A followup re the Pearls' dominionist child abuse
To remind you all of the general context here:
In this small, rural community (Pleasantville, TN--ed.), Pearl tends a modest flock. It's through a satellite Internet connection and a traveling road show that Pearl captures a following he pegs at more than half a million people. From military bases in Europe to a Pentecostal church in Smithfield, N.C., parents spank their children with rods, "switching" out their bad attitudes, just at Pearl advises. His books on child discipline are sold at home-schooling conferences, delivered to the doorsteps of new moms and passed from pastors to parents in churches across the nation.
(The original article had noted that only one other child had been flogged along with Sean.)
I've described these "rods" in the other article and even included a photograph of them in my other article focusing on the Pearls, "Death By Chastening Rod"; these "rods" are capable of causing serious injury.
Interestingly, Michael Pearl himself may be called to the witness stand because of his specific promotion of PVC "chastening rods":
Reece said he is considering ordering Pearl to testify if the case goes to trial.
One of the more notable things about this article is how it details some of the Pearls' more abusive techniques. Among other things, it's revealed that they promote the use of willow-branch "switches" on young infants.
It also--in something that should genuinely scare everyone involved in the movement against dominionism--gives a frightening quote from Michael Pearl himself regarding the extensive use of their methods in the dominionist correspondence-school "homeschool" community:
By Pearl's math, one-sixth of the nation's estimated 3 million home-schooling families use his training methods.
Yes, you read that right. Fully 500,000 households in the US are regularly using Pearl's methods of "chastisement" on their children.
Pearls' children, interestingly, defend his promotion--but there is good evidence (via nospank.net) that those children were not subjected to the methods in his books.
Very interestingly--and in frightening parallel to another infamous figure, Fred Phelps--Michael Pearl may lead a church that is largely a familial coercive religious group. The article notes:
There's no sign welcoming visitors to Pearl's Church at Cane Creek. Getting there means driving down a steep ridge where the Tennessee foothills begin fading to plains. Then, it's a left at the hand-painted signs advertising vegetables, crafts and furniture. As the blacktop turns to dirt, a bridge leads to the Pearls' farm. At the foot of a cow pasture, on the bank of a rippling stream, Pearl's loyal base gathers on Sundays.
Yes, you read that right--the same place where, as the Pearls have claimed, "jezebels" protested their practices is essentially a "congregation" of around 36 people, at least 12 of which are related to the Pearls. (Even Phelps' familial cult Westboro Baptist Church is larger.)
Disturbingly, Michael Pearl may be involved in "faith-based coercion" in the prison system, especially disturbing in light of the fact that fully 83.8 percent or more of people in the prison system who are incarcerated for violent offences have histories of severe child abuse and there is increasing evidence that severe abuse may in fact cause criminal behaviour in a percentage of the population (this based on a NZ study showing that for the one third of the human population having low levels of monoamine oxidase A, 85% of boys with low MAOA who have suffered physical abuse have gone one to commit antisocial and criminal behaviour as adults):
Pearl prayed for the souls of the murderers and rapists he preaches to each week at a state prison; another man read an e-mail message from a congregation member on a mission in Southeast Asia. Long silences separated their discussions as they waited for one of the men to pick a hymn or read Scripture.
Speaking of abuse, the Pearls seem to have little concern that they could be potentially causing criminality with their "child training" techniques (much less thousands, thousands more examples of "spiritual warfare collateral damage"):
"The chances of one of them committing a crime is pretty good," Pearl said, shrugging at the question in his churchyard after Sunday services and refusing to say much more.
As it turns out, the Pearls are making a surprisingly tidy earning off of promoting literally beating the hell out of kids:
No Greater Joy Ministries is doing a brisk business. The ministry earned just over $1 million last year from sales of a half-dozen or so books, said the general manager, Mel Cohen.
Yes, you read that right--they have earned over a million dollars from their books, sold 500,000 copies alone of the very book linked to the death of young Sean Paddock, and are giving guides on baby-beating and making your wife be a "submissive helpmate in a Christian family" free (and potentially unrequested) to our servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan (and potentially Iran, too, in the next few months).
The article also gives a good idea of the Pearls' techniques in action, and the mindset of the dominionists who use the Pearls' techniques. One particularly disturbing report shows that even county-supported nonprofit groups are promoting "Biblically sanctioned" baby-beating:
Highlighter and pen scribbles mar the pages of Joel Killion's copy of "To Train Up a Child." The Wilson father's only daughter, Moriah, is just 2, and already Killion has read Pearl's discipline book four times.
So let's review so far--we have parents whose solitary goal for their child is to be a housewife and breeder of "God Warriors", which in and of itself is not encouraging--and, sadly, is quite common in dominionist "spiritual warfare" communities. The only role for women is to breed, "obey her husband as her husband obeys God", and homeschool (and beat) the younguns.
They leave a young infant to cry in her crib, which is now known to be potentially damaging to bonding--much less potentially dangerous (the kid could have laid on a sharp object, rolled over and gotten herself trapped, etc.)
They whack a child who is less than two years old with a "switch" from the yard.
The child is "docile", but most pediatricians will tell you docility is one of the two possible consequences of abuse--essentially the kid withdraws. One pediatrician (whose wife is a regular poster on Dark Christianity) has reported that some children from dominionist households that use these sorts of "chastening" methods have withdrawn to the point they have symptoms almost indistinguishable from higher-functioning autism. Even for kids who deal with abuse by being docile and withdrawing, there are severe, lifelong trust issues that can prevent them from establishing stable relationships with other people.
Another parent quoted has also unknowingly crossed over to the level of abuse:
Beck relied on his advice to teach her daughter, then 3, to stay in bed after being tucked in. After 23 nights of getting switched with a willow tree branch, her daughter, now 12, finally relented. "Mike Pearl taught me my daughter needed to know there was a limit," Beck said.
(Nowadays, in many jurisdictions a report that a three-year-old child was being "switched" on a nightly basis for 23 days for getting out of bed would trigger at least investigations of abuse by the parent.)
"Spiritual warfare" groups promote the books and by their own statements don't care about the "collateral damage" and "friendly fire":
Berry Byrd, a Pentecostal minister in Smithfield, says "To Train Up a Child" is the most brilliant parenting book he'd ever read. This month, he ordered 25 copies and passed them out to young parents in his congregation.
In some cases, this has caused parents to seriously rethink the methods--and question their "Biblical" justification:
"I was sucked in. I wanted to be happy and wanted happy children," said Chris Jones, a mom from Georgia who eventually gave up Pearl's techniques. "He makes you think he has the ear of God."
The article also gives info on how the Pearls (and by extension a lot of dominionist "family" groups) recruit:
Mothers never suspect a backlash because Pearl's books and newsletters are filled with stories of happy, godly children. The trick: training them while they are young. He urges fathers to tempt the little ones with an off-limit toy. When the child reaches for it, the father is advised to swat his hand or leg with a rod.
(Needless to say, the taunting of a kid with a toy and whacking Junior with the chastening rod when he grabs for it is both physically and emotionally abusive. You're flat out teaching kids not to want anything or trust. The pushing of kids into a lake and letting them "flounder" to teach them to stay away from it is amazingly dangerous--the kids could well have drowned.)
One mother expressed regret about having used the Pearls' methods and is grateful she stopped using them before potentially maiming her child:
Meggan Judge, a mother in Alaska, wishes someone had stopped her from following Pearl's instruction sooner.
(emphasis mine, and--having also been subject to multiple-times-a-day "chastenings" as a kid, I can definitely believe it)
The newspaper article also gives some notable examples of abusive childrearing techniques promoted by the Pearls:
This is a sampling of Pearl's advice from "To Train Up a Child" and his newsletter, "No Greater Joy":
I've noted this abusive practice in my article "Death by Chastening Rod"; a child who bites during breastfeeding is often not aware he is causing pain. The appropriate response is to remove the child from the breast, not to yank baby's hair.)
PROBLEM Boy is a crybaby
This is abusive and dangerous.
Firstly, if a child is demanding attention to a supposed wound, the appropriate response is to check the child and--if he is not hurt--reassure him he's okay.
Secondly, it is not appropriate to dose a child with a "terrible-tasting herbal concoction" or "vitamin and mineral supplement" as a punishment; firstly, if a kid cries a lot, you run a real risk of potentially poisoning Junior. Secondly, you teach him that medicine is Bad and is a form of punishment (not what you want to teach him if, say, you need to get meds into him to treat an illness). Thirdly, this is a thinly-veiled version of "hot saucing"--the tactic of placing Tabasco or a similar hot-sauce on the tongues of children for "sassing", "lying" or "backtalking". (Hot-saucing is itself considered abusive by many CPS agencies, both Tabasco and Texas Pete have issued formal statements condemning the use of their products as "chastening aids", and most child experts outside the dominionist community also find it cruel and potentially dangerous due to both swelling from the "heat" and the risk of a possible allergic reaction.) Some of you who are sufficiently old enough may remember when castor oil was used as a similar punishment--there's a reason stuff like this was left behind in the fifties!
PROBLEM Rebellious child who runs from discipline
Firstly, benevolent sovereigns generally do not hold someone down forcibly to show they are bigger or tougher. (The US embassy recently had to be reduced to essential personnel, and all non-essential personnel and families evacuated, and an order was sent to all Americans to leave Nepal quite recently because of a sovereign trying to show his subjects he was "bigger and tougher". The French Revolution happened in part because of efforts to quell dissent. Heck, in America's own mythology the American Revolution happened largely because King George and Parliament tried to hold down the Colonies to show who was "bigger and tougher".) Truly benevolent sovereigns listen to their subjects, and will try to assist them for the betterment of their countries. (There's actually an entire concept called "noblesse oblige" that states a good king must--as an obligation of being king--treat his subjects with respect and work for the whole good of the country; in return, the king gets privileges, but this is purely dependent on helping and looking out for his subjects and not mistreating them.)
Secondly, this is abusive, and (as noted above) is at minimum going to engender resentment towards the parents. If the parent breaks the will successfully of the kid, this makes it very difficult for the kid to learn to trust, say, a future wife or equal. It can leave girls open to exploitation of all sorts. (Unfortunately, the Pearls promote the idea of women being subservient to men as "men are to God" so this is likely by design.)
This is one I myself was subjected to as a kid.
PROBLEM Child whines to mother after father disciplines him
Abusive; a better response is to explain to the kid what he did wrong and that you agree with the other parent that he misbehaved. (I myself was subjected to this one a lot.)
PROBLEM Child lies
A better response is to explain to the kid how lying is hurtful, including asking him how he would like it if other people lied to him.
Dominionists, as an aside, use this for a lot of things other than "lying", and very often a part of dominionist "discipline" involves making the kid get the very tools of their own "chastening"--making them an active participant in it. (There are two parallels I know of in the adult world--in some states, making a condemned prisoner choose his own method of execution; in states that practice torture, forcing the tortured to choose the manner of torture or forcing them to get the implements of torture. In the latter case, it is explicitly meant as an additional form of psychological torture and survivors report it as damaging and humiliating as the physical torture itself.)
I myself, as well as my sister, were often subjected to the "get yourself a switch because you're going to be whupped till you cry" method of "chastening" for offenses as simple as yelling too loudly in the backyard or the usual sibling scuffling or even walking outside of the yard without permission to the next door neighbour's.
In fact we got whacked enough that we started becoming minor experts in the strength of wood, etc. Thin switches hurt more, thick switches a bit less, and old wood would often break. (My sister also notably learned to cry on command to stop the beatings sooner; I ended up telling my folks at age four that they could "beat me till their hands fell off but they weren't making me cry" and I've pretty much held to that.)
One time (I was possibly all of four years old) I picked a log that was so large that I could not pick it up but had to drag it as the "switch"--my child brain figured if the beater couldn't pick it up, they couldn't whack me till I cried.
Unfortunately, this did not work in practice--I got whacked with a separate, parent-picked switch not only for the original transgression, but got whacked again for being "willful" in picking a log to prevent a "switching".
PROBLEM What to use for a rod
THIS is likely the quote that could potentially cause the Pearls to be listed as an accessory to manslaughter or even murder (depending on whether child abuse deaths are considered manslaughter or murder in the state of North Carolina).
Note that beating of children under the age of 1 is advocated with willow-switches, and the beating of children older than 1 with PVC "chastening rods", large sticks, or belts.
Again, I've been subjected to all of this--when I first reported I had been hit with some of this to my high school counselor (at age 16, not realising before then that it was abusive or even particularly weird for kids to be hit with belts even at the age of 14-16) they called CPS. (Unfortunately, CPS in my area was unaware of religiously motivated child abuse and tended not to trust any reports from teenagers. :()
I've been told by a therapist that I could potentially retroactively file charges, but I'm not sure it's worth it--as it is, I still don't trust the system to help me. And that's one of the big things that these "child training" techniques do--destroy any trust in the idea that people might help you when you're down. If anything, it teaches you that the very people who are supposed to protect you are going to be the very ones causing harm.
There's a quote from "The Crow" that comes to mind--"'Mother' is the word for 'God' on the lips of all children". If so, parents who use the techniques of the Pearls and other promoters of dominionist "baby-beating" guides are teaching their kids that God is a horrible, vengeful, abusive entity not to be trusted. They're making people who either are afraid God is going to smite them for the smallest transgression--or they are making people who question the necessity of a God at all.
It is notable to see the idea of God of the dominionists--vengeful, smiting at the smallest transgression, sending disasters to people, the "Jesus soaked in blood and splitting his enemies in twain" as depicted at the end of the "Left Behind" books. Hating people for how they were when they were born, hating them for things they can't control, cursing people who aren't as vengeful.
It is probably the case here, sadly, that there may be truth to the quote from "The Crow" about Mother being the word for God on the lips of children--and they are learning their terrible lessons about the dominionist God in infancy, as their Mother thrashes them with the willow chastening-rod for the wails of a seven-month-old child who just misses the closest thing he knows to God in the world.
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