"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." Seattle Times
This post contains graphic details that may be disturbing to those who have been abused (and possibly others).
Child abuse is definitely a HOT BUTTON issue here at The Wartburg Watch. In March 2011 we wrote a series of posts on the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, who have purportedly sold hundreds of thousands of copies of their controversial book To Train Up A Child. Here are the posts we wrote in that series:
A couple of months after we published those posts, a beautiful Ethiopian girl named Hana, who had been adopted by a couple (Larry and Carri Williams) in Washington state, died a horrific death. The Seattle Times reported the tragic news with this headline – Did Hana's parents 'train' her to death?
Here is how the reporter described what happened:
Hana, 13, was adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 by Larry and Carri Williams, of Sedro-Woolley.
She was regularly spanked and locked in a closet, and was forced to sleep in a barn and take garden-hose showers outside, according to an affidavit from the Skagit County Sheriff's Office. The affidavit was based on information from the couple's six natural children, another adopted child, medical experts and other family and friends. The interviews were conducted by detectives and investigators from the state's Child Protective Services.
In 2009, Hana weighed 108 pounds, but over the past two years of her life, she lost 30 pounds, largely because her parents denied her food as punishment, the affidavit says. She was so thin she couldn't retain enough heat May 12, the night she died. She had been outside with no clothes and died of hypothermia, an autopsy found.
On the backs of her legs were marks consistent with being beaten earlier in the day, the affidavit alleges.
According to the investigators, the Williamses were familiar with the Pearls and had given a copy of their book to an acquaintance.
Larry Williams, 47, a Boeing worker, told sheriff's detectives the children were disciplined with a piece of white plastic more than a foot long. It had a round ball on the end, and he said he had picked it up at a plumbing-supply store.
Hana's parents were charged and have been standing trial in recent weeks. KOMOnews.com posted a news story several days ago entitled: Prosecutors describe 'house of horrors' in Hana Williams Trial. Here are the highlights [NOTE: Hani's photo is in this article]:
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Tears filled a Skagit County courtroom Wednesday as prosecutors described a so-called "house of horrors" where young Hana Williams died. Hana's adoptive parents are accused of starving and beating her, and leaving her outside in the cold to die.
Seven weeks of testimony boiled down to nearly 2 1/2 hours of closing argument from prosecutor Rich Weyrich, who insists Larry and Carri Williams are guilty of homicide by abuse.
"They both played an integral part in this house of horrors," Weyrich told the court.
Weyrich summed up in seconds Hana's death and the alleged abuse of her deaf brother Immanuel.
"They tortured and starved her until she passed away, and they tortured and starved Immanuel Williams," Weyrich said.
Weyrich told the jury Hana weighed 76 pounds in 2008 when adopted from Ethiopia. She was up to 108 pounds in 2009, but at her death in 2011, she weighed only 78 pounds.
He showed showed jurors a tiny closet he alleges Hana was forced to live in, and reviewed Hana's autopsy photos — including pictures of scars the prosecutor said came from being hit with a plastic rod.
The state described a year and a half long pattern of alleged abuse.
"These children were denied food, beaten with a belt, glue stick, plumbing tools… locked in closet… washed down with hoses," Weyrich said.
The Defense presented closing arguments yesterday, and the jury began deliberating today. At day's end, the jury ended its deliberations and will reconvene next week.
On October 6, 2011 Michael Pearl published a statement on Facebook regarding Hani Williams' death. Here is a portion of that statement:
We share in the sadness over the tragic death of Hanna Williams. What her parents did is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of No Greater Joy Ministries (NGJ) and what is taught in the book, To Train Up a Child
As you might imagine, the internet is chock-full of information about Hana William's tragic death and the trial against her adoptive parents. In case you would like to do further reading, we highly recommend two websites:
Why Not Train A Child (Hermana Linda)
Under Much Grace (Cindy Kunsman)
These bloggers have been following this situation very closely and have great insights.
To be clear, the Pearls are NOT on trial, but we have to wonder to what extent they exerted influence on the Williams, particularly Carri, through their materials.
I purchased the first edition of To Train Up A Child and was highly disturbed by what I read. To give you some understanding of the contents of this book, here is a portion of my post entitled Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child and a Trip to Home Depot.
Today we are wrapping up our review of To Train Up A Child, authored by Michael and Debi Pearl. Their approach to “child training” has drawn both applause and criticism. It is interesting that there seems to be no middle ground with regard to the Pearl’s approach to child rearing. Before we get into the Pearls’ teachings on “the rod”, we want to share another unusual way they “trained” their children.
Michael Pearl writes:
“When I was yet young I determined that I would rear no sissies. When an infant fell over from a sitting position to the floor and bumped his head, we pretended to ignore it. When a toddler took a spill, we let him lie, whimper a second and then climb back up for another try. When a toddler fell out of the wagon or stumbled into the dirt, we let him deal with it. When the young ones wrecked their bicycle and skinned their knee, we paid no attention except to say something like, “You shouldn’t go so fast until you learn to ride better.” (pp. 85-86)
With an attitude like that should it surprise anyone that the Pearls heavily promote the use of “the rod” in their “child training”?
At the beginning of Chapter 5 – The Rod, Pearl explains that he observed a “miserable, constantly complaining, whining and angry” child and his mother. He writes: “The mother, made miserable by the little tyrant’s rebellious antics, was ill-tempered toward him. But she continued to plead with him…” (p. 35) Pearl explains that he said to the mother, “Why don’t you give him a spanking and make him happy?” (p. 35)
Michael Pearl introduces his discussion of the rod as follows: “Let’s talk about spankings—sometimes called “whippings.” “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24).” (p. 35) Remember, Pearl is a KJVO kinda preacher…
One thing that Pearl excels at is proof-texting. On page 44 of To Train Up A Child, he asks whether the reader comforts his children with a rod. Then he writes: “If you have not seen the rod as a comfort to your child, you have missed its purpose.” Immediately following this statement, he quotes Psalm 23:4, as follows: “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Let’s stop right here. What does the Scripture mean by the words “rod” and “staff” in this context?
William Barclay interpreted Psalm 23 this way:
“He [the shepherd] had his rod and his staff. The staff was a long crooked stick. Always the shepherd walked with it in his hand, and, when a sheep showed signs of straying, he would stretch out and pull it back with the crook. He carried the rod at his belt. It was a stout piece of wood, perhaps three feet long, with a lump of wood the size of an orange at one end of it. With this the shepherd fought the battles of the flock, using it to drive off wild beasts and to defend the flock against the robbers who would steal the sheep.”
If the rod in Psalm 23:4 is equated with discipline, it simply does not fit the context. Does it make any sense that sheep would lie down in green pastures beside still waters only to be beaten with a rod? Absolutely not! The rod in this verse is not used to beat the sheep – instead, it is used to comfort them. The shepherd uses the rod to drive away wild animals that would hurt the sheep.
Pearl also lists 2 Samuel 7:14 “I will chasten him with a rod…” and Psalm 89:32 “Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes”, which more aptly apply to the correct interpretation of “rod”.
On page 45 the rod is called a “magic wand”. According to Pearl, it can do magic things when used on your children. Here’s what he says will happen if you don’t use the rod: “Rail to use the rod on this child (who is a bully to other kids), and you are creating a “Nazi”. Pearl concludes:
“Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.” (p. 45)
How is the rod applied? Here are Pearl’s instructions to parents:
“Use your own judgment as to what is effective. I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. If this occurs, take time to instruct and then continue spanking. A genera’ rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered.” (p. 46)
What is an “instrument of love”, as Pearl calls a rod? He explains that a spanking must cause pain. Then he tells the parent to “select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch in diameter is sufficient… For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.” (p. 47)
Let’s stop right here and see what Dr. James Dobson says about the appropriate ages to spank children. In The New Dare to Discipline Dobson explains: “There is no excuse for spanking babies or children younger than fifteen to eighteen months of age.” (p. 65)
Pearl is absolutely WRONG here. To spank a baby under the age of one is ABUSIVE.
Immediately following this section, Pearl cautions parents who would act in the extreme. To his credit he states: “The rod should not be a vent for the parent’s anger… There is no place for that selfish vindictive streak in the discipline of children.” (p. 48)
Then Pearl share his “Philosophy of the Rod”, which is: “The rod is the parents’ main tangible aid to bring the child to understand the judgment of God—and eventually the grace of God.” (p. 50)
Here’s the part of To Train Up A Child that bothered me terribly. It has to do with “Persistence”. Pearl begins this section by saying that some have asked, “But what if the child only screams louder, gets madder?” (when being spanked).
This is how he responds:
“Know that if he is accustomed to getting his unrestricted way, you can expect just such a response. He will just continue to do what he has always done to get his way. It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you fell like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same. On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive, whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again. If this is the first time he has come up against someone tougher than he, it may take a while. He must be convinced that you have truly altered your expectations.” (p. 80)
Immediately following these instructions, Pearl writes:
“There is no justification for this to be done in anger. If you are the least angry, wait until another time. Most parents are so guilt laden and paranoid that they are unable to carry this through to the end.” (p. 80)
And right after the above statement is this statement:
“If you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest. The next time, it will take twice as long to convince him of your commitment to his obedience, because he has learned the ultimate triumph of endurance in this episode in which he has prevailed. Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit.” (p. 80)
We believe the above excerpts from To Train Up A Child demonstrate that the Pearls provide conflicting instruction to parents about the use of the rod. On the one hand they are told to spank with the rod until they “conquer” their children by having them surrender their will; yet they are to use the rod without being angry…
How scary to think that so many of the Pearls' books are floating around out there. It's incredible that they advocate spanking babies under the age of one (found on page 47 of the first edition). Let's look at the quote again:
For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch in diameter is sufficient…
And don't forget that the plumbing lines are what the Pearls recommend as a 'rod' in their materials.
On Monday, Dee will take a closer look at babies and some of the interpretations about 'discipline' and 'salvation' found among Christian leaders. For example, she will be discussing whether babies go to heaven or hell. Incredibly, there are 'opinions' on both sides…
Rest assured, we will be following the Hana Williams case closely and will provide our readers with an update when the verdict is rendered.
Please pray that justice will prevail.
Lydia's Corner: Ezra 8:21-9:15 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 Psalm 31:1-8 Proverbs 21:1-2