Thinking Out Loud

June 21, 2010

Masturbation and the Consequences of Sin

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind.   Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend.  I met her at least once, maybe twice.   She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.”  She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.”   Consequences.   Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.   But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion.  Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know.   But for some  of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar.  Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ,  you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow!  It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it.  [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences.  I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.

But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit.   Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress.   Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ?  It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it.   And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict.   (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.)  This person was also involved in a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease.   I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress.  But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing.   But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted?   Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.  t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.   (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there.   The tension is going to exist.   The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is going to bring consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?

Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Photo credit (upper)
Photo credit (lower) product available at
Graphic (middle) adapted from Chapter One text at

Read more:  Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

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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