point out just how much loving parents can be vulnerable, and how imperative it is that the Christian church warn parents about false beliefs and abusive practices such as those taught by Michael and Debi Pearl....

Christian parents are vulnerable, we are vulnerable. These teachings do not reflect the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but ensnare parents and eliminate mercy. This is why the Church must speak out in warning — individuals, pastors, lay leaders, denominations. This is hurting our families and children. We cannot pretend it isn’t happening in our midst anymore.

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