This is the story of Lydia Schatz, a 7 year old girl in a good Christian home, tortured and beaten to death in the name of God.
Her parents were stupid people, following the parenting advice of a pair of demented fuckwits, Mike and Debi Pearl. The Pearls are popular and prospering because they have a ministry and a collection of books that appeal to a popular strain of fundamentalist Christian thought: the need to control. They see the family as a reflection of their imaginary god, patriarchal, ruled, dominated, and advocate a policy of discipline that echoes what they think their god desires.
If you are just beginning to attempt to control an already rebellious child who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.
Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz had nine children, at least some of them adopted. I notice that in none of the coverage does anyone question their right to overdo and underprovide for their blessed swarm — apparently, the child service agencies saw nothing wrong with tossing yet another baby into the litter, again and again — no doubt they were won over by the Schatz’s sanctimony and overt Christianism, which, unfortunately, our society tends to see as a good portent rather than the threatening omen that it actually is.
So the Schatz’s stuffed their home with innocent minds, no doubt proud of themselves for doing the Lord’s work and accepting the responsibility of shaping those minds into the narrow, intolerant, closed vessels of their faith. And I suspect they were overwhelmed with work (nine kids; I had three, and it was exhausting), and saw the Pearl’s advice as a blessing: all they had to do to achieve their desired ends was to whip the children into submission! Daddy gets to be the home tyrant, beating the children into total defeat! That, after all, is what Jesus wants: crushed children willing to serve without question.
The Schatz’s are going to prison for murder for a good long time. Their ‘family’ has been broken up and sent off to foster homes…which is usually a tragic result, but in this case is definitely an improvement over constant physical and emotional abuse.
But still, the Pearls persevere. No one questions the faith of the Schatz parents or Mike and Debi Pearl — no one in authority is stopping to wonder if maybe there isn’t something sick, warped, and twisted at the heart of the major religions in our country, something that scrambles brains and allows ordinary people to thrash a child for seven hours…with occasional breaks for fucking prayer. Prolonged torture interspersed with conversations with an invisible man — this was unrelenting derangement.
And now you can find plenty of Christian sites deploring the excesses of the Pearls. That’s nice; I know that most Christians would rightly consider murdering a child to be an evil act. But they don’t go far enough. They see it as a superficial bit of rot on the surface of the body of their religion, something that can be pared away and discarded. They’re wrong. This is simply an eruption of the corruption that lies at the wretched heart of the Abrahamic religions. It has emerged over and over again in history, in violence, in warped cults, in the oppression of the mind.
Christianity says obey. Christianity says submit. Christianity worships authority. Women and children are to submit to the will of the father of the family, just as he is to submit to the grand phantasmal patriarch. Christianity is about never questioning; about not thinking critically; about worshipping; about accepting holy writ. It is about knitting elaborate straitjackets for the mind, cheerfully putting them on yourself, and then making sure your children are burdened with the same restraints, all in the name of perpetuating a hateful and limited ideology.
Yes, the Pearls are extremists who cinch the straitjacket more tightly and more brutally than most, and I do not regard most Christians as even endorsing the evil they promote (although, with over 650,000 copies of their book sold, the Pearls’ ideas are apparently a rather popular subset of Christianity) — but still, this isn’t an aberration, a wild notion grafted onto a benevolent faith. It’s part of faith itself, that people are raised to value belief in and obedience to the holy strong man.
Your children are not your followers or your servants or slavish little echoes of yourself. They are your responsibility, and your job is to raise them to be free and independent and, most of all, to be themselves. We are not sinners in the hands of a <insert random adjective here> god, and this whole idea that there is a hierarchical chain of authority is demeaning and destructive. We are fractious and creative and unique and wild and interesting, and when you force children into this restrictive mold of subservience, you diminish their humanity.
And sometimes you snuff it right out.