In the last segment of my interview with Michael Bailey, he talks about breaking children's will, his own plans for a book and what he would tell parents about his uncle's controversial teachings.
When and if you have children, would you parent by the teachings of "To Train Up a Child"?
I certainly don’t want my children to grow up with the kind of relationship with me that I have with my parents, but I don’t fault my uncle’s teachings for that. Another aspect of my uncle’s teachings, one that never gets any press but that should if people want to truly understand what he’s trying to teach, is in regards to the breaking of the will. That is a core tenant to his methods, and I would argue that his methods probably ARE the most efficient for breaking the will of most children, particularly if taught from an early age. There is a strong doctrine in most Christian branches of a hierarchy between families and God. In this doctrine, men are taught to be broken before God (and there are plenty of stories in the Old Testament that teach this doctrine), but they are also the head of their families. There is a kind of partnership with the wife (something Michael’s wife Debi has written about in “Created To Be His Help Meet”), but ultimately the father is supposed to serve the role of God to children – until they develop their own relationship with God. I believe that it is in this capacity that my uncle is trying to teach parents to break the will of their child – so that it will be broken towards God.
This is where it gets dangerous, and I believe the true source of the tragedies that have been linked to this book. We’ve already seen for centuries how men have used this doctrine to get away with oppressing women, but as my uncle would teach – that’s not what the Bible advocates. Instead, it’s something men have used to justify first to themselves, and then to others, what they see in themselves. A man can be frustrated and angry at his lack of control in himself, which will extend to his entire household. It is then easier to take that out on his wife than it is to deal with his own weaknesses. When children are involved, it gets even worse. The deaths of abused children that we have seen have been the result of out-of-control parents who are full of anger and frustration. This is common to almost all child abuse, not just those who have read my uncle’s book.
For myself, I have no interest in breaking the will of my children. I have no interest in conditioning them into obedience. I will “train them up in the way they should go”, which is to tame their own feelings, treat others with love and generosity, and in general – follow the teachings of Christ. If you believe in the Christian God, I see no reason to deviate from the teachings of Christ if you want to train your children in the way they should go.
You mentioned plans to write a book. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
I’d love to. It’s called Of Gods and Men, and it steps the reader through a modern understanding of scripture. As noted previously, I spent several years studying religious history as well as various philosophies – and spent a good deal of this time praying. I had also been a fan of physics and the cosmos during my childhood. (I had originally planned to attend MIT in pursuit of a degree in Nuclear Engineering.) During this time there were some key verses in the Bible that stood out for me, the first of which is Matthew 15:9 – “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”. This verse gave me the confidence to pursue my own understanding of scriptures even if it deviated from my uncle’s teachings. I think that anyone who is considering his teachings, or actively following, should heed this verse. It is coupled well with Ephesians 6, which talks about taking on the whole armor of God – praising truth, faith, and scripture. This led me to start from scratch in my own understanding of scriptures, which gave me a fresh perspective on just about everything that people take for granted when they use the term “The Bible Says…”.
Just to give you an example, when I first started this process I started at the beginning – Genesis 1. I believe at this point I probably still ascribed to the ‘young earth’ doctrine, that basically ignores and actively denies almost all modern science and knowledge – not a very good start for those looking to take on the whole armor of God. But in the very first few verses, I noticed a discrepancy in the case of “Earth” between verses. The very first verse says “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (lower case), and then later on in verse 10 we see that “God called the dry land Earth”. To my knowledge, this discrepancy has never been discussed before. I re-read this chapter many times, applying what we know scientifically to the origins of the universe, earth, and life itself. If one was willing to toss out the 15th century assumptions of what some of the less notable words (like E/earth) were intended to mean, and reconsider them with the scientific knowledge we have in the 21st century, one could come up with a worldview that was both scientifically AND biblically accurate.
Over the next few years of study, it seemed to me that this was a message that others who have followed the teachings of my uncle and countless men like him would value. There are believers who struggle to psychologically adapt to what appears to be fundamental conflicts between their beliefs and the knowledge of the world around us, and there are non-believers who dismiss all scriptures as ‘fiction’ because the traditional message has become so twisted and warped that it is virtually impossible to understand them as anything but. So I spent my late 20s researching Of Gods and Men, and a couple years ago finally figured out how to start it. Writing a book that challenges the ingrained beliefs of hundreds of millions of people can be rather daunting. In it, I talk about everything from the origins of language to fixed nature of spacetime, and hopefully bring the reader to a new understanding of their religion that is perfectly aligned with modern Psychology, Physics, and Anthropology.
What would you tell parents who are looking for parenting help and are drawn to "To Train Up a Child"?
I’ve already touched on these, but to summarize I would say that first and foremost, anger and frustration cannot be your reason for ANYTHING pertaining to children. If you’re already reading my uncle’s book, I don’t think he spends enough time talking about that. But secondly – don’t take for doctrine the commandments of men. To Train Up a Child is Michael’s Pearl’s interpretation of what he believes the Bible says; it’s NOT what the Bible says. I’m tempted to address the relationship with God that these parents have, but I feel it needs to be clarified: Anger and Vengeance – the fiery wrath of God, the “Old Testament God”, is NOT the Christian way. Figure out how to raise your children as Christ would have taught: through love, patience, respect, and understanding. You don’t need to break their will, and attempts to do so bring you out of alignment with your own spirituality.
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