Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of infant and child abuse.
The death toll from parents following Michael and Debi Pearl's teachings continues to mount. Another child is has been "biblically chastened" to death via corporal punishment, and Michael Pearl is defending his teachings in the mainstream media while promoting his new book. Gary Tuchman and Anderson Cooper both reported on the death of 13-year-old Hana Williams, whose adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams subjected her to beatings and neglect while following the teachings of the Pearls.
Michael Pearl defends himself and his teachings during his CNN interviews using two arguments:
First, the presence of his book, To Train Up a Child
, and the presence of his other teaching materials on "biblical chastisement," in the homes of homicidal parents, is purely circumstantial. It makes no more sense, Pearl argues, to blame To Train Up a Child
for discipline-turned-abusive-turned-murderous than to blame Alcoholics Anonymous brochures in the home for deaths due to drunk driving, or weight-loss materials in the home for obesity.
As Anderson Cooper pointed out, this defense is illogical. AA literature says not to drink, especially while driving. Pearl literature emphasizes inflicting physical pain on children in order to break their wills and achieve total obedience to parents. In the Cooper interview, Pearl talks about physically chastising to "get the child's attention." What if your child still isn't paying attention?
Pearl's second argument comes up every time his teachings are linked to children beaten to death: kids end up abused and killed because parents, despite owning copies of his teachings and trying to follow them, aren't really following his teachings. They are missing the joy part, the reconciliation part, the praying part, the loving part, or whatever
. They discipline in anger instead of in love.
Or - and I suspect this is what Pearl really thinks but can't say without contradicting his own child-training directions - they should have known when to stop, when they were being cruel and abusive instead of loving, even if the child was still in rebellion and hadn't budged an inch. At some point, a loving parent with some sense and a conscience will stop inflicting more pain. This is what Pearl believes, or at least one would hope this is what he believes. This isn't what he teaches.