Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Good People Make Dangerous Choices (Pondering Pearl and Lydia Schatz): An Introduction

When considering the Schatz Family and the tragic events that occurred, we are faced with confusing dilemmas and difficult ideas. Along with the questions concerning the problem of evil, we often cannot fathom how good, decent, and loving Christians could have so blindly followed such a dangerous practice to such an extent. (For background on the story of Lydia Schatz, please link HERE.)

I would like present many reasons why people do choose certain practices and how they lose perspective, just like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz did by following the teachings of Michael Pearl. They were loving and kind individuals who aspired to be the best examples of what Christianity represents, but their unfortunate choices and dedication to a misguided system of practices resulted in permanent disease and death among their children. They believed that the Pearl Method offered them the best and highest means of fulfilling their obligation as loving and dutiful parents in a way that would bring honor to God. '

I  will offer ideas that strongly suggest that without understanding of human nature and manipulation, nearly two-thirds of regular, everyday people can easily end up in the same position as these parents.

In the discussion of the Schatz tragedy, it seems that the opinions that people tend to have fall into two main categories, depending on their perspective and whether they have experience with the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement which utilizes the writings of both Michael and Debi Pearl quite extensively.
  • Some people deem the Schatz parents as horrible monsters. (This is a “dispositional” view, maintaining that the person was disposed to certain behaviors because of who they were – horrible people.) Among these, there are also two general sub-groups:
    • Those who know nothing about the Pearl Method and express their anger and grief by aggression toward the parents by deeming them entirely evil.
    • Those who either identify with the subculture that practices the Pearl Method or those who practice it themselves. Part of their motivation for laying complete blame on the parents involves a devotion toward Michael Pearl and fear that negative attention will result in the loss in their freedom to parent their children through State interference. I believe that there is also motivation to make scapegoats out of the parents because they cannot face the discomfort of admitting that what has happened to the Schatz family could well have happened to them. “I would never go so far as to injure or kill my own child.”
  • Those who offer compassion and acknowledge that circumstances can influence a person, and thought they are “good people,” they admit that good people can sometimes do very harmful things. They show compassion for the Schatz family. 
    • For those who understand the sub-culture, I believe that they recognize on some level that they could easily have been in the same position as the Schatz family because the followed the method themselves (and perhaps abandoned or rejected it). “But for grace, there go I.”

I am among those who feel great compassion for these parents and recognize the types of influences that can cause a person to displace their better judgment in favor of the policy of a system or the consensus of a group. I understand this experience on a personal level and know how the loss of perspective affects individuals when they merge with a group ideal. Trust in the group downplays a person's sense of personal responsibility.

I will give a host of reasons why people get caught up in less than perfect systems of belief and why they tend to stick with them, doubting themselves as they put greater trust in the system. Several blog posts will follow this one over the next few weeks.

I would also like to invite visitors to also “tune in” to Jocelyn Andersen's Blog Talk Radio show on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 11AM Eastern as we explore the reasons why and how good people like Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz end up following formulas with seemingly blind obedience in favor of better judgment.

I would also like to leave the reader here with this statement from Vyckie Garrison of NoLongerQuivering.com in response to Laurie M. (and her testimony about the Schatz Family) as it appears in Lydia's Smile Could Have Lit a Room:

Laurie ~  the reason I am writing is because your blog post vividly expresses the message which I and other Quiverfull escapees have been trying to make at No Longer Quivering: those of us who succumbed to this insidious doctrine were sincere believers who love our children and only wanted to glorify the Lord in our families.  
… Collectively, we are raising our voices to bring awareness and sound the alarm regarding this teaching which is rapidly gaining ground throughout the Christian church.  I believe that your post brings exactly the humanizing perspective which we strive to highlight with regard to the families who have been caught in the Quiverfull trap.  We hope to warn others away from the teachings ~ and to help rescue those who are realizing the harm this is doing to their families and want to get out.  … I would love to be able to offer the prospective of your sympathetic and grace-filled account to help others understand that parents like Kevin and Elizabeth are not monsters ~ only deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing such as the Pearls and similar Christian teachers.

Click here to read the entire series on the archive.