Disciplining to Death ~ No Greater Joy Ministries and Child Abuse

Disciplining to Death ~ No Greater Joy Ministries and Child Abuse February 19, 2010

by WanderingOne

Friday, February 5, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, were charged with beating their 7 year old daughter to death for mispronouncing a word, and torturing her 11 year old sister, who was brought to Sacramento Children’s Hospital in critical condition from kidney failure and other injuries.[1]

In addition to the two girls, who were adopted, the Schatz’s have 6 biological children and another adopted child—all of whom were rarely seen out of doors or playing with other children, report neighbors[2].   Recently, the Butte county DA has reported that the Schatz’s followed the teachings of Michael Pearl, founder of No Greater Joy Ministries.[3]

Pearl advocates what he refers to as “Biblical Chastisement,” that is punishing children through the use of a rod, quoting Proverbs 13: 24 as a prooftext:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV)[4]

Pearl encourages parents to “chastise” (not punish—as if there is some enormous difference!) using a “rod.”  He suggests using 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line, to administer the chastisement—which, Pearl maintains, is not a beating.  This is exactly what the Schatz’s are being accused of using in beating and torturing their children.

Mark Ramsey, the DA is quoted as saying, “Even the Tennessee pastor that espouses hitting children right from infancy says that you must watch that you don’t cross the line. Clearly this is a situation where the line was crossed from discipline… to beating… to murder.[5]” The problem with advocating Biblical chastisement, though, is that it blurs the lines between discipline and beating.  Pearl suggests using the plumber’s supply line 10 times, per chastisement, increasing that amount if the child resists the discipline.  How many times must a child be hit with a rod for it to be a beating?  Where is the line?

Tellingly, CBS reports that the Schatz’s children—all homeschooled —considered the beatings normal and do not understand why their parents have been arrested. Further, the LA atheism examiner notes that “more than two dozen supporters of the parents showed up at their arraignment on Feb. 9. They were back in court on Feb. 11 for appearance of counsel and possible entry of a plea to the murder and torture charges.”

As a daughter of fundamentalist parents, and as someone who grew up with this sort of discipline, this story deeply saddens me—but, it is not shocking or surprising.  I remember a time when I would have been one of the children who did not understand, who thought her parents were just disciplining because they loved her.  While I was never beaten so seriously—this story leaves me wondering “what if…”  What something pushed my parents just a bit further?

This tragic story needs to be discussed and brought to light.  It is not simply a story of parents who “went too far.”  It’s a story about how warped teachings about parent-child relationships, discipline, and authority hurt children and destroy their lives.  These teachings must be examined and exposed for what they are:  normalized child abuse.  I escaped—but will others be so lucky?

“Wanderingone” is a college student, finally breaking free of her homeschooled fundamentalist upbringing, by wearing pants and other things indicative of demon possession.

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One response to “Disciplining to Death ~ No Greater Joy Ministries and Child Abuse”

  1. Beating children in the name of God is very disturbing to me. Yes, I am
    a Christian and I do not believe that God wants us to beat our
    children. I find this book disturbing and even more, the fact that
    churches have distributed it to new mothers who defend it as truth and
    the ones who believe this to be a valuable parenting tool are just as
    I was in an abusive marriage and watched my children being
    terrorized from watching me being hit. So I got out of the abusive
    marriage when they were very young. From the start, I decided to NEVER
    hit my children. I used the philosophy of” How to Talk so children will
    Listen and Listen so children will talk”, “Magic of Encouragement” and
    other advocates of attachment parenting. This takes a lot of time and
    effort but it is worth it in the long run. My children are now 24 and
    26. People argue that children who are not spanked will grow up to be
    behavior problems. Not so. The school loved my children because they
    were kind and respectful because they were respected and loved and knew
    how to respect others. My son was DARE student of the year because he
    defended children who were being bullied at school and befriended those
    with disabilities. His employer told me that he is one of the best
    employees that they have. My daughter graduated in the top 2% of her
    class and told me that she learned out to love from me. They worked
    their way through college and both were on the Dean’s List. I got
    married a couple years and numerous people at the wedding remarked about
    what a good job I had done raising them.I wish that I could see a world
    where children did not have to live in fear of their parents. I think
    it would solve so many problems of domestic violence, bullying, etc.
    People cannot take the phrase from the Bible,”he who spareth the rod,
    hateth the child” as literal truth which is from the Old Testament prior
    to Jesus arrival who taught us about loving our neighbor and spoke of
    loving children. There are other passages about slaves and shunning
    menstrating women, etc. We all know that slavery is immoral. Let’s
    make this immoral as well. I read one passage about a boy being whipped
    by a belt across his naked penis. I can’t imagine that a God that I
    respect would advocate that treatment. To me, it is no different than
    Nazi Germany where people had to be afraid to speak up and the weakest
    were slaughtered in the name of racial purity.