Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm Following the Schatzes' “Guilty” Pleas: Why Good People Do Dangerous Things (Pondering Pearl and Lydia Schatz) Part VI

On Blog Talk Radio (BTR), Jocelyn Andersen and I spent the past two sessions discussing the death of Lydia Schatz and an overview of Michael Pearl's teachings regarding “child training.” The first episode (2Apr11) gives a general overview of Pearl's ideas and what the Schatz Family experienced as a consequence of following his methods. The second episode (9Apr11) focuses specifically on the reasons that social psychology offers to explain why and how good Christian people like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz can lose touch with their own rational thought when they follow a system like the one Michael Pearl has created, a system essentially enforced by Christian homeschoolers through social pressure. In addition to the undue authoritarian influence and the spiritual blackmail that Pearl prescribes, the majority of Christian homeschoolers enforce an elitist secondary system that makes a graceful and easy “exit” from Pearl's teachings even more difficult.

Note: “Exit” in this context is a term coined by social psychologist Philip Zimbardo which describes an additional factor that enhances the pressure upon individuals to yield obedience to a system of idealism. (Other factors include but are not limited to the appeal to authority, pressure from peers to conform, incremental increases in levels of compliance, etc..) Kevin and Elizabeth were compelled by many forces to adhere to Pearl's teachings, though it should be noted that this factor does not diminish their personal responsibility for their own actions. The lack of ease of “exit” is one of the items of discussion mentioned in the April 9th episode of Jocelyn's BTR show.

The Plea Bargains

Several news sources reported on April 8th and 9th that Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz agreed to pleas of “guilty” related to the death of their daughter, Lydia; the critical injuries sustained by their daughter, Zariah; and lesser injuries sustained by their son who was not named specifically and who I believe was not an adoptee. Kevin plead guilty to whatever California classifies as second-degree murder and torture, and Elizabeth plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter, a lesser charge than Kevin's. I hope that there will be additional discussion of the details of the case in the secular press, but for now, a few more can be read HERE.

The Implications

This weekend, several people asked me about my opinion regarding what will happen within the homeschooling community in response to these pleas of guilty. On one hand, the family avoids the many pains and the additional expense of a jury trial, and they are never a pleasant experience. Ramsey, the Butte County District Attorney planned to put young Zariah on the stand (the now 12 year old daughter who was hospitalized for renal failure). She will now be spared the personal difficulty (an understatement) and negative publicity which would no doubt reinforce the negative aspects of the whole experience of the abuse for her as well. Given the whole emotional and sensational nature of the case, adding to that all of the religious freedom implications, a jury trial would prove to be a messy affair for all involved.
On the other side of this benefit, the public no longer has the opportunity to learn more about the situation, at least until knowledgeable individuals come forward. From my vantage, a jury trial would make public the facts supporting the Schatz Family as an example of undue influence and these forces elucidated for us by the social psychology experiments noted here on this website in recent days past.

There is also always some hope that the evidence presenting the good and honorable aspects of Kevin and Elizabeth might actually pierce through the confirmation bias (selective or magical thinking) that they were “animals” and “bad apples” (people as apples being the analogy that Zimbardo offers to describe the experience of individuals who get trapped in bad systems, the virtual “apple barrels” created by those systems). Some might see the humanity and vulnerability of Kevin and Elizabeth, identifying with them, realizing the harrowing idea that Schatzes differ little from the average person – from themselves. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows...” Or as I believe Hannah Arendt stated it, “We are all Little Eichmanns.” We all have the capacity to act in evil ways if the conditions are ripe for it and we comply.

We also like to hold confirmation bias, that wishful thinking in hope that all families are wonderful and sweet. I believe that truth challenges the concept that ideal families do not struggle with the messiness of life. The Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement (QF/P) that tends to ascribe to Pearl's teachings follow the myth of over-idealized families which they turn into a unique type of idolatry of family – their families. I think that the trial would have likely only polarized the QF/P's rejection and demonization of the Schatz Family as a group that in no way represents them in an act of denial of the problems inherent in both Pearl's system and their own. [Read a bit more about this HERE.] Yet, in spite of this selective thinking, the details that a jury trial would have revealed could have given us more insight into the process of abuse. All those involved and interested in Pearl's methods, or those who already abandoned the practice of the methods themselves, could have learned much.

The Calm Before the Storm

It remains to be seen, but I suspect that those within QF/P will either remain silent out of embarrassment at the thought of associating themselves with murder and death, or they will openly continue to show hostility toward Schatz Family by continuing to scapegoat them in more intense ways. In these few days following these pleas of “guilty” as we all absorb the sad reality that these sad events would have never happened in an idealized world of fantasy, I feel a calm sense of a sigh of both relief and emotional exhaustion. It will take a little time to process and understand the impact of it all, especially during the wait between the offered pleas and the anticipated sentencing of the Schatzes on June 10th.

Sadly but predictably, I anticipate a particular show hypocrisy on the part of at least some within QF/P. The movement decries the secular system, and because of a dissimilar worldview, they claim that the secular world is essentially devoid of any ethics at all. I recall Howard Phillip's distortion and logical fallacy which he stated in so many different ways that to side on anything other than his side of politics essentially amounted to stand on the side of the absolute wrong, no matter where you might fall on a continuum to perceived right and wrong. QF/P follows this same principle and distortion where they paint all things in absolute black or white terms. To differ from their mistaken sense of uniformity as a show of Christian unity makes those who are different from them any sense of in principle or practice those who represent and support pure evil in the most extreme terms. The world's system and the judgments of the world represent the worst of evil. Only their system, special to God in a unique way, can determine the real truth about right and wrong.

I predict that while they reject the idea that the secular world can know anything about right and wrong, the QF/P world will say that in the case of the Schatzes and their pragmatic pleas of “guilty,” they will claim that the world “got it right this time.” QF/P should understand well that what is legal does not equal that which is moral in terms of society. It is not against the civil law to lie under many circumstances, for instance. You cannot be convicted and go to jail if you deny that you were the person to put the last carton of milk back in the 'fridge with only a teaspoon left in it without making mention of it to the person in the family who procures milk for the family's consumption! But such a statement is not a moral one.

So I'm waiting to see how many will say, “Look at those evil Schatzes. See! They were guilty and they admitted it!” There will be no consideration that the plea offered many benefits, something not so much about justice but about the pragmatic consideration of lesser consequences. Such an accusation will enhance the illusion that the faithful QF/P follower is elite and a cut above everyone else, especially these people who imitated what they do but didn't have what it takes to get it right. The Schatz Family was not “cut from the right cloth” and were probably never elect.

The proof that the Schatzes messed up the system and brought shame against the “noble” name of Michael Pearl and his glorious teachings proves to them that Kevin and Elizabeth could not have been true Christians in the first place. It shields them from the pain of admitting that the people in QF/P are human like the rest of us and saved by grace instead of the illusions that they create through legalism. They will have to admit that they are “The Shadow” and that they are “Little Eichmanns.” “Thank God that I am not like the Schatz Family.” In keeping with these ideas that are consistent with the Jewish holocaust and the conditions that hypnotized a whole nation, you can operate without a central leader, but you must always have a demon (a scapegoat) in order to make a system of ideological manipulation work.

How long with the calm last before the storm comes in the defense of Pearl?

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14, NKJV

Click here to read the entire series on the archive.