Sorry, Michael Pearl, But These Fireworks Are Calling You Out: Lisa Joy’s Thoughts

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lisa Joy” is a pseudonym.

Disclaimer: I have been reading Libby Anne’s reviews of the Pearls’ materials on her “Love, Joy, Feminism” blog as they’re published each week. When I read Michael Pearl’s recent article, “Homeschooling: Success or Failure,” I started wondering what she would say to tear it apart. Then I realized I couldn’t wait to see if/when she’d cover it, so I started writing my version of a rebuttal! So if it sounds like I’m parroting her in some way, I’m not trying to… but I might end up doing so to some extent because I love what she has to say in her book reviews. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or something like that!

“It is such a marvelous pleasure to observe the many young couples coming out of the homeschooling community. They are bright as spring flowers, full of hope and good cheer. Children are springing up like dandelions, without a care in the world, secure in their parents’ love.”

Dandelions… a weed that many people try to kill

Michael Pearl has a nasty habit of dehumanizing people, especially women and children. He compares them to dogs, horses, pick-up trucks (yes, really!), etc. Now we can add weeds to that list.

“There has never been a movement in America that has so consistently produced godly young people and holy marriages.”

Oh, really? Are these marriages “holy,” or are they simply trapped & trying to put on a good face? The latter is my story — married for 13 years to a man I knew was cheating on me and lying to me. But I didn’t dare leave because that wouldn’t be the “godly” thing to do. <sigh> (Don’t worry, when it finally dawned on me that my children were in danger of being molested, I worked up the courage to face all the judgment and criticism from my church and my family, and I left him.)

“These kids—they are in their 20s and 30s but to me they are kids—”

I am 36. I am not a kid. I’ve been a legal adult for 18 years, so I should be an adult twice by now!

My parents still treat me like I’m a rebellious teen-ager, including trying to correct me when I have what they consider a bad attitude, tell me where I should attend church, what I should wear, whom I may date and marry now that I’m divorced, (or as they would prefer, that I am to never marry again, except to my abusive ex!) and even punish me when I stray from their desires for my life. (And no, I’m not currently on speaking terms with them. Enough is enough! When they learn to treat me like the adult I am – twice over – then maybe we can be friends again.)

“are the most emotionally balanced, mentally positive, and hopeful human beings in the world;”

Either that, or they’re really good at faking it and putting on a happy face so that they aren’t a bad testimony. After all, if they and their lives aren’t perfect, they know that it’s their fault because they aren’t spiritual enough.

“and let me tell you something: Even at 68 years old I can see that among them are the prettiest girls ever. There is something about a genuine joyful smile and an inquisitive, positive expression that lights up a healthy female face like sun, moon, stars, and fireworks at the same time.”

Stop and really read this again. Let it sink in. This. Is. Sick. I hope all of you are holding your mouths to keep the vomit from hitting your keyboard or tablet or phone. I know Debi Pearl has her issues, but I feel sorry for her right now. I would be horrified if my 68-year-old husband publicly admitted to admiring women 1/2 or 1/3 his age. Maybe I just have a dirty mind, but for an old man to admit that a pretty face reminds him of “fireworks” is beyond gross. Sick. Sick. Sick.

Michael Pearl says in his “Created to Need a Help Meet” book that when he’s at church luncheons, he wants to be surrounded by pretty ladies! What a sick, dirty-old-man vibe I’m getting from him. <shudder> Even if you’re okay with a 68-year-old having these kinds of thoughts about a 20-year-old “girl,” (really a woman but always a “girl” to Michael Pearl!) remember that he’s married. And he just published this on the Internet and in print. His wife is presumably reading this. Just. Yuck. Nasty. Must. Stop. Thinking. About. This.

“I see young mamas and daddies producing a whole new generation of godly, wholesome kids.”

Or producing a whole new generation of abused, trapped kids who must put on a happy face or they’ll be beaten when they get home for making Mama and Daddy look bad in front of other people?

“If we can’t beat the progressives today, we will beat them tomorrow in the numbers game. While they kill their children and stuff them in a green refuse container bound for the city dump, two of our kids multiply to become eight, ten, or nineteen in about 20 years. Think about that—two million homeschoolers today, ten to sixteen million in twenty years. If you can’t out-vote them today, out-breed them for tomorrow.”

I heard this kind of thing when I was a kid. Homeschooling has been more-or-less legal in America since 1985, when my family started homeschooling. That’s awfully close to 30 years – a generation and a half. So – where are all the thousands and thousands of homeschool graduates who, like me, now have children of their own that are school-age? Oh, wait, that’s the whole reason for this article.

Because these thousands and thousands of homeschool graduates who were going to take over the world haven’t done so yet.

Also, not everyone can have 8, 10, or 19 kids. There’s infertility, serial miscarriages, dangerous pregnancies, painful/uncomfortable pregnancies, financial and practical considerations such as housing and food and clothing, “kids” who are close to 40 and haven’t married yet (thank you, courtship!), and couples who choose not to have kids even though they probably could. And – assuming 2,000,000 is an accurate number, which I kinda doubt coming from Michael Pearl – how many of those 2,000,000 are homeschooling for non-patriarchal reasons? Dad’s (or mom’s) work schedule, convenience of other pursuits (did you know that Ross Lynch of the Disney Channel & the “R5” band is homeschooled? Also the Jonas Brothers?), peanut allergies, disabilities requiring frequent hospital stays and/or constant monitoring, learning disabilities, etc. I don’t think Michael should be counting on a great army of straight (mostly) white Christian conservatives just like him rising up from the ranks of homeschooling to rescue America!

Another point – doesn’t it irk you that if you aren’t following Michael Pearl and similar patriarchal teachers, then of course you’re killing your children & throwing them in dumpsters?! There’s no middle ground. I’ve seen this over and over as I read Libby Anne’s reviews of the Pearl materials. The Pearls see people as all being in one of two extremes – their way, or the way of absolutely horrifyingly evil.

“I know there are a few highly-publicized stories from time to time of homeschooling failures. There is an online militant group of ex-homeschoolers who hate the experience and are actively trying to denigrate us; but anything that grows large will accumulate detractors and dissenters—great enemies even.”

News flash, Michael Pearl – we are the homeschool graduates that were going to take over the world!

Remember us? From your last paragraph? Sure we’re 20 and 30 years older than the generation that you say will end up out-breeding them, but we were told that we would be the ones that would be the mighty army raised up to overwhelm the enemy with our godliness!

I am curious as to which “online militant group of ex-homeschoolers” he’s referring to, because last I checked, there are quite a few of them. There’s the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog. There’s the Recovering Grace blog. There are dozens and dozens of personal blogs that address everything from page-by-page reviews of the Pearl books to personal experiences of de-programming from the cult-like environments (or actual cults!) in which we were raised.

“Satan hates goodness and will find broken people who want everything to be as broken as they are. But we are not moved by their bitterness; we have too much joy and hope to be brought down by someone already way down near the bottom.”

Good thing that you, Michael Pearl, are so godly and perfect that you can so easily ignore the pain that has brought someone “down near the bottom.” What an arrogant – okay, I’ll stop there but you finish it up with your choice of words!

“Not every homeschool experience will be a great success. Some will be total failures; others will be good but not altogether good. In some cases, out of six children a family may lose one or two to the world, but they will have two or three that are exceptional human beings. The Devil is after us. The flesh is still weak. The world has not lost its luster. So there will be casualties. We are saddened by every failure, but we are not daunted or discouraged. The large number of beautiful successes keeps us charging ahead with confidence.”

Again – I heard when I was a kid that I was in the generation that would rise up and change America – and the world – back to godliness. Now Michael is admitting that only about 1/3 or maybe 1/2 of homeschool graduates will be “exceptional human beings.” Another 1/3 to 1/6 will be lost “to the world.” I guess the other 1/3 to 1/2 is just mediocre so they don’t count for either camp? Very convenient, too, that Michael and similar leaders get to designate what is “exceptional” and what is “worldly.” What is good to Michael Pearl may be considered carnal to the Bill Gothard camp. The Doug Phillips followers have yet another definition of what is good and godly. The Amish and the Mennonites and the Independent Fundamental Bible-Believing Baptists have their own definitions. It must be so nice to be a Michael Pearl or a Bill Gothard or a Doug Phillips and get to decide what is godly and what isn’t… that would make life so much easier on me, because I would be the godly one and all of you had better do what I say or you won’t be godly like me!

“It has been our ministry to help parents raise godly children from birth to grandkids. We have addressed every conceivable subject several times from different angles, written over twenty books and thousands of articles, read your letters and answered many of them. We have heard your stories and sought to understand problem areas and the things that make for consistent success. So one more time, I will address the reasons for the few who fail.”

“The few who fail”? I guess if he repeats it often enough, he can convince his followers that the “online militant group of ex-homeschoolers” he mentioned before is in fact just a couple of hotheads. Except that he just said that approximately 1/3 of homeschooled kids go “to the world,” and 1/3 apparently just disappear. That doesn’t sound like “a few” to me. That sounds like 2/3. That’s the majority. Like, 2 out of every 3 homeschooled kids is considered a failure.

If a friend recommended a restaurant that was so delicious and so wonderful and only 2 out of every 3 people got food poisoning… do you think I’d want to eat there?

“How many times have you heard me say, “More is caught than taught,” or, “Your attitude speaks louder than your words”? I have often said, “Children are rooted in the soil of their parents,” and, “You must model what you want your children to become.””

So if Johnny or Susie ends up going bad, it’s your fault, not Michael Pearl’s. Shame on you for being so imperfect.

“It is not enough to teach morals, good character, the Constitution, Creationism, and modesty. Goodness without God is humanism at its finest.”

This is exactly one of my big complaints about the ATI curriculum. It’s a bunch of rules, but with very little to no teaching on having a relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus is barely mentioned. The only major teaching I can remember about Jesus was “The Commands of Christ.” Emphasis on the commands. Still no relationship. Most of the Pearl family-related books, such as “To Train Up a Child,” and the “Help Meet” books, throw a few out-of-context Bible verses at you, interpret them for you, then tell you what you need to do in order to raise kids properly, or be a good wife, or keep your wife in line. Again, there is very little emphasis on a relationship with God.

To be fair, I have not read/listened to any of Michael Pearl’s doctrinal teachings, but the family books are by far the most popular of their materials, so that’s what I’m basing my complaint on. They’re just another manual, another to-do list, of what you must do so that you and your family will be godly, as defined by Michael and Debi Pearl.

“Right living without worship is the arrogance of Cain, unacceptable for its lack of faith. Satan can tolerate us being good as long as God does not receive the praise and worship. The world can appreciate and even praise our morals (it makes for good citizenship), but they despise us giving glory to the God of creation, who is the judge of all men.

“Good kids without God are just bait for the sharks of this world. Sometimes the bait in its naïveté wants to be eaten. We can control the family and our environment so as to protect our children from the world—until they get old enough to seek it out, and then the only protection they have is that which is within. If God is not within, they are empty vessels waiting to be filled with folly and fornication. Those who fall from the highest moral standards fall further and land harder, doing more damage.”

Or – maybe those kids grow up, get a taste of the “real world” at their jobs, in their communities, or in their marriages, and realize that the big bad world wasn’t really as awful as our parents thought it was.

“I have observed that most of the failures come from families who did not raise their children in a community of believers.”

Ah, here it is again! The failures aren’t the Pearls’ fault. Nope. Definitely not. The failures aren’t Bill Gothard’s fault. Or Doug Phillips’ fault. Or patriarchy itself’s fault.

It’s because you didn’t take your kids to church.

Except there’s this little thing called “home church,” that the ultra-conservative homeschoolers and/or ultra-controlling homeschoolers like because then there’s no Sunday School, no friends, no youth group to steal the teens’ hearts away, no rock music to invite demons into their souls, no teachers or pastors to offer a different opinion… if another family or two joins your home church, then they’re carefully screened and carefully controlled to make sure that they don’t bring in any worldly influences.

“Few families are completely balanced, able to supply all the needs of their kids.”

Shock – there’s one line in this article that I actually agree with? Kinda. I disagree with the word “few,” because all families are imperfect, because all parents are imperfect, because all people are imperfect. Still, I come within 3 letters of agreeing with this statement. Don’t worry, it won’t last long.

“But in a church of like-minded saints there is balance. The church of Jesus Christ is God’s supply line of ministry to the family. If your family is not part of a Bible-believing congregation of saints, your children are being deprived of God’s method of sanctification and ministry. If there is no church or community of believers within comfortable driving distance, then move to where you can hear the preaching of the word and participate in ministry, and your kids can socialize with other godly youth.”

My parents changed churches 5 times in my growing-up years, and a 6th time since I got married. Yes, that’s 7 different churches within my first 25 years of life. If you’re going to change churches every time you disagree with a church policy (not doctrine, *policy*) or every time they play a taped accompaniment with <gasp> drums with a soloist, then that’s not a very stable environment for your kids to grow up in. Remember that because you follow Michael Pearl, and/or Bill Gothard, and/or Doug Phillips, your family is one of the spiritually superior ones, so chances are, you’re more spiritual than your pastor or fellow church members. It’s difficult for a kid or teen with that mindset to be able to fully engage in and learn from church. Been there, done that.

Also, it’s very easy for Michael Pearl to tell families to “move to where you can hear the preaching of the word.” He’s never had to do that, because he is the preacher of the word. (Whose word, I’m not 100% sure, but I suspect he’s preaching Michael Pearl’s word more than God’s Word. Again, my only exposure to the Pearl philosophy has been through their parenting books, but there’s precious little true Bible in there!) It’s not exactly easy for a family, especially a large family, to just pack up & move to a new place and find a new job for dad that will allow mom to still stay home with the dozen kids, plus how about a house that they can afford debt-free that will fit all those people?

“But when everything else is right, if the husband and wife relationship is not a thing to be envied by the children, you can be sure that you are going to lose some if not all of your children to the world. The last you will hear of them as they look back over their shoulder is, “Hypocrite.” I have heard many say, “If that is what a Christian is, I don’t want anything to do with it.””

Nope. That’s not what turned me away from my parents’ brand of Christianity.

It was actually reading the Bible for myself (gasp… a WOMAN reading the Bible FOR HERSELF?!) and realizing that most of what they taught me IS NOT IN THE BIBLE.

“You need to have a family Proverbs time.”

Conveniently enough, one of the other articles in this newsletter just so happens to be about Proverbs Time! The Pearls are very good at self-promoting their other publications, as you’ll see in a minute.

“You need to “go to church.””

Why is “go to church” in quotes in the original article? You either go to church or you don’t. He doesn’t seem to using a quotation from another source. So these quotes just don’t make sense. Weird.

“You need to involve your family in ministering to others. You need to teach morals, character, and the Bible stories; but most of all, you need to look at your children and smile with delight, and they need to see you looking at your spouse and smiling with appreciation and thanksgiving. It is the difference between success and failure.”

Anyone else notice what this is? IT’S A TO-DO LIST.

If you can check off all these things – Proverbs Time, “go to church,” minister to others, and so on… then your kids will be a success. You can beat them within an inch of their lives (or beyond, as tragically has happened several times) and they will still grow up to love you and admire you and want to be just like you and raise their kids to also be just like you.

“Read again Created to Be His Help Meet and Created to Need a Help Meet. Listen to my FREE Romans messages online, and my series Sin No More, available through the NGJ web store.”

There it is – more self-promotion. Just in case you haven’t bought the “Help Meet” books, or the “Sin No More” series, then hurry your little self over to the No Greater Joy web store and send us money, stat! At least Romans is free… but it still seems a little tacky to be promoting his own materials as the solutions to all your problems! This also reminds me of Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and the like. Excellent sales technique – create a problem, then conveniently offer a solution the customer can buy to solve that problem. When that doesn’t work, encourage them to buy more solutions.

This is what I think Michael is saying:

“Yes, some homeschooled kids are failures. It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the system’s fault – it was their parents’ fault because they didn’t follow my checklist! Here, buy more of my stuff & listen to me preach & at least your kids will be successful!”