Wednesday, February 24

I write this with a heavy heart

I have been trembling for over a week and a half now. There is something that is weighing heavily on my mind, and I have avoided blogging about it, because I know that I will get flack from it. In fact, many of you who read what I have to say with very strongly disagree with me. But I have gotten to the point where I am okay with that. I can not keep this to myself anymore. Please understand I am not writing to throw stones, or defame the character of anyone.

Earlier this month, a little girl named Lydia was working on a reading lesson when she mispronounced a word. She refused to say it correctly, so her parents diciplined her. She was homeschooled, and the daughter of parents who loved her, according to people who know the family. They were, in many ways a typical christian family. They were conservative, and homeschooled their children. Very much like the family I grew up in, and many of my friends. But on this day, they became a news story. Very little about what happened during the next 4-6 hours is known. What we do know is that the mother made a frantic call to 911 to say her daugter was not breathing. 7 year old Lydia died that day, from organ failure caused from major tissue damage. By the time the EMT's arrived, she was in cardiac arrest. Its a sad story.

But, there is more to the story. And this is what has been troubling me. Kevin and Elizabeth, the girls parents, were very vocal followers of a TN preacher named Michael Pearl. He has a magazine, as well as several books that he and his wife have written. The name of his ministry is "No Greater Joy." They are the authors of the popular book, To Train Up A Child. I have read 2 books by the Pearls. The one mentioned before, and Created To Be His Helpmeet. I have also read maybe 20 or so of the articles on his website, which I will not link to, because I do not support them. While I in no means, intend this blog post to be a mudslinging at Michael and Debi Pearl as people, I do think that there are errors in their philosophy of parenting, as well as their underlying theology, that should be adressed.

I am stunned that some conservative Christians support the Pearls ministry. The research that I have done, has shown that his theology is way off from what I believe the scripture teaches about the nature of Salvation, and a parents role in it. He also advocates parenting practices that are abusive in some cases, and this goes way beyond an "old fashioned spanking"

He teaches that submission is the only thing that is acceptable from a child. Cheerful submission. This sounds great! Who would not love to have children that happily complied every time a command was given? Michael Pearl tells you just how to get that submission. The following section is a quote from his article entitled In Defense of Biblical Chastisment:

"If you ever have a child who stands his ground of defiance and you let him win, you have lost his heart forever—unless you are able to go back and win a confrontation and keep on winning. If you ever let his rebellion triumph just one time, it makes it much harder to conquer in the future. After he gains the upper hand, one victory on your part will not be sufficient. You will have to persevere in several contests of wills until he is convinced that he can never stand against your authority."

The section right before this quote, explains how you should spank 10 times, slowly and counting, forgeting what number you are at, ect. until the child fully submits to you. No matter how many licks that takes. Following that, Pearl says that if you give into your child, or stop spanking before the child is humble and submissive, "you have lost his heart forever"

As Christian parents, we all want our kid's hearts to be softened toward God. What a strong thing to say! While I totally agree that we should be as consistant as possible with out kids, what happens when the child refuses to submit? How far is to far? When does loving dicipline become abuse? Why is this line never explained in the various articles on how to apply the rod? Is this truely how scripture teaches us to dicipline our children? Believe it or not, the above quoted passage is one of the milder warnings about letting your child win. I believe, that for well meaning parents who follow the Pearls teaching, letting your child win somehow becomes the worst thing you can do. Somehow it is more abusive to give in, than to beat your child to the point of serious injury or death. And I do not believe that this is what a Jesus who said "Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" would do.

According to the police report, Lydia was beaten with a 1/4 inch plumbers line, which is exacty what Michael Peal says makes an ideal "rod". From the same article, under the section called "What instument should I use?" Michael Pearl says:

"As a rule, do not use your hand. Hands are for loving and helping. If an adult swings his or her hand fast enough to cause pain to the surface of the skin, there is a danger of damaging bones and joints. The most painful nerves are just under the surface of the skin. A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line"

As far as Pearl's theology is concerned, I was surprised to learn that he believes that the rod has the power to absolve a child's sin. It can completly take away the guilt of sin, and put the child's world to right. I have never seen such a thing taught in scripture, but rather than the Blood of Christ can absolve us from guilt. The Blood removes our sin and shame! In a teaching tape on the book of Romans, Michael Pearl states he believes he has reached a state of sinless perfection here on this earth. If his premis for his ministry, is based on such a faulty theology, how can we take what he says, and apply it for our own lives?

This is really the harm that I see in the Pearl's ministry. The blood Jesus shed for us was so precious. So valuable, and the only way that sin could be forgiven, or guilt be absolved. While consequences are needed for the order of life, they can not, and do not have the kind of spiritual power that Pearl teaches it has. If a simple spanking could absolve us from sin and guilt, why was it necesarry for Christ to die? I do not have a direct quote for this line of thought from Pearl, but it is in the book To Train Up A Child. If you have heard of the Pearls, or perhaps if you follow their teachings, I would really encourage you to read through the more theological things the Pearl has to say about the rod. This is not about spanking, but more what a spanking does for a child. Does a spanking truely absolve the child from guilt? Does it remove sin? If the answers to those questions is no, can we really trust the advice from a man who bases his teaching on such flawed doctrine?

I do think the the Pearls teach lots of things that sound good. They teach how to have well behaved trained children. They teach that learning starts young. They teach that you need to approach your children in love. They talk of tieing your childs heartstrings. All of those things are correct. However, if they are teaching those things on the premise that you can remove your childs sin, is it wise for us to be following such a teacher who makes the Blood of Christ of no effect?

In conclusion my friend, I ask you today to consider the following:

When does doctrine matter?

When does insisting on complete submission become abusive or deadly?

Is Michael Pearl a good leader to follow based on a flawed premise of the atonement of sin?

Ultimately, Michael Pearl did not beat Lydia to death. Her parents did. But he did teach the parents that Lydia's salvation was on the line if they dared to back down. Unfortunatly, the parents understanding of that cost this little girl her life. Here are links to the news story, No Greater Joy, which is the Pearls website, and a few blogs about the insident that I found interesting. I do not agree with all this, but I thought I would give you the same information I have worked with. -Pearls website

News Story


Blog-I found this blog linked on another blog. This is truely what I was trying to communicate..

I know that this post has gotten long.. And I know that many people think I have stepped way out of line in even writing this.. But that is okay. For my facebook readers, I would like to request that all comments be sent to me via a private message, because I really do not want this to turn into a debate. I have spent a several days drafting this, and I have done my best to say what is on my heart in love. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 3

Thy Rod and Thy Staff...

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth the rod hateth his own son; but he that loveth him, chaseneth him besides.

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

Psalm 23:4 Yea though I walk through the valley of the shaddow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod, and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Genesis 49:10 The septre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from until Shilo come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The original hebrew word is Shebet. The hebrew lexicon defines this word as:

A large walking stick, held by the head of the family
A shepherds crook
A king's septer
A clan, or tribe
A club, or sharp spear

In the OT the "rod" was a sign of authority. The head of the family held the rod, and that was a status that allowed them to instruct and teach their family.

I am not really trying to get into the "spank or not to spank" arguement here, but I do feel from the reading I have done from the original language, that the verses in Proverbs perhaps have more to offer than simply a beating with a stick. (Since the word used litterally means walking stick, or shepherds staff, we must then understand that this was a larger instrument than is generally used in our culture)

From what I know about hebrew, (which granted is not much, but I am learning :) ) It is a beautiful language full of poetry and word pictures, and many many metaphors. The hebrew people tended to use symbols and word pictures to communicate. There are beautiful examples of these all through the Psalms and Proverbs esp, since those books are very poetry focased. Psalms 23 is considered a clasic example of this type of language.

I find it interesting that the same word is used in Gen 49:10, to refer to the authority in the tribe of Judah. Since there was not (at least, not recorded biblically) an actual septre that passed from generation to generation in Judah, we are left to conclude that this is also a metaphore to mean an authority. One comentator I read, said that this verse is considered to be highly messianic in nature. The word "shebet" meaning the litteral authority of Christ himself.

All of this to say, that while there may be a case to say that the verses in Proverbs instruct a parent to use the rod, or walking stick as a method to hit their child (another verse in proverbs seems to imply on the back.. See Proverbs 29:19) Or, perhaps, the way spanking is done today can even be supported by these verses..

I wonder though if there is more here than what we give the text credit for. Perhaps we are missing the real point, because the ideas and culture simply to not translate well into english.

Perhaps what is really being stated (again, perhaps not exclusivly) is that we need to be the spiritual authority in our childrens life. Perhaps the rod, is more of a God given sign of that authority, and it should be used to dicipline, which means to diciple, train, teach, and nurture.

I know that this thought and concept goes against the way that most americans read those verses. I am not claiming to be right, but it definatly is food for thought for me as I consider what things I need to be doin to train and instruct Judah.. To use the rod of spiritual authority, under my husband.. To train him up in the way he should go.