Debi Pearl is not very nice

My regular readers will know that I am not a fan of the Pearls. Michael and Debi Pearl run No Greater Joy ministries and are best known for their child rearing manual, To Train Up A Child, but have also written numerous other books including extremely patriarchal marriage advice literature. One thing that has struck me more and more lately is how very not nice Debi Pearl is in so much of her writing. Here is an excerpt, for example, from an article she wrote recently called Rats:

I went down into the hole in which they live, breed, fight, exist. I had been there before, not to this particular hole but holes so similar they all run together in my mind. A quick check told me the child would be born before morning. The business of the moment caught and held my attention until I could see the head crowning. For an instant time stood still and I was forcefully reminded of eternity. A sob rushed over me before I could get control; another soul was breaking forth into eternity. Another living being to spend eternity honoring the God of all or suffering in a burning hell.

As the impact hit me, my soul cried within, a cry that has echoed down through time as Job, Jeremiah, and Matthew proclaimed, each in his own way, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” What chance had he of knowing eternal things when all around the rats that call themselves humanity breed, fight and die? The fog of despair began to dissipate as the baby moved down the birth canal. As my hands reached forth I felt a stir of pure longing as prayer poured forth from my soul. “Oh God, take this child for thine own. Cause this child to know you, to honor you, cause his life to show your mercy and grace.” And as I wrapped the baby and put him to the breast of the young girl that was now a mother, God spoke to me, “Your job has only just begun. Pray, seek to minister, hold them until they know you care, then tell them I care.” I took peace in knowing there was hope. But there are so many . . .

Perhaps it is my age that causes me to ponder and then rejoice or weep. When someone comes rejoicing with the news the so and so family just had their tenth child I can only pretend I don’t see a sad future. My mind registers the oldest rebellious daughter who is destined for the hole. I wonder if I will be helping her with her first welfare baby. The second child is a son, overweight and moody. What kind of dad will he make? What kind of sons will he raise? The third, who knows which way she will go, she hasn’t reached the age of decision yet. The three small children are untrained and are sadly lacking self-discipline, just like their older counterparts. How many families are right where this family is, right now? More than I care to acknowledge. Daddy is always gone, trying to make a living, Mom is always sick or tired, so the children are left to themselves. Do they think the Proverbs didn’t have the truth when it says, “. . . but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame”? It takes more than the birth to make a Saint. It takes a new birth.

“The rats that call themselves humanity”? Really?

“The hole”? Is that her way of referring to someone’s house, or what?

“First welfare baby”? So if a daughter is “rebellious” we can automatically assume she’ll end up on welfare?

Also, what is with pointing out that the second child is “overweight”?

So much of what Debi Pearl writes drips with condescension.

And to be perfectly honest, if you’re an ordinary family trying to follow Debi’s advice in Created To Be His Helpmeet, it’s almost impossible for daddy not to be gone trying to make a living, or for mom not to be always sick or tired, or for the children to not be “left to themselves” raising each other. After all, following Debi’s advice means raising a family on one income and trusting God to time the pregnancies. Debi should show more understanding for those in the very situations her beliefs help set up. But then, that would require her to be nice.

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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.

  • mostlylurking

    Such naked contempt for fellow human beings. Christian love indeed.

  • yulaffin

    What a wonderful testimony for Christ. /sarcasm

  • Sierra

    I wish I could say that line of thinking was unfamiliar, but it’s just more blunt than I’ve heard it from other fundamentalist Christians. It reminds me, actually, of the way fundamentalists approach overseas mission work, too. Near-naked condescension. No empathy other than a pious pity for the “unsaved.”

  • Carol

    Where does this lady think she is, 18th century London? What drivel, I’m sure she thinks she sounds profound but she actually sounds like the creepy mother from Carrie. Dirty Pillows, that’s you, Debi Pearl.

    • Noelle

      It does kind of remind me of a Dickens novel.

  • Tracey

    I’m confused about why these families would even know about her in the first place. If they know her, wouldn’t they belong to her ministry? Is that what she really thinks about the people who go to her church? And if they go to her church, they’re just following church mandates to overpopulate the earth, so why is she so contemptuous? Don’t the fundies believe the only use for a woman is non-stop baby-making?

    Also, she contradicts herself; she talks about placing the baby in the arms of its young mother…who also has a teenage daughter. How is this possible? Clearly she’s Lying for Jesus about the whole thing.

    • Carol

      Yeah, glad it wasn’t just me, I couldn’t quite follow along with the timeline either. The young girl who is now a mother is on her 10th child? Aren’t they supposed to be having this many babies? I thought babies were always a blessing. Maybe she was combining families for “literary” purposes. Maybe she was high when she wrote it. Good thing she got a “shame” sentence in before she completely went off the deep end.

      • Tracey

        “Maybe she was high when she wrote it.”

        High on self-righteous hatred, most likely. The whole tale just comes off as fictional “I know people who…” stuff, as in “I know women who have had 73 abortions each!” and “I know a family whose kindergartener was publically whipped and then thrown in jail for praying before lunch!”

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Does HER church believe in “overpopulating the earth though?” She only has 5 kids which, yeah, is way over the average but certainly fewer than she probably would have if she were following her own advice about being available for sex on demand AND not using any birth control. (Unless they’re just not a very sexual couple, and she certainly seems to imply otherwise a lot.) Do they believe in limiting family size?

      And, yeah, everything she wrote sounds like mean-spirited Ann Coulter crap wrapped up in religious language.

      • Liberated Liberal

        Not that I’m even remotely defending this crazy woman, but it’s possible that either she or her husband aren’t fertile anymore. It happens, so perhaps she’s really not living contradictorily to her beliefs in this case. Maybe :)

  • Amethyst

    Was this recently written or recently featured/reposted? I’m almost positive I remember this article from the late ’90s. Or maybe it’s just Debi’s “I’m perfect, everyone else is scum” attitude that sounds so familiar. :/

  • Rosie

    Maybe she’s trying to fight off the suicidal depression that is the almost-inevitable result of realizing that your *deity* is not very nice. Looks to me like Debi’s deity is even more of an abusive and arbitrary jerk than mine was.

  • jen

    What a nasty person she is.

  • Tonya Richard

    Even when I believed all this crap, I thought the Pearls were mean, cruel people. This is how they talk about everyone. I rejected To Train Up a Child when I read it. I did believe in spare the rod, spoil the child then, but the Pearl’s form of discipline just struck me as downright abusive. When I picture Debi Pearl, I picture a haggard old witch.

  • Joy

    Seems like it doesn’t take much of a push to get from there to Andrea Yates.

  • shadowspring

    She is an arrogant, cruel, cold-hearted bitch. If her religion turns out to have any merit (I don’t believe in hell) surely hell is reserved for people like her. On the one hand, she is the one encouraging people to senselessly, prolifically procreate- then she criticizes them for not having time to one-on-one lovingly raise their never-ending brood. Also, it is following her abusive child “training” techniques that produces insecure, angry, unprepared for life people- the very people she speaks of with derision. May all her words come back on her, and may she meet with the same “compassion” she dishes out in her time of need.

    • Ahab

      You took the words out of my mouth. The traits that Pearl condemns in others are all logical consequences of the lifestyle she promotes. Why is she criticizing people for practicing what she preaches?

  • shadowspring
  • The Other Weirdo

    I’m new here and all, but WTH did I just read? Who talks(writes?) likes that? No, strike that. Who thinks like that?

    • Libby Anne

      Michael and Debi Pearl are the fundamentalist authors of To Train Up A Child, a child discipline manual that instructs parents that they must “break their children’s wills” or their children will be ruined. My parents – along with many others in the Christian homeschool movement – hold up the Pearls as the golden standard on child training.

  • smrnda

    Every time she gets a chance, she uses whatever imagery is at her disposal to make people sound absolutely vile and disgusting. I wonder how much she would like to get the same treatment?

    As for humanity being rats, folks like the Pearls and other fundamentalists definitely are mean and hostile vermin, but at least people who oppose them are typically decent enough to attack their ideas and not take a swipe at someone’s *weight* of all things. The whole ‘what kind of a Dad will the boy make’ comment was a bit nauseating. I mean, kids tend to be more emotional and easily upset than adults. I wouldn’t freak out because some 6 year old boy was crying over his boo boo and wonder if he’d make an adequate father later on. Her talk of ‘self-discipline’ reminds me of how fundamentalists see any kind of fun, amusement, or just welcoming of normal emotions to be somehow lacking in ‘discipline.’

  • mostlylurking

    I’ve only read exerts from TTUAC, but what I’ve read made me recoil in disgust. I do not often get nausea from reading, but that did it. They advocate whipping six months old infants for crying out loud!

    It also struck me as misogynistic, a woman’s natural instincts for protection and caring for her newborn and infant child is held up as suspect and even damaging. Blech.

    • smrnda

      These misogynistic creeps think anything ‘feminine’ (except maybe submissiveness) is bad. What’s good are good ‘masculine’ virtues like an obsession with domination, power, control, and the use of physical force.

  • AztecQueen2000

    Two-year-olds have temper tantrums because they’re tired, hungry, overstimulated, frustrated, or mad, and they don’t have the vocabulary to express themselves. Not because they are rebellious, evil creatures destined to become 14-year-old welfare moms. (I read the article and the comments that followed. I’m not sure which was more horrifying–that she could write this, or that people agree with her.)

  • lucrezaborgia

    For someone who hates abortion so much as Debbi does, this sounds exactly like something a trashy person would say when wondering why the mother had not picked abortion.

  • Comrade Svilova

    I completely agree with the overall point of comments here, but it bothers me to see misogynistic language like ‘bitch’ and ‘haggard witch’ since that doesn’t address the enormous problems with the Pearl’s philosophy, but just deploys gendered slurs.

    • Noelle

      There need to be more gender-neutral derogatory names.

  • Corinn

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure “the hole” means jail.

    • Lindsay

      I thought it meant hell, but I had a really hard time figuring out what she was talking about in general. She’s a terrible writer, in addition to all her other, more serious, problems.

  • Judy L.

    I went to the original piece on the Pearl’s site, and while her narrative is really hard to follow (I can only assume that Debi Pearl is a midwife or nurse who attends home births and writes formless, free-verse prose that the voices in her head dictate to her in her spare time?), a truly revealing are her statements that “children from birth are empty vessels” and that it’s a parent’s responsibility to teach them to fear God and deny their desires for what the world has to offer. Children aren’t born as empty vessels; they come into the world with biological blueprints and internal instructions that make their physical, cognitive, and linguistic development happen. Telling a child that they must fear and love God and their parents creates a cognitive dissonance that can only damage a child, even if that child is smart enough and strong enough to reject such an absurd requirement; without trust there is no love, and there can be no trust when there is fear. And on top of all of that abuse, the Pearl’s goal is to make a child embrace ignorance of the real world and instead willingly dedicate herself to the absolute nonsense of religion and Christian Patriarchy.

    Debi Pearl has clearly internalized the messages of misogynistic Christianity, and the only way she can deal with her own self-hatred is to claim salvation for herself and deride all those who refuse to hate themselves or their children, and who don’t or won’t live in fear of God or of the world.

    When Debi says “hole”, I think she’s referring to “the world” itself, and the homes and communities of those who live in “the world”/are destined for hell, rather than the magical realm of Christian salvation in which Debi and her ilk reside and whip their children to the greater glory of their God, which gets them a first class ticket to heaven, their disembodied souls singing praise for all eternity and getting their rocks off by looking down at all the unsaved souls being tortured in hell.

    The Pearls regard children as property, no better than dogs (and they don’t respect dogs either), except that they have souls that need to be kept out of the hands of the devil. It really is time that people stopped confusing having respect for someone’s right to their beliefs and respect for the beliefs themselves and stand up and call out the Pearls for what they really are: the Pearls are sociopaths. They encourage people to physically and psychologically abuse their children while claiming that it isn’t abuse. Both secular people and religious people who believe in love and social justice need to be more vocal in their denouncing of Christian Patriarchy and the religious abuse of children.

    And yes, misogynistic terms used to deride Mrs. Pearl have no place here, but let’s not let that derail the discussion of the real issues: Debi Pearl is a mealymouthed, bigoted religious zealot who promotes the religious abuse of children to families who cannot possibly live up to her high standards for perfectly subjugated children and perfectly submissive wives. She also comes across in her stream-of-consciousness writing as completely bat-shit crazy.

    • Mostlylurking

      Like! So much like!

    • Lindsay

      Yeah, people sometimes talk about abusive parents treating their children “like dogs”, but … anyone who treats a dog like the Pearls, or James Dobson, advocate treating children (and dogs) is evil.

  • Scotlyn

    Is there any meaningul distinction between the Pearl’s “training” methods and purpose, and actual torture?

    • Judy L.

      The only meaningful distinction is that usually in cases of torture, the person being tortured isn’t required to pretend to be happy and appreciative of the torture or profess their love for the torturers and join them the next morning at the breakfast table.

      It’s appalling that in 2012, there is no protection for children against casual abuse. Laws that protect parents’ right to hit their children so long as it doesn’t leave permanent marks or internal damage, and that don’t respect that children have the right to not be assaulted by the adults in their lives, is appalling.

  • Matt

    Shorter Debi Pearl: “And by rats, I mean n**gers, amirite?”

    Quite a foul concoction she’s brewing up there – one part Lee Atwater, one part Revelations…

  • Jennifer

    I don’t think she’s wicked for calling the son overweight, and she had some valid points, but the terms “holes” and “rats” are pretty nasty.

  • Leonora F

    “Their second child is overweight and moody”. Oh well then, it’s fair to write him off as someone whose birth ought to be lamented, isn’t it?

  • Not “Normal”!!!

    Just more false religious teaching! Jesus said, “Love One Another”!

    What part of Love don’t they understand???

  • Lilly

    You would think this is written by someone who is pro-choice. Apparently only children who will be micro-managed into heaven have worth enough to be born. A moody, overweight boy has no worth. A rebellious girl (and who knows what that means – did she reject fundamentalism?) has no worth and is destined for the rat hole (did she actually mean hell?). And three small children who lack self-discipline, already written off with the rats. How superior and condescending.