Monday, March 1, 2010

Christian Brainwashing?


I continue to feel troubled by the recent events surrounding the death of Lydia Schatz, and by the fact that so many in Christian circles defend the often abusive "discipline" methods of Michael and Debi Pearl.  While I don't intend to write an entire series on the subject, I do feel the need to look at this nightmarish story from another angle.

Would you ever dream of hiring a North Vietnamese Communist prison warden or a Stalinist "re-educator" to babysit your children?  Would you feel that such a "caregiver" would be worth having because of the dramatic results he could bring about?  If he showed you a nice face sometimes, would it make the terrible stuff more acceptable?  Do the ends justify the means?  After all, just think how quickly he could change your children and make them behave!

Preposterous, right?  We pray for our children to be miraculously made new by the Spirit of God, not brainwashed into mindless submission, right?


Listen to this synopsis of the stages of brainwashing (to get the full version, click on the link):

  • Assault on identity (loss of sense of self; weakened beliefs and values; malleability.)
  • Guilt (the belief that torture is deserved.)
  • Self-betrayal (a break with all ties of loyalty to the past)
  • Breaking point (extreme emotional breakdown accompanied by the fear of total annihilation of the self.)
  • Leniency (makes the victim feel deeply grateful toward their torturer.)
  • The compulsion to confess (Strong attachment to the torturer and the desire to please them by agreeing with them about one's own wrongness.)
  • Channeling of Guilt and Re-education (really two steps in which the person continues the process of casting off their old self as a way to release guilt, and adapting their identity to the torturer's will.)
  • Progress and harmony (the victim finds peace and friendship and relief of suffering as a reward for becoming what their torturer wants them to be.)
  • Final confession and rebirth (Complete and total self-renunciation and total allegiance to the brainwasher.)

Now listen to some of the Pearl's views on discipline in general, and then read the following description of how he would deal with an angry child (I will add comments, though I doubt you'll need them):

"I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry." 

(He doesn't elaborate on what he would do in these two days, but if you've read the links above, you know it won't be pretty.  When you consider the fear-based control and his other writings on corporal punishment, there can be little doubt it's torture, assault on identity, guilt, and everything else that leads up to the "breaking point" that comes next.  If that sounds far-fetched, here's another quote from Michael Pearl: "it [the object used for punishment] will absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, and give him a fresh start…" Funny, I thought that was what Jesus did, not what the Rod did.  When the Rod becomes the savior, of course the brainwasher will wield it vigorously!)

"On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey."

(That was obviously the breaking point.  Can you not see the empty faces of abused children who've withdrawn into a shell?  Is this what Jesus did with little children?  Is this what we want for them?)

"On the fourth day I would treat him with respect and he would respond in kind."

(Clearly that's the "leniency" phase of the brainwashing.)

"On the fifth day the fear would go away and he would relax because he would have judged that as long as he responds correctly there is nothing to fear. On the sixth day he would like himself better and enjoy his new relationship to authority. On the seventh day I would fellowship with him in some activity that he enjoyed. On the eight day he would love me and would make a commitment to always please me because he valued my approval and fellowship. On the ninth day someone would comment that I had the most cheerful and obedient boy that they had ever seen. On the tenth day we would be the best of buddies."

Do I even need to point out the steps leading to "progress and harmony," and then to "Final confession and rebirth?"  Can there be any question that this method is brainwashing?

Now tell me, do you believe that Jesus and Chairman Mao drew from the same wells?  Or can you picture Jesus in a Viet Cong uniform?

Parent, if the change in your child is something you forced upon them, it has nothing to do with salvation!  The good works of true Christianity are described as "fruit," which grows naturally from our attachment to Christ as the "Vine."  A parent's job is to teach the truth, to provide reasonable discipline, to encourage, to model, to plead, to warn, to pray, and pray, and pray, and pray.

A parent's job is never to torture and brainwash.  Does that really need to be said?  Apparently it does.

If Jesus' way is the same one employed by communist torturers in the Korean or Vietnam wars, then what is unique about Christ?  How is He superior to an interrogator at the Hanoi Hilton?  How is He honored by the use of the same techniques we Americans so deplored when the enemy used them against our captured soldiers?

Is a child made righteous if he does good works in shackles and under the pain of the lash?  No?  Then how is he made righteous when he does good works under mental and emotional bondage and under the pain of the lash?  Either way, it's force and fear, not a transformed nature, which causes the child to comply.

Parents, there is a world of difference between a desire and a goal.  A goal is something we intend to make happen.  And we cannot make our children trust in Christ.  We cannot make them believe.  We can lead, we can pray, we can teach, we can instruct, we can give discipline, but we cannot force trust and faith.  If we try to do so, we push our children further away from God, no matter how much external conformity we may force to happen.


Laurie M. said...

Betsy, I've passed the links to these latest posts to tulipgirl. I found them very helpful, putting to words many things that have been on my own mind - though I don't seem to be able to write right now. She's compiling a list of on-line resources regarding this matter.

Julie Gillies said...

Hi Betsy,
Thank you for visiting my blog, it's nice to meet you.

You've got some serious stuff going on here...heartbreaking things that are difficult to read. May God open eyes and protect the innocent. May He intervene as only He can.

Kathy said...

When I read the Pearls books and articles it does seem very much as though the children on the receiving end of this systematic treatment would wind up brainwashed--it seems that is what is exactly in view, in fact. Pearl calls it "training" though.

I don't know how a normal, sane parent could do more than dabble with this stuff, but it does seem as though the Pearls brainwashed their own children.

missy said...

one of the best perspectives on this tragedy and the pearls that i've seen and believe me i've seen a lot. i'm part of a big circle of adoptive families who all have children from the same orphanage lydia was adopted from and we are all outraged at this death and the pearls' response to it.

Nancy @ momjustlikeyou said...

I never liked the Pearls' philosophy of child-rearing. Unfortunately, I have seen Christians from 2 churches I have been involved with do this with their children. I have seen a 7 year old sit on her bed ALL day for not having a penitent heart--along with being spanked and shamed. It overwhelms me that a parent would not show grace to their own child when Jesus was Grace Himself to us. How else do we teach our children about the very nature of God? Good post!

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