Slumber parties are sin parties

Libby Anne examines the ideological straitjacket of Christian Patriarchy.

The parents of Christian Patriarchy have one goal in mind: to raise children who believe and act as they do. The reason, of course, is that they see their beliefs and lifestyle as the only one that is truly Christian, and anyone who steps outside of their beliefs and lifestyle turns their back on God. Within this framework, parents of Christian Patriarchy act quite rationally.

Vision Forum and No Greater Joy and the Institutes for Basic Life Principles tell them that if they do just so, they will turn out perfect godly Children. This is the appeal these groups have, and parents buy it. They then live by the formulas these groups present and expect complete conformity from their children…

This is one aspect of the whole thing that I find quite opaque. What reason do people have for thinking this way of life is particularly “Christian”? What about it is specifically Christian? To an outsider it looks much more simply old-fashioned and off-the-charts strict, neither of which has anything at all to do with “Christian.”

I suspect it’s the other way around – people develop ideas of “religion” as being about purity (especially sexual purity) and related qualities, all of which are opposed to ordinary worldly secular life – pop culture, gossip, raucous music, advertising, sexy clothes, singles bars, non-marital sex, teh gayz, consumerism, the whole vulgar package. They think of the rejection of all that as religious and then they do a back-formation in which their particular religion turns out to mandate that rejection. Only it doesn’t. It forgot to, because it didn’t know about it.

Pascal Boyer talks about this way of thinking in Religion Explained.

As far as anthropologists know,  people in most places conceive of some supernatural agents as having some interest in their decisions. This can take all sorts of forms. Christians for instance consider that God expects some particular kinds of behavior and will react to departures from the norm…

For instance, religious codes like the Christian Commandments specify a simple list of prescriptions and prohibitions. But the range of situations about which people have moral intuitions or uncertainties is far greater than this. [p 173]

And people just fill in the gaps, and assume that’s “Christian/Muslim/whatever.”

With the Patriarchy set, the results can be pretty stringent. Libby Anne quotes from Michael Pearl:

Over the years as our children were growing up, Deb and I offended about every family member and some of our friends by being “overprotective” of the innocent charges God sent into our care. We guarded them from any suspect company and thoughtfully planned their associations. We have not trusted, “good Christian families.” We have not participated in churches where the children were separated from us. After church, we watched them and their associations. When kids stop running around in circles, screaming, and start talking, or drawing aside, you’ve likely got the beginning of troubles brewing. Keep the little ones standing right beside you after church. They should always sit with you, never with their friends. If they go out to the bathroom, go with them. Never allow them to spend the night with friends or cousins. Slumber parties are sin parties. Never allow them to listen to music through headphones. Three-minute phone conversations, no chat rooms, no surfing the web for any reason. Parents should make it physically impossible for them to even access the web. We didn’t allow our children to spend time in their bedrooms unless they were working on a project or reading. Bedroom doors were always kept open, except for two minutes while dressing.

Wouldn’t the Pearls have been happier with a set of robots for children?




  1. randomfactor says

    Silly question. A robot has no feelings which can be crushed again and again for the parents’ amusement.

  2. says

    Every time I think I can’t be any more disgusted or aghast at these people…sure enough, I am.

    Wow. Okay, I would be mildly sympathetic to keeping kids off the web if I didn’t know that their reasons are to keep the kids from learning that there’s any other kind of life.

    Serious question: When does this kind of parenting turn into emotional and physical abuse? When can Child Protective Services come and take them away?

  3. Ophelia Benson says

    I know – in a way I can see wanting to keep kids away from the pop culture stew at least until they’re…whatever, 12, 15, some jaded age like that. But I stop well short of full-on fascism, unlike the Pearls.

  4. Silent Service says

    Of course they wouldn’t like robots more. You can’t mold a robot into a perfect little drone by crushing any sign of dissent.

  5. says

    Good grief. We had only two kids, and there’s no way we had the *energy* to be that level of control freak. Letting the kids go off and do something unsupervised (subject to basic physical safety limits, of course) isn’t just necessary for the kids’ development, it’s necessary for the parents’ sanity!

    These people are pathological.

  6. says

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pearls’ methods are effective, though. Those methods are reminiscent of a maximum security prison. They can’t talk to other people; other kids, even.

    Then again, it’s possible their methods have attracted enough desire in others to find crafty ways to expose the children to the outside world.

  7. hermionesotter says

    It is horrifying to see the type of bad parenting to which so many children, even outside of these Christian cults are subjected, being prescribed as necessary by these lunatics. It is suffocating just reading this, and I agree, this is making the children prisoners. As if they did something wrong just by being born.

    Is there any kind of legal redress? Could the state intervene?

  8. says

    So they are “overprotective”?
    Obviously not when the topic is “beating the crap out of your children” (but be careful not to leave marks because people might object to that).

    But if you read Libby Anne’ full story of her youth, it makes sense. She was such a child (well, maybe a bit more freedom, she was allowed to play with her friends), her world was very homogenous, everybody had the same opinion, and when she went out into the world, she suddenly found that people had answers to all her crushing questions and arguments about evolution.

    Eamon Knight
    I know, this is only mildly related to the topic, but I agree: My mental health would crumble if I had to have them always near me watching them.
    I also remember child psychologists arguing against the level of freaked-out anxiety parents display these days where they call the police if the kid is gone for 5 minutes.

  9. nankay says

    Feb 2010:” Her name was Lydia. She was seven years old. She’s dead because her parents took Michael and Debi Pearl’s No Greater Joy Ministries teachings too far Lydia was disciplined to death. She had deep bruising and scars from beatings on her back, buttocks and legs, injuries which cause organ failure. That is no surprise to anyone who has read and followed Michael and Debi Pearl. Lydia was ‘trained’ for hours for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson.
    Her 11 year old sister Zariah was in intensive care week and was released into foster last week .”

    Pearl violently disagrees he teaches religiously motivated child abuse, he says he teaches parents to train their children “which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument.” To Debi and Michael Pearl it’s just a biblical principle. 2 foot length of PVC pipe for children over 1 years of age. Children under one year of age get ‘trained’ with a branch, paddle or ruler.

  10. rumtopf says

    which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument.”

    Sometimes? I read from the Pearl’s book that “the rod” should be used for -every transgression-, including rebellious babies who dare to do something like cry…

  11. gene says

    The Pearls=Horse’s Ass. I think they need to be ‘trained’ with a whip-or perhaps they got the idiot way they are because they were. . .

  12. Didaktylos says

    @Eamon Knight

    That’s probably part of the reason for having such large families: a lot of the day to day supervision will be delegated to the older children.

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