Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mobilizing the Largely Silent Majority

I have been speaking up extensively on facebook this last few weeks about the death of Lydia Schatz and the complicity of Michael and Debi Pearl and their "ministry" in the events and practices that lead to her death. It has taken me a bit longer to formulate what else I wanted to say here beyond what my friend Rebecca allowed me to share back on February 15th. I am coming to believe that the only way to stop this insanity is to figure out a way to mobilize the largely silent majority within both the Christian community and within the subset of that community that chooses to home educate our children.

It is a sad truth that homeschoolers in the mainstream media are known for two things 1) winning the national spelling bees and other academic competitions and 2) abusing our children in the name of God. What makes this all the more tragic is that BOTH of these sterotypes represent the smallest of minorities among the homeschoolers that I know.

I know dozens of families that are homeschooling special needs children because of the damage that "No Child Left Behind" did to programs that actually gave special needs children meaningful help. These children will never win the national spelling bee most likely but by being educated at home, at great sacrifice to the parents who often have to pay for private services and therapies which would be provided if their children were enrolled in government schools, they are at least being given a chance to thrive to the extend of their limitations. Something that, at least in our large urban district, is not happening anymore in the schools where these children are expected to successfully pass the standardized tests that are the be all end all under NCLB. We have known more than one administrator to advise these parents to homeschool because having their special needs child in the school would bring down the scores.

More importantly though I know of hundreds of homeschool families across the country who practice attachment parenting and grace based discipline and for whom the use of corporal punishment is utterly repugnant. I know dozens more who are radical unschoolers and who practice a philosophy called TCS or non-coercive parenting (I'm not one of them but I know them) with their children.

There are large numbers of us who sit silently in our churches while we hear the lie that spanking our children is "biblically commanded" preached from the pulpit because we know that opening our mouth before our children are a certain age will result in what was considered normal childhood behavior being looked at as evidence that we have ruined our child by not obeying this false gospel. We shudder when materials by James Dobson, Gary Ezzo, John Rosemond, Tedd Tripp and even Michael and Debi Pearl are passed out to impressionable new parents or worse taught wholesale in parenting classes to years and years of parents within our churches. But we stay silent to protect our own children from the disapproving sneers that happen when everything they do is viewed through the lens of the knowledge that they are not among the majority who are being raised "god's way". I'm sorry but the God I serve is not the god they are preaching so I refuse to dignify that god with a capital letter.

My child is finally of an age that I feel that I can speak out without social repercussions to her. All but the most extreme of the "beat them for Jesus" gurus pales at the idea of using their methods on a pubescent child. Appropriately so since what they are recommending, if done between non-consenting adults or by an adult to an unrelated child, is called sexual battery. Of course there will be a subset of people we know that will look at every adolescent mistake she makes and blame it on her lack of "training" as a toddler.

That is one of the lies these people sell to parents. The lie that what you extinguish in the toddler you've avoided in the teen. Let me tell you as someone that has worked with teens for all of my adult life and been around teens literally since my birth, that is NOT the case. I have seen the crisis point arrive in these families when the child is suddenly "too old to spank" and the parents realize they have lost their "big gun" and have to totally relearn, now with an angry adolescent rather than an impressionable preschooler how to establish their authority. Too often they find that what authority they thought they possessed is now lost along with most of what influence they had as well. They ignored the caution in Ephesians not to exasperate their children and now they are reaping the rewards of having followed a false gospel instead of the true gospel.

With the Pearl's the scripture twisting goes even further than most. I fail to understand how anyone with a shred of biblical knowledge can swallow the false gospel that Michael Pearl preaches. When he teaches that sinless perfection can be attained in this life, he lies and the truth is not in him. "For if anyone claims he is without sin he lies and the truth is not in him." 1 John 1:8 (NIV paraphrased) Worse he makes Christ out to be a liar as well. "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 1 John 1:10 (NIV). When he claims that parents can remove their children's guilt by application of the rod, he lies and the truth is not in him. Only the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to do that. Wrath does not lead to salvation. 1Th 5:9 "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ"

We must mobilize the silent majority. Those among us who know that what Michael Pearl teaches is a false gospel and whatever "good" there might be to be found in sifting through his teachings it is utterly contaminated by the false gospel in which it is couched and on which it is based. We must stand up and say ENOUGH! We must find our voices and say once and for all that parenting advice that has to caution the parents against taking it to abusive extremes is NOT godly parenting advice no matter how much scripture we throw into it or how many pretty words about tying heartstrings we mix into it. We must stand up, especially as homeschool parents, and say NO! This is NOT why we homeschool. This is NOT ok. This is ABUSE and when we know it is happening to children in other homeschool families we need to hold ourselves to the same mandated reporting laws that the government schools hold their teachers too and speak for the children. This is NOT a "difference in parenting style". This is ritual abuse of children and we MUST NOT continue to sanction it by our silence.



  1. I don't understand why you would remain in a church that preaches this kind of stuff (corporal punishment) from the pulpit when you have been disagreeing with it all along. Why have you remained among these people? Now that you have an older child, you are willing to speak up? Why not just get out of this hypocritical institution altogether? Then maybe you would be truly "unconventional." Furthermore, I think that as a Christian you need to face up to the fact that there are a myriad of ways in which the bible can be interpreted. The Pearls will see it one way because they find things that support their twisted predispositions. Others will find things that support their more liberal viewpoints in the SAME BOOK. That's because the bible is a collection of human writings and not the direct word of God. That's why Lydia Schatz is dead - because the mind looks for things to justify its ignorance and stupidity in the form of what it thinks to be GOD in a book.

  2. If you are not in the Southern United States W, you may not have a picture of how prevalent the practice of corporal punishment is in this culture. It is rare that I leave my home without hearing a child threatened with it. Most recently, just two days ago in fact, I witnessed a mother insist that the child remove his own belt for her to hit him with. To find a church that DOESN'T preach this is a rarity here. I'm not sure I know of any. That is the short answer to why I stay.

    The longer answer is that church people have an annoying habit of only being willing to take advice from other church people. In far too many cases anything "secular" is considered suspect and dismissed out of hand. The only way to change the institution is from within. Having an older child now puts me in a position of influence I would not have had as young mother with a toddler or preschooler. Hence the decision to start speaking the truth we have been living all these years. There is now a fighting possibility of being heard because "the proof is in the pudding" as the saying goes.

    I wish I knew more about whom I am addressing. I'm not sure where you got the idea that I believe anything other than that there are myriad ways the Bible can be interpreted. If that were not the case there wouldn't be all the denominational differences within the universal church. I get the impression you're not a fan of the institutional church. My goal in this blog is not to defend either the idea of scriptural inerrancy or the institutional church. It is merely to make observations along my own faith journey and to dialogue with others along the way. Thank you for joining the conversation.