Couple Beat Child To Death With “Biblical Rod”

By Dr. Stacey Patton

Creator of Spare The Kids

For far too long Christian fundamentalists have preached the gospel of “spare the rod, spoil the child.”  And now, a California couple is behind bars after pleading guilty to beating their seven-year-old adopted daughter to death with a 15-inch plumping supply tube that they called “a biblical rod.”

And we’re worried about gay people adopting children?

This week CNN reported that Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, a white couple from Paradise, California beat their seven-year-old black daughter Lydia because they believed God wanted them to.  The couple tortured the child for seven consecutive hours, taking breaks for prayer.  When police arrived at the Schatz residence, Lydia was still alive.  An officer administered CPR, but it was too late.

“We have heard the phrase ‘death by a thousand lashes,’” Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told CNN.  “That’s basically what this was.”

The Schatzes, who had eight other children, didn’t only beat Lydia.  All of their children were regularly tortured in the name of God.  Lydia’s sister, eleven-year-old Zariah was beaten so severely that she almost died.

CNN reported that the couple was heavily influenced by a Christian child-rearing book titled To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl of Tennessee-based No Greater Joy Ministries.

“If you spare the rod, you hate your child,” author Michael Pearl told CNN.  “But if you love him, you chasten him timely.  God would not have commanded parents to use the rod if it were not good for the child,” the book states.

Umph.  A lot of good the rod did for little Lydia.  Her skin was so badly battered that the medical examiner said her injuries looked like those seen on earthquake or bombing victims.

The Schatz’s pleaded guilty to torture and murder.  The husband will spend 22 years behind bars and his wife will be locked away for at least 12 years.  At Kevin’s trial Lydia’s sister Zariah faced her tormentor and asked: “Why did you adopt her (Lydia)?  To kill her?”  Lydia and her seven other surviving siblings are now in foster care.

There’s more to be said here about this horrific crime.

I’ve been reading reactions on various blogs, Facebook and other social networking sites and the consensus seems to be that what happened in the Schatz’s home is an isolated incident of brutality.  People have been quick to call the couple a pair of monsters or nut jobs who twisted the Bible to justify their sick indulgence in torturing children. 

But I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve gotten myself into with Christians who fervently defend the proverbial saying “spare the rod, spoil the child” and loudly proclaim that the Bible advocates violence against children.  But what was the use of the rod, and is it a directive or a metaphor?

Here’s a little lesson I learned about Biblical philosophy and child rearing . . . . 

The verse “spare the rod, spoil the child,” as it is often quoted, does NOT appear in the Bible.  The closest verse like it is Proverbs 13:24 which reads, “Those who spare the rod, hate their children, but the one who loves their child disciplines them diligently.”

The use of the word rod appears in the 23rd Psalm: “Your rod and your staff comfort me.”  Here we can assume that the rod of a shepherd is at least similar in type and use to that in the proverb verse.  The use of the rod by shepherds did NOT include beating them.

The fact is, the rod and staff were the two implements utilized by professional shepherds of the day. The staff, which we are most familiar with, has a “crook” or “hook” on the end which was used to stop running sheep, help pull sheep up from rocky places when they’d fallen over, and so on. The rod was used when corralling the sheep to insure they went in the direction they were supposed to go. It wasn’t used to prod or poke, but to direct along the length of the shaft.

Now, sheep were a valuable asset for the shepherd; indeed, without the sheep there would be no shepherd, so the flocks were well taken care of. In fact, a damaged or maimed sheep was a liability, since it was considered tamé, Hebrew for polluted or impure. This being the case, the shepherd who owned their sheep took good care of them and used the tools of their trade as they were meant to be used–to guide, to direct, and to teach (the literal meaning of discipline). However, there were scoundrels who were simply hired to look after the sheep. They had little concern over the welfare of the animals, so they would use their tools in whatever way suited them. These were the ones who might lose their tempers and beat a lamb with a rod just to demonstrate they were more powerful and could force their will upon it.

Children are no less valuable than sheep, and they learn better too! If a sheep is consistency directed, that is limited and taught, they will learn what is expected and generally conform. However, if they are beaten and broken they not only stop responding, but they look for every opportunity to escape–even when escape may mean grave danger.

To “spare the rod” is indicative of a parent who does not discipline their child, that is, to teach, guide, and direct. This is the parent who “hates their child.” To spare the rod doesn’t mean a parent should beat down their children into submission, rather they are to be like shepherds who value and care for their charges and keep them from danger by using the tools of good parenting to teach responsible behavior and appropriate morality.

All Christians need to be careful about how they read and interpret the Bible and use scriptures to justify certain behaviors and practices.  Certainly the Bible ought not to be used to promote violence of any degree against children.  While it may be true that what happened in the Schatz’s home is a rare incident of murder, but far too many children are hit on a daily basis with hands and other objects because their parents believe that the Bible says it is right.

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5 Responses to Couple Beat Child To Death With “Biblical Rod”

  1. shondolyn gibson says:

    Oh hell yes. it’s like that stupid breaking a lamb’s leg thing. only a psycho would do that. you teach and guide. you do not beat. that poor child was tortured for 7 hours! it is time for the church to leave gays alone and focus on the Pearls and their family damaging teachings

  2. Bob says:

    What confuses me as well is that I thought Christians were followers of Christ who developed a “New Covenant” so why do we refer to Old Testament references. Jesus said “Suffer the little children unto me”.

    Ironically the actual origin of the saying, “Spare the rod… Spoil the child” is from a 17th century poem by Samuel Butler called “Hudibras”. In the poem, a love affair is likened to a child, and spanking is commended as a way to make the love grow stronger. The actual verse reads,

    “What medicine else can cure the fits

    Of lovers when they lose their wits?

    Love is a boy by poets styled

    Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”

    Make sure you share with the fundamentalists that their quote was actually encouraging sado-masochism!!!

  3. Penny says:

    This incident does not show true Christianity. Radical “Christians” do not represent true Christianity any more than Radical Muslim jihadists represents all Islam followers. Real Christians do not beat their children to death, real Christians do not shoot abortionists, real Christians do not abuse other people in the name of religion, etc. Real Christianity is a matter of the heart and while we hate the sin~ we are called to love the sinner, ourselves included. What this couple did was SICK, twisted and they are NOT followers of Jesus Christ. They are using His name in vain by calling themselves Christians. You are correct in saying that “the rod” of discipline does NOT have to be a physical rod. We should all “shepherd” our children with love. Am I guilty of spanking? Yes. Unfortunately, I was raised where it was a first resort, not a last resort. It carried over into my parenting. Do I believe in spanking? Not really. Do I believe that every parent that spats a child on the bottom is a child abuser. NO! I truly believe we should try other methods of “discipline.” Find one that works for you and your child without resorting to hitting. I wish articles like this would stop calling all Christians child abusers because of a few crazies that call themselves by His name. I’m sure there are buddhists, atheists, hindus, etc. that are abusing their children. If one does, does that make ALL people of that faith abusers?!

  4. Cardenie says:

    Great article. My question is, if someone really thinks God is telling them to essentially assault their child in order to discipline them…where is your moral compass that you do not question this?

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