Michael Pearl, I’m angry.
I’m angry at how you responded to this letter.
Dear Mrs. Pearl, I don’t want you to think I am dishonoring my husband. My heart is to lift him up and be a good wife.
Something has happened over the last year that is scary. My husband has always been somewhat given to the flesh and occasionally angry, but now his anger is out of control. He often comes home from work mad—mad at me, the dog, the kids, the car, the guy next door… anything and anybody can bring on his rage.
The kids have nightmares and cry out begging him not to hurt their dog because he threatens crazy stuff when he is having a fit. We all try to have everything just right, but he still finds something wrong. We are all a nervous wreck. Sometimes I wonder if he is demon possessed, but then he still goes to church and teaches. What do I tell the children, and what can I do to lessen the anger? —Sarah
You minimize the husband’s sin
You talk about being unable to diagnose her husband, when the diagnosis is quite clear: unrighteous anger. You use what seem like weasel words that minimize his sin when you call him an “immature bully” who may feel that he is “not respected at work or at home.” You say “his sin is hidden and unidentified.” No, I think we can identify it. It is named in the Bible. He is practicing the sins that in the Bible are called reviling (or KJV railing), brawling (KJV clamour), and rage (KJV wrath). Though there may well be pornography involved, as you mention, there’s no need to dig any deeper than those three Biblical descriptions.
There’s another sin here that never gets mentioned in your entire article: hypocrisy. This is a man who causes his family to wonder if he is demon possessed, but still goes to church and teaches. This is a problem that you feel is unnecessary to address? You’re not going to mention that this man is unfit to be a leader in the church, when the Bible very clearly says otherwise? This makes me angry.
You figure she must be at fault
“Assure him of your desire to make him happy, and just ask him what you and the children are doing that makes him angry,” you say. So this inexcusable behavior is excusable because she and the children are somehow causing it? You say, “make sure you are not exacerbating the problem with antagonistic responses.”
You, sir, are a fool, in the same sense as the blind guides Jesus rebuked in Matthew 23. You’re telling the wife to give her husband justification for his brawling, reviling, and rage. There is no justification for those sins.
In your paragraph about all the wrong actions she’ll probably want to take in her “human nature,” you say she’ll want “to make him repent and admit he is wrong.” What? It’s wrong to want to get a sinning husband to repent and admit he is wrong? But you say, “this is a satisfying human emotion, but one that will end in divorce.” The only time you mention divorce is implying that it will be the wife’s fault if it happens, rather than the fault of the brawling, raging reviler. This makes me angry.
You tell her to be Wonder Woman
On the other hand, you tell the wife to stand up before his rage and name it. You tell her, “look his anger in the eye as one who has personal dignity and will not be crushed by verbal abuse and unreasonable demands on you and the children.”
I take it you have never been confronted with constant, unrelenting, unpredictable rage like what this woman is describing—rage that gives her children nightmares. You tell her to remain uncrushed when all of them live in constant fear? You then are showing your ignorance of what the Bible says about how bitter (poison) words crush the spirit. Proverbs 12:18 and Proverbs 1:21 are examples.
In regard to pornography and sexual abuse, you tell the wife to “look him in the eye as you say with dignity, ‘I am not going to take the path to hell with you. God created my body for natural use, not queer perversions.’” Are you so clueless? Are you completely unaware, after all these many years of hearing about troubled marriages, that when a man is a brawler, the wife is being abused? That when she says, “I won’t do that,” he says, “Oh yes you will,” and he does things to her that are absolutely unthinkable? Have you been hiding your head in the sand regarding what men are really doing to their wives?
You set up three artificial mutually exclusive categories. You say she has been “a victim” (which you apparently scorn), she could become an “adversary,” and she needs to be “a child of God.” You do not assure her that if she has trusted in Jesus Christ she already is a child of God. Instead you imply that only a child of God “unflinchingly and with confidence looks him in the eye and takes his verbal lashes as if they were confessions of his weakness.” If she cannot do this, she may well assume in her confused and weakened state that she must not be a child of God. Didn’t you know this?
You tell her to suffer persecution and be a martyr
Later on you offer one more category, telling her that if she follows your advice, she will be a “true martyr.” I don’t understand how you can sit there so smugly and tell a woman to stay in a relationship in which you tell her she will be martyred.
You predictably quote Jesus’ words about rejoicing when one is suffering for righteousness, suffering at the hand of revilers and evil-speakers.
And yet, at whose hands did Jesus’ New Testament followers suffer? The ones who had committed to love them and care for them? Ones who were Christian leaders? No! They suffered at the hands of ones who were opposed to Jesus Christ.
And also, when we look at Jesus’ followers, did not every one of them escape the persecution when they had the chance? Which one of them was fool enough to stay in the persecution by choice? Not one! Brother Yun, the “heavenly man” of China, suffered great and intense persecution at the hand of his government. But he also escaped, over and over and over.
This wife’s life is in danger. The lives of her children are in danger. But not once do you tell her, “according to the examples in Scripture (David, Peter, Paul) and examples of godly people throughout history, you and your children should not remain in persecution. You need to escape!” Instead you tell her to stay there until her death. I’m angry about this, and this is righteous anger.
You make it clear in the rest of your response that anything is better than divorce: a life of nightmares and trauma, or even death. This makes me angry. The heart of God is not for His sheep to be abused and oppressed like this by those who claim to be shepherds of His sheep. Ezekiel 34 shows the heart of God on this matter, and I want to reflect that heart in these words.
You say, “An angry husband cannot defeat a Spirit-filled wife.” You’re right, and I’ve known many amazing women who were undefeated by their husbands, women you will never have the privilege of knowing because they walked away from your teachings. An angry husband cannot ultimately defeat a Spirit-filled wife.
But an angry husband can kill a Spirit-filled wife. Does that mean nothing to you?
You are clueless about the children
But you say, “As to your children, do not allow them to grow up thinking . . . that they are to blame and must alter their actions in unreasonable ways to quash his tirades.” Are you yet so clueless? Do you not understand that a child will alter his actions in unreasonable ways to quash the tirades of a monstrous tyrant? Of course he will! In what imaginary land is it otherwise?
I know a family whose children grew up in circumstances like what you’re describing here. They all had to deal with the (elder, Sunday school teacher) father’s constant and unpredictable rage and reviling. They were all blamed for it, because of how “wicked” they all were, especially the wife and mother who was trying to obey every order. She always tried to help the children hold to truth and didn’t pretend that what her husband was doing was acceptable. And yet all of them suffered from the confusion that a mind-manipulator exercises. None of them escaped the trauma that has needed extensive years of counseling to untangle once they finally escaped.
You said, “If you come down to his level and fight with him, they will forever hate Christianity, which is a reasonable response that has produced many emotionally driven atheists.” This arouses my righteous indignation. Do you, sir, know how many atheists have been produced with the very kinds of teachings you’re espousing here? Have you seen what happens to so many children when they grow up watching their demonic father –who teaches in the church, no less!—destroy their meek and quiet mother who tries to maintain a shred of dignity? “If my father represents God, then this is a God I want to have nothing to do with.” That has been repeated so many hundreds of times over that I’m told only ten percent of the young people who exit this form of “Christianity” still call themselves Christians. “The children will not be harmed by his anger,” you say? You live in a fantasy, and I deplore this false teaching.
I’ve done wrong too
This brings me to another reason I’m angry. I’m angry at myself that I used to listen to you and respect you regarding child-raising. I’m ashamed that I thought your wife had good advice for me about marriage. I used to read advice like this from you and thought you must know better than I did. I’m utterly disgusted with myself. But that is a “self” I’ve changed from, when several people in my life told me about the results of the Pearls’ teachings and explained that I was doing wrong to follow the Pearls. I listened and heeded.
But so many have tried to reach you, and you refuse to listen and heed. I’m aghast that after all these years, in 2017, you’re still giving destructive counsel like this. I am appalled.
A word to anyone in a destructive marriage
Michael Pearl said one important thing: “You are a child of God and are loved by God; love in return.”
This first part of that is true and needs no further explanation—one of the few statements here I agreed with unequivocally. The second part, “love in return,” I agree with, but in a very different way from what Michael Pearl espouses.
One way you can love your children best is by keeping them and yourself safe.
And perhaps one of the ways you can love your husband best is by refusing to allow him targets on which he can unleash his anger. You can love him and pray for him from a safe distance, and if he refuses to repent of his idolatry of self, you can follow the true God and move forward and away, in Him. It could well be that your children will rise up and call you blessed for doing so.
Righteous anger needs to be handled carefully. For that reason, I’m now walking away. I’m going to eat a smoothie my daughter made, and I’m going to take the dog for a walk and praise God in His creation. I’m going to remember that He is greater than all the foolish counsel in the world, and He will love and care for His children.
I pray that all those who are crying out to Him for help will also know this to be true.
Update Monday June 26, 2017: I have a post up about righteous vs. sinful anger to help distinguish, because this can be a confusing topic. You can read that here.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.