Cloistered Fruit (Not) An Open Letter to the Pearls

by Samantha cross posted from her blog Defeating The Dragons

So, a friend of mine sent me this post by Michael and Debi Pearl the other day. I encourage you to go read it, just so that you have some context for the following rant and can follow along. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s wrong with this article, and I’m just going to unload both barrels here. Also, in case I get something wrong, because that is totally possible. I’m ranting, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want clarity or cogency or accuracy. If you think that I’ve blown something out of proportion, and you would like to point out a subtlety or nuance, feel free. Or, you can get up here on my soapbox and rant with me. That’s cool, too.

Every family emits its own light. After viewing a family for just five seconds, I know so much about them. After being introduced to each member of the family, they are an open book.

This is from Michael, and all I have to say is No. Just– no. Five seconds? Really? Everyone is just an open book to you? I shouldn’t be shocked anymore at the unbelievable arrogance and condescension Michael Pearl emits, but somehow, every time, it’s like someone slapped me in the face with a fish. Yes, some people are perceptive, and are capable of accurate first impressions– but this claim goes right along with Micheal’s exalted view of himself as a self-proclaimed “prophet.”

The man was about fifty, certainly not a looker.

Now we’re in one of Debi’s sections, and all this does is remind me of Debi’s rather extensive story about the “one ugly hillbilly” woman in Created to be his Help Meet. This observation has absolutely no bearing on the story she’s about to relate– except as possibly to judge the “Old Dude” (what a demeaning way to refer to someone) for not conforming to her physical standards, and to judge the young woman who appears later for having an emotional connection with someone who isn’t a “looker.” There’s no logical explanation for this– it’s just more of Debi’s self-righteous judgment spilling out of her. Both Michael and Debi have demonstrated, throughout the sum total of their careers, an astonishing lack of compassion and simple human empathy.

Right here, at our church, among all these righteous families! I stood amazed at the audacity of the human race.

In other words, how dare people with actual real-life problems dare show themselves in our church! How dare someone who doesn’t conform to our little universe of perfection! How dare you come in here, and violate our incomprehensibly narrow view of the world!

I tried to ask the girl questions to ascertain the cause of this odd arrangement, but he answered as if the questions were directed to him, and the young lady deferred to him as if he were her voice of conscience. I thought that unless her father had truly been abusive, she should return to her family, but I was making no progress engaging her to consider her options.

Back to Michael. This is where I agree with him– this interaction shows that something about their relationship is off. The married man (I refuse to refer to him as “Old Dude”) is forbidding this young woman to even speak, and that seems to be something that is the standard for them. Either because of the married man in this situation, or because of her abusive home, she’s been silenced. She’s literally voiceless here. But this is the only time anyone even mentions this. It stands out to them as a little odd, but not that odd. Because women are expected to let men “lead.” If you’re going to be a “good Christian woman,” silence is expressly demanded by people like the Pearls. So it’s only a little weird, instead of the gigantic flaming red flag it should have been.

And this is one of the places where Michael builds on a long-standing understanding in these types of circles, and you can see it in the words “truly abusive.” This is so incredibly loaded. Because, to Michael, who endorses extreme physical punishment that borders on the sociopathic, “true abuse” would have to be on the level of breaking bones before he was convinced. Emotional and psychological trauma– don’t even exist. Because the ramifications of emotional abuse are just “bitterness” and “un-forgiveness” to the Pearls. Michael would voluntarily send an adult woman back into an abusive situation in order for her to be “under her father’s protection” than ever admit that a “Christian father” is capable of abusing his children. Psychological trauma– just spiritual and heart issues. And her “options”? This girl doesn’t have options. She’s not even allowed to speak for herself– which could indicate that she’s being manipulated into believing she doesn’t have options. When a woman can’t even talk how can she make an actual decision?

At this point in the story, Debi has burst in with an unexplained prophecy, declaring that she’d heard from God, and was speaking with his authority. She gives no context, and disappears as quickly as she came. Then, she sits down the woman for a talk. She does seem to give the married couple and the abused woman some benefit of the doubt– at first.

Undoubtedly his relationship with his wife was already barren before the girl came along, but the old wife had now become the second woman.

What the. Crap on a cracker. Debi– seriously?! You hear this from God, too? A voice come booming out of heaven to tell you that their marriage was “undoubtedly barren”? Which, if you’ve read Debi’s book is without exception always the woman’s fault. If this married man is developing a emotionally intimate connection, it’s obviously because his wife doesn’t smile enough, or doesn’t know how to put her makeup on. Clearly.

I had to try to help Little Miss see the error of her ways.

To most young brides the husband appears clumsy and unfeeling. But as the wife continues to obey and reverence her young husband, he will grow in appreciation for her soul, and in time learn to care for her emotional and spiritual needs.

I explained to Little Miss that having even a small part of this “mysterious relationship” with another woman’s husband, especially in her own home, in front of her, is exceedingly cruel and evil.

Already touching her spirit, I knew what the answer would be, but I wanted the girl to understand she was indeed not innocent.

If there was ever going to be any change to this situation then she had to understand the full ugliness of her actions, so I drove home how depraved and self-centered she was to do such a thing as to interfere with the sacredness of marriage.

Being cloistered might have been bad for her, but now she was party to damaging the sacred.

Girlie, it will come to you soon enough, and you will need a place to flee. Don’t come here. The invitation for a place to stay is closed. I would not trust a ‘regret’ girl around this ministry.”

This should speak for itself.

Debi doesn’t care about the abuse this woman has experienced. It doesn’t even matter– it only enters as a “but” statement. The fact that the married man in this situation talks about being “highly skilled in the art of caressing souls” straight to Micheal’s face doesn’t matter. They’re not even capable of picking up on the GIGANTIC BILLBOARD-SIZED RED FLAGS that should tell them that the man in this situation is taking advantage of a tender, fragile, desperate and abused young woman.

Because it’s the wife’s fault for not reverencing her husband, or not fulfilling him, or not having sex with him enough, or not keeping herself pretty enough. And then it’s the abused woman’s fault. Her fragility, the fact that this married man deliberately chose a woman sheltered enough to not understand exactly how he was going to “caress her soul.” He’s vulnerable because of his wife, and the abused woman is preying on his vulnerability. No, he’s not emotionally manipulative, or taking advantage of this situation at all. It’s all the woman’s fault, because being abused by her parents and then manipulated by another man (which she’s probably been taught since infancy is a legitimate authority over her, simply because he’s a man) doesn’t make a lick of difference.

And then comes the hammer. Debi tells her that she will absolutely not help an abused woman when this woman eventually realizes that she traded the frying pan for the fire. Because she’s responsible for the married man manipulating her. She’s cruel, evil, depraved, and self-centered. She’s not hurting, she’s not lost, she’s not desperate for someone to realize that she’s a person, and that she needs help.

Michael and Debi Pearl– YOU are cruel, evil, depraved, and self-centered. You’ve been blinded by the power you’ve wrested from innocent people by being false prophets. You are completely and desperately lacking of any form of common sense or sound judgment.

The article goes on (with Michael inserting an insignificant caveat about how holy and righteous he was, and how men should stay away from women, because, well, women will seduce them away from God), but the story is over. They switch into analysis mode, and I just . . . can’t.

If you are a young woman in a cloistered situation, beware of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Staying in the frying pan is much to be preferred, for you can always jump when a clean alternative shows itself.

Samantha hits her head on her desk repeatedly at the sheer idiocy and ignorance.

Do they never even stop and listen to themselves? Are they so blind to reality that they’re incapable of understanding how ridiculous a statement like this is? When you’ve grown up in a “cloistered” home– by their definition, a family so sheltered they can’t tell “right from wrong,” how the hell do you think an infantalized woman (or man, for that matter) is capable of being aware of the difference between “clean” and supposedly “unclean” alternatives? They’ve been purposely and deliberately shielded from having that kind of power.

Micheal and Debi Pearl are dangerous.

People listen to them, people respect them, people make excuses for them when their teachings are responsible for the slaughter of innocent children. Their loyal followers say that reactions like mine are exaggerated, that I’m just not giving the benefit of the doubt. If I’d really read all of their books, if I’d actually paid attention to what they advocate, I’d be fine with them. I’m just not understanding their true message, which is obviously of love and directly from God.

No.

I have read their books– I’ve read every single last one of their books multiple times. I idolized them as a child. They were just so brazenly honest, so overwhelmingly clear– how could Michael be anything but a prophet sent from God to teach the fundamentalists how to raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

But as I got older, I started realizing, with a mounting horror, just how clearly evil their teachings are. What they advocate fosters and nurtures abusive homes. They explicitly encourage women to stay with physically abusive husbands and utterly dismiss the existence of marital rape and don’t even acknowledge that men emotionally and verbally abuse their wives.

Debi repeatedly tells women that if their husbands are abusing them, it’s clearly their fault. They’re just not reverencing their husbands enough. Reverence your husband, and he won’t yell. Reverence your husband, and he won’t beat you. Reverence your husband, and ignore the fact that he’s raping you when you don’t want to have sex– because you’re not even allowed to say no. If you say no, he’ll just go sleep with someone else.

And Michael– spank your child until he obeys. Spank your child with an ever-increasing-in-size pipe until he instantaneously submits to your every uttered command. Spank your children until they are cowed. Spank your children until they would never even think of disobeying you. Because that’s what’s going to teach them about how to obey God.

The only language the Pearls are capable of speaking is a language of violence and abuse.

Comments open below

Read everything by Samantha!

Samantha grew up in the homeschool, patriarchy, quiverful, and fundamentalist movements, and experienced first-hand the terror and manipulation of spiritual abuse. She is now married to an amazing, gentle man who doesn’t really get what happened to her but loves her anyway. With him by her side and the strength of God’s promises, she is slowly healing.

Samantha blogs at Defeating The Dragons and is a member of The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • wanderer

    I think that girl’s response was completely appropriate to Debi. “Are you done? Cause I’m leaving now.” GOOD ON HER.
    Why should she let a stranger barge into her life and beat her relentlessly over the head, clearly trying to get this girl to HATE herself.
    Clearly it was an unhealthy relationship. But Debi apparently was not about to actually care about that girl. She was hateful. And even worse, she was hateful and telling everyone that she was being loving.
    I also adore the list of things they “learned” from the situation. The list was actually not what they learned, but what OTHER PEOPLE should learn.
    God, they wear me out.

  • Mel

    I made the mistake of reading the post from the Pearls. That’s really sick. I can’t help but think that Debi’s outrage is caused as much by the fact that the girl had the audacity to stand up to Debi rather than meekly do exactly what she wanted.

    Plus, does this sound like the world’s worst picnic ever? I mean you show up and an older couple from your church start bothering you; the wife keeps appearing and disappearing between prophesies; the husband is just full of himself; and then the wife corners you and starts badgering you about where you are living. And she wants you to move in with one of her cronies who you never met before.

  • NeaDods

    “I would not trust a ‘regret’ girl around this ministry my husband.”

    Fixed it for you, Debi. Nice to know how secure your loving, wonderful marriage is.

    I’ve tried twice to read the original article, and it won’t load. I half wonder if the Pearls are getting such blowback that they’re trying to edit or remove it.

  • Hannah

    So many things wrong with this… Clearly the girl needed help, but a stranger coming up and saying “do it my way and recognize yourself as a harlot or destroy yourself/their marriage” is never going to actually help her. And writing her off for reacting defensively? Egads, these two are never going to be able to help anyone in real trouble.

  • Hannah

    It took me a few tries too, just had to keep refreshing, and when it finally did it still took a really long time.

  • Saraquill

    The Pearls whip those who are weaker than themselves, promote physical and psychological abuse, and tell a woman in need that they will never provide shelter for her. Why do they think they’re Christian?

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Too bad Debi didn’t ask the other girl how she liked taking out the garbage. Debi might have liked her better if she had agreed to take out the trash

  • Dana

    I read the Pearls’ article. For most of it it seemed fine to me. I mean, clearly they’re somewhat bizarre people, but I did think it was good that Debi tried to talk to that girl and convince her to get the hell out of that house.

    I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with telling the girl that what she was doing was wrong because it was interfering in a marriage, and that it was cruel and wrong of her to stay and do that. Sure, the real culprit is the husband, and this girl herself is also being taken advantage of. But the girl was doing something wrong, even if it’s very understandable given her background and the situation, and she was not so young as to be totally innocent in that fact. I don’t think it’s bad to point that out to her. And frankly, an appeal to the rights of the wife would be vastly more likely to successfully convince a devout young person to leave than, “You’re being taken advantage of,” which is something a young girl in that situation is just not going to be able to see.

    But the end just astonished me. The girl isn’t interested in her advice (no great surprise given that Debi’s pride and contempt for her surely came through in all their interactions), so she gets mad and tells her, “Fine, but since you wouldn’t listen to me, now even if you DO realize this is bad and decide to leave, I’m not going to let this ministry help you because you’re a bad sinful person.”

    What the heck?!? Has this woman ever read the Bible? In Debi Pearl’s bible, in the story of the prodigal son, the kid comes home full of regret and the dad says, “No, i warned you before and you didn’t listen; now get the hell out of my house!” And despite responding in such a deeply unChristian and hateful way, Debi reports this with pride.

  • Nightshade

    So many things wrong, so little time to list them…would take more time than I’ve got! Frankly I don’t see what Michael thought was so wrong about the young lady not speaking for herself. Isn’t that exactly in line with what these folks preach, that a woman is to be in complete submission to the male authority figure in her life? Just for the record it’s very wrong that she didn’t seem to have a voice, I just don’t get what the Pearls saw as the problem with that part of it. And that thing about ‘knowing’ a family after five seconds? Pure BS. Things happen in families that even close friends may never know, so how are we supposed to believe that Mikey-boy has some special vision? Oh right, because he’s a man and says so.

    As for how Debi handled things…she wasn’t entirely wrong, the situation with the older guy and the young lady wasn’t right. Caressing souls? If he wasn’t caressing more than that he would be soon. Yes, the younger woman probably was aware that it wasn’t right, but given her relative inexperience and ignorance of life in general (assumed from the extremely controlling father she had escaped) I can imagine she was easily manipulated emotionally by her new ‘father’ figure. If Debi had approached her gently, suggesting that she think about the situation, and offered an alternative rather than demanding that she move out RIGHT NOW, to live with a family who presumably she didn’t even know, actually cared about her, used gentle persuasion instead of bulldozer tactics, things might have played out differently. No, the young lady probably would not have taken action that day, but over time she might have seen that she was being taken advantage of and wanted out…but Debi slammed that door shut. Lecturing, saying she wouldn’t trust the girl around ‘this ministry’-which I took to mean her own husband…assuming she was manipulative, hardened, uncaring, ‘would have signed a pact with the devil,’ and she wonders why her counsel fell on hard soil?

    In short, this is a fine example of assuming the worst, blaming women wherever possible, refusing to help those in need unless they do exactly as you tell them. Yep, that’s a Christ-like attitude, all right…behold how they love one another…riiiiiight.

  • NeaDods

    But they get to feel self-righteous, and that’s so much more important a lesson.


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