Friday, December 6, 2013

An open letter to Michael & Debi Pearl

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

       I've wanted to write about you for some time now, to express my feelings on you, and your teachings. I've been conflicted on how to do that, or if I should do that. This has plagued me for a couple of years, ever since I first read about you. I keep feeling that I need to do this, so finally I am. I'm going to be quite honest with you and tell you right up front, I disagree with you. However, this is not going to be another hate filled. "you're going to hell" "you should rot in jail" type of letter. My mom taught me to respect people, and care for everyone, and she also taught me that I'd go much further in life, and in my arguments, if I was kind, respectful, honest, and firm. So, out of respect for my mother, I'm going to try. But, I'll warn you, Mr. and Mrs. Pearl, I'm very sarcastic and have a quick temper when it comes to things I really care about, like children.

      I wasn't raised by the methods in your book, I was spanked, but I can count on my fingers the amount of times I was spanked. Not because my mother was one to "spare the rod" but because she showed me by example what she expected of me, explained what she expected of me, and understood that I was a child, and that I would screw up occasionally, and boy did I. You see, she didn't need to spank me often, because she taught me how to behave, she didn't train me, she just taught me. She wanted me to be polite, so she was polite. She wanted me to care for others, so she made sure I could see her caring for others. She acted in a manner in which she would be pleased if I emulated. Oh, she corrected me when I needed it, I was far from the perfect child, and my childhood was far from rosy. My mother is far from the perfect parent, but that's for another letter. Beyond all of the faults and the mistakes, my mother loved us enough to be patient and understanding with us. She recognized that we are flawed individuals. She allowed us to fall flat on our faces, and pick ourselves back up. She knew that we would need to go off the beaten path to come back to ourselves, she knew that we needed those experiences of failure to learn and grow. She didn't take those learning experiences from us by scaring us into submission so that we would never venture out and get hurt ourselves.

   The thing about your book is you're trying to create the "perfect child". You are creating children that are scared to death to step one little toe out of line for fear of severe punishment. You're creating children that are too afraid to express any other emotion than joy and happiness, because you tell their parents that they should feel this way, so they are scared into believing that they are. All you're really doing is creating scarred and broken children. I interviewed a young lady for this post, a young woman who was raised by your book. I must tell you, as she was talking to me about this I wanted to throw up at some of the things she said, and I wept as I heard her story. I felt like my heart was being ripped out with the words of her past. Let's call her "Jane" to protect her identity.

I remember the day I was told my will needed to be broken. Three days of being sleep deprived, many whippings and missed meals later....I passed out and was considered broken.

   She told me she was eleven when her church and parents began teaching your book as gospel. If we read this same story from a kidnap victim or a prisoner, everyone would be outraged. The people that did this to her weren't her captors, or her prison guards, they were her parents. The people that were supposed to love her, care for her, and protect her above all else. These are the people that were supposed to guide her lovingly into adulthood, teach her how to love the Lord, and love others. Instead, they abused her. They tried to break her. They alienated themselves from their daughter, and subsequently their grandchildren.  They led her far away from God, they dirtied every church, and follower of Christ by their behavior, behavior that you encouraged and instructed them in. Jane can't even walk into a church.

I went to a church several times since, tried various times at different churches. Without fail, I hyperventilate, and throw up. I won't let my kids near them.

So, not only has this type of "training" resulted in the separation of this young woman from Christ, but also her children, and likely their children, and their children, and so on.  All because you sold them the idea that they could have perfectly behaved children, you manipulated them, and thousands more into believing that this is what God would want from them and their children. I can't tell you how much it pained me to hear that she can't go to church because of the memories, and the feelings. I knew she had a general hatred towards Christianity, but I wasn't sure why, and now that I know, I can't say as I blame her. If that angry, vengeful, hurtful, manipulative God that wanted me to be perfect and would send me to hell if I wasn't completely obedient was the only God I knew, I don't think I'd be sticking around either. Thank God that I know Him as the loving Father that He is. It kills me to think that she may never get to experience the love, comfort and peace that come from truly knowing Him. I asked her if she was still in contact with others that had been in her church with her, and raised this way.

I talk to a few. Some are still there, raising their families the same way, they avoid me. About half of us have gone and are no longer in the church. Some are stable. Some refuse to marry or have kids. Some have deep emotional issues. A couple have been admitted for mental health. And one has killed herself.

    Heartbreaking. I know not all of the parents that follow your methods are bad, abusive people. I know several people that use your methods, and swear by them. These aren't bad people. They love their children dearly. In fact, I was so confused when I read your book, I could have sworn I had the wrong book, it is an older version, published in '99. I went to your website and compared the covers, yes, I had the right book. I had such a difficult time getting this all to fit. Intelligent, loving people that I know personally swearing by the methods in your book, coupled with testimony from Jane, and others that were raised this way, children that have died from these methods. The pieces just don't fit. "How can ____ & _____ abuse their children? I know better, they LOVE those kids! They would do anything for them! They love the Lord!" I was so confused, I am still having a hard getting it all to mesh well. I read your book again, and I think I'm beginning to understand. A little, maybe.

   I sat down with your book and tried to understand what about it makes so many devout Christians so devoted to its methods. Then I noticed something, I noticed how you manipulate the Word of God. I noticed that you make the parents feel not only like failures as Christians, but as parents if they don't do as you advise. On page 35 you quote Proverbs 13:24, and then say:

The passage clearly states that a failure to apply the rod is due to the parents' hating the child.
 You are telling parents that God is telling them they hate their kids if they don't use an implement to "train" them with. What a misinterpretation! "Oh, but Amanda, it says..." I know what it says. I also know how to read my Bible. See, any verse can be taken out of context and twisted to fit your version of what you think. But, how does that hold up when you compare your interpretation of that one verse to the rest of the Bible? How does it compare to the example of Christ? It doesn't fit in the way you want it to fit. The use of "the" in front of the word "rod" makes it a specific type of "rod" it's used in a different manner than say Exodus 21:20 where it speaks of "a rod" which is clearly a weapon, "the rod" in Proverbs is more than likely a metaphor for a very specific tool. Look at Isaiah 11:3-5:

His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist
"He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth." Clearly this is not a physical rod, but a metaphorical one, one of words, and where would those words be from? God. Specifically scripture. The Word is referred to repeatedly in scripture as a weapon, a sword, and yes, a rod. Therefore, I think it's pretty clear that "the rod" here is not an implement of any kind, but rather the Word of God. Biblical principles. It's all a bit different when you look at it from the viewpoint of guiding your children with the Word, with God, with Biblical principles. Guiding your children through life with the word of God. One cannot go wrong there. We can look to Jesus as an example, as we always should, and I notice two things.

1.) Jesus never strikes anyone. Nope, he gets angry in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13) and he rebuked Peter for cutting off the ear of Malchus (John 18:10-11) He never once hits anyone. I would say that speaks volumes as to how we should behave and follow suit.

2.) He says "let the little children come to me." (Matthew 19:14) He made no comment on their behavior, on their needing training, no He said "let them come to me, for the kingdom belongs to such as these"

    Of course we need to be leading and guiding our children in Biblical principles and bringing them up in the way of the Lord, but are you really succeeding in that if you are driving them away from Christ? No, all you're succeeding at is making them into what you want them to be until they leave your home.

    You want them to behave a certain way, you want them to feel a certain way, you want them to approach you and revere you in the way you see fit. This is not Biblical parenting. This is selfish parenting. Where is the sacrifice, the struggle? When you think about it, this is much more parenting to the world than parenting for God. This is for you and your benefit, not your children's.

    Furthermore, the idea that from birth children are selfish creatures, and in need of being broken completely takes away from the perfection of God. Calling misbehaving children "little tyrants" and making them seem the enemy to be conquered, it's disgusting. These are children, gifts from God. And you are trying to convince parents that they are the enemy, simply dumb animals in need of training. It makes me sick. You warn over and over, and over again in your book that this is "not abuse" it is. You wouldn't have to convince yourself otherwise.

   I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Pearl, but I have major problems with your book, and I have even bigger issues with how you bend the Word of God to fit your agenda, how you lead people away from Christ, and children away from parents. Moreover, I have problems with how you refuse to take any credit whatsoever for the children that have died at the hands of parents doing what you told them to do. You need to own up and take responsibility for your actions.

   I don't know what happened in your life to make you so angry and hate filled toward children, but it's very apparent throughout your book. My prayer for you is for one of personal healing, repentance and accountability.

   To anyone that has been hurt by these methods in the name of Christ, I am so sorry. As a Christian, I take responsibility. I feel the guilt and the blame that we aren't doing a better job of educating our brothers and sisters.

Love and Prayers

~Amanda





 

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