in which I discuss the unthinkable

Paul and I have just returned home from the funeral of a most precious little girl.  Lydia's smile could have lit a room. Now it reflects the glory of God the Savior for all eternity.

Perhaps you've noticed the sparsity of my entries here these last two weeks. We've been struggling and praying for appropriate ways to handle what we're dealing with, and when and whether to speak about it. Up until now, for reasons which will become obvious, I've only shared this with a very few trusted friends. Paul made reference to it on his blog several days ago, but with no specifics.  I think it may be time for me to fill in the gaps. What we're dealing with is horrible and ugly - about as ugly as it gets. This all happens on the heels of my mother's death, and has now somehow managed to even overshadow that.  Mother's death, as difficult as it made sense. She was 87 years old, and hadn't been well in many years. This, on the other hand, is a mess, an unfathomable tragedy, one horror heaped upon another. I haven't wanted to speak of it, because I can barely stand to think of it. But a time comes when, for the sake of love, it is right to stand up and speak. And I think, for me, that time has come.

It is now exactly two weeks since we got a phone call....well, let me back up. Over a year ago a new family began attending our tiny church. A husband and wife with nine kids - six biological, three adopted from Liberia. They were a lovely family, the children polite and well behaved. They home-schooled. That's how they found our church actually. They belonged to the same home-school organization as our pastor. Anyway, the wife was one of the kindest women I've ever known. Anytime there was a gathering of the church she and I would often find ourselves off somewhere together, talking quietly until it was time to leave. Her warmth was a soothing thing. No two people could be more different than she and I, and yet there was a sweet comfort in our times together. We'd been to their house a few times for church related functions, and once just Paul and I were there, for dinner. We ate shepherd's pie, and the children were a delight. They showed us how to milk their goats.  The husband also had always taken time to reach out to Paul, who in person is extremely reserved and tends to be overlooked, and so Paul was fond of him as well.

After about nine months they decided to leave our church. They had just completed our series of membership classes, so their change of heart came as a bit of a shock, and a disappointment. As I understood it, the differences they had with us were doctrinal. No agreement could be reached, and so they determined to find a church more in line with their beliefs. I was so sad, because I'd grown so fond of my friend, and also her little adopted girls, especially little Lydia, who always looked at me like I was some kind of miracle.

It has been maybe six months since they left, maybe a bit more. I saw them once after that, when we went to their house to pick up a bookshelf they gifted to us, twice if you count the time we chatted with the father and a few of the kids in the parking lot at Costco. Then Saturday night, two weeks ago, we got a phone call. Little Lydia was dead. Her older sister, Zariah, was in the hospital in critical condition. The other seven children had been placed in foster care and both parents were in jail - accused of murder, and child abuse.

I can't tell you how this has shocked and devastated us. We loved this family. We love them still. The first thing we did when we learned of all this, before we had any idea who did what, and still held out hope that it was all some kind of mistake, was to write them letters. Our next instinct was to want to rescue the children, at least one or two of them. But we were told by others who knew them that they would not allow anyone with any connection to the parents to have anything to do with the children (which would become quite understandable later as more details began to surface). So we felt helpless. We then began simply waiting, praying for the best outcome for all involved, and hoping some light would be shed on how such a thing could have happened - and wishing none of it was real. Elizabeth, the mother, is possibly the warmest person I’ve ever known. One of the hardest things for me, has been squaring the soft, meek woman I know with the hard cold fact of a dead child (and another who was at that time critically injured and fighting for her life).

As the days have gone by, more and more information has been uncovered about our friends. It turns out they were following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl's "ministry" of systematic child "training". My husband and I have spent hours upon hours since this discovery poring over Pearl literature, disgusted. Horrified. I wanted understanding of what could have led to this tragedy, and I got it. The Pearl Method was the missing link. It made “sense” of what made no sense before. From what I've read, and even from some hindsight reflections of what I knew of this family, it appears they were following Pearl teachings very carefully - in doctrine and in practice. If the autopsy reports verify what preliminary findings suggest, it was the form of whipping (using the identical implement recommended in Pearl literature) taught by them which killed Lydia, and nearly killed Zariah.

They claim to be a Christian organization, and yet offer no grace and NO mercy. They actually teach parents to show no mercy to their children, and to love them only when they are lovable. ("When they do something lovely, then you can love them.") The whipping is to begin in infancy. It is to be used in "training" - what you might call behavior modification, and in "chastisement" which is actual punishment. They suggest keeping a whipping instrument in every room, and that the plumbing line they recommend is a perfect implement because it is inexpensive, available at Home Depot, and the parent can even drape it around his or her neck, so when the children see the parent, they see the whip*. And it gets worse. They speak as if it's all sweetness and delight, and yet talk about calmly stalking the child if it runs from the spanking, laughing at their frail attempts to escape. And there's so much more**, yet all couched in language of smiles and happy families. There is no Good News to be found there, just legalism, punishment - salvation by "the rod". Listen to the powers Michael Pearl ascribes to the rod - powers I've only heard elsewhere ascribed to Christ and His Cross:
"When a child is bound in self-blame and low self-esteem, parents are not helpless. God has given them the gift of the rod. The rod can bring repentance, but it goes much deeper than that. The rod in the hands of a righteous authority will supply the child’s soul with that moment of judgment that he feels he so deserves. Properly applied, with instruction, it will absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid." (Emphasis mine)

It is possible that my friend and her husband will spend the rest of their lives in prison. If the news and police reports are true, then this may be the penalty their actions call for. Paul and I determined from the outset that regardless what happens we will continue to extend the grace and hope of the Gospel to them there. And with every new horror that I learn, I find I love them no less. They are sinners, and so am I. They need the grace of God, and so do I. I, as a Christian, have been called to the ministry of reconciliation. As a recipient of God's mercy, I am called to extend that same mercy to every sinner I meet - no matter the sin.

So that's what we find ourselves dealing with - and the pain of loving the people misled by this religious system. None of this absolves our friends of the responsibility which they bear, nor am I making excuses for them. But, I believe they are not the only ones who bear responsibility. They were deceived, and were also ensconced in a little sub-community which encouraged them that what they were doing was the best thing, and even the most godly thing. The Pearl's system does not just mold children, it molds well-meaning parents into the kind of people who think they can and should expect perfect obedience and perfect behavior from imperfect and defenseless little creatures. In fact, it teaches them that if they don't succeed in this, they are not fit to be to be parents at all.***

So, that's where we find, waking, and sleeping with this tragedy never far away. It will stay with us in some way for a long time (likely forever). I hope you will pray with us that our friends will come to understanding and repentance, and that they will come to know the mercy and grace of God which their doctrinal system has so carefully hid from them. I hope you will pray for their precious children, the 8 that are left, scattered to the four winds and so confused - that they will be protected and loved wherever they are, placed permanently in loving and caring homes, and come to know the love of the Savior Jesus Christ and His mercy and grace to undeserving sinners. That they will not be poisoned against Him because of the way He has been misrepresented, or continue to think of obedience as a means to grace rather than a product of it and thus either try to earn their way to heaven or lose hope altogether. I hope you will remember us in prayer as well, for wisdom and opportunity to help in any way we can...if there's any way we can...and that somehow, in all of this, that God be glorified.

I've included a couple of links to news stories. There are some inaccuracies in them, but they give what the public sees, and whatever general information the police have seen fit to share:

Here are a couple of other articles addressing the Pearl "ministry", which also include many other helpful links:
*What instrument would I use?
"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." (quoted from the Pearl's website)
** "And when you do spank, make sure that it is forceful enough to get her undivided attention. If she can scream "huggie" while you are spanking her, you are probably not spanking hard enough." (quoted from the Pearl's website)

"They try you, test your limits, and seek emancipation from all authority and rule of law. They are liberal totalitarians seeking a following, not passive peasants groveling to do your will. Children must be broken to the yoke of authority. " (emphasis mine - notice "passive peasants grovelling" is the desired state; quoted from the Pearl's website)
*** The soul of your child needs to be punished. "He feels the need to suffer for his misdeeds. What I am telling you is well understood by the most reprobate of modern psychiatrists and psychologists. They call it a “guilt complex.” Children and adults in this state of mind often do harm to themselves. Their anger is turned inward because they hate the bad person they know themselves to be. Their soul is crying out for justice to be done to the self. They don’t know what is happening, and they will not voluntarily seek punishment, but their soul needs judgment. When your child is in the first throes of this debilitating condition, be kind enough to punish him. Care enough and love enough to pay the emotional sacrifice to give him ten to fifteen licks that will satisfy his need to experience payback.
If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do." (emphasis mine; quoted from the Pearl's website)
 (This post has been edited slightly from its original form. A bit of information regarding a specific doctrinal matter which may or may not have been the reason our friends stopped attending our church has been removed, and the wording has been altered for the sake of clarity in a couple of other places. In addition, we now attend a different church than we did at the time of this post.)


TulipGirl said…

What you say and how you know this family. . . this makes perfect sense to me. And oh. . . really. . . so many parents are vulnerable. Parents who love their children and would couldn't imagine harming them. And yet, believe that the systematic "training" is what is needed -- and that is hurting both parent and child. Missing the Gospel and grace, which we all so desperately need. . .

Thank you for sharing something so painful, and thank you for sharing it with such gentleness.

Grace and hope,
WhiteStone said…
Thanks, Laurie, for writing this. Words fail me. We'll be keeping this situation (and you) in our prayers.
Anne said…
My prayers for your community, and this family. My heart breaks for them. And I think, there but for the Grace of God go I.

I have written about my experience with TTUAC and the Pearls here:

And I have written about other harmful teachings of the Pearls (especially with regards to their thoughts about domestic violence and sexual abuse) here:

We have got to make our brothers and sisters in Christ aware of the danger of legalistic methods without the grace and mercy of Christ.

The love you feel for this family, and your grief comes across so strongly in this post. You will be in my prayers as well.
PraiseWalker said…
I am devastated for you, for the family, for the kids. Bless you as you continue to reach out to them. May they grasp the enormity of the grace of God.

And may their other children be wrapped in His love at this time.

Dear God.

thatmom said…
Oh,Laurie, my heart goes out to you and your family. I purpose to pray for you as you minister to your friends. I will pray that God will give you wisdom and will pour out His grace, even through you, to parents I am sure are devastated and heartbroken.

Thank you for your boldness in speaking out against the Pearl teachings. The Lord has placed a similar burden on my heart afresh this week. {{{{{}}}}}to you from far away. Please know there are many others holding you up before the throne of grace.

Karen Campbell
Laurie M. said…
Thank you all for your prayers. May the Lord bless each one of you with the gift of His grace, and the experience of His love.

""Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.... See More
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

Blessed indeed! Where would any of us be without His wonderful and completely unmerited favor?
Hermana Linda said…
I would like to link to this here: Is that all right with you?
Kathy said…
Laurie, thank you for sharing the background of this story from your perspective of a Christian friend of the family. It soothes my soul somehow. I continue to pray also.
Laurie M. said…
Hermana, you are more than welcome. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
I am in tears. I'm sure this was an extremely difficult post to write ~ but compared to the last few weeks . . . I just can't imagine what you're going through, as well as their family. Keeping all of you in my prayers.

Thank you also for bringing awareness to destructive teachings.

In the Shadow of His wings,
Lisa notes... said…
I am just sick reading this, and I'm so sorry that you're having to experience the aftermath of it. I'm glad I've never even heard of that Pearl's stuff and I pray it will go away immediately. This breaks my heart.

I'm thankful for your loving attitude toward the parents, though. That is Christ-like. I will say a prayer for them right now as well. Satan is such a deceiver.

Hovawart said…
Looking back, you may realize there were clues. Please help us to recognize them.
Anonymous said…
Legalism is a cancer spreading through the home school movement. The Pearl's teaching is practiced by some of the home schoolers I know. We recently left a legalistic church where many practiced the Pearl's teaching and have since left that church and joined a church that teaches the balance of grace and truth. Those who are not grounded in the faith of Jesus and the doctrine of the Bible can easily become prey of the false teachings.
Naomi said…
Thank you for sharing what must have been a terribly difficult post to write.

It seems to me that one of the signals that a teaching is dangerous is when (like the Pearls and lots of others) they don't make any exceptions for confounding variables. For example, do their books ever address an abusive parent and tell them to lay off? Do they ever mention that there might be developmental/physical/emotional factors influencing a child's behavior? No, they assume perfect parents in a sterile environment, when the reality is that parents are just as prone to failure as their children are.

I can't speak for this particular situation, of course, but I can say that in general, this kind of inflexible, "how-to" teaching that masquerades as the Truth can be like crack to people who are desperate to do what is right. Their genuine desire to be spiritual gets manipulated into all kinds of ugliness they would never otherwise have considered.

What's so vile about this kind of legalism is that both the power-hungry and those who are sincerely seeking truth get caught up in it and become perpetrators of abuse--or even murderers.
Laurie M. said…
To be honest, nothing happened that would have suggested something like this. My friend never discussed her discipline methods. At the time I did not know anything about the Pearls, save that it was a child-rearing method that existed, that it involved a stricter brand of parenting, and that some folks frowned upon it. My kids are both adults now, and I have no grandchildren yet, so I did not give it a lot of thought. The children seemed happy, incredibly well behaved (more like kids were when I was a child, than how kids tend to be these days), but also allowed to play wildly with the other kids of the church.

Having spent a lot of time since all this reading Pearl literature I would say that there were definitely indicators that the Pearl method was in use. But, unless you know the method, you wouldn't pick up on this, nor would it give you any legal grounds to intervene. All my friends' children were raised in this manner. The only abuse the parents are being charged for, however, is for the two adopted girls and one biological son, who, as I understand it, happened to still be bearing some marks.

I think the best thing, and possibly the only thing, that can be done to deal with this is to make this a world where no matter how many books and articles the Pearls publish, there will just be no one willing to read them, or pass them on. We need to teach such SOUND biblical doctrines of grace, that Christians will smell the stench of legalism wherever it creeps in and deal with it. We need to teach grace to parents and children. All the work here, as far as I see it, will have to be in prevention.

And, PLEASE, won't the men in the church stand up and speak?! This is NOT just a mommy problem. The fathers are at the head of these Pearl households. The wives are taught to submit to them. Nothing will change unless we reach the men, and these are NOT men who will learn from women.

I agree. The Bible offers no "system". Nothing that happens in this life is one size fits all. The day before all this happened I wrote an article on Love, Law and the Gospel which deals with this notion of living by a list of rules.
Little did I know how timely it would be.
Lois Loar said…
As soon as I saw the news story, and saw that they followed the Pearl's advice, I cringed and prayed!! I have long told face-to-face friends that I thought the Pearl's were over the top....thank you for bringing this to light in your blog.....if there is anyway to "get the word out" to other Christians, I would be glad to help.

The church is failing to "call out" those parents(especially fathers) who are buying into this and ignoring the New Testament guidelines about not provoking their children to anger and about LOVING their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving up his life for her.

Perhaps that is why this family left your church....maybe someone called him on this and he ran away.

Maybe they did call Children's Services...I have been in the position of calling Children's services in the past and them not doing what was needed, while they harassed a family for "grounding" their teenager too long.....

Praying for you and for this family. I applaud the mercy and grace you are extending. My prayer is that God shows them their sin and repentance is happening.
Anonymous said…
Matthew 7:1.."Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Whoe to us as be in a position of 'judge'.

Jesus himself said that to the same measure you judge you will be the parents r being judged.....even though thier intent was good...The judgment rule applies to all of us....God help us and thank You so much for the grace you have shown us in our own lives.

It is too late to help...but an interesting thing to know about is a disorder called Reactive Attatchment Disorder, it might have played a role in this situation.
Karen said…

I followed a link over here and you nearly brought me to tears, would have if my kiddos weren't right here. This story is heartbreaking... but can I say that your heart is beautiful and the love of Christ is really just shining through every word. I really do hope and pray that you will be able to speak with and minister to your friends and show them the grace that very few will be offering right now.

Bless you.
rachel said…
Thank you so much for this post. I can only imagine how difficult it was to write, much less how horrible the last 2 weeks have been. My prayers are with your community and the Schatz family. How horrifying.

Matthew 7:1 doesn't command Christians from exercising discernment and wisdom with a heart of compassion and self-examination. This blog post is an exemplary model of compassion and restraint. May many more voices ring out, in a spirit of humility and accountability, to call these false teachers to account.
Anonymous said…
Rachel....Please listen to my heart....Don't read into what I said....I teach my children to not tell on each other for mindless stuff...because we should all have compasion....and as a parent I strive to show MERCY.....And I agree WHOLE heartedly that this blog was the epitamy of Christ's love and compasion....I am just wishing, like everyone else that the parents whould have been taught that same love and compasion...instead of the teaching that apparently led them to this disastor.....

With all love and respect.
Anonymous said…
rachel here. Anonymous, I totally agree with you and apologize for misreading your comment!
Laurie M. said…
Yes, Anonymous and Rachel. I've been leading a study for our ladies at church through Charity and Its Fruits. One of the characteristics of Christian love is to think the best that you reasonably can about any person. If you love someone, you won't judge their motives - and you won't like to think that they might be wicked. You can only really deal with actions. The Pearl Method, on the other hand, teaches parents to do the opposite of what love does. It teaches them to view their children as wicked, rebellious brutes, with only the most base motives - to put the worst possible construction on all that they do.

I understand that children are sinners - but SO ARE WE - and much filthier with sin than the little ones, especially if we have become proud enough to think we can beat into them a perfect sinlessness obedience that we ourselves are not capable of - and only Christ Himself ever attained (talk about pulling motes out of eyes!.) This should leave us with a heart full of humility and compassion - and a desire to show our children the same grace and mercy we have received from Christ.
Rambling Tart said…
Thank you so much for sharing this. I have seen the Pearl doctrine create horrible environments of abuse for women and children, and this just sickens me. I'm so glad these parents have you to love on them and show them true grace and mercy.
Christine G said…
Dear Lord, have mercy on our world.

Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us. I wanted to let you know that as I read your words, I truly felt love flowing out of them and I am left hurting along with the children's parents, the other siblings and those in their life. I have read the Pearls' books myself and I did not like the person I was becoming at all as I incorporated some of their 'wisdom'. I am grateful beyond words that our Lord showed his mercy to me, that in the midst of the deception, the Pearls advice never sat right at all with me. Otherwise, maybe it would have been me people were reading about. Thank you again for taking the time to write what you did. I can imagine that it probably took hours of your time. It truly came across cloaked in mercy and love.
Heather said…
This makes me sad beyond words. I am sad for the children and for the parents who were made to think they were doing the lords will. It is a horrible situation. I am amazed at your poise and grace during such a difficult situation. You are a wonderful friend and truly understand what it is to be Christ-like.
Ancoti said…
This so deeply disturbed me. I read it yesterday and could not comment. And today all I can say is it so deeply disturbs me.

We spent the weekend hosting 14 high school girls and their group leaders in a Disciple Now program in our church. I saw up close the huge blessings and benefits of committed Christians pouring into the lives of an upcoming generation.

And to read such a tragic story of abuse done by those who call themselves Christian set in stark counterpoint to that.

Oh Lord, we do live in such a fallen world.
Missy said…
This post nauseates me.

I know very well the frustration that comes from parenting when discipline doesn't seem to work. As a new mom, I was introduced to the Pearls. When I read it - despite the fact that they seemed to really know what they were talking about - it just didn't sit with my spirit. There was just no way I could envision swatting my 6 month old, as they advised.

Fortunately I soon read Michael Pearl's strong assertion that Calvinism was straight from the pit of hell, and as a Presbyterian, I laughed and he was immediately discredited in my eyes.

I am so, so sad for this family, and for you as well.
simplymerry said…
(linked from quiveringdaughters)

this has inspired a facebook group:
Anonymous, blaming the children for their injuries and death is appalling. NO CHILD deserves what happened to these kids, "disordered" or not. If you find yourself in a position of raising a child who is "too disordered" for you to keep from beating them, PLEASE ask for help, for there is help to be found.

Laurie, thank you for this post, but even moreso, for this comment, which needs to be shouted from the hills in order for change to happen:

And, PLEASE, won't the men in the church stand up and speak?! This is NOT just a mommy problem. The fathers are at the head of these Pearl households. The wives are taught to submit to them. Nothing will change unless we reach the men, and these are NOT men who will learn from women.
Rob said…
And, PLEASE, won't the men in the church stand up and speak?!

A plea from a father to other fathers:
gairid said…
Dear Laurie,

I am not a follower of your blog; I came to read this post via a link from an article about Lydia. I just wanted to extend my sypmpathy to you for what you and your family is going through in the aftermath of this dreadful situation. I also wanted to say that your measure, compassionate words gave me pause.

These days it's very easy to paint a group of people with a broad brush and to make assumptions about how they live their lives. You read a story about something like this and it horrifies you; it further horrifies you to find out that what happened to Lydia could so easily happen to other children. A book espousing that the way to raise a child is by beating everything child-like out of them is the Christian way to do it leads to even further assumption.

I was wrong to assume that this is the way Christians in general feel and that Christians in general think that this sort of thing is perfectly okay. I did exactly what I have often complained that Christians do to me (a liberal, non-Christian lesbian (though I believe in God and I do what I can to lead a good life)--I judged.

I'm sorry for it and I thank you for opening my eyes. I hope that with time you will heal from the pain you;'re going through---your compassion for your friends even after what they have done is an amazing thing.

Blessings to you and yours.
Charles Roig said…
I love the way people call themselves "Christians" when they are, in fact,turning their backs to the very basic teachings of Christ. Christ taught us that LOVE is the fundamental instrument of how we relate to each other. Billy Graham once said: It is God's job to judge, the Holy Spirit's job to convict, and our job to love..."

Using the Old covenant to live by is the very antithesis of "Christianity."
If you want to take it even further, the NIV translates Proverbs 13:24 as "...but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." The root for disclipline is disciple, and is defined as molding one to ascribe to a code of conduct. This is often misconstued as utilizing punishment in various forms to form one to a code of conduct, when a loving environment (New Covenant) can be far more beneficial.

If the Pearl's want to live by the Old Covenant, that is fine. But in no way are they Christians, and those who want to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ must not follow them.
Donna Barber said…
Thank you for your post on this family. A friend sent me your link. I knew this family from being their adoption coordinator at one point and then a friend.
There is so much that is not been shared - the whole truth is not out. Yes this was a horrible act but I have been telling adoptive families that this is a Christian family who in my opinion snapped and made a bad choice. God loves them as much as you and I.

The one person who posted, hit on the post adoption issue- I can tell you there was much having to do with that that has not come out yet.

This needs to be a wake up call to adoption agencies- they make their money from adoption and then abandoned the adoptive family when they are in crisis. The help that is available cost thousands more of which a family does not have.

No one is condoning what happened and yes I wish they would have seeked the help I offered. However I know of many more families still in crisis. Adoption is a beautiful thing but even adoptive families and children need help when those issues arise that they cannot deal with.

Thank you for your continued friendship with them. I too have been saddened for several weeks over this. I knew Lydia from Liberia as Teamax. She is in many people's hearts and prayers along with her sister, siblings, and Kevin and Elizabeth.

One last thing- I believe there was a murder who was hung on the cross next to Jesus and he forgave him even at that hour.And he asked God to forgive those who hung himself there before he died. WOW.
How much has God asked of us to be like his son?
Anonymous said…
I don't expect you to publish this, but I'd encourage you to think about it.

What the Pearls advocate is sociopathic behavior. When you speak about the warmth, what you were experiencing was narcissistic charm. Sociopaths are very good at appearing to be enlightened and engaging. They'll take time with you when you don't expect it and you'll flatter them in return. They are brilliant at picking out people who will succumb to their charm. This is how con artists operate. That's what this couple was doing, no doubt - trolling for a community to take over. Thankfully, yours rejected them and they moved on to another target. They enforce legalisms on their children and take over their children's lives. He, no doubt, enforces legalisms on his wife and takes over her life. Together, they were trying to enforce legalisms on your community, which would give them the means to control that as well. Sociopaths always wind up on the top of hierarchies. It's the nature of the beast.

You need to stop saying that people who embrace the Pearl's philosophy love their children. They don't or they wouldn't embrace this system. What the Pearls write is designed to appeal to sociopaths and give them rhetoric to justify their actions. When you claim that the people who embrace this system love their children, you're validating what the Pearls' teach.

People who beat their children until they cannot breathe do not love them. All parents screw up occasionally, but if you're spanking your child more than rarely, you aren't a good parent. Physical punishment is a sign of failed parenting. It's a sign of a bully, a sociopath. It's a sign of someone who doesn't know right from wrong.

When you are willing to use the word "sociopathic", you'll begin to help eliminate this system from the world. Until then, all those people will hear is that their critics agree that they love their kids.
Anonymous said…
Most recent anonymous....thank you. You are exactly correct. This is why this family was able to obtain a proper homestudy.

To Donna: perhaps the whole story is not out, but regardless of what these children had experienced prior to their lives in their new adoptive home, most CERTAINLY, this was not an appropriate method of therapy. Certainly, no home study would have been granted to them if they had discussed their plans for this type of discipline. If difficulties arose after the family was home, a trip to the doctor can provide resources when a family is in crisis. There are multiple public health organizations of low cost or even free that would have not had these results. I would speculate that if they had spoken to their agency, they could have been steered in the appropriate direction--as after the completion of an adoption, the agency is not obligated to provide therapy as well.

I believe there are probably other factors that one does not know, but one thing is for certain--this is not an instant of "snapping". This was prolonged, methodical control exhibited over these children--all of them, that resulted in very, very tragic consequences
Anonymous said…
You know what amazes me? Is how quickly you christians leap to the "No true scotsman" defense. Next, you will be screaming about how "opressed" you all are because the state won'tallow you to use "discpline" your children with plumbing supply line draped around your neck. Any child living in that situation is not "loved" they are "controlled" by terror. Nice submissive patricharical religion you all promote there.

And, laurie, you can take your "oh, what lovely people Schatzes were and shove it up your kiester." You know who else thatwas said about? Ted Bundy, Jeff Dahmer, and all the so called "christan" domestic abusers I worked with in programs. Oh, and spare me the "no true scotsman" defense on that one too.

You should have known. You and your fundamentalist churches promoted this, and you created this, now own it, stop sniveling about how broken up you are about this, get off your azz and do something about it. Resign from churches that promote Pearl like discipline, talk to moms and dads about what discipline looks like, not what beating the shyte out of your children looks like. Don't ever let this happen again, even if it means you have to stop "submitting" to male authority.

Personally, I wish there was a hell then the Schatzes could burn in it, along with all the enablers who allowed this to happen.
Gina said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie M. said…
I'm in the middle of the busy part of my work week, but would like to take a moment to thank everyone for their comments here, and for the (mostly) civil tone with which even those who disagree with me have maintained. Strong emotion, in a discussion like this, is understandable, and to be expected. I have some of my own to deal with.

To all who have offered kind words, understanding, and comfort, I thank you.

To those who have offered criticism, I thank you. It is always important to hear and consider both (or should I say every?) side of a matter. You have raised some points worth pondering, but too many and too involved to go into here in a comment thread. My intent is to address some of your comments over the next week or so in individual blog posts. I hope this will make for a helpful, constructive discussion.
CaptainZero said…
My wife and I feel terrible for the abuse that was endured by those poor children. Thank you very much for sharing your perspective on this horrifying tragedy. We’re atheists, and so unused to the idea of there being a “Christian” way to parent. It sounds foreign and threatening and I’m glad it’s also rare and fringe. It seems odd to me, and strangely discordant, that the Pearl’s disgusting practices are shunned as unchristian when their justifications are found within the very book from which are now drawn repudiations. I’m not trying to lay this at the feet of all Christians but it seems fitting that the Christian community should find this an opportunity for introspection. Thank you again for posting your story. I greatly hope that it will help to throw a disinfecting light on the Pearl’s despicable message.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dear Laurie...

Your post... your comments here

You exemplify grace, a humble, open spirit and true Jesus-love --- especially in the face of criticism.

There is nothing more beautiful.

Thank you....

All's grace,
who a long time ago began down the Pearl road -- and was rescued by the true Gospel of Grace
Anonymous said…
My heart goes out to you, to your husband, and to the eight surviving children in that family. I suspect that our lifestyles and beliefs are quite different (I'm an atheist of Jewish descent, for starters), but your compassion, strength, and genuine belief in mercy and forgiveness is something that I think everyone should aspire to.

Thank you for sharing this with the world.
Anonymous said…
You all brought this criticism on yourselves. No, none stand blameless and if your Jesus does return, and when he seperates the goats from the sheep, you all would be in the goat pile for sure. You know why? Because you all with your twisted "women and children need to submit with unquestioning obedience to the male authority" you created this monstrosity, and as someone said above enabled it. The snowball started with the whole "return to God's plan of wifely/child submission, and it continued until you created these monsters, and your whole, "but we aren't those types of christians" defense is weak, and ineffectual. You asked where the men are Laurie, I will tell you where they are, they know a good thing when they see it, women and children submitting to their warped idea of what being "christlike" means. They won't speak out, or if they do it will be,"well, you shouldn't beat the everliving crap out of children or break your wife's spirit through domestic abuse....BUT, a man has to have control over his house so a little swatting for both the women and children are good things. Yeah, good luck with getting the men to speak up Laurie, and if they do, don't say I didn't warn you what they would say.

You people disgust me.
Spunky said…
God bless you Laura for your post. Christian homeschoolers should read and consider what you've said. I especially liked some of your thoughts in the comments section.
Anonymous said…
Ohhh, this makes me cringe. We too have read a lot on the Pearls and am so thankful God revealed the red flags to us and we ran from it. There was an article that Mr. Pearl wrote on questions to ask young men who want to court our daughters - and it was almost pornographic in words - it was awful and we decided to not allow his "free" magazine in our home anymore. We too have see the harm of the rod they recommend in other's homes. The warnings need to be brought forth more and more to protect more lives. Thank you for sharing so openly, esp. as you endure this heartache.
I'm a Liberian and live here in Liberia where Lydia came from. I know the orphanage she was taken from. The news of her death shook our country and we know that not all american families can or would do such a thing but I think those children suffered too much in Liberia as they were born into the civil war Lydia had never known peace till she died. My heart cries with her and I ask God in His infinate mercy to forgive those parents. I think they needed help with these children but went to the wrong place/organization for help.
Rest In Peace Mama Lydia. Liberia miss you and we still love you.

Bishop Emmanuel R, Jones
West Africa
Kerry said…
What happened to "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you?"

Sorry. No mercy. No forgiving. Burn in hell. What person in their right mind would think that beating a child for HOURS is OK or that their Lord would approve?

I do not beat my kids. I would not want to be beaten. Taking away privileges works quite well in conjunction with a simple discussion of consequences. Treat with respect.

The saddest thing is that the kids didn't know it was wrong to be beaten and wonder why their parents are in jail. So effed up.
John said…
Thank you for sharing this. And I'm so sorry to hear about this terrible tragedy. May God give us discernment and wisdom.
Anonymous said…
I am so sick and in tears by this. I could not read everyones posts and I am sorry for that. Your article is horrible in every way possible. I love that you have opened your heart to God and still want to help your friends, but it all is just so overwelming.

I am crying thinking and knowing that there are so so many other people out there following the Pearl crap. Why hasn't this been stopped? Why isn't this illegal?

I know this must have been hard for you to share I thank you for sharing such a powerful message with us, and opening our eyes to what needs to be stopped. I pray for the children in your story.
Laurel said…
Thank you for sharing your heart ... for speaking up ... for sharing links so that we could read for ourselves what the Pearls have taught.

I, too, am the mother of an extra-large, Christian, homeschooling family. But ... I do not beat my children. I do not hold to the teachings of Michael Pearl. I hold to the teachings of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His Word is the very best manual for "how to parent effectively" ... with love and grace and mercy.

My children are well-behaved ... but they are not perfect.

I have disciplined my children ... but not beaten them.

I have read some of the Pearl's teachings (many years ago) ... but I did not become a follower of their methods.

My heart grieves for these children.

Oh yes ... I am the adoptive mother of 3 siblings from Africa (added to my 10 biological children). My children did not come home without significant "issues". The behavior of one of my children brought me to my knees before the Lord many times. But ... I did not beat my child.

While, from outward appearances, our families may look similar ... nothing could be further from the truth. I am absolutely disgusted by the abuse that takes place under the guise of "Christian" teaching. No. That is not the teaching of Christ.

I will be formatting a post (with links) about this tragedy.

Thank you for your insights into this most tragic situation.

mama of 13
haithabu said…
I'm so sorry to hear what has happened in the Schatz family. As someone who has homeschooled his children and yes, used the rod on occasion, I know that by far the most effective form of discipline was love and emotional connection with our children. Corporal punishment had a place, but only as a last resort and within definite limits.

I don't know if the Schatzes were evil manipulative sociopaths as some have suggested or gullible and well-meaning parents who slavishly followed an absolutist system beyond the bounds of common sense. But I applaud your resolve to continue loving them in spite of all.

As far as their children are concerned, I believe that your prayers will be effective in following them through the social welfare system, even if you can't be in contact.

My wife was placed in foster care for the better part of a year when she was two (for the record she was from a non-religious family). She doesn't consciously remember them but her mother told her that the foster parents were "religious" (Mom's code for Christian). When Diane's mom regained custody, the foster parents left a letter for Diane to read when she got older (she never did - her mom burned it).

But as Diane grew up she instinctively disliked the drinking and dirty talk which surrounded her and felt a strange attraction and peace on the infrequent occasions she was brought to church. We think it may have been the prayers of her foster parents which led her to take a different path from what she was raised in. Maybe in heaven we'll find out for sure.

God bless you, Laurie.
Anonymous said…
I do feel the parents deserve more of the responsibility then the media has given them. While I am not connected to the situation, it is my opinion that they were not capable parents to begin with. Do they love their children? Probably. Did they believe they were doing the right thing? Probably. But to beat your children because a book commands you to suggest a disgusting lack of ability to think for yourself, to make your own decisions, and discern what best for your children. A child was beaten to the point of renal failure, which in turn caused her death; A child was methodically tortured, whose cries and pleas had to have been heard and ignored repeatedly, continuously, while her parents mercilessly continued to administer the abuse. They are not blameless. They were not manipulated by a parenting book, they were merely deluded by their own interpretation of faith and lacking concrete parenting skills. Even if you believe it to be the godly thing to do, how merciless must you be to beat a little girl to death? The influence of alcohol does not excuse you from a DUI; the influence of a parenting book does not excuse you from beating your seven year old daughter to death.
They alone are responsible for what was done to Lydia. The Pearls, influential monsters they are, should not be on trial in this case.
Unknown said…
My heart goes out to you. The problem with the sort of "training" advice given by the Pearls is that we all have the capacity to be monstrous, whatever our religion, if we believe we are Right in it. Especially if someone we trust as an authority on the matter says "It's OK. Go ahead!"

The Pearls say that hands can injure children but imply the recommended plastic tubing will not, then say if the child can say "huggie" then the spanking is not hard enough. It's easy to expand that to "if the child can speak at all" rather than the "if the child can make these specific sounds that require having one's full breath to enunciate" that I hope the Pearls really meant. No wonder parents who thought perfection was attainable on earth would be capable of beating their child until she stopped breathing.

I hope for your family to make peace with this tragedy, for the Schatz parents to understand their part in this horrifying chain of events, for their children's welfare, and for others who use or are considering the Pearl's methods to trade their rigidity for mercy, understanding, and gentle correction.
Momma said…
I am truly heartbroken to hear such horrible news. :( How stupid can you be to not realize you are killing your child? It's so scary.

But I also don't believe the Pearls are to blame. They say even say in one of the articles you link: "I always give myself one swat before I swat the child to remind myself how much force to exert. It stings the skin without bruising or damaging tissue. It’s a real attention-getter." The last time I checked, stinging doesn't kill children. These parents obviously went too far, far BEYOND what the Pearls were teaching.

And when they say, "When they do something lovely, then you can love them," they are talking about not distracting your child when you are disciplining. They want your child to have learned their lesson and then move on before you start in with hugging and such again. They teach LOVE in their ministry.

The problem is so many people just don't THINK. They say, "My child is still being bad...gotta discipline... gotta discipline...." without taking a step back and looking at the problem and trying to see WHY spanking might not be working. You can't just foolishly keep hitting. You have to use your brain. God tells us to pray for wisdom, and He will grant it to us. But we have to pray, ASK, and not just mindlessly beat until we reach a revelation.

I am a strong believer in God's Word. Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13, 23:14, 29:15. We are to spank. But we are to use such discipline in a WISE manner. It breaks my heart to hear of people doing such things with such a great lack of wisdom.

I encourage you to research more into the Pearls ministry before blasting them outright, and not just pick out of context the phrases that make them look bad. They are not abusers. And I encourage everyone to ALWAYS think and pray before you spank.
Blessed Mother said…
I whole heartedly agree with the previous poster (Momma)...

And I am completely in shock and horrified that this has happened to these sweet innocent children! It should have NEVER happened!! :-(

However, I actually couldn't disagree with you more, and feel like I have to come to this ministry's defense.

We respect the Pearls and all the good that they've done for soooo many families worldwide. They have taught us many ways to help raise up our own children to be more disciplined and happy.

However, as with anything, teachings can be taken to craziest extremes. That is what has happened here and in other news stories I've seen. I know that some parents don't believe in ever spanking children, but some do. And some parents mistakenly believe that spanking=beating and that is where it is WRONG. If you've ever followed Michael and Debi Pearl and read all of their books, mags, seen the DVDs, listened to the CDs, then you would know that they do NOT condone this type of behavior - EVER.

BTW, I've also noticed that people really seem to have a problem with the fact that Michael Pearl has talked about using a plumbing supply line for spanking. Has anyone actually SEEN this before? It's a soft, flexible, plastic rod. How is that any different than a hickory switch, or a paddle or a wooden spoon?

What this seems to come down to is if you believe in spanking children or not...
Laurie M. said…
To my previous two commenters, thank you for your input. No doubt it is difficult to hear a system you think highly of spoken of in this way. But let me assure you of two things.

1) This is not a spanking issue and I have not made it one. This is a Pearl System issue.

2) I have read all these items I've quoted in their context, the entire article in which they are set, and have not abused the sense in which they are used. Really, thought, the things I have quoted are unacceptable in any context.

A woman once said to me, "well, you're right, there wasn't much grace in the book, but they made up for it in the video." If any system that calls itself Christian requires I purchase that many products before I find the grace of God in it, something is horribly wrong. Grace is the center of everything it means to be a Christian, and should permeate every aspect of our lives, especially our parenting. Salvation does not come through obedience to law.

Finally, the plumbing tubing may be soft, but it hurts for a reason. Physical pain is an indicator that physical harm is being done. More pain, more harm. That "soft, flexible, plastic rod" used over and over on child who does not "submit" - whose will is stronger than her little body - can kill, and it did.

The fact that these parents went too far is clear, but death and hospitalization should not be the criterion we use to judge such a thing. This system is flawed at its heart.
Anonymous said…
Like gairid, I'm not a regular follower of this blog. I wandered in through the link on the Salon article. And saw people who while in many ways were from very different backgrounds than myself* were expressing feelings in many ways similar to my own.

I wonder, a little - is there room here for building bridges? (But maybe not, or maybe not now - this is an awful time for you, and I don't want to intrude.)

A very dear, long time friend of mine is the cousin of one of the Schatzes, and I've been following the story mostly through her. She had met her cousin only once, and had not been close to that side of the family because of their, to her, extreme religious views. Her family is devastated.

I wonder... can we look at this as not being a doctrinal problem, but a human problem? I mean not a doctrinal problem in the sense that it's not something that can be fixed by looking for a more correct doctrine to cling to. (Which may be exactly what you mean by legalism - I'm only vaguely familiar with the term in a Christian context.) Humility and compassion are essential values in my spiritual community as they, from your words, in yours.

I don't know. I think of the sides of the family that didn't talk, and the barriers between many different good people of sincere faith. But then, I also think of how people who were close to the family, and had faith and culture in common with them didn't see anything... it seems likely that more communication is not likely to be enough by itself, and that many of those who might need it the most might also be the most resistant to it.

Good wishes to you. Perhaps, yet, we can find some way to care better for each other.

* I'm a Chan Buddhist, who came of age in the pagan community.
Laurie M. said…

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with you. It is a human heart issue, first and foremost. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that what we study, what we learn, what we believe ultimately affects our hearts. (And, yes, the disposition of our hearts also inclines us to prefer certain teachings over others - so there is a bit of circularity.) Certain teachings will strengthen certain inclinations we may have and convince our minds that this or that course of action is acceptable or desirable.

Thus, a teaching that says a person must win every battle with a child's will, can have a dangerous effect on an already strong-willed parent who finds himself with an even stronger-willed child. Such a parent would really benefit from a deep understanding that, as Scripture says, it is God's "kindness which leads to repentance."

I'm off to work, but will visit your site later. I'm so sorry for all the pain this has caused your family. So sorry.
Christy said…
Momma and Blessed Mother,
We know the Pearls very well as we have followed their ministry since almost its inception. We have read nearly every article and book, listened to every CD and watched nearly every DVD. We would have come to their defense in a heart beat before we adopted our son but two years ago the Lord showed us clearly that the one size fits all method of parenting that they espouse was not going to work with our son with attachment disorder. We are so thankful for our son now and what God began to teach us about his love and that he began to show us a "more excellent way" (I Corinthians 12:31) and that was love.

We could see very quickly that this child would die before he would give in or allow his will to be broken. The Pearls would never say that they condone beatings or murder but the problem is that they say you need to keep disciplining until the child submits. Now with a normal child who had been loved, accepted and nurtured all it's life this would happen fairly quickly but for a child with attachment disorder who had been abused, neglected and traumatized whose brain does not register consequences it does not work. Our son would do the most bizarre behavior and be oblivious to the consequences. (throwing himself down the stair numerous times is just one of a myriad of examples). They just will not "learn" their lesson as the Pearls would want you to believe. So what would happen if we followed their teaching to the letter? Even though we could spank in a perfectly calm non angry state the child would not give in. We would be there all day and you would have a situation like what has happened here and in the other case. Yes, you can calmly spank a child to death.

Yes the Pearl's say you should give yourself a "lick" first to make sure it isn't too hard but they also say that if your child isn't responding then maybe it isn't hard enough and you are being a "wimp". Following this teaching to the letter also leads to the outrageous practice I witnessed recently of a young Mom spanking her 6 WEEK OLD for rolling over in his crib and not going to sleep! Do Michael and Debi condone this type of discipline? This mother was also a follower of their teaching and she seemed to think so. They have certainly never spoken against it anywhere.

You can also bet that they will not apologize or clarify any of their teaching based on this case. If someone took what I said and followed it to the letter and something tragic occurred because of it you can bet that I would feel a great responsibility because of it however this will not occur with the Pearls. In all our years of reading their material I have never once seen them apologize, clarify or change their minds on any matter. This shows a great lack of humility to me.

Don't tell me that I don't know them or haven't read their stuff. I have probably read and listened to more than you and would have defended them strongly but this tragedy is last straw for us because I know that they will take no responsibility for this and will only become more defensive and only vaguely refer in their newsletter about being persecuted for righteousness sake.

I have canceled my subscription to their newsletter and will have nothing to do with this ministry anymore. I hope and pray that more eyes will be opened and more people will see that you can not follow man made rules but you need to follow Jesus and be open to the Spirit's leading in your particular home and life.

Growing in grace.......

Psalm 103:10-12
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

and as Laurie said.....
Romans: 2:4
It's his kindness that leads us to repentance.
Reading through this whole thing is certainly an eye opener.

I do not believe in violence of any kind, and in my mind, neither does Jesus. I simply can not understand how a person can cause physical pain on another and feel no guilt or remorse. I once spanked a dog for peeing on the floor, and have felt huge remorse for it, from two seconds after I did it, until years later.

How can we justify inflicting pain? HOw can we treat children as it would never be acceptable to treat each other. Would it be okay for my boss to hit me when I did something wrong? Why is it different for the little children?

it breaks my heart into a million pieces thinking that at this very moment children are being hit. it hurts me to think about it, so I usually don't. What does that say about me? Shouldn't I stand up and say, "No violence!"?

Hermana Linda said…
Christy, you have a powerful testimony. I would love to have it on my testimony page. May I?
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for sharing.

When are people going to get it? How many more precious children have to die before a child's right NOT to be hit is protected? Our society thinks that it is unacceptable for a man to hit is wife, yet in is well accepted that a parent has a right to hit their child. It makes me sicker that this is all done in the name of our Lord. How are we ever to teach our children about grace and mercy if we're hitting them them?

Michael Pearl and his ministry is NOT of the Lord. There is something really wrong with that man.

Anonymous said…
Not a lawyer.... but with now a second death, couldn't the Pearls be charged with some type of criminally negligent homicide?
Anonymous said…
I just have some questions. So much time and energy is being spent processing this tragedy. I understand the need,and I truly appreciate a Christians speaking out against the Pearls. I am just wondering what is being done on a more concrete level..turning anguish into action, so to speak. Do you know Amazon sell the book that led to Lydia's death and her sister's maiming? Is there a campaign to plead with them to stop? How about a similar campaign with other book dealers. Apparently Barnes and Noble no long carries Michael Pearl. How about the surviving children? Is there a fund being set up for their ongoing mental and physical health care? If people know the children (all the children, especially Zairiah (sp?) ) are they doing whatever they can to reestablish connections with them?
Just some thoughts. After rereading this, I realize I sound a little emotionally disengaged...I really do share people's feeling of anger, hatred, disgust, but I know we never accomplish much when we are stuck in these emotions. As much as I relish the idea of some revenge against the Schatz's, all the vile in the world will not help, and if fact only hurt, their surviving children
gairid said…

YOur suggestion is well-founded. I plan to adddress my concerns to Amazon, B&N , Books a Million and Borders immediately. I also think that anyone in or out of Christian community who knows someone who is following this 'method' of child-rearing should be on the watch to insure that such a tragedy does not occur again. If you know someone is beating INFANTS or children wih a piece of pvc pipe or anything else, it is your duty to stand up for the child and report the ABUSE.
Momma said…
It's definitely never wise to base your entire child-raising experience based on what one book says (unless, of course, it's the Bible :) ). Even though I agree with a lot of what the Pearls say, my child-rearing is based off of many sources, including my knowledge of my own children.

I do agree that the Pearls can come across as harsh, whether that is their intention or not. I think they want people to understand the seriousness of the issue--if young ones are not disciplined properly they will go astray when they are older.

The Pearls aren't perfect, but they have so much wisdom to offer. If you want perfection, read the Word of God. And if you disagree with any of that, well, therein lies your problem. :P
Momma said…
Oh, also, I don't remember if it was the Pearls who said this, or someone else, but you need to always make sure that your child can understand your command. So if you're spanking babies for rolling in their cribs, you're an idiot--just sayin'.
Sarah said…
Thank you for posting this and clearing up the details. My heart is breaking for all the children involved in this tragedy. As someone who is working with the same adoption agency they used, I am just horrified and disturbed by this. One thing that many may not realize is that this IS having terrible repercussions in Liberia and is endangering children who are waiting to be adopted(including the child my husband and I are waiting to bring home). I feel so strongly that people need to be cautioned about the "doctrine" the Pearls are teaching. I myself was given one of their books by a friend who idolizes these people. So scary. Thank goodness MY God is a loving, MERCIFUL God.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for you kinds words.

I agree entirely about how doctrines can shape us and shape our actions. Though the flip side is that I haven't yet seen any doctrine that can be followed dogmatically and badly... and several that I personally find, well, troublesome, I've seen people transform into grace and beauty in their lives. People amaze me.

Often though, the discussions of doctrine seems to end up focusing on what divides us, rather than what unites us. Perhaps it is mostly the legalism rather than the discussion.

(My site isn't much - just a personal blog I use for staying in touch with friends, and I filter the content pretty heavily, especially since I started teaching at the university here. But OpenID was one of the options, and I'd rather sign in than not.)
Anonymous said…
This situation is one of the many perils of schism in our churches. How many denominations are there now? 30,000? The Pearls have their interpretation of the Bible. You have yours. I have mine. But the only interpretation that matters is the interpretation of the Church that Jesus founded, and the keys of which he gave to Peter and his successors, the Popes. The love and unity of the one true Church (i.e. the universal church or, as the world knows it, "the Roman Catholic Church") would and could never teach this kind of malice. People like the Pearls exist in the Catholic Church, of course. But you can appeal to your priest to correct them. Failing that, ask the Pastor, and then the Bishop, and then the Vatican. And if all else fails, you have the beautiful perfection of the body of doctrine of the Church to which you can appeal. False teachings, like those of the Pearls, can be set aside. But, in a Protestant church, you have nowhere to turn. All opinions are equally valid. As Jesus said, only when we are unified will the world believe.
Laurie M. said…
Most recent Anonymous,

Though I am not Catholic, nor will I ever be, I agree, the schisms are regretable. How I wish we could all be in agreement on all points of doctrine. But that has never been the case - never in church history has there been a complete absence of dissension, and I can't say I'd like to go back to the days when those deemed heretics were put to death by Protestants and Catholics alike - certainly I would not have fared well under such a system.

And so we find ourselves living with the separation of church and state, with the church (or whatever spiritual authority we yield ourselves to) directing our souls and the state carrying the authority over what ever misdeeds of our hearts lead us to carry out with our bodies.
Laurie M. said…
To those following this thread, and any who may happen along after this, I believe it's time for me to move on from here. I may choose to pick up a related topic from time to time in future posts, but, to be perfectly honest, I don't feel up to it right now. Many of those who have commented have already produced excellent writings dealing with many of the subjects which have been brought up here. Most of them are far more qualified to speak on these matters than I am.

Compared to things I've read elsewhere, the tone of the comments here has remained remarkably civil. For that I am thankful to all of you.

Again, I hope you will keep the Schatz family in your prayers.
Unknown said…
I am so sorry for your loss. My heart hearts for this family.

Many prayers will be offered.

Sisterlisa said…
Laurie, please email me. I need to talk to you. Thanks
Laurie M. said…
Thank you.

Sister Lisa,
You may e-mail me via the link on my profile page. I tried to find an address for you through yours but wasn't able.
Laurie M. said…
For any still following this thread, TulipGirl has been busy compiling a list of articles addressing this topic here:

And she also has many articles of her own addressing the problems inherent in the Pearl system.
Anonymous said…
Wow, I am speechless. In my country there is a huge debate going on with Christians unfortunately on the side of being completely pro smacking the crap out of your children it seems. I hope some of them see this story. I will tweet it actually.

Here in NZ we made it illegal to use the defence of 'reasonable force' on children a few years ago. I support that law change, as it doesn't say not to spank children, simply that it is illegal inflict serious harm on them (the same protection we adults have funnily enough). One of the reasons why I support this law change is I think it would stop misguided parents like this from behaving this way.

Oh and on a personal note I was whipped with a horse whip as a child and it did nothing but lower my self esteem. It breaks my heart to think that they are profiting from promoting this sort of abuse. There are many studies that show the damage it causes.
Anonymous said…
I am a homeschoooler, and this saddens me to no end. I hate that we are associated with this type of sociopathic behavior. I hope that this is not typical--certainly not in our home!

I was raised in a fundamentalist christian home. My father and mother spanked us. The teaching sin the churches we went to weren't so far off from the Pearls. Thankfully, three of the four children in our family have grown up and out of the Christianity. Spanking didn't make us happy or obedient. It made us angry, rebellious, and lonely. It took me many years to get over the teachings that I grew up with .
Julie said…
Dear Laurie,

Thank you for your incredibly personal and wise blog post about this precious family and their so very sad story of loss. May the Lord continue to strengthen you and give you a voice to help people (especially in the Christian homeschool community) to process all of this. His grace is so evident in what you are saying about all of this.

Mimi Rothschild said…
Thank you so much for sharing this remarkable personal story that sheds light for all us who have been horrified at Lydia's heinous death.

It is very helpful for those who are speaking out about this tragedy and the theology that led to it to have a first hand account of the situation like yours. The internet is a great communication tool but since anyone can post anytime about anything or anyone else it is sometimes difficult to seperate the truth from misrepresentations and outright lies.

When I first learned about Michael and Debi Pearl's books role in the "discipline" methods allegedly used by the Shatz's I discovered this website authored by David Cloud.
Although I have no affiliation with this blogger, it struck me as a balanced and reasonable overview of where the No Greater Joy ministry goes terribly awry.

I will pray for your healing for you and your family and for the strength and wisdom for your readers and all of us watching this horror story to be able to continue to know His wisdom and truth as it relates to the Pearls training methods.

I pray that healing and truth will come swiftly and fully as we seek to understand the lies behind this method of child "training."

As the parent of a child who died an unnecessary and preventable death, I know intimately the exruciating suffering involved when a child leaves us so early and my heart goes out to all who knew these precious children.

In His Abundant Grace,
Mimi Rothschild
Co-Founder, Learning By Grace, Inc.
Christy said…
Thank you for sharing this. It helps me to see them as people with misguided hearts instead of... well, I'm sure you can imagine.
OneSurvivor said…
Laurie, I am so glad that you are continuing to support this couple. They obviously need it...regardless of how this happened or why. It is a horrific event and there are wounded ones all throughout. All need the healing that only our L-rd Yeshua/Jesus can provide. We are all wounded broken creatures. We are all fallen creatures.

I am a home schooler who, on rare occasions does believe in spanking...not "hitting" or "beating", but appropriate spanking. And it is after nothing else has helped. There are many ways to discipline a child and train them up. We focus on those ways as much as we possibly can. We also pray a LOT for wisdom and fruitful creativity.

You and your husband are in a tough place. Your writing and support of this family is commendable. And yes...we all need to pray for the children, as well as the parents and those who will be taking care of the children from here on out. My heart goes out to all who have been touched by this.
Zedek said…

I think you have done a good job giving links to the Pearl's writings. But, I am seeing a grievous thing here on your page. Many of you seem to be blaming a theology on this little girl's death. Theology did not kill her; stupid parents did. They are responsible for their mean and cruel actions and it is slanderous to suggest the Pearls are responsible for that death.

The murderers simply demonstrate the state of most of the sheep in God's churches today who follow the teaching of their particular pope, I mean pastor, without thinking for themselves.

My wife and I have raised five lovely children, ages 16 to 28, and we have had to discipline with a rod. We use the rod the Pearls describe, and it has been quite effective. It stings, but does not injure (unless used by an idiot). It is better than a wooden paddle or stick because it does not break, if too weak, or injure, if too thick. It is better than the hand because the hand can wrench the back when spanking the buns.

I do not lift the Pearls on any pedestal. Neither do I the teaching of any man. We need to learn to hear God for ourselves and until we do, we have his written word to guide us. He tells us to use the rod to correct the child. I'm afraid too many who have commented seem to have fallen into the world's trap of refusing to discipline along with refusing to call a sin a sin, all under the guise of grace and mercy. But, in Christ mercy and justice have kissed and we do well to learn what that means.

I have a lot of teachings on that on my page at I encourage to read some things there.

Best wishes.
Laurie M. said…

That my friends will be held accountable is not only a given, but I stated so directly in my post. It is as it should be.

It is entirely appropriate, however, for me to publicly dispute a doctrine which is publicly taught. Nor is it libelous to quote someone's teaching verbatim, disagree with it and then explain what I find wrong with it and what it might lead to if taken literally and seriously - something every teacher should consider with any doctrine he promotes. Others have added to this discussion both in agreement and disagreement. This is what is known as debate.

On the other hand, if I had called the Pearls, people whom I've never met, "idiots," though freedom of speech gives me that right, my conscience would then accuse me of slander and unkindness. As it stands, I have not spoken to the personal character of the Pearls or questioned their motives; I have merely addressed their doctrine.
Zedek said…

Forgive me, then, if I have misunderstood you. I thought that you held them responsible for this child's murder. Don't you?
Zedek said…
Are you actually taking issue with my calling the parents who murdered their daughter "idiots?" What would you call them?

I find it amazing that you criticize the Pearls more than this "sweet" woman who used to go to your church. No person in his or her right mind whips a child for mispronouncing a word. I challenge you to find one thing the Pearls have written that would define this as a disobedient act that should be punished. If you do, then I will publicly state that the Pearls are as much idiots as these mistaken murderers.

But, I doubt that you can find it....

You are criticizing the wrong folk. I could find a thousand things wrong with your theology if I wanted to. That's not what we are called to do. None of us understand as we ought to understand. Read 1 Cor. 8.

Let us love with a pure heart and seek to do better. I am sure the Pearls grieve as much as you over this tragedy, but they have been savagely attacked.

It is fine and right for you to have mercy and grace for this deluded couple, but they are responsible for their delusion, not the Pearls.
Laurie M. said…
As I said, my friends are responsible for their actions. The justice system will decide what that accountability will look like.

The Pearls are responsible for their words. The right of free speech applies to them and me. The right to disagree and state our reasons applies to us all.
Christy said…
If you understood attachment disorder you would understand why this couple may have looked at mispronouncing a word as direct disobedience. I know of adoptive parents who have mentioned how their child knew how to tie his shoe, pronounce a word, read, recognize a letter all of a sudden go "blank". It could seem to a parent that the child was being defiant and needed to be disciplined. While there is no way they should have done what they did I can understand how they may have viewed this as a discipline issue. And with quotes like this from Michael Pearl.....

"If you are just beginning to attempt to control an already rebellious child who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

You are telling me he should not take any blame in this?

You think they are saddened over this tragedy? Wrong again. I just read this on their Facebook fan page today and I was so mad I wanted to spit. I can't believe I liked these people.!/note.php?note_id=378945952575

The man is so full of pride he can't even offer sympathy for what happened. Someone followed his advice to the "T" and a child died and he offers no sympathy???? How about, "I'm so sorry that somebody may have misinterpreted what I said (although they didn't) and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that this doesn't happen again."??? Nothing. Just pride, self-defense and further criticism of those who don't do it his way.
Zedek said…
If the Pearls have offered no sympathy in this matter, but only "laughed," then I agree with you, that is disgusting.

Please, anyone, have you seen the Pearls express any sympathy with respect to this horrible case? I looked somewhat, but found none. I thought that certainly there would be something.

And, it is certainly true that a teacher is more accountable than another, so the Pearls bear the burden of their teaching.
Laurie M. said…
I've looked and hoped for such a response. So far, sadly, this is all there has been.
Zedek said…
I just found the following:

We do not teach “corporal punishment” nor “hitting” children. We teach parents how to train their children, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument to hold the child’s attention on admonition. Over 1,000,000 parents have applied these Biblical principles with joyful results.

The courts have never charged NGJ Ministries with teaching abuse; quite the contrary. In a former case where a woman owned one copy of To Train Up A Child, the prosecuting attorney used that very book as testimony against her out of control methods. Likewise Ramsey, the prosecutor in the Schatz case, is quick to point out that No Greater Joy does not advocate spanking to the point of serious injury.

If indeed these parents were abusive, and that has not yet been proven by the courts, it is regretful that our teachings were not able to turn them from their predisposition to abusive habits. Those of us who deal with substance abuse, psychological impairment, and family issues, try to make positive changes in every person, but sometimes our best efforts are too little or too late. But for the sake of our precious children, we must double our efforts and move forward.

Michael Pearl, CEO
No Greater Joy Ministries, Inc

I have discussed this at length with my wife (of 32 years) and we agree that we should not be blaming the Pearls for this tragedy. This amounts to doing to them what the Pharisees did to Jesus as they conspired and then put him to death. This is also what the currently insane culture will do to each of us as we speak and do the truth (which they hate).

As I say this I do not condone all that the Pearls teach. I agree totally with only man, Jesus, and I don't yet understand all he said.

I am sure that the Pearls never speak of hitting a child on the back where his vital organs can be damaged. No person in his right mind, or of normal intelligence, could have "disciplined" the Schatz children as their parents allegedly did. Also, I do not think you will find in the Pearls' writings any admonitions to spank a child, especially a foreign born child, for mispronouncing words. Our younger son has a speech impediment. Have we ever spanked him because he can't talk clearly? Of course not. Only a fool would!

My advice is to put the blame on the wrongdoers, evidently the parents themselves.
Christy said…
Part of the problem here, (and this is what I tried to explain before) is that this child most likely had attachment disorder. Until you have lived with a child with attachment disorder you will have no idea how their crazy insane behavior which makes no sense can affect you. A child with attachment disorder mispronouncing a word will look different from a normal healthy child mispronouncing a word. These children will make the parents seem unreasonable when you see them discipline their child for apparently innocent behavior. These children are master manipulators and they fight with all of their being against attaching to their new parents because they are afraid if attachment and they are afraid of love. It is a very complex disorder and spanking absolutely does not work. In their twisted mind they actually "want" the spanking because it further confirms in their mind that you don't love them no matter how "right" you do it. I thought that spanking was the answer until we adopted our son. We are still not totally against in certain very rare circumstances it but with him it is completely ineffective. I don't know how to explain this to you to help you understand without writing a book but I really feel for these people the Schatz's. What they did was wrong, they should have listened to God and not to man. But what saddens me the most is that they are viewed as insane and having "anger issues" because they spanked a child to death for something which in print appears to be nothing. To them it appeared to be a discipline issue and as a parent of a child with attachment disorder I can see how they may have thought that. Because they saw it as a discipline issue they followed MP's advice to discipline until the child submitted "sitting on them if need be". They figured that they needed to win this battle in order not to be the wimpy parents that MP talks about whose child ends up on welfare because the parent didn't spank them. However a child with AD would rather die than give in and submit and in this case that is exactly what happened. Do some quick research on attachment disorder. It is very difficult to parent a child like this and requires a lot of research, help and some very different parenting strategies. There is no quick fix as MP would want you to think.

Is there anyone else reading this right now who has a child with attachment disorder who wants to chime in?
Christy said…
Also a very typical sign that the child has attachment disorder is that the child is very engaging and friendly and the parents appear hostile and unreasonable. Look it up under clinical signs. You will find it everywhere. If the child was really as friendly and charming as everyone thought they were the parents would not be like they were. When our child was at the height of his issues before he started to heal he was extremely friendly and charming with strangers and he was intensely reactive and out of control at home biting, hitting, hurting himself, throwing up his food, not eating, eating too much etc. It was insane. The problem was that we could talk to no one about it because everyone thought he was so cute and did not understand when we tried to explain what was going on at home. Thankfully we got help, mostly through the internet and other resources but we would have been at a total loss without those resources.
These people needed help and compassion but now it is too late.
Anonymous said…
Christy said…
In an attempt to illustrate this more clearly.....
A child with Attachment Disorder will pronounce the word correctly for everyone else and then only in the privacy of your home pronounce it wrong with sometimes an "in your face" kind of attitude. You will say, "now honey you just pronounced it right for Mrs. Jones, I heard you, why do you only say it wrong for Mommy?" Your child will then look you straight in the eye and firmly pronounce it wrong over and over and over again. You will think you are insane, you will think the child is trying to pull one over on you, no one will understand and you may feel like you are helpless and left with no options. It is a very lonely place to be. I've been there.

So yes, while YOU would never discipline YOUR child for this you have no idea what they have been through with this child and why or how they could have seen this as a discipline issue.
Paul Mathers said…
This is Laurie's husband. The statement that you have just quoted is Michael Pearl's statement to the press and police. Personally, I find it unnerving that he states outright that they do not teach corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is spanking. We as a society have readily available to anyone many commonly agreed upon dictionaries of the English language which define corporal punishment as exactly what the Pearls recommend. (Do understand that this child was spanked to death, probably something both the parents and the Pearls never even imagined was possible. I certainly hadn't.)
Although, perhaps most unnerving about his earlier statement which you have just quoted is that basic human decency, much less Christian charity, would dictate that if one hears of a horrible tragedy like this, it would behoove one to say words to the effect of "We are very sorry to hear about your loss" or "our hearts go out to the people effected by this tragedy." Even if he then went on to defend himself. Michael Pearl offered nothing of the kind. He offered one statement to disassociate himself and another to laugh at us. To mock us. We who were at the child's funeral and saw the other children broken and in tears, we who are directly feeling the effects of a family that used to sit next to us in church who are now torn apart. There is no compassion, kindness or love here.
Therefore, it is now up to you to search your heart and see if the deportment of this man is such that you feel comfortable associating yourself with him. You decide if his behavior makes him worthy of your following his teachings. You are entirely free to do so. We, likewise, are conscience bound to speak freely about our experience and our view of the Pearl's teachings for the sake of the name of Christ and the Gospel.
You are responsible for the person you are, who you associate with, and what that communicates about you to the world at large. If you find that you are still willing and desirous to be associated with this man who behaves in this manner and teaches as he teaches, that is your decision and there is really nothing more to be said on the matter.
Hermana Linda said…
Zedek said:
"I am sure that the Pearls never speak of hitting a child on the back where his vital organs can be damaged."

Here is a quote from Michael Pearl, found at

"Where on the body?

The Bible says, “the rod is for the back.” That would include anything that is not the front—the back from the shoulders down to the feet ... But when you are engaging the child in serious chastisement, the small of the back down to the thighs is the most effective."
Laurie M. said…
For the sake of my family and work-a-day life, the time has come that I bring an end to the discussion here. Keeping up with it has begun consuming far too much of my energy and "free" moments. I hope any of you reading this far will remember to keep the Schatz family in your prayers - there is more suffering surrounding this than I or anyone else can really conceive of.

If you would like to read what others have had to say on this side of the discussion, I recommend the following link by Tulip Girl where she has compiled a long list of articles by writers other than myself - a helpful resource.

I will leave existing comments intact, but future comments will be disabled. I would like to thank you all for your input.