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Trained Up to Death
February 23, 2010 12:32 PM   Subscribe

"What if the boy didn’t stop? Would you spank him forever, or would you stop when it bordered on abuse, in which case the child would win?" On February 6, seven-year-old Lydia Schatz was murdered by her parents. Her eleven-year-old sister Zariah was hospitalized for kidney failure, among other injuries. Both girls had repeatedly been beaten with quarter-inch plastic plumbing supply line, a punishment instrument recommended by Michael and Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy ministries.

The Pearls' child training manuals have been popular in Christian homeschooling circles since the first one, Train Up A Child, was published in 1994. Their views and tactics are not without controversy, however, both on the child welfare and theological fronts. Though the Pearls consider themselves child-training experts, they have no formal training in child development. This is not the first time a family following NGJ discipline theory has killed a child.

The Butte County DA is investigating NGJ in connection with Lydia's death. Michael Pearl responds. Blogger Tulipgirl responds to the response, while another blogger who knew the Schatzes gives further background.
posted by cereselle (316 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
> Though holding a BS from Crichton College, when Michael is asked for his credentials on child training he points to his five children.

"Check it out; five of them, totally alive and everything!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [32 favorites]


And when he points at them they all cringe backward.
posted by Babblesort at 12:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [56 favorites]


"Training up children in the way they should go."

Say what?
posted by chasing at 12:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


yay religion
posted by unSane at 12:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mispronouncing a word? I don't even know how to respond to that.
posted by Ruki at 12:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


From one of the links:
Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble.
posted by unSane at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the novel The Master and Margarita, a mother who smothered her infant is condemned to spend eternity in hell, where every morning she wakes to find beside her the handkerchief she used. I can think of no better punishment than that these parents should be forced to see every day the tubing that they used to kill their child.
posted by No Robots at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


For Lydia:

.

------------------------

From Tulipgirl's blog entry:
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."
And this review from the Amazon link:
Barnes and Noble no longer sells this book.

Here are some details:

1) The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of "every child" (p.2) for "Christians and non-Christians" (p.5) and for "every transgression" (p.1). Parents who don't whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are "creating a Nazi" (p.45).

2) On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them "to get up." On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

3) On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard "a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside."

4) On p.44 they say not to let the child's crying while being hit to "cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking." On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is "totally broken."

5) On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

...

The Pearls deserve to rot in hell.
posted by zarq at 12:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [123 favorites]


Though their methods demonstrate asserting authority, the Pearls also caution that spanking should never be done in anger. Parents should be calm and consistent, they say.

Bernard Shaw:

If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:43 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Likely the first time Paradise, CA makes the Blue and it's for the murder of a child by her adoptive parents. Let's hear it for my hometown.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pure evil. I hope the slain child rests in peace and the surviving siblings are able to find a way to cope with this horror.
posted by brandman at 12:45 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:45 PM on February 23, 2010


Meanwhile, in church-and-state-not-separated-Sweden, it is illegal to spank a child, even at home. It is actually illegal to physically hurt a child, even for discipline. And swedes are not less civilized.
posted by knz at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


It's pretty neat that the Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Austria have all outlawed spanking a long time ago, and people I've met from these countries seemed to have turned out ok.
posted by mullingitover at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


My mom and other religious zealot homeschooling types we knew had this book. I know the physical abuse it engendered a little bit too well. Fuck Michael and Debi Pearl. I wish there were a hell for them to burn in.
posted by signalnine at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [30 favorites]


"Every child deserves a mother and a father"
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2010


@mullingitover, nice synchronized shot :)
posted by knz at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


And if you let the children win, the terrorists win.
And if the terrorists win, they'll attack America, killing our children.
And then, who will think of the children?
posted by yeloson at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I feel sick.
posted by Pax at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble.

Dear Gestapo-calling parents, and church friends with long noses (and everyone else):

Keep it up. If you suspect abuse, report it. If you think your neighbors are abusing their children, report it. Offer a hand to these children. Help protect them if their parents will not.
posted by anastasiav at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2010 [105 favorites]


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.

posted by mecran01 at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2010


I hope they can find something to charge the Pearls with.
posted by palliser at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage.

Translation: will not leave evidence for social services.

Look, I grew up in a household like this. The fundamental flaw in the argument is that all the training does is teach the child to fear and obey authority. I'm 26 and have an Ivy League education, but I still struggle to discern a path in life because the only tool I've been given for discernment has been fear of authority.
posted by jefficator at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [93 favorites]


How is it possible that these people haven't already been jailed? Doesn't free speech end when you start preaching physical harm to others? (I'm not making a rhetorical question, I am actually wanting to know how this is possible)
posted by Think_Long at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


.

Why can't the federal government go after these scumbags for conspiring to violate the civil liberties of the children of their readers? Unfortunately, I don't believe in Hell, so they deserve to rot in prison for the rest of their lives instead.
posted by ecurtz at 12:52 PM on February 23, 2010


I am opposed on principle to the death penalty, but it would not pain me to see these parents put down like rabid dogs.
posted by Mister_A at 12:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Parents who don't whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are "creating a Nazi"

Because of course Hitler's first edict after coming to power was banning parental corporal punishment.
posted by Bromius at 12:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I didn't really need another reason to hate religion and want to see it eradicated, but hey - I'll add all this to the list anyway.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


If there were ever a reason to wish to be a superhero - and there are so many I have daydreamed and wished over, so many times - this is it. This is it.

I feel like even if I spent the rest of my life puking my guts up, it wouldnt begin to touch how sick I am after having read this.

There is no poison more virulent, more toxic to the human mind than religion - not even money. It's poison, and the day it is finally eradicated from humanity will be a great day, whatever else may come.
posted by perilous at 12:53 PM on February 23, 2010 [23 favorites]


"She is undergoing dialysis treatment in hopes it will help the organs recover. The two girls had reportedly been adopted by the Schatz couple along with a 3-year-old girl from an orphanage in Liberia about three years ago. The other children reportedly told investigators the parents blamed the 11-year-old for "being a bad influence" on her younger siblings. Ramsey said the evidence suggests 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was being disciplined "for hours" prior to the 911 call for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson."

There are no words.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:53 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


This is not a system for discipline, a system for punishment, a system for teaching.

It is a system for one purpose: creating broken-souled drones whose only purposes in living are to praise their parents' God, to praise their parents, and to shuffle into a job where they love a person to come pre-broken, pre-shattered, where they can take any and all abuse and say a quiet "I will work harder".

It is a system for making slaves.

Tulipgirl's posts on this are the kind of writing I wish I would read more often, of someone who has a strong faith that informs and fills their life without blinding. More like that is needed.
posted by mephron at 12:54 PM on February 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


yay religion

Horrible people will find all kinds of ways to justify their horrors. Religion is one of them, but not the only one. It gives the Pearls a selling point, a pulpit, a way to spread the word, but if they didn't have that, they could have certainly found another kind of false authority.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:54 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


From the Pearls' page:

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.

They apparently have no idea what "corporal punishment" or "hitting" mean. As in, literally no idea. That's impressive.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


The parents and the preachers ought to be locked in a cell with no food and water until dead. There's your corporal punishment, motherfuckers.
posted by notsnot at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


HANDS ARE NOT FOR HITTING.

Nor are they to be used to hold an object with which to hit animals or other people.

I don't understand why this is so hard to comprehend.
posted by zizzle at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't recall Jesus ever hitting anyone, not even the moneychangers in the temple.
posted by tommasz at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sorry.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Parents who don't whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are "creating a Nazi"

Because Nazis never used violence to enforce authority.

(Is this the Jew hating portion of the Christianity? Because you really have to hate someone a lot to be willing to carve your own neurons to fit that bit of cognitive dissonance.)
posted by yeloson at 12:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh, this is sickening.

mullingitover, I don't know why it's missing from that article you linked to but Germany has outlawed spanking and any physical disciplining as well.
posted by Glow Bucket at 12:56 PM on February 23, 2010


What fresh hell is this?
posted by nola at 12:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


So graphic depictions of sexually abusing a child can get you locked up in this country, but graphic depictions -- including exhortations -- of physically abusing a child will not?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [39 favorites]


When police searched the family's Crestwood Drive residence, they took a photograph of a 15-inch length of tubing lying on the parents' bed next to a children's book about a frog and a toad, which Ramsey said the girl had been reading from.

What a profoundly sad visual image.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know why it's missing from that article you linked to but Germany has outlawed spanking and any physical disciplining as well.

OH NO THEY'RE CREATING NAZIS AGAIN
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


More information:

3 entries on Daily Kos regarding Dominionists and Child Abuse in 2007:

Dominionism and child abuse, part 1
Dominionism and child abuse, part 2
Dominionism and child abuse, part 3: Why they aren't in jail

They're by dogemperor, who writes regularly about these issues.

Also see: Flogging for God
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


mullingitover: "It's pretty neat that the Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Austria have all outlawed spanking a long time ago, and people I've met from these countries seemed to have turned out ok."

Yep, in 2000 the BGB in Germany changed to guarantee in §1631 the "Recht auf gewaltfreie Erziehung" ("right to violence/force-free upbringing") and says explicitly "Körperliche Bestrafungen, seelische Verletzungen und andere entwürdigende Maßnahmen sind unzulässig." (Corporal punishment, mental harm and other degrading actions are forbidden."). And I couldn't agree more.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


That webpage of the Pearl's is about the most horrific sadistic thing I have ever seen.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2010


The Pearls have ratings on the articles on their website linked to in the FPP. I may not be able to do anything for the children they're causing to be hurt, but I sure as hell can help take all those ratings down as far as possible.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:02 PM on February 23, 2010


Horrific, all of this.

And, for the record, not that I personally consider the Bible an authoritative text at all, but the "rod" referred to in the Bible is the shepherd's rod, which was not used to the beat the sheep, but to guide them and rescue them from danger.
posted by orange swan at 1:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [45 favorites]


The Pearls really are evil human beings. I want them to be flogged, sure, but more importantly I want to have their tombstones pre-carved to read "BEATING CHILDREN GAVE THEM HUGE BONERS." So that people will remember them accurately.

Sorry, this crime is so terrible that my brain's anti-lock brakes are kicking in - I can't picture the abusive parents and I refuse to take the Pearls seriously. And yet here we are.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ramsey said the evidence suggests 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was being disciplined "for hours" prior to the 911 call for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson.

God, I hope the Schatzes' lawyer isn't able to successfully use a defense of "the Pearls made me do it." I'd love to see the Pearls in jail, too, assets frozen, but there can be no amelioration of this offense.
posted by palliser at 1:02 PM on February 23, 2010


...and, naturally, No Greater Joy Ministries is based in Tennessee. Pleasantville, no less.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2010


OH NO THEY'RE CREATING NAZIS AGAIN

Because what this horrific story REALLY needs is LOLNAZIS?
posted by zarq at 1:07 PM on February 23, 2010


Sorry, I don't think I'll be reading this.
posted by Ratio at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paradise. Pleasantville. Is this the evangelical version of the whole Iceland/Greenland thing?
posted by mpbx at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


...and, naturally, No Greater Joy Ministries is based in Tennessee. Pleasantville, no less.


Yes naturally. All of us in Tennessee like to beat our kids, naturally.
posted by nola at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Ned Flanders endured eight months of spanking when he was put on the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol, and he turned out pretty good!

Seriously, though, fucking ugh.
posted by Skot at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


These truths," the tall, white-beaded Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book, "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children.

That's great, but what if you'd like your children to grow up to be more than just trained mules?

That man is a menace, and needs to be held responsible for the damage (both physical and psychic) that his books have brought.
posted by stefanie at 1:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Because what this horrific story REALLY needs is LOLNAZIS?

It's not exactly a lulzy story, but the "joke" is that the Pearls assert that not beating your children creates Nazis. This assertion is even more bizarre when GERMANY bans spanking, whereas spanking was very much not banned when Nazis were actually being created.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:12 PM on February 23, 2010


Not just Tennessee, anyone can live near a lil' patch of love.
posted by setanor at 1:13 PM on February 23, 2010


I had resisted up to this point, but I think it is finally time to start my list of people who deserve to be slowly, painfully murdered. I could incorporate it into my knitting, like Mme. Defarge.
posted by troybob at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2010


I wonder if all those positive Amazon reviewers who use their real names, such as the one who said her 9-month-old son was wonderfully obedient after being whipped, could be approached by the authorities for a little chat and inspection.
posted by palliser at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [21 favorites]


> 1) The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9).

Wait wait wait. If this and other cites are true, the Pearls wrote a book that could have been titled, How We Beat the Shit Out Of Our Kids Daily, and Why You Should Beat Yours Too.

How are these people not in prison? Seriously? I mean, this isn't even minimally evasive OJ-level If I Did It type twaddle; they're full-up fessing to blatant child abuse.
posted by ardgedee at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


If I was home depot I would do a data mining exercise on purchasers of short lengths of "¼ inch plumber’s supply line" for potential abusers
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've heard that the Bible's famous "Spare the rod, spoil the child" bit was about the cane a shepherd uses to keep his sheep together, and that usually a shepherd just gently used the rod to steer the sheep, not to make them feel pain. Thus, the intent was, "guide your children, or they'll be spoiled." Is that true?
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's the statute of limitations on child abuse? Could the Pearls still be prosecuted?
posted by echo target at 1:20 PM on February 23, 2010


If only someone could come up with a better method of child punishment. Something fair, something random, something round.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [35 favorites]


If I was home depot I would do a data mining exercise on purchasers of short lengths of "¼ inch plumber’s supply line" for potential abusers

Cross-referenced with registries of homeschooled children. It's genius.
posted by palliser at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


I wanted so, so badly to find evidence I was being trolled while I read that website. Something, anything to convince me that someone was just baiting the Right and the Left simultaneously in some twisted homage to the Onion or Fark or... something.

It's too easy to put the 'evil' tag on this. Yeah, they suck. But gods below- what circumstances create people like the Pearls? Are they just passing on what they've learned? Or are they just so intellectually handicapped that hitting something that annoys them is the only response they're capable of?

I cry inside for the children, not just because of the pain they're enduring, but because of the pain they may cause later because they were "Trained Up Right."

I need to go read Mr. Rogers' bio again.
posted by Pragmatica at 1:22 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just the other day one of my kids refused to pick up their toys when told to. I very slightly furrowed my brow. That's about as violent as I've ever gotten and will ever get yet my kids are very well behaved.
Granted, authority is an element in which I'm pretty well immersed. But I think it's exactly because I'm sensitive and patient and understanding that I get respect. I told my kids I'd help them pick up their toys. Because y'know, that was the objective, not demanding submission at bended knee at every point in their lives through fear.
That's what these people are teaching. This is suppression. Not authority.
(Hell, they come right out and say: "Our concern is not just to silence the child, but to gain voluntary submission of his will through respect for our command." and "parents conquer")
Authority is earned because of an understanding of reciprocal responsibility and through shared sacrifice and personal example.
Why the hell would I trade a kid having a sense of self, direction and motivation for a freaking robot who is going to resent me the rest of their lives whether they can act on it or even articulate it?

That's not to say I'm not a violent man. I wouldn't want to come near anyone who would whip a child with Pex because I might wind up in the penitentiary.
But even given I may have some of these - apparently 'weak' by the Pearls' standards - "sensitivities" to kids 'emotional pain,' as in, I'd never fucking hit one with a chunk of hose, I'm not shy about the use of force under certain necessary circumstances.

But, as with torture, even if it worked, it's still wrong - even were inflicting pain in this way at all useful - it's still self-defeating and one of the worst possible methods of creating a functional, self-reliant, self-motivated and self-supporting human being.
Of course, as with torture, on top of that, it doesn't work.

Wasn't Manson prosecuted for his bit in the Tate/LaBianca murders? It was his instruction, no?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Jesus christ. Every day I lose a little more hope for the world.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Here's the problem:

We non-religious people are concerned with quality of life. The afterlife is a myth to us, and therefore any "saving souls" justification is patently ridiculous. For us, this is cut n dry encouragement of physical abuse which lead to murder by evil religious nutcases.

But for many religious folk, they believe that life is finite, while the afterlife is infinite. Therefore, saving the soul from eternal damnation is infinitely more important than ANYTHING that could happen here on silly ole Earth. If you accept this premise, then they're making the correct, logical, ethical choice. After all, what are a few minutes of suffering compared to an ETERNITY IN HELL. ::queue ominous music::

It's the same justification for gay-bashing, the Spanish Inquisition, etc. -- "It's tough love! We're saving their souls!" Things are made much, much worse for people via the premise, and promise, that we're looking out for their happily ever after.

It won't go away until religion** goes away. (See Denmark, Sweden, etc.)

** For all values of "religion" where "religion" includes a heaven vs. hell infinite afterlife.
posted by LordSludge at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2010 [36 favorites]


If she can scream "huggie" while you are spanking her, you are probably not spanking hard enough.
posted by setanor at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2010


I've heard that the Bible's famous "Spare the rod, spoil the child" bit was about the cane a shepherd uses to keep his sheep together, and that usually a shepherd just gently used the rod to steer the sheep, not to make them feel pain.

In Psalm 23, the Lord's Prayer, there is the line "your rod and your staff, they comfort me," which, unless the passage was written by a masochist, implies that the rod is not -- or at least not exclusively -- a tool of punishment.

But Proverbs 23:13 says "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die." Which suggests that you not only can beat a child with a rod, but are expected to.

Of course, children do die from this. And that's why words written 4,000 plus years ago by religious and redacted from separate and occasionally contradictory sources should be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Worse, 23.14 says 'Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.'

Although this is probably the first and only instance of people running into problems by trying to graft bits of 4000-yr-old nomadic tribal desert culture into contemporary American living.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:31 PM on February 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


I've heard that the Bible's famous "Spare the rod, spoil the child" bit was about the cane a shepherd uses to keep his sheep together, and that usually a shepherd just gently used the rod to steer the sheep, not to make them feel pain. Thus, the intent was, "guide your children, or they'll be spoiled." Is that true?

It's not from the Bible. It's from King Solomon's Book of Proverbs. This matters to Jews and many Christian sects, who do not view the Proverbs as scripture. They are therefore not considered an injunction from G-d, and a more flexible interpretation of them possible.

Yours is one interpretation. However, it's been used to justify child abuse throughout history. So determining the "real" meaning and intent is a bit difficult. The proverb is also referenced in Talmudic teachings to show that studying Torah requires discipline.
posted by zarq at 1:31 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


@Think_Long: The test for limiting free speech is whether it is likely to incite imminent lawless action. Pearl's book doesn't meet the imminent criterion.
posted by cereselle at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


(and Hitler's father, who was pretty authoritarian, used to beat him pretty badly, when he was actually around.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2010


Hey, check out the Business Opportunity!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The rod we speak of is a plumbing supply line that can be bought at any hardware store or large department store. It is a slim, flexible, plastic tubing that supplies water to sinks, and toilets. Ask for "¼ inch supply line." They cost less than one dollar. 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. Michael demonstrates its use in our new Seminar videos.

If this was in a video about, say, how to handle one's wife, this would immediately and correctly appear to 99% of viewers as condoning spousal abuse. If a friend of mine mentioned one day that her boyfriend elects to discipline her with a plumbing tube when she's out of line, I'd report his ass. But man, our culture sure does have a bizarrely hands-off approach to the parents' ability to abuse their children simply because children are vulnerable, smaller humans living under the protection of much more empowered adults.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [36 favorites]


It's not from the Bible.

Well, it is. It's just not from the part of the Bible that is believed to have been directly authored by God.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on February 23, 2010


It's not exactly a lulzy story, but the "joke" is that the Pearls assert that not beating your children creates Nazis. This assertion is even more bizarre when GERMANY bans spanking, whereas spanking was very much not banned when Nazis were actually being created.

OK. The comment was just... jarring to me.
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on February 23, 2010


I just read some more in the links above, and it's a good thing I'm about to get my baby from daycare because I just so want to hug and kiss him right now.
posted by zizzle at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Proverbs is definitely "part of the bible"
posted by mpbx at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2010


Things are made much, much worse for people via the premise, and promise, that we're looking out for their happily ever after.

To make a sad philosophical/theological point, this is one my biggest objections to Pascal's Wager -- yes, there is a very big, evil downside to believing this stuff if it turns out to be false. (But mostly it spills over onto other people, and hey fuck 'em!)
posted by LordSludge at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Were it not in and of itself a crime for me to do so, I would actively advocate hunting these vermin down and beating them to death. Hey, it's biblical, right? An eye for an eye?

This is beyond disgusting and beyond abuse. This is two true sociopaths and solipsists who found each other, and are taking out their sick fantasies on their own children. They need to die. Not to be punished, not to be jailed, to die. You don't punish a cancer, you just cut it out before it spreads to far.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 1:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was curious about the origin of 'No Greater Joy.' I assumed it was taken from a Bible verse touting the ultimate joy of raising (or bearing) children.

But it's actually from a letter the Apostle John sent to a church friend, Gaius, about some scuttlebutt going on within their church. (And anyone who's ever been involved in a church won't be shocked to learn that church scuttlebutt goes back to the beginnings of Christianity.) The verse they appropriated from the letter and now use as the name of their organization is "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." This was John showing appreciation for Gaius and the others who were staying out of the controversy, and were just carrying on the good works of their Jesus.

It has nothing to do with raising children, or with raising children to be Christian, or with beating them.

If those fuckheads are going to preach the Bible so dangerously, they should at least get the Bible part right. (Though it's little surprise that they just pull from it without context. You can justify pretty mucha anything that way.)
posted by mudpuppie at 1:36 PM on February 23, 2010


It's not exactly a lulzy story, but the "joke" is that the Pearls assert that not beating your children creates Nazis.

Well, that's true, except about the part where Hitler's father regularly beat him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Christianity is a tub of bathwater we've been told we should not throw out because of the valuable baby in it. The water just gets dirtier and dirtier and more and more stagnant, and if there was ever a baby in there it drowned long ago.
posted by Legomancer at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [51 favorites]


Children Learn What They Live -- Dorothy L. Law
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn . . .
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight . . .
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive . . .
If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself . . .
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy . . .
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt . . .

BUT

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient . . .
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident . . .
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative . . .
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love . . .
If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is . . .
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice . . .
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him . . .
If a child lives with friendlienss(sic), he learns the world is a nice place in which to live . . .


WITH WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LIVING?
posted by hippybear at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


God's in charge. God is in charge. Happy Watch Out 2012 America.
posted by adamvasco at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


This matters to Jews and many Christian sects, who do not view the Proverbs as scripture. They are therefore not considered an injunction from G-d, and a more flexible interpretation of them possible.

zarq, I'm not sure what religious background or tradition you're talking about, so this isn't meant as an argument. My (protestant, Episcopal) understanding is that the Proverbs are canonical scripture, but that no scripture is a direct injunction from God-- it's a bunch of stuff written by a bunch of guys that, centuries later, some important Church Fathers bound together and decided that it was the most valuable writings on theology that existed, and ought to be kept around. It makes me a heretic in the eyes of some people, but it sure does keep me from continuously trying to justify some wacky rabbits-chew-their-cud ten-times-pi-is-thirty nonsense like biblical literalists do.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, either their sadists who use religion to justify it, or they're religious and came to believe they needed to act sadistically to satisfy God and raise good children. Christianity does not come off so well here.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Pearls' first book on child training, To Train Up A Child, was published in August 1994. To date, over 450,000 have been printed in English

Sounds like roughly a half-million families need to be investigate for child abuse, pronto.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Argh, I ruined my "they're." I'm tired, sorry guys.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:40 PM on February 23, 2010


Christianity is a tub of bathwater we've been told we should not throw out because of the valuable baby in it. The water just gets dirtier and dirtier and more and more stagnant, and if there was ever a baby in there it drowned long ago.
posted by Legomancer at 4:37 PM


Amen.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 1:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Prior to having kids of my own, I was more ambivalent towards spanking. After all, I had been spanked on vary rare occasions as a child, and was neither scared nor bothered by it in the long run. I remeber that pretty well all it took was a "do you want a spanking?" without ever actually getting one. Didn't effect my current relationship with my parents either.

However . . .

Now that I have kids of my own, I can't imagine what the hell is wrong with a great big strong adult that they would feel it is either neccessary or acceptable to strike a child. What the fuck. Why would you even consider doing that? There are so many other ways to deal with misbehaviour that don't involve hitting or abusing them. And, honestly, most of the time when adults get pissed off with kids it is because they are being inconvenient, not that they are actually doing something bad or dangerous.

All the lets-all-piss on-religion comments are wonderfully insightful. Way to keep up the good work, Mefites. After all, child abuse only happens because of religious beliefs, and all people with religious beliefs are child abusers, dontchano. Way to call them on their evil ways.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


They hate women too.

Excerpt:

A few men are born with more than their share of dominance and, on the surface, a deficit in gentleness. They often end up in positions that command other men. We will call them Command Men. They are born leaders. They are often chosen by other men to be military commanders, politicians, preachers, heads of corporations, and managers of businesses. Winston Churchill, George Patton, and Ronald Reagan are examples of dominant men. Since our world needs only a few leaders, God seems to limit the number of these Command Men. These men see life as if they are looking from a high mountain, they see the big picture rather than individual needs.

They are known for expecting their wives to wait on them hand and foot. A Command Man does not want his wife involved in any project that prevents her from serving him. If you are blessed to be married to a strong, forceful, bossy man, as I am, then it is very important for you learn how to make an appeal without challenging his authority. We will discuss how to make an appeal later in this book.

posted by setanor at 1:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid hands on them, and departed thence.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fucks sake, I need to post another.

Without a woman’s admiration, his victories are muted. If a wife learns early to enjoy the benefits of taking the second seat, and if she does not take offense to his headstrong aggressiveness, she will be the one sitting at his right side being adored, because this kind of man will totally adore his woman and exalt her.
posted by setanor at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2010


The Rapture cannot come soon enough.
posted by Ratio at 1:44 PM on February 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Sounds like roughly a half-million families need to be investigate for child abuse, pronto.

Start here.
posted by setanor at 1:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the lets-all-piss on-religion comments are wonderfully insightful. Way to keep up the good work, Mefites. After all, child abuse only happens because of religious beliefs, and all people with religious beliefs are child abusers, dontchano. Way to call them on their evil ways.

Well in this case it definitely seems sanctioned in the name of religion.
posted by Big_B at 1:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now that I have kids of my own, I can't imagine what the hell is wrong with a great big strong adult that they would feel it is either neccessary or acceptable to strike a child. What the fuck. Why would you even consider doing that?

Exactly this. I also wasn't willing to say "there will never be spanking" until I had kids. Now I know there is no reason for it, and all it can possibly do is harm. If you hit your kids, at all, you are abusing them. End of story. Why isn't it illegal, and will this help make it so?
posted by rusty at 1:47 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm having a really hard time composing a comment that doesn't wish these people immense misery and harm for the remainder of their days.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:49 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


All the lets-all-piss on-religion comments are wonderfully insightful. Way to keep up the good work, Mefites. After all, child abuse only happens because of religious beliefs, and all people with religious beliefs are child abusers, dontchano. Way to call them on their evil ways.

These things would certainly be done otherwise, but in that case they wouldn't qualify as "teachings" to be followed by thousands.
posted by setanor at 1:51 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


@setanor: Oh, do not get me started on CTBHHM. There's material there for an entire blog. See No Longer Quivering for the results of Debi Pearl's advice. (Not a self-link, but I am somewhat active on the forums.)
posted by cereselle at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2010


I think I spend too much time beating children to death, oppressing gays and women and generally being a blight upon the face of the earth to spend any more time here.
posted by cimbrog at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2010


A blog linked in the FPP that is written by a Christian friend of the Schatzes contains this:
"They [children] 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 [i.e.,the blogger] - notice "passive peasants grovelling" is the desired state; quoted from the Pearl's website)
posted by CCBC at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the lets-all-piss on-religion comments are wonderfully insightful.

I'll piss on any religion that encourages physically abusing children, re-programming gays via psychological torture, etc.
posted by LordSludge at 1:53 PM on February 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


Abusive parents use Dominionism and other religious doctrines as a method of abuse, just as abusive husbands cherry-pick text from the Bible or from the Koran as a justification for abuse.

It's my belief that religion doesn't turn a normal person into a monster - monsters are attracted to religion because it gives them a veneer of propriety.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [62 favorites]


Well in this case it definitely seems sanctioned in the name of religion.

Yes, I know. Evil acts are evil no matter what kind of justification you try to use to santion it. It is just all the comments taking the acts of an extreme wacko to brush all religious people with are tiring. It's like saying hey, you know who else was a German? Those evil Germans. Can't trust the huns and their evil tutonic ways. The world would be better without them.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:55 PM on February 23, 2010


As chilling and sickening as this story is, Laurie M's blog is a breath of fresh air.

DEAR CHRISTIANS: THIS IS WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS ABOUT.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just more evidence that religion should be eliminated from the face of the earth. Not any one particular religion, all of them.

And if there is a hell, it can't possibly be horrible enough to mete out what the Pearl's deserve.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll piss on any religion that encourages physically abusing children, re-programming gays via psychological torture, etc.

And so will I. But I'm not going to extrapolate from this wacko and his weird Christian cult to all religions or even all Christians.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the lets-all-piss on-religion comments are wonderfully insightful.

I'll piss on any religion that encourages physically abusing children, re-programming gays via psychological torture, etc.


But surely you can see the difference between pissing on a religion and pissing on all religion. There are plenty of Christians who don't beat their children.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this was in a video about, say, how to handle one's wife, this would immediately and correctly appear to 99% of viewers as condoning spousal abuse. If a friend of mine mentioned one day that her boyfriend elects to discipline her with a plumbing tube when she's out of line, I'd report his ass. But man, our culture sure does have a bizarrely hands-off approach to the parents' ability to abuse their children simply because children are vulnerable, smaller humans living under the protection of much more empowered adults.

Oh, if you don't think "ministries" like this also give this sort of advice on applying the "rod of correction" to one's wife, you're sadly mistaken. Groups like this exist all over the country. There exist entire businesses selling "modest" women's (and girl's) clothing which not only cover every inch of evil, evil flesh, but will also cover any marks. Christian Dominionism's ideology makes the male head of a household out to be some kind of demi-God, enforcing the will of the Lord on his servants/family. It's extremely sick and twisted and frankly doesn't even deserve to be called Christianity, which in its non-wingnut form has some fucked up beliefs but nothing even close to this shit.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'll piss on any religion that encourages physically abusing children, re-programming gays via psychological torture, etc.

So will I.

I'm a Christian.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't have kids. I never will have kids. But the first time I took my niece out to go book shopping, and I felt that six-year-old hand in mine, I knew-- KNEW-- that I could never hurt something so trusting and fragile. I can't understand how anyone could feel differently.
posted by cereselle at 1:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's presumably the case that there are parents worldwide who spank their children to varying degrees; this is very much a given.

Other than "spare the rod, spoil the child"-style Christianity, are there any other religious traditions that actually (a) encourage corporal punishment of minors and (b) offer corporal punishers a socially-viable justification for said punishment?

That is, I'm sure some Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and animists and so on spank their ill-behaved children; when they do so, are they commonly citing passages in the Torah, Quran, some sutra, etc., or not?
posted by hoople at 2:01 PM on February 23, 2010


And so will I. But I'm not going to extrapolate from this wacko and his weird Christian cult to all religions or even all Christians.

It's not a cult, any more than the Quiverfull movement is a cult.

Take it from a former devoted Fundamentalist - domination over anyone lower on the food chain is part and parcel of the conservative Christian movement. This is one extreme on the same Spectrum as all "Traditional Family Values".
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I find myself wishing I believed in hell, so that I could imagine a circle of it with punishments fit for such criminals as these parents and the Pearls. I simply cannot fathom how a human being can do this sort of thing to another human being, let alone his or her child.

If anyone ever needs a definition of what evil looks like, this story will prove a valuable resource.
posted by cerebus19 at 2:02 PM on February 23, 2010


It's my belief that religion doesn't turn a normal person into a monster - monsters are attracted to religion because it gives them a veneer of propriety.

True that. But most normal people are capable of turning a blind eye on the most appalling atrocities in the name of some or other orthodoxy, within their own communities, because, um, that's how we do things around here.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your children come from your genes, and they're raised by you, so nature and nurture both apply: If you're the kind of parent who gets angry enough to beat your children when they don't behave, and you are stubborn enough to keep beating them if they don't give in, then your children are probably just as angry and stubborn as you are and will not give in because they're just like you.
posted by davejay at 2:10 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well in this case it definitely seems sanctioned in the name of religion.

Which religion? Some god-bothering Rush-Is-Right nutcase out in the sticks is not religion, it's a cult. Get back to me when something like this is written by a seminarian or theologian, or advocated by a denomination with more than a few dozen physical churches.

Lumping in right-wing cultists with, oh, say the Episcopalians or Quakers is offensive, ignorant and disrespectful to those who exercise their freedom of conviction. It's every inch as bad as pasting the "terrorist" label on top of everyone who prays at a Mosque.

There is a fundamental difference between "This is what I believe and why I believe it" and "You are wrong and evil for believing as you do." The first is a statement of conviction, the second seeks to condemn those for not believing as you would like them to.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


When all you have is a 15" length of plastic hose...
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:12 PM on February 23, 2010


cimbrog has disabled his account.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:16 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The child concludes: There is a new order; Father is consistent; he always means what he says; I cannot win; there is no alternative to instant obedience. Get smart, be a survivor, just say no to self-will.

This is slave-religion. Not figuratively, not allegorically, but literally. This is the streak of hatred which runs through Christianity, given corporeal form. Here is hatred of pride, hatred of strength, hatred of pleasure, hatred of life, each elevated to the highest of values. All of these worldly evils must be driven out of children before they, and all mankind, can take their proper place: cringing in the dirt before the throne of God.

Look at this. Look well, and know thy enemy.

And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

.
posted by vorfeed at 2:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


cimbrog has disabled his account.

Well, that was pretty childish. Seriously, what kind of rational adult would interpret this thread as saying that you, personally, beat children to death?
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:18 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Word, Elizabeth the Thirteenth.

Lumping in right-wing cultists with, oh, say the Episcopalians or Quakers is offensive, ignorant and disrespectful to those who exercise their freedom of conviction.

We're not the ones doing the lumping and we're not responsible for policing the definition of Religion. Since, you know, lots of us don't believe in God anyway.

This fight has to be fought from the inside.
posted by muddgirl at 2:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nothing positive to say about religion. None of them. Ever.
posted by A189Nut at 2:20 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what kind of rational adult would interpret this thread as saying that you, personally, beat children to death?

I think it was more the implication of 'a large and important part of your worldview is directly responsible for sociopaths who beat children to death, and the sooner idiots like you stop being delusional the better.'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


This fight has to be fought from the inside.

I remember hearing a lot of this in terms of how Muslims should be more vocal in denouncing their wackos.
posted by troybob at 2:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes naturally. All of us in Tennessee like to beat our kids, naturally.

Just to be clear about the intent of my post you were responding to, I was born into a Christian Fundamentalist family in Middle Tennessee, and I currently live in Memphis. And yes, I was spanked as a child. I even had to cut my own switch a few times.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, that was pretty childish. Seriously, what kind of rational adult would interpret this thread as saying that you, personally, beat children to death?

This is probably a discussion that should be brought to MeTa, but I didn't intepret that as cimbrog intepreting things as you say; instead, it seemed the disabled account was due to a sense that religions as a whole are generally denigrated based on the behavior of a few members, or on the behavior of a few sects.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Are more people disabling their accounts lately, or is it just me?
posted by box at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


You disabled your account, box?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some god-bothering Rush-Is-Right nutcase out in the stick

What he himself is like is of no consequence. You need to look at those who follow him. The Facebook comments. The blogs. The hundreds of thousands who give their books to their friends at parties, holidays, just for being a friend. Who are these people? They are no fringe.
posted by setanor at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


And so will I. But I'm not going to extrapolate from this wacko and his weird Christian cult to all religions or even all Christians.

Metatalk is the next door to your right, sir.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2010


I remember hearing a lot of this in terms of how Muslims should be more vocal in denouncing their wackos.

And they are. Furthermore, Islam is a minority religion in the United States. Unlike Christianity, which should be fully equipped to combat this sort of extremist nonsense (if it is indeed extremist) but can't seem to.

and the sooner idiots like you stop being delusional the better

It has nothing to do with your private delusions and everything to do with the fact that we live in a Country where 99.9% of our public officials either share these delusions or pretend to in order to get elected.

Why DON'T we have a law forbidding regular, everyday child abuse?
posted by muddgirl at 2:26 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven.

My mother admitted to me, in my 30s, that she hit me once when I was an infant or a toddler (I forget which, and I'm not about to call her and ask, heh.) I was biting her, over and over, and she kept telling me to stop. Finally she thought I'd stopped, and I bit her HARD. In anger, she slapped me across the face.

She felt guilt about this for years, she admitted when she told me, but she'd never admitted it to anyone. I told her I had no memory of the incident whatsoever, and asked if I stopped biting her. She said yes, and I said that was fine, then, and gave her a hug.

The above quote is well-taken, not as a justification for hitting a child (obviously) but as recognition that even children can tell the difference between a rare occurrence of you losing control in anger and a premeditated, calculating pattern of injury. What they learn from either circumstance is very, very different.
posted by davejay at 2:27 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


it seemed the disabled account was due to a sense that religions as a whole are generally denigrated based on the behavior of a few members, or on the behavior of a few sects.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:21 PM on February 23


If American Muslims have to decry and denounce what other lone crazy Muslims do, why not white Christians? If blacks have to decry and denounce whatever some lone crazy black guy does, why not white Christians?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:30 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nothing positive to say about religion. None of them. Ever.

You're not paying attention.
posted by toekneebullard at 2:31 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, sir, this has nothing to do with religion, nothing at all, no way, no sir.

Except that religion always allows an appeal to a higher authority which brooks no argument. "Look, the Bible says it is right".

We atheists and agnostics and humanists do not generally have the luxury of such an appeal unless we are ourselves caught up in some kind of authoritarian cult such as fascism.

Clearly there are religious people who do not beat their children. But the very notion of God is that of a higher metaphysical power whom we must please/obey/worship/placate/commune with in some way, and which is more important than boring old life-on-earth.

If a man beat his chidren because a table -- which exists -- told him to do it, we would lock him up. But when an invisible God -- whose existence is widely debated -- tells him to do it, well, okay then.
posted by unSane at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


f American Muslims have to decry and denounce what other lone crazy Muslims do, why not white Christians? If blacks have to decry and denounce whatever some lone crazy black guy does, why not white Christians?

A good question. The answer is: They shouldn't.

I notice that your links point out that Christians have made these demands. They were wrong to. We are likewise wrong to.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Pearls also suggest using alternative instruments, such as a 12-inch willowy branch for children under one year old...

Whipping kids who can't talk yet?
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:35 PM on February 23, 2010


You flamed out defending these fucking assholes? Wow.
posted by IanMorr at 2:35 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


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.

Maybe that's what all the abuse by Catholic priests was all about.
posted by sour cream at 2:36 PM on February 23, 2010


Who are these people? They are no fringe.

There are more than 300,000,000 people in the United States, and more than 200,000,000 of them identify as Christian, the overwhelming majority of which would find this "No Greater Joy" stuff repugnant.

So, yes, even a few hundred thousand is a tiny little cult. Unless you imply that only atheists can be moral human beings?
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If American Muslims have to decry and denounce what other lone crazy Muslims do, why not white Christians? If blacks have to decry and denounce whatever some lone crazy black guy does, why not white Christians?

Uh, because none of them do? I mean, thats a strawman, unless you can show that the people on this thread have made those comments before. Again, just because some idiots say the things you linked to, doesn't mean that anyone is being hypocritical here.

(I'm an atheist and have no personal love for religion, but I do think this thread is a great example of what even I consider over-the-top association fallacies).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The child concludes: There is a new order; Father is consistent; he always means what he says; I cannot win; there is no alternative to instant obedience. Get smart, be a survivor, just say no to self-will.

Huh. Reading this, I realized I'm doing something simliar to my kids, only I do it by counting to three. I can ask them to do something, and they may or may not do it; I can tell them to do something, and they may or may not do it...but if I say "do [thing] by the time I count to three or I will [consequence]" and they run to do it almost every time.

I got to this point by always following through on the consequence, although sometimes I have to escalate the consequence to get obedience. With the guidance of my wife, I've changed the consequences to be less arbitrary and more connected to the desired behavior when possible. And every so often they're still not going to do it and I have to deal with that -- but it really comes in handy when doing things like trying to get them to school on time (when they won't get dressed), getting them to hold my hand in busy parking lots (instead of running away) and things of that nature. When they were 2-3, I was counting to three a lot; now, I do it perhaps once a day and when they hear it they run off to do the thing giggling and talking to each other cheerfully as they do it.

In short, consistency is absolutely a tool a parent can use to get their children to obey when it's necessary/desirable. That said, here's two things to keep in mind:

1. I give my kids a lot of leeway on many, many things, and often provide guidance to help them self-select behavior to get what they want (ie "we have to leave in fifteen minutes; you can get dressed quickly and watch five minutes of television, or you can mess around and you won't have time for television, your choice.")

2. You don't have to beat your children to be consistent.
posted by davejay at 2:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


You flamed out defending these fucking assholes? Wow.

Where did he defend those fucking assholes? I think he was tired of being lumped in with those fucking assholes.

I'm agnostic, but that doesn't mean I think all religious people are fundy whackjobs.
posted by kmz at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Except that religion always allows an appeal to a higher authority...

Well, plus the decision on whether that appeal is legitimate or not is arbitrary and often self-serving. If a woman claimed virgin birth today she would be labeled crazy by christians; Jesus would be absolutely crucified on foxnews. Note also how easily the sheen of authority is granted:

Some god-bothering Rush-Is-Right nutcase out in the sticks is not religion, it's a cult. Get back to me when something like this is written by a seminarian or theologian, or advocated by a denomination with more than a few dozen physical churches.

I could understand the appeal to higher authority if it were merely something one uses to guide his or her own life, but it is more often foisted upon others, if not used simply as a get-out-of-logic-free card.
posted by troybob at 2:42 PM on February 23, 2010


I recounted a story to my boss about my 4yr old not listening to me and being stubborn. I was not angry with her.. she's 4. I understand she'll go through these phases.
He asked me if I hit her. I said never. He was surprised and a little disgusted that I couldn't hit my own child across the face if she acted up. He said he's thankful that his mom beat him. And I should consider beating her to keep her in line.

I responded by going to the bathroom and throwing up. That's how I feel about hitting my own child and child abuse in general.
My heart is bleeding for these poor children of the parents following this book and this ministry.
posted by czechmate at 2:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


You flamed out defending these fucking assholes? Wow.

Jeez, that seems like a hideously unfair characterization.

Anyway, I've started a MeTa discussion, since this particular derail seems to have a lot of legs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:42 PM on February 23, 2010


These people are propagating abuse of children and should be prosecuted. If you think it's no crime to smack a child on the bottom in total frustration, I won't condemn you. But methodical beating of a child, using implements, is just plain assault and battery. To do this so routinely amounts to torture. To write about it and recommend it should not be considered protected free speech, any more that inciting other violence is allowed.

I grew up in a religious family and attended 12 years of Catholic schooling. Hitting kids was commonplace, at home and at school. I remember the horrible, sick dread of a promised spanking. I can barely imagine what these children experienced. I get that it's about dominance. I don't understand how any peripherally sane person could subscribe to this, could read this crap and not see the violence and rage they're promoting. The Jesus I read about was a revolutionary who taught people to disregard the violence and vengeance of the Old Testament, and turn the other cheek to an enemy. I'm not religious, but I know so many kind, loving peace-promoting Christians.

I deeply fear that the fundamentalist movement provides a source of meaning for people too adrift to find it for themselves. Life's complicated, ambiguity is everywhere, and it's not easy to make sense of the messages that bombard you from teevee, news, the web, advertising. The consumerist, get -into-debt buying crap to amuse yourself version of America isn't wonderful, so along comes somebody who gives you rules and meaning, and those rules let you indulge in violence towards the weak. The weak, powerless loser loves it, because domination feels good and powerful, and there's a structure of belief that gives it all meaning. What sick fucks.

They're like the Taliban and the fundamentalist Muslims who won't let children leave a burning building without wearing a chador and who beat women for wanting an education. I wish I believed in Hell, so that I had the comfort of imagining them there.
posted by theora55 at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with you there, Astro Zombie. When moderate believers (in anything) allow extremists to set the debate, they give cover to those extreme beliefs. By not speaking up, they tacitly support extremist actions, giving the impression that the number of extremists is much larger than it truly is.

I think Christians should absolutely denounce the Pearls' books. I think Republicans should denounce the Tea Partiers. I think Muslims should denounce suicide bombers. I think Democrats should denounce any left-wing group that recommends doing people harm. (I can't think of any that currently do, but no doubt someone will point one out.)

Can you explain why you think it's wrong, AZ?
posted by cereselle at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it's wrong for the same reason I think it's wrong when we demand black people as a whole be helg accountable for the behavior of a few black people. I think collective guilt is an enormously tricky proposition. If people directtly support or benefit by something, then, yes, they should speak out against it. But if, say, another Irishman heads out and does somethign crazy, and claims they did it for dear old Hibernia, I'm not going to feel that I should be obligated to speak out.

That being said, there are plenty of examples of Christians speaking out against this. One of them is in the FPP.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:46 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Boy oh boy, you don't need to have your own biological kids before you realize that hurt kids = terrible, bad, freaky, and not something you'd deliberately seek. I was babysitting last week when the toddler was running around the kitchen, rounded the corner of the doorway, skid too far sideways, and fell like pitched motorcycle. Her forehead smacked right against the door frame on her way down, and it looked like it hurt like a bitch.

A kid's Hurt Cry is the absolute worst. It goes "SCREAM silencesilencesilence SCREAM silencesilencesilence SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM" in this spiritually and psychically jarring loop. It's an unmistakable sound that your ears keep picking up a long time after it's subsided.

Who would ever think there's a lesson to be learned from that sound?
posted by zoomorphic at 2:48 PM on February 23, 2010


I think it's wrong for the same reason I think it's wrong when we demand black people as a whole be helg accountable for the behavior of a few black people.

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT A MINORITY VOICE IN THIS COUNTRY.

Sorry for the all-caps, but I'm getting really frustrated with having to make this point over. And. Over.

Christians don't need to pretend that they're the oppressed minority, or even an oppressed majority. Because they're not.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


That is, I'm sure some Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and animists and so on spank their ill-behaved children; when they do so, are they commonly citing passages in the Torah, Quran, some sutra, etc., or not?

There was a chillingly similar case in Israel not so long ago. A child was killed and finally the (pretty tiny) community, apparently like this one led by a couple of despotic charismatic leaders, was investigated. I'm trying to find some of the news reports.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:51 PM on February 23, 2010


muddgirl, there's a Meta thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2010


zarq, I'm not sure what religious background or tradition you're talking about, so this isn't meant as an argument. My (protestant, Episcopal) understanding is that the Proverbs are canonical scripture, but that no scripture is a direct injunction from God-- it's a bunch of stuff written by a bunch of guys that, centuries later, some important Church Fathers bound together and decided that it was the most valuable writings on theology that existed, and ought to be kept around. It makes me a heretic in the eyes of some people, but it sure does keep me from continuously trying to justify some wacky rabbits-chew-their-cud ten-times-pi-is-thirty nonsense like biblical literalists do.

The bible literalists were who I was referring to. That is, some Catholics, Protestants, Baptists and Orthodox Jews -- meaning Fundamentalists and not mainstream faithful in both religions who take the Bible as "The Word of G-d." I was not referring to moderates, or those who subscribe to your beliefs (which happen to agree with mine.)

Bible literalists tend to use their sacred texts to exclude all argument against them. The pro-spanking religious groups say the proverbs referring to sparing the rod are holy scripture. They're not, in the sense that they claim.
posted by zarq at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2010


That being said, there are plenty of examples of Christians speaking out against this. One of them is in the FPP.

Um, yes, I know. Being the OP.

But if, say, another Irishman heads out and does somethign crazy, and claims they did it for dear old Hibernia, I'm not going to feel that I should be obligated to speak out.

I respectfully disagree. I think that failing to speak out is tantamount to agreement with the action.
posted by cereselle at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, yes, even a few hundred thousand is a tiny little cult. Unless you imply that only atheists can be moral human beings?

Those two sentences go together in a very peculiar way. I simply don't think painting Pearl as a fringe wackjob is a honest appraisal of his influence and the influence of those who follow him who do not give off that impression of themselves.
posted by setanor at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Aaaand if I have anything further to say on that, I'll take it to MeTa.
posted by cereselle at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2010


CHRISTIANS ARE NOT A MINORITY VOICE IN THIS COUNTRY.

Is anybody saying they are? I'm not sure I see how being in the majority means you get to be tarred by a broad brush for everything your group does.
posted by kmz at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


So this Ha'Aretz article provides some overview and refers to specific cases - I'm pretty sure the one I was thinking of is this one.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The (Protestant) fundamentalists that I'm familiar with (and went to school with, whee!) definitely believed that everything in the Bible was 100% God-breathed Holy Scripture, including Proverbs and the genealogies and stuff.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2010


I think that failing to speak out is tantamount to agreement with the action.

And my case is that this is true only if you in some way could be interpreted as clearly supporting or benefiting from the action. A Shaker in New Lebanon shouldn't really be held accountable for the behavior described in this FPP.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was biting her, over and over, and she kept telling me to stop. Finally she thought I'd stopped, and I bit her HARD. In anger, she slapped me across the face.

She felt guilt about this for years, she admitted when she told me, but she'd never admitted it to anyone.


When my son was somewhat smaller, he like to kick and kick and kick and kick while having his diaper changed. He also was a terrible sleeper, which left me in a half-awake grumpy zombie state most of the time. We tried so many things to get the kicking to stop, to no avail.

One day, in frustration and pain, I whacked him once on his naked butt after he had connected a particularly strong kick to my right breast.

He gave me a withering look. "Mamma," he said sternly, "No hitting!".

And then I sat down on the floor and cried. It was easily my lowest moment as a parent, knowing he was so in the right and I had done him this great injustice - and done something I had sworn never to do. Like your mother, I still feel guilty about it.

And I cannot begin to fathom how these parents could hear the screams of this child, and continue to beat her until she was silent. I can only hope the screams echo in her mother's ears forever. That poor girl, brought from Liberia into - unbelievably - something as bad or worse as the life she had led there.
posted by anastasiav at 2:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


One thing that stands out (to me) is the political vocabulary used by the Pearls and by similar Christian extremists1. To identify a specific political stance (i.e., liberalism) as sinful seems a corruption of Christianity. Folks like the Pearls cite political statements in the same way that they do holy writ. Perhaps the late 70s was the time when things went wrong for certain Christians who allowed themselves to be tempted by secular power.

1Is that the correct term? I don't mean to tar all Christians with this brush.
posted by CCBC at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some god-bothering Rush-Is-Right nutcase out in the sticks is not religion, it's a cult.

This cultish belief system isn't the exclusive province of some long-beard-wearin' gap-toothed yee-haw out thar in them sticks in the stickdom of Tennessee. This belief system (or the spectrum of various gradations of attitudes that comprise this belief system) is present in the sticks, among skyscrapers, in suburban cul-de-sacs, and everywhere amongst, in-between, and throughout.
posted by blucevalo at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So let me get this straight: These parents obtained a girl from West Africa, presumably for a fee, had her shipped to the United States, and required her to obey their commands unquestioningly. If she failed to do so, she was beaten, eventually to death.

This isn't parenting, it's slavery!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2010 [25 favorites]


I grew up in a bible-thumping family. My maternal forbears were "disciplined" by being beaten with switches that they themselves were forced to cut from the tree before the punishment commenced. My own mother eventually refined this to the handles of wooden cooking spoons, and finally the wire handle of a flyswatter - which has no air resistance as it swings down.

When I was about 11 years old my parents went to a christian-school parenting seminar. My mother came back ELATED with a novelty that had been presented there, that novelty being the recommendation of Susannah Wesley (mother of colonial evangelists John and Charles Wesley) that one should not stop whipping one's child when it cried hard, because that showed that the child was still in rebellion; rather, one should continue to whip the child until it sobs softly, which indicates that the rebellious spirit has been broken.

This, of course, is guaranteed to destroy a child. There is something seriously screwed up with this outlook, an outlook that is more about invoking power than anything else.

My own three children are absolute model citizens, and I have never laid a finger on them. One thing I took from my own upbringing was that it is a parent's job to PROTECT children from harm, not inflict it on them. How anyone can so betray the trust and love that their child has for them by inflicting physical violence on them escapes me completely. It's inhuman. It's abusive. Parents such as these should be incarcerated, and I'm tempted to suggest they should be beaten regularly by something four times their size and six times their weight, to give a proper perspective.

Ugh. Just. Ugh.
posted by hubbit at 3:04 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


You simply cannot be Christian and conveniently disavow these beliefs by dismissing them as cultish. The entire system of belief is founded upon the idea that an invisible, unverifiable higher being has, through various encoded messages and mediums, asserted The Way Things Need to Be. If some group of crazies shows up and defends their beliefs by citing the very same invisible, unverifiable higher being, not only do you have no grounds to argue the legitimacy of one interpretation over another, but you have given cover to the very same group of crazies by validating the mechanism with which they defend their beliefs and actions.
posted by troybob at 3:11 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Never strike a child, if you must strike a child, use a piece of string.
posted by hortense at 3:16 PM on February 23, 2010


Religion is a red herring here. Abuse and violence occur everywhere, cross-culturally, diachronically. It's a human impulse and dysfunction, it is not caused by religious thinking, merely justified by it, in the same way that people justify other horrible things they already want to do by appeals to religious authority. It's very tempting to blame this on religion because doing so makes it seem that it can be easily extirpated -- get rid of religion, and it's gone. The truth is not so simple or easy.
posted by clockzero at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Like many of the posters here, I once smacked my (first) child, not even very hard, and I never did it again. A little bit of me died right there and then.
posted by unSane at 3:27 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good grief, here we go again. No one has to justify someone else's actions just for the sin of sharing a same, huge, incredibly-vague category. I am not responsible for other Americans' actions. I am not responsible for other white peoples actions. I am not responsible for other feminists' actions. And so on.

Muslim on Christian, Christian on Muslim, Christion/Muslim on Jewish persecution: since they all believe in a God, they persecutor and persecutee are equally at fault? Your rationale is bigotry, plain and simple, and bigotry is always the easy way out.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:28 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


You simply cannot be Christian and conveniently disavow these beliefs by dismissing them as cultish.

Yes, you can.

The entire system of belief is founded upon the idea that an invisible, unverifiable higher being has, through various encoded messages and mediums, asserted The Way Things Need to Be.

No, it isn't. Willful ignorance of actual Christian faith of the non-crazy variety isn't really a good place to be arguing from. It's like trying to judge Asian culture by using old kung-fu movies as your only evidence.

but you have given cover to the very same group of crazies by validating the mechanism with which they defend their beliefs and actions.

No, I haven't, as there are other, better criteria to judge a person on besides religion. Their actions and advice, for instance.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:31 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Willful ignorance of actual Christian faith of the non-crazy variety isn't really a good place to be arguing from. It's like trying to judge Asian culture by using old kung-fu movies as your only evidence.

If there was a way to sticky this at the top of every thread having to do with religion, I'd be for it.
posted by davejay at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Good grief, here we go again. No one has to justify someone else's actions just for the sin of sharing a same, huge, incredibly-vague category. I am not responsible for other Americans' actions. I am not responsible for other white peoples actions. I am not responsible for other feminists' actions. And so on.

No-one is arguing that you are responsible. Some of us are arguing that religion in general may have a responsibility. One can believe that America was wrong to invade Iraq without believing that all Americans are to blame. In the same way one can believe that religion is a malign force overall without believing that all religious people are malign.
posted by unSane at 3:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I, for one, am not ashamed at blaming religion for this. Religion is what's taught these people to be this way. It's what's telling them to teach others this way. There's no way around it. They're not just random crazies; they are religious nutballs like so many in this country - and world - the only difference is that they are in the limelight and the others are not.

How much longer do Christians think they can defend their religion by claiming it isn't promoting things like this, when it clearly is? It's strange watching someone cling desperately to a medieval and archaic practice. Trying to modernize something that doesn't progress, doesn't work.
posted by Malice at 3:36 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


A kid's Hurt Cry is the absolute worst. It goes "SCREAM silencesilencesilence SCREAM silencesilencesilence SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM" in this spiritually and psychically jarring loop. It's an unmistakable sound that your ears keep picking up a long time after it's subsided.

Who would ever think there's a lesson to be learned from that sound?


The lesson my grandmother learned was to tell me that she would keep hitting me until I stopped crying.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:42 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


My own mother eventually refined this to the handles of wooden cooking spoons,

I don't remember this, but apparently my mother used a wooden spoon on me once. I did not cry or react at all.

Realizing this, my mom could have pressed on until she found my physical breaking point, or instead opt to take a slightly more cerebral approach, and use her mental powers for evil.

Fortunately for me, she opted for the latter. (Unfortunately for everyone else, I learned her tricks.)

Sadly, for children of anyone who follows this monstrous path, the Pearls are not as clever as my mother.
posted by quin at 3:46 PM on February 23, 2010


There's nothing worse than a bully. Nothing. Except maybe a religious belief that condones bullying and trains people to be bullies. That's why it's "about religion".
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2010


people dont (cant) choose their ethnicity/color but they can and do choose to align themselves with a particular religious tradition and belief system. whether or not that makes them responsibility for the actions of others in their chosen belief system, the comparison is not valid.

and yeah, ew. this is so horrible. I really love the people I know who are raising their kids with love tolerance and kindness.
posted by supermedusa at 3:55 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion is what's taught these people to be this way. It's what's telling them to teach others this way. There's no way around it.

Let's take it further! The English language is what's telling people to be like this and teach others to be like this. Let's ban English! No Let's ban all Language!

My argument is stupid isn't it.

The thing is that the vast majority of Christians don't promote anything even remotely like this. So claiming that since a few use Religion to justify their crimes is a just reason to condemn all Religion is an equally bad argument.
posted by cirhosis at 3:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a child, our family was friends with another that had discovered the "beat the shit out of your children" gospel. The family was talking a stroll through their neighborhood, and the father reached out to caress his youngest son, who was about two years old. The child instinctively fled from his touch, running into the street, where he was struck and killed by a car.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


No one has to justify someone else's actions just for the sin of sharing a same, huge, incredibly-vague category. I am not responsible for other Americans' actions. I am not responsible for other white peoples actions. I am not responsible for other feminists' actions.

The church isn't responsible for the diddling of children by priests, the military commanders aren't responsible for torture, George Lucas isn't responsible for The Phantom Menace, MeFi isn't to blame for boyzone, ain't no one is responsible for nuttin'.

Or is that not what you are implying?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not astounded that some evil people concocted a crazy-ass worldview in which children should be beaten with plumbing equipment for their own good. I'm astounded that lots (hundreds? Thousands?) of other people bought into it.

How people must crave the sound of authority, if they will follow something as openly bizarre and sadistic as this. The Pearls have nothing in the way of, you know, qualifications, and yet parents across the country are whipping their children literally to death, based on the Pearls' "teachings."
posted by ErikaB at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2010


Oh and to make my own stance clear... I was raised Catholic and while I don't really practice my faith I don't see the Church or even most churchs as evil, or even on the balance of things bad for the world.

I do think that some of the Evangelical leaning of current Christian faith is often losing the point. And trying to justify what you want to do by picking and choosing a few passages from a 2000+ year old book is rather weak.

I just don't agree that all Religion is to blame for the world's ills.
posted by cirhosis at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


“Not to be punished, not to be jailed, to die. You don't punish a cancer, you just cut it out before it spreads to far.”

With you there viscerally, but that’s why the whole ‘hate the sin, love the sinner*’ sort of thing works. Killing holders of an idea does not stop the idea.
This has been good thing as well. More typically a good thing, actually. Destructive ideas are hard to sustain (for as much damage as they can do). Typically they’re parasitic and a twisted extension of a non-destructive, or even benevolent, concept, if they last. E.g. this, radical muslims, etc.
*(forgive the framing – just using a common recognizable phrase)

“If you are blessed to be married to a strong, forceful, bossy man, as I am, then it is very important for you learn how to make an appeal without challenging his authority.”

Funny. Actually said ‘are you challenging my authority!?’ to my wife a few days ago. She guffawed out bits of cookie and milk on to the floor.

I warm up with more weight than her whole body. And yet it’s a fairly equal relationship. Hnn. Weird that we're still together, eh?

Tonight though I think I’ll hike up my tightie whiteys around my hips like a sumo and prance around at the foot of the bed saying “I’m a bossy man. Oooh, I’m a bossy man! Lookit me, I’m a bossy man”

See if I can make her laugh hard enough to wake up the kids.
(I’ll not prance in front of the children. No one wants to see my hairy ass prancing when they don't know it's not in earnest)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:03 PM on February 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Willful ignorance of actual Christian faith of the non-crazy variety isn't really a good place to be arguing from.

The problem here is that you are assuming some objective distinction between 'actual Christian faith of the non-crazy variety' and bullshit Christian faith of wackjob cults. There is no objective distinction; both appeal to an (in)conveniently hidden authority that makes no effort to arbitrate or verify. Every Christian religion asserts that the bible is authoritative except in cases where it is not, and within that vague distinction you have no basis upon which to determine which exercise of faith is 'true' and which is not. But the fact is that once you've accepted the legitimacy of any kind of faith, you cannot justifiably doubt the legitimacy of any other; that would be hypocrisy.
posted by troybob at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


How on earth were these so clearly unfit parents ever allowed to adopt three little girls!?
posted by dabitch at 4:14 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Shorter troybob: Christianity and religion are not falsifiable.
posted by hincandenza at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Deadmessenger and I home schooled our daughter for five years, from the third through the eighth grades. For us, the two worst parts of homeschooling were 1) Interacting, through homeschooling groups, with awful excuses for humanity like the Schatzs and Pearls and 2) dealing with otherwise normal people who believed that because we home schooled we were like them.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:17 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


it is not caused by religious thinking, merely justified by it, in the same way that people justify other horrible things they already want to do by appeals to religious authority

Hey, you know, if the religious authorities were to denounce this sort of thing, and if t heir practicioners far and wide were to denounce this sort of thing when they see it — in a store, at a friend's home, overheard at school — as a distinctly un-Christian and sinful practice...

oh, wait. I see the mistake: I'm trying to hold the greater community accountable. This isn't a religious problem, no sir.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:21 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


The church isn't responsible for the diddling of children by priests, the military commanders aren't responsible for torture,

Hardly the same thing. As a random white person, I'm not responsible for all the actions of everyone who shares my skin color. As a leader, I _am_ responsible for the actions of those I lead (and to a lesser extent this is true of those whom I merely associate with but do not lead). So the Church hierarchy and military leadership are responsible. Soldiers are too, but in a slightly different way depending on their actual behavior (those who tortured obviously are. those who joined the military but had no involvement or awareness, not so much. then there are those inbetween). But when you're talking about something as big and vague as "Islam" or "Christianity", then no, there's no group responsibility over actions by anyone else who happens to also claim membership in the same, completely unorganized and leaderless, group.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:23 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think it might be easy to hate on religion in this thread because otherwise many people's minds cannot accept or understand any parent who would be so blessed as to have a child and so cruel as to beat them. I know that when I imagine the pain my daughter had to go through because of her illness, I feel a little sick, and more so if I try to imagine an adult hurting a child on purpose. Hating on religion helps us feel like we can understand it (not excuse, just explain), because we assume people did this because they were brainwashed, stupid, inhuman, different from us, or whatever. I think that approach totally underestimates how horrible what these parents did was, and how much cruelty humanity is really capable of. But the religion is really not relevant, to the extent that their actions would be no more acceptable if they were the result of wholly secular motivations. And since so many acts of cruelty are motivated by non-religious issues, I just don't think we gain anything by making this about religion. This was not about Christianity, this was about an abusive parenting method masquerading as Christianity. There's just no need to express hatred of hundreds and thousands or millions of other sane people who do not hurt children because they have a belief system that despite being misused here, in fact counsels against violence and abuse. Really, there's just SO much else worth hating here.
posted by bunnycup at 4:24 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it might be easy to hate on religion in this thread because otherwise many people's minds cannot accept or understand any parent who would be so blessed as to have a child and so cruel as to beat them.

I certainly wouldn't say that religion is the reason these people beat their kids. I just think religion is the reason they thought they could get away with it.
posted by troybob at 4:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm confused. Parents who don't whip their children are "creating a Nazi," but "parents have called the Gestapo on their married children."

Likely the first time Paradise, CA makes the Blue and it's for the murder of a child by her adoptive parents. Let's hear it for my hometown.
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned Radio Paradise before, if that counts. They're based there.

posted by kirkaracha at 4:42 PM on February 23, 2010


As a child, our family was friends with another that had discovered the "beat the shit out of your children" gospel. The family was talking a stroll through their neighborhood, and the father reached out to caress his youngest son, who was about two years old. The child instinctively fled from his touch, running into the street, where he was struck and killed by a car.


Waitasec....is that true?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:42 PM on February 23, 2010


bunnycup wrote: This was not about Christianity, this was about an abusive parenting method masquerading as Christianity.

As someone who has resided all his life in the hotbed of evangelical thought, the Baptists took "spare the rod and spoil the child" to mean they should be disciplinarian to a point that would be considered abuse today. (Although nothing like what the fools in the FPP did)

That was just the universal attitude amongst the majority fundamentalist Baptist population. If anything, they have only gotten more fundamentalist since that time. When I was growing up, the whackjobs had only recently gotten control of the SBC from the relative moderates of the 60s and early 70s.

If you haven't lived amongst these people all your life, it's impossible to believe because it's just so outlandish. It was so bad where I grew up that corporal punishment was still practiced regularly in schools until the mid-90s, and everyone was up at arms when the school district finally announced they would no longer be beating children.

Thankfully, my dad had zero interest in religion (unlike my mom, who was the driving force behind forcing me to go to church as a child), so I didn't get regular beatings as a child as many of my friends did. Yes, it's sick that that is normal in some places.

I'm not completely against corporal punishment. There are rare situations of immediate and extreme danger where it might be useful. As a regular practice, however, espoused by Church and State alike, it is sickening.
posted by wierdo at 4:50 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Senor Cardgage, sadly, it is. I was probably about seven or eight at the time, and too young to make the judgment call myself, but my parents blamed the incident squarely on the parents' corporal punishment philosophy.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 4:56 PM on February 23, 2010


This is a failure mode of a specific sort of evangelical protestantism.

If you believe in total depravity, of course you think that even babies are sinful. If you believe that all scripture (including Proverbs: I'm not sure where the idea that it's not canon came from) is the inerrant word of God, of course you're going to do your best to apply it to your life, even the bits that seem to you to be "hard teachings". In fact, you'll even find a sort of virtue in going against your natural inclinations in order to do "what the Bible says", a satisfaction in doing something hard but necessary.

It is unfair to lump evangelicals themselves in with the baby killers, because mostly, evangelicalism does not fail in this way. But that doesn't absolve evangelicalism. It's broken by design: its teachings on human relations are so badly wrong that it can, just occasionally, go horribly wrong. We don't find Toyota blameless, do we?

Perhaps any system can be distorted and fail: for instance, perhaps liberal humanists might let their kids run off the rails completely, and create bored hedonists who go a bit Clockwork Orange. Still, evangelicalism seems more likely to do this than, say, humanism, to me (an ex-evangelical) at least.
posted by pw201 at 5:25 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Groups like this exist all over the country. There exist entire businesses selling "modest" women's (and girl's) clothing which not only cover every inch of evil, evil flesh, but will also cover any marks.”

I understand there’s some BDSM groups living 1950s lifestyles and whatnot.
I suspect, to some degree, that is what many of these people are doing with their religion. There does seem to be a connection between sexuality (repressed sexuality) and politics, drive for dominance and/or will to submit, all that.

This is not to say it’s about sex, or any given expression of it (indeed, the opposite), but it’s related to sexuality (denial of death as well, but big digression there).
(Clearly folks engaging in forms consensual BDSM role play no matter how detailed or focused are doing something vastly different. Especially since it’s consensual)

And there are attempts to regulate sexuality to various degrees, by religions, but also governments and other groups. Countless examples.
And that is something of the nature of getting people to buy in to their own oppression (even though they are dominant or of the ‘master class’ or what not.) 1984 is a decent example. Anti-sex league, refocusing of sexual energy into worshiping Big Brother, etc.

Like any idea, it can be contagious. But I think there is a difference between repressing and repurposing otherwise healthy sexual expression and using it as an excuse for violent oppression.
I’ll grant, creating sexual repression is dangerous in any case. And again, there are religions (governments, et.al) that do it to varying degrees. But there’s a difference between using any idea as a focus or outlet and using it as an excuse.

Indeed, one could argue EngSoc in Oceania is a more responsible system than the one the Pearls practice because there are no excuses (the purpose of power and torture there is: power and torture).
Unless one wants to argue, as some seem to have, that child abuse in religion is directly by design.
I don’t see that. Not beyond the excesses possible in any extremely hierarchical and/or insular bureaucratic organization (not that this isn’t in and of itself a kind of problem. I have some issues with churches in general, but in terms of practical effect, not in terms of speech.)

I’d describe the Pearls themselves as delusional and self-deceiving. The desire to believe can overwhelm an actual belief.
Look at Jonestown. People gave their own kids poison to support ‘socialism’ and protest capitalism. Once that desire is instilled and accepted, almost anything can be used as an excuse for behavior and rationality goes out the window.

But the Pearls can live however they wish. If they want to dress up like it's 1850, and use a lot of 'thee's' and 'thou's' they should be alllowed to. They want to have kinky bible sex, sure, whatever.
The only real problem here is the Pearls want to pass on child abuse through practice.
They shouldn’t be allowed to. If they persist, their children should be taken away.
Maliciously striking children should be illegal, other countries have done it, I see no reason why we shouldn't.

"Religion is a force for evil."
You know who else used the force?
Emperor Palpatine.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:30 PM on February 23, 2010


As a very hardcore atheist, I'm sort of squirming in embarrassment at the comments about religion here. In the spirit of disavowing those who claim to represent my beliefs but don't, I'd like to say that lots of atheists would not opportunistically latch onto this horror as an excuse to make absurd claims about all religion.

And fellow atheists who are tempted to: you're making us all look stupid. Please stop it.
posted by rusty at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


Let's take it further! The English language is what's telling people to be like this and teach others to be like this. Let's ban English! No Let's ban all Language!

My argument is stupid isn't it.

The thing is that the vast majority of Christians don't promote anything even remotely like this. So claiming that since a few use Religion to justify their crimes is a just reason to condemn all Religion is an equally bad argument.
posted by cirhosis


This analogy doesn't even compare. You choose to be, or not to be religious. There is no book that tells you that in order to speak English, you must beat children, rape women and stone slaves.

Language is just a method of carrying information. Religion is a belief system, most times like a cult.

Yes, your argument is indeed stupid.
posted by Malice at 5:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think this is the fault of religion. Religion is just absorbing and reflecting and regurgitating and perpetuating the patriarchy, which is far older and more ubiquitous and protean than any one religion. I wish we could all hate on patriarchy in every thread. And then make everybody renounce it who's benefited in some way from it or its institutions or has failed to renounce its privileges. LOL scary violent patriarchy.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:37 PM on February 23, 2010


"Lumping in right-wing cultists with, oh, say the Episcopalians or Quakers is offensive, ignorant and disrespectful to those who exercise their freedom of conviction. "

Yeah. I saw so many of them protesting during the Reagan and Bush years for other's freedom. The courage of their convictions was an inspiration to us all.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2010


It's not just the religious or Christian people that need to speak up against this - it's everybody.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

You make the world you live in.
posted by troll on a pony at 5:44 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - there is an open MeTa thread, if all you have is derailing snark or want to make your GRAR RELIGION comments that have nothing to do with the post, please take it there, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2010


Start here.

The most disturbing thing about that to me (probably because I wasn't willing to delve in very far) was the junction between this sort of evil and the already-creepy Facebook phenomenon of parents representing themselves with pictures of their kids. That page makes it look like abused kids are cheering on their own mistreatment. Good god.

On a different tack, I've known a number of people, from having grown up in Texas, who were abused as children and who carried on that same mentality by beating their wives and kids as adults. The thing is, though, that the people I'm thinking of were able to realize what they were doing, how evil it was, and stop doing it. Through Christian organizations.

I don't know the particulars of those organizations, and I'm both Atheist and distrustful of religion in general. But religion is a tool. It's a tool best suited for controlling those under one's authority, but it's still a tool and as such can be used for both evil and good. The tricky thing with Christianity is that so much of what Jesus supposedly said is, well, just so good. Especially for its time - holy shit! We are all sinners and thus cannot persecute others for sinning? Forgiveness is tantamount? Treat others as we would want to be treated? The whole Prodigal Son parable, which as opposed to fucking No Greater Joy preaches allowing one's child to go out and make their own mistakes, and celebrating once they've learned for themselves how to live a better life. And the bit about "I have sheep who are not of this flock." Oh how I love that, the idea that maybe others have found different paths to God, and trust that God has many different faces to different cultures.

Religion still scares the shit out of me, as a concept, and yes, I'd prefer that it not exist. But it does some good things that others are not really doing as well, and so if we're all about eradication we should figure out a way to get as much charity out there in the world without the things which trouble us so much. I imagine we're capable of driving around feeding the hungry and such without believing that we're putting our time in for heaven, but at least in the U.S. it's not happening on a volunteer basis as much as it should be.

The thing about religion is that it's usually about restraining oneself from what one would otherwise want to be doing. This is really shitty a lot of the time, and is how it's usually been used to control the masses. Don't eat this. Don't say that. Don't fuck him or her. Don't question. Don't answer. Don't do anything other than what we tell you God says you can and should do. This is awful.

But here we see what's even worse - religion being twisted to make our worst impulses imperatives from God. You ever feel like hitting your kids? Well you SHOULD! God says you MUST! If you feel guilty about it then you are weak! And since you can twist the Bible to justify anything you want it to, it's very, very easy to twist it to make people feel righteous about doing what they formerly felt guilty about doing anyway. And you can make a lot of money doing so.

This is basically the business model of the modern Republican party, but I don't need to tell that to any of y'all. What I want to say is that religion can create monsters, and monsters can flock to religion to satisfy their doubts. It's not either/or. Also, a lot of good people use religion to structure their lives and worldviews so remind themselves to be better people than they would be without it.

I'm reminded of the dude in Austin who flew his plane into the IRS building. Reading his manifesto, I realized that he was frankly stating so many of my own views. He begins by complaining - rightly - that the government has been securing stability for the people who caused the financial crash while diddling around on healthcare. And he writes very compellingly about it, actually. And I come away thinking - he shares the same concerns that I do... FUCK! Why did he have to write that and then commit an act of abject terrorism against innocents?

I'm not about to apologize for his actions - he's a crazy man who has nothing to do with me other than sharing some of the same worldview (and the fact that I grew up in Texas until I was 15) - because I share no responsibility for them. I know this is in MeTa, but cimbrog presumably doesn't beat his kids, and should share no responsibility for the murder in the FPP.

The Pearls sure-as-shit do, however. We don't have proper law to deal with this. Yet. I'm in love with the first amendment, but we need something which addresses harms caused by religious teaching to third parties completely under the control of the disciples.

It needs to be carefully determined, but we need something which can nail the Pearls - not just for beating their own kids, but for bringing the Hammer of God down on other parents to beat theirs.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:59 PM on February 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let's see what Dr. Samuel Cartwright has to say about this:

"If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away."

I can't think of a single author whose work the Pearls' resembles more. That last line is fucking chilling.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was wondering when y'all would discover the Pearls.

By the way, they also don't believe in government sanctioned marriage (i.e., their kids don't get marriage licenses or get married legally, they just have a ceremony and consider themselves hitched.)

I wouldn't call them mainstream in any way shape or form, even for fundamentalists.

As to physical discipline, there is an incredible difference between a swat on the butt if a kid is about to poke a fork into an electrical socket and the kind of beating talked about here. I grew up getting spanked, along with pretty much all my peers (heck, we even wound up being spanked with belts occasionally, along with the traditional switches we had to cut ourselves, flyswatters and my mom's personal favorite, the paddle left over from the paddleball toy most of us had as kids when the rubber string broke.) I spanked my own kids here and there, but not all that much (they were pretty well behaved most of the time, anyway) --i am shocked and appalled at what these people teach re child discipline. Makes the home I grew up in look positively Quaker in comparison.

My personal "favorite" is how Mr Pearl would follow his toddler down to the pond and then push the mite in so that the child "would learn how dangerous the water was." That is just sick.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:34 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


When police searched the family's Crestwood Drive residence, they took a photograph of a 15-inch length of tubing lying on the parents' bed next to a children's book about a frog and a toad, which Ramsey said the girl had been reading from.

There is no tormet awful enough for these people, but I'm not convinced that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

But man, our culture sure does have a bizarrely hands-off approach to the parents' ability to abuse their children simply because children are vulnerable, smaller humans living under the protection of much more empowered adults.

This.

It's my belief that religion doesn't turn a normal person into a monster - monsters are attracted to religion because it gives them a veneer of propriety.

I guess there must be some free-floating cloud of Bad Ideas out there, and being raise in a culture which encourages particular types of behaviour with the sanction of an ultimate authority is COMPELTELY IRRELEVANT to how people turn out.

I'm quite happy for Christians to take credit for their faith inspiring Michaelangelo and Martin Luther King, but they need to own the downsides, too.

No, I haven't, as there are other, better criteria to judge a person on besides religion. Their actions and advice, for instance.

When New Zealand discussed civil unions for homosexuals, the people opposing were waving Bibles as their justification - including the ones at the rally in our capital demanding we wind the clock back and start imprisoning homosexuals. The single biggest religious organisation in the world weighed in on the anti-gay side.

When we debated banning physical punishment, a huge chunk of the opposition came from people casting said opposition in explicitly religious terms.

Bugger all suport came from people waving a bible in support.

So, yeah, i'm quite happy judging on actions. And the actions I see on a day-to-day basis are that people using their faith in the public arena are doing so in support of beating children. If you don't like that, perhaps you should do something about them, not yell at anyone pointing the fact out.
posted by rodgerd at 6:38 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Yeah. I saw so many of them protesting during the Reagan and Bush years for other's freedom.”
Ah, so you were there then getting spied on.
I question why those kinds of resources are/were used against groups like the Quakers and yet on people like this...
Not that I'm not a big fan of the 4th amendment. But it always seems to be generally harmless, indeed, peaceful and benevolent albeit motivated type folks and not idiots like the Pearls.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2010


Not that I'm not a big fan of the 4th amendment.

Not to derail again, but...

WHAT?!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2010


Navelgazer - digitalprimate sez "Yeah. I saw so many of them (Quakers, et.al.) protesting during the Reagan and Bush years for other's freedom"
The Quakers were protesting during the Reagan and Bush years, in the case of the link, specifically, torture. Additionally, I link to a story that they were spied on because they were organizing for peace.

I dislike the government spying. The 4th amendment is for protection against search unless authorized by a judge. I like that. I am a big fan.

But when the government does spy domestically (and spy on religious people), which I oppose but it's known they've done it anyway, it seems they almost never spy on people like the Pearls who are doing manifest and egregious harm and advocating others do so, but rather people like the Quakers protesting for peace who generally handle nothing more dangerous than tea and cookies. Ok?
posted by Smedleyman at 7:18 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


From reading the links, it appears that the most serious resistance to the Pearls', um, "child-rearing" material is coming from within the Christian home-schooling movement itself. Lots of blogs are decrying them as not just abusive but also as un-Christian, too.

And this, holy shit, an anecdote from when the Pearls were invited to stay with a family and give them advice, sort of like SuperNanny, except the wrong and twisted version. A two year old is crying in the car:
Mother was reaching for her baby when the father turned to me and asked, “What should I do?” Again I explained the principle: by allowing the child to dictate terms through his whining and crying, you are confirming his habit of whining and consenting to his technique of control. So I told the daddy to tell the boy that he would not be allowed to sit in his mother’s lap, and that he was to stop crying. Of course, according to former protocol, he intensified his crying to express the sincerity of his desires. The mother was ready to come up with a compromise. “He was hungry. He was sleepy. He was cold.” Actually, he was a brat, molded and confirmed by parental responses. I told the father to stop the car and without recourse give him three to five licks with a switch. After doing so the child only screamed a louder protest. This is not the time to give in. After two or three minutes driving down the road listening to his background wails, I told the father to COMMAND the child to stop crying. He only cried more loudly. At my instruction, without further rebuke, the father again stopped the car, got out, and spanked the child. Still screaming (the child, not the rest of us), we continued for two minutes until the father again commanded the child to be quiet. Again, no response, so he again stopped the car and spanked the child. This was repeated for about twenty miles down a lonesome highway at 11:00 on a winter night.
Like other posters here, I did, when overwrought and exhausted, hit my son on a few occasions and the memories of those incidents make me cringe with shame and grief. It's a horrible thing, really, to exercise your physical superiority on something weaker than yourself, and it snuffs out part of you.
posted by jokeefe at 7:19 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many children have the Pearl's and their followers murdered and buried in lonely places because they could not stop crying?
posted by chance at 7:20 PM on February 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


How on earth were these so clearly unfit parents ever allowed to adopt three little girls!?

dabitch, it depends on a number of factors. First, were they followers of this discipline approach at the time they did their home study or was this something they picked up afterward? Second, were they able to craft their answers to the home study to hide their approval of physical punishment? If not, did the case worker advise them against physical punishment? Did they agree during their adoption process to not use physical punishment simply so they could successfully complete the adoption? Did they do so knowing they would not adhere to this post adoption? How attentive and clued in was their case worker? Did they attend PRIDE or MAPP classes? Did they receive any training associated with their international adoption process? It is hard to say with the publicly available information.

Case workers who do home studies and back ground checks are trained, skilled individuals. They see patterns of behavior and know what red flags to look for. However, mistakes can be made and warning signs missed. More importantly, some people can really keep it together and present so well that you don't see the danger.

I wish identifying families who will abuse in the future was a science. It is not, unfortunately. I can only imagine that the case worker who approved their home study has just had their worst nightmare come true. I bet their going back through the home study to see if there was anything they missed. (speaking as a foster parent who has been through the home study)
posted by onhazier at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2010


Smedleyman, hopefully we're cool. I mean, we normally agree enough around here to find ourselves independently writing almost the exact same things in each of our overlong posts. I must have misunderstood you, but it seemed like you were saying that you were, you know, opposed to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Which didn't make any sense to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:22 PM on February 23, 2010


Pearl's response really weirds me out not only for the reasons stated about but also in that it's ALL about "This isn't our fault, so there." Not "this is a terrible tragedy," not "our prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery are with Zariah," nothing that suggests any sort of normal human sympathy for the suffering of others - sympathy that could, I think, be conveyed without admitting any sort of responsibility (though I certainly think he is responsible). What a creep.
posted by naoko at 7:24 PM on February 23, 2010


I love the part in the article where it said I was not fit to be a parent if I did not see the "wisdom" in what was being said.

In Defense of Biblical Chastisement.

Sick, sick, sick.
posted by mnb64 at 7:26 PM on February 23, 2010


(“but it seemed like you were saying that you were, you know, opposed to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.”

Yeah, it does sort of read that way. Sorry for not being clear. Sometimes between the head and the fingers it gets lost.)
posted by Smedleyman at 7:45 PM on February 23, 2010


At my church this past sunday, the pastor preached on the Courage of Esther. (Cliff notes for those unfamiliar with the story: Esther found herself eligible to be the Queen, if she hid her Judaism. After she became Queen, the King's chief minister ordered that all Jews be slaughtered. Esther had to choose between revealing herself and watching all her people, including her father, die. She chose to reveal herself, saying "If I perish, I perish.")

After lining out the story and giving considerable weight to the Scylla and Charibdis Esther found herself between, our pastor then brought the situation around to an eerily parallel situation, that of gays and lesbians in Uganda. She hypothesized a theoretical daughter to the President of Uganda, one educated in an American university, who may well have seen love within the gay community, or perhaps even FOUND love within the gay community. And here she is, having to choose between speaking up and thereby risking condemnation, imprisonment, and death, or remaining silent and watching people she loves be jailed and killed.

And then, just as we were all nodding and patting ourselves on the back, the pastor made a much less comfortable point. How often, she asked, do we refuse to identify ourselves as Christians, afraid that we'll get blowback from the more conservative right-wing or disgust from our areligious friends? How often do we listen to self-identified Christians spouting ignorance, hate, and bigotry, and decide not to stand up and say "No, you know what? That's wrong. I'm a Christian, and that's just wrong." How often do we as progressive Christians keep our mouths shut and our eyes down, and allow the cruel and the self-righteous to set the public face of our faith?

Too often, is the answer. And we don't have the risk of death or imprisonment either, because Christians ARE the mainstream force in America. No, we risk only the sneers and smirks of our friends and neighbors. But as the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love, we need to take that risk, to stand up, to represent the God we know and the faith we keep.

So. I am a Christian. The Pearls are wrong, evil, and sick; more to the point, I find no spiritual support for them in the religion I practice. I pray for them and for their children, and I pray for their justice.
posted by KathrynT at 8:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [44 favorites]


I do not care all that much for children. They are sticky, and noisy, and their horrible shrill voices hurt my ears. They don't sit still, and they are extremely untidy. When they are extremely small they smell and are not amenable to reason.

But even I would cut my own hands off rather than hurt a child. They are small and defenseless! How can someone want to hurt them? I had a friend who had a baby, and I would babysit quite frequently to give her a break. The baby cried, but it was more upsetting from a 'oh no, poor baby, what do I do to make her happy again' than from a 'make this hideous thing stop shrieking' standpoint. As someone said up above, the sounds children make when they are genuinely hurt or scared are immediately different from those when they're cranky or trying on their acting skills. It triggers a deep instinctive need to fix whatever is wrong with the little person.

When my friend's little girl got older, she was naughty, like any toddler will be. But she was no more naughty than my dog and the same techniques worked. You do a bait-and-switch so that she is distracted from the thing you don't want her to do, and then praise her for doing what you want. There is no need to hit a child, just like there's no need to hit a dog.

So I don't like children, have no plans to ever have any, but somehow I am more empathetic toward them than people who have actually have them. That always worries me, somehow.

I am not a very emotional person, but this post made me cry.
posted by winna at 8:24 PM on February 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


I wonder where everyone else was, when this shit was happening. The innocent bystanders so to speak. The neighbours never heard the crying? Or the whipping? No-one drove past the kids getting whipped in the car or while out and about? Or were they that secretive that no-one ever had an inkling that "Jesus Christ these kids are getting whipped for any infraction or some nebulous set of rules"?
This whole thing has really made me sick to my stomach and I look at baby anachronism and wonder how the fuck anyone could take a weapon to a baby for the infraction of being a baby. Then I wonder how anyone could stand by and not do anything when they saw it. I hope to fucking God that if anyone saw me whip my child they called the cops and child services. It all gets connected in my head with the arseholes who know nothing about developmental stages and make douchebag comments about 'why won't they just shut that kid up' and make shitty 'jokes' about hitting kids - the kind of people who assume it's bad parenting behind kids being kids. That they can discipline childhood out of children.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:27 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


louche mustachio:
Horrible people will find all kinds of ways to justify their horrors. Religion is one of them, but not the only one. It gives the Pearls a selling point, a pulpit, a way to spread the word, but if they didn't have that, they could have certainly found another kind of false authority.

Sorry, could you name another pulpit from which you can preach that it's OK to beat the shit out of your kids on a regular basis? Doesn't even have to be a pulpit. And because we're talking about little kids, let's leave out: 1) being drunk and/or high all day long, 2) UFC training, 3) any military training.
posted by Lukenlogs at 8:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


How often, she asked, do we refuse to identify ourselves as Christians, afraid that we'll get blowback from the more conservative right-wing or disgust from our areligious friends? How often do we listen to self-identified Christians spouting ignorance, hate, and bigotry, and decide not to stand up and say "No, you know what? That's wrong. I'm a Christian, and that's just wrong." How often do we as progressive Christians keep our mouths shut and our eyes down, and allow the cruel and the self-righteous to set the public face of our faith?

We're better off with more people of her ilk, than less. Give her a hug from a cantankerous old atheist, please.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Corporal punishment has nothing to do with theism. Consider Robert Heinlein's lectures on the virtues of corporal punishment. He blamed society's flaws on a lack of discipline and made this theme (virtue through discipline, discipline through physical punishment) the main theme in Starship Troopers. If there aren't any atheist organisations that preach corporal punishment it's probably because there aren't many organisations that are atheist per se.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:56 PM on February 23, 2010


If there aren't any atheist organisations that preach corporal punishment it's probably because there aren't many organisations that are atheist per se.

Hm. Just keep thinking about that for a little longer.
posted by unSane at 8:58 PM on February 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sorry, could you name another pulpit from which you can preach that it's OK to beat the shit out of your kids on a regular basis?

Fascist ideologies and British schools until very recently.
posted by unSane at 9:00 PM on February 23, 2010


It's weird to notice how much the tide of metafilter turns depending on thread context. In this thread, anybody who physically their child needs to go to prison and die. In several other threads about permissive parenting, it seems like there's a 50/50 split between indifference and "somebody should have spanked those children more". Just sayin.
posted by tehloki at 9:00 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I cannot begin to fathom how these parents could hear the screams of this child, and continue to beat her until she was silent.

Sadism. I am not fucking kidding.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:02 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


s/physically/physically disciplines/

and please don't take that as a blanket indictment or anything, I'm just kind of overwhelmed at all the boundless undirected rage in here
posted by tehloki at 9:02 PM on February 23, 2010


Sorry blue: all spanking ≠ child abuse. Anecdotally I was one of the spanked. I never felt unloved. I don't think I was abused in the least. I tried it once on my son. Two swats with my hand after explaining what was about to happen and why. He was 3, or 4. He immediately turned and with tears in his eyes reached out to hug me. I understood immediately what my parents meant when they said "We are doing this because we love you, this hurts us more than it hurts you". Subsequently I've chosen a different path and don't spank my sons. However, I bet they'd prefer it to the "lectures", extra chores and privilege loss I employ as punishment instead.

What these pseudo-religious crackpots preach, and what those hideous, psychoparents did is in NO WAY akin to what my measured, loving and infinitely patient parents did.


This sad story is about child abuse, not about spanking. Why does everything have to be so cut/dry? I'll tell ya: Because it makes it easier to demean, hate and condemn the "other" side. In my experience tolerance and understanding trumps hate and ignorance EVERY TIME.

Progressives espouse tolerance, but we often fail to observe it.

.
posted by HyperBlue at 9:29 PM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


.

Jesus Fucking Christ ... nail these bastards!
posted by ericb at 9:38 PM on February 23, 2010


Holy crap, I didn't want to click on this post, but it already haunted me from the moment I saw the fpp text. I keep picturing myself as a stumbling-through-the-world child, seeing one of those torture devices in every room, and wondering when/if I might being doing something offensive enough to warrant its use on me, and I just can't shake that horrifying image.

I'm not going to say that religion causes this (and I speak as a former fundamentalist), but when you believe that the universe is in charge of a god who has no problem whatsoever with torturing the majority of sentient beings who've ever lived for eternity -- eternity! -- it's not implausible to propose that said religion could act as a very convenient catalyst for unleashing sheer authoritarian sadism in the name of one's god.
posted by treepour at 9:39 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion is a symptom, not a cause.

Child beaters like this deserve your deepest condemnation. Don't waste your breath on whatever bullshit they use to justify it. They will always find something. Don't lessen the depth of their guilt by blaming it on an outside factor.
posted by freebird at 9:54 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't really have much to add, other than I could only spend about 10 minutes total reading a few links and this thread and my heart is beating faster and I'm starting to see red and I'm sincerely hoping for a LOT of payback on these Pearl folks. I sincerely hope someone else will do so and not me, and for that matter I hope the Pearls never cross my path because I'd end up in jail--maybe for a long time--and I don't want that to happen.

I'm a pretty milquetoast kind of guy but nothing gets my blood boiling from zero to a thousand in a nanosecond than the abuse of children. If these people get off there is something (more) wrong with our society. Fuck it, give me 10 minutes along with these fucks in a sound-proof room. Maybe I'll read their books beforehand for some advice on how to proceed.
posted by zardoz at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Matthew 18:1-5

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
posted by empty vessel at 9:55 PM on February 23, 2010


Also, for those poor kids (and other kids in similar situations), may the one who was murdered rest in peace, and may the survivors find some improbable strength to carry on and thrive.

.
posted by treepour at 9:56 PM on February 23, 2010


6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

This is kind of the very thing that causes them to do this. They believe that by not beating their children, they are "causing them to sin". It seems like a ridiculous interpretation, and it is, but it's been the most common one throughout history.

Jesus' actual interaction with children, also in Matthew, consisted of blessing them and chewing out his disciples for not taking the children seriously because "of such is the kingdom of Heaven". It's the "suffer little children" line.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:56 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another core belief of hardcore Christianity is in Matthew 18:8-9: "8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."

It's the belief that nothing in this life on Earth really matters because it's really all a big test to determine where you'll spend eternity. If not beating your child means they'll spend eternity in Hell, wouldn't you be a monster NOT to beat them? This is why it's about religion. It's not about YOUR religion unless YOU BELIEVE IN THIS SPECIFIC, EXTREME BRAND OF DOMINIONISM. If you believe that being happy on Earth is important too, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:02 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


(of Mr. Schatz)

As I understood it, one of the reasons for their leaving was that the husband had a strong disagreement with a doctrinal stance of our church. He insisted that Christians could achieve total sanctification (a state of sinless living) in this lifetime.

What a telling detail. Of course, he believes in total sanctification. He doesn't want to be called to account. The desire for such a doctrine to be true, is the desire for him to be able to present his indulgences as righteous behavior. Clueless, no doubt, that he is simply parading his guilty conscience, his shame of his own motives. If his interest was really in providing the best leadership he could in service to his family, wouldn't he always want to keep the possibility of error in mind?

-----

On another note, it's interesting how this terribly sad story immediately spurs cries for more family / criminal law, datamining to find possible abusers, and restrictions on free speech. I know, I know, it's for "the greater good", and somebody needs to "think of the children".

There's just nothing like a tragedy for generating bad ideas.
posted by BigSky at 12:26 AM on February 24, 2010


I'm going to have to say that vigilante justice is the only solution I can think of.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:07 AM on February 24, 2010


Joe in Australia: “Corporal punishment has nothing to do with theism. … If there aren't any atheist organisations that preach corporal punishment it's probably because there aren't many organisations that are atheist per se.

Setting aside the apparent No True Scotsman going on there, I'm unconvinced that a hypothetical pro-child-abuse hardcore atheist organization would be as insidious as a pro-child-abuse religious one, because at least you could have a hope of reasoning with the atheist organization. If the Church of Saint Heinlein advocated beating your kids because it makes them better ubermenschen or whatever, you could pretty easily go out and get the data that says no, jackasses, beating your kids actually doesn't make them into brilliant superpeople, it actually turns them into broken drones, in other words: you are incorrect.

You can't do that with someone, or a group of people, who are basing their abusive behavior on a religious or otherwise faith-based conviction. You can't engage and argue with that sort of thing rationally, because it's arational by definition.

If someone beats their children because they think it'll mean Johnny gets a better SAT score, at least you have a place you can engage them from. It's still awful, but you can pretty easily convince them — if they're being honest about their motivation — that they're taking the wrong approach. (And this has happened historically to a lot of now-discredited parenting methods.) But if they beat their children because they think — they know — that it'll get Johnny a box seat in the hereafter, you can't really do much about that, except hopefully take Johnny away before he ends up dead. What are you going to say, that their religion is wrong? How do you possibly convince them? You can't. The best you can do is maybe pull some little rhetorical tricks, catch them engaging in hypocrisy, or pry at preexisting doubts that they might have. But if they're a True Believer, it's game over.

And that's probably why although the Pearl's style of child abuse has faded from mainstream/reality-based culture, which although it isn't explicitly "atheist," is at least generally receptive to rational arguments. There were times when corporeal punishment was pretty standard, and widely believed to be a sort of parental 'best practice,' but as our understanding of child development and psychology increased, it became clear that those practices weren't good, and they've become discredited.

That said, there are lots of people who self-identify as religious, but keep their faith from preventing them from making or accepting rational arguments in other areas. The vast majority of 'religious' people (at least in the Anglosphere; I assume elsewhere but will restrict myself to my own experience) pull this apparent trick of compartmentalization off on a daily basis, seemingly without problems. So the problem is not really religion or faith per se, the problem is people who have an inability to perform this compartmentalization, or who partake of belief systems that explicitly forbid it (e.g. Christian Dominionism).

I'm not sure how you teach that compartmentalization — most people seem to just develop it naturally, generally as a result of living in the empirical world in some situations and the faith-driven one at others (e.g. at school / in public and at home). But that's what seems to be increasingly lacking here in the U.S., and it worries me.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:51 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe someone should have a word with these people. All 263 of them.
posted by adamvasco at 2:33 AM on February 24, 2010


"These truths," the tall, white-beaded Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book, "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children.

Besides the obvious point made by stefanie above that children aren't mules, it's interesting to note that some Amish communities are frequently accused of abusing their mules and horses, as well. Then, when their useful lives are over (often due to overwork and the injuries sustained due to abuse or lack of care), the animals are often auctioned to so-called "kill buyers" to be transported to Canada or Mexico and slaughtered for human consumption abroad.

Reading the FPP made me sick. Reading the thread, and all the anti-religious hatred it contains, just made me sad.

I'm a Christian, too, and this is wrong.
posted by po at 4:26 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The American Christian right (and not just them) are fond of arguing that religion is necessary because without it, there are no moral absolutes, and nothing to stop human beings from killing each other, marrying dogs etc. Dennis Prager expresses this view, in which moral relativism is the ultimate boogeyman, here.
Moral relativism means that murder, for example, is not objectively wrong – you may feel it's wrong, but it is no more objectively wrong than your feeling that some music is awful renders that music objectively awful. It's all a matter of personal feeling. [...]

Only if God – the transcendent source of morality – says murder is wrong, is it wrong, and not merely one man's or one society's opinion.

Most secular individuals do not confront these consequences of moral relativism. It is too painful for most decent secular people to realize that their moral relativism, their Godless morality, means that murder is not really wrong, that "I think murder is wrong," is as meaningless as "I think purple is ugly."
It's a savage irony that its moral absolutism, not moral relativism, which provided both a cover and motivation for the acts described in the FPP. And in particular, it was a man whose avowed intent was to live a morally perfect life who committed them. See also.

As someone else said, the Rapture can't come quickly enough.
posted by unSane at 5:39 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the Church of Saint Heinlein advocated beating your kids because it makes them better ubermenschen or whatever, you could pretty easily go out and get the data that says no, jackasses, beating your kids actually doesn't make them into brilliant superpeople, it actually turns them into broken drones, in other words: you are incorrect.

That reminds me of how we averted an economic crisis after members of the aggressively rational, secular financial community were presented with evidence that time and again, their predictions fared no better than chance and that the market typically failed to self-regulate as they hypothesized. They all listened, adjusted policies accordingly and nobody's setting things on fire in Iceland for the insurance money. Certainly, there's no such thing as a self-serving bullshit argument couched in the cultural language of secular empiricism, amirite?
posted by mobunited at 5:59 AM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kadin2048, I tend to think the entire premise is wrong.

People who abuse and commit acts of violence against children aren't going to be reasoned out of such behavior whether they are atheist or religious. As you point out, whipping an infant is not a logical, rational act. These people are abusive, and they're justifying those tendencies with religion. If religious approval of flagellation wasn't available to them, they'd simply justify it another way. Or, perhaps they wouldn't even bother, and would just beat their kids because they could. There are psychological aspects to abuse which have nothing to do with religion: dynamics of power, emotion, control, etc.
posted by zarq at 6:12 AM on February 24, 2010


"I wonder where everyone else was, when this shit was happening."

*deep sigh as I look at the comforting sun outside*

I'm, er, astonished at the memories this triggered. I had always dismissed the physical displine I had as a child; the psychological manipulation and degradation was terrible enough. I've been sitting here for hours, because each time I read a new bit, it triggers memories, clear as day, of similar sorts of treatment, the same "Christian" phrases and rationalizations, Biblicalizations?, my own family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles) would use. Like deep ruts carved into my psyche, that I'd forgotten about because I've lived away from those poisonous lines of thought/belief for so long, until nudged back into remembrance of them.

My own parents weren't quite as bad as the Pearls, but I learned very early on to keep my mouth shut whenever my father, mother, or both (sometimes they would take turns) hit or paddled me. Sometimes they'd break a branch off a tree if we were outdoors. It wouldn't last as long if I kept quiet, because that was the reaction they wanted... total submission, "no back-talking." I had a system: keep my mouth shut, eyes locked on the ground (I couldn't look up because looking up was "prideful"), hold in the tears until my parent/s allowed me away. I would walk calmly, usually to my room, sometimes to a favorite Douglas fir well out of the way and its welcoming branches, then sit down and cry quietly, so they wouldn't hear me. Crying audibly got me screamed at for "speaking out" and "being rebellious", also "trying to manipulate my parents". I don't even remember what it was I'd been punished for. Only the terror of knowing I was alone, in pain, confused, and at the mercy of people two or three times my size.

I spoke to teachers about it, when I was young. They spoke with my parents about it. My parents told teachers I was exaggerating; there were no marks (except in summer when they knew no one was around to look; our vacations consisted of camping in the wilderness). "She's a prideful girl, you can see that. She needs to learn respect." I was top of the class... "prideful." No visible marks meant no child abuse reports. "Just" me bursting into uncontrollable tears once every three or four months at school... I gave up on confiding in adults when I was around 8. There were those who believed me, but who could do nothing about it without physical proof or witnessing any abuse themselves. My parents were careful to avoid that.

My cousins had it much, much worse. My uncle would beat them with a coat hanger. If/when they cried, he would shut them in a closet (never the two in the same closet, always alone). For hours. And wouldn't let them out to go to the bathroom. I started calling the police as soon as I'd learned how. Yeah, imagine a 10-year-old calling the police, calm because she learned to be calm from her own parents trying to break her spirit, describing how her uncle has just thrown her 9-year-old cousin to the ground, pinned him under his knees and whacked him repeatedly with a coat hanger.

The police would come, but by then my uncle had cleaned up my cousin and threatened him with worse if he said anything other than "my father punished me for a good reason. I've been a bad boy." The police needed an adult witness. I wasn't an adult. Eventually my grandparents witnessed the abuse themselves. Again I called the police. My grandparents, in order to "protect the respect of adults", said that they had seen nothing out of the ordinary... Once the police were gone, I screamed at them, asking how they could lie. "We'll take care of this ourselves." I don't know what that meant, because the only thing that stopped my uncle from hitting his children, was their mother (divorced) finally moving to a different state with them.

"I wonder where everyone else was, when this shit was happening."
Unable to do anything judicially without proof... or, like my grandparents, part of the same damned (and I mean "damned" literally) problem. I don't speak with a single one of the abusive family members any more, and they know precisely why. But with the help of many a generous friend, kind-hearted teachers and neighbors who went out of their way to let us know they appreciated and supported us, and anonymous generosity, my cousins and I are independent adults now, though we'll always carry wounds. The world has its murderous Pearls, but it also has people who will do what they can, even if they might feel it isn't much, to reach out to children in need. My high school band teacher, for instance, who I had for four years, would laugh at my jokes, forgive my mistakes with a shrug and a "I know you didn't do it on purpose", and call me "dear". I feel more warmth remembering the way he'd say "dear" than for any memory, at all, of my family. It's children who have the smallest non-family and non-belief-system social networks who are at the greatest risk...
posted by fraula at 6:19 AM on February 24, 2010 [31 favorites]


This is not just abuse. It's organized, sanctified, justified abuse of the most extreme kind. I do not think it's true that these people would have done the same things to their children absent the religious framework.

I think that the problem in this case is largely one of authoritarianism, not religion per se. The atheists don't get a free pass here. The Nazi project was not fundamentally religious despite the Wagnerian mysticism, although it certainly had many metaphysical elements (the notions of racial purity were pure woo). What made it possible, and what makes abuse like this possible, is that people were willing to surrender their humanity in the service of an authoritarian ideal. Certainly there were Nazis who would have been murderers if Hitler had never been born, but Nazism produced many murderers who would have lived unremarkable lives in its absence.

I think the same thing applies here with these whackjobs. They produced a mystical system of childrearing in which it was necessary to destroy the children in order to save them. Ideologies are powerful and dangerous things. It's not just a bunch of psychopaths seeking cover for actions they would have committed anyway.
posted by unSane at 6:23 AM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I keep picturing myself as a stumbling-through-the-world child, seeing one of those torture devices in every room, and wondering when/if I might being doing something offensive enough to warrant its use on me

This is one of the things about my childhood that I wish I could forget: the agonizing over decisions for fear of making the wrong choice. "Mother told me to wash the white clothes with bleach, but we are out of bleach. Should I wash the clothes anyway? Or should I wait til she comes home and tell her I didn't wash the clothes because we are out of bleach?" My brother and I both developed stomach problems-- he was hospitalized with an ulcer-- and I attribute it to the tension we both lived with from fear of making the wrong choice.

Sadly, my mother bought into this authoritarian crap because she was raised that way-- not only did we have to obey her, we had to obey her cheerfully. My mother hated a sullen child so she beat me to change my attitude. It astonishes me, 40 years later, to think that my college educated, smart mother, who loved children, was so quick to beat us with wooden spoons, paddles, hairbrushes, and even my father's belt for being "bad" (which covered a huge array of behaviors, everything from lying and sassing to accidents and frowning.) To this day when I look at pictures from my 7th birthday I feel sad because I remember during my party she didn't like something I did so she hauled me off to the bathroom and whipped me. I think I got mad about something and stomped my feet.

My mother learned her child rearing tactics from her parents-- good Mid Western Methodists, who in turn probably learned it from their parents. Undoubtedly I come from a long line of child beaters and I am proud to say that shit stopped with me. My daughter was raised without fear.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [17 favorites]


Geez. I should show this whole post and responses to people who ask me why I don't have any pictures of my family, childhood, or (want to) remember much of growing up.
posted by paddbear at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


What makes me most sad about this is that the idea of an afterlife is woo, and hell is a made-up place and these bad people will simply die and rot in the ground without a showy punishment to make me feel the pleasure of revenge. Even the death penalty isn't going to really do any good for these people.

Such a sadness.
posted by fuq at 7:16 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not just abuse. It's organized, sanctified, justified abuse of the most extreme kind. I do not think it's true that these people would have done the same things to their children absent the religious framework.

Most studies of child abusers don't cite religion as a motivator, leading me to believe that while it may be a contributing factor in some cases, it's not considered a primary cause.

Poverty seems to be mentioned most frequently as a root cause of child neglect and abuse. So are social isolation, substance abuse, a history of mental illness and depression.
There is no single profile of a perpetrator of fatal child abuse, although certain characteristics reappear in many studies. Frequently, the perpetrator is a young adult in his or her mid-20s, without a high school diploma, living at or below the poverty level, depressed, and who may have difficulty coping with stressful situations. In many instances, the perpetrator has experienced violence firsthand. Most fatalities from physical abuse are caused by fathers and other male caregivers. Mothers are most often held responsible for deaths resulting from child neglect (U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995).
(Emphasis mine.)

Also:
The statistical analysis of child fatalities is hampered by missing data. Nevertheless, there are certain themes that seem to pervade these tragedies. The most common correlate is that the death of children resulting from abuse or neglect, occurs in homes where caretakers tend not to be married. About one-third of the perpetrators were mother's boyfriends, one-third were biological fathers, and approximately a quarter were biological mothers. These men sometimes had criminal records, including a history of violence. It is clear from multiple sources of data that child fatalities normally occur within a context of poverty, often abject poverty.
More.

I think that the problem in this case is largely one of authoritarianism, not religion per se. The atheists don't get a free pass here. The Nazi project was not fundamentally religious despite the Wagnerian mysticism, although it certainly had many metaphysical elements (the notions of racial purity were pure woo). What made it possible, and what makes abuse like this possible, is that people were willing to surrender their humanity in the service of an authoritarian ideal. Certainly there were Nazis who would have been murderers if Hitler had never been born, but Nazism produced many murderers who would have lived unremarkable lives in its absence.

I don't disagree that an authoritarian environment can encourage abuse. But as I said earlier, I tend to think authoritarian ideals are more used by abusers as justification for existing tendencies, rather than a new behavior initiated as a result of their religion or environment.

I admit that I could be wrong here. It's been shown in studies that abuse can be a learned behavior. Several studies have shown that people who abuse children have often been abused themselves, and in particular that the severity of the violence they inflict is directly related to their own perceptions of whether they deserved to be mistreated.

I think the same thing applies here with these whackjobs. They produced a mystical system of childrearing in which it was necessary to destroy the children in order to save them. Ideologies are powerful and dangerous things. It's not just a bunch of psychopaths seeking cover for actions they would have committed anyway.

Perhaps. I remain unconvinced because there are so many other documented causes of child abuse and neglect.
posted by zarq at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


So your view is that all the adherents of the Pearl system would have beaten their children just as much if they'd never been introduced to it?

If so, the Pearls bear absolutely no responsibility.
posted by unSane at 8:19 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


there are so many other documented causes of child abuse and neglect.

Read fraula and Secret Life of Gravy's stories to understand why the type of abuse they suffered isn't documented. The cases that get documented involve people who have already run afoul of the legal system, and therefore the poor, criminal and unmarried are over-represented. Those who steer clear of it run completely under the radar, and don't make it into the studies. That doesn't mean they don't exist.

One slow cure for this is exposing it to the public eye. If children like fraula learn from the popular culture that the way they are being treated isn't right, they have a chance to break free of it the way she did.

I recall a discussion here some time ago about laws against beating children. There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:39 AM on February 24, 2010


@Secret Life of Gravy:

I had a similar upbringing (see my comment earlier in the thread), and as with yours, my mother was physically abusive because her family had raised their children with physical abuse, having been raised that way themselves, and so on back through history.

Before I even considered marriage, I resolved to break that evil cycle. My children would not know the fear that my sisters and I knew. And I did; I'm probably inordinately proud of the fact that in my house the only use for a belt has been to hold my trousers up. My three children have never ever known belts to have any other purpose. Ditto cooking utensils, etc.

It is my firm belief that a child is stripped of its personhood when it's not only beaten but forbidden to protest or object. The child is being commanded to overcome the natural human inclination to protect itself from harm, and also being told in no uncertain terms that he or she simply does not count and is a nonentity. And that is truly a horrific prospect, and I'm sure that all of us who grew up that way carry baggage around with us that we will never fully comprehend because we've buried it. As children we (or at least I) gave up trying to wrap our brains around the concept that a big person who professed to love and care for us was nonetheless beating the crap out of us with whatever implement seemed handy.

MeFi catharsis. At least those of us who thought our childhood punishments were outrageous are finding out that we were not alone, that other MeFites had parents who were similar evil geniuses at child-beating. Probably parents who, like mine, also decried totalitarian prison systems for the way they mistreated and beat their inmates. Irony, we has it.
posted by hubbit at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who abuse and commit acts of violence against children aren't going to be reasoned out of such behavior whether they are atheist or religious. As you point out, whipping an infant is not a logical, rational act. These people are abusive, and they're justifying those tendencies with religion. If religious approval of flagellation wasn't available to them, they'd simply justify it another way. Or, perhaps they wouldn't even bother, and would just beat their kids because they could. There are psychological aspects to abuse which have nothing to do with religion: dynamics of power, emotion, control, etc.

I think I have to disagree with you here, zarq.

It's often said that children "come with no owners manual", meaning parents feel a bit adrift and lost and like they're making it up as they go along as they raise their kids.

Anyone who bought the Pearls' book did so because they were seeking exact that -- a how-to book about parenting, either because they are new parents or because they feel that the methods they have created for themselves are failing. Either way, they have purposely sought out a text which is supposed to reflect the belief system they have chosen for their lives.

So this book presents a method of interacting with the child(ren) which purports to have a basis in the Holy Book of their religion, and which advocates beating the child for nearly any reason in order to fulfill the mandates of that religion.

I don't think that means that these people are innately abusive at all. I think it means that they have been suckered into abusive behavior by false teachings and gullible minds, because they were seeking to have that mythical how-to book of parenting.
posted by hippybear at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I recall a discussion here some time ago about laws against beating children. There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion.

That is an unfair reading and unrepresentative of people's positions.
posted by Snyder at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recall a discussion here some time ago about laws against beating children. There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion.

Link, please? I missed that thread, but would be interested in reading it.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2010


Read fraula and Secret Life of Gravy's stories to understand why the type of abuse they suffered isn't documented. The cases that get documented involve people who have already run afoul of the legal system, and therefore the poor, criminal and unmarried are over-represented. Those who steer clear of it run completely under the radar, and don't make it into the studies. That doesn't mean they don't exist.

I'm aware of this with regards to child abuse that does not involve a fatality.

The studies I cited were specifically about cases in which there were fatalities. In those situations, the perpetrators rarely get to "run under the radar."
posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on February 24, 2010


The child instinctively fled from his touch, running into the street, where he was struck and killed by a car.


Waitasec....is that true?


I can believe it. My reactions to unexpected physical contact by a 'fatherly' figure are almost as strong now, 20+ years later, as they were the first time I found myself flying across a room into a wall, at my own father's hand. There were many times in my childhood where I ran away from my father, even when his current intention was not violent. I no longer want to sick up right there, but I still flinch like you came at me with a knife. God forbid someone tries to give me a friendly shoulder rub, that locks up every muscle in my body.

Then there are the times I've been physically attacked, and unable to defend myself, because growing up the lesson I learned was that trying to avoid a hit, much less striking back, meant things would only get worse.
posted by No1UKnow at 9:56 AM on February 24, 2010


So your view is that all the adherents of the Pearl system would have beaten their children just as much if they'd never been introduced to it?

My view is that the Pearl system probably encouraged abuse by acting as a convenient "acceptable" cover for these parents to commit violence against their children. But I have doubts that they went from "never going to harm my own child" to "Jesus says it's okay, so I must" simply because they read a book.

If so, the Pearls bear absolutely no responsibility.

Is there a reason you're taking what I said and are trying to interpret it into some sort of extreme position?

My opinion of the Pearls, stated in the last sentence of this comment still stands.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on February 24, 2010


I recall a discussion here some time ago about laws against beating children....

Link, please? I missed that thread, but would be interested in reading it.


Are any of these previous FPPs the one referenced?
Did corporal punishment save a struggling school?

New Study Shows Religion is Good for Kids.

To spank, or not to spank?
posted by ericb at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2010


What makes me most sad about this is that the idea of an afterlife is woo, and hell is a made-up place and these bad people will simply die and rot in the ground without a showy punishment to make me feel the pleasure of revenge. Even the death penalty isn't going to really do any good for these people.

Their punishment isn't showy, but it is grueling. They're human beings, like you and me; either they know, in some deep, hidden corner of their soul, that what they're doing is wrong, or else they are fundamentally broken and unable to experience empathy in any way. In the former case, that means that every time they are alone with themselves, that knowledge worms its way to the surface of their thoughts and tortures them. In the latter, they are already denied so many of the best pleasures of life that we don't have to send them to hell, because they're already there.

I don't believe in Hell, and whether the afterlife exists is meaningless to me. But such people get their punishments and their tortures here on earth.
posted by KathrynT at 10:25 AM on February 24, 2010


It's often said that children "come with no owners manual", meaning parents feel a bit adrift and lost and like they're making it up as they go along as they raise their kids.

True. I've certainly felt that way myself since becoming a parent.

Anyone who bought the Pearls' book did so because they were seeking exact that -- a how-to book about parenting, either because they are new parents or because they feel that the methods they have created for themselves are failing. Either way, they have purposely sought out a text which is supposed to reflect the belief system they have chosen for their lives.

So this book presents a method of interacting with the child(ren) which purports to have a basis in the Holy Book of their religion, and which advocates beating the child for nearly any reason in order to fulfill the mandates of that religion.

I don't think that means that these people are innately abusive at all. I think it means that they have been suckered into abusive behavior by false teachings and gullible minds, because they were seeking to have that mythical how-to book of parenting.


From an abstract perspective, I can understand what you're saying. In practice, though... perhaps this is my own personal failing, but I have a lot of difficulty seeing how any sane, rational person who is not already prone to be abusive and violent can possibly come to a conclusion that whipping an infant is not only desirable, but necessary. Book or no. I'm not a particularly squeamish person and the very idea makes me want to throw up.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there a reason you're taking what I said and are trying to interpret it into some sort of extreme position?

No, I was asking a question (hence the question mark) to see if you agreed with it or not, because it has an important logical consequence. The question is not whether religious adherence or fanaticism is a root cause of child abuse in general -- which is what the research you cite addresses -- but whether in this case the religious doctrines were a primary cause of the abuse.

This is important, because if the religious justification provided by the Pearls simply provided cover for a bunch of people who were always going to whip their children with rubber tubes, or something equivalent, anyway, they bear much less responsibility for the abuse than if their doctrines actually caused violence against children which would not have taken place otherwise.

You seem to be keen to minimize the importance of the religious element in this story, which is fine and you could be right, but what I'm saying is that the logical consequence of that is that the Pearls then bear less moral responsibility for what happened. My gut rebels against that, which is why I'm trying to figure out what's going on here.

To me the religious element is crucial, because it's one thing to write a book that says 'whip your kids -- it's good for 'em' and quite another to write a book that says 'God says whip your kids or they'll burn in hell'.
posted by unSane at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's my belief that religion doesn't turn a normal person into a monster - monsters are attracted to religion because it gives them a veneer of propriety.

So it doesn't create monsters ... it only organizes and empowers them. Fantastic.

Religion is a symptom, not a cause.

Sometimes you have to treat the symptoms. I think in order to prosecute the Pearls for something, we'd have to make child assault a crime first, something it obviously should be.

This sad story is about child abuse, not about spanking.

Where do you draw the line? I think the latter should be illegal. That does not mean you and your parents are monsters. Just wrong, in my opinion. That's OK. You're not the only one.

on preview: I have a lot of difficulty seeing how any sane, rational person who is not already prone to be abusive and violent can possibly come to a conclusion that whipping an infant is not only desirable, but necessary. Book or no. I'm not a particularly squeamish person and the very idea makes me want to throw up.

I think you're giving parents too much credit. I don't know any parents of newborns (heck through toddlerhood) who are completely sane and rational. It's a confusing time.

If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger, even at the risk of maiming it for life. A blow in cold blood neither can nor should be forgiven.

Violence in anger is always wrong, but sometimes understandable. Planned violence in cold blood is unfathomable to me.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2010


I think you're giving parents too much credit. I don't know any parents of newborns (heck through toddlerhood) who are completely sane and rational. It's a confusing time.

I have twin toddlers who turned 2 earlier this month. I'm routinely exhausted, emotional, irrational and ornery. I was never completely sane, so it's not as if parenthood was going to make that situation better. ;) My wife and I both work and we have a nanny, but I do spend a lot of days taking care of them solo.

I grew up in a fairly abusive environment as a child and am against corporal punishment. No matter how tired I get, no matter how crazed or overwhelmed I might feel, no matter how depressed I might be, it would take a freakin' lobotomy for me to be able to whip my children. They're small, defenseless and vulnerable. How anyone could inflict such violence against them is beyond my ken.
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2010


In practice, though... perhaps this is my own personal failing, but I have a lot of difficulty seeing how any sane, rational person who is not already prone to be abusive and violent can possibly come to a conclusion that whipping an infant is not only desirable, but necessary.

Perhaps wrapping your brain around that concept will help you understand better the personality-warping nature of fundamentalist thought and how easily bad teaching coupled with fundamentalism can lead to atrocities both large and small.

I can't count the number of times I heard "well, that's what the Bible says, so I guess I'd better do it" when I was involved with all that, but they were many.
posted by hippybear at 11:11 AM on February 24, 2010


I have twin toddlers who turned 2 earlier this month. I'm routinely exhausted, emotional, irrational and ornery.

I have one 15-month-old myself. Twins? Good luck to you, sir! I imagine 2 to be about 4 times as hard as 1 (and I have an easy 1).

No matter how tired I get, no matter how crazed or overwhelmed I might feel, no matter how depressed I might be, it would take a freakin' lobotomy for me to be able to whip my children.

Agreed, of course. What is (partly) so infuriating about the Pearls' methods is their abuse of toddlers and infants who cannot even process such "punishment" (not that little kids can process it much better). Whipping children less than a year old is so wrong to be laughable, if it weren't horribly dangerous.

That's why I blame their religion to some extent. When deciding how to raise children, people generally use: a) direct experience and personal opinions; b) second-hand evidence, i.e. research and other parents/families' experiences; c) advice from trusted sources.

In my case, c would be: my mom, my brother, my dad, our pediatrician, etc. In this case, c was the Pearls. They chose the wrong trusted source, seemingly because it fit with their religious beliefs. So yeah, I'm going to also blame the source of their religious beliefs.

These people put all their eggs into basket c, which has a big hole in the bottom of it.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2010


It's my belief that religion doesn't turn a normal person into a monster - monsters are attracted to religion because it gives them a veneer of propriety.

I actually agree with this, in the same sense that politics doesn't somehow make people greedy and opportunistic and power-hungry, but greedy, opportunistic and power-hungry people tend to gravitate to politics because it has the potential to give them what they desire most.

So if you are a person who practices something indefensible (such as, say, ritualized child abuse) you will probably gravitate to religion because it provides a powerful defense for your behaviors, a shield for you to hide behind, a fortress within which you can practice your craft. Obviously that does organized religion and most of the folks who practice it a huge injustice, and seeing as how people taking advantage of religion as a defense mechanism for their indefensible behavior aren't practicing religion in good faith, they're just taking advantage of it to get what they want/need.

Does that make religion or politics inherently bad? I don't personally think so -- but then, I'm a guns-don't-kill-people-people-kill-people kind of guy.
posted by davejay at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


UnSane, I think that the issues are a little more multifoliate than that. I'm gonna try and unpack them a little; bear with me in case this gets rambly.

The first is that as a parent, you have to do things that fly in the face of your gut all the time. When my daughter still wasn't sleeping through the night at 14 months and I literally had to go to the ER to see if I needed to be committed to a mental institution to avoid doing something drastic, we resolved to stop going to get her when she cried for me at night. The very first night, we learned that she wasn't despondent to be abandoned (and she wasn't even abandoned, my husband was in there with her), she was FURIOUS. That made it easier, but not easy; as a mother, hearing your child scream for you at the top of her lungs while you put in earplugs and hold pillows over your ears because you know that she has to quit it eventually is just awful. The only reason I was able to do it was because a social worker, a child psychologist, a crisis psychiatrist, and two ER nurses told me it was necessary for me and not harmful for her.

Yep. I took actions that flew in the face of my gut instinct, because authorities I trusted told me it was necessary and even beneficial in the long run. And I am not the only parent who has done so -- anyone who's ever comforted their child after getting routine vaccinations is in the same boat. So while all this crap is clearly extreme and abusive, it's a bit disingenuous to say that religion makes parents do things that hurt their children in exchange for some vague, formless future good, because parents have to do that all the time.

The second thing is that religion, even Christianity, is Not A Monolith. There is a specific (and, I will note, extra-biblical) theological concept that all human beings are by nature sinful, and that sin needs to be controlled and expunged by any means necessary. That without a strong, authoritative, punishing leader, humanity will be lost in the wilderness of debauchery. To allow sin to take root is to fail those in your charge, and so you must begin working to save your children from the day that they're born. Similarly, as you're being raised in the path of righteousness, you should be grateful towards your leader, because without him you would be LOST. It's the same way people are grateful to heart surgeons who cut them open and take out blockages; they hurt you, but only to save you.

This particular theological thread is a minority view. Even those Christian denominations that believe that people are by nature sinful, which is a lot of them, do not usually subscribe to the second clause of that statement. The usual expectation is that the sacrament of baptism washes away any sin you were born with, and then through sunday school and the like, children are taught to prayerfully seek a relationship with God and to reject sin.

However, this other, ridiculous interpretation does exist. And it does act as a magnet to people who are willing to submit to the will of another human being, because they believe that they need it. And those people are often willing to take the essential parental necessity of doing something that hurts your kid because it benefits them in the long run to a toxic, abusive, psychotic, dangerous extreme. And that? That you can lay on this specific religious doctrine, sure. But that specific and twisted doctrine is not all of religion, or even all of Christianity. To my eyes and heart and soul, it's not only not supported by Scripture, but is utterly rejected by it.
posted by KathrynT at 11:31 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


The question is not whether religious adherence or fanaticism is a root cause of child abuse in general -- which is what the research you cite addresses -- but whether in this case the religious doctrines were a primary cause of the abuse.

This is important, because if the religious justification provided by the Pearls simply provided cover for a bunch of people who were always going to whip their children with rubber tubes, or something equivalent, anyway, they bear much less responsibility for the abuse than if their doctrines actually caused violence against children which would not have taken place otherwise.


I understand. The only honest answer I can give you is that I find it impossible to truly understand the motivations of anyone who whips a child until it is dead. For this particular case... I'm not sure you or I can say one way or another if their religious beliefs truly were a root cause based on the available evidence.

However, let's assume you're right and their religious doctrines were a root cause in this case, it seems then this particular situation seems to be atypical -- an outlier. I could be wrong about that, but research seems to agree.

You seem to be keen to minimize the importance of the religious element in this story,

Not exactly. I'm really more concerned that the parents may somehow be portrayed as clueless morons who beat their child to death, yet aren't responsible for that, because a book told them to.

...which is fine and you could be right, but what I'm saying is that the logical consequence of that is that the Pearls then bear less moral responsibility for what happened.

I do think the Pearls bear a certain amount of responsibility. A lot of it, actually. They're preaching a gospel of violence against children. But I think that as the people who wielded the pipe against that poor girl, the parents are more responsible than the Pearls. In no way does that mean that I think the Pearls should be absolved.

My gut rebels against that, which is why I'm trying to figure out what's going on here.

To me the religious element is crucial, because it's one thing to write a book that says 'whip your kids -- it's good for 'em' and quite another to write a book that says 'God says whip your kids or they'll burn in hell'.

I understand. So where does the concept of the parents' free become a factor? They had to have it, after all.

Look, I'm a Conservative Jew. Somewhat religious. I go to shul infrequently. Don't have a firm opinion on many of my religion's teachings. Do have a firm opinion about others. If my rabbi told me that I needed to beat the sins out of my children so they could learn to walk in G-d's grace, I'd quit that damned synagogue in a heartbeat.

Those adult parents are not mindless sheep. They're not lemmings for some twisted, fucked up version of Christianity. They made conscious choices and should be held responsible for them.
posted by zarq at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who bought the Pearls' book did so because they were seeking exact that -- a how-to book about parenting, either because they are new parents or because they feel that the methods they have created for themselves are failing. Either way, they have purposely sought out a text which is supposed to reflect the belief system they have chosen for their lives.

So this book presents a method of interacting with the child(ren) which purports to have a basis in the Holy Book of their religion, and which advocates beating the child for nearly any reason in order to fulfill the mandates of that religion.

I don't think that means that these people are innately abusive at all. I think it means that they have been suckered into abusive behavior by false teachings and gullible minds, because they were seeking to have that mythical how-to book of parenting.


Counter-point. One of my kids is extremely difficult and I have been desperately looking for the past four and a half years for a guide to how to get the kid to listen to me and stop being so stubborn. In my searches for advice, I ran across the No Greater Joy website - specifically the page about the strong-willed four-year-old linked to earlier. I read through the letter and found myself nodding along with the descriptions of behavior that sounded exactly like my son. Kid who's a handful from birth, who refused to go to sleep on her own, who did the exact opposite of whatever her parents asked, who resisted any efforts at discipline. Sounded very familiar. I don't spank my kids, but my son acts pretty much the same as this girl when I put him in time-out. In short, the problem being addressed was exactly the specific problem I was facing. So I started reading the response.

At first it made sense - "Her slow "obedience" was a deliberate statement that, though they had the power to force compliance, they did not have jurisdiction over her soul," "she was technically obeying while proving her independence," "when her parents force compliance, she goes to sleep with that defeat brewing in her soul, and that she wakes in the night with renewed zeal to revive the battle and establish her dominance." Yup, that's it. That's what my little boy does. Now what can I do about it?

So I got to "By catering to your son’s sensitivity, nursing him where and how he is comfortable, you are allowing him to dictate the terms under which he will be happy. Wean him from his demands for solitude." Okay, that's a little weird, but really they're just advocating slowly conditioning the baby to nurse under a wider variety of conditions to overcome his sensitivity. Reading on, I come to "Spank your child. Then tell her to dry it up. And with no show of emotion, tell her to get back to what she was suppose to be doing to begin with." Hmmm. Well, I won't spank the child, but the point is trying to remove the emotions from the discipline and not let it drag out. Okay, I guess that make sense. What else?

And then, I came to the specific advice to solve the problem. It begins with "Modern, Christian psychology with its feather-pillow tactics will not work. Sue and other children like her need to come smack dab up against the fear of God" (Which, by the way is a pretty good clue that these folks are not in line with the bulk of modern Christianity.) And continues with ten paragraphs, of which eight suggest "spanking," "switching," and giving "licks."

My response to that was not "This advice jibes with my Christian faith, and so, even though I don't like the thought of beating my children, I guess I should." My response was, "Oh Dear Lord, that's horrible. These people are nutjobs." and I kept on looking for better advice.

If I had already been spanking my child up to the point of abuse, maybe this advice would have resounded with me, and I could have been convinced that I just wasn't being consistent enough and needed to step it up. I was certainly desperate enough at the time to try just about anything. But in fact, there is absolutely nothing short of the Voice of God directly in my ear that could have convinced me that whipping my son as these people suggested would have been a good idea. This is not popular because it's a Christian teaching. It's popular because it gives support to people who believe they should beat their children.
posted by Dojie at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those adult parents are not mindless sheep. They're not lemmings for some twisted, fucked up version of Christianity. They made conscious choices and should be held responsible for them.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that the adults beating their children are not responsible. I do think that you are perhaps unaware of the insidious influence that the particular combination of bad teaching + fundamentalism can have on many who fear for the fate of their souls (and those of their children) in the afterlife.

People make choices all the time. Most are influenced by some outside force or another. Most are benign. Some are not. Choosing always implies culpability, but can often be made on bad information. The Pearls are offering bad information, and they are culpable for putting that into the world. And the parents following their advice are culpable for choosing to follow that. And fundamentalist religion which teaches that God hates sin and will condemn you to hell if you are sinful is culpable for providing the context in which the Pearls' bad teachings find fertile soil.

Judaism and the experience of its followers is distinctly unsimilar to fundamentalist xianity, and unless you've a background in Jesus, it's difficult to grok.
posted by hippybear at 11:48 AM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry. That should have said:

"I understand. So where does the concept of the parents' free will become a factor? They had to have it, after all."
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2010


So if you are a person who practices something indefensible (such as, say, ritualized child abuse) you will probably gravitate to religion because it provides a powerful defense for your behaviors

Wait, is that really what the "religion didn't cause this" argument is? They were going to practice ritualized child abuse anyway, don'tchaknow, and if they hadn't been told by self-styled authorities within their religion to beat them, they would have just gravitated to, like, I don't know, Buddhist ritual child abuse? Does anyone really believe that, or are you just trying that hard to not offend religious people? Sometimes they should be offended. If I was part of a group that I cared about and had an extreme faction doing this kind of crap, I would go after that faction.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2010


I don't think anyone is suggesting that the adults beating their children are not responsible. I do think that you are perhaps unaware of the insidious influence that the particular combination of bad teaching + fundamentalism can have on many who fear for the fate of their souls (and those of their children) in the afterlife.

True. Thankfully, I only know about that aspect of fundamentalism second and third hand. I grew up in two boroughs of NYC and a small town in Texas.

People make choices all the time. Most are influenced by some outside force or another. Most are benign. Some are not. Choosing always implies culpability, but can often be made on bad information. The Pearls are offering bad information, and they are culpable for putting that into the world. And the parents following their advice are culpable for choosing to follow that. And fundamentalist religion which teaches that God hates sin and will condemn you to hell if you are sinful is culpable for providing the context in which the Pearls' bad teachings find fertile soil.

That's an excellent explanation. As was mrgrimm's. I hadn't thought of it quite that way. Thank you.

Judaism and the experience of its followers is distinctly unsimilar to fundamentalist xianity, and unless you've a background in Jesus, it's difficult to grok.

Yeah, most of my direct experience with fundamentalists is with the davening, black-hatted variety. :)
posted by zarq at 1:56 PM on February 24, 2010


The Pearl stuff does play into a lot of the more mainstream parenting bullshit too - I cannot count how many people told me that my newborn was 'manipulating' me. That my two month old was 'manipulating' me. That by doing any number of things I was spoiling my four month old. That my six month old just needs to learn that she can't dictate family life. Because babies are apparently capable of complex emotional reasoning and associated actions - as opposed to having no way of feeding herself, changing herself and a genuine physiological need for comfort. If you believe that babies are manipulators and that giving in will spoil them, it's not that big of a step to "well, I don't want my baby growing up to be manipulative/too dependent/bossy" and trying to 'fix' these completely imaginary problems. Add in the perfection on earth bullshit, the great white saviour complex, the patriarchal authority and you've got a little hellstorm coming down on children.

This type of psychotic abuse is not restricted to the religious - the fundamentalist thing isn't quite as prevalent in Oz so I've witnessed this type of abuse coming out of secular households. The same authoritarian "father is right" type thing, but with a militaristic bent rather than religious.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because babies are apparently capable of complex emotional reasoning and associated actions - as opposed to having no way of feeding herself, changing herself and a genuine physiological need for comfort. If you believe that babies are manipulators and that giving in will spoil them, it's not that big of a step to "well, I don't want my baby growing up to be manipulative/too dependent/bossy" and trying to 'fix' these completely imaginary problems.

That's partly what's so damn painful. Proponents of disciplining babies willfully ignore the majority of research on child development.

I'm reading The Philosophical Baby right now, and (while it's not great) one thing that's really stuck with me is that babies have an extremely underdeveloped prefrontal cortex--you know, the part that lets us plan and scheme. Overstimulated and impulsive, babies literally cannot control themselves. They have very little inhibitions.

They also have no sense whatsoever of a timeline or narrative for their young lives. For example, my 15-month-old will remember that we went to the park and rode the slide, but she'll remember it as an abstract event. She cannot differentiate between 4 hours ago vs. 4 weeks ago.

The notion that babies can manipulate parents is ridiculous. (Now when they get a little older, like around 4 ...) That doesn't mean you can't correct unwanted behavior (e.g. Ferberizing/sleep training), but physically disciplining a baby seems barbaric.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


New Zealanders Vote for More Smacking

I saw a lot of anger directed against those who argued against beating children in that discussion. Of course, the people who defended beating didn't like to use that word for it...
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2010


It's not just what's motivating the abusers that matters, but what's motivating the onlookers not to protest. Say, as in one letter to the Pearls I read, a father is interested in whipping his 7-month-old girl because he's tired of her crying when she's put to bed. The mother writes to the Pearls and is told, first, that one or two "licks" if the baby cries after being put to bed will show the baby that the parents mean business; and second, that she should submit to her husband's will.

Now, see, this woman was obviously not on board with the idea of whipping a 7-month-old. I don't think she's a sadist who gets her kicks from watching a baby suffer. Her husband may be. But I do think her religious beliefs enable the abuse, specifically in that they make her believe she should submit to the will of a sadist, rather than resist him for her baby's sake.

This logic can be extended to neighbors, friends, anyone else who comes into contact with the children and fails to report abuse because their authoritarian beliefs conflict with their sympathies for a hurt child.

To me, it's not only whether the sadists are inspired by religion to abuse; it's whether the onlookers are inspired by religion not to resist.
posted by palliser at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion.

I keep meaning to address this. There could be any number of reasons why someone doesn't comment in a thread.

I am unsure what other people's surfing habits are, but I know that I go through periods of intense MeFi activity and then of virtually none, where I won't check the site for days or weeks. I was barely active throughout most of 2008 after my kids were born. The last 6-9 months have been my most active around here since I paid my $5.

There are a few thread topics that I like to participate in when I see them, on topics like fertility/infertility, scifi and politics, because I feel I can contribute. But I don't come here enough to catch every thread on those topics. (Which is probably a good thing. People would get sick of my rehashing the same points over and over, if they haven't already.) :) Sheer volume probably prevents me from seeing others.

Worth considering, especially if you're trying to assign motivations to non-participation.
posted by zarq at 3:18 PM on February 24, 2010


I have one 15-month-old myself. Twins? Good luck to you, sir! I imagine 2 to be about 4 times as hard as 1 (and I have an easy 1).

Thank you! You too. :)

They're joyful and challenging. I'm enjoying being a dad far more than I ever expected.

That's why I blame their religion to some extent. When deciding how to raise children, people generally use: a) direct experience and personal opinions; b) second-hand evidence, i.e. research and other parents/families' experiences; c) advice from trusted sources.

In my case, c would be: my mom, my brother, my dad, our pediatrician, etc. In this case, c was the Pearls. They chose the wrong trusted source, seemingly because it fit with their religious beliefs. So yeah, I'm going to also blame the source of their religious beliefs.

These people put all their eggs into basket c, which has a big hole in the bottom of it.


I understand this, especially after hippybear's subsequent comment. But damn, common sense should really come in somewhere. It boggles my mind.
posted by zarq at 3:21 PM on February 24, 2010


There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion.

Seriously? Those threads also tend to have a shitload of people extolling the virtues of homeschooling. Where are all of them in this thread?

The thing is that spanking a child once or maybe twice in their life when nothing else was working and hating yourself for having to do so is a far cry from this sort of thing, just as normal homeschooling is surely very, very different from this type of slave-mill.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:29 PM on February 24, 2010


"... There were a lot of people against the idea, and extremely angry at anyone who supported it. I wonder why they haven't shown up on this discussion. ..."

I suppose a few are sitting on the sidelines, watching the heat death of MeFi liberalism and righteous indignation slowly play itself out, and saving their voices for the Tea Party cheering that is re-drawing the nation's policy map. But that's just a personal theory, offered only as a speculative thesis.
posted by paulsc at 5:42 PM on February 24, 2010


Jesus' actual interaction with children, also in Matthew, consisted of blessing them and chewing out his disciples for not taking the children seriously because "of such is the kingdom of Heaven". It's the "suffer little children" line.

The word sin is also translated stumble in some versions. The idea for me in this verse is that we enter life with out all this emotional self righteous baggage. Sure kids aren't perfect but most of the corruption comes from the adults either being heavy handed or spoiling them but kids for the most part are pretty open and agenda free. (i.e the innocence of children.) The inauthenticity is something they learn from adults. The way I read this is as a warning from God incarnate not to mess with kids.


Another core belief of hardcore Christianity is in Matthew 18:8-9: "8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."

It's the belief that nothing in this life on Earth really matters because it's really all a big test to determine where you'll spend eternity. If not beating your child means they'll spend eternity in Hell, wouldn't you be a monster NOT to beat them? This is why it's about religion. It's not about YOUR religion unless YOU BELIEVE IN THIS SPECIFIC, EXTREME BRAND OF DOMINIONISM. If you believe that being happy on Earth is important too, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.



The way I read the verse you mention is that at all costs we are to shed that which causes suffering. Hell in my view is a place of suffering that means in this life or the here after(not so sure about the hear after.) The proverbial foot that needed to be cut off in this case was what ever caused these people to feel that treating these kids like this was right thing to do. I cannot image what that might be. I wept reading this post. This is impossible to make sense of. I wish were as easy as blaming religion, a lack or education or some sort of distinct mental illness (They shouldn't have been able to adopt if there was.)

There might be some solace in thinking there is a solution to this sort of thing but cruelty is cruelty no matter what cause you find comfortable to blame it on.
posted by empty vessel at 8:28 PM on February 24, 2010


So if you are a person who practices something indefensible (such as, say, ritualized child abuse) you will probably gravitate to religion because it provides a powerful defense for your behaviors

Wait, is that really what the "religion didn't cause this" argument is?


No, Decemberboy, that's me going off on a tangent that sometimes people co-opt something else (like politics or religion) because it gets them something they want or need, and that shouldn't be interpreted as being condoned by the thing that was co-opted. You sure seem fighty.
posted by davejay at 11:50 PM on February 24, 2010


mobunited: “… Certainly, there's no such thing as a self-serving bullshit argument couched in the cultural language of secular empiricism, amirite?

I'm not sure what you're getting at, besides some tedious snark and an economic-meltdown derail. Yes, very often irrational belief systems are couched in the language or given a facade of rationalism. Water still wet, fire still hot, &c. There are organizations who self-identify as 'atheist' which have faith-based components and seem to walk and quack pretty much like religions (e.g. leader / personality cults), and certainly aren't rational. There are also 'religions' which do not make absolute truth claims or otherwise require faith. Reality is full of edge cases, but it gets pretty tedious if you insist on dealing with them at every juncture in a discussion.

zarq: “People who abuse and commit acts of violence against children aren't going to be reasoned out of such behavior whether they are atheist or religious. As you point out, whipping an infant is not a logical, rational act.

Agreed, at least in the context that most abuse occurs in today. Historically though, a lot of behaviors that today would be considered abusive (including corporeal punishment, but also some of the hardcore "cry it out" stuff) were considered legitimate, advisable parenting techniques — I don't think that someone following those techniques when they were widely espoused as best practice would necessarily have been giving in to some latent abusive impulse. They may have been acting out of a good-faith desire to do what they thought was best; one can imagine they might even have been consciously fighting against a feeling of wrongness.

Granted we can't see inside their heads so there's no way to know the motivation either way, but I'm skeptical that people just enjoyed hitting kids that much more in the past. It seems more likely that there always were and probably always will be a small subset of sadistic parents who will seek or invent any excuse to abuse, but there's a much greater number of parents who just defer to Authority (which might take many forms) on the subject of parenting, even when that Authority tells them to do something they think is wrong.

Those two types of abuse (and, abusers) need to be addressed independently; on one side you have the sadists who will use whatever excuse or justification is convenient for acting out their desires on children, which means that the justification barely matters; on the other you have parents overriding their impulses in order to do what they believe to be correct based on what some authority figure is telling them to do. That doesn't absolve them of guilt for their actions, but it makes the authority figure's role much more important. This latter type of abuse might be preventable if you can discredit the authority figures promoting abuse, but exactly how you do that is the rub (particularly, as I was getting at in my previous comment, if the authority figure's claim to authority is a faith-based one).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:34 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Pearl stuff does play into a lot of the more mainstream parenting bullshit too - I cannot count how many people told me that my newborn was 'manipulating' me. That my two month old was 'manipulating' me. That by doing any number of things I was spoiling my four month old.

Certainly it's become a dominant part of reporting in much of the English speaking world, especially amongst old media catering to an aging boomer population, that parents today are clueless, hopeless, soft, and generally useless.

Setting aside the apparent No True Scotsman going on there, I'm unconvinced that a hypothetical pro-child-abuse hardcore atheist organization would be as insidious as a pro-child-abuse religious one, because at least you could have a hope of reasoning with the atheist organization. If the Church of Saint Heinlein advocated beating your kids because it makes them better ubermenschen or whatever, you could pretty easily go out and get the data that says no, jackasses, beating your kids actually doesn't make them into brilliant superpeople, it actually turns them into broken drones, in other words: you are incorrect.

I think you're right in one sense, but completely wrong in another.

Yes, if a secular or atheistic organisation wrote stuff indicating it's better to hospitalise your children than let them "win", you'd find much more serious and eefctive pushback that religious organisations.

You know something? I doubt it would have anything to do with appeals to reason and suchlike. There's no shortage of evidence that whacking your kids leads to problems.

Rather, the problem is that religion enjoys enormous privelege. Likely much of this thread would now be flat out illegal in Ireland. Italy and England still have blasphemy laws on the books. It is, in a number of Western nations literally illegal to critique a religious group in the same way as it is a political party.

Even on a more minor level, cruise over to ask.mefi. Dig around. You'll find no shortage of examples of people asking how to deal with incredibly rude and obnoxious behaviour by religious friends and relatives - the grandmother arranging a secret baptism for her Jewish son-in-law's kids is a great example - yet you will always find some, and often many, defenders of behaiour which would otherwise be considered a reason to kick people to the kerb as ill-mannered, graceless louts of the worst sort. "Well, you've got to understand it's important to them, it's their faith, they're struggling for your eternal soul."

Sure, but that doesn't stop us making fun of equally passionate Marxists. Or treating them with contempt. And with good reason.

But when it comes to faith then, with the exception of religions that are a little too kooky or too obviously criminal (Wicca or Scientology, anyone?), we're supposed to tip-toe about. Our critical sense, our humour, our satire are all supposed to be put on hold. Wave the cloak of religion over your demands to kill gays, or beat children, or any number of other abhorrent behaviours, and you get to enjoy that privelege.

And that's why attitudes such as KathrynT's are so useful in a practical sense; Christians willing to speak out against this sort of crap will probably effect more good than anything else, so bravo to her for doing so.
posted by rodgerd at 1:24 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


zarq: But damn, common sense should really come in somewhere. It boggles my mind.

Kadin: one can imagine they might even have been consciously fighting against a feeling of wrongness.

The problem, according to those who've exited this sort of religion, is that they are taught not to trust their own feelings and common sense. "The heart is deceitful above all else and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9) And yes, this leads to parents fighting their own common sense and just trying harder.
posted by cereselle at 7:49 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem, according to those who've exited this sort of religion, is that they are taught not to trust their own feelings and common sense. "The heart is deceitful above all else and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9) And yes, this leads to parents fighting their own common sense and just trying harder.

This!

When some of the basic tenets of your belief system are that all people are born corrupt and when left to follow their own inner voices they will inevitably fall into a life of utter depravity and sin, then it rapidly becomes simple to get people to do things which go against their better natures and common sense.
posted by hippybear at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another abuse story. First-person. Triggers, or whatever it is we're supposed to say to warn people who might go off the deep end if they read something that's obviously about a traumatic life experience.

I can't say as I would honestly be too upset if chiild abusers were just put down. Within a couple generations, I think we'd have a greatly reduced problem. But that's the caveman in me, wanting vengence instead of compassion or forgiveness.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:53 PM on February 25, 2010


Ooh, say, it looks like that story made it to the front page. So nevermind all that, then.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:58 PM on February 25, 2010


When some of the basic tenets of your belief system are that all people are born corrupt and when left to follow their own inner voices they will inevitably fall into a life of utter depravity and sin, then it rapidly becomes simple to get people to do things which go against their better natures and common sense.

I think it is pretty simple to do that with or without religion. Stanley Milgram would agree, as would the Stanford Prison Experiment. As an anecdotal point for the emotional pull, before her death my daughter's oncologists, palliative care physicians, pediatricians and so on and so forth were easily able to use science to persuade me to do a number of things that went against my better natures and common sense. Things like withholding food from an infant with cancer for 8 hours prior to sedation for a several-hours long craniospinal MRI.

And in case you may rebuke that those things, while against my nature and gut instincts and common sense, were medically appropriate and called for, I'll revert you back to the more scientific examples I stated (in which secular authority was used to persuade people to take 'wrong' actions against their instincts and better manners), along with the many examples throughout history of science, medicine, etc. just being plain wrong, and the deaths or injuries that have resulted. Remember, the Pearls believe - wrongfully - that they are advising right actions. Doctors who prescribed thalidomide to pregnant women believed - wrongfully - that they were taking right actions. Participants in the Milgram experiments who hit the button to shock others believed - wrongfully - that they needed to obey. And so on.

My point is not to defend the Pearls, and not to defend religious beliefs that are wrong (as the idea that one must beat the sin out of a child is). My only point is to say that secular "sciences" or authority is no less able to convince people to take wrong actions and no less subject to being misused for "evil" purposes. Of course these things (the Pearls and pediatricians who followed then-current medical science) might not be the same. But to say that all religious people are wrong because they are following a doctrine that uniquely can be misused, is, in my humble opinion, inaccurate. Any source of authority, whether faith-based, scientific, political, age or seniority based, whatever, can be and has been abused to direct wrong action. Religion just is NOT different or unique in that capacity.
posted by bunnycup at 5:19 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


(When I said 'religious beliefs that are wrong' I meant in the sense that the specific belief results in violence, cruelty, inequity. I did not mean to allude to a belief being correct or incorrect. Also, in case it sounded like I believe there is some rationality to the Pearls' teachings or any abusive behavior, I do not. I just don't think religion is any more likely to cause people to do crappy things than any other form of authority.)
posted by bunnycup at 5:38 PM on February 25, 2010


Well, you seem to be muddling your concepts a bit there... withholding food from an infant for 8 hours prior to sedation is a medical necessity to prevent drowning in vomit, and while perhaps seems cruel in the short term, the choices are pretty clear as to what the long-term interest is for the child. And they aren't based on mythical life-after-death scenarios, but actual medical experience both with sedation regurgitation and cancer.

The Milgram experiment does speak eloquently to the faith our country used to have in science (interesting concept), and the way that people were very invested in participating in scientific discovery. Of the three examples here, this is the one most like the Pearls and their book and the way they are persuading people to act against their instincts.

The Stanford Prison Experiment is fascinating in that it does speak to the fundamentalist concept of the debased nature of humans without the intervention of an outer savior (in their case, Christ). There was nobody insisting that the guards become more and more sadistic over time -- the group led themselves down this path without outer guidance. Looking at the Abu Graib scandal and the prisoner deaths at Gitmo and such in the context of the SPE can, indeed, seem to reinforce the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Perhaps this is where my hippie self diverges. I would rather follow a message centered entirely on love and hope and cooperation with an end toward exterminating the qualities which were brought to the fore in Stanford those decades ago. Coupling the desire to overcome human cruelty with a message of a Divine Being which will enact upon transgressors the Platonic Ideal of Cruelty as punishment is only certain to create a circumstance in which (comparatively) minor cruel acts are performed in order to avoid the ultimate Cruelty at the end of one's life. By removing the threat of punishment from making the choice to Be Kind, the ultimate responsibility DOES land upon the individual. And in that, it becomes a true reflection of the person's character as to whether they spread joy or woe in the world around them. That, to me, is a philosophy worth following, and is a yardstick I use constantly.
posted by hippybear at 10:58 AM on February 26, 2010


withholding food from an infant for 8 hours prior to sedation is a medical necessity to prevent drowning in vomit, and while perhaps seems cruel in the short term, the choices are pretty clear as to what the long-term interest is for the child.

No, the doctors *believe* it is, but might someday be shown wrong (and there are other options as well to perform MRI's without general anesthesia, but doctors find sedation the most convenient and appropriate) - hence why I included some examples you glossed over of medical opinion having been incorrect and harmful in the past. Furthermore, the Pearls *believe* (or at least profess to) that use of the rod is a necessity, no less so than the doctors believe sedation is. We both agree that the docs are probably right and the Pearls definitely wrong, but the point isn't one of qualitative rightness - it's about humanity's willingness to submit to an authority, any authority. And with regard to the Stanford Prison Experiment, it is very on point because the students who took orders from other students did so even knowing their authority was not real, that it was just, in essence, a game. Knowingly faked, secular authority was enough to persuade cruel actions. I think you missed the point, in that all of these examples are to show that authority is natural and not uniquely a facet of religion.

Put another way, the argument in this thread that the Pearls and the abuse reflects somehow on religion in general (outside of the Dominionist cult) seems premised on the theory that religion, uniquely or to a vastly greater degree than other sources of authority, is capable of persuading humans to act in a cruel way. I simply think there is more than abundant evidence that this is not so, that "authority" is the issue and not specifically "religious authority".
posted by bunnycup at 11:11 AM on February 26, 2010


the point isn't one of qualitative rightness - it's about humanity's willingness to submit to an authority

I did miss that point.

But I stand by my own statement -- that humans are best judged by the choices they make outside of a framework of punishment, because within that framework they are compromised.
posted by hippybear at 11:25 AM on February 26, 2010


I don't disagree with that at all.

One of my personal critiques of formal religion is that it seems to stunt what I consider to be higher-level ethical and moral decision-making. I was raised Roman Catholic from birth, and I feel that particular religion and perhaps many other Christian faiths teach that right moral/ethical decisionmaking is a process of ascertaining the applicable outwardly-imposed rule, and then following that rule. I don't agree that doing so always, or even necessarily often, results in right moral and ethical action. Put another way, I don't believe that "morally right" and "theologically mandated" are coequals. I feel that many things which are morally unjust or ethically suspect are mandated by Biblical interpretation, religious dogma and so forth. Thus, I feel that teaching and learning more developed personal moral senses outside of what is religiously dictated is critically important to "right" thought and action.

(That said, I don't think that religion is any better than any other authority at getting people to do bad things, and I agree that well-developed internal conscience may be better than outward authority.)
posted by bunnycup at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2010


Everything you just said, bunnycup! You have crystalized my own thoughts.
posted by hippybear at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2010


Don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but in reply to the discussion above among zarq et al about responsibility and how any sane person could buy what the Pearls are selling: Here are a couple of blog posts by women who did, and later repudiated the Pearls' teaching.

These accounts are very honest, and moving in light of the awful Schatz story (the posts are both from 2006). I think there are a lot of insightful comments in this thread about how human behavior can turn so bad. But maybe none so enlightening as the testimony of people who found themselves crossing the line, and turned back.
posted by torticat at 6:46 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh, and those links are via the blog at tulipgirl.com, which I think was linked above.
posted by torticat at 6:48 PM on February 26, 2010


No, the doctors *believe* it is, but might someday be shown wrong (and there are other options as well to perform MRI's without general anesthesia, but doctors find sedation the most convenient and appropriate) - hence why I included some examples you glossed over of medical opinion having been incorrect and harmful in the past. Furthermore, the Pearls *believe* (or at least profess to) that use of the rod is a necessity, no less so than the doctors believe sedation is.

Okay, look, here is exactly why I froth at the mouth about religion sometimes.

You are here equating an falsifiable evidence-based scientific belief with an unfalsifiable metaphysical belief. While they are both beliefs, and potentially held in good faith, they are not equivalent.

I apologize if I have not been following the thread closely enough and am getting the wrong end of the stick, but when metaphysical religious claims aspire to the same level of credence as peer-reviewed scientific claims, I reach for my metaphorical shotgun. I am sure you are not trying to defend the Pearls here, but I am struggling to see how making an equivalence like this is either helpful or rational.
posted by unSane at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


[I really do apologize if I have misunderstood this -- I am sick as a dog and a bit fuzzy as a result. Plus, halfway through a medicinal Martini.]
posted by unSane at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Stanford Prison Experiment is fascinating in that it does speak to the fundamentalist concept of the debased nature of humans without the intervention of an outer savior (in their case, Christ). There was nobody insisting that the guards become more and more sadistic over time -- the group led themselves down this path without outer guidance.

Just wanted to add here that this is incorrect. Zimbardo gave plenty of direction on how he wanted the guards to behave, and there was variance in the behavior among the guards.
posted by Snyder at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2010


well-developed internal conscience may be better than outward authority

The people I've encountered who had the best results from religion were ones who didn't seem to have that well-developed internal conscience. They usually were in a lot of trouble the law in their pre-religious days.

That said, I trust an internal conscience more than external authority, since it's a lot less subject to manipulation by external authorities who don't have their own internal consciences. External authority is like a backup system for conscience.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:15 AM on February 27, 2010


Just wanted to add here that this is incorrect. Zimbardo gave plenty of direction on how he wanted the guards to behave, and there was variance in the behavior among the guards.

Ummm. Well, in Zimbardo's own account of the experiment...
The guards were given no specific training on how to be guards. Instead they were free, within limits, to do whatever they thought was necessary to maintain law and order in the prison and to command the respect of the prisoners. The guards made up their own set of rules, which they then carried into effect under the supervision of Warden David Jaffe, an undergraduate from Stanford University. They were warned, however, of the potential seriousness of their mission and of the possible dangers in the situation they were about to enter, as, of course, are real guards who voluntarily take such a dangerous job.
There is brief footage of the guard briefing in this documentary around the 6m30s mark.
posted by hippybear at 11:00 AM on February 27, 2010


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