How Many More Must Die?

And so it continues. Another child has died as a direct result of Michael Pearl’s teachings. How many more must die?

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – The parents of an adopted girl who died of exposure in her own backyard after she had been starved and abused for months pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday.

Larry P. Williams and Carri D. Williams of Sedro Woolley were arrested last week and later charged with homicide by abuse and assault of a child in the first degree in Skagit County Superior Court.

Each was ordered held Thursday on $150,000 bail.

According to court documents, the couple’s adopted daughter, Hana Williams, 13, was systematically starved, beaten, forced to use an outdoor toilet and sometimes locked in a dark closet for days by the Williams.

Hana Williams was found dead in May – naked, face-down in the mud in her own backyard – after she had spent much of a cold, rainy day outside as a punishment, according to court documents.

Although she died of hypothermia, there were other contributing causes to her death, including severe malnutrition and chronic gastritis, doctors said.

The Williams had adopted Hana from Ethiopia in 2008 as a diseased little girl to begin a new life in America.

Instead, according to court records, she was beaten, starved, forced to sleep in a barn at times and deprived of love and basic necessities.

Child Protective Services said there are reports that Hana had lost a significant amount of weight before her death. And the night she died, she was out in the yard naked on a rainy evening, with temperatures in the low 40s.

Further investigation revealed that Hana had a number of injuries on the night she died, including a large lump on the head, bloody marks and injuries “consistent with disciplinary impacts with a switch,” according to court documents released Friday.

Those same documents describe the hellish life that Hana endured in the months before her death – which included systematic withholding of food, forced times outdoors in the cold or locked in a dark closet, interspersed with regular spankings or beatings with a plumbing tool.

In interviews with the parents and other children in the household, investigators determined that the Williams withheld food from Hana as a punishment for being “rebellious,” court documents say.

In addition, Hana was forced to use an outdoor portable toilet behind the barn instead of the home’s indoor bathroom, and she sometimes was made to take cold showers while naked outdoors under a garden hose, the case file says.

The Williams told investigators that they made Hana use the outdoor toilet because she had hepatitis and they didn’t want any of their other children to become infected with the disease.

Other punishments included locking Hana inside a dark closet for hours or days without food while the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside, according to court documents.

Hana also was forced to sleep in the barn on some nights or kept outside for hours in the cold without adequate clothing or shoes, court documents say – but she was allowed to wear shoes if there was snow on the ground.

The Williams also confirmed that they used a flexible plumbing tool as a switch to punish Hana and some of the other children in their household.

The children told investigators that Hana sometimes was beaten with a switch for standing more than 12 inches away from where she was told to stand or for speaking without permission.

The Williams’ older biological children were sometimes encouraged to join in administering the punishment by their parents.

A witness told investigators that the Williams got their ideas for the disciplinary measures from a book, “How to Train Up Your Child,” which recommends switchings with a plumbing tool, cold water baths, withholding food and putting children out in cold weather as forms of punishment.

The Williams’ other adopted child, a 10-year-old boy who also was adopted at the same time as Hana, is deaf – and also reportedly showed signs of abuse.

Prosecutors say the first-degree assault accusation against the Williams stems from allegations relating to the boy, who was also from Ethiopia but no relation to Hana.

According to court papers, the Williams also withheld food from the boy at times and switched him regularly – sometimes for not listening to them – even though he was deaf.

After Hana’s death, CPS convinced a judge to pull Hana’s eight brothers and sister – ages seven to 17 – from their Sedro-Woolley home. Those children are all now in temporary foster care. The parents have requested a hearing to fight to get their children back.

Michael Pearl and his followers will once again distances themselves, saying that they never said families are to punish their children in anger or beat their children or starve them or put them outside in the cold. Butlike I’ve said before, these defenses ring hollow. For one thing, there is no evidence that the Williams family ever punished Hana in anger. In fact, in the case of the Schatzes, there is actually a great deal of evidence that the Schatzes did not punish Lydia in anger.

You don’t have to punish in anger in order to abuse children. All you have to do is follow what Michael Pearl says in To Train Up A Child, slowly and methodically.

The core of Pearl’s teachings on child training seems to be the necessity of breaking the child’s will. Over and over again, Pearl tells parents to see parenting as a battle between the will of the parents and the will of the children, and over and over he admonishes children that unless they defeat their children’s will and force them to defeat, they and their children will be miserable. He teaches that if you love your child, you must break her will at any cost.

Sometimes breaking a child’s will can be difficult. Sometimes it involves multiple (dispassionate) spankings with plumbing supply line, sometimes it involves withholding food until the child submits (and the Pearls say not to worry, for a child will never starve himself rather than submit – which in my experience has proved to be false). And while I have never heard of the Pearls recommending that children be forced to spend the night outside as a punishment, it is in some sense a natural outgrowth of the idea that a rebellious child must be separated from the others until he or she submits.

If Hana had submitted, she would not have been beaten with the plumbing supply line. If Hana had submitted, she would not have been starved. If Hana had submitted, she would not have been forced to spend the night away from the family. Since Hana did not submit, Pearl would say, she was clearly in rebellion against her parents, striving to exert her will over theirs. Her will needed breaking. And sometimes, as in the case of Lydia and the case of Hana, breaking the will may result in breaking the body.

This child was also adopted, and also from Africa. I cannot think that this is a coincidence. Children who are adopted may have attachment issues, and parents of adopted children may relate to them differently than to their biological children. Furthermore, children who are adopted as children rather than born into a Pearl family must have their wills broken much later than those raised on the Pearls from birth. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns into a pattern.

Update: Michael Pearl has issued an official statement on Hana’s death,which you can read here. I think they realize the problem they have. They are not “laughing” in this statement, but instead point out passages from TTUAC that supposedly warn against how Hana’s parents treated her. Except, of course, that they actually don’t.

“Train up-not beat up. Train up-not discipline up.” “A child needs more than ‘obedience training’, but without first training him, discipline is insufficient” page 4

“Disciplinary actions can easily become excessive and oppressive if you set aside the tool of training and depend on discipline alone to do the training.” Page 9

“Parent, have you trained yourself not to discipline immediately but to wait until your irritation builds into anger? If so, then you have allowed anger to become your inducement to discipline.” Page 25

“Parent, if you are having problems with your children, you can be assured that you are not alone. Your children are also having problems with you. You are going to have to make adjustments in your own life if you are going to help them with their problems.” “… the responsibility for making a significant change is completely yours.” Page 32

“There are always some who act in the extreme. These individuals are capable of using what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children.” page 50

“The rod should never be a vent for parents’ anger. Where the supreme motivation is anything other than the child’s good, it is inevitable that such behavior by the parent will assuredly create problems.” page 51

None of these quotes argue against what Hana’s parents did, because there is no evidence that her parents disciplined her in anger, and there is no evidence that they did not also try to build a relationship in order to curb Hana’s “rebellion.” There is no evidence that the parents were merely using Pearls’ methods to justify brutality, rather than actually believing Pearl’s methods and using them in love to train up their children. The problem was not anger or the rod, but rather the belief that children must have their wills broken at whatever cost necessary. Allow me to quote some other passages from TTUAC:

“Know that if he is accustomed to getting his unrestricted way, you can expect just such a response. He will just continue to do what he has always done to get his way. It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you fell like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same. On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive, whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again. If this is the first time he has come up against someone tougher than he, it may take a while. He must be convinced that you have truly altered your expectations. There is no justification for this to be done in anger. If you are the least angry, wait until another time. Most parents are so guilt laden and paranoid that they are unable to carry this through to the end. If you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest. The next time, it will take twice as long to convince him of your commitment to his obedience, because he has learned the ultimate triumph of endurance in this episode in which he has prevailed.” (80)

“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. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered.” The child is to “bend over on the bed or couch… Slowly begin to spank. If you go too fast, you may not allow time enough for the inner transformation to occur.” In the same section, the author says, “I have found five to ten licks are usually sufficient. As the child gets older, the licks must become more forceful if the experience is going to be effective in purging his rebellion. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child has surrendered.” (p. 49, 50)

And finally, there is this gem:

“If you are just beginning to institute training on 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.”

I rest my case.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15824217102632813598 Tanit-Isis

    That is horrific.Also, I'm pretty sure if my parents had followed those teachings, I would've ended up just like this girl.Child abuse committed out of anger, inexperience, and lack of control is awful, but understandable. Child abuse like this committed coldly, with calculation and calm intention—that's absolute evil.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    "If Hana had submitted, she would not have been beaten with the plumbing supply line. If Hana had submitted, she would not have been starved. If Hana had submitted, she would not have been forced to spend the night away from the family. "AS a child continually accused of "rebellion" growing up, I can tell that this statement is NOT TRUE. Once a dysfunctional family system has identified a particular child as "rebellious" i.e. the scapegoat, there is nothing that child can do to escape their role. Hanna was very submissive; however she was still a child, and a rejected, cold, hungry child at that.Did you read the whole police report? Hanna was starving, so she "stole" food and THAT was considered rebellion. Hanna left a drop of menstrual blood on the toilet sink by mistake, and THAT was considered rebellion. After a lecture about sanitation, she was sent to the bathroom to "do it right" and was punished for TOUCHING THE DOOR KNOB TO ENTER THE BATHROOM. In this kind of no-win situation, Hanna was doomed. Normal behavior was castigated as rebellion. She was told she could move out of the barn and back into the house IF she could go THIRTY DAYS without being "rebellious". Do you see how impossible that was, in light of redefining the word "rebellious" to mean "anything Hanna does"?I am not arguing that the Pearls are anything other than horrendous. They are totally abhorrent. Their books and others like them, which identify wrong-doing (in other words, anything that annoys a parent) as "rebellious" are what allows a parent to label and villify a child that annoys them as being horrid sinners in need of punishment.I was a scapegoat child. I thank God we lived in town, with neighbors close by, and went to public school. If my mom had the money to isolate us on five acres in a gated community, I could have died too. RIP Hanna.I have comfort in believing that Hanna is surrounded right now with the most amazing love and delight in everything about her. That's who God is to me.On the other hand, if there is a hell, divine justice would demand that Hanna's parents, the Pearls and all other child abusers experience life as the children they abused experienced it. If my theology is correct, the Pearls will be spending a lot of time in hell.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16027956042910623970 Leanna

    I'm not going to bother reading Pearl's official statement on Hana's death after reading those excerpts from his book. His words turn my stomach.That said, I put the blame of Hana's death squarely on her parents. As much as I disagree with Pearl's methods, he is not responsible for the Williams' monstrous behavior any more than the writers of the Bible are, for it also contains barbaric parenting advice. People capable of doing what the Williams couple did to that little girl will always find justification for their actions somewhere. Just to be clear, I still advocate speaking out LOUDLY against Pearl's book and his methods.My heart breaks for the little girl and her adopted brother. I hope Mr. and Mrs. Williams are in prison for a very, very long time. While I feel sympathy for the biological children, I hold hope that they have some chance of breaking the cycle and having a normal childhood out of from under their parents' tyranny.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Shaddowspring and Leanna – I watched my extremely loving parents come *this* close to starving and dehydrating my little brother to death because he would not say "please" for food or water. Following the Pearls, they called it rebellion, and said that a child would never starve himself to death. They were wrong. After several days, he became limp and listless, but still my parents persisted, quoting the Pearls all the way. That night my mother had a dream that she believed was God telling her to give my brother food and water, and that he would die if she didn't and we kids would be taken from her, so the next morning she gave him food and water without requiring him to say please. My parents are loving and involved parents. They're great people. The problem is that the Pearls have told them that if they love their children, they must break their children's wills, whatever the cost. The Pearls urge wonderful parents do awful things in the name of love. Sure, my parents are to be faulted for believing the Pearls, but I also believe that the Pearls should be held responsible. The problem isn't bad parents. The problem is the Pearls' teachings.

  • Flora Poste

    "Normal behavior was castigated as rebellion."But this *is* part of the problem I see with the Pearls! Their approach gives parents pretty much free rein to define rebellion as anything that they don't like. For me, Hanna's case just points up all the systemic issues with Christian patriarchy. The authoritarian mindset that facilitates the demonization of the child that doesn't fit the mold. The emphasis on violence as a means of control, the lack of respect for the child's humanity, which I think can lead to a gradual eroding of inhibitions that led this mother to see her actions as a "normal" response to disobedience. The Pearl method as a whole discourages empathetic connection with the child, discourage parents from trying to take the child's point of view and figure out the reasons for problematic behaviors.This mother was inspired to adopt by articles in Above Rubies magazine. I also see a problem in that particular community with magical thinking – baby Jesus will somehow see to it that large families with rigid expectations will be able to adopt older children internationally with no problems. Just read the bible and pray, no need to consult evil secular child psychologists or social workers. Finally, there is the pathological paranoia of government and the child protective services in this community. After the arrest in this case, a mother posted a prayer request to Stacy McDonald's Patriarch's email list to pray for Hanna's mother. Apparently this mother and patriocentric christian had been aware that Hanna was being abused, but did nothing. It's like a code of omerta, where parents are afraid to inform on each other.

  • Nathaniel

    To answer your question, no amount of dead children will ever be enough. The Pearl's income depends on them not seeing the problem. And they will choose to have more children die. They may die, but they will never have to admit they are wrong, or find another career. And that's what's important.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Oh, I am not disagreeing with you Flora Poste or Libby! I am only saying that Hanna was NOT rebellious at all. It was not her strong-willed resistance that contributed to her death- she was doing everything she could to comply and stay alive at the same time.The idea that children are enemies to be conquered, rather than humans to be nurtured, empathized with and encouraged is exactly what the Pearls teach. I'll go out on a limb and say it is exactly what conservative Christianity teaches. Any one who believes in Augustinian original sin encourages parents to see children as "bad" people who need "discipline" in order to become "good" people.Pearl, Ezzo, Dobson, Tripp et. al. are all guilty of pitting parent against child. The Pearls are worse in that they demand it of parents and give specific instructions regarding weapon, application and technique for violent dominion over their children.I was just saying, rather poorly apparently, that it is not "rebellious" or "strong-willed" kids who are the only ones at risk of abuse/murder. A child could be completely compliant (as I believe Hanna was) and still get labelled rebellious and punished accordingly.It is not rebellious to touch a door knob to open a door, miss a spot on a toilet seat, or sneak food when you are starving. That was my main point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    "The authoritarian mindset that facilitates the demonization of the child that doesn't fit the mold. The emphasis on violence as a means of control, the lack of respect for the child's humanity, which I think can lead to a gradual eroding of inhibitions that led this mother to see her actions as a "normal" response to disobedience. The Pearl method as a whole discourages empathetic connection with the child, discourage parents from trying to take the child's point of view and figure out the reasons for problematic behaviors.'Amen!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Once again, the victim is a child from a troubled country who probably already brought plenty of psychological baggage with her when she was adopted. Who are the adoption agencies giving these children to these families? It seems like somebody's not doing their job right.And I'm with you, Shadowspring (although, as you point out, nothing you're saying really contradicts anything anyone else is saying.) The family's scapegoating of Hana seems to go beyond anything that could actually be construed as rebellion. In fact, what really disturbs me is that they seem to have been punishing her for being sick. I guess they think having hepatitis is a form of rebellion? She didn't even have to do anything at all, the crime of having a disease acquired in childhood seems to have been enough to warrant her being treated like a leper. (And I know I'm just an unsaved, wayward Jew here, but I seem to remember that the guy who they claim to follow had some pretty strong opinions on how lepers should be treated, and that they didn't involve forced separation out in the cold.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "The problem isn't bad parents. The problem is the Pearls' teachings."Yes, the Pearl's teachings, which are a direct extension of the Pearl's spiritual beliefs, which, the Pearls, in turn, use as a spiritual "license" to be immoral, despicable parents and to author and sell literature that teaches other parents to be/do the same. Oh, and if biblegod is going to punish the Pearls in "hell", it seems that the moral and proactive thing to do would be for said god to strike the Pearls dead right now, rather than let them stick around and propagate their nasty, and even deadly beliefs, when it comes to parenting children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    I categorically reject the idea that if there is a god he/she is morally obligated to destroy all suffering along with the people/things that create suffering in this world. That would leave no room for changes of heart/mind for anyone. If I get anything from the bible, it is that god is big-time into do-overs and second chances.I don't know where you get your ideas about "biblegod" from – certainly not from experiencing reality. I assume from your own unhappy experiences with the Christian religion. Fair enough. Obviously your welcome to any beliefs you want, but please, if you're going to make religious pronouncements, could you be polite and write your opinions like I do: words like "I believe" "if" and "to me" make it plain that I am not claiming to be right, or definitive, and I am not wanting to get into theological debate with anyone.Every time I read your comments I get the impression that you hate me without even knowing me, and despise what I believe without even bothering to inquire what I believe and/or why.My faith is based every bit as much on my personal experience as it is the bible, and whoever your biblegod is, it bears no resemblance to the mystery of Love I know by the name of Jesus.

  • Disillusioned Ex-Homeschooler

    "The problem isn't bad parents. The problem is the Pearls' teachings."I don't think it's an either/or–*both* are problems. All of the people wrapped up in this kind of mentality share in the blame for creating a culture where things like what Hana suffered can happen. But yes, I do think leaders like the Pearls bear a particular responsibility, as well as the parents who deaden themselves to their children's suffering.I nodded my head all through Libby's post, and all through shadowspring's comment, because I feel the truth in both. In the hands of kind, well-meaning, and reasonably well-adjusted parents, the Pearls' teachings do much harm. And when you combine the Pearls' teachings and bad parents, the result is literally lethal.Shadowspring, I know exactly what you mean by scapegoating. My parents did that to my brother. I still have nightmares about how they treated him, and I feel absolutely nauseated when I think about my complicity in it. He is an utterly destroyed person today, in his mid-30s. My parents didn't read the Pearls as far as I know, but they definitely bought into the idea that good parenting means absolute domination by the parents and instant obedience by the children. *Nothing* my brother did was ever good enough. Tiny, bizarre things would set off my parents against him, and when as an adolescent he finally rebelled in earnest (who could blame him!), all hell broke loose.Rest in peace, Hana. My heart breaks for the suffering you endured.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I categorically reject the idea that if there is a god he/she is morally obligated to destroy all suffering along with the people/things that create suffering in this world."Hi again,I have never once said that "God" is "morally obligated to destroy all suffering along with the people/things that create suffering in this world." What I will say, and what I stand by, is that if there is a God, and if this God has the wherewithal to stop despicable creeps like the "Pearls"(and other child-abusers), but instead, opts to stand by with arms folded, watching the evil unfold, then, a) "love", as in all-loving, has been redefined, and b), this God is not worth my admiration, let alone my worship."That would leave no room for changes of heart/mind for anyone."I understand how/why you see it that way.If someone were to ask me, "Hey, what do you think is more important, that a child-abuser be able to change his or her mind, or the safety and well-being of the abuser's young victims?", personally, I would answer the latter. This is simply another way to look at things; I'm not making any pronouncements. To throw something else out there, if there is a God, and if he or she thinks the evil-doer needs to be able to have the freedom to choose, then consider that this God, if he or she is all-powerful, could stop the abuser in ways that would not subvert the abuser's free will one iota. For a really quick example, when Michael Pearl goes to get his rod, or plumbing fixture, or whatever his punishment device of choice is, God could simply cause him to go blind or go into convulsions. This way, Pearl still retains the desire and will to "spank", but his desires have been made much more difficult, if not damned-near impossible, to accomplish. So, victim is safe; free will of the abuser, intact. Again, 'not a pronouncement; just another way to look at things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I don't know where you get your ideas about 'biblegod' from – certainly not from experiencing reality."I get/got my ideas about the Christian bible-god from where most Christians get theirs…i.e..the bible. I guess at least one difference(between now, and then) is that I no longer overlook the ideas that I find unpalatable, nor do I try to buffer the face-value language therein. "Obviously your welcome to any beliefs you want, but please, if you're going to make religious pronouncements, could you be polite and write your opinions like I do: words like 'I believe' 'if' and 'to me' make it plain that I am not claiming to be right, or definitive, and I am not wanting to get into theological debate with anyone."So, you're asking me to be "polite" to you, which is not unreasonable, but yet, you pretty much just got done telling me that I don't get certain beliefs I hold from experiencing reality. So, I don't live in the same "reality" that you do? Or have I misunderstood?"Every time I read your comments I get the impression that you hate me without even knowing me, and despise what I believe without even bothering to inquire what I believe and/or why."I'm sorry that you feel hated, but in my own defense, I don't recall making any judgments about your personal character in any of this. You made a statement about the Pearls being in "hell", and I elaborated and gave my opinion on the subject. I'm merely asking, if "hell" is going to be the Pearl's fate per the judgment of a "God", then why wait and continue to let their despicable teachings be propagated? If the counter-argument to that is that there shouldn't be a deadline for having "change of heart", then why is there a deadline after we die? "My faith is based every bit as much on my personal experience as it is the bible[...]"Unfortunately, this doesn't tell me all that much, since every believer says this.[...]and whoever your biblegod is, it bears no resemblance to the mystery of Love I know by the name of Jesus."I don't have a biblegod, but only an interpretation of one. My interpretation is obviously different than yours, and I acknowledge and accept this. But whether "God" exists, or not, I don't think "love" needs to be, or should be, a "mystery". If our family members and/or significant others acted in ways that raised an eyebrow or hurt us, and if we asked them why they acted this way and they retorted with, "My love is a mystery", I think any person with self-respect would reject such an answer.

  • Chatterbox

    Shadowspring said:"The idea that children are enemies to be conquered, rather than humans to be nurtured, empathized with and encouraged is exactly what the Pearls teach. I'll go out on a limb and say it is exactly what conservative Christianity teaches. Any one who believes in Augustinian original sin encourages parents to see children as "bad" people who need "discipline" in order to become "good" people."I was thinking this exact same thing – my mum has never read any parenting books and we are in the uk so ideas like dobson, pearls etc were certianly not over here in the 70s 80s while we were growing up. However, she ruled with an iron rod and was terrifying. She has a huge belief in original sin (spouts it to me often with regard to my children despite the fact i'm no longer a christian) and sincerly believes if you spare the rod blar blar. She expects from children total respect and instant obedience and if she doesnt get it, well, woe betide you!!! Needless to say i dont leave my kids with her alone. I have had lots of problems from the way i was brought up in this mindset and relate so much to what libby an others like her have to say.

  • jemand

    boomSLANG and Shadowspring…I tend to think this isn't really the post for a theological debate. But I started considering these issues a lot differently when I considered that the victim, in these cases, is losing forever, the ability to change, to grow, to either build or reject a relationship with "God." To allow a system of physics which preferentially treats the one with physical dominance is to ignore the freedom of choice of the other. And that just cannot be avoided.So. Just from the setup of the world, if anyone was actually involved in organizing it, that being was more interested in the "change of heart/mind" of the powerful, the ones in "charge" by just grabbing current physical power, than the ones who are weak and powerless. Which, if you believe in such a setup… well, it says interesting things about the priorities of such a being.But. Hannah gets NO do-overs. None. All her ability to think, to try again, her "second chances" they are all GONE. FOREVER.That is what this post is about. And that is what I think the comments should focus on.The loss involved, for always, in just a 13 year old… losing her entire future, everything she could ever think, everything she could ever do, every retry, every second chance, gone for ever and always….it is horrible. A price we should never pay. Nothing is worth that price.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    @ jemand,You make a lot of good points, as well as underscore the point I was making: In certain spheres of thought, the abuser gets more consideration than the victim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02548443939400031608 Glen

    @shadowspring: "I categorically reject the idea that if there is a god he/she is morally obligated to destroy all suffering along with the people/things that create suffering in this world."There's a quote quite applicable to this: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both willing and able? Whence then is evil?"

  • http://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/ Retha

    If you own a house, and rent it out, are you unwilling or unable to enter the house without the tenants permission? Or did you just give authority to the tenant for the duration of the lease?Suppose God owns the world, but temporarily gave authority to us, and could deal justly with the very temporary situation (temporary, in light of eternity) of both the victim whose problems He can solve, and the oppressor. Suppose that temporarily giving humans chances to decide would do some good, after which he will indeed solve it. Would such a God be malevolent or unable to help, because this God also has another goal boomslang's black and white thinking cannot fathom?

  • Retha

    Boomslang, most of us find it more usefull to spread the word here about the Pearl book (and I, on one of my other blogs, on people who have reason to suspect abuse to tell authorities) than to tell what you think of any God or gods.

  • http://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/ Retha

    Sorry for posting three times in a row. "another goal boomslang's black and white thinking cannot fathom"should have been: "another goal Glen's black and white thinking cannot fathom."Like a tot who thinks "if Mummy say I can't have sweets now, she must be unable to give sweets or evil to prevent the pleasant" Glen could be leaving out other possibilities.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "If you own a house, and rent it out, are you unwilling or unable to enter the house without the tenants permission?" ~ RethaThis is tangential to the topic, but since you addressed me personally, my answer is this: It depends on the circumstances. If I own a house and rent it out to someone whom I later find out is luring children into the house and molesting them, *I will break any previous agreement, and without my tenant's permission/knowledge, I will do my moral duty and bust into that house(or arrange for the house to be raided by police)."Suppose that temporarily giving humans chances to decide would do some good, after which he will indeed solve it."As others have pointed out, Hanna's chance to decide was removed. If "God" is okay with allowing certain people's choice be removed by allowing them to be brutally killed, then, again, I'm simply asking why not remove the jerks who made a choice to beat a child to death? I don't think it's an unreasonable question/solution. "Would such a God be malevolent or unable to help, because this God also has another goal boomslang's black and white thinking cannot fathom?"My thinking isn't "black and white". If my thinking was "black and white", I wouldn't be willing to break my own rules, even if it meant saving a life. See here*, above.Secondly, in the case that there is a God whose "goal" it is to let evil run rampant because of "free will", I provided an example of how this God can get its "goal" met without standing by and having to watch children be treated, and even killed, in despicable ways.(assuming watching this sort of thing actually bothers him/her).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02548443939400031608 Glen

    @Retha: Your argument dances around the issue. Such a god as you suggest is indeed unwilling to solve the issue, and is allowing suffering to continue. To use an example, it's like if I give a couple of kids lighters and watch them burn themselves, saying I'll teach them about fire safety after they end up in the hospital. So sorry you think my thinking is black and white, it might be more colorful from outside your box. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    @ Retha,I didn't see the correction you made until after I had written and published my previous response. 'Sorry. In any case, you say….. "Like a tot who thinks 'if Mummy say I can't have sweets now, she must be unable to give sweets or evil to prevent the pleasant' Glen could be leaving out other possibilities."I hope it's no problem that I find your analogy inapt.First and foremost, we can certainly fathom why "Mummy" is able, but unwilling, to give her kid sweets. We can sympathize with and agree that her reasons are actually good and beneficial. Whereas, you suggest that "God" has reasons( a "goal") that I/we "cannot fathom". If that is the case, then I have no clue if that goal is something that will actually benefit me and my fellow human beings, or not. 'Best as I can tell, people spanking children to death doesn't appear to be a benefit to anyone. But if it could be proven so, I might change my mind about "God". In the mean time, there is not one scrap of demonstrable evidence that Hannah died for a "greater good", or that she is in a "better place".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12284971176688746388 Andrew G.

    There are all sorts of other examples of evils that are impossible to justify.The nematode worm O. volvulus is an obligate human parasite; it doesn't breed anywhere except inside human hosts, which it infests by means of a fly which acts as secondary host. The breeding of new worms has the side effect of blinding the human host; this is preventable only with modern drugs. This condition is called "river blindness" (since the flies need clean water for their larvae), and it has affected countless millions of people throughout history.That's pretty bad, but there's worse: even if you believe that god doesn't interfere out of respect for people's freedom, then what about medical conditions that directly abrogate the victim's free will. Perhaps the most famous example is that of a man, with no previous history of sexual misconduct, who became a child molester as a result of a brain tumor. How can a believer in a benevolent god account for that?

  • Disillusioned Ex-homeschooler

    There's a good reason the problem of evil has been a topic of theological scrutiny for millennia. For some it is a satisfactory illustration that the concept of an omnipotent, loving God not only false but ridiculous. Others believe they experience God, and their experience is compelling enough that they can live in faith and tolerate the cognitive dissonance caused by having no satisfactory answer to problem of evil. If you're such a person, ceasing to believe in God because of the problem of evil will cause you just as much cognitive dissonance as believing in God despite it. Anyway, it's perfectly understandable to view belief in a good God as naive stupidity, but hammering that view home is unlikely (for better or worse) to persuade the thoughtful Christian that God doesn't exist. S/he has likely thought about the problem of evil, and has come to the conclusion that living with the inconsistency is the path that is truest to him/herself. And hey, maybe Emerson was right when he said a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.Anyway, despite the different opinions expressed here, I know that we all share in common dismay and horror at Hana's death. I think we can work from this common ground–simple human decency–to speak out against contributing factors to her abuse, and I appreciate that Libby has done that. Rest in peace, you poor little girl.

  • http://skjaere.livejournal.com/ skjaere

    This is utterly horrifying. What church do these people go to? I just emailed my mom, who works in a church library, to make sure they *do not* carry this book, and if they do, to get rid of it immediately.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02548443939400031608 Glen

    @Disillusioned: You bring up good points, but if one is to accept these things as absolutes, that excludes any sort of debate. I try to bring up points I find of interest with the humble hope it might inspire thought from an angle previously unconsidered. It's not entirely an impossible hope, as I personally made several changes in worldview thanks in part to folks who took time to discuss things I had never really considered in-depth. :) And of course, I don't think anyone ever doubted sympathy for Hana or appreciation for Libby's coverage of the issue.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12284971176688746388 Andrew G.

    It's not why I'm an atheist, but the problem of evil is one of the most commonly given reasons for deconversion from Christianity.Rationalizing away the problem of evil often leads into extremely dangerous territory, such as the fetishization of suffering ("God allows people to suffer; therefore suffering must be good"), and the just-world fallacy ("People suffer because they deserved it"). These positions feed on themselves and must be opposed actively at all times, especially the just-world fallacy which is prevalent in right-wing politics.

  • africaturtle

    this comment section is is so rich with discussion. Thanks to all of you who are sharing your thoughts on the issues of God/evil….i'm really learning a lot. And while it seems that some of you would prefer we just stick to the topic at hand (which makes me sick and really sad, as does every story of child abuse i hear about) I'm really learning a lot from the ensuing discussion (i like being challenged on what i believe and am at a cross-roads in my understanding of my Christian faith). It also seems to be the nature of blogs/forums that one discussion lead to another so i'm not really bothered by it. And i just want to say again that I really like this blog. I do not comment a lot ( and usually "annon" b/c it's faster and i tend to be more active at NLQ) but i really get a lot out of your posts, Libby Anne. keep it up!oh, and i definitely agree that the harm done is a mixture of responsibility (parents/"expert")and i do agree that the pearls are not the only ones who hold this notion of kids needing evil trained out of them and that the parents every whim is "law". I used these methods for a couple of years with my first and second kids (i have 4) and i really regret it. too bad you can't erase time. I also know that when you've gotten in the habit of "dominating" or "punishing" …it's very hard to get out of it. It is frustrating and trying to parent in a different way. Also my parents look down on me for not spanking my kids and blame a lot of their "acting" out on that… the truth is (and i know) that most of their "bad" behavious is actually due to all of the conflict they've had to live through from my husbands violent/angry episodes. It's so easy to think there is one "formula" that will take care of all your "problems" …and then you read stories like this :(p.s. if any of you have valuable links to non-violent parenting for young kids (2-6 yrs) could you please post? I feel like a lot of the techniques offered (that i've come across) are for older kids (that can discuss well) or work good if you only have 1 little kid to deal with…not 4! thanks for any insight you might share.

  • Exrelayman

    @africaturtle,I enjoyed your comment. As to contemplating your Christian faith, this atheist merely recommends (if you truly desire to know) learning what is known about the origins of the Bible. A start for free on the internet might commence with yahoo searches for the following: 'mcdonald homer mark', 'new testament old testament midrash', 'forgery in christianity', 'pagan origins of the christ myth'. Then click on the top search result.I also searched 'non violent parenting' from your comment and found some interesting results, including a book referral from Amazon, which if you click on has other books cited near the bottom. I like the fact that readers of the books give little ratings reports to help guide you in any purchasing decisions.I have refrained from joining in the Christian/atheist argumentation out of respect for the tragedy of the poor girl in the original post and out of respect to the desire of Libby Ann to focus on this topic. I do note that what I have seen so far is that atheists have brought forth merely ideas, while theists have engaged in mild ad hominem (militant atheist, black and white thinker, you seem to hate me). My apologies to Libby Ann and to the poor victim of this post for feeling the need to point this divergent fact out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    @africaturtle,Hi, there. It's refreshing to hear a lurker say that they are learning a lot from reading these types of exchanges, even though, and sometimes, even especially, when they veer off topic. That said, I'm not one of those who necessarily does "prefer" we stay on topic; I'm merely trying to keep within the rules that the blog-owner/operator(Libby Anne) has set. She has expressed in the past that we stay on the topic at hand as much as possible.One last thing, you say…."It's so easy to think there is one 'formula' that will take care of all your 'problems' …and then you read stories like this"Since the evidence is all around us that believers, like non-believers, encounter their fair share of problems, this tells me that the likelihood of there being an invisible, "Divine" being who guides certain people in their daily routines, is practically nil. On the other hand, I can see how/why believing that such a being exists and is sharing in one's frustration of dealing with one's problems makes those problems easier to deal with. This is one of the things I miss about being a Christian. Unfortunately, I cannot simply will myself to believe that which I find unbelievable. You can't "unring" a bell.

  • http://www.quiveringdaughters.com Hillary

    RIP Hannah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Hey everyone: First, sorry that I seemed to imply that the Pearls only are to blame, and not parents who do this sort of thing too. The parents who adopt the Pearls' teachings are definitely at fault for accepting such crap, and parents like the Schatzes who allow the Pearls teachings to deaden their parental safety checks or like the Williams who see rebellion in every infraction and allow the Pearl methods to take them to the extremes they went to are most definitely to blame as well. What irks me, though, is when people say that the problem is not the Pearls' teachings but rather just a few bad parents because only bad parents could abuse. This isn't true – the Pearls tell decent parents to do things most would consider abuse in the name of love for their children. It also bothers me when people act like the Pearls have no responsibility in this at all. Next, I've appreciated that those of you discussing the problem of evil have kept the discussion fairly civil – I have no problem with discussions like this here, but I'd prefer that they not turn into 100+ post threads that dissolve into "no, you're wrong" "no, YOU'RE wrong!" contests. :-) I personally think the problem of evil is a weird one. I agree it is a problem, and I do think it is an important flaw in Christianity. However, it didn't play any part at all in my deconversion, and I find that convinced Christians seem very able find ways to explain the problem away. And really, theologians have been working on explaining the problem of evil for millenia, and we still have Christianity, so this shouldn't be surprising. So while I do find the problem of evil convincing, I know I wouldn't have as a convinced Christian (because of all of the explaining away I had in my back pocket, explanations I now see as extremely inadequate), so if I'm explaining to a Christian why I'm an atheist I generally don't bring this issue up at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00180993672268077454 JW

    Did these people use Hanna as a science project to see if their form of discipline would work and then get off on the power trip of it?poor girl!!! This is one of those stories where I just want to hold the girl and keep her away the trash of society who use people as a guinea pig.

  • Exrelayman

    @JWNo, Hanna was not a guinea pig. That would imply that the parents were testing, and therefore open to revising their ideas based upon test results. Sadly, the parents, and the Pearls, have not any least doubt that what they are doing is scriptural and correct. Absolute certainty is the enemy of learning where you might be mistaken. That is why efforts like Libby Ann's to expose this evil are valuable, as otherwise they encounter no opposition and ensnare more believers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "No, Hanna was not a guinea pig. That would imply that the parents were testing, and therefore open to revising their ideas based upon test results" ~ ExrelaymanOutstanding observation."Sadly, the parents, and the Pearls, have not any least doubt that what they are doing is scriptural and correct."Hence, one of the down-sides of using one's doctrinal beliefs as a moral and/or parenting compass. "Absolute certainty is the enemy of learning where you might be mistaken."Yes, and as a former believer who was once absolutely certain, I can now, as a non-believer, know what is most likely true(or not true), without being absolutely certain. This adage by George Iles comes to mind…"Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom"

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0154323017c1970c Verity3

    @africaturtle,You might be interested in the following blog: http://respectfulchristianparenting.blogspot.com/I got a lot out of "Grace-Based Parenting" by Tim Kimmel. Other books I have not yet read, but want to, include:Families Where Grace Is in Place – Jeff VanVonderenThe Five Love Languages of Children – Gary D. ChapmanHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber

  • herewegokids7

    Here's one for thoughtful perusal: "When a child is only occasionally rebellious, even in a single area, you can be sure that you have a rebellious child. Don’t be deceived by the fact that they are mostly obedient. There are many areas wherein a child finds it convenient to obey. Out of pure selfishness a child may decide to give up his own will, possibly to avoid the hassle that is sure to follow. But when an issue comes along that is meaningful to him, he may then manifest his rebellion. A child who obeys 9 times out of 10 is not just 10% rebellious. He is a 100% rebel who expresses his rebellion 10% of the time. Rebellion itself is a state of mind, not an event. It is a condition of heart, not a condition of circumstance. If a child loses his temper it is because he had one to lose. When children burst into anger they are just dumping the load they regularly carry. We want to treat the cause not the symptom. A switch may treat the immediate symptom, but unless it is combined with effective training, it will not treat the source problem—the child’s heart." Pearl addresses concerns about a child who refuses to sit in the car seat joyfully. This kind of a standard for small children is inexcusably stifling and ridiculous, mainly b/c we don't hold ourselves to it. NO ONE is compliant 100 percent of the time. I'm lucky if it's 10 percent with me and God.

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