As I reflect with sorrow and horror at the tragedy which was the Williams Trial, I find myself trying to make sense of what happened and why.
What I see as the root problem is pride. The Bible says that God hates pride. We know that “pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). I believe that very few people would argue with me when I say that Carri Williams had a problem with pride. I heard her described as a person who had to be always right. She was said to have perfect children. People described her as intimidating because her children were so perfect. I was told that when someone disagreed with her, they had a hard time confronting her because she had a reputation for a very cutting tongue. So, when people had concerns about how she was raising her children, they just withdrew away from her and left her alone. What else could they do? She would not listen, and she certainly would not accept help.
I’m not sure how and when she found To Train Up A Child by Michael Pearl. All I know is that the book was first published in 1994 when her oldest was a baby. I’m pretty sure that she had been using Pearls’ teachings on her children since the the first was small. As far as she was concerned, it had been working wonderfully. She had been promoting the Pearls’ books as THE correct way to raise children. She was so sure that their methods worked that she could not give them up and try something else. That would mean admitting that she was wrong. On top of that, Michael Pearl teaches that you must be consistent, you can never back down or let the child win or you will undo everything. Therefore, when they did not work for her adopted children, she could not just stop using the parts which were not working, she would have had to throw out her entire Child Rearing Paradigm and admit that she had been wrong the whole time. Because of that, when she found that what she was doing was not working, she refused to back down and instead plowed on into more and more drastic discipline until she found herself deep into torture territory. In other words, she took abusive child training to such extremes that it was classified as torture by experts during the trial. (Now, I realize that in her testimony she denies following the teachings of this book in the way I said. I hate to suggest that she might not have been telling the truth under oath, but I am going by the testimony of some of her acquaintances who told me that she promoted the book and even gave them each a copy, promising that if they would just follow the teachings therein, their unruly children would become perfect as were hers. )
Even knowing this background, it was mind-boggling to watch her continue to maintain her insistence that she did no wrong up until the very end. The closest she came to showing regret was saying that she wished that she could trade places with Hana. I would have thought that she was accepting some blame at that point if she did not also say that she believed that Hana had inadvertently killed herself. She also blamed the prosecutor for tearing apart her family. While it’s true that she wept on and off throughout the trial, it appeared to most observers that her tears were either for show or for herself.
I don’t doubt that she was sure that God would deliver her from her dire situation. But God has no use for a proud person. I don’t know what will become of her. I expect that she will be broken, at least in some way. Will her proud spirit be broken? Will she become a vessel which God can then mold into something useful? Only she can decide that.
Now Larry appears to be different. He may have some pride, I’m not sure, but his main sin that I see was not standing up for what he knew was right. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” When he was on the witness stand, he expressed regret at not stopping the abuse. When asked why he did take things into his own hands, he replied, “Carri was a wonderful mother. What she had done had always worked really well with the kids. I wish I had, looking back.” So, it seems apparent to me that Carri’s pride and her certainty that the Pearls’ method worked was what stopped him. According to the testimony of their eldest son, he did express his disagreements with her. Yet, she testified that he never ordered her to stop and that if he had, she would have because he was the Biblical Head of the Household. I don’t know what he actually told her, but it would appear that he was not willing to go so far as to order her to change her methods. Maybe he had also been sold on Pearl’s teachings or maybe he just trusted in her assurance that she was doing the right thing. It appears to me that he is contrite. I believe that he still blames her more than himself but he does accept some responsibility for the tragedy. I don’t know what will become of him but I have hopes that God will be able to use him in jail. I know people find God while in prison and I know that God can use him if he is ready to be used. He will need a truly contrite and humble spirit.
I should probably mention that I have read that both Larry and Carri’s attorneys have said that they plan to appeal. I don’t even know how to respond to that.
Below I share a few news stories which link Michael Pearl’s book, To Train Up A Child, to this death. As this article in The Seattle Times points out, it was not Pearl’s advice which killed Hana, it was the parents. Carri took his teachings way, way further than he ever intended and twisted them into something unrecognizable to him. Pearl’s teachings are abusive but if used as he intended (and not taken to their logical extremes) they will not kill a child. If Carri had been able to accept that what she was doing was not working, Hana would be alive today and the family would still be together.
I want to emphasize my last thought. The Pearl’s teachings, when taken to their logical extreme can and will kill a child. This has happened 3 times, all to adopted children who refused to yield. They did not respond as Pearl promises in his teachings that they will. Pearl does not give guidelines for when to give up. In fact, he says not to give up. Yet, he also says not to take it to abusive levels without ever defining where the line is. It is up to the parent to figure that out for themselves. If you or someone you know is using the Pearl’s teachings and they do not seem to be working, do not be deceived. These teachings are dangerous and it is up to you to stop trying to make them work. You can argue with me all you want about if they are really abusive when they appear to you to be working. When they are not working, they must. not. be. used.
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Cindy Kunsman also has some thoughts about the trial:
And the story of To Train Up A Child being involved in another conviction is getting more attention, some from overseas.
Justice is served for Hana Williams’ adoptive parents in the Seattle Times.
Carri and Larry Williams Killed Adopted Daughter after Reading Religious Parenting Handbook in the International Business Times.