Thinking Out Loud

June 4, 2010

When Child Discipline Goes Too Far

OROVILLE [California]— A Paradise couple accused of killing their 7-year-old adopted daughter waived their preliminary hearing this week and will proceed to trial.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz each face two life terms in prison on charges of murder, torture and child abuse for the Feb. 6 death of Lydia Schatz, and severely beating her 11-year-old sister, which landed her in the hospital.

Both girls reportedly had whip-like marks, allegedly from being beaten for hours with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line.

The girls were both adopted from an African orphanage about three years ago, along with an infant girl. They joined the Schatz family, which included six biological children.

According to authorities, the Schatzes followed child training and disciplinary methods espoused by Michael and Debi Pearl. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz both retained attorneys and pleaded not guilty to all charges in March.

They will be back in court June 24 for further arraignment and the setting of their trial date.

Both defendants are being held in the Butte County Jail on bail of $2 million each.

I wouldn’t normally have interest in this news story, but for the fact that just a few weeks ago, as a bookseller, I took an order for four different titles authored by Debi Pearl or Michael and Debi Pearl.    When some random web surfing took me to their site, I got concerned and did a Google news search and Google blogs search.

So what caused this child’s death?  Going back in the same news source, The Chico [CA] Enterprise-Record, we find more backstory two days earlier.

Seven-year-old adopted daughter Lydia died of blunt force trauma in February. According to authorities, she was beaten for several hours with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line as her parents took turns holding her down and using the instrument. The blows reportedly cause Rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle tissue which fatally damaged her vital organs. The 11-year-old was allegedly beaten in a similar manner the previous night.

According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the parents appeared to be following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of a controversial fundamentalist religious group, No Greater Joy Ministries.

They also wrote a controversial parenting book To Train Up a Child. In their literature, the Pearls encourage parents to use a quarter-inch plumbing supply line (or other items like rulers, paddles or tree branches) as a “rod” to “train up” their children. Though they tell parents not to injure their children, they also encourage constant “switching” or “licks” for not only disobedience but also for things like spilling nuts or being foolish. Additional “licks” are recommended when the child cries out.

According to local authorities, Lydia’s “biblical chastisement” leading to her death may have been for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson…

Think about it.   A girl from Liberia not getting the pronunciation of a word correctly.   The punishment fit the crime?

I am astounded this story, from the last week in May, did not breakout nationally.

Do a regular Google search, and you find people online gushing about how wonderful and helpful the book, To Train Up a Child has been.   But look further and you find a history of stories like the one above.   Here’s a web post from 2006.   The writer’s post includes many other links — I haven’t checked each one — but I’m going to re-post it with all of them:

You may (or may not) have seen the call to boycott Homeschool Blogger/The Old Schoolhouse because of their ongoing, outspoken support for Michael and Debi Pearl’s materials, specifically their extra-biblical parenting teachings. This attention is a result of a little boy who died at the hands of his mother. The mother had sought guidance from the Pearls’ materials.

For quick reference, here are some articles that may illustrate the grave concerns people have about what Michael and Debi Pearl teach.

Here at TulipGirl:
On the Pearls and Parenting
Pearls Po-Russki
Biblical Relationships or Behaviourism
Children, Good and Grown
Offsite:
Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us
The Pearls: The Basics, On Original Sin
To Train Up A Child Review
Avoiding Millstones

That blog post was triggered by this story (its first link) which describes the death of a 4-year old “several years” before the above 2006 post.   This has been going on for a long time.

I know this post is getting long here, so I’ll hold back on the dozens and dozens of other bloggers who have expressed concern, and want to alert their readers to awareness of this particular couple and their books.  (I enjoy online research, and wish I had another hour to give to this because I know there are more stories lurking out there.)  I limited my search to older posts and found a somewhat hyperbolic sample from the appropriately named blog, Homemade Fireworks:

To Train Up A Child is ironic because it is a book on how to raise children written by people who probably shouldnt be allowed to live in a country that has children in it. In that respect, this book is a lot like that 300-pound fat guy at your gym with the tube socks and sweatband who tries to give you tips on how to do your crunches.

To Train Up A Child was written by Michael and Debi Pearl. The book’s forward tells us they have 6 children, but fails to mention whether any of them have lived past the age of three. Since this book has no less than three chapters with the word “rod” in the title, plus one with the word “whip,” I’m going to guess “none.”

But I really think this blogger, Jack at New Covenant Living,  raises a greater issue, and as I tried to cut and paste some of it for quotation, couldn’t find anything to leave out:

Regarding the writing and speaking ministries of Mike & Debi Pearl, whose advice about beating children with quarter-inch plumber’s tubing have been connected with the recent beating death of 7-year-old Lydia Schatz: What qualifies these people to be regarded as teaching authorities on anything, within the Body of Christ?

As a pastor, this tragedy touches on an area that I feel is almost never addressed: formal ministry qualifications. We American Christians disdain such concerns.

But the Bible doesn’t support our disdain. Deacons are supposed to be examined prior to being recognized. We’re warned not to lay hands on anyone suddenly, and thereby share in culpability for their ministry sins committed later. Elders are supposed to be proven, then ordained by the laying-on of hands, as Timothy was. The NT teaches that there is a process through which one must pass before you should be recognized. And if you fail the process, then you should not be recognized, as Paul says about any prophets who disregarded his apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 14:38).

But in American evangelicalism, any Tom, Dick, or Harry with access to a computer or Xulon Press can declare himself a teacher with authority, and build a following, regardless of how under-qualified he is. Men launch parachurch foundations, with politically incestuous boards comprised of family members and best buddies. Women start traveling around, putting on seminars without ever having been tested as to their soundness in the faith. In my opinion, a Christian woman speaker ought to meet certain moral criteria, and be required to pass some sort of basic theological examination, no less than a pastor.

We American Christians need to ask, when we read a new book or website, “Who is this person? Where does he come from? Where did she go to school? Have they ever been examined, commissioned, or ordained? To whom is he or she accountable? What are his or her qualifications to teach or preach the Word of God to anyone?” But we never ask those questions, do we? Why? Because we’re ignorant of the New Testament’s teachings about church, pastoral authority, and leadership qualifications. We’re not interested in that subject. It’s boring. Who cares about church government? Not us. Or we ignore these rules, and claim to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because then no one (supposedly) has the right to question what we do, or how we do it.


Update: The Blog, Bene Diction Blogs On picks up the story of Michael and Debi Pearl and No Greater Joy ministries, with a few additions.

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6 Comments »

  1. […] I no longer need be concerned with, because as a store, we are no longer accepting orders for this author. Categories: Uncategorized Tags: business ethics, retail ethics, retail liability […]

    Pingback by Book Sale Could Create Legal Liability « Christian Book Shop Talk — June 4, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  2. Bravo for speaking out!

    I would like to clarify one point. There were 2 deaths, one in Feb of 2010 and one in Feb or March of 2006. The “several years” in the 2006 post referred to when she had first encountered followers of Pearl’s teachings.

    Thank you for reposting the news stories, as they have a way of being pulled after a few months. And again, thank you for helping to bring public awareness to this dangerous teaching.

    Comment by Hermana Linda — June 4, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  3. […] believe that he also wrote the following blog: When Child Discipline Goes Too Far. […]

    Pingback by book seller refuses to sell Pearl’s books | Why Not Train A Child? — June 4, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

  4. […] When Child Discipline Goes Too Far « Thinking Out Loud […]

    Pingback by Positive Child Discipline — June 11, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  5. […] at her parent’s hand. Maybe a curious Canadian bookseller who did some digging will get an opportunity to direct the purchaser to some of the websites he compiled to show how utterly bereft, soul-breaking and […]

    Pingback by A curious bookseller and the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl | Bene Diction Blogs On — November 3, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  6. […] can read about that at When Child Discipline Goes Too Far here at Thinking Out Loud, and later, Petition Launched to Stop Sales of To Train up a Child.   If […]

    Pingback by Missing Link in Story of Pastor Advocating Beating Effiminate Boys « Thinking Out Loud — May 7, 2012 @ 10:55 am


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