Friday, October 21, 2011

Pearl Drops

Michael and Debi Pearl have been getting a lot of attention lately, what with multiple children now dead (and their deaths, at least indirectly, related to discipline methods prescribed in TTUAC) and with the recent coverage from CNN. Since beginning the blog last year, I've been asked quite a few times for my opinion of the Pearls and their teachings. The photo above is as far as I'll go in relation to TTUAC. I haven't read it, and as a result I don't feel qualified to give any semblence of a "review" of it. I've seen enough and heard enough to know it's pretty poisonous teaching, from the twisted scriptures to the misguided ideas on matters of psychology from people who generally reject that Great Satan "modern psychology".

My friend over at The Eighth and Final Square is currently doing a series, taking a hard and thorough look at TTUAC, and for some excellent insight and commentary on TTUAC I'd suggest you look there. Here's what she has so far...

Chapter 1 Part 1
Chapter 1 Part 2
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

She's doing a great job - and she's a young lady I'm very proud of.

Now, to my general thoughts on the Pearls...

I'd never heard of the Pearls until a couple of years ago when, in trying to understand the insanity I'd dealt with in my former future in-laws, I came across Micheal Pearl's "Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families" article on his No Greater Joy website. There was some good stuff in it, but also a generous dose of weirdness which left me feeling a bit like I'd just read an article by one religious kook about some other religious kooks. Sort of a "Well, he's a little strange, but maybe not as goofy as the crowd I've been dealing with" vibe, and after perusing his other materials, I didn't see anything else that jumped out at me explicitly about patriarchy, so I never really examined much of what he had to say. I thought no more of the Pearls. I knew nothing of their books, and had no interest in them.

Once I began writing here, emails gradually began to stream in asking me my opinion about certain teachings of the Pearls, their books, certain articles, et cetera. As I looked into things a little more, it wasn't hard to see the reasons for the concerns of so many of you who read here. Red flags galore. In a recent exchange about the Pearls with a person who knows them personally, I was informed that my view was pretty accurate, with the caveat that the Pearls were, at heart, trying to be decent people and live decent lives. I don't doubt that in the slightest. I really don't. What's that old saying about the "road to Hell" and good intentions? (and no, I'm not saying the Pearls are "going to Hell")

The view I had shared with this person was something like this...

It amazes me how "discerning" Christian people so easily fall for buzzwords and turn to a bunch of socially ignorant and religiously arrogant isolationist fundamentalist hillbillies for advice and counsel on matters of marriage, family, and parenting. 

Seriously. It blows my mind.

Nothing personal toward hillbillies. I live in Appalachia and have more than my fair share of country bumpkin in me. It's the religious arrogance, religious addiction, hyper-fundamentalism, and isolationism that go along with the hillbillyism that creates the toxic concoction for me where the Pearls are concerned.

But, but Lew! You can't judge a book by its cover!

Well, that's not entirely true (if you believe it's true in all cases, I'd love to play Poker with you), but even so, I'm not judging a book (TTUAC for example - or really any Pearl teaching) by its cover. I'm judging by its author.

How many copies of TTUAC would've sold if THIS had been its cover?...

I mean, that IS the guy who wrote it. If you want your marriage, family, and parenting advice from someone trapped in a 19th century state of mind dictated by early 20th century fundamentalist paranoia, who looks like Jeremiah Johnson and Laura Ingalls hooked up and had a baby that went on to play Uncle Jesse on the Dukes of Hazzard, then maybe the Pearls are for you.

I'll pass on what he has to offer, and coming to that conclusion ain't exactly rocket surgery.


  1. Oh, that photo would be perfect for one of those "demotivationals"!

    Earlier this year, I attended a babyshower for a new mother at my church. Someone gave TTUAC as a gift. A chill went up my spine when I saw the cover and heard a comment about how great the book was. I don't really fear for the baby because of what I know about the parents' personalities and backgrounds. However, it does bother me that the Pearls' parenting book is still popular, even among Christian sects and denominations which oppose everything else they promote and believe.

  2. Thank you Lewis. You made my insomnia worthwhile.

  3. Lewis, don't post this if you'd rather not-- but I just thought I'd let you know that to me (and, I'm sure, to many other women), "she is a young lady I'm very proud of" sounds condescending. I know you don't mean it that way at all-- but she is an adult woman, married, expecting her first child, and unless she's under 17 and personally related to you, it doesn't seem appropriate to be "proud of" her. Would you say of an adult young man you knew who was old enough to be married and a soon-to-be father, and you were praising/recommending something he wrote, that he was a "young gentleman I am very proud of"? Makes it sound like he's your 12-year-old nephew who wrote an A+ essay for his English teacher, doesn't it?

    I would suggest that you re-word that to say, "young woman whose work I admire" or something along those lines. Just thought I'd mention it. :)

  4. Michael Pearl may have an article on his website on "Patriarchal Dysfunctional Familes," but his wife Debi has also written a book called "Created to Be His Help Meet" that encapsulates the essence of patriarchal dysfunction and promotes it as biblical. Odd, that.

  5. It means a lot to me when people I look up to (especially men) are proud of me...because my father never was.

    Maybe it came across condescending to some, but it didn't to me. :)

  6. "Michael Pearl may have an article on his website on "Patriarchal Dysfunctional Familes," but his wife Debi has also written a book called "Created to Be His Help Meet" that encapsulates the essence of patriarchal dysfunction and promotes it as biblical. Odd, that."

    THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. When I first started analyzing my background, I tried to figure out how the Pearls fit in with the patriarchy and quiverfull stuff. At first I wondered if they didn't, because they had only five children and sent their oldest daughter to be a missionary in a foreign country, alone. But then I thought about Created To Be His Helpmeet, and I read some articles where Debi literally tells teenage girls that their entire purpose for existence is to serve a man, and read stuff by Michael about how he controlled his adult daughters' romantic relationships with a tight, tight fist, and I realized that there is NO WAY the Pearls aren't deep into this shit.

  7. Ooops...I had to fix the spelling of "Debi".

  8. Wow. Awesome picture! You are right about the whole mentality of days gone by, and how a whole generation is trying to go back in time to "little house on the Prairie" to a time that never existed. Great observations. I am not familiar with the Pearls, but understand they are in the same Gothardesque category that has caused so many people great pain! Thanks for sharing!

  9. This article really highlights some good food for thought... I have often been openmouthed and amazed that otherwise sensitive, smart and sensible Christians seem to go under a spell when reading this type of trash. I guess I was one of them to an extent a long timne ago. But how in God's name DO people like the Pearls get otherwise sane people to listen? Are the readers at least temporarily insane? And though appearances in a sense don't matter, how odd that legalistic folks who place a great value on appearances admire these people who do come across, as you so aptly put it,like Jeremiah Johnson and Laura Ingall's son playing Uncle Jesse... The final straw that got us to totally depart from a flirtation with the Gothard/ Patriarchy thing was the whole baby and child "training" thing anyway. I cringe when I see women carrying around any of these books much less reading them. We Christians need to be reading "The Emperor Has No Clothes" instead.There is a lot more wisdom in that than in all the Ezzo Pearl Gothard Phillips stuff put together.

  10. I'm still curious why he took off his watch for the photo.

  11. Just thought I should make this available to you and your readers:

    Everyone really needs to stop listening to the media and read the book for yourself. It's now available as a free download - check their facebook page.


  12. @Denise: Have read the book. Have you? I'm curious to see what your responses to the posts written in the links above would be. And, just because people believe that the Pearls' philosophies on spanking are heinously wrong, doesn't mean that they believe all spanking is wrong. There is spanking, then there is abuse, and what the Pearls advocate as spanking constitutes as abuse to any level of Child/Youth Services.