cloistered fruit: (not) an open letter to the Pearls

napa valley

So, a friend of mine sent me this post by Michael and Debi Pearl the other day. I encourage you to go read it, just so that you have some context for the following rant and can follow along. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s wrong with this article, and I’m just going to unload both barrels here. Also, in case I get something wrong, because that is totally possible. I’m ranting, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want clarity or cogency or accuracy. If you think that I’ve blown something out of proportion, and you would like to point out a subtlety or nuance, feel free. Or, you can get up here on my soapbox and rant with me. That’s cool, too.

Every family emits its own light. After viewing a family for just five seconds, I know so much about them. After being introduced to each member of the family, they are an open book.

This is from Michael, and all I have to say is No. Just– no. Five seconds? Really? Everyone is just an open book to you? I shouldn’t be shocked anymore at the unbelievable arrogance and condescension Michael Pearl emits, but somehow, every time, it’s like someone slapped me in the face with a fish. Yes, some people are perceptive, and are capable of accurate first impressions– but this claim goes right along with Micheal’s exalted view of himself as a self-proclaimed “prophet.”

The man was about fifty, certainly not a looker.

Now we’re in one of Debi’s sections, and all this does is remind me of Debi’s rather extensive story about the “one ugly hillbilly” woman in Created to be his Help Meet. This observation has absolutely no bearing on the story she’s about to relate– except as possibly to judge the “Old Dude” (what a demeaning way to refer to someone) for not conforming to her physical standards, and to judge the young woman who appears later for having an emotional connection with someone who isn’t a “looker.” There’s no logical explanation for this– it’s just more of Debi’s self-righteous judgment spilling out of her. Both Michael and Debi have demonstrated, throughout the sum total of their careers, an astonishing lack of compassion and simple human empathy.

Right here, at our church, among all these righteous families! I stood amazed at the audacity of the human race.

In other words, how dare people with actual real-life problems dare show themselves in our church! How dare someone who doesn’t conform to our little universe of perfection! How dare you come in here, and violate our incomprehensibly narrow view of the world!

I tried to ask the girl questions to ascertain the cause of this odd arrangement, but he answered as if the questions were directed to him, and the young lady deferred to him as if he were her voice of conscience. I thought that unless her father had truly been abusive, she should return to her family, but I was making no progress engaging her to consider her options.

Back to Michael. This is where I agree with him– this interaction shows that something about their relationship is off. The married man (I refuse to refer to him as “Old Dude”) is forbidding this young woman to even speak, and that seems to be something that is the standard for them. Either because of the married man in this situation, or because of her abusive home, she’s been silenced. She’s literally voiceless here. But this is the only time anyone even mentions this. It stands out to them as a little odd, but not that odd. Because women are expected to let men “lead.” If you’re going to be a “good Christian woman,” silence is expressly demanded by people like the Pearls. So it’s only a little weird, instead of the gigantic flaming red flag it should have been.

And this is one of the places where Michael builds on a long-standing understanding in these types of circles, and you can see it in the words “truly abusive.” This is so incredibly loaded. Because, to Michael, who endorses extreme physical punishment that borders on the sociopathic, “true abuse” would have to be on the level of breaking bones before he was convinced. Emotional and psychological trauma– don’t even exist. Because the ramifications of emotional abuse are just “bitterness” and “un-forgiveness” to the Pearls. Michael would voluntarily send an adult woman back into an abusive situation in order for her to be “under her father’s protection” than ever admit that a “Christian father” is capable of abusing his children. Psychological trauma– just spiritual and heart issues. And her “options”? This girl doesn’t have options. She’s not even allowed to speak for herself– which could indicate that she’s being manipulated into believing she doesn’t have options. When a woman can’t even talk how can she make an actual decision?

At this point in the story, Debi has burst in with an unexplained prophecy, declaring that she’d heard from God, and was speaking with his authority. She gives no context, and disappears as quickly as she came. Then, she sits down the woman for a talk. She does seem to give the married couple and the abused woman some benefit of the doubt– at first.

Undoubtedly his relationship with his wife was already barren before the girl came along, but the old wife had now become the second woman.

What the. Crap on a cracker. Debi– seriously?! You hear this from God, too? A voice come booming out of heaven to tell you that their marriage was “undoubtedly barren”? Which, if you’ve read Debi’s book is without exception always the woman’s fault. If this married man is developing a emotionally intimate connection, it’s obviously because his wife doesn’t smile enough, or doesn’t know how to put her makeup on. Clearly.

I had to try to help Little Miss see the error of her ways.

To most young brides the husband appears clumsy and unfeeling. But as the wife continues to obey and reverence her young husband, he will grow in appreciation for her soul, and in time learn to care for her emotional and spiritual needs.

I explained to Little Miss that having even a small part of this “mysterious relationship” with another woman’s husband, especially in her own home, in front of her, is exceedingly cruel and evil.

Already touching her spirit, I knew what the answer would be, but I wanted the girl to understand she was indeed not innocent.

If there was ever going to be any change to this situation then she had to understand the full ugliness of her actions, so I drove home how depraved and self-centered she was to do such a thing as to interfere with the sacredness of marriage.

Being cloistered might have been bad for her, but now she was party to damaging the sacred.

Girlie, it will come to you soon enough, and you will need a place to flee. Don’t come here. The invitation for a place to stay is closed. I would not trust a ‘regret’ girl around this ministry.”

This should speak for itself.

Debi doesn’t care about the abuse this woman has experienced. It doesn’t even matter– it only enters as a “but” statement. The fact that the married man in this situation talks about being “highly skilled in the art of caressing souls” straight to Micheal’s face doesn’t matter. They’re not even capable of picking up on the GIGANTIC BILLBOARD-SIZED RED FLAGS that should tell them that the man in this situation is taking advantage of a tender, fragile, desperate and abused young woman.

Because it’s the wife’s fault for not reverencing her husband, or not fulfilling him, or not having sex with him enough, or not keeping herself pretty enough. And then it’s the abused woman’s fault. Her fragility, the fact that this married man deliberately chose a woman sheltered enough to not understand exactly how he was going to “caress her soul.” He’s vulnerable because of his wife, and the abused woman is preying on his vulnerability. No, he’s not emotionally manipulative, or taking advantage of this situation at all. It’s all the woman’s fault, because being abused by her parents and then manipulated by another man (which she’s probably been taught since infancy is a legitimate authority over her, simply because he’s a man) doesn’t make a lick of difference.

And then comes the hammer. Debi tells her that she will absolutely not help an abused woman when this woman eventually realizes that she traded the frying pan for the fire. Because she’s responsible for the married man manipulating her. She’s cruel, evil, depraved, and self-centered. She’s not hurting, she’s not lost, she’s not desperate for someone to realize that she’s a person, and that she needs help.

Michael and Debi Pearl– YOU are cruel, evil, depraved, and self-centered. You’ve been blinded by the power you’ve wrested from innocent people by being false prophets. You are completely and desperately lacking of any form of common sense or sound judgment.

The article goes on (with Michael inserting an insignificant caveat about how holy and righteous he was, and how men should stay away from women, because, well, women will seduce them away from God), but the story is over. They switch into analysis mode, and I just . . . can’t.

If you are a young woman in a cloistered situation, beware of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Staying in the frying pan is much to be preferred, for you can always jump when a clean alternative shows itself.

Samantha hits her head on her desk repeatedly at the sheer idiocy and ignorance.

Do they never even stop and listen to themselves? Are they so blind to reality that they’re incapable of understanding how ridiculous a statement like this is? When you’ve grown up in a “cloistered” home– by their definition, a family so sheltered they can’t tell “right from wrong,” how the hell do you think an infantalized woman (or man, for that matter) is capable of being aware of the difference between “clean” and supposedly “unclean” alternatives? They’ve been purposely and deliberately shielded from having that kind of power.

Micheal and Debi Pearl are dangerous.

People listen to them, people respect them, people make excuses for them when their teachings are responsible for the slaughter of innocent children. Their loyal followers say that reactions like mine are exaggerated, that I’m just not giving the benefit of the doubt. If I’d really read all of their books, if I’d actually paid attention to what they advocate, I’d be fine with them. I’m just not understanding their true message, which is obviously of love and directly from God.


I have read their books– I’ve read every single last one of their books multiple times. I idolized them as a child. They were just so brazenly honest, so overwhelmingly clear– how could Michael be anything but a prophet sent from God to teach the fundamentalists how to raise their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

But as I got older, I started realizing, with a mounting horror, just how clearly evil their teachings are. What they advocate fosters and nurtures abusive homes. They explicitly encourage women to stay with physically abusive husbands and utterly dismiss the existence of marital rape and don’t even acknowledge that men emotionally and verbally abuse their wives.

Debi repeatedly tells women that if their husbands are abusing them, it’s clearly their fault. They’re just not reverencing their husbands enough. Reverence your husband, and he won’t yell. Reverence your husband, and he won’t beat you. Reverence your husband, and ignore the fact that he’s raping you when you don’t want to have sex– because you’re not even allowed to say no. If you say no, he’ll just go sleep with someone else.

And Michael– spank your child until he obeys. Spank your child with an ever-increasing-in-size pipe until he instantaneously submits to your every uttered command. Spank your children until they are cowed. Spank your children until they would never even think of disobeying you. Because that’s what’s going to teach them about how to obey God.

The only language the Pearls are capable of speaking is a language of violence and abuse.

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  • no response but shaking in anger. oh, and mental swearing.

    • Out loud swearing is good for the soul, too. 😀

      • True true 🙂 my kids were in my lap though, and kieron mimics EVERYTHING this week. I can just picture my in laws faces… Kieron already ‘swears’ when he gets upset or surprised. Only he says a Thomas swear ‘cinders and ashes!’. He’s two. It’s adorable, he trips and before he lands he’s saying ‘sinners ah ashes!’.

      • 🙂

  • I only have one thing to say here, and it is this: there is no chance that the married guy is caressing nothing but her soul. He is absolutely, unequivocally sexually exploiting that fragile, abused, sad young girl right under his wife’s nose and probably even in his wife’s bed and his religion is letting him. And the Pearls jointly absolve him of culpability.

    They are terrible people.

    • That is, unfortunately, very likely. The fact that the Pearls don’t even ask this question is disturbing.

  • I started reading, and I thought “Wow, this is a messed up home situation.” Then I kept reading and went “Holy crap, that is not the proper response to a messed up home situation”.

    And then I got to the “takeaways” section. There are no words.

  • notleia

    I’m willing to give Deb a point for trying to set the girl up in a less exploit-y situation with “good Christian girl” housemates (though the less-exploitation is an unintentional side effect of the pearl-clutching), which brings her score up to -287.
    I got douche chills from “caressing her soul.” “Cloister” ministries, my ass. He thought it up as an excuse to keep that girl in penis’s reach.
    And the holier-than-thou levels are off the charts with ol’ Mark, aren’t they. Of course he prides himself on never touching a female above 4 years of age, ’cause men are emotionally stunted horndogs a semi-hard-on away from cavemanhood, amirite? Like hell am I going to reverence that.

    • Yeah, that was “doing her a solid,” I suppose– but when she almost immediately retracts the offer with the “don’t come running to me for help when you realize what a cruel, evil person you are,” she loses another -50, in my book.

    • notleia

      Excuse me, the holier-than-thou prick in this discussion was Michael, not Mark. I’ll just wait for the Driscolls to pop up in conversation and copy-paste that remark.

      • Oh, wow, that made me laugh. I don’t know if I can go anywhere near Mark Driscoll in a post. I’d turn into Godzilla or something. But… I have personal experience with him, so, yeah.

  • Hi. I have a free ebook that I give away to help people understand alternative views to Scriptural teachings promoted by dear misguided people like the Pearls. Write info@biblechild.com

  • I do hope that someday, the Pearls will pay legal consequences for their evil teachings. And I do not use that word lightly. To borrow from an anonymous commenter on John Piper’s equally disturbing teaching that abused women should stay in a violent marriage, “Richard Dawkins wishes he were as effective as [the Pearls] at convincing people that Christianity is a morally bankrupt mess.”

  • tealrose1

    Personally .. from what I read and see of the Pearls … I am not so sure as much that they are ‘misguided’ as … downright evil. OK … misguided by the devil I can understand.

    How … do humans turn something full of love and beauty into a thing of hate, lies and violence ??? *sigh*

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      “Nothing’s worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.”
      — Capt Mal Reynolds, Free Trader Serenity

  • Beth C.

    It hurts my heart to hear of what these people are doing in the name of God. Especially wive/child abusers. They have some twisted sense of Christianity, that’s for sure.

  • I read “near this ministry” and just thought to myself, “What the hell kind of ‘ministry’ is THIS? Who are they ‘ministering’ to??” I would feel bludgeoned, not ministered to.

  • Go make a sandwich, take a potty break or a nap because I’m climbing up onto that soapbox!

    1) The Pearls are among the most prominant voices for the neopatriarchs, IOW, Young Twit’s typer-sheltering parents most likely bought into Pearlesque teachings IOW, the Pearls are the friggin problem not the solution.

    2) Before the Pearls say a word about the outward beauty or lack thereof in other people, they should look in the mirror because they look a lot like homeless folk particularly those with dillusional tendencies.

    3) Michael and Debi need to know their place…..Alltogether, friends, our job is to……

    Love people and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to……………………………………….

    Convict people of their sin.

    I don’t think it is a good idea to tell the third person of the Holy Trinity how to do His job.

    Done with the soap box….don’t forget to wash your hands.

    • Korrine


  • Gail

    “After being introduced to each member of the family, they are an open book. I don’t yet know the details, but I know the soul of the family.”

    O give me a freaking break… Really? There is only One all knowing God and it ain’t the Pearls. I ache for the girl in this story, and I rage that she is the one who gets the blame.

    However, I keep this in mind. No one is getting away with this crap in the long run.
    Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD,
    And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard?
    The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

    IOW: THERE IS NO SEARCHING OF HIS UNDERSTANDING. And the Pearls don’t have a lick of understanding. Jesus knows the plight of the this girl. Shame on them for their condemnation. Sorry, they make me sick.

  • Pingback: (Not) An Open Letter To The Pearls: Samantha Field’s Thoughts | H • A()

  • If the Pearls were just two individuals with no followers, they would still be shocking and outrageous. The fact that this is mainstream teaching among a certain subset of Protestants is simply horrifying. How popular are the Pearls? I get the impression their ‘ministry’ is pretty big.

    • It’s hard to get actual numbers, since their books are self published and they don’t report sales to Bookscan. The numbers they do report seem to be inflated.

      Personally, I’ve never met a Christian woman (Fundy or otherwise) that wasn’t at least aware of Debi’s book on marriage. It’s been rare that any woman didn’t endorse it- it was a gift at both of my bridal showers with the full blown “oh, this book is WONDERFUL” from every woman there.

      Their child rearing books, tho, I don’t know. Everyone in Fundy-land knew about them.

  • Elmo

    You read that all the way to the end? You must be a glutton for punishment. I fought with the notion that two-voices-in-one was some sort of useful literary device and decided that it was more like what I’d expect from someone with true multiple personality syndrome. The one thing that both voices have in common is exceptional priggishness.

    • It took me a couple attempts, actually, I had to read it in fits and starts.

  • Pingback: Always The Woman’s Fault? | Why Not Train A Child?()

  • Jacquelyn

    They are truly truly sick people. Ugh

  • LadyTea

    Anyone else who is thinks that guy whos marriage is threaded by five year olds should not giving relationship advise?

  • What I find so disturbing about this article by the Pearls is the sprinkling of truth and half-truth throughout what they say. It’s extremely sneaky and satanic, hiding something blatantly evil behind nice-sounding “truths” that almost measure up to scripture. Frightening.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      The essence of successful Deception, My Dear Wormwood…

  • el

    I find it bizarre that Debbi Pearl has said women are not as spiritual as men; they’re responsible to men not God and furthermore a woman trying to claim spiritual authority is a Jezebel.

    Yet here she claims to deliver a prophecy from God. Right.

  • I am sickened by the folks around me who think the Pearls are directly in contact with God. I guess it just goes to show that in the last days people will be led astray…sad that it has to be under the name of Christ who I am sure is grieved at their gross mis interpretation of HIS word. I have not read much of their stuff at all except for bits and pieces of Debbie’s crappy Created to be his helpmeet which some well meaning soul sent to me while I was temporarily separated from my husband due to the fact that I was being emotionally and verbally abused. I did return to the marriage after he took major counseling and steps to lead him to his proper role and realizing it did not include angry dominance like the Pearls advocate. God help us all and may we pray that God would show the Pearls the error of their ways.

    • I’m glad your husband got into counseling and worked on his problems. That happens so rarely in many conservative Christians circles…

  • forgivnsetfree

    How old are these people? Did the older Pearls write books on discipline in the 70’s? 80’s? I’m pretty sure they are responsible for justifying my physical abuse as a child. Dare to discipline or something like that? Their website literally made me want to vomit. So many triggers. These people should not be allowed to exist!!