Double-Speak and Clinton-esque Definitions
May I indulge in satire? If satire offends you or you are unable to easily recognize it, I would advise not reading any further.
Quotes from a pseudo, recently-released weight-loss book:
“My husband and I have found that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is very simple. It requires some effort in the beginning, but after an initial period of consistency, the principles become so second-nature that you don’t have to think about it anymore. If you are concerned about your weight, and don’t want to be one of those disgustingly obese families, then take the time to implement our principles. We know it works. We’ve seen entire families become supermodel thin by implementing our simple methods. If you are too lazy to listen to us, then you deserve the health problems that your obese-ness will produce.”
“The answer to weight-loss is quite simple. If you fill your stomach with paper, you will eat less and will lose that weight you gained by being a disgusting slob.”
“Chewing and Swallowing Paper (CASP) is the first phase of the process. It is quite simple. Keep a small memo pad in your pocket, throughout your day rip out half-pages and chew and swallow the pieces. Look for opportunities that will reinforce the idea that paper is preferable to food. If you see a donut and find yourself reaching for it, simply rip out half a sheet of the memo pad and chew and swallow it. In no time at all you’ll find that your desire for donuts to be diminished to the point that you’ll likely never eat one again – even long after you stop the CASP phase.”
“The second phase of our weight management program is to Fill Your Stomach with Paper (FYSWP). This phase must be implemented once you find that your body will still crave nutrition, even if you’re following the CASP phase of the plan. If you FYSWP and are consistent with this, your stomach will feel full and you will not be bothered with the urge to eat other things. You’ll be amazed at how easily your extra weight comes off, and others will compliment you on your pleasing shape and weight.”
“Now, we have our detractors: people who claim that our advice and instructions are harmful. The idea is ludicrous. We have millions of people using our methods. Just look to their results if you are concerned. Entire families are able to maintain healthy weights by CASP and FYSWP. Anyone who becomes ill using these methods is taking our principles to extreme levels.”
After a recent death that some attribute to the CASP/FYSWP plan, the authors release a statement:
“We do not teach “eating paper.” We teach people how to lose weight, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled consumption of paper to keep the stomach from signaling the brain for food. Over 1,000,000 people have applied these principles with joyful results.”
First, let me say that the insulting tone directed at the obese in the above hurts my heart. Just as the insulting tone directed toward struggling parents disturbs me in the Pearls’ writings. We are all imperfect, struggling toward our ideals and reaching out for answers. The lack of grace and insults directed toward the hurting are inexcusable.
Second, I obviously do not suggest that anyone eat, consume, chew-and-swallow, or fill-their-stomachs with paper in order to lose weight. I chose this as an example hoping that the obviousness would keep anyone from reading half of this post and attempting this!
Now that I have those two issues out of the way, can we discuss the ideas behind this piece of satire?
If you’ve been following the activities of Michael and Debi Pearl for years, or if you’ve just been exposed to their teachings through the recent death of Lydia Schatz, you’ll be aware that there is a great deal of controversy surrounding their teachings. Both their supporters and detractors are quite vocal and passionate. If you’ve listened to both sides you know that their supporters say that any harm done by using the Pearls’ methods is due to people taking their teachings to the extreme – that the Pearls do not advocate any techniques that would result in abuse. Their detractors say that the Pearls’ teachings cause parents to become inured to the harm being committed by physical punishments in the name of consistent “correction” and that the Pearls’ theology is semi-Pelagian.
Both sides have wonderful quotes with which to back up their arguments.
From the statement released by Michael Pearl in response to the investigation by Butte County District Attorney, Mr. Ramsey:
“We do not teach “corporal punishment” nor “hitting” children. We teach parents how to train their children, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument to hold the child’s attention on admonition. Over 1,000,000 parents have applied these Biblical principles with joyful results.
Likewise Ramsey, the prosecutor in the Schatz case, is quick to point out that “No Greater Joy” does not advocate spanking to the point of serious injury. If indeed these parents were abusive, and that has not yet been proven by the courts, it is regretful that our teachings were not able to turn them from their predisposition to abusive habits.”
From the Pearls’ “No Greater Joy” website:
“A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps the kids in line.
Then I would have him stand in front of me and ask him why he got the spanking. If his answer showed that he was rebellious and defiant, he would get several more licks. Again he would be questioned as to his offense. If he showed total submission, we put it all behind us, but if he were still rebellious, we would continue until he gave over his will. Only about three of our five children ever resisted after a spanking and refused to cooperate. Each of the three required only one experience of continued spankings until they surrendered. None of the three ever tried it a second time. In all cases, it was between the ages of two and four that they tried their moment of defiance.”
“See! See! Right there it says…”
Both sides have plenty of info to be quoted; mainly because the Pearls understand the value of double speak. Most harmful Christian parenting authors have absorbed this truth. If you are going to give parents instructions that are harmful and based on twisting scripture, it is best to make your case with great emotion and fear-mongering. Then you can cover yourself by disclaimers that contradict your instructions so that you can always point to your disclaimers and blame the “victims” who took you at your fear-mongering words. Most parents will walk away with the by-the-book instructions and assume that the disclaimers are for “others” who are unable to be discerning or who are inclined to unattached, abusive behavior.
Also, it is quite helpful if you want to be a harmful Christian parenting author to change the meanings of words. This way you can be quoted as NOT saying something that you actually say. “We’ve never told people to ‘eat’ paper” can be quite true if you’ve only ever said, “Chew and swallow paper OR Fill your stomach with paper.”
Just as it is quite true that Michael Pearls can say that he does not advocate “corporal punishment” nor “hitting” children if he simply calls hitting and spanking “training,” “chastisement,” and “punishment.”
It really depends on what your definition of “is” is.