Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Good People Make Dangerous Choices (Pondering Michael Pearl and Lydia Schatz)

Entire Blog Series that originally appeared on  

Click on subtitles to link to the original, single posts.

Subjects in this Series (following the Introduction):

I: John Bradshaw on the Culture of Blind Obedience

II: Moral Disengagement thru Dehumanization and Declaring War (Bandura's study on punishment and learning)

III: Aggression as Normal and Desired (The Bobo Doll experiments)
  •  A Note about Reactive Attachment and Liberian Adoption
IV: Milgram, Manipulation & Committing Evil for the Common Good

V: Pondering the Atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust and its Relationship to the Study of Obedience
  • Zimbardo's Lecture Videos About the Lucifer Effect
VI: The Calm Before the Storm of Backlash Following the Schatzes' “Guilty” Pleas (Reactions within the homeschooling community)

VII: Breaking the “Diabolical Will of Infants” in the IFB – Even at Hephzibah House

VIII: There But for Grace  (A troubled mother's experience and alternative choices)

IX: Using the Milgram Study to Understand How Pearl Becomes Appealing

X: The Schatz Family is Not Unique

Also of interest:


When considering the Schatz Family and the tragic events that occurred, we are faced with confusing dilemmas and difficult ideas. Along with the questions concerning the problem of evil, we often cannot fathom how good, decent, and loving Christians could have so blindly followed such a dangerous practice to such an extent. (For background on the story of Lydia Schatz, please link HERE.)

I would like present many reasons why people do choose certain practices and how they lose perspective, just like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz did by following the teachings of Michael Pearl. They were loving and kind individuals who aspired to be the best examples of what Christianity represents, but their unfortunate choices and dedication to a misguided system of practices resulted in permanent disease and death among their children. They believed that the Pearl Method offered them the best and highest means of fulfilling their obligation as loving and dutiful parents in a way that would bring honor to God. '

I  will offer ideas that strongly suggest that without understanding of human nature and manipulation, nearly two-thirds of regular, everyday people can easily end up in the same position as these parents.

In the discussion of the Schatz tragedy, it seems that the opinions that people tend to have fall into two main categories, depending on their perspective and whether they have experience with the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement which utilizes the writings of both Michael and Debi Pearl quite extensively.
  • Some people deem the Schatz parents as horrible monsters. (This is a “dispositional” view, maintaining that the person was disposed to certain behaviors because of who they were – horrible people.) Among these, there are also two general sub-groups:
    • Those who know nothing about the Pearl Method and express their anger and grief by aggression toward the parents by deeming them entirely evil.
    • Those who either identify with the subculture that practices the Pearl Method or those who practice it themselves. Part of their motivation for laying complete blame on the parents involves a devotion toward Michael Pearl and fear that negative attention will result in the loss in their freedom to parent their children through State interference. I believe that there is also motivation to make scapegoats out of the parents because they cannot face the discomfort of admitting that what has happened to the Schatz family could well have happened to them. “I would never go so far as to injure or kill my own child.”
  • Those who offer compassion and acknowledge that circumstances can influence a person, and thought they are “good people,” they admit that good people can sometimes do very harmful things. They show compassion for the Schatz family. 
    • For those who understand the sub-culture, I believe that they recognize on some level that they could easily have been in the same position as the Schatz family because the followed the method themselves (and perhaps abandoned or rejected it). “But for grace, there go I.”

I am among those who feel great compassion for these parents and recognize the types of influences that can cause a person to displace their better judgment in favor of the policy of a system or the consensus of a group. I understand this experience on a personal level and know how the loss of perspective affects individuals when they merge with a group ideal. Trust in the group downplays a person's sense of personal responsibility.

I will give a host of reasons why people get caught up in less than perfect systems of belief and why they tend to stick with them, doubting themselves as they put greater trust in the system. Several blog posts will follow this one over the next few weeks.

I would also like to invite visitors to also “tune in” to Jocelyn Andersen's Blog Talk Radio show on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 11AM Eastern as we explore the reasons why and how good people like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz end up following formulas with seemingly blind obedience in favor of better judgment.

I would also like to leave the reader here with this statement from Vyckie Garrison of in response to Laurie M. (and her testimony about the Schatz Family) as it appears in Lydia's Smile Could Have Lit a Room:

Laurie ~  the reason I am writing is because your blog post vividly expresses the message which I and other Quiverfull escapees have been trying to make at No Longer Quivering: those of us who succumbed to this insidious doctrine were sincere believers who love our children and only wanted to glorify the Lord in our families.  
… Collectively, we are raising our voices to bring awareness and sound the alarm regarding this teaching which is rapidly gaining ground throughout the Christian church.  I believe that your post brings exactly the humanizing perspective which we strive to highlight with regard to the families who have been caught in the Quiverfull trap.  We hope to warn others away from the teachings ~ and to help rescue those who are realizing the harm this is doing to their families and want to get out.  … I would love to be able to offer the prospective of your sympathetic and grace-filled account to help others understand that parents like Kevin and Elizabeth are not monsters ~ only deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing such as the Pearls and similar Christian teachers.


Part I: Virtue In Place of Unquestioned Obedience

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear John Bradshaw speak, and he is much different than the PBS guru that I remember. (The last time I heard him a few years ago, he said that when he did the PBS specials in the 1980s, he was dealing with repressed anger and that conveyed in his presentation.) In person and in recent years, I've found him to be engaging, deep, and loving, and I thoroughly loved his presentation. I'm also grateful for his new book, particularly the chapter entitled, “Were You There When Jesus Spanked the Children,” the subject of a upcoming post. In Reclaiming Virtue which discusses how we can foster moral intelligence and virtuous ethics, he notes that the religious beliefs of his past have recently become of greater significance to him and has found himself revisiting and reclaiming them. (Bradshaw was a well educated Catholic priest and had expert training in philosophy.) Read more about and from Reclaiming Virtue HERE.

Blind obedience which flattens the decision making ability of individuals by demanding an authoritarian submission to the stringent rules, legalism, and pressures of a group or leader create the conditions that are the same as those who produced the Nazi Holocaust. Rather than fostering the growing discernment of the individual and by teaching moral codes such as Christian principle to inform that discernment, cultures of blind obedience punish and crush liberty and independent choice which God even offered individuals under the Old Covenant (Joshua 24:15). On a personal level, Bradshaw who speaks from experience notes that if we do not do our own personal moral work as we grow into adulthood, we run the risk of falling into rigid black-and -white thinking, an immature understanding that polarizes the perception of right and wrong. Vyckie Garrison notes aspects of this through the patterns of extremes followed in the Quiverfull Movement, and in terms of development, psychological splitting describes this primitive way of perceiving the world.

The Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement (QF/P) offers all sorts of formulas which drive its culture of obedience and requires followers to develop an external locus of control by thriving on comparison and merging one's identity with the group. (Please read more about the Locus of Control at Overcoming Botkin Syndrome.) The Holy Spirit guides a Believer in liberty (Romans 8:1-7, Hebrews 10:16-18), and with ethics informed by the Word, and the Chrsitian does the daily, hard work of discernment when faced with life's dilemmas. In contrast, the culture of obedience creates some idealistic promise that offers some benefit to people for selling out to the “greater good,” promising to alleviate followers of the stress of decision-making with ready-made, foolproof formulas for success. Just like Adolf Hitler offered a convenient solution to the “Jewish problem” and the struggles of a shamed German people following WWI, child training experts like Pearl, Ezzo (Babywise), and even Bill Gothard promise fool-proof formulas that solve the problems and pitfalls of parenting. Bradshaw states that “blind obedience requires no real intelligence” (pg 228).

Bradshaw's book explains that a culture of obedience (based on power and subjugation before love and care) “fears equality and ultimately fosters violence, war, and death,” and is “intrinsically incapable of fostering moral intelligence and virtue.” Morality that depends upon unquestioned obedience can be harder to confront honestly.   Quite often, it's promises (or it's “big lie”) were well meant and unintentional, perhaps even developing unconsciously.  They are seen as normal. Bradshaw offers corporal punishment as an excellent example of the confusing and subtle problems presented by a culture of obedience and states that traditional patriarchy has created many of the problems that we now face concerning the dangers of blind obedience. The New Testament warns against putting new wine in old wineskins, stating unequivocally that it will not work.” (pg 228).

Before exploring the mechanics and the reasons why otherwise reasonable and rational people choose to follow blind obedience, I wanted to offer Bradshaw's explanation of the soil of thought in which blind obedience grows. QF/P represents one such culture of unquestioned obedience which promises safety and well being for families and children through the prescription of formulas which promise to solve all of the messy problems in life. (There are no solutions! Life is messy!) People buy these promises and believe they will catch the carrot that is dangled before them like they are ignorant horses, but the promises are largely empty.

The first step toward understanding the errors of the Schatz Family involves understanding that some acceptance of the principles and elements of the QF/P culture of obedience precedes that error.  Please review the chart (above and to the right) adapted from Bradshaw's writing, noting the differences between the legalism and the contrasting liberty in the columns and how these descriptions parallel QF/P legalism and true Christian liberty as we see them today.

Part II: How Dehumanization (and Declaring War Against Family Members) Causes Moral Disengagement

How do good, kind, and loving Christian parents like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz lose perspective to such an extent that they “find themselves” capable of inflicting harm on their children? I believe that these parents did effectively “find themselves” in such a position after trusting and following the child training methods of Michael Pearl, never expecting that his techniques would ever result in harm and death. What makes a person lose so much perspective so that they are no longer able to realize that they are creating harm and injury? Are regular people at risk for falling into the same kinds of errors? Surely that cannot happen to regular people... or can it?

In a previous post, we mentioned that cultures which demand blind obedience and that operate under authoritarian styles displace critical thinking and even punish it, requiring that discernment be relinquished to a group, a system, or an authority. But this is just one piece to the puzzle – a group of conditions that create a perfect storm that dashed the Schatz Family against the rocks.

Moral disengagement creates yet another factor that causes perspective to dissolve into an alternate reality. Within complementarianism, religious leaders redefine women as creatures who are not only subordinate to men and of lesser essence than men, but they are said to be the natural and most dangerous adversary of men. Men are told that they are at war with them. In the Pearl's system of child training, parents are taught that their evil little domineering infants plot against them in a domestic war on the home front that will last for decades. The parent is taught to win at all costs, making grovelling peasants of their miserable rebel seed.
Moral disengagement ''is where all the action is,'' said Albert Bandura, a professor of psychology at Stanford and an expert on the psychology of moral behavior. ''It's in our ability to selectively engage and disengage our moral standards, and it helps explain how people can be barbarically cruel in one moment and compassionate the next.''
During the '70s, Bandura wanted to continue to explore the reasons behind an individual's willingness to engage in punishment, building upon and confirming the findings of previous studies. Morality serves as a guide for behavior and governs what people find acceptable, and most moral codes prevent individuals from inflicting harm on others. Studies of punishment indicate that one of the important factors that enables harm involves the disabling of a person's guidance system, the standard that would otherwise stop them. Bandura examined the situational pressures and conditions that facilitate “moral disengagement” in otherwise common, normal, moral people.

Several college students were engaged to participate in studies testing the effects of punishment on learning, and part of Bandura's specific contribution to this area involved the effects of identification with and closeness to a person has on their willingness to punish or harm them. In order to create distance between the people to be tested through punishment and the students who would deliver the punishment, several students were recruited from another college. The students at the college conducting the experiment were told that the study was a “helpful' one, and that their efforts were meant to improve the other visiting students with their problem-solving abilities by using punishment. (The study framed the purpose in virtuous terms, stating that the endpoint served to benefit the students from the other school – an important consideration which engages an individual's willingness to comply, making the punishment seem less like a punitive measure.)

The punishment would be delivered as a series of electric shocks, and each “learner” receiving punishment would sit for several consecutive trials with the “teacher”, repeating several study exercises several times over. Over time, the “teacher” who was delivering the shocks was required to increase the number of shocks delivered as well as the voltage of the shock. What those students did not realize was that those who were delivering the voltage (which was not even delivered to the other participants) were the true subjects in the study.

Another factor unknown to the subjects was that Bandura had actually set up three groups of people to be tested and arranged to have the investigators “leak” critical personal information about the “learner”participants who were to receive the shocks to the “teachers.” For the first group, investigators mentioned prior to the study that the visiting students from the other college were “nice guys.” The second set of “learners” were not discussed at all with the “teacher” students delivering the voltage. The third set of people were said to be “animals” and “rotten” people, just before the study started. Bandura wanted to see if these personal assessments would have any kind of an effect on how the subjects chose to administer punishment, in both frequency of shocks and in the intensity of the shocks delivered.

During the first trial set for each one of the three groups (the “nice,” the “strangers,” and the “rotten animals”), there was no variation in the numbers of shocks delivered and no variation in the degree of voltage used. Nice guys, rotten animals, and those who were not spoken of were treated alike in the first round.

But the findings did not stay that way. As the subjects repeated the process, completing the battery of trials in the set, a notable pattern of behavior emerged. The nice guys received less voltage and fewer shocks. The group about whom the researchers said nothing received a level of shocks and voltage that was significantly greater than the “nice guy” group but was less than that of the “animals.” When it came to the group of people who were defined as rotten and animalistic, the true subjects of the study, the “teachers,” delivered more voltage and more shocks in their efforts to help those animals learn and to improve their rotten skills.

What can we say about these findings? It demonstrates several powerful effects that result from fallen human nature. Human beings have an intrisic sense of justice, and their preconceived ideas about people will determine how they treat those people. People who are cast in a negative light seem deserving of punishment, as though society owes them a debt to punish them. Bad people should be treated badly. However, when a person's moral compass remains intact, people will extend a general level of respect and consideration to those whom they do not know and of whom they have no opinion. For those who are idealized, people feel obligated and owe those good people good treatment and respect to an even higher degree than the general beneficence that they owe to strangers. It shows that dehumanization holds the power and the key to disrupt a person's morality and objectivity. Dehumanization causes a loss of true and reasonable perspective.

How does this apply to the Pearls in regard to child training? As previously stated, the Pearl Method redefines the traditional view that children are either innocent or are a mix of both good and evil, just like every other human being on the planet. Children are evil and are said to be the parent's evil adversary. The Pearls teach the parent that their relationship with their child is a war zone in a war that must be won at all costs, otherwise, both parent and child are deemed sinful. The war has eternal consequences for all involved, and salvation depends on following the method. (There is a promise of a good outcome, and parents are told that thinking of their children as enemies that must be subdued is something that the parent does in the best interest of the child, a show of love to them.) The child must be broken as an Amish farmer breaks the spirit and will of a horse in his stables, but breaking them becomes the parent's act of love towards them.

Jesus said to never forbid children to come to Him, and He taught that people should be treated with loving kindness. He taught that we should be well-disposed and willing to forgive others when they failed us, just as He so willingly forgave others. Those considerations were also extended to children specifically, and His attitude toward children was one of joy and tenderness. What Pearl offers to parents does not describe what Jesus taught, but rather follows the patterns that Bandura identified in college students. Pearl is teaching humanism and claims that it is God's highest and best way to raise children. It is a lie. It encourages aggression and thwarts loving kindness.

I must make a comment about the Darwinian nature of the cruel, fallen nature of the psychology that Pearl teaches as well. His model is actually evolutionary, stripping children of the goodness of the Image of God that distinguishes them from the animals. He reduces children to something less than human. This is not to say that children have no evil in them or that they are pure and innocent. The “Golden Rule” that Jesus set forth to entreat others in the way that we would like to be treated should apply to children as equally as it applies to any adult, regenerate or not. But Pearl has an expectation of perfection for children, and he essentially sets out to beat sin and error out of children through physical punishment. I would much rather be a horse in Pearl's stable than a child in his house, because though a horse is not an image-bearer like a human child is, the horse does not have a sin nature either. I think that the horse gets far more humane treatment, because there is no sin to beat out of the horse. The horse is not the adversary of his master.
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
Luke 6:31-38 (NKJV)

The study discussed was originally published as A. Bandura, B. Underwood, and M.E. Fromson. “Disinhibition of Aggression Through Diffusion of Responsibility and Dehumanization of Victims,” Journal of Research in Personality. 9 (1975):253-69.

Part III: Defining Aggression as Normal, Acceptable, and Desired Behavior

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz chose to follow the teachings of Michael Pearl, learning far too late that their duty to do follow Pearl's system in the right way, their trust in his system, and their loving intent proved quite inadequate, resulting in both serious disease in one child and death in another. In previous posts we discussed several factors that contribute to the perfect storm that causes good, normal, and trusting people to lose perspective, falling into dangerous and deadly patterns. “Moral disengagement” and “cultures of obedience” foster these evil consequences, but there are even more factors that contribute to the development of dangerous degrees of blind obedience.
Albert Bandura not only demonstrated the significance of moral disengagement in the development of violence as noted in this post, but he also developed the theory of social learning which concerns learning through the imitation of behavior. In 1961, he did a landmark study with a Bobo Doll to evaluate how children respond to violent behavior, showing how children learn by observation of adults who set an acceptable standard for them. A child's penchant to learn through imitation might seem very obvious to most people, but Bandura demonstrated how easily and readily the children imitated the aggressive and violent behavior modeled by adults. The children in his Bobo Doll Study were not instructed to behave violently and received no reward for doing so.

In the study, a woman aggressively attacks the doll by throwing it, beating it, sitting on it, and hitting it with small toy hammers while she is observed by children. Those children were then placed in that room where they had watched the grown woman attack the doll, by themselves and without direct supervision. Every child in the study proceeded to aggressively attack the doll, and they employ other devices such as a toy gun in the toy chest in the room to use against the doll. Some of the children were rather creative in their play, testing out their new methods independently that were not modeled by the adult. Several variations of the study have been repeated since the initial one, including the substitution of the doll with a live clown. The results always prove to be the same. The children attack, and they continue to independently expand their behavior to include new methods of attack, above and beyond what they observed in the adult who introduced the aggressive behavior.

This video includes only a portion of the responses recorded during the initial study. If you can make it through the music in the beginning, the second song that plays midway through the video until the end is rather comical in context. This particular video features the representative and responsive behavior of one boy and one girl.

By citing this study, I hope to communicate a message about how one establishes acceptable behavior and its effects on the behaviors of others, a matter that I believe applies to the concerns about Michael Pearl as well as the Schatz Family. As adults, we continue to remain social creatures, and we are deeply yet subtly affected by the actions of others. The behavior of those around us sets a standard which suggests which behaviors should be tolerated, rejected, or embraced. When we see a leader, an expert, and especially, a minister set a standard, it bears an even greater significance for us and carries a greater level of influence.

In the interest of ethics, particularly in the wake of WWII, psychologists began to study the ethics of behavior, not because they saw human beings as evolutionary animals but because they wanted to prevent the development of the same conditions that allowed the Nazis and Jewish Holocaust to flourish. These efforts within social psychology test the veracity of what we tend to observe every day and put tried and tested quantitative values and estimates on behavior so that we CAN put the significance of behavior into perspective. These scientifically qualified and quantitative studies helps us understand specifically how potent our behaviors really are within groups.

In terms of modeled behavior that we see in all people regardless of their subcultures, one third of everyday people will observe and follow a group's behavioral consensus when their own behaviors are visible within that group and when the behavior is unanimous. (Conservative Christians show no notable differences in behavior from those within the general population.) The presence of only one or two dissidents among a person's peers [non-authority figures] also has a profound effect on individuals' public behavior within a group, dropping that figure of behavioral conformity down to a consistent 10%. Just one person's behavior holds a tremendous amount of power in terms of group behavior, far more power than they ever realize. An individual holds the power of choice, and because of the potency of his own individual behavior, each individual also bears a duty to those around them concerning their behavioral choice in terms of ethics. Upcoming posts will specifically examine the much higher level of compliance demonstrated by individuals in response to the expectations of an authority figure.

Opening Pearl's “Pandora's Box”

As the children imitated the behaviors established by the adult who opened the door to aggressive behavior that was directed toward the Bobo Doll, Michael Pearl likewise establishes acceptable patterns of behavior for parents and encourages them to follow patterns of punishment through his prescribed formulas of behavior. He has opened up an Pandora's Box full of a host of things which may include some benefits, but a predisposition to aggression against children was one of the most powerful and truly dangerous things that sprang from his teachings.

Many followers identify corporal punishment as the first choice for dealing with mistakes and inconsistencies right along with disobedience, as Pearl's standard defines mistakes as unacceptable. That box also contained intolerance of expressions of shyness and fear in children by redefining it as disobedience, intolerance that is echoed in the First Time Obedience teachings of Voddie Baucham. I'm sure that Pearl's teachings had a certain degree of influence on the development of the First Time Obedience concept and upon other leaders like Baucham.

Though he may not specifically teach specific rules for every single problem in the everyday life of a child, Pearl's standard of intolerance certainly did communicate the authoritarian “no mercy” standard to the Schatz Family regarding weakness and error in the general sense. Pearl's method teaches that honest errors, just like crying in an infant, demonstrate rebellion, and all occurrences and episodes of rebellion must be punished without variance. Though you likely can't find a quote where Pearl tells parents to spank their children to correct them for errors as they study their schoolwork, the principles he advances certainly communicated to the Schatz family that corporal punishment was indicated for the error of mispronouncing a spelling word. A spoken word of an eight year old requires far more deliberate will than does crying in an infant, that infant's only means of verbal communication. Punishment serves as the first choice for dealing with mistakes and just plain, old human error to which even adults are given.  Addendum 8Apr11:  Please see this additional note concerning extenuating circumstances that may explain why discipline was used with Lydia for the mispronounced word.

The standard of aggression does not remain with the parents only who accept this behavior as normal and as God's ideal. Parents model and communicate to their children that corporal means, punishment, and effecting positive change within one's environment through force and domination serve as the first and most reliable measures that normal and loving people rely upon in the course of everyday life. As the children in Bandura's study with the Bobo Doll responded to the standard set by the adult, the children who survive Pearl's child training will find force and domination to be the path of least resistance when they need to accomplish their personal goals.

Because of Michael Pearl, parents don't teach the primary lesson that obedience is a virtue. They teach the greater message that “Might makes right.” Children have learned to be aggressive and forceful and domineering, because they observed their parents as they set this standard for them. They've also learned that force should be used to counter the effects of human weakness, a principle that children will live out in their workplaces and in social settings like on the golf course or even in their churches, should they retain the desire to continue to attend. With their own children someday, punishment becomes their own path of least resistance for teaching and training and correcting errors. The measure of the use of domineering force does not apply to willful disobedience alone. The method makes violence acceptable through habituation. Untold numbers of children are required to “pick up the tab” on Pearl's indulgences, though Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz certainly continue to pay dearly. So have their daughters.


***Not included in this long post is an addendum concerning Reactive Attachment Disorder and the struggles faced by children who are adopted from orphanages in Africa.  It is well worth reading:

An Addendum Note About Lydia Schatz and the Correction She Suffered for a Mispronounced Word: Liberian Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder

Whoever inquires about our childhood wants to know something about our soul. If the question is not just a rhetorical one and the questioner has the patience to listen, he will come to realize that we love with horror and hate with an inexplicable love whatever caused us our greatest pain and difficulty.”


Part IV: The Milgram Experiment and the Pressure to Commit Evil for the Common Good

The events surrounding the death of Lydia Schatz leave most people wondering why and how good people like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz could lose so much perspective that they could discipline their daughters to the point of lethal harm.  They trusted the teachings of Michael Pearl, but mere trust alone cannot account for the tragic events.  What other factors contributed to the blind obedience that they showed to the teachings of Pearl?  Social psychology has wisdom to offer.  As Philip Zimbardo phrased it, how many people would "electrocute someone if Hitler asked them to do it?"

Stanley Milgram graduated from Harvard with his PhD in Social Psychology in 1960, and he went to work at Yale. Pondering the Eichmann Trial which commenced in 1961 and his own Jewish heritage, Milgram set out to investigate the reasons why and how so many reasonable people participated with the Nazis.

The Asch Experiments in the early '50s demonstrated that one third of individuals were willing to reevaluate their perceptions in order to defer to the consensus of a group, but Milgram wanted to conduct a study that was was more relevant to human situations. Milgram rejected the idea of using college students and advertised for subjects that represented regular people from all walks of life. (College students want good grades and can sometimes yield different results than those from the general population.) He settled on 40 candidates [Big edit! 9Apr11: for the very first leg of the trial.  The entire study included 1000 subjects wherein variations in this original group were performed.  It was one of the most extensively studied trials in psychology, actually.]

The test subjects were told that they were going to participate in the study of the effects of punishment on learning and memory. The subjects were all assigned the title of “teacher,” and they were directed to ask questions of the other study participant who was hidden from his view, but he could hear the responses of this participant who was given the title of “learner.” The “teacher” was seated in front of a panel of electrical switches ranging in intensity from 15 to 450 volts. 

Whenever the “learner” answered incorrectly, the “teacher” was instructed to deliver a shock, and each subsequent shock would be slightly higher in intensity. The panel also indicated that at a certain voltage, the charges were considered dangerous and were marked accordingly. What the “teacher” did not know was that the “learner” and the “experimenter” who was administering the test were confederates, and they were really testing his/her level of obedience. The responses of the confederate “learner” were planned and pre-recorded.

The “teacher” (the real subject in the study) begins to deliver shocks to the “learner” who eventually begins to cry out in pain and begs to stop the experiment, even banging on the wall and claiming to have a heart condition at a certain voltage level. Many subjects would progress with the charges until the learner begs to stop, asking if someone could or has checked on their well being. Most people continued after they were told that they were not responsible for the outcome. The “experimenter” was also instructed to pressure the “teacher” to continue. At a certain voltage set point, the “learner” becomes suddenly silent (they are unconscious or dead). If the subject, the “teacher,” continued to protest after four encouragements to continue, the study was halted. Otherwise, the “teacher” was required to continue until he had delivered the 450 volt shock three successive times. After performing some studies at the university, he also moved the testing off site to a less impressive looking building out of concern that the setting might have affected the data (finding that these statistics did not show any statistically significant differences from the data obtained at the Yale campus).

Prior to conducting the study, Milgram polled senior students and other colleagues about the results they would anticipate, and the opinions were all quite similar: they predicted only a 0 – 3% rate of compliance.

The actual findings in the first group within the study were far more disturbing: 65% of subjects completed the full course (26 out of 40), continuing up through the full 450 volts, though many of them protested and bargained to be released from the study.

Milgram's study confirmed the findings of the Asch Experiments, noting that social pressure had a potent effect on the responses of individuals, and that they were willing to surrender their better judgment to a system or a group as a system. It also demonstrated that people feel a diminished sense of responsibility if they comply with an authority or a system, seeing themselves as a passive instrument or tool being used as opposed to viewing themselves as a fully culpable moral agent.

Would most reasonable people electrocute someone if they believe they are doing so for a good cause? Apparently 2/3 of regular, everyday people will. Only about 10% of people will get up and leave when their conscience gives them pause. The findings of similar studies in the US offer the same general findings.

In the Lucifer Effect, Philip Zimbardo asks whether we have any real-life examples of these findings regarding blind obedience. He offers the tragedy of Jonestown, Guyana as evidence of the profound power of the pressure and the deception that required followers to commit “revolutionary” acts of suicide and mothers mothers to poison their own little ones.

I would like to offer the example of the obedience of the Schatz family as an example of this same process that seduces good, faithful, loving, and dutiful people into following a leader and a system with blind obedience to the point of causing harm. I believe that when a person is engulfed in a culture that accepts, promotes, and even demands in some cases that participants follow the Pearls, they find themselves embracing an illusion that the system will protect them. The Schatz Family discovered that this was not the case. Somehow, the authoritarian nature of Pearl's system makes the system and Pearl himself seem ultimately responsible, likely because the individual has merged with the group identity while losing aspects of their own. They may have to merge with a group in order to survive, and obedience may be required of them. Obedience becomes more important than personal responsibility, and the participant believes that their good intent and their obedience will be credited to them as righteousness somehow. But it is only an illusion.

As an adjunct to last week's show, listen to a discussion of Milgram and More on Jocelyn Andersen's Blog Talk Radio on Saturday April 9, 2011 as it relates to the Schatz Family.


Part V:  Pondering the Atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust and its Relationship to the Study of Obedience

Because I have discussed a few psychological studies, I believe that it is necessary to address the nature of those studies and the motivation behind why they were done. They were birthed out of a desire to understand the reasons why a whole nation of good German people could be influenced so strongly that they were able to commit such atrocities during WWII.

[As an aside note, this post on “What Goes on in the Soul of the Abuser” which quotes material from The Nazi Doctors may be helpful in understanding the leaders of groups, but it is not my primary focus today.]

On this site, I talk a great deal about manipulative behavior in Christianity, but I often approach it from a position that is informed by both the Bible and from observations about behavior. Some of that information comes out the study of why both individuals and groups of people behave in the way that they do.

Conservative (traditional, orthodox, Evangelical) Christians believe that God is the Author of truth as it revealed to us in the Bible. All other learning must be “brought captive” or brought under the authority of Christ (the Word of God) and is subordinated to that truth. Personally, I aspire to exactly this goal that I might be ever more conformed and changed into the character that Jesus Christ modeled for humanity. Many Christians find my perspective to be troubling because I am willing to accept as “truth” a degree of information from the material world that is not explicitly defined in the Bible. I am sometimes wrongly criticized as someone who accepts everything that the world offers as truth, particularly concerning what human beings have learned about the way we tend to act, why we act that way, and how we go about acting in the best way.

With the right intentions of maintaining pure thoughts that keep one under the authority of the Word of God, many Christians teach that because many of the original individuals in the area of psychology were atheists, all areas of study of human behavior have to be flawed in the same way that men like Freud and Jung were. They believe that all ideas that fall under the grand heading of “psychology” must be rejected and resisted. Sigmund Freud certainly had some bizarre ideas and was fixated on sex in addition to his atheistic ideas, likely because he was sleeping with both his wife as well as his wife's sister who was living with them, for example. Carl Jung walked in his garden while talking to his spirit guide whom he called Philemon. 

Some Christians believe that if these men framed out the foundations of psychology, then all ideas about human behavior today can only be as flawed as these original ideas were. I agree that these men's theoretical ideas are flawed and their beliefs about who man was and why he did things (from an evolutionary model) must be noted. And though I'm sad that these men rejected the Christian perspective, I sometimes agree with some of their matter-of-fact observations about people. I generally reject their interpretations of what their observations mean because I don't share their beliefs about the nature of man.

I find the theoretical perspectives of some of these men to be only speculative, usually insignificant in comparison to the empirical, applied, and practical findings of social psychology today. I accept data and information that comes from observation of behavior after it has been empirically tried and tested. Exaggerating to make my point about more subtle matters, there are some Christians who would argue that it was raining outside or that the sun was shining if an atheist attested to it, or might deny that there was such a thing as DNA because DNA is not described in the Bible. There are also people today who reject data and findings from brain science and imaging that modern technology has provided us, because by suggesting that the physical aspects of the brain can affect behavior and the “soul,” they feel that the significance of spiritual matters becomes somehow diminished or denied. So I differ from some Christians in that I view the brain as an organ that is affected by not only spiritual practice, physical factors (disease, damage, health or function of the brain itself), and environmental factors. I also accept statistically tested, validated, and significant information about human behavior, and if approached through a responsible hermeneutic, I accept them as “common sense” truths.

Reframing the Findings of Social Psychology

In terms of the studies that have been presented as an explanation of why good people (Christian people, in particular) end up making dangerous choices and do things that seem to make no sense, I would like to talk a bit about some of the investigators and why they found the study of behavior so important. Some Christians believe that all psychology means to prove that human beings are only animals and that there is nothing about behavior that is influenced by intrinsic forces such as a fallen sin nature or by intervention and insight that is given to men through the Holy Spirit. (Some maintain that it is impossible to bring ideas classified as psychology captive to Christ.) Any information elucidated can only be flawed, because it is the misconception of some Christians that all those who study behavior and conclude meaning from those studies can only be in error because of the atheistic influence. Some conclusions drawn from ideas of psychology clearly are Darwinian (like those of B.F. Skinner who concludes ideas that are strikingly similar to those of Michael Pearl's). To those folks who reject all ideas related to psychology, I would like to offer this food for thought.

The Motivation Behind Social Psychology

Solomon Asch
I've made some passing remarks about the findings of the Asch Experiments, but I have said little about Solomon Asch himself. He was born in Warsaw and emigrated to the US in 1920, and while living in Manhattan, he learned to read English by studying Charles Dickens. He went to the College of the City of New York and Columbia, earning a PhD.

His own motivations were not to demonstrate that human beings were mere animals! In the wake of WWII, he was distressed and moved on a personal level about the atrocities that took place. He sought out to understand more about the effects of propaganda and how the Nazis and the Jewish Holocaust could have possibly taken place. He ended up elucidating very important information about conformity and fallen human nature's tendency to “sell the truth” in order to conform with a group.

Solomon Asch didn't set out to prove any atheistic principles so he could make men into animals. He studied human behavior so that he could figure out something about why a whole nation found it so easy to conform to inhumanity, essentially becoming animals themselves. He wanted to know how Germany could so easily dehumanize the Jewish people. He was a Jew who was born in Warsaw.

Stanley Milgram
As stated in a previous post, Stanley Milgram was motivated to design and conduct his study of conformity and obedience because he was disturbed by the findings that came out of the Eichmann trials in Jerusalem in 1961. In this video, Philip Zimbardo states that he knew Stanley Milgram from the Jewish ghettos in the Bronx where they both grew up. Both Milgram and Zimbardo graduated from James Monroe High School in NYC in 1950. After completing his training, Milgram studied with Solomon Asch at Princeton in 1959 and 1960.

He also wanted to understand in an even deeper way just how so many good, regular, everyday people could turn so evil. Hannah Arendt who wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem coined the term “the banality of evil” when she reported on the trials as she observed how dispassionately Eichmann described his own behavior, recalling unspeakable atrocities without an appropriate human reaction of disgust. (Hannah was a German of Jewish descent who was forced to leave Germany in 1933.) Adolf Eichmann described the horrors of the Holocaust as though he were describing a banal act of making coffee or combing his hair in the morning.

Stanley Milgram did not seek to prove that men were animals. He sought out to discover ideas behind the nature of men like Eichmann and those who followed his commands without questioning themselves. What happened to their consciences? How could committing the most evil of acts become banal and commonplace? He sought to understand the fallen nature of mankind and how on earth the Nazis could have convinced good people to commit acts of evil so that such a thing could never happen again.

Philip Zimbardo “Dr. Z” (as he is known to his students at Stanford), friend of Stanley Milgram, also describes his motivation for his study of the psychology of evil as having been birthed in the days he spent in his “ghetto sandbox.” I wept as I first read this section in the preface of his book, The Lucifer Effect, and I weep again today as I read it. He describes the abuse he suffered at the hands of Gentile kids on the street, the antisemitic prejudice of the police, and even from the janitors who would kick them off their stoops.

“Urban ghetto life is all about surviving by developing useful “street smart” strategies. That means figuring out who has power that can be used against you or to help you, whom to avoid, and with whom you should ingratiate yourself. It means deciphering subtle situational cues for when to bet and when to fold, creating reciprocal obligations, and determining what it takes to make the transition from follower to leader” (pg xi).

Quantifying Evil

At some point in the future on this site, I would like to explain more about the rigorous process of testing data to see if the information elucidated by these an any such study really means something and what the statistical analysis of that information reveals to us. I have touched on this in the past in some sense concerning Vision Forum's stance ectopic pregnancy, but would like to expand upon it in an upcoming post. In defense of the studies I've referenced recently, it may be helpful if people could get a glimpse into how statistics are used to put observations into perspective. But that is a subject for another day. I will leave you with another statement that Zimbardo makes in the Lucifer Effect.

“Thus the Lucifer Effect has been incubating in me for many years, from my ghetto sandbox days through my formal training in psychological science, and has led me to ask big questions and answer them with empirical evidence” (pg xii).

Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? The Short and Long Versions of Zimbardo on the Lucifer Effect

 I am very happy to present Dr. Philip Zimbardo's lecture about the content of his book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Become Evil. 

Part VI:  The Calm Before the Storm Following the Schatzes' “Guilty” Pleas

On Blog Talk Radio (BTR), Jocelyn Andersen and I spent the past two sessions discussing the death of Lydia Schatz and an overview of Michael Pearl's teachings regarding “child training.” The first episode (2Apr11) gives a general overview of Pearl's ideas and what the Schatz Family experienced as a consequence of following his methods. The second episode (9Apr11) focuses specifically on the reasons that social psychology offers to explain why and how good Christian people like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz can lose touch with their own rational thought when they follow a system like the one Michael Pearl has created, a system essentially enforced by Christian homeschoolers through social pressure. In addition to the undue authoritarian influence and the spiritual blackmail that Pearl prescribes, the majority of Christian homeschoolers enforce an elitist secondary system that makes a graceful and easy “exit” from Pearl's teachings even more difficult.

Note: “Exit” in this context is a term coined by social psychologist Philip Zimbardo which describes an additional factor that enhances the pressure upon individuals to yield obedience to a system of idealism. (Other factors include but are not limited to the appeal to authority, pressure from peers to conform, incremental increases in levels of compliance, etc..) Kevin and Elizabeth were compelled by many forces to adhere to Pearl's teachings, though it should be noted that this factor does not diminish their personal responsibility for their own actions. The lack of ease of “exit” is one of the items of discussion mentioned in the April 9th episode of Jocelyn's BTR show.

The Plea Bargains

Several news sources reported on April 8th and 9th that Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz agreed to pleas of “guilty” related to the death of their daughter, Lydia; the critical injuries sustained by their daughter, Zariah; and lesser injuries sustained by their son who was not named specifically and who I believe was not an adoptee. Kevin plead guilty to whatever California classifies as second-degree murder and torture, and Elizabeth plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter, a lesser charge than Kevin's. I hope that there will be additional discussion of the details of the case in the secular press, but for now, a few more can be read HERE.

The Implications

This weekend, several people asked me about my opinion regarding what will happen within the homeschooling community in response to these pleas of guilty. On one hand, the family avoids the many pains and the additional expense of a jury trial, and they are never a pleasant experience. Ramsey, the Butte County District Attorney planned to put young Zariah on the stand (the now 12 year old daughter who was hospitalized for renal failure). She will now be spared the personal difficulty (an understatement) and negative publicity which would no doubt reinforce the negative aspects of the whole experience of the abuse for her as well. Given the whole emotional and sensational nature of the case, adding to that all of the religious freedom implications, a jury trial would prove to be a messy affair for all involved.
On the other side of this benefit, the public no longer has the opportunity to learn more about the situation, at least until knowledgeable individuals come forward. From my vantage, a jury trial would make public the facts supporting the Schatz Family as an example of undue influence and these forces elucidated for us by the social psychology experiments noted here on this website in recent days past.

There is also always some hope that the evidence presenting the good and honorable aspects of Kevin and Elizabeth might actually pierce through the confirmation bias (selective or magical thinking) that they were “animals” and “bad apples” (people as apples being the analogy that Zimbardo offers to describe the experience of individuals who get trapped in bad systems, the virtual “apple barrels” created by those systems). Some might see the humanity and vulnerability of Kevin and Elizabeth, identifying with them, realizing the harrowing idea that Schatzes differ little from the average person – from themselves. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows...” Or as I believe Hannah Arendt stated it, “We are all Little Eichmanns.” We all have the capacity to act in evil ways if the conditions are ripe for it and we comply.

We also like to hold confirmation bias, that wishful thinking in hope that all families are wonderful and sweet. I believe that truth challenges the concept that ideal families do not struggle with the messiness of life. The Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement (QF/P) that tends to ascribe to Pearl's teachings follow the myth of over-idealized families which they turn into a unique type of idolatry of family – their families. I think that the trial would have likely only polarized the QF/P's rejection and demonization of the Schatz Family as a group that in no way represents them in an act of denial of the problems inherent in both Pearl's system and their own. [Read a bit more about this HERE.] Yet, in spite of this selective thinking, the details that a jury trial would have revealed could have given us more insight into the process of abuse. All those involved and interested in Pearl's methods, or those who already abandoned the practice of the methods themselves, could have learned much.

The Calm Before the Storm

It remains to be seen, but I suspect that those within QF/P will either remain silent out of embarrassment at the thought of associating themselves with murder and death, or they will openly continue to show hostility toward Schatz Family by continuing to scapegoat them in more intense ways. In these few days following these pleas of “guilty” as we all absorb the sad reality that these sad events would have never happened in an idealized world of fantasy, I feel a calm sense of a sigh of both relief and emotional exhaustion. It will take a little time to process and understand the impact of it all, especially during the wait between the offered pleas and the anticipated sentencing of the Schatzes on June 10th.

Sadly but predictably, I anticipate a particular show hypocrisy on the part of at least some within QF/P. The movement decries the secular system, and because of a dissimilar worldview, they claim that the secular world is essentially devoid of any ethics at all. I recall Howard Phillip's distortion and logical fallacy which he stated in so many different ways that to side on anything other than his side of politics essentially amounted to stand on the side of the absolute wrong, no matter where you might fall on a continuum to perceived right and wrong. QF/P follows this same principle and distortion where they paint all things in absolute black or white terms. To differ from their mistaken sense of uniformity as a show of Christian unity makes those who are different from them any sense of in principle or practice those who represent and support pure evil in the most extreme terms. The world's system and the judgments of the world represent the worst of evil. Only their system, special to God in a unique way, can determine the real truth about right and wrong.

I predict that while they reject the idea that the secular world can know anything about right and wrong, the QF/P world will say that in the case of the Schatzes and their pragmatic pleas of “guilty,” they will claim that the world “got it right this time.” QF/P should understand well that what is legal does not equal that which is moral in terms of society. It is not against the civil law to lie under many circumstances, for instance. You cannot be convicted and go to jail if you deny that you were the person to put the last carton of milk back in the 'fridge with only a teaspoon left in it without making mention of it to the person in the family who procures milk for the family's consumption! But such a statement is not a moral one.

So I'm waiting to see how many will say, “Look at those evil Schatzes. See! They were guilty and they admitted it!” There will be no consideration that the plea offered many benefits, something not so much about justice but about the pragmatic consideration of lesser consequences. Such an accusation will enhance the illusion that the faithful QF/P follower is elite and a cut above everyone else, especially these people who imitated what they do but didn't have what it takes to get it right. The Schatz Family was not “cut from the right cloth” and were probably never elect.

The proof that the Schatzes messed up the system and brought shame against the “noble” name of Michael Pearl and his glorious teachings proves to them that Kevin and Elizabeth could not have been true Christians in the first place. It shields them from the pain of admitting that the people in QF/P are human like the rest of us and saved by grace instead of the illusions that they create through legalism. They will have to admit that they are “The Shadow” and that they are “Little Eichmanns.” “Thank God that I am not like the Schatz Family.” In keeping with these ideas that are consistent with the Jewish holocaust and the conditions that hypnotized a whole nation, you can operate without a central leader, but you must always have a demon (a scapegoat) in order to make a system of ideological manipulation work.

How long with the calm last before the storm comes in the defense of Pearl?

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14, NKJV

Part VII:  The Breaking the “Diabolical Will” of Infants in the IFB

Warning:  This one's tough to read.

The news media tells us that the Schatz Family also adopted an infant from Liberia (along with Lydia and Zariah), a total of three children. We know that they used the Pearl Method to “chastise” the two older girls, but we are not told the age of the infant they adopted nor whether they also used plumbing line with the baby, too. (Please note that Pearl says that infants have a “diabolical will to dominate.”)

Michael Pearl recommends the spanking of young infants in To Train Up a Child, but we don't know how many people actually follow this specific advice. Many parents read this book, only selecting certain principles from it while resisting others. Some find the plumbing line to be a bit too much, and they stick with wooden paddles and spoons. Some parents follow Pearl's patterns of low or no tolerance for human error and the learning process but use their hand for spanking in order gauge the force that they use with their children. I've heard a friend say of Pearl's advice that she “ate the fish and spit out the bones.” Why am I reminded of the aggressive Asian Carp that threatens the Great Lakes with invasion and ruin?

In ABC's 20/20 Episode, Shattered Faith, we heard clips of Jack Schaap and other ministers affiliated with the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement preach about the virtues of the beating of infants. Elizabeth Esther's blog discussion focuses on this practice, one that she likens to the teachings of Michael Pearl. 20/20 also features Jocelyn Zichterman who explained the literal Biblical translation of Provers 20:30 from the King James Version of the Bible, a verse understood by many within the IFB to proclaim the virtues of bruising. Many believe that both the rod and the bruising induced by correction mystically “drives away evil.”

Should we be surprised to discover that the beating of infants also took place in chapel services at Hephzibah House? Should we be surprised that it was something that the proprietor, Ron Williams, encouraged? Here is another testimony of abuse at Hephzibah House, told to us by Susan Grotte. The scene describes the practices of the prevailing philosophy of punishment within the Independent Fundamental Baptist churches.

Sundays at Hephzibah house were dominated by Church.

I sat in a metal folding chair trying not to squirm since I had no fat left to cushion the hard seat beneath me. I was in the last of 5 rows of 6 girls interspersed with 4 staff ladies. The Hephzibah girls and Hephzibah staff, along with their children made up the entire congregation in the little unfinished basement room. Behind me I heard the familiar sounds of little baby Steven nursing away during the service. It felt good to know that sweet Mrs. K. was behind me. She would not be quick to find fault in my posture or how my hair was curled. The rhythmic sounds of a suckling baby were soothing and normal sounds in this surreal world.

Back straight, eyes forward. I tried to pay attention to the long winded sermon and take good notes. Notes were turned in after every service and checked to make sure we paid attention to the service and were not daydreaming. If staff did not like your notes it was a paddling offense. Ron Williams had a theory that young people who were not engaged in busy work were lusting and enjoying lascivious fantasies.

My feet were cold and my back ached but otherwise the sermon was a nice reprieve from the normal stress of daily life at Hephzibah house.

Ron Williams deep voice filled the small room. He dwarfed the tiny podium.

Patti Williams sat on the left side of the room with all eight children in a row. There was always a well worn paddle laying on the seat beside her. It was not unusual to see her paddle her children for wiggling or making noise during the long sermons. The youngest was Seth, perhaps two years old and the darling irrepressible Benjamin was just four years old. I do not recall a service where that poor little boy did not get a severe beating. I was amazed how undaunted and happy he remained. Seth seemed dull. He just sat and sucked his fingers. He showed no signs of normal 2 year old curiosity and wonder. Maybe that is what a successfully broken will would looked like in a two year old. I found it profoundly disturbing.

Suddenly there was movement. I sensed rather than saw Mrs. K. stand up behind me. I dared not turn my head but up front Mrs Williams also hefted her wide girth out of her metal chair. It creaked loudly in protest. At just 40, Patti Williams was fat, slovenly and mean as a snake. Her grey hair in a stringy bun she stood looking back behind me towards the Mrs. K. and Steven. She had picked up the small paddle. A hard, tight smile crossed her humorless face. Mrs. K. had now made her way into my line of vision.

Mrs. K. was clearly upset as she carried her tiny baby towards the front of the chapel.

Ron Williams just droned on.

My stomach clenched. What was this???

Patti guided Mrs. K. into a small walled off area at the front of the room. The area was meant to be a closet one day. Now it had no door and served to store extra folding chairs. The two women entered the narrow room I had a partial view of the inside of the room but could no longer see Mrs. K. and the baby past Patti’s wide back.

Ron Williams kept preaching.

NO! Oh NO!”

I was frozen. Staring straight ahead and gripping my pencil in horror.


The baby SCREAMED.

We heard every powerful, stinging blow of the paddle hitting that tiny baby. It went on and on, every time there was a pause and I thought it was over it started up again.

Ron Williams actually stopped preaching. Grinning from ear to ear he made a fist and moved it enthusiastically across his body like a diabolical cheerleader, “Hit him again Sister! Hit him again!”

No one moved. No one DID anything. The babies cries were becoming strangled as he choked and he seemed to gasp dangerously between blows.

Go get that baby Susan!” The voice in my head was screaming, “DO SOMETHING!”

I stared straight ahead as Ron Williams resumed his droning sermon. I thought of twenty scenarios where I saved that baby, but I sat glued to my seat. My blood ran cold.

The crying stopped before the blows stopped. Soon Mrs. K. stepped out from behind the wall she was sobbing and clinging to her baby Patti was right behind her with a huge self satisfied smile on her corpulent face, now red from exertion.

The baby was quiet. A spooky unnatural quiet. I watched the little bundle for signs of life intently until I saw his little chest heave showing he was indeed breathing.

How hard would you have to hit a baby to make him stop crying? Why would we all just sit there and let it happen?

I realized I had not taken any notes for several minutes. Somehow, knowing I would be paddled for that offense gave me a bizarre moment of satisfaction . A form of penance for my cowardice.

Everyone took their places.

Ron Williams droned on.

Susan asks, “Why would we all just sit there and let it happen?” I believe that the concept of Bounded Choice, the sense of learned helplessness, and profound cognitive dissonance felt by many constrained everyone to obey. Anyone who intervened to help that baby would have been punished severely, and the baby still would have been punished as well, perhaps even more harshly than he had been. Our choices appear to be open to us when we are under pressure, but the are not viable choices that are truly available to us. 

When you mix a system of violent control, a system of manipulation, an idealistic belief system, and a charismatic leader all together, you really have no choice, save the one dictated to you by the system. In this situation, Susan seemed to have options, but she had only one. She had to obey and follow the system. She was as trapped as baby Steven. In many ways and at the time, her prison was more complicated than his.

Read more HERE as the readers of Quivering Daughters elaborate
on how God is in the business of
healing our will, not breaking our heart.

Part VIII:  There But For Grace

When I first heard about dear Lydia Schatz and her sister Zariah, I felt an eerie chill run up my back and a sick creaturely feeling in the pit of my abdomen, deeper and more cutting than just my stomach. The term “pit” could not be more fitting.

Not having managed to carry a pregnancy very far myself, most women at my old Gothard-influenced church held me at a distance. Two or three mothers who knew me well let me into their worlds, but I kept my own distance when they discussed some of the “methods” that they used with their kids. In the early nineties, one set of close friends followed the Ezzos meticulously, and I didn't ask much because I felt my own grief and insecurities when I did. I also learned that my honest questions about too many details were always followed with an equally defensive response from some of these moms asking, “Why do you want to know?” I learned to stick to matters that concerned cooking and gardening and the other topics featured in Gentle Spirit magazine.

My dearest and best girlfriend has great kids, and I have only ever seen her be loving with them. Discipline that took place while we were together had more to do with consequences of one's actions and sitting alone in a bedroom as a type of time out. I knew of one occasion when one child who kept running out of the fenced yard and into the street was taken into the house and paddled. It seemed an appropriate trade-off for the young child who did not yet appreciate the risks involved and would not listen, putting themselves and a younger sibling at great risk. My friend and her husband loved and cherished their children. I did hear rumors of how willful one little girl happened to be, the one that I grew to be closest to over the years, probably because she was as willful as her mother whom I adore. I respect and honor that trait in her, for it makes her capable of great determination to do the right thing in the face of hardship. And I have said that I suspect that this one daughter may have been harder for my friend to raise because of all of the many similarities they share.

I moved away but stayed in regular and close contact with my friend and continue to do so today. The relationship strain that we do have comes because of some of these doctrinal differences. The worst stressor involves her embrace of the writings of Michael Pearl, followed by her ambivalence when listening to me express dissatisfaction with various teachings of Bill Gothard. And, in fact, I did not know that she followed Pearl's methods specifically by name or in much depth until I started blogging about patriarchy, though I knew that the method presented problems.

The phone rang one evening almost ten years ago, and my dear friend called me, in tears. She was in great distress, and it took some prodding to find out why she was so upset, because it was difficult to get her talking – and this was not typical of her. She blurted out that she feared that she was going to kill her daughter. I would have laughed at her and thought her comment to be an exaggeration, but I clearly knew from her level of distress that it was not an expression of sarcasm. As I asked for specifics, she spelled out for me that she believed that she was required to break the will of her daughter by continuing to spank her (mentioning an mind-numbing number of whacks) but feared that she would truly harm her if she continued. At one point in the painful discussion, she did say that she had failed to work things properly with the daughter that is deemed as willful (though I see her as a gifted young woman with good discernment and determination). Yeah, I know... I don't have to live with her. And it takes one to know one, too.

I asked only the bare minimum questions, still a bit confused but definitely aware of my friend's distress. I felt terrified, and I felt terrified for her and her daughter I didn't understand much of anything except the level exasperation and fear and a whole host of other emotions in my friend. What I found most significant was my friend's insistence that she had to follow a specific plan, or the world would unravel, or so my friend believed. She had to break her daughter's will or she would never listen again, and it would affect her relationship with God in the most negative way. (At this point, there was no mention of love, only a duty that my friend could not bring herself to carry out without guilt and fear for her daughter's ability to survive. She was also confused because she did not get the results she desired.

With my fresh perspective, I brought some other information to the table. Back when I used to listen to Focus on the Family, I'd heard Cynthia Tobias talk about Gregoric Learning Styles and knew from my own experience that I was a “Concrete Random,” the kind of kid that will call your bluff and will likely die like a martyr before doing what is expected of them on principle. They are principled thinkers, and things have to make sense to them. (Concrete Randoms don't do well under authoritarian parenting. It is not rebellion but a reflection of how their brain makes sense of the world and best takes in the information around them. It is more brain and personality based than anything else, one of those things we tell our kids is their precious gift from God to them, part of His expression of love and care for them.) Not long before and thankfully so, I'd shared a copy of Tobias' Redefining the Strong-Willed Woman with this same friend. I came up with a plan with which my friend agreed to comply, just because she felt so trapped. I suppose that she'd only agreed because she liked this other book, and for that, I am grateful.

I explained how Einstein said that true insanity was defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time. It seemed that the stakes were getting high, and for whatever reason, whatever was happening and whatever was being done had failed to work. To continue doing something that was painful for her and dangerous (per her tears and admission of fear) did not seem wise to me, particularly when she readily admitted that it wasn't working. She was deeply distressed, and I encouraged her to consider that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of love, power and a sound mind. She felt alienated from all of these things.

From a purely pragmatic position, it seemed reasonable for her to at least take a break to rest and think. There were older siblings in the home at the time that could be assigned to watch this little five year old for the next 48 hours, and they seemed to have fewer problems with their sister than mom did at the time. I asked my friend to do this and to merely take a 48 hour break at the very least. I then overnighted a copy of Tobias' other book entitled You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded to her, asking her to read it and then decide what to do after that little break. I think that my friend only agreed to this and found it reasonable because she was in such distress. She also felt uncomfortable talking with anyone else about it, fearing some kind of reprisal. I didn't understand that at the time, either.

The plan worked. My friend enjoyed a break, and I sent the book as a Fed-Ex first morning delivery because I was literally terrified and very confused about what I'd been told about all this. And I couldn't just get in the car, drive over, and “fill in for mom” to give her a break. It was the best I could do from my helpless vantage – 1,700 miles away. She devoured the book when it arrived. I'd also like to note that this child turned out to be her last one, so there were no new dilemmas with other younger children.

Inspiring her daughter and fostering her natural problem-solving skills through the use of the wisdom that Tobias offered her in an hour of need worked remarkably well. I still ask from time to time, and in what is quickly approaching ten years at this point, this young “concrete random” has never had another significant discipline problem. She is loving and sweet, and a sheer delight to her family. I love engaging her on the phone when I call, and sometimes her mom will have to ask her who she's talking to on the phone. She and I chat at length and she's sometimes reluctant to hand the receiver over to my dear friend.

Fast forward to 2007. I learn from one of my many fine teachers about the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement, Corrie, that this child training teacher whom my friend followed had a name – Michael Pearl. When I called and talked with my friend later that day (the one with the daughter who had success with the suggestions made by Tobias), she readily admitted her unwavering devotion to Michael Pearl and the wisdom she'd learned from him. I was really quite shocked. I asked her several questions that day, but I said nothing about the trouble she'd called me about and the problems we'd discussed years ago. It was clear that this was not a comfortable subject. I was mortified to discover that my dearest friend had used the Pearl Method! In retrospect, we realized that many of our other friends did as well.

When word of the circumstances surrounding Lydia Schatz became public in early 2010, I approached my friend about the topic of Michael Pearl and about the death of poor Lydia. I never anticipated the response that I received from my friend who I expected to become humble and melacholy. My friend who had once called me in tears, expressing terrible fear about actually hurting her daughter and feeling capable of doing so lashed out against Elizabeth Schatz in particular in her defense of Michael Pearl. Her strength that I love so much swelled up and with angry boldness. My otherwise compassionate, forgiving, humble, and empathetic friend said that “only animals” would have done such a thing and that none of the tragedy could possibly ever be any responsibility of Michael Pearl. I was astonished and a bit in awe.

Several weeks later, I broached the subject again. I didn't push things at all but mentioned that I felt badly for the parents (Kevin and Elizabeth) who must be in a terrible state, having to go through such agony and realizing how “out of touch” with reality they'd become. I stopped talking about it for awhile and stated later that I had to ask my friend if she honestly could feel no empathy toward this couple. Initially, her answer shocked me, until I had a chance to think about it more deeply.

It seems that the events of those few days were so traumatic that my friend does not remember anything specifically about calling me and crying, expressing fears about her potential to “acutally kill” her daughter by “breaking her will” through spanking. I asked her if she remembered crying about how she gave her daughter over 50 whacks and lost count but stopped because she just felt so wrong about it. (At the time, I was so sickened and terrified by the number of lashes that was given to this little one whom I knew and loved by her mother whom I knew and loved, I never asked about what was used as an instrument of discipline. I don't know if they actually used the plumbing line.)

My friend said, “What are you talking about?” She and I had a discussion about You Can't Make Me..., about what Tobias taught, about how this little girl was no longer a discipline problem, about specifics in the book, etc.. She told me, “Well, I sort of remember that you sent me a book. Was it you that sent me THAT book? I don't remember. That was a long time ago.”

She also could not remember the specific turning point that changed things with her daughter. She remembers that they did have a big problem with this little girl, but she's never had a discipline problem with her since, well... and she goes on to name a specific event that corresponded with the general time frame. But my friend did state that this little girl in question is now her most well-behaved and good-natured child. In fact, she's described as the most gentle and kind of all her daughters.

When I heard about Lydia, Zariah, Kevin and especially about Elizabeth Schatz, I did little else but think back on the week where I prayed and paced the floor and placed several calls all week to check on my dear friend. The first thing that my husband said – the first thing out of his mouth when I told him about Lydia Schatz – was “That could have been [our friends' daughter]. It could have been her that died that time. Remember?” And I said, “How could I forget? You know how sick I was and how painful it was for [our friend].”

I would love to offer a post here, written by my dear friend who has been a true blue and faithful friend to me over what is now quickly approaching two decades of walking together through both seasons of joy and dark nights of the soul. I called with the plan to ask her to write about her experience for me to put here on my blog. That week of pain that she so humbly shared with me in desperation was so traumatic that it has passed out of her memory, and she remembers only her duty to Pearl after using his methods with the rest of her family's full quiver. Those painful events that followed with her youngest have passed from her memory, too painful for her to remember. She only recalls using the Pearl Method somewhat successfully with the older children, though I don't know how true that is and could debate that it was ineffective with her other “more determined” daughter.

Though I am glad that my friend was spared tragedy, in my own estimation, I believe wholeheartedly that it was only God's intervention that protected everyone concerned in her case. As wonderfully stubborn as my friend can be (a quality I tend to like in a person because of how beautifully it glistens when God transforms it into determination to do that which is right and good), I know that it had to be God's own work. And I tremble. For whatever reason, death visited Lydia and not [my friend's daughter], as I believe that it well could have. I might have sat here last Spring, blogging like Laurie M. did a year ago, talking about my friend instead of reading about a stranger for whom my heart breaks.

I understand the pressures that my friend faced and some of the pain that she felt. I also understand that I was a safe person for her to seek out and am humbled by that. I know that her friends in homeschooling would have rejected her and shamed her for wanting to give up on the Pearl Method while her family who did not follow Pearl would have shamed her for following his recommendations.

I wonder how many other followers of Michael Pearl can't remember the nights when the feared for their child's well-being, just as my own, dear friend? It's in their best interest to forget, after all they've invested in the promises of the power of the rod.

There, but for grace, go I. And I am grateful for all the grace that I am given, over and over again every day – God's unmerited favor.


PART IX:  Using the Milgram Study to Understand How Pearl Becomes Appealing

What We Can Learn 
From Milgram

In his book, The Lucifer Effect, Dr. Philip Zimbardo offers a list of ten primary elements of Stanley Milgram's Experiment that reinforced and enhanced the compliance of the study subjects

Using a unique mix of factors, the study played upon human tendency and nature, essentially exploiting those human traits in an attempt to arrive at some kind of reliable number that allows us to put the human capacity for evil into perspective. Being aware of subtle processes of manipulation which some people use as techniques gives a person much more power of choice and confidence to resist subtle manipulation in the future.

If you haven't watched the video of Zimbardo at MIT, please take time to do so – at least, just the portion about Stanley Milgram's Study of blind obedience to authority. Also, if you've not done so before, please read back through the previous posts on this topic, also taking special note of this post on moral disengagement as well as the post about the Milgram Experiment. Cialdini's “Weapons of Influence” are also very helpful when working toward a better understanding of why people complied in the Milgram Experiment, capitalizing on human nature and tendency.

(There will be a few more posts on this subject to come in the future, too.)

We can learn from the Schatz Family, because like so many others within Christian homeschooling and other such communities, I believe that all of these factors contributed to their progressive loss of perspective of which Michael Pearl's teachings were only a part. So many additional factors become part of the mix of Christian living because individuals who are convicted that a certain practice is Biblical for them preach their preferences as moral imperatives. These factors and more (many listed in the sidebar here at create the perfect storm that caught up the Schatz family – a storm that could well be true of all of us. May we learn the lessons from the tragic example they have set for us.

May their sad experience be like a beacon of warning for us as Christians and as people.

Please don't miss the Moral in Milgram at the end of this post!

Ten Methods
that Enhance Comliance with
Ethically Questionable Systems
(Adapted from The Lucifer Effect, pp. 273-5)

~ With a Comparison to the Pearl Method ~

1.) Pre-arrange a verbal or written contract at the beginning of interactions, something directed at complying with an agreed upon behavior.

  • Pearl Method: The system defines good, dutiful, loving Christian parents as those who who follow the method.
    • The expectation is reinforced within homeschooling communities through social pressure, and sometimes in their churches.
    • In order to prove to yourself and others that you are a good parent and truly Christian, you are expected to follow those expectations that are part of the unwritten contract enforced by social control and pressure within churches and homeschooling groups.
    • People will go to great lengths to prove to themselves and others that they are consistent with commitments that they have made.
    • It is human nature to “stick with the program.”

2.) Give participants a meaningful role to play that builds upon positive and honorable values and those roles that have automatic responses associated with them. (Milgram assigned status of “teacher” which is understood culturally, usually in a positive light.)

  • Pearl Method: The good parent comes along and reads a book with many good ideas in it.
    • Following the program has been framed out by a good minister as the only good way for good parents to raise good children.
    • It's all about the ideals and one's Christian mission and duty in life.

3.) Imperative rules that seem to make sense can be presented to participants can be be argued in advance of the interaction. These rules can be used at a later time to justify and enforce mindless compliance. People will feel committed to them because they believed and accepted them initially, before they had an opportunity to really think about them. This can be exploited later.

  • Pearl Method: Christians naturally want to do what the Bible teaches, and Pearl's new rules can be enforced by stressing their divine nature which bypasses most people's radar when they don't scrutinize the nature of those new rules.
    • Parents are also told later in the process that if they don't follow the formula, their children will suffer physically and spiritually, ultimately dying physically and spiritually.
    • By the time the true nature of the risks are fully realized, the person has already become very deeply invested in the system and committed to it.
    • At this point, it becomes easier to follow the process rather than to exit from it.

4.) Changing the language used to describe the process from either benign or negative terms into those which connote pleasant, virtuous, and lofty ideals obscure the true nature of the dynamics. Doing something unpleasant can be redefined as something beneficial, meaningful, and good.

  • Pearl Method: Parents are told that resorting to physical discipline is what God Himself has prescribed for them.
    • Corporal punishment is reframed as “chastisement” which carries the connotation of Hebrews Chapter 12, and this Biblical language reinforces the elite nature of corporal punishment as an act of Christian virtue.
    • Spanking” replaces “beating.” A “switch” replaces a “whip.”
    • People also identify the “rod” as a Biblical term and what God requires of them as the method frames it for them.
    • Not everything defined as “Biblical” is really so – and the term itself is a big “thought-stopping cliche” within Christian groups.
    • People take the shortcut and trust the term without searching out the validity of its use because it's easier.

5.) The system exploits participants by “creating opportunities for the diffusion of responsibility.” They are lead to believe that they will be exempt of responsibility for negative outcomes if they follow the prescribed pattern of behavior (moral disengagement). Someone else will be held responsible and they will not be liable.

  • Pearl Method: Parents are promised that the system cannot fail if it is followed consistently and will yield great benefits for parent, child, church and society.
    • It will also please God and will satisfy the requirements He demands.
    • The system itself, because it has so strongly been identified with God Himself, is never questioned as potentially unreliable as a misguided one with good intentions.
    • The promised virtuous outcome justifies the means used to gain that outcome.
    • The system itself is responsible, and God is responsible.
    • God will eventually justify those who stepped out in faith. Only reward can result from following the system.

6.) The “path toward the ultimate evil” begins with very small, incremental changes. Biderman's Chart of Coercion points this out very well, and complete compliance is surrendered in small steps. It is essentially a slippery slope of increasingly greater requests or requirements of compliance.

Each step takes you a little closer to the cliff's edge as though there is no cliff to fall from at all. Because of the gradual changes over time and because of a loss of perspective, you don't realize just how many changes you've made over time until you've fallen over the edge.

  • Pearl Method: On the surface of things, parents just expect to spank their children when things become necessary but soon realize that, according to the program, a parent must spank very often.
    • For the program to work properly, consistency is required without room for error.
    • You can't just quit the program, or it won't work. It's comprehensive.
    • The program demands more and more over time and becomes a whole lifestyle.

7.) With each incremental step in the process, a new and slightly increased level of compliance or intensity must be introduced. The increases are framed as so indiscernible that they are insignificant. (In Milgram's study, the first shocks that were delivered seemed to be relatively benign and mild, but they progressed from 15 volts to a deadly 450 volts at the end of the study.)

  • Pearl Method: Parents soon realize that it is not just enough to spank, but they must inflict the requisite amount of pain for the system to work properly.
    • They have to increase the intensity of the force used or the length of the practice to get the desired effect.
      • You might decide that the paint stick or the designated paddle has worn out its usefulness and you might switch to the plumbing line for “better results.” Then you might find that you need it in every room, and then you need to carry it around in your purse.
    • As the child ages, it gives to reason that greater force must be used to achieve this effect.
    • I find it interesting that the Pearls loose many followers at this juncture, finding that it is either not necessary to get the harsh sounding recommended implements, or they find the whole plumbing line option to be a little too strange.

8.) Gradually changing the ethical nature of the authority figure from a good, trustworthy and “just” person who behaves reasonably into a bad, demanding, authoritarian, “unjust”, and perhaps irrational person. The confusion enhances the compliance, and people generally respond with mindless obedience. The inconsistency tends to galvanize compliance in a manner very similar to that of women in “date rape” and domestic abuse situations.

  • Pearl Method: Elements of the Method are quite good, and some of the concepts that it teaches are very sound.
    • Consistency, structure, and teaching consequences does help children. So parents get quite a lot out of these beneficial elements of the Model.
    • The Pearls talk about love and their duty to both their children and to God to do the right thing.
    • But that concept does not match the aggressive nature of the harsh and often unbridled punishment methods.
    • Peers and church leaders take on the primary authoritarian role, showing painful disapproval for non-compliance. Doubt is discouraged or punished.
    • The inconsistency induces cognitive dissonance which makes people very compliant and greatly compromises their critical thinking ability.

9.) Compliance increases when the process makes it difficult to nearly impossible to comfortably exit the process. In the Milgram study, the “teacher”/subject was permitted to voice their verbal dissent so that they could feel at ease with the moral dilemma, but at the same time, they were required to continue with the process.

  • Pearl Method: Parents are told that though they may not like their role, they are required to continue to keep their own salvation and to properly care for their children.
    • There is no exit, and the consequences are defined as eternal.
    • In “hard” complementarianism which the Pearls also observe, women often talk of repenting of their sin of not liking the limits of their role, but they are still required to suppress their desires and comply, even though it doesn't feel good or natural to them.

10.) Ideology or offering “a big lie” to justify the process and the system reinforces the idea that the system can and should resort to necessary means to achieve the benefit and the virtuous endpoint.

In social psychology experiments, this tactic is known as a 'cover story' because it is a cover-up for the procedures that follow, which might be challenged because they do not make sense on their own. The real-world equivalent is known as an 'ideology'” (pg. 274).

  • Pearl Method: Following the formula promises to solve discipline problems as well as shape and prepare a child for an increased if not guaranteed Christian status.
    • The parent will be rewarded in many ways for their dutiful Christian service and for their parenting efforts.
    • This ideology is actually a strong component in every one of the conditions in Zimbardo's list about the Milgram experiment because of the religious nature of the Pearl Method.
    • It isn't only a program which uses coercion to increase compliance of participants – the program defines and redefines one's Christianity and Christian status in terms of the program itself and compliance with it.

The Moral in Milgram

“Such procedures are utilized in varied influence situations where
those in authority want others to do their bidding but
know that few would engage in the “end game”
without first being properly prepared psychologically
to do the “unthinkable.”

In the future,
when you are in a compromising position
where your compliance is at stake
thinking back to these stepping-stones to mindless obedience
may enable you to step back and
not go all the way down the path – their path.

A good way to avoid crimes of obedience
is to assert one's own personal authority and
always take full responsibility for one's own actions. “

~ Zimbardo, pg 275

referencing Kelman & Hamilton

Part X:  The Schatz Family is Not Unique

In only a few days, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are scheduled to return to the Butte County Courtroom in California for sentencing, months after they plead guilty for their respective roles in the death of their adopted daughter Lydia and for the injuries sustained by their other children related to their use of the discipline methods taught by Michael Pearl.

The United States Court System bears witness to other deaths and injuries to other children, some of which author Philip Greven notes in his book, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. To those who wish to understand how Christians can make such dangerous choices to discipline their children to such an extent and how the practice is especially tied to Protestant traditions in the United States, please read Greven's book. 

And please read it, especially if you employ the Pearl Method as a disciplinary measure with your own children.

Had Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz opted to stand trial, though we would have certainly learned more about the details of the family and the discipline methods used within the family, though the Pearl Method would have likely been described in the proceedings, the press has noted that the prosecutor had no interest in focusing on Michael Pearl. Perhaps one of the Schatz children may later decide to pursue Michael Pearl for damages in a wrongful death suit in the future, but as it stands, Pearl still operates unchecked in terms of the law. His subjective methods of cruelty remain at large, and his writings remain in the marketplace.

But... Consider that, as Greven writes in his book, in the history of our nation, a few similar cases have gained the attention of the courts, demonstrating that the Schatz Family is not entirely unique. And in at least one other case in 1985, the spiritual leader of a group that promoted stringent discipline methods was convicted and held culpable for the abuse and death of another child. Perhaps this precedent may one day provide some basis to hold Michael Pearl accountable for his teachings and for the tragic consequences of his ideas.

From the Chapter entitled Memories of Pain and Punishments in Greven's Spare the Child
Rev. Frank Weston Sandford

Reverend Frank Sandford developed an authoritarian apocalyptic sect called “The Kingdom” and also “The Church of the Living God” in the late 1890s in Durham, Maine. In a memoir written by Arnold White chronicles the abuse that he and others endured in the group, noting that any lack of obedience was defined as “stubborn,” and that parents sought to "'break a child's spirit' beginning at an early age.”

In 1904, a former member commented about the lack of normal and natural affection among the members and among family members. She recalls how babies would be put on 40 hour fasts with no food and water, including nursing infants. When she talks of how a room full of babies cried like little lambs and called an elder over to listen, the elder snidely commented that it was “the devil in the babies.” She reported that at any given time, a person could hear some child screaming while being whipped.

Sandford's own six year old son was required to fast for 72 hours and was threatened with a beating thereafter for behaving with impertinence. Sanford stood trial and was convicted in court for cruelty, but was only fined $100. However, as soon as this trial concluded, he was charged with manslaughter for the death of a fifteen year old who was required to fast while he had diphtheria. The court could reach no judgment regarding this incident, but the State prosecutor was convinced that Sandford's actions caused this child's death. (Kindle Location 725 - 768)

From the Chapter entitled Disciplined to Death in Greven's Spare the Child

In 1985, a jury found Dorothy McClellan of West Virginia “guilty of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit the unlawful wounding of Joseph Green,” a twenty-three-month-old boy who had died after being paddled for two hours by his parents. (Kindle location 833)

In 1974, Dorothy McClellan and her husband established a Fundamentalist community called Stonegate, a cultic group that lived in a large 27 room Victorian home in West Virginia. The group followed a system of discipline that became child abuse which they justified as a religious practice. Because the spiritual leader, Dorothy McClellan, promoted and enforced the practice, the judge also convicted her for her role in the child's death. Her appeal was overturned.

The judge declared that:
Dorothy McClellan is an extremely strong-willed and manipulative woman who was unquestionably the leader of the Stonegate group. She instituted therein a policy of child discipline which ultimately encouraged the acts which brought about Joey Green's death, and thus is just as surely responsible as if she had wielded the paddle herself. One only has to realize that her teachings created an atmosphere I which each set of parents had their own monogrammed paddles which were carried openly and used frequently. Indeed, through her leadership there evolved a system of child abuse which was mistaken under the guise of religion. (Kindle Location 865)
Greven's states that the judges statement overlooks the implicit issue that “the pervasiveness of such views about physical punishment among Fundamentalist, evangelical, and Pentecostal Protestants as well as many Americans of other persuasions, both religious and secular.” (Kindle Location 876)

Before considering the man complex consequences of physical punishments, we must first explore some of the religious and secular rationales for inflicting painful punishments. Only then will we begin to understand some of the intellectual sources – as well as the experiential roots in the early lives of many individuals – for our persistent collective commitment to hitting children in the name of discipline. (Kindle Location 889)


I still plan a few posts for inclusion in this series, but the sad nature of the material has slowed my pace in preparing them. They will come in time.

I would like to again revisit John Bradshaw's Reclaiming Virtue and also discuss Heimlich's new book, Breaking Their Will.

And most importantly, as both Greven and Bradshaw note, no discussion of child discipline can be complete without the inclusion of material from Alice Miller's number of works on the subject, especially For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence.

    More LINKS on the topic:

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