Category Archives: Christianity

Submission, Obedience, and Abuse

My grandmother always told me that we aren’t to air our dirty linens in public. Obviously, her philosophies on life were gelled before the social media revolution. Now that she’s on Facebook, I wonder if she’s rethinking that. This is the Age of Oversharing. While I agree that sometimes too much sharing can be a bad thing (like when teen sexting incidents gone awry become life-changing internet scandals), I think if you mean what you say – really, truly mean it, and aren’t going to change your mind about meaning it later – spilling sordid stories can be cathartic for you, and quite possibly helpful for others. So, here goes.

This book is seriously detrimental to the women that read it.

This book is seriously detrimental to the women that read it.

I was abused as a child. I also watched people close to me tolerate abuse, and somewhere around the age of 13, I started to say, Never me; when I’m grown, I will never, never put up with this crap, and I will certainly never allow this to happen to my children. 

While I don’t espouse the whole life-time victim mentality, what I do know is that it becomes very easy to repeat patterns that you see in life, because they’re the only sequences that you know. If no one ever taught you long division, odds are good that you’d be stuck using your fingers to calculate your checkbook balance for the rest of your life (I’m not good at balancing my checkbook, either). Despite my best intentions to avoid an adult life of dealing with abuse, and my active choice of a partner who was as ostensibly opposite of the abuser I knew before, I somehow ended up in an abusive relationship – mostly verbally, though we had a few domestic violence incidents, too – and I ended up leaving him, moving halfway across the country, and then realizing I was having a child with the guy.  I moved back.

For those of you that don’t know, I was raised an Independent, Fundamental Baptist. I don’t blame Christianity for the abuse that I experienced, but I do blame many Christians for perpetuating the belief that women are to submit to their husbands even in dangerous or outright wrong situations, because their husbands are accountable to God, and all we are accountable for is submitting.

This book is an embodiment of the problems I have with fundamentalism. Basically, it trains people into tolerating abuse (which is easily learned, otherwise), and that is a mighty hard habit to unlearn. I have a hard time with God being used as a means of guilting people into doing things that they sense aren’t right. I know that the author would say that was never her intent, just like the Pearls say that their child-rearing methods were never meant to cause abuse of children. I also know that I’ve personally seen this book have that effect. Just look at the Table of Contents:

Source: Sword of the Lord publishing

Source: Sword of the Lord publishing

The kind of black-and-white mentality that goes into a book like this runs rampant in fundamentalist churches. It’s the cause of people being told that divorce is never okay, that children need a strong nuclear family no matter the circumstances, that turning the other cheek and quietly submitting is the way to turn your husband’s heart toward God. Have enough of that drilled into your head for long enough, and you’ll have years of guilt over running contrary to the diatribe, even if you have good sense on your side.

In my experience, the guilt is the hardest part of divorce, and it’s the hardest part of single parenting. Even if the situation is abysmal, you’ll always wish it had been better. Sometimes it just isn’t.

In my case, no amount of wishes and prayers have been able to change the people in my life. “People change organically,” a friend told me last week. I’ve seen my ex make a few changes over the past year or so; none of them have been for my sake, or for my son’s. All of the nagging, begging, coaxing, cajoling, and tears in the world weren’t enough to get through to him in any meaningful way. The only person’s actions that I’ve been able to change have been my own, and somehow the idea of going along with someone else’s bad ideas just seems like a… bad idea. And I have enough of those on my own. Amen?

NOTE: I didn’t purchase a copy of this book; I read a copy my father bought for my mother (already a soft-spoken, submissive woman) during one of his many “salvation” journeys.  I am absolutely not endorsing the book in any way, and expect to receive no money for not plugging it.


Interview with Stuff Fundies Like Creator Darrell Dow

Darrell Dow, creator of the renowned Christian website Stuff Fundies Like, just released his new book Fundamental Flaws. I got a chance to talk to Darrell before he completed his book publishing project, and to read the book before it came out. The book is insightful and succinct, useful to a wide variety of folks of a Fundamentalist background (and possibly to those without it, in understanding what it all means). Below are a few of Darrell’s thoughts.

1) What books have influenced you most over the course of your life?

It’s hard to pick just a few. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of television so I used to read several books a week. I think reading Orwell’s 1984 during college was the first time I really came face-to-face with the concept the authoritarian power structures that tried to re-invent reality. That was seminal. C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity (and later The Reason For
God by Tim Keller) also were key in showing me that orthodox Christianity was a far larger family than what I had been led to be believe. I also just finished all the Harry Potter books so I’m sure that’s somehow important too.

2) How would you say that your educational background influenced you?

I was home schooled for most of my childhood. That afforded me the time to read what interested me and study things that perhaps children in a more rigid learning environment may not have had the chance to do. Of course, attending a fundamentalist college was really what began my journey out of fundamentalism. When you see the inconsistencies and the rhetoric writ large it’s kind of hard to miss exactly how wrongheaded so much of it is. Without Pensacola Christian College there would be no SFL — not that I think that information will ever make it into their advertising.

3) What is a fundy?

Trying to get a detailed answer to that is like trying to nail the proverbial jello to the wall. Most of my writing is about those who self-identify as Independent Fundamental Baptists. But even in that world there are huge debates about who really deserves the title and who doesn’t. In a more general sense anyone from a Christian organization with a highly controlled, low trust environment will likely find something they can identify with on SFL. We have “fundy” readers from a variety of backgrounds.

You can buy Darrell’s new eBook Fundamental Flaws on Amazon. Read more of my interview with Darrell here.


Growing Up Amish

The Amish are a fascinating subject for religious and secular folks alike, especially lately, as they’ve been in the news with a beard cutting and sex scandal (yes, both of those things happened under the umbrella of one scandal). Amish culture, in its resistance to modern influence and the march of progress, has much in common with other forms of Christian Fundamentalism.  At my fundy college, I had a Mennonite roommate, and she told me that folks in her denomination were frequently confused with the Amish thanks to the headcoverings they wore; apparently, Amish are Mennonites, but Mennonites are not usually Amish.  In many ways, the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle is appealing from the outside; from the inside, the oppression must seem stifling. Ira Wagler, born and raised in the Old Order Amish community in Alymer, Ontario, has written a fascinating inside peek into the Amish culture, as well as a riveting account of his exodus .

Here, he tells an abbreviated version of the first part of his story:

(For the rest of his story, I suppose you have to read his book.) The book is very descriptive of the culture and several different Amish communities. I found it a quick and fascinating read. Pick up a copy of Growing Up Amish.

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book, nor was I provided gratuity or promotional copies; I purchased this book with my own funds.


The Collapse of American Fundamentalism

So a very sad and very good thing happened recently, and if you’re in any close communication with American Fundamentalist Christianity, you are most likely aware of it: Jack Schaap finally got nailed for sexual misconduct. I’m saying “finally” because the man has exhibited a history of alarming unhealthy sexual tendencies in his preaching (like this) and his doctrinal statements.

(Warning- this man is an abuser, and this particular clip has him saying some pretty ghastly things. I’ve personally never listened to more than a few seconds.)

I’m saying sad because in my heart, I feel truly sorry for the family and friends and, well, everyone who has been personally touched by this atrocity. But mostly I’m saying this is a good thing. The event itself is deplorable, but it’s really just a symptom of a much greater problem that has all but eclipsed American Christianity and has been slowly been imploding in recent years. It is the poison of a controlling church (or in this case, an entire movement). It has taken people who wish to seek out and know their maker and replaces healthy spirituality with a dictatorial human and a complicated set of accompanying rules. As the author of this post, I should mention that I personally enjoy being a Christian, and I like discussing my spirituality with people.

I know that people like Jack Schaap and the Westborough Baptist crazies (and generations of other crazies before them) have been using the label “Christian” so much that the two seem to be interchangeable in our society, and now the word ‘Christian’ = narrow-minded, mean-spirited pig. I cringe when I hear about a so-called “Christian” in the news saying or doing something awful and throwing around Christian-y words as if they speak for all of us. American fundamentalists have been doing this for a long time though, and shouting loud and long that not only do they have a monopoly on God, but that they are not in any way being authoritarian about pushing their beliefs. They are unquestionable, unassailable in their own minds, and have a birth-right mentality about their beliefs. I could theorize about the origin of this thinking, but I’m not gonna go down that road. Now these guys are getting called on the carpet, and I’m glad it’s happening. American fundamentalism is being turned inside out, and it may well be purified by fire.


The Case Against Religious Tolerance

Yes, that’s a deliberately contrarian title, and I’m not advocating religious persecution.  Neither is Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith; however, he does put forth the argument that religious tolerance need not, and indeed should not, extend to unreasonable lengths of political correctness.  

He argues, not against religious tolerance in the sense of the Constitutional protection in this country, but against religious indulgence in our daily discourse.  This is only one of many topics he covers in this illuminating and wide-ranging book, but it serves as the dominant theme and clarion call to action.

There is a modern taboo against saying anything that might be offensive to the religious.  On the one hand, nobody today believes that Dionysus – if he even existed – was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, so we can speak of it as a primitive myth which obviously never happened, and not be accused of intolerance.  But apply such a patronizing tone toward the claim of the virgin birth of Jesus and you’ve trodden on the religious sensibilities of the majority of Americans.

Harris says, “there is sanity in numbers.”  Whereas the tolerant feel obliged to respect the belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, the virgin birth of Dionysus may safely be dismissed as delusional.  Both stories are substantially identical and equally at odds with what we ordinarily believe about the reproductive process.  The difference, argues Harris, is only that Dionysus has no remaining believers in the modern world, but Jesus has many.  He argues that we should be free to debate and evaluate beliefs based on how well they conform to what we otherwise understand about how the world works, not based the number of believers.

In science, this attitude is expected; in fact, it is required: much of the scientific consensus today began as maverick hypotheses that flew in the face of what the vast majority of scientists of the time believed.  However, unlike scientists, most people are not accustomed to reversing deeply-held beliefs as a matter of routine.  This is especially true when the belief itself includes penalties such as execution for apostasy or eternal torment if the belief is ever questioned or rejected.  Whereas challenging one’s scientific beliefs is invited, challenging one’s religious dogma is considered insensitive.

The basic problem of religious tolerance, argues Harris,  is that most of the major religions of the world are intrinsically intolerant of other beliefs, and often savagely so.  Harris walks us through the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition and other infamous moments of persecution by the religious.  He throws a harsh spotlight on Islam; but he attacks the common sentiment that Christianity is a milder, more compassionate religion by pointing out that modern Christianity is tempered by contemporary secular laws and sensibilities.  It is not Christianity which has progressed morally, he argues, but Western society; the Bible itself has not changed since the Inquisition.

Religion, he argues, is intrinsically beyond rehabilitation.  The continued indulgence of it empowers radical fundamentalists to continue terrorizing others by diverting the focus from religious zeal to political, ethnic, or economic explanations.

The quote from the book which may best sum up Harris’ admonition to the moderates and apologists who constitute the majority of Christians today is this:

“All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture places on us.  This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God….The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts.  By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law.  By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.”

You can get The End of Faith here.


Where is the Fun in Fundamentalism?

Perhaps some of you are familiar with fundamentalism’s take on homosexuality.

You may have seen Anderson Cooper’s report on Charles Worley’s insistence that our nation ought to put homosexuals in concentration camps:

Or heard  Sean Harris’ sermon on punching gay kids:

Or know about Steve Anderson’s “hate” for homosexuals.

The thing is, these wackos aren’t alone in their beliefs. There’s a whole subculture of people in our nation that don’t believe in equal rights for those that have alternative lifestyles. The good news is, the numbers are shifting- slightly. According to The Pew Forum, in the past 11 years Gay Marriage Opposition has diminished from 57% of the country to 44%. The bad news is, those numbers are still appalling. There also seems to be a correlation between denomination (or lack thereof) and opposition to legalizing gay marriage.

I’m not gay, but this issue still matters to me because the issue is human rights. Either marriage is a religious institution, in which case the government has no business recognizing it in the first place, or it’s a legal contract- in which case, discriminating against someone else that wants one is treading on dangerous territory.
Our government, perhaps contrary to popular opinion, is not Christian, even if the majority of the population of the nation claims to be. So, here’s the thing: how is this

any different than this


?

The only difference I can see is who is in the majority.

So when a privately owned business, such as Chic-Fil-A, makes contributions to groups that perpetuate the kind of hate portrayed in the images above  (see the Snopes story here), I have the right to spread that news around and refuse to eat there anymore. You have the right to tell me that you don’t give a crap, and go on supporting that if you wish.  Personally, I’ve been deleted by a cousin and friends that I have known for over 20 years  for posting about Chic-Fil-A’s contributions on my Facebook wall. Seriously, Christianity: shame on you. This stuff makes you look like you haven’t changed since the days of Inquisitions and witch hunts.

Paul is the one that was anti-Gay. Other than Paul’s writings, you’re stuck searching Old Testament law for anti-Gay stuff- and those condemn blended fabrics and many other things you’re probably in violation on.


The Old Testament According to Lego

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For more lego lessons, you can read The Brick Testamant for free on Brendan Powell Smith’s site, or grab the Old Testmant here. The New Testament comes out on October 16th. And right now, The Brick Bible for Kids Noah’s Ark is less than $3.00.


What Passes For Science in Fundamentalist Christianity: Dinosaur Adventure Land, Fundamentalist Felons, and Assorted Other Idiocy

When I met Kent Hovind, he was in the backyard of his Pensacola home. He was wearing a sport coat and tie in spite of the balmy weather, checking in on a guided tour of his backyard “theme park”, Dinosaur Adventure Land. The tiny area was covered with women in long, baggy skirts and dresses, and children (the female of these were similarly clad). Kent Hovind was an evangelist and a “Young Earth Creationist” who traveled from Independent Baptist church to Independent Baptist church, teaching a doctrine of a 6,000 year young earth, a living Loch Ness Monster, a need to rid ourselves of social security numbers and a discomfort with environmentalists, homosexuals and “Bud-dumber”. He had quite a large following in his own niche, and sold in person and by catalog his 18-video seminar set, charts and related literature. With a squeaky-clean-cut voice and the the personality of an infomercial, he was a fundamentalist church’s dream. The fundamentalists’ golden boy turned out to be electroplated.

Those of you familiar with the theory of  Young Earth Creation may have heard of him. Several years ago he was something of a local phenomenon in Pensacola, that distinctly zealous city that hosts Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola Christian Academy, and A Beka Book (more on all of these later). During the years that I lived in Pensacola I heard his name frequently (frequently in connection with Arlin and Bekah Horton, who had disagreements about tax evasion). My connection to him always stemmed from some acquaintance or Christian friend that touted him as an ‘expert’ on Creation. Which brings up an interesting point: If he is the mascot that Christianity came up with for their scientific theories, how do they expect any one to take them seriously?

While he has faced previous charges of assault and battery, burglary and building a theme park without a permit, he is currently in prison on conviction of some fifty-eight charges of tax evasion, obstruction and falsely declaring bankruptcy. Upon arresting him for these tax violations the government also seized about forty-five thousand dollars and a collection of his church’s guns. (Apparently, Armageddon was coming sooner than we expected it.) The court papers say, “Notwithstanding the debtor’s listing under penalty of perjury in his schedules and statement of affairs that he has no income, has no expenses, and owns no property, the evidence shows otherwise. Records from the State of Florida, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (“DHSMV”) reflect three motor vehicles, a 1987 Mercury, 1989 GMC, and 1984 Honda titled in the debtor’s name. Real property records from Escambia County, Florida reflect that the debtor and his wife purchased a home on December 16, 1993 from Ernest and Voncile Hicks and gave the Hicks, a mortgage in the amount of $60,000 encumbering the home. The testimony of Mrs. Hicks together with a closing statement from the sale, reflects a purchase price of $90,000 for the house with the debtor paying $30,369.43 down. Mrs. Hicks’ testimony further established that the debtor makes regular payments on the mortgage and has in fact paid in advance on the mortgage. Typically, payments are made with third party checks made payable to the debtor and endorsed over to Mrs. Hicks. In February, 1995, the debtor paid $3,265.00 for the installation of central heating and air conditioning in the house. Additionally, the debtor has three children all of whom attend a private Christian school for which he and his wife pay approximately $4,800.00 per year in tuition and fees.  An inventory of the debtor’s van following seizure by the IRS revealed video and audio tapes and printed literature on creationism published by the debtor. Included in the literature is an order form containing prices designated as “suggested donations:” The “suggested donation” for the video tapes ranged from $9.95 each to $14.95 each with the “donation” for a set of all eighteen (18) of the debtor’s videos of $180.00. “In the face of all of the foregoing, the debtor apparently maintains that as a minister of God everything he owns belongs to God and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on the money he receives for doing God’s work. While in his correspondence to the IRS he denies being a tax protester, the evidence overwhelmingly establishes otherwise. At the hearing on this motion, debtor’s counsel represented to the court that the debtor was now ready to do everything which was required of him to comply with the Bankruptcy Code and the Internal Revenue Code including the filing of tax returns and payment to the trustee in accordance with the plan filed immediately prior to the hearing. However, the debtor himself never took the stand during the hearing to testify to that nor has he ever filed any amended schedules and statement of affairs to reflect his true financial status. Given this debtor’s history and the documentary evidence presented, I cannot find that this debtor has any intention of complying with the Bankruptcy Code nor with the Internal Revenue Code.”


Here’s a one of Hovind’s lectures, full of radical “scientific” and political commentary. Watch at your own risk, and then consider that this is the sort of radical stuff being taught to children in private schools that use A Beka Book and many, many other private curriculums – without any countering viewpoints.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe in Creationism. What they don’t seem to poll is how many of the believers have ever studied evolution. Having attended private schools and being homeschooled (all of the above solidly featuring A Beka Book curriculum), I can say for certain that I was never taught evolution in any sense except for why we don’t believe in it and how carbon dating is inaccurate. Consequently, I’ve never been able to contribute to an intelligent conversation about intelligent design. (Is that an oxymoron?)

The good news is, ignorance is curable. To that end, I picked up The Darwin Experience: The Story of the Man and His Theory of Evolution, a nifty boxed coffee table book with plenty of religious and scientific history predating and surrounding Darwin and his theories, featuring lots of fascimiles of his papers, letters, and other memorabilia. It’s suitable for a coffee table book, and good for sharing with my little budding scientist in bite-sized chunks. I sat up late the night I brought it home and read, and read, and read. 


Friday Fanatics. Meet Jack Fellure, the Presidential Nominee of the Prohibition Party (Yes, really.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, America hosts a sizable Radical Right subculture. This day’s posts will be solely dedicated to the bizarre religious nut-jobs that horrify and entertain the rest of us. Today’s post was found courtesy of Darrell Dow, the author of Stuff Fundies Like  (Stay tuned for an interview with him coming soon).

Behold,  I bring you Jack Fellure, Radical Extraordinaire – and Presidential Nominee of the Prohibition Party (Yes, it really exists). All you need to do to enjoy his crazy antics is to access his website here, or merely read below. Bear with me; he’s wordy, but the entertainment value is well worth the time.

The following text was all taken from his campaign website:

Why You Should Vote For Jack Fellure For President of the United States 2012

“My Presidential Campaign Platform is the Authorized 1611 King James Bible. God Almighty wrote that Book as the supreme constitution and absolute authority in the affairs of all men for all time and eternity. It shall never be necessary to change it.

Quality leather bound copies of this Bible have been sent to the Presidential Office, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the National Republican Party, the National Democratic Party, and the Federal Election Commission.

Should I be elected to the Presidency, this Bible will be open on the desk in the White House Oval Office to Psalm 33:12, “BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS THE LORD”, and also to II Samuel 23:3, “HE THAT RULETH OVER MEN MUST BE JUST, RULING IN THE FEAR OF GOD”. It shall never be closed during my tenure. I will take the inauguration oath of office with my hand on my Bible opened to Deuteronomy 28.

God Almighty, the creator and Holy Sovereign of the universe, ordained only three institutions on earth; the family, the church, and the civil government. He wrote one Book (the Holy Bible) to govern all three, making them equally responsible to that one supreme book of law.

Every basic truth and fundamental philosophy required for proper survival here and hereafter is contained in the Holy Bible. IT’S THE GREATEST SINGLE BOOK EVER WRITTEN ON HUMAN GOVERNMENT, and upon its precepts our nation was conceived, born and nurtured to become the greatest nation in the history of the human race. WE ARE NOW REJECTING THAT BOOK AND THOSE PRECEPTS.

Therein lies the eternal cardinal truth of why our nation continues to decay and deteriorate, morally and physically. Every failed civilization in recorded history rejected God’s moral laws first, and then collapsed physically. God will allow ours to be no different. We as a nation will either return to the Bible for divine direction or continue our human self-destruction. God provides no other alternatives. All men shall ultimately stand before a high tribunal to be judged by God and His Book with no court of appeals ever.

I encourage everyone to RETAIN, USE, AND DISTRIBUTE MY WRITINGS AND POSITION PAPERS FROM THE PREVIOUS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS (1988 to 2012). THEY ARE ALL AS APPLICABLE NOW AS BEFORE. I haven’t shifted positions or altered course one iota. I never intend to, so help me God.

Yours for a nation under the authority of Almighty God, Jack Fellure United States Presidential Candidate 2012”

JACK FELLURE IS :

For : A National Return to reading God’s Book, the Holy Bible. This includes teaching the true Christian history and heritage of our nation in the public schools. It also includes bringing voluntary prayer and Bible reading back into the public schools.

Against : Abortion, and especially paying for abortions with government funding.

For : Leaders whose decisions are governed by what’s right or wrong rather than what is politically expedient.

Against : The Liquor Industry which is a detriment to our nation. Alcohol is America’s number one drug problem.

For : Balancing the Federal Budget. The Government must quit spending more than its income.

Against : Continuing to permit criminals to go unpunished.

For : Making Homosexuality illegal. This will stop much of the AIDS plague.

Against : Allowing Anti-American organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communist Party to continue their destruction of this nation.

For : Making Prisons into places of punishment instead of leisure.

Against : Moving our jobs and industrial production to foreign nations.

For : Capital Punishment. God Almighty mandated it.

Against : Every movement, effort, and person that would remove God from our national currency and declarations.

For : Getting the United States out of the United Nations (UN) and getting the UN out of the United States.

Against : The continued moral destruction of our society by the television and entertainment media.

For : Reducing the Tax Burden of the working American.

Against : The New World Order, Pornography, and Gun Control.

The Sword of 1611

 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:17


Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: [Ephesians 6:17]

No comment necessary. He just said it all.



To Train Up a Child: Michael and Debi Pearl’s Endorsement of Child Abuse

For some reason, people pay a lot of attention to terrible stuff.  Reality television. Car crashes. The news.  Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This book is easily the most reprehensible and disgusting book I have ever seen. EVER. So pay attention, people. Let me treat you to a few moments of shock and terror.

This may come as a surprise to you, but there’s a fairly high percentage of religious wackos in the US. And by “wackos,” I’m not referring to socially-conscious Christians like James Dobson that advocate bare-handed swats on a child’s bottom until they’re four or five.  I’m referring to the foaming-at-the-mouth fundamentalists that bomb abortion clinics, wage “Holy War” (oxymoronic), and  physically “train”  infants by switching, slapping, biting, or otherwise harming them. If you find yourself in any of the categories mentioned in that last line, I’ve already insulted you enough; don’t stick around for me to rub salt in the wound.

The wackos I’m writing about today are Michael and Debi Pearl, of No Greater Joy Ministries, Inc. They’ve got a substantial following and many other family and child-rearing products available for purchase. Their only qualification to give child-rearing advice is that they have five children, all homeschooled, and grown up to go into ministry. Their helpful advice has been cited in several deaths, and they’ve been investigated, although not convicted.

Check out this quote from  Jeff Hodson’s article in the Seattle Times:

Sean Paddock suffocated when he was wrapped too tightly in blankets.

Lydia Schatz died after being spanked for several hours.

And Hana Grace-Rose Williams, of Sedro-Woolley, was left out in the cold, where she died naked, face down in the mud.

The deaths of the three children occurred in different parts of the country — North Carolina, California and Washington — but each allegedly happened at the hands of their parents, all of whom were charged with murder.

The parents had several things in common: They adopted children, home-schooled them and lashed them with quarter-inch-diameter plastic tubes. They also used the child-rearing teachings of a Tennessee evangelist, Michael Pearl, and his wife, Debi.

The Pearls wrote “To Train Up a Child,” first published in 1994, and which teaches parents how to use a “switch” to make their children obey. Michael Pearl says it has sold more than 670,000 copies, been translated into a dozen languages and is popular with some Christians who home-school their children.

Normal people,  go ahead and rubberneck:

How did I find this monstrosity of a book, you ask? My mother, bless her, paid money for a copy of it because someone at our church gave this an endorsement. (Here’s where I get out my sign that says “Yes, I’m a cult survivor.”) So, anyway, I found this book kicking around the house. I was in high school at the time, but had younger siblings (a couple of them much younger), and I was a voracious reader. Once I cracked the cover, my mind was blown and I’ve never managed to forget it.

Fast forward a dozen years or so.  I saw a copy of this book at a thrift shop and paid the fifty cent paperback price just so someone else didn’t buy it. Not being a book-burner (apart from a few of my old diaries), and not wanting it to fall into the hands of some dolt looking for religious justification to abuse kids, the wretched thing has sat on my shelf ever since. I shuffle it around and kind of hide it from myself, and then every now and then, I face it.

To Train Up A Child Table of Contents

Here are a few little gems from between the pages:

“One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. After two or three times of biting, with the accompanying head hurting, the child programs that information away for his own comfort. The biting habit is cured before it starts. This is not discipline. It is obedience training.”  (Umm… maybe stop nursing when your kid sprouts teeth?)

“Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

“The parent holds in his hand (in the form of a little switch) the power to absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, instruct his spirit, strengthen his resolve, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid… A child properly and timely spanked is healed in the soul and restored to wholeness of spirit… A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings.”

“The fantasy arising from Barbie dolls causes a child to role-play a porno queen.”

If you’d like to make a dent in the war on abuse and ignorance,  write comments,  emails, and letters to the Pearls. Share info about this with your friend. Spread the word about this nonsense. If enough of us speak out, we can help churches realize that there’s nothing “Holy” about this book or its message. Maybe if enough of us banded together we could even convince Amazon to stop carrying the darn thing.

For a more rational Christian perspective on spanking,  check out Christianity Today’s article, Thou Shalt Not Abuse.