Hmmm…My Two Cents on “No Greater Joy.”

Oh, joy. Homeschoolblogger has been boycotted. I can’t decide what to think of this little escapade. Ambivalent is a good term…”characterized by a mixture of opposite feelings or attitudes.” That is not me on most issues, but it is on this one.

It started with the murder of a child. The mother used materials from the Pearl’s minsitry, No Greater Joy. I’ve not read their books, although people keep recommending them to me. I have, however, read a great deal of their website. I do not support the Pearl’s ministry. Large portions of it make me uncomfortable. Their doctrine of faith makes no sense. Secondary issues are brought to the forefront. The scripture citations they include at the end of each point have nothing to do with the doctrinal stances they line out. I know because I looked up every single one. The review Spunky posted on Created to Be His Help Meet seems very well-done and thought out to me. No one so far has been able to calmly tell me where she errs in her assessment. They mostly seem to lump her in with some group of radical feminists who are willing to stretch anything to be against this book. That is purely anecdotal (you’ll see why I point that out if you keep reading) and proves nothing. But I cannot seem to find a reasoned defense not grounded in personal emotion and connection to this particular ministry rather than to the bible itself.

***I am editing this slightly because the above statement is an unfair representation based on obly a few discussions. I read and appreciate views from several people who have at one time or another mentioned how positively the Pearls’ ministry has affected them. They have never engaged in such attacks and they have such loving, Christ-like personalities it is hard for me to imagine they would. They have been very diplomatic in their dealings and I have the utmost respect for them. I am also not in any sort of debate forum with them and find it inappropriate to go around looking for an argument. I would, however, appreciate a calm, friendly discussion of the issues raised with fellow believers.***

Their writing is unclear, imprecise and leads easily to confusion. They are not careful about their word choice, and it does not seem there is a great deal of attention paid to definitions. The ministry seems to stand on its definition of discipline.

The first level of discipline is reproof. You can chasten your children with your words, but as we have already pointed out, words that are not backed up with constraining force are nothing more than empty suggestions—personal opinions to be rejected or obeyed as the child pleases.

But all discipline means is “to learn.” That is where we get the term “disciple” from. Jesus did not go about whipping them in order to educate them. We are disciples of Christ because we learn from him. We discipline our children becaue we want them to learn. According to Webster’s 1828 dicitonary, the first definition of discipline is “Education; instruction; cultivation and improvement…” Corporal punishment is not mentioned until definition number five…and that in a day when “the strap” was readily acceptable. The common definition of discipline refers more closely to our daily walk with our child…the modeling, instruction and guidance we give them…than it does to our correction of them. Correction is a necessary part of parenting, but it is not the central idea of discipline.

Discipline starts with a godly example and loving instruction. It does not start with the first correction of misbehavior. I appreciate that the Pearl’s do outline that good parenting begins with the parent’s relationship with their child. They do point out that without that relationship, the parent cannot deliver consequences effectively and that in such a situation, the parent should not resort to corporal punishment because it will only result in anger and rebellion in the child.

Yes, the rod is mentioned. Back in the Old Testament in Proverbs. I’m not one to pick and choose which verses I wish to follow, but we are also told in the Torah that so long as a servant gets up after a day or two and can walk after a sound thrashing, all is well. I am not against spanking per se. The problem with it is that most people deliver spankings in anger, something No Greater Joy does caution against. If you are angry, you need to calm down first. At one point, they also recommend striking yourself first to make sure that your swat is under control. This, too, is sound advice. For any consequence. A parent who is in the habit of threatening eternal groundings is no more effective than the parent who delivers spankings out of anger.

The biblical example also uses this “rod” for a consequence for wrongdoing. The Pearls’ use of the rod also lines out its use in training. What is that? “Training is what you do in the moments when all is well and you take time out to condition them to obedience.” Although it is termed “training,” and we are assured this is not “punishment,” I see know justification for laying pitfalls before our children and lying in wait for them so that we can swat them with our pipe. Nor do I view child rearing as “conditioning.” That is what the public schools are for.

I prefer to view the rod in the sense David uses it in Psalms…thy rod and thy staff comfort me. It is not the imminent threat of a physical beating that is comforting David. It is the shepherd’s rod, used to guide the sheep back into the fold. It was not used to strike the sheep, but to guide them gently. Even if we go with the model of the rod for spanking (if I remember correctly, Dr. Dobson also recommends reseving the hand for loving touch rather than spanking), it is quite a leap from this to stashing plumbing pipes in every corner and hanging one about your neck because its ubiquitous presence will keep your children in line.

And then to tell me, “If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do.”

There is a decided misuse of anecdotes in the writing I have seen so far. Anecdotes should be used to illustrate a point, not prove it. Some citation of scripture or independent studies needs to be offered. Anecdotal evidence alone proves nothing. To see this you have to read more of the site than I am prepared to quote here. I personally always question when universal conclusions and applications are drawn based on anecdotes…and not even ones that I can verify independently. I am not accusing the Pearls of making these up, but I would like to see more careful research than some excerpts of letters chosen for publication.

They frequently engage in attacks against their opposition which I find unprofessional to say the least. When fellow Christians challenge their methods, we are told, “Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble.” This and other comments regarding in-laws and possible “outsiders” who criticize disciplinary measures bother me deeply. Yes, there are a lot of nosy people out there, but the bible clearly states we are to be submissive to one another AS CLEARLY as it states the verses No Greater Joy quotes in defense of the rod.

But then, the Pearls did not murder this child. The mother who committed this crime may have used the materials when she chose her implements of torture, as evidenced by the pipes found around the ho
use and the bruises on the surviving children. But she did not follow the cautionary warnings, either. Also from their website:

Some parents spank their children too hard, though most do not spank them hard enough at times. The severity should be scaled to the offense and the moment. If it is training, sometimes it doesn’t even need to hurt. A rolled up newspaper that makes a lot of noise can be extremely effective to gain an immediate response. Obviously, if you ever need to punish, the spanking will have to be more painful. The painfulness is not as important as consistency. Certainty and swiftness will eliminate the need for severity.

Your own heart tells you not to do bodily harm to your children. Be calm and patient, and your reason will have time to prevail.

If you are motivated by anger, wait until you calm down. Put the child in a room to wait until you are motivated by your head, not you anger.

If ALL the advice had been followed, this child may have been swatted several times with a piece of plumbing, but it certainly would not have lead to death.

This is where I’m ambiguous on this whole thing. I do not support the Pearls ministry. I believe it to be founded on false principles. I believe that for teachers in the Word, there needs to be much greater care taken in expression, word choice, scripture interpretation and how those who disagree with them are discussed. I therefore have a hard time coming to the defense of HSB or anyone else siding with them. But then, an honest reading of the entirity of their site rather than just some pulled quotes does clearly show that they would not advocate the kind of parenting abuse in this case.

So, that’s where I stand, I guess. Firmly wishy-washy. Not going to ban HSB, any time soon. And most of the links in my sidebar will still lead you there because that is where the majority of my posting is and this double posting stuff is too tedious. I don’t think I’m going to back track and post old stuff anymore, but I may post current stuff here.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
3John 1:4


Interested in more from Life Led Homeschool? Sign up for my newsletter and receive updates right in your inbox!

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar
TulipGirl
Guest
“But then, an honest reading of the entirity of their site rather than just some pulled quotes does clearly show that they would not advocate the kind of parenting abuse in this case.” Of course they wouldn’t technically support these actions, when laid out in black and white. But they do promote a “must control a child at all costs” attitude, that would fundamentally be associated with the actions that resulted in this child’s death. It’s not a leap to say that the Pearls, who suggest hosing a toddler off with cold water for pottying accidents would find swaddling an… Read more »
Dana
Guest
Thank you for your comments. The parenting advice given seems “odd” to me to say the least. I do not understand why this has become so polarizing among Christian circles. Using “the rod” is certainly not a salvation issue, yet I have read people boycotting those who do NOT support this ministry. I feel uncomfortable with a ministry that is not open to examination. My purpose is to stand for Christ and try to examine that in the light of scripture. I am open to such examination…I do not enjoy being told I am an unfit parent if a disagree… Read more »
Spunky
Guest
Interesting thoughts Dana. I have somethings to add to this discussion and will over time. But as I am learning in my own way, those with a voice must make it crystal clear what they mean. The Pearls do not make it clear in all cases what is expected and how things will be. I read Rebekah’s response on one blog. She can recall only one time being spanked. I believe her yet on their website it is clear that one of their children at age 6 was swatted every day for 7 days 10 swats for being a liar.… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

Actually, I think Rebekah Anast forgot some things, as described in a short article in one of the newsletters several years ago (March 2002). In this article she clearly describes being whipped at about age 3 or 4 for having a bad attitude.
Perhaps things weren’t as wonderful as she recalls.
How sad.

Dana
Guest
Thank you, Spunky. Your comments mean a lot to me as I “feel” like I have known you for awhile and I trust your judgment. I have never felt so many torn feelings over a single issue in my life, saving perhaps my conversion. I guess part of the problem is that there are a number of people whom I have respect for who state how much these resources have helped them. And I am extremely reluctant to stand against anyone in ministry. At the same time, the Pearls are not Christ. Their resources do not carry the weight of… Read more »
Spunky
Guest
Dana, I feel that constructive commentary is difficult because of the need to name call instead of looking at and discussing the issues. Name calling is a form of intimidation to deflect attention. No Christian wants to be thought of as a feminist as defined by the world. But that is what those who disagree with the some of their teachings are viewed as. Because of the climate that this has created people seem afraid to say anything crticial. When I wrote my review I caught (and still get) all sorts of hate mail. Someone just left a comment under… Read more »
razorbackmama
Guest

Dana,

I agree with EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING you have said, both in your post and in your comments. EVERYTHING. I have noticed the same exact things myself.

Dana
Guest
I agree, Spunky. It took me a long time to decide to say anything at all, and I still have chosen not to do so in a forum in which I am “known.” I have nothing to lose, really. “Just” a stay at home mom, but I take Matthew 12:36 seriously that says I will be held to account for every idle word. I also try to live by this standard, although I am not always successful: Jam 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy… Read more »
Dana
Guest

Thanks, razorbackmama…now why did you leave off at chapter 19? I was enjoying your review…

razorbackmama
Guest

I *gave up*. LOL. There was just too much, and chapter 23….OH MY GOODNESS. I’m not even sure where I was going to start with that one.

I have been considering finishing up the chapters, but I haven’t quite decided yet….

christinemm
Guest
I recommend that you read the books that the Pearls wrote. I have “To Train Up a Child” right here and base my impressions on the book. I think some people are throwing around views about a book when they have not read it, which is not a good thing. I am very disturbed by the ‘training’ of “infants” as outlined on pages 6-8 of “To Train Up a Child”. I was curious if you have read the book by William Sears M.D. “The Complete Book of Christian Parenting”? I was interested in how he defined ‘the rod’, which is… Read more »
Dana
Guest
Thank you for your thoughts. I do not currently have access to the book. My thoughts are based entirely on my assessment of the free materials they have posted online at nogreaterjoy.org. I am going through the articles and reflecting on what I find there. I do not even pretend to be able to criticize a book I have not read. Nor do I pretend to know everything taught in the book. If it teaches something different from their website or provides further explanation that makes the articles more acceptable, I’m all ears (or eyes, I guess : ).
Beth
Guest
Very well said Dana. I so appreciate your honesty here. As you know, the Pearls’ ministry is NOT among my favorites. I DO believe that their materials are potentially misleading to eager *seekers*, even dangerous, and in many instances even contrary to the Gospel they claim to be upholding. Thank you for stopping by my place to say “hi” and offer your congrats. It was so good to hear from you. Also, I found recently that my old HSB blog has been erased (I’m guessing b/c I wasn’t active recently enough?), deleted, just not there anymore! And my “login” name… Read more »
Beth
Guest

But, all of the wonderful comments I’d received from others are permanently lost…irretrievable.;-(

Kathleen F.
Guest

I do not support the Pearl’s teaching or ministry. However, I found a link to “To Train Up a Child” for free. People who haven’t read the book to post comments on it can then. I will only leave the link if I have permission from this blog’s owner. It says on the webpage that there is permission to reprint.

Kathleen F.
Guest

I meant to say that I seek permission from Dana (this blog) to post the link.

Dana
Guest

Yes, that would be fine…I think all benefit from knowing what is being discussed. Thank you.

Spunky
Guest

For what its worth, I’ve read the Pearls materials. I have been receiving their newsletter for over ten years and attended a weekend of workshops where Michael Pearl was the speaker. Debi was supposed to be there but had a horse accident so she was in the hotel room. It was at that conference that I began to understand more of what the Pearls teach and I began to have some serious reservations. So for me this isn’t just a knee jerk reaction to a few things I’d read elsewhere.

Kelly
Guest
Wow…thanks for this post. I have been thinking about this issue for some time, since before the news of the murdered boy came out. I have longed to post about it on my own blog, but have not done so because I was afraid, as Spunky so aptly put it, of not being crystal clear in my meaning. I have withdrawn the majority of my posting from HSB and have focused on building my blog at another location because of the controversy…mainly because I don’t want to be identified as someone who is a “Pearl supporter.” I find myself having… Read more »
Kelly
Guest
Wow…thanks for this post. I have been thinking about this issue for some time, since before the news of the murdered boy came out. I have longed to post about it on my own blog, but have not done so because I was afraid, as Spunky so aptly put it, of not being crystal clear in my meaning. I have withdrawn the majority of my posting from HSB and have focused on building my blog at another location because of the controversy…mainly because I don’t want to be identified as someone who is a “Pearl supporter.” I find myself having… Read more »