Monday, February 22, 2010

In which I talk about the terrible event I mentioned 2 weeks ago

I wasn't sure if I would talk about this here. This blog is often kind of a vacation for me. And believe me, I would much rather be writing about something interesting I just read about John Keats, or Laurie and my love for the music of Erik Satie right now. But I have something else I have to write about tonight.

I mentioned about two weeks ago about a life changing and terrible event in our life. In brief, here's the background for newcomers to this story. Last year we had a delightful family come to our church for many months. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz had a large family, 6 of their own kids and 3 adopted from Liberia, including 7 year old Lydia who shared a special mutual adoration with Laurie. Kevin and I would talk after church often. We went to dinner at their house, they showed us how to milk their goats; they gave us book cases. They were very kind and very sweet. We loved them all very much and still do. We will continue to love them no matter what happens, and no matter what happened. They left our church after about 8 months.

A little over two weeks ago I got a phone call from my pastor. Lydia is dead, her sister in the hospital, the rest of the kids in foster care, and Kevin and Elizabeth in jail. Soon after, Kevin and Elizabeth were charged with an open count of murder, torture and child abuse.

I will not go into the emotions here. I'm not sure I need to and I'm absolutely sure I don't want to. It is probably needless and the zenith in understatements to say that it has been a very rough two weeks. To see this happen to people you love is really beyond words.

The Schatzes followed, to a "t", a system of child rearing which came from Michael and Debi Pearl whose No Greater Joy "Ministry" is based in Tennessee and whose site I refuse to sully this blog by linking to. The Pearls are not professionally trained or educated in child development. They came up with this darkness out of the abundance of their hearts. The first time I pulled up their website about two weeks ago to learn more about this system which I'd only ever heard of in furtive whispers before, Laurie can testify, I literally left my office in tears after only a few minutes and did not want to go back into the room where that was on the screen. It is one of the most hate-filled, wicked and evil systems I've encountered in my life, all with a sheen of "Christian" and "happy families." For the past two weeks, information junkies that Laurie and I are, we waded through the Pearl system and it gets worse the more you dig.

Other people (my wife for one) have done much better jobs laying out the evils of the Pearl system. Generally, one of the major problems is the extremely dangerous and wildly unbiblical position that they preach of sinless perfection being achievable in this lifetime. Mix that with a strict discipline system with one's children and you can probably put together for yourself how something like this could happen. You expect sinless perfection and you will whip your child as often as needed if they fall short.

People, this is exactly why I am so focused on searching out and sticking to good, sound, biblical doctrine! This is why I beat that drum so much. This is why discernment is so vital to a Christian! Doctrine dictates lifestyle! The Pearls teach a system of salvation through obedience, which, as I've now said elsewhere, is about as anti-Christian a message as I can think of. The Pearls' theology is as anti-Christian as anything I've read in Nietzsche, and Nietzsche's philosophy does not endanger the physical lives of children. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, by His undeserved grace, by no work of our own lest we should boast. Along with that, we are called to love. Love is patient, kind, long-suffering. All of which are qualities that are considered parental weakness to the Pearls. Or, rather, they may pervert it in such a way that they may say words to the effect of "I am being patient, kind and longsuffering in diligently whipping my child at every hint of an offense."

Specifically, the Pearls suggest in their book the exact piece of plumbing tubing for whipping disobedient children that the Schatzes used when Lydia mispronounced a word when reading out loud from a Frog and Toad book (I grew up on those books. Their appearance in this story is just another in a seemingly endless line of heartbreaking detail.) The Pearls also suggest things like if your child tries to run when you're about to whip them, stalk them through the house slowly while laughing at their feeble attempts at escape. Also, wear the tube around your neck so that the child sees the weapon every time he or she looks at you. I think part of what strikes me so much about this is that it is a system meant for Christians, and many Christians are buying it while non-Christians I've spoken to have no problem immediately identifying this system as outrageously evil and, in my own words, "morally repugnant." As another has said, this is a major failing of the Christian church in America.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
So, the Pearls have no legal responsibility. They're just making suggestions, of course, and we live in a society where we all enjoy free speech (look, I'm doing it right now!) And every time a child of a parent following their system dies at their parent's disciplining hand (as you can probably imagine, this is not the first time it's happened) the Pearls have no problem throwing the parents under the bus, washing their hands of it to the press. However, we, the people, can still see the blood on the Pearls' hands and this is where social responsibility comes in.
It is unacceptable that a system like this is socially acceptable in what is supposed to be the Christian church. We ought to have a culture where public opinion is so strong against such things that systems like these cannot exist. No Christian should entertain the idea of the Pearl system for a moment and certainly no one should be giving money to these people.

So, being anti-censorship, what can I do? Well, I wrote to Lynn Harris, the author of many books but also the journalist on, one of the internet's most major news sources, who in 2006 wrote an article on the death of another Pearl follower's child during discipline, and the subsequent murder charge. We wrote back and forth, spoke on the phone and she produced an article. Yes, the Laurie and Paul Mathers in the article are exactly who you think they are.

Speak out and speak up, Christians. Educate yourself in sound doctrine and let's move public opinion in the church to a place where this system can no longer survive.

If you call yourself a Christian and you don't immediately think it's a foul, unthinkable, disgusting suggestion to whip your child at least 10 times per offense (more "if needed"), wearing the weapon visibly at all times, having a weapon always at hand with which to whip your child, menacingly hunting down your child when they are fleeing punishment in terror like the villain in the Halloween movies, and even manufacturing occasions to whip in order to "train them", if you don't immediately recoil from such things, I would highly recommend you put down the plastic tubing and go pick up your Bible. You may have reason to be concerned about the state of your soul. If you think, as I keep hearing from Christians (and it makes me feel like vomiting every time) that "there's some good in the Pearl system" I would suggest that an apple dipped in cyanide also still contains vitamins. If you eat it, it will taste good, but it will kill you inside. There is not such a dearth of child rearing methods that you ever even need to pick up a system laced with violence, cold-heartedness, and fatal legalism to get "some good points" out of it.

And if you are a Christian, the state of your child's soul should be paramount (and, if you're a parent of any kind, the preservation of your child's life, health and well being should be paramount.) Sharing God's love for them and your own love for them should be at the top of the list. I have no idea why expedient means to get your child to obey is so important. Christ's love for us imperfect sinners is more important than anything! God's patience with our own disobedience is unfathomable.

Michael Pearl, after a tirade on his website about the "lesbians" who are persecuting him (yes, it's that level of rhetoric we're talking about here) does make a point that he doesn't see "the daddies" speaking out against him (yes, also probably not a big surprise, he also uses extremely socially awkward and highly archaic turns of phrase like "damsels", "porno", and "licks" as in "giving licks," as in whipping). He is correct in that I also am not seeing a lot of Christian men speaking out against this. Shame on Christian men. It may have to do with his power-mad system that revolves around constantly stroking the male ego. But it may also be that that day is over. I am one Christian man who will tell the world that the Pearl system is evil, anti-Christian, and it will not stand! The Pearls preach lies from the pit of Hell. I will not sit back and allow them to continue to drag the name of Christ through the mud.

I could go on. And I will elsewhere.

But do go and read the article. Also go read my wife's blog entry. It will break your heart. It broke mine all over again and I think we're both starting to realize we may live in that state for the rest of our lives.


  1. I will also continue to speak out.

    There is no room for this doctrine of demons in Christ's church.

    1. I, too, will speak out any time and every time that I hear or read the name of the Pearls and their evil teachings. They are agents of satan, himself--only the evil one would get off on seeing children tortured and murdered by their own parents. Shame on ANYone in the Christ's Church who sees this evil in their midst, and does nothing to save the lives of children--and the psyches of those who survive the torture. :( (N.B. I reported the Pearls' "ministry" Facebook page to Facebook administrators--I reported that the page encourages violence, that was the only option for reporting it. Please go to Facebook, find the No Greater Joy Ministry page--write on it, and report it to Facebook. If enough people report the page, Facebook will have to remove it.) :(

    2. looks like they - or facebook - closed their account.

    3. I agree with you 100%. The Pearls have a YouTube channel too and their videos repeatedly refer to "training." These are children we're talking about, not dogs!!

  2. God bless you, Aaron. It's time for the men to stand up in defense of the weakest among us.

  3. THanks Paul, I posted a link to the article on my blog, and I mentioned you and Laurie, I hope you dont mind. If you do let me know. Love you guys, and of course, I will continue to spread the word about this.

  4. Thank you, Pina. No, we don't mind at all. Feel free to use anything of ours anywhere.

  5. Thanks for that blanket response, Paul, because I was just going to ask if I could blog about it myself. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife - and with the whole situation.

    (This is Bekah, btw, on my "mom blog" account)

  6. A well-written blog, Paul. I enjoyed reading what you had to say in the Salon article. It's horrifying to me how many Christians are willing to overlook abuse as long as the name of 'discipline' is applied to it. Things that horrify most people are taken for granted and excused as long as it's done in the name of godly parenting.
    As sad as the impetus is for the most recent swell of outrage, I'm glad to see other Christians speaking out against systematic child torture.

  7. Noted home school author and publisher Rob Shearer has added his voice to the cause:

    Thank you, brothers!

  8. Thanks for your post. I came through the Salon piece that also linked to a previous post I had written on the Pearls and Debi's book to wives. I'm glad to see the church rise up and I will once again add my voice of concern and say enough. I blogged about it again and linked to both you and your wife.

  9. Thank you and bless you, Paul. I am praying that the Lord will comfort you. Last night I was so overwhelmed with the apathy I have seen that I felt crushed and bruised. This morning the Lord has given me a renewed sense of His truth. I believe that as this trial unfolds, even more evidence will point to the fruit of the Pearl teachings. I want to be found on the right side of this issue and I am certain it will be found standing next to you and others who are so willing to say "enough is enough."

  10. MONSTROUS!! Any Christian who doesn't condemn this style of "child-rearing" as demonically inspired is not worth the title. God help us to change this.

  11. Paul, it's been weeks since I've had time to keep up with your blog and I was lured today by your Odyssey post. I'm very sorry to hear about this. It's sickening.

  12. I am not sure that what you say about the Pearls, though true, excuses the actions of your friends. They also are "evil" in their lack of discernment and normal compassion, their blind following and overwhelming stupidity and cruelty in having beaten a defenseless child to death for mispronouncing a word? How is it that you are able to make the proper discernments concerning the Pearls' evil system, but your friends, whom you describe in such glowing terms were not? Aren't there further discernemnts for you yourself to make here about human ignorance and susceptibility to religious hogwash?

    Are they now to be regarded as the victims and not the tortured child? Has this anything at all to do with the correctness of one religious position over another, or more with the susceptibility of the mind to ridiculous belief systems which defeat common sense and that any normal, non-brainwashed person could see? So are you saying that the Schatz's are not accountable, but the Pearls are?

    What a tangled web we will weave to protect our precious beliefs.

  13. W,
    I think you will find at no point in what I've written or said have I suggested that if the Schatzes have done what it appears they've done that they shouldn't bear responsibility for their actions. Yes, if they are found guilty by the courts, they deserve the same punishment in our legal system that anyone else would receive under these circumstances.
    The fact is, if the California Judicial System does their job, nothing I say should effect that either way (nor do I really think it would. Like 20 people or less a day read this blog.) It is in the hands of the law, as it should be, and there's nothing I can say or do at this point to help or hurt this part of the story. If the Schatzes did what they stand accused of doing, yes, I agree that it's entirely appropriate in our system of laws that they be held accountable. I am pro-law and order. I am pro-government. At no point did I suggest otherwise.
    But that doesn't change the truth about my experience with the Schatzes which was that my experience with them was entirely pleasant and friendly. And then this happened. Just because you had a pleasant and friendly experience with someone doesn't mean you have to think they're not responsible for their actions. If they did what they stand accused of, no, they are not victims. If they've done what they stand accused of, they have committed a crime. Of course!
    However, what I can do is to speak out against the Pearl system and, now that I know what it is, I feel compelled by my conscience to do so. I would also point out that I don't call the Pearls "evil." I call their system evil. I've never met them personally and, Lord willing, will never have to. For all I know they help old ladies across the street and give blood every 3 months. That doesn't change the fact that what they preach is evil and should not be accepted.
    To answer your question, no, I am not saying the Schatzes are not accountable but the Pearls are. At no point did I say anything of the kind.

  14. W,
    I should probably also thank you. This is a point I want to be very clear on and if you're asking those questions you asked, you're probably not the only person wondering how someone in my position would answer those questions. It's highly likely that I should have made myself clearer in my initial post.
    Thank you for giving the opportunity to address this aspect of it.

  15. Thank you for taking a stand about this. There are dangerous levels of legalism that most Christians don't want to speak up about. I am watching a legalistic situation in my city with a close eye and speaking out about it as often as possible and I am continually at the victim side of their rebuke against me for speaking up. I pray more Christians will speak up about this as well as other legalistic teachings that result in dangerous outcomes.

  16. Why are you able to discern, but they could not? To me the answer has little to do with "religion." Thanks for your reply.

  17. I'm super thankful to have found this post. Sorry if my comment drags up more pain. My wife has been getting to know some homeschooling moms who are really into the Pearls. I've been smelling something funny in the bits I've heard about these books. Today I did a search on them and your post here has led me down the 'rabbit hole.' Gosh. Jesus be kind to us all! The trouble is I'm starting to get to know all the husbands and I'm pretty sure they are blind to how creepy these people are. Your resolve here ennobles me to speak up. Thank you.

    I tried to find you on FB to talk about all this, but there are many many Paul Mathers on there. I looked through some of your blog. Lit crit! I wish I could visit your store.

  18. Hi, Joshua. Thank you for the kind words. It has been a very long a difficult time.

    Here's where I am on FB:
    Glad to meet you.

  19. I don't know how to blog.. Never done it.. but I want everyone to know that my voice rings to the loudest and in hopes it is heard by all... the pearl system of discipline is the sickest act of human cruelness I have ever seen, including some horrific war acts. These people need stopped before any more deaths are caused. They have no right in my book to even call themselves Christians. I know we are not supposed to judge so I am sure im guilty of that, but when I read the helplessness in the plight of the many children who are at the mercy of the parents following this spawns of hell, I can not remain quiet.. The pearls need to be held accountable for the deaths caused by someone following their ignorant steps, as much as the person carrying them out. Are we in America? When I read this, it doesn't feel like it. Please help get them stopped and held accountable.

    1. Hi JessieNRick ~ I too am new to the blogosphere. There is a lot to learn but I can already see it is a great place to share information and thoughtful comments. Whether or not you are aware, there is a petition going around trying to get to stop selling books that are in favor of child abuse as a form of parenting. Here is the link:

      I wish you both the best. HUG your children!
      Jane Knox