Remembering Lydia Schatz

First, I would like to say this: EVERYONE, both parents and childless, needs to read what I’m posting here this evening. This pertains directly to child development and discipline. It’s a topic I care deeply about, because I believe that our children are our legacy. They carry on our bloodlines, our values, our histories and our hopes for a better tomorrow.

Earlier today, I ran across an article regarding the death of eight-year-old Lydia Schatz, in Paradise, California. She was an adoptee from a Liberian orphanage, along with her 11-year-old sister, Zariah. The Schatz’s are a Fundamentalist Christian family, with 6 biological children and one other adopted child.

In February of last year, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz brutally tortured little Lydia to death, beating her over a period of literally HOURS, with a section of quarter-inch diameter plumbing supply line tubing. The reason? She had mispronounced a word while reading. Later, her sister Zariah would testify to the same types of beatings for “being a liar and a bad influence”. Further testimony and evidence suggests that NONE of the six biological children received treatment of this severity.

The Schatz parents’ guidance on child “training” came from a book published by No Greater Joy Ministries, called “To Train Up A Child”. This book and also the NGJ website, the work of one Pastor Michael Pearl of Tennessee, advocates the use of what Pearl refers to as “plumbing supply line” in the process of child “training”, along with the use of such things as a “willowy branch” on children as young as one year old. He goes on to equate the training of children with the way the Amish train their mules, the way the military trains its troops, the way people train dogs as pets. Of course, his basis for everything he posits in his book is the biblical passage regarding “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

The Schatz couple eventually took a plea deal, and they are now spending their time contemplating what they did, behind bars. Kevin Schatz will spend 22 years in jail, his wife only 12 years. (Here’s the point where I climb, ever so humbly, upon my lonely soapbox to opine…)

When people start drawing parallels between animal training and the discipline of children, it becomes easier to devalue and debase those that otherwise should be considered our most precious treasures! In my most humble of opinions, what Pastor (yeah, right!) Pearl’s book does is takes the parent’s mental “equation marker” down a notch, and makes it far more acceptable in their mind to utilize things like rubber pipes to beat their children. In their minds, the child is now a possession and not a person, having equal status to a beloved pet or valued horse.

Another thing that I note here is that NONE of the six biological children, who are all white, ever received the severe beatings that the two older adopted girls did, who are (were, in the case of poor Lydia!) black. To me, this smacks of pure hatred, bigotry and racism.

Do I blame Pastor Pearl for the murder of Lydia Schatz? No. It was Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz that were in control of that situation in Paradise, CA. Pearl was in Tennessee. He did not tell anyone to beat their children to death. In fact, he goes on to say in his book that the “training” should never be done out of hate of anger, and should always be followed up. He DID however; contribute to the mindset that enabled the crime, through his book. So, is this a case of the gun maker selling a gun without a safety to a potential murderer, who then uses it on two people that he devalues already, murdering one and seriously injuring another?

When I read about this whole thing, the more I read, the more I grieved. And, the more I raged! I have two thoughts on this that are directly related to scripture. One, “An eye for an eye.” The Schatz’s deserve to die for what they did. They brutalized, tortured and killed a child. They took innocence and preciousness, shat on it, pissed on it and discarded it like so much trash on collection day. Second, the passage “…as you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me.” The Schatz’s purported to be Christians, for Christ’s sake! Instead of worshipping and treasuring Christ, they put him up on that crucifix again, hammered the nails through his wrists and feet with a ¼” plumbing feed line, and watched him die.

Parents, please consider everything I have typed here very closely. I know it’s hard to raise a child, I’ve done it three times over. Yes, I believe in and use corporal punishment. My boys got the belt applied to their butts growing up, but always knew why they were getting swats, and the swats were always followed up with love and positive reinforcement. Our oldest son now works for a defense contractor with the Army, doing soldier records processing. At 23, he has a full-time job, making over 14 bucks an hour. I am SO proud of the man he’s become! Our younger son is 20, has attended college and is also an upstanding member of his community. Neither of them ever had problems with drugs, gangs or prison. Our daughter is a “work-in-progress”, being only seven. Already though, she has a heart bigger than the Montana sky, would do anything to protect those smaller than her, including taking on boys bigger than herself!

What I’m saying here, IF I’m saying anything at all, is be conscientious in the ways that you raise your children. Don’t just “allow them to exist”, and don’t go overboard either. Be careful of the advice you take in child rearing, and never discipline out of hate or anger. If you are in a position where you disdain your child, maybe you should surrender them to someone who can love them like they deserve. If you are one of those parents who follows the “Pastor Pearl” recipe for “training”, I would STRONGLY urge you to stop.

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5 comments on “Remembering Lydia Schatz

  1. tulipgrrl says:

    To clarify, one of the charges against the Schatz parents was for “cruelty to child by inflicting injury” of their biological son. They DID use this method of child training on their biological children as well as their adopted children. The dynamics of adoption, ptsd, attachment issues, etc., I believe were a contributing factor to why the adopted girls were more severely beaten than the biological children.

    While the Pearls are not legally culpable in this situation, they are morally culpable. No, they don’t say beat your child to death, but they do say, ” “…then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.” From To Train Up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl; Chapter 6: Applying the Rod. (More quotes from TTUAC related to Lydia Schatz here: http://www.tulipgirl.com/index.php/2010/02/hold-em-down-defeat-totally/ )

    Like you said the Pearls provided the mindset that led to this. It isn’t the first time it has resulted in death. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last. It doesn’t have to be in anger or “out of control” to lead to abuse.

    • What gets me is that, in the CNN video interview, Pearl tells the interviewer that they “looked into the case, to see if there was any blame” that was going to come their way. That ought to tell you a LOT about what the Pearls wrote, and their concern about it’s application.

  2. truelibertarian says:

    I agree. And I don’t think religion can be blamed for these actions, nauseating as they are. Nor do I blame Pearle, as repulsive as his book is. He’s not someone who sold a gun, he’s someone who shared his ideas. And anyone who took those ideas (and actually, the Schatzes did bastardize the book, as you said) and applied them without thought is intelligent as a lamp-post. He’s not at fault for this.

    However, I strongly disagree with corporal punishment. All studies indicate that they are nothing but harmful, regardless of what may occur in individual instances.

    • Truelibertarian, I honestly look forward to more open and constructive discourse with you. As I read your comments on my blog entries, I get the sense that you are genuinely giving these issues a lot of thought. While we may not agree on certain points or ideas, I still feel that our dialogue has been, is and will be quite beneficial!

      When I made the “sold a gun” comment, I was attempting to draw an applicable parallel. Hmm, maybe that wasn’t quite as good as another could have been…

      As for Corporal Punishment, studies cannot ever hope to drill down to the individual elements and dynamics of parental discipline methods and considerations. Every child is different, every approach has to be tailored to that individual child’s behaviors, needs, family situation, retention ability, etcetera. Again, I’ve done this three times over with positive results, regardless of what any “study” may indicate to the contrary…

      • truelibertarian says:

        I look forward to it as well! That’s why I commented on several of your blogs and subscribed for email updates.

        I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that with SOME children, as long as the parent is EXTREMELY careful about ensuring that the child understands the reason for the punishment, and if the “corporal punishment” isn’t about actually causing pain but rather about exhibiting the extent of your displeasure, it won’t cause irreparable harm to said child. But I think there’s almost always a better way (and I say almost just to avoid absolutes). Whether or not corporal punishment irreparably harms children isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether it causes more harm than good, or vice versa. I tend to think the former.

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