« Bob Dylan's Birthday | Main | Memorial Day 2006 »

May 27, 2006

From Salon.Com: More on Michael and Debi Pearl

Lynn Harris, writing for Salon.com, seeks to understand and explain the parenting teachings and allure of Michael and Debi Pearl.

One of the things that has been interesting to me with the rising concern about the Pearls from the "mainstream" is to see how an "outsider" perceives the teachings that are quite standard within a specific Christian subculture. In referring to this subculture, I'm not speaking of the more broad conservative, evangelical subculture--but that which tends towards a more separatist, independent, "home" oriented.

While I've not fully identified with this specific subculture, I've been close enough to it to understand and see the motivations of those within it. Likely, many of you who visit me here at TulipGirl have been a part of that subculture or are close enough to those within it to understand it, as well. And while they have done admirable background work, it's apparent that Lynn Harris and Mandy Locke don't seem to quite understand many of the factors involved with accepting the sort of teachings the Pearls promote.

Intentions within this subculture are good, but what I've seen is replacing what is truly Biblical with ideals that build a particular subculture and set of values. Values which, in themselves, are not necessarily bad. But taken as a whole are elevated to a place of prominence within this subculture, at the expense of what is truly Biblical. At the expense of the Gospel.

(Related to this, read Christian Families on the Edge from CRI.)


Posted by TulipGirl  |  09:52 PM|  TrackBack (0)  |   Words

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I just don't understand where the mercy is in these parenting methods. Some of these kinds of writers talk about modeling godly authority, but they miss out on a demonstration of the mercy of God.

Posted by: Kim in ON at May 28, 2006 06:35 AM

I agree with your assessment of the article. When I read it I thought the same thing. It is difficult for someone on the "outside" to peek into the subculture and make sense of it all. At best they will come away with a superficial understanding but not the roots of a lot of the things that attract people to the Pearls or those like them.

Kim I also agree on the mercy aspect. The most recent issue of NGJ highlighted Rebekah Pearl saying how she spanks her son for "being careless". There is no room for grace in a system like that. Both parent and child are expected to be perfect. Despite the fact that a 5 years of age her son has yet to even understand completely "how" to do many of the things he is then disciplined for not knowing.

Even in the book CTBHHM there were "textual errors". Are we to discipline Rebekah and Debi Pearl for their carelessness? Of course not. But sadly the grace they expect from others, including their own son/grandson they are so very unwilling to extend themselves.

Posted by: Spunky at May 28, 2006 02:04 PM

I appreciate you commenting on this, TulipGirl - it is nice to have a little realistic balance out there.

Some of the blogs I read refer to 'To Train Up a Child' so nonchalantly that it seems like they take the Pearls as the Biblical authority for child-rearing. It's a little alarming.

I think you're right, though, that it appeals to a certain subculture: it seems like the subculture itself may appeal to certain personality types. Authoritarian, rule-based, tradition-is-king, the USA was founded on Christianity alone (and not land-lust, power-mongering, or greed), and so on and so forth. While I think there is value in rules and tradition, it seems like it is dangerously easy to get caught up into the 'rose-tinted view' of what was (or is). It really gets my goat. I mean - com'on! Get REAL, people!

Hmmmm...slight tangent.

Thanks for posting!

Posted by: a. borealis at May 28, 2006 02:51 PM

When my wife was found to be with child, one of her dear friends who attends a rather extreme fundamentalist church gave her a copy of "To Train Up a Child." My first reaction to seeing the booklet and the shoddy pen drawn cover art was that these people are crack pots. I went to the internet shortly there after and found their website and it confirmed to me my suspicions.

However, I read through the booklet nonetheless and though I found that I disagreed with much of Michael's take on the Bible, my wife and I did benefit from the practical points he lays out with regards to teaching your children to listen to your voice. We had read through a whole lot of material previous to having received their book, and none of it, even Tripp's stuff, ever dealt with practical training techniques that my wife and I have found to work wonders. I talk about this in my post (where TG left a comment).

To Train Up a Child is the only booklet I have read from the Pearl's. I have never recommend their ministry, but will recommend, with extreme caution to discern, the booklet's training methods. I believe that is the first two chapters or so.

Since posting my article (linked above), I have received a lot of alarmed emailers telling me they are amazed I would have anything to do with the Pearl's. Well, I don't have anything to do with them, just those little sections from that one book. I am by no means a Pearl sycophant. As for the Salon.com article, I would expect worldlings to have a negative reaction to any Christian child rearing, not just the Pearl's. The idea of depriving a child the freedom to grab a water glass by telling him or her "no" and giving a switch to the hand to re-enforce the "no" is absolutely shocking to a person whose mind is darkened in sin and has no concept of loving, parental discipline.

I am not suprised they picked on the Pearl's; the family draws attention to themselves because of who they are. I am curious of their thoughts about Tedd Tripp's material, or any other sound minded reformed parenting ministries, but of course they are not going to them because of the fact they are sound.


Posted by: Fred at May 30, 2006 08:53 AM

I agree with your assessment and Spunky's comments as well. My disagreement with the attachment parents (although I espouse the other tenets because I belive they're natural and the way God meant for us to raise kid) is that they don't seem to believe that children need to be obedient.

However, when I started perusing the Pearl's website, I was struck by one essay written by Michael in which he claims to be without sin. LOL! Wow- he doesn't need the ransom then, does he? ;)

I totally agree- where is the mercy? Where is Christ in the Pearl's methods? Christ responded with gentle discipline when his disciples acted like bratty kids and argued about which one was greatest (over and over, lol!).

Posted by: Carrie at May 31, 2006 01:52 PM

I found the letters responding to that article to be heart wrenching. It would be worthwhile for people to read them and see how painful harsh parenting methdology can be for children well into adulthood.

Corrie, I can sort of see your point about obedience but the Bible tells children to obey their parents but never tells parents to force obedience, free will seems to be key. The Bible *does* tell parents to love their children and not to provoke them. The Pearls' teaching definately is institutionalized provocation.


Posted by: DebraBaker at May 31, 2006 09:29 PM

I appreciate your thoughts on this. That is one thing about the vehement defense of the Pearls that always kind of nags at me in the back of my mind. Outside this 'subculture,' it is perceived like something totally different. Unfortunately, I think some equate the heat they receive for publically defending the Pearls with persecution for standing for Christ and it causes them to instinctively draw closer and defend more vigorously. The world has nothing to say on the subject and fellow Christians who raise concerns are only those 'liberal' members who really have gone the way of the world. That's my impression, anyway.

Posted by: Dana at June 9, 2006 10:21 AM

As a humanist, my personal take on the issue of obedience in child-rearing: I do not want my children to be obedient merely for the sake of being obedient, for I am quite clear that I too make mistakes, and may well tell them to do things that are not for the very best. Instead, I would far rather that I help them to learn to think about my suggestions as best they can, that they learn critical thinking skills so that they do not end up doing things simply because someone else tells them to, but because they look at the theories to see if they match the data, they look for explanations of why a course of action may be good or bad, they look to see that these ideas fit with other good ideas, they look for logical contradictions, they look to see if the idea actually will work or not, that they look upon their ideas as potentially wrong and open to criticism, but that they value their apparently best ideas until they come across a better one etc, etc.

This way I hope to help my children to avoid the possibility of mindless action so that they will not end up acting upon someone's authority when that person advocates immoral behaviour.

By being open to the possibility of improving our ideas together, I find that the children most often do take my ideas seriously and we do not need to resort to physical violence in order to have a very satisfactory private life...

I say it over and over...How does a parent teach their child about the minimal use of violence in the situation that the parent whips a child for the least possible infringement? Just does not make sense and simply serves to make the world a much more violent place :(

Posted by: Carlotta at June 21, 2006 03:53 PM

In My Garden
Recently Written
Book Blogging
Friends and Fans
Good Stuff
Blog Goodies