Today is the 8th anniversary of the death of Lydia Schatz.
Lydia was a little girl who was adopted from war-torn Liberia. She was one of nine children, six biological and three adopted. In so many ways, her family was lovely and loving. And yet, she died of rhabdomyolysis, in which her muscle tissues were broken down by repeated spankings from her adopted parents. It is hard to hold in mind the tension of parents who are active, involved and loving — and beating a child to death. Yet, I believe it is important to see that dichotomy so we can prevent it from happening in our own communities.
Michael and Debi Pearl and Well-Intentioned Child Abuse
Michael and Debi Pearl wrote “To Train Up a Child,” a book which espouses child training methods that purport to be Biblical, but are really their own methods of discipline which commonly lead to abuse. They appeal to parents who are strongly committed to their families and following the Bible in their homes. At times, their writing is winsome and folksy. They cite the Bible enough for people to lower their guard.
Some advice is commonsensical, but underlying it is the philosophy that parents must make a child submit to parental authority at all costs. All defiance must be spanked out of a child. Any remaining opposition must be met with complete parental control until the child submits. (Read this philosophy in context, quotes from TTUAC.)
While Lydia’s situation was likely complicated by her adoption and possible attachment issues, her death is an extreme example of a common application of the Pearls’ methods.
Loving parents are persuaded by this false teaching that they MUST make a child submit totally, that “consistent discipline” via spankings for disobedience until complete submission is Biblical. This easily crosses the line from minor spanking to ongoing abuse. No matter how well-intentioned abuse is, abuse hurts children and families.
What Does This Have to Do With the Duggars?
Celebrity websites this week have been posting clickbait stories about one of the Duggar girl’s in-laws hosting Michael and Debi Pearl at their Fort Rock Family Camp. People have come out of the woodwork defending the Pearls and their harmful teachings, including some of the Duggars
My stomach is twisted in knots, remembering Lydia on the anniversary of her death. . . while the tabloids run these stories and people promote the Pearls.
Our children deserve better. Parents deserve better. This has to stop.
So in little ways in my local life, I will keep encouraging the parents I know to nurture their children with gentleness and grace. And as loud as I can shout it online and in my community, I will point out the false teachings that lead to abuse.
(Note: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the Pearls, and won’t be the last. Some of the more detailed analysis has been lost in the crashes and spam of the site. But google is your friend, and you’ll find much more about the Pearls harmful teachings with a quick search.)