PLEASANTVILLE, Tenn. — After services at the Church at Cane Creek on a recent Sunday, a few dozen families held a potluck picnic and giggling children played pin the tail on the donkey.Irony Alert: "Cane" Creek is the name of the church.
The white-bearded preacher, Michael Pearl, who delivered his sermon in stained work pants, and his wife, Debi, mixed warmly with the families drawn to their evangelical ministry, including some of their own grandchildren.
The pastoral mood in the hills of Tennessee offered a stark contrast to the storm raging around the country over the Pearls’ teachings on child discipline, which advocate systematic use of “the rod” to teach toddlers to submit to authority.
Debate over the Pearls’ teachings, first seen on Christian Web sites, gained new intensity after the death of a third child, all allegedly at the hands of parents who kept the Pearls’ book, “To Train Up a Child,” in their homes. On Sept. 29, the parents were charged with homicide by abuse.
More than 670,000 copies of the Pearls’ self-published book are in circulation, and it is especially popular among Christian home-schoolers, who praise it in their magazines and on their Web sites. The Pearls provide instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.”
Before we dismiss the comments above and the ones to follow with a "isn't that just like those hillbilly's in the south?" condescension, it's worth noting the widespread popularity of the book, and the hardcore belief in the "spare the rod, spoil the child" cliche.
Mr. Pearl, 66, and Ms. Pearl, 60, say that blaming their book for extreme abuse by a few unstable parents is preposterous and that they explicitly counsel against acting in anger or causing a bruise. They say that their methods, properly used, yield peace and happy teenagers.
“If you find a 12-step book in an alcoholic’s house, you wouldn’t blame the book,” Mr. Pearl said in an interview.
I have no idea what that means, but apparently there is a correlation between their book's presence and the homicides of three different toddlers whose parents allegedly beat them to death.
In the latest case, Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., were home-schooling their six children when they adopted a girl and a boy, ages 11 and 7, from Ethiopia in 2008. The two were seen by their new parents as rebellious, according to friends.
Late one night in May this year, the adopted girl, Hana, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, officials determined. According to the sheriff’s report, the parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs. The mother had praised the Pearls’ book and given a copy to a friend, the sheriff’s report said. Hana had been beaten the day of her death, the report said, with the 15-inch plastic tube recommended by Mr. Pearl.
“It’s a good spanking instrument,” Mr. Pearl said in the interview. “It’s too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone.”
Some of the Williamses’ other tactics also seemed to involve Pearl advice taken to extremes; the Pearls say that “a little fasting is good training,” for example, and suggest hosing off a child who has potty-training lapses.
And if you think this kind of lunacy is only for the toddler set, think again.
The furor in part reflects societal disagreements over corporal punishment, which conservative Christians say is called for in the Bible and which many Americans consider reasonable up to a point, even as many parents and pediatricians reject it. The issue flared recently when a video was posted online of a Texas judge whipping his daughter.I watched the video this morning and found it to be one of the most repulsive things I've ever seen (warning: watch at your own discretion). Nothing says quality, Christian parenting quite like yelling, "get on your stomach, you f*#*ing bitch!" over and over again to your 16 year old daughter while you beat her with a strap (even the loony mother gets in on the action, dropping a few f-bombs and beating on the girl). Worse, the girl supposedly has cerebral palsy.
Apparently, this clown in the video really is a "judge" (by Texas standards anyway), a "family law" judge who is considered in Texas to be a "child abuse expert" (insert joke here).
A Texas family law judge whose daughter secretly videotaped him savagely beating her seven years ago won't face criminal charges because too much time has elapsed, police said Thursday.Discipline...Texas style. And btw, that really says "Aransas" county. I thought that was a typo, but apparently it's just Texas.
Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams likely would have been charged with causing injury to a child or other assault-related offenses for the 2004 beating of his then-16-year-old daughter, but the five-year statutes of limitations expired, Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe said.William Adams, 51, issued a three-page statement Thursday saying his daughter posted the clip to get back at him for telling her he would be reducing the amount of financial support he gives her and taking away her Mercedes. The statement did not include an apology for the beating, but he told Corpus Christi television station KZTV on Wednesday that the video "looks worse than it is," that he had already apologized to his daughter and that he was just disciplining his child for stealing.
Here's the point: this kind of assault and battery, under the guise of "discipline," is in keeping with our use of punishment as a form of violence. Let me illustrate: after watching that video, how many of you would like to see this "judge" thrown in prison and beaten senseless, just as he did with his daughter?
Exactly, but then you're no better than the "judge" or any of these other knuckle-draggers who beat children or the defenseless in the name of discipline, or punishment, or any other convoluted reason they can think of.
Retribution is a very primal reaction, but assault is still just assault. You can dress it up in pseudo-religious gobbledygook, discipline mantras, or "it ain't all that bad" euphemisms, but at the end of the day, to use a Texas metaphor, a pig with lipstick is still just a pig.