Thursday, February 25, 2010

The World's Most Dangerous People

Plumbing supply line

I don't do many posts on current events.  But one has caught my eye and my heart this week, and I feel I cannot remain silent about it. 

If you read many Christian blogs, you've probably already heard about 7 year-old Lydia Schatz.  She was being raised by what were, by all accounts, a very sweet, loving set of Christian parents.  And she was horrifically, torturously murdered by those parents.

In an effort to save her soul.

Let me say it again.  The parents who systematically, coolly beat that little girl to death were quite normal, well-liked people in the Christian and homeschooling circles where they lived their lives.  And their decision to beat the child the way they did was based on the teachings of a couple named Michael and Debi Pearl, who are apparently very popular in conservative Christian circles. 

How can this be?  How does it happen?  Because from what I'm reading, the Schatzes were no different from a whole lot of Conservative Christians.  And I say that as a conservative Christian homeschooler myself.

What happened?  Did they "snap," as many are describing it?

I don't think they did. 

I think they beat that child because they had come to believe that that's what love does.  Worse, they believed that that's what God wanted them to do.

A blogger called "Water Lilly" says it best (emphasis added by me):

The plumbing-supply-line whippings went on for several hours. To me, this would indicate that it is more likely that the parents were calm rather than angry. I’ve been angry with my children…but that anger burns hot and FAST… Anger and rage are exhausting, and they don’t last long...I want to suggest that only two types of people will beat their children for hours. The first type are sadists who enjoy hurting others…  The second type are parents who desperately care for their children and their eternal salvation. They believe that this world is but fleeting, and that their children’s eternal salvation is the most important parenting goal.

I know from reading a few more of her entries that "Water Lilly" cares as deeply about the salvation of her children as any godly parent does.  Indeed, any truly godly parent longs with all their hearts to see their children saved.  It's one of the most powerful instincts in a Christian parent's being.

Nothing is more powerful than love, and that power has worked tremendous good in the world.  It was because of love that God sent Jesus!  But when love gets twisted, perverted, confused and distorted, its power makes it incredibly dangerous.

I am coming to believe that there are no more dangerous people on the face of the earth than those who believe that love and God are on their side while they pursue an evil which they've mistaken for goodness.  How can they repent, when they believe they're holy warriors?

How does it happen?  How does a loving parent get convinced that beating their child for hours over a minor infraction is an act of love?  (In the case of the Schatzes, the "infraction" was mispronouncing a word!)

I can think of several key ingredients for this horrific stew:

  • The parents are deeply religious in a legalistic way, not living as people saved by the grace of God.
  • They see how the concept of grace has been abused, and they conclude that grace is nothing more than permissiveness.  They do not know what grace does, and they fear it is only a get out of jail free card.  So they reject it, and will not even consider anything other than punitive measures.
  • They are terrified about their children's eternal destinies.
  • They know that sin is the problem, but they believe in manmade solutions.
  • They believe that they have the power to rescue their children from Hell, and that love requires them to use whatever force is necessary to save them from it.
  • They do not know that salvation is a miraculous work of the Spirit which only God can accomplish.  They believe it their duty to force their children to accept Christianity, rather than leading them toward a real relationship with the only true Savior (who saves by grace).

There was a time in my life when all of the above described me.  You know the proverbial road to Hell that is paved with good intentions?  I was firmly on it, and was paving it further under my children's feet.  I thank God that I never heard of the Pearls before I was truly saved, because I would quite possibly have fallen for their schemes.

Listen to how it works.  One mother asked on the Pearls' website, "How do I deal with an angry child? When he doesn't get his way, when I fix a breakfast he's not fond of, he acts angry and blames me.  He often tells me that spankings only makes him angrier. What am I missing?" 

Here are excerpts from the Pearls' response:

"He is manipulating you…He controls his weak mother, but the world is not made up of weak mothers…I regularly go to a prison that has over 1200 men in it. Many of them were just like your son when they were his age...  Mother, I am trying to make you angry—not hurt, not guilty, and certainly not timid. The Devil is running away with your child. You can stop it. You can break the spell." (emphasis added)

(Note the appeal to fear…that would have hit me hard.  If I don't follow the Pearls' methods, my kid will end up in prison!  The devil is running away with him, and it's my fault! Note also the idea that the parent is the messiah, the savior, the answer.  And see…the answer is found in the parents' anger!  To the Pearls, the wrath of man does produce the righteousness of God.  I used to believe that, too.  Note also the insults and accusations heaped on this presumably "weak" mother.  It gets worse.)

Your son needs to run smack dab into a big, high, unmoving fence of authority. You, mother, are a pushover, a sucker…To give over to his demands, even once, is like a mother giving drugs or alcohol to her addicted child…Display indifference with dignity… Like an army Sargent [sic], state your will and accept nothing less…If you think it is appropriate and you spank him make sure that it is not a token spanking.  A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. (Emphasis added.)

(The Pearls often make statements against child abuse, and many people use those statements to try to absolve them. But the ugly truth of what they advocate can't be buried under the nicer words they sometimes publish. Their advice is rife with counsel that is abusive, no matter what they may say in other places. Lydia was not the first child to be murdered by a parent under their approach.)

So here is a mother who wants what is best for her children, and who knows that her children need to be made right with God somehow.  Along comes an "expert" with:

  • a self-assured style,
  • proud boastful assertions of what he himself could do to miraculously transform her child in a mere 10 days (further on in the same article),
  • an arsenal of fear, guilt and insults which he sprays liberally at her, calling her a sucker and a drug pusher!
  • tantalyzing promises that, if she only had the backbone to beat her child until he "had no breath to respond," and to be "indifferent" to him, she too could be her child's savior. 

As I said, there was a time in my life when I might have fallen for it.  I had never experienced the transforming work of the Spirit in my own life, so what did I know of what my children really needed?  I knew that sin was the problem, but I knew nothing of grace, so why wouldn't I have believed the lovely promises of all the beautiful results that would come if only I loved my kids enough to…(fill in the blank with any atrocity you like.)

Do you see how it happens?  Love can be convinced to do even unspeakable horrors if it believes it's acting in a child's best interests and in obedience to God.  Praise God I have not been an abusive parent, but reading even a small amount of the Pearls' advice left me speechless with gratitude that God kept their influence out of my life back when I might have been deceived by it. 

It could have happened.  It could have.  That's why, as horrified as I am by what the Schatzes did, I can't think myself superior.  It is God's truth which is superior.  His love and wisdom are pure and peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy… (Jas 3:17).  And while the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas 1:20), a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (Jas 3:18).

People of God, live grace!  Teach grace!  Love grace!  And just as importantly, understand what grace truly is.  If people knew its transforming power, they would realize that the hope for their child comes from Christ, not a lash.


Please do not use the "Comments" section to debate corporal punishment.  I'm not saying that it never has its place, within reason (though right now I'm not sure exactly what I believe about its place and its reason.)  But I do know that corporal punishment in and of itself never saved a soul, and trusting it to save is a deadly error and an idolatrous defection from the only One who saves.


Laurie M. said...

Thanks so much for posting this. You've put it so well. I'm too overwrought to write about this again. I'm so thankful that God is using others to speak the very words that are on my heart.

Karin said...

Thank you for having the courage to speak out! Praying that people's eyes would be opened to this horrible misrepresentation of God's love and grace. Had not heard about this murder! It just breaks my heart to hear of this!

Water Lilly said...

Beautifully, gracefully said. Thank you for your transparency and courage.

RachelR said...

Very insightful summary!

TulipGirl said...

"I am coming to believe that there are no more dangerous people on the face of the earth than those who believe that love and God are on their side while they pursue an evil which they've mistaken for goodness. ... How does a loving parent get convinced that beating their child for hours over a minor infraction is an act of love?"

What you have written summarizes why people in the Christian community, loving parents, are -vulnerable- to these aberrant, harmful teachings.

Anonymous said...

I believe in God's grace. However, I also believe in God's justice. While we are the benefactors of God's grace, God's grace does not cancel out God's extreme hatred for sin. God's grace does not eliminate God's holiness nor His justice, which demands a penalty and payment for our sins.
Jesus Christ bore that payment for us. God's wrath was poured out on Him for our sin.
Now, as children of God, our Heavenly Father is gracious to us, but this does not mean that He turns a blind eye to the sins we commit as Christians! Hebrews 12:5-12 show us clearly that God will chastise His children when they sin! Galatians 6:7-8 also reenforce this idea.
So, as parents, there is a time to be gracious, but there is also a time to use strong discipline to enforce order and authority. Depending on the infraction, sometimes the discipline must be stronger than at other times.

The Bible is clear:
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Proverbs 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Now, I could use the same method that the author of this article used to show you all kinds of errors and contradictions in the Bible. The author of this article has taken snippets of the Pearl's writings to slander them. The author has misinterpretted these articles, and used these statements against the Pearl's, without bothering to do more research or get clarification.
I could do the same thing with the Bible and make it say all kinds of things by pulling things out of context, or using an obscure passage to prove my point, while ignoring clear passages that contradict my point.
This is merely an emotional reaction to something the author does not like. It is a great tragedy that these children were beaten to death, but to lay the blame at the feet of the Pearl's is slanderous and defamatory.
These parents are guilty of the same thing the article's author is guilty of - taking ONE statement out of context, making it say something the Pearl's did not intend, and taking it to the extreme.


Betsy Markman said...

I have allowed the above comment to be posted, though I clearly disagree with it, because I believe it to have been posted by a well-intentioned person.

I know that many of my readers will disagree with the above comment as well. My desire is to allow the free exchange of ideas about my post and related topics. But I do NOT plan to allow the comment section to become a "flame war." So I must ask that all comments be submitted in a form that you yourself would want to receive from someone who disagreed with you. The Golden Rule applies. I will gladly publish comments that I disagree with, but not personal attacks on other commenters.

Thank you for your understanding.

Bryan Ketler said...

First of all I am so thankful that Jesus saved you out of the occult. I have a similar background. My wife and I have followed the Pearls' teachings for years and find them to be the kindest and most giving believers we know. Their child training material has helped us to raise 5 beautiful, creative and happy children. Please don't place the blame on Mike and Debbie for a couple who obviously aren't being led by the Holy Spirit. I would love for you to spend the day with Mike and Debbie at Cane Creek. You would find them to be most generous and Christ-like.

Betsy Markman said...


Thank you for your kind words. Actually, though, you have confused me with my friend Avalon, who wrote a guest post about Halloween for me. She is the one who was saved out of the occult.

As for the Pearls: while I appreciate your desire to support those whom you saw as kind and gentle people, I cannot get past the quotes from the Pearls' own book, such as, "A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain." It's not a question of taking the quote out of context, because there IS no context that would make such a statement acceptable. And this is just one example.

If the Pearls were uniformly mean people, they would actually be less dangerous, because they would lose credibility. It is the good things about them that make people willing to swallow their harmful things.

But I'm not zeroing in on only them. As I said in my article, there are no more dangerous people on the face of the earth than those who believe that love and God are on their side while they pursue an evil which they've mistaken for goodness. There was a time in my life when I could have gone down the Schatzes' road, with someone like the Pearls insulting every tender instinct, pushing me to harden myself against my children's cries, etc. Thank God it never happened, but it could have. And it's that awful realization that forces me to speak out.

I am glad to hear that you were able to raise your children using the Pearls' teachings without any harm that you're aware of, but if you had taken all of the Pearls' advice literally, the results would have been far different. There are plenty of good parenting books out there that DON'T include the sort of abusive content that the Pearls' books have. There's no need to drink the poisoned Kool-aid when there's safe stuff out there. Lydia was not the first to die under the Pearls' teachings, and she won't be the last as long as those books are out there.

I have no desire to hurt any Pearls, but I have to speak for the Lydias who have no voice.

Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you have written. I was, however, one of the deceived you write about. I am also saved by grace and was saved when I was deceived. At the time, I was a new Mother, with very little example of child raising. My child was out of control, I was fearful and feeling hopeless and was looking for any direction. I did use the Bible for wisdom, seak out Godly council and read other books as well. I believe I learned from each and adjusted my views accordingly. I understand that as Christian's we are to test everything against scripture. With that being said, I did that with the Pearl's teaching and I still took the Pearl's claims to 100% success as truth and tried to create the environment they said is possible. I struggled with myself and child for so long because even though we had made progress (which we did) we did not have the absolute results that the Pearl's hold up. Yes, they occassionally write things like,do not hold your children to a standard that you can not acheive with them. But then they mock and belittle you as a parent for being "weak" because you have not been able to achieve such high standards. Anyway, after much prayer and spiritual trials from God, I was lead by the Spirit to understand that I was placing my faith in my ability to follow a "law" rather than in the grace of Christ himself. The only reason I am writing this is to suggest that we all have areas in our lives that we are being deceived and are in need of the light of truth from the Holy Spirit. What a blessing to know that as God's children he will not let us alone to ourselves but will lead us to truth. It seems that you understand that, but you seem to take the position in this article that you are thankful God kept you from deception in this area as if you have never been deceived in another area. As we are not yet made perfect we will always be in need somewhere in our lives of conviction from the Spirit.

Betsy Markman said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing your experience and your response to this post. I am glad you pointed out that my post might make it sound as if I think I've never been deceived, or could not possibly currently be deceived in other areas.

Boy, that sure isn't the case!

The main reason I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude about not having been deceived by the Pearls' teachings is that I know what irrevocable harm I could have caused while under that deception. There is no way to bring Lydia back.

That said, you are right that deception is ALWAYS something that we need to look out for in our lives, because it always causes harm at one level or another.

Thank you again for your comment.

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