One of our BlogHer Network members, Elizabeth Esther, will be on the Anderson Cooper show... today! Elizabeth Esther will be speaking out against the abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. Elizabeth has been blogging about their so-called-ministry and she is a big voice on the subject. I thought it would be great to interview her both for the experience of being on the show and to share more information about this subject of passion for her.
1) As some of our readers won't know about Michael & Debi Pearl's books, teaching and "ministry," please explain who they are, what they do and why it's wrong.
Michael & Debi Pearl teach a systematized methodology of child discipline. In their book, To Train Up a Child, they recommend spanking infants as young as 7 months old, sitting on a child while spanking him/her and spanking a child until the child is -- in their words: "totally broken." Essentially, the Pearls advocate spanking a child into submission. This is, of course, morally reprehensible and abusive. However, the Pearls have a huge following and have sold hundreds of thousands of books.
2) How did you actually come to know about their abusive teachings?
When their book was published in 1994, I was living inside a very conservative, strict, fundamentalist Christian church. My church ordered their books by the boxful. We studied their books. We talked about their books and held "child-training" meetings to discuss ways of implementing their methods. This was how I was groomed to be a parent. When I became a mother at age 22, I began using the Pearl methods--but stopped when my daughter was about 18 months old because I could see how damaging and hurtful these methods were. I left the church two years later.
3) Have you received any backlash from followers (or other people in general) for blogging about this subject?
Yes, I get some pretty nasty emails and comments on my blog. I've been accused of being "uninformed," "divisive" and speaking against a man of God. I've been told that God will judge me for this. I had a popular Christian blogger recently comment that "condemning and throwing empty internet campaigns around about a figure head is futile." Today an article appeared on a Christian website calling the entire Anderson show "twisted" and unfair to Michael Pearl. Apparently, everything I'm doing is empty and futile! :) However, there is a great deal of support out there and I'm so very thankful for that.
4) How were you contacted by the Anderson Cooper show?
One of the producers found my blog and sent me an email. I called her back and a few hours later I was on a plane to NYC!
5) Being on Anderson Cooper is ten kinds of awesome, but were you nervous considering the controversial subject matter? How do you feel about being an official voice against the Pearls?
It's strange because I never set out to be the "official voice" against the Pearls. After Lydia Schatz was spanked to death, I simply started writing about my personal, firsthand experiences with the Pearl's teachings inside my fundamentalist church. I couldn't BELIEVE that their teachings were still so popular and widespread. And I couldn't remain silent while children suffered. So, yes, I was a little nervous going on the show to share my story. But people need to know what goes on inside churches and families where the Pearl's books are popular.
6) Can you share with us any parenting resources that you prefer use that people stuck in the Pearl's ministry might benefit from?
I think it's SO IMPORTANT for parents to get their material from educated sources. A pastor is NOT a parenting expert. Folksy wisdom and anecdotal evidence might have their place, but when it comes to the health and well-being of children, it's important for parents to seek out doctors, pediatricians and educated, gentle-parenting experts who are well-learned in child-development.
7) Anything else you'd like to share with us on this topic?
One of the major criticisms I've received is that I'm unfairly blaming the Pearls for the actions of already abusive parents. I would like to make it clear that I'm simply asking the broader community to hold the Pearls accountable for teachings which are clearly harmful to children. The Pearls like to say their teachings are being "misunderstood" and "misinterpreted" and that they don't advocate abusive hitting. If that is true, the Pearls need to retract their recommendation for spanking infants and spanking children until they are "broken."
Here's the preview of the show from the Anderson Cooper website.
I encourage you all to tune into the Anderson Cooper show today! To find out what time the show is on in your area, you can look at this page with the times it airs. Times range from 10 AM to 5 PM in the various time zones.
If you're familiar with Michael and Debi Peal's teachings and/or if you caught the show today, please share your thoughts with us.
Lastly, I'd like to point out that Elizabeth Esther deserves a big hat tip and high five and supportive hug. Speaking out on a blog is one thing -- and a necessary thing. Having the courage to speak out against someone -- on TV -- while they're in the room? Awesome.
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