Thinking Out Loud

May 7, 2012

Missing Link in Story of Pastor Advocating Beating Effiminate Boys

Filed under: current events, parenting — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:55 am

Maybe I’m not the only one to make this connection, but I haven’t run across it online so far.

Last week one of the top religious stories concerned Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville who suggested that if your boy is acting girly, he needs corporal punishment.  You can watch a 2-minute video of the original statement at SFL

“Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk right over there and crack that wrist….Give him a good punch…”

At the same site is a link to a sermon audio where the pastor — after the news story had gone viral — issued a retraction.  You can access that audio here.

But there’s a couple of dots in this story that I haven’t seen people connecting.  One reader sent me a link to the original story at The Advocate, an LGBT news site.  (I asked him how he ended up there, and he assured me I don’t have anything to worry about.)  When I clicked the link, they had already done this follow up story about the retraction, but had added a new picture.

And that’s when the lights went on:

Yes, “No Greater Joy,” which just happens to be the same name of the organization of Michael and Debi Pearl, who just happen to be somewhat renown for their advocacy of rather severe corporal punishment for children who misbehave.

You 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 you want to go outside this blog, there’s this story, and this story,

Now, in fairness, the t-shirt is actually connected to a retreat that took place at Sean’s church, Berean Baptist.  And it is a scripture reference to III John 1:4.  But why would you choose that name?  It has been somewhat tarnished, unless you just happen to be onside with the Pearl’s parenting doctrine. Possible answers:

  1. Just a coincidence
  2. Someone has read the Pearl’s materials and the name stuck either consciously or sub-consciously
  3. There’s more than a direct connection

For those of us who know the Pearl’s story all too well, answers 2 and 3 become rather problematic, don’t you think? 

November 7, 2011

Petition Launched to Stop Sale of “To Train up a Child”

The human rights organization is currently hosting a petition requesting that stop selling the book To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl because of the book’s association with cases where children who were victims of severe corporal punishment later died.

The petition reads:

Currently there are several books available to buy on Amazon that advocate, endorse and advise on parenting methods that involve the physical abuse of children. Examples of titles include To Train Up A Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl; Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp; and Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman.

Such books, and other like them, promote behavior which is abusive of children. All of the above books advocate the use of a rod and other implements on children under one.

Such behavior is abusive to children, and it is also ‘offensive’, which is contrary to your Content Guidelines.

It may well also be illegal, as it seems to go far beyond the ‘reasonable chastisement’ currently sanctioned by law in the UK. Not only is beating on a regular basis with a rod likely to leave a mark, which is illegal, it is also likely to amount to inhuman or degrading treatment, which is a breach of human rights.

We wish Amazon to urgently review their decision to stock any book or other product which advises the physical abuse of children.

We’ve covered Michael and Debi Pearl in various Wednesday Link Lists here (use the search bar, upper right) and in this article: When Child Discipline Goes Too Far.

You can sign the petition by clicking here.

You may also read a just published New York Times article about the petition.

Christian booksellers: You should also read this article concerning potential 3rd-party liability if you sell this book.  (This story also contains a link to a recent CNN news clip about another child death.)

October 12, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here in the frozen north, Thanksgiving has already come and gone, but that didn’t stop temperatures from reaching 30 degrees Celsius on the weekend (mid 80s Fahrenheit) for three straight days which made link-catching less appealing than suntanning.

  • For you worship-leader types, here’s one of the most comprehensive articles you’ll see on the “worship wars” discussed entirely in terms of church architecture.
  • Just nine more days to another Harold Camping end-of-life-as-we-know-it date.
  • If you don’t know what I mean when I say, “Stethoscope Video” then you haven’t seen it.  Take 2 1/2 minutes and enjoy.
  • It’s official: Mitt Romney tells Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress that he thinks that Baptists are a cult.  …Okay, not really, but maybe he should have.  Here’s the original story,  a response from Robert Mouw, and a sample of comments; all from CNN.
  • You’ll want to read the comments to find more links to get the full 411 on this story, but the blogger Tulip Girl has a blog post implying that another child death may be linked to the controversial book, To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.
  • No, what follows is not a typo: Is it possible to hate Jesus but love Christianity?  David Paul Dorr looks at that here and here [part two link to follow!]
  • Are you “crazy busy” all the time?  Pete Wilson hints you may need to invest in the concept of sabbath.
  • This isn’t new, but… here’s one of those church video clips from Igniter media that uses a Facebook theme; naturally, this one’s titled Follow.
  • Canadian Anglican Pastor Leonard Griffith is now 90 and just keeps on going.
  • More from James MacDonald on the decision to invite T. D. Jakes to a forthcoming seminar, aka The Elephant Room controversy.
  • Hey kids!  Wanna learn Biblical Hebrew in just three easy lessons?  Well, you can’t.  But maybe 40 moderately challenging lessons from Charles Grebe at Briercrest College and Seminary. Learn more about Charles at starting with the Hebrew alphabet. Shalom!
  • The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) celebrated a 50-year anniversary earlier this month.
  • In a culture focused on the excitement of church planting, we never think about the sadness of church closings that are constantly taking place at the same time.
  • Natalie Grant adds “actor” to her list of accomplishments with a feature role in the movie Decision.
  • From Internet Monk writer Jeff Dunn

There is a story told of an old woman who claimed she and God talked on a regular basis. Her bishop was doubtful of her claims to hear from God. After all, he prayed on a regular basis, but the Lord never spoke back to him. So he decided to put this woman to the test in order to reveal her for either a misguided soul or a fraud. He went to her and said, “The next time you are talking with God, ask him to tell you what my most grievous sin was.” The woman agreed to do so.

A week later the bishop returned and asked, “Did you ask God to reveal to you my worst sin?”

“Yes,” said the woman. “I did ask him.”

“Well,” said the bishop, “what did he say?”

The woman said simply, “He says he forgets.”

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
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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