3/13 Faith Matters: There is no such thing as perfect obedience

In Memoriam: Last month, 7-year old Lydia Schatz was admitted to a California hospital, her body so beaten that her internal organs had shut down. She died shortly thereafter.

She had been beaten by her Christian, home-schooling parents, by all accounts good people who wanted to do the right thing with their children. Good people who did not stop to think.

They had been told that to be good Christian parents, they should home-school. So, they homeschooled.

They were persuaded by the home-school milieu they inhabited that the Christian child should be perfectly obedient. They were further told that the Christian way to get such perfect obedience was to whip their children with one-quarter inch plumbing supply line.

They were told that loving Christian training required spanking children until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper” or leaves them “without breath to complain.”

And now a child is dead.

The quotes above are lifted from a Feb. 22 article in ( 2010/02/22/no_greater_joy/) and reference the child-rearing teaching of Michael and Debi Pearl.

The Pearls have mined gold playing upon the fears and desires that many Christian parents have for their children.

The war cry is to guard, protect and isolate our children and to eradicate from them any vestige of sinful rebellion. This plays well among good people who want to do the right thing in raising their children.

Sadly, good desire is wrapped in bad theology and worse practice. Sin can no more be beaten out of a child as it can be beaten out of you and me. The only thing that frees us is the Gospel, the fresh wind of grace, the kindness and mercy of God. That is what we must show our children and embrace ourselves.

I know how powerfully fear and control can play in the mishandling of our children. One need not be a home-schooling Christian to fall prey to such patterns. But when we add to our base emotions an apologetic for beating and call it “Christian Parenting,” we have created a harmful brew. Only a few will die outwardly; many will die inwardly.

All because we as Christians stupidly follow without thinking.

I am a conservative Christian. My wife and I home-school our children. It is easy to form stereotypes when the darker side of this movement is exposed. Please don’t do that.

But my heart breaks for these children, and I am angered by the teaching that encourages it.

It is too late for Lydia. It is too late for many others emerging scarred from such environments. It may not be too late for others.

Think. Follow no one blindly. Consider the kindness and grace of God. Love your imperfect children as God loves you.

Rev. Randy Greenwald, senior pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, 4455 30th St. E., Bradenton, writes a blog at For more information about the church, visit Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.