Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Created to Be His Help Meet: My Take on the Pearls

I was reading a post at Spunky's about an article by Michael and Debi Pearl called Jumping Ship. You can read a great conversation between Spunky and Anne in the comments of Spunk's post. (In fact, please do, or I don't know how much sense this post will make to you.) That conversation made me want to take the CTBHHM day to clarify something about how I see the Pearls' ministry.

To me, reading Debi's book is like sitting down for coffee with a woman who is older and wiser than I am--a woman who has perhaps counseled hundreds of women; who has raised a large family; and who, from everything I can tell, loves the Lord. She seems like a passionate person who's going to do her best to communicate truth to me and help me learn so that I don't make mistakes she's seen many women make.

But I don't agree with everything she says. Sure, the Pearls' tone and diction can make it seem like they think they have all the answers. Honestly, that doesn't bother me. "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Rom 14:5). I think they believe their words are based on Scripture, and it's okay for them to be convinced about it. When I read their material, I understand they are passionate and may seem hyperbolic at times. My question is, what are they saying? What's between the lines?

For example, the Jumping Ship article talks about parents "cloning" their culture and "cloning" themselves in their children. Do the Pearls really think we clone ourselves, and our children are exactly like us? I don't think so. But such idiomatic/hyperbolic speech is common to Southerners (if they aren't Southern, honey, they seem like it. I've never heard their voices), and perhaps there's a cultural component to how others see their rhetoric.

As I wrote to Anne (who made some GREAT points; this post is not in opposition to her at all):

"Generally I do with their writing what I did with CTBHHM: chew the (wonderful and plentiful) meat, and spit out the bones. And there ARE bones. I don't begin to agree with every jot and tittle they put to paper, but many times I think they're saying something that too few people are willing to say."

I feel perfectly free to sit at that table with Debi, listen intently to what she has to say (not because she's someone greater than anyone else, but because I've found worth in her words), and evaluate it all for myself. Sure, I see areas where I differ with her. In my CTBHHM reviews, I've purposefully chosen to eschew places in the text I could criticize in favor of focusing on the many things I found profound or striking in it. It's not an academic review; it's an attempt to squeeze every useful piece of advice from this woman that I can.

That doesn't mean there aren't very legitimate things we could debate in this book--some reviewers have mentioned them. I just chose to tell you what I am finding useful.

The bottom line is that just like in 'real life' relationships, we can learn from one another without agreeing on everything one hundred percent. I think that it's not too hard to read between the lines of the Pearls' material to grasp the heart of what they're saying. Of course, some people, like Anne, will thoughtfully and honestly disagree with the Pearls, or with me. That's okay, and as I wrote above, Anne makes legitimate and compelling points in her rebuttals. I do think, though, this charge of arrogance on the part of the Pearls may be more of a misunderstanding and can muddy the waters when the topic of their teachings comes up.

NB: Some dismiss the Pearls because they disagree with their books on parenting. This post isn't really about that--but I will refer anyone with parenting interests to Molly's wonderful, wonderful series on that topic.

Saying ANYTHING remotely positive about the Pearls is verboten to some people, and I usually can expect some nasty comments. If you leave one, just know it will be deleted as soon as I see it. I don't tolerate harrassment (or witch hunts). Some people literally scour the Internet seeking out those who would dare to speak on this subject in the way I, Molly, Sal, Jenna and the others do, in order to bully us (usually anonymously) into silence. Guess what: that won't work. I will continue to speak the truth before God as I see it, seeking to back up my words with Scripture. And I will defend and encourage those whom you persecute.