I first heard about the Schatz family’s tragedy a week ago Sunday. My immediate response was heartbroken, angry, “Not again. . .” disbelief.
Lydia Schatz’s funeral is over. Zariah Schatz is out of the hospital, after nearly two weeks. The other siblings are in foster care. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz have a court date on Thursday, February 25th.
And while an immediate reaction of horror, heartsickness is justified — I believe it is important to look deeper at how something like this has happened. In light of it being another death connected with Michael and Debi Pearl, in light of the families who are not in the news but are struggling — don’t we need to ask why?
Interestingly, I’ve run across several people who have known the Schatz family quite well. While those who defend the Pearls wish they could point to “extremists” who may have had anger, abuse or mental issues, the picture so far is of a loving, Christian family; a family who loved their kids and even sought out adopting more kids. This makes people uncomfortable. No longer can we categorize the Schatz family as “other” — they are here, among us, in our Christian family and homeschool circles.
I would strongly urge you to take the time to read what Laurie has written, her insights into the Schatz family and the influences in their lives: in which I discuss the unthinkable.
Please read it carefully, prayerfully. Please see how we in our Christian, homeschool circles can be vulnerable to false teachings. Please see how warped theology can warp our actions. This is not to excuse or justify what Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz have done. This is to point out just how much loving parents can be vulnerable, and how imperative it is that the Christian church warn parents about false beliefs and abusive practices such as those taught by Michael and Debi Pearl.
I know many people want to see this as an isolated example; that there isn’t a pattern in the death of Sean Paddock and Lydia Schatz. It would be a comfort if that were so. Sadly, I believe that what comes to the attention of the media are these (sensationalized) deaths, but that abuse is going on behind closed doors in our Christian homes. Abuse that is not necessarily in anger. Rather in loving families there occurs what I see as “well-intentioned child abuse,” in which motives may be loving but actions cross a line that has been blurred by teachers such as the Pearls.
How does this happen? It helps to understand when we hear the stories of other families. Anne has been transparent about “Giving Up on To Train Up a Child.” Meggan believed the Pearls’ promises of “no greater joy,” but found herself afraid of seriously harming her child. Ann was lured by perfectionism. And Jo shares about growing up with Pearl-esque parenting and the long-term harm it has done to her family.
These are not isolated examples. These stories echo the ones I’ve heard from other parents, both in my local community and in online communities; from parents who have rejected the Pearl type of parenting, and those who are still utilizing these ideas. Christian parents are vulnerable, we are vulnerable. These teachings do not reflect the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but ensnare parents and eliminate mercy. This is why the Church must speak out in warning — individuals, pastors, lay leaders, denominations. This is hurting our families and children. We cannot pretend it isn’t happening in our midst anymore.
Lord, have mercy on us all.
What others are saying:
Corporal Punishment and the Two Kingdoms
Timberdoodle: Discipline and Murder
Facing Abuse in the Christian Family
Abhorrence Hits Me on This
Child Discipline or Child Abuse?
Child Abuse in the Name of Jesus
Weekend Updates: Zariah
When Parenting Kills, What Can We Do?
Beauty for Ashes: In Which I Discuss the Unthinkable
(will be updated, as I’m able)