The Turpitude(1) of the Mr. and Mrs. Turpin of Parris, California
O. Kris Widmer
January 18, 2018
By now, you’ve heard the world-wide news story about the family in Southern California. A man and his wife keeping 13 children locked up in their various houses. They moved from state to state when circumstances required a rapid departure. The ironic and tragic contrast between the images of a happy family at an amusement park and the reality of the horrors of their home are heart breaking. The fact that they frequently renewed their marital vows (to love, honor and cherish) before their unloved, unhonored and uncherished descendants reveals yet another depth of human depravity.
(Another strange factoid: though Dad’s name starts with a D and Mom’s name starts with a L…I saw a picture with the names of the adult children. They all started with “J”…and I assume the other half of the group has similar first initials.)
Praise the courage of the 17 year-old daughter that was able to snap a few pictures in a deactivated cell phone, and then get outside the home and call 911. God bless her and God bless these 13 precious souls.
What is unsettling is that it appears this whole thing may have had a twisted religious motivation. (1) A pair of grandparents of the children said God told the Turpins to have that many children. (2) It appears this couple may have been motivated by the “Quiver-full” movement, which teaches couples to ditch all birth control and have as many children as God gives them; their application of Psalm 127:3-5 (And the wife is to be in a submissive position to the husband. “A woman’s place is in the birthing bed.”)
One commentary I found was likely correct when it said that the spirituality of the home was likely based on fear and silence. “Mummy and Daddy are keeping you from the big, bad world. The only safe place is here in our home. We will keep you safe and prepared for heaven and God’s approval.” Such teaching results in the twisted Religious Stockholm Syndrome that appears to be present in this tragic case.
We certainly don’t have all the details in this story…and more will come out in the future.
I could get all “preacherly” just now for I have been and remain a preacher. If you belong to Christ, you are a minister too, you know. But I’ll just share a few thoughts in this little devotional ripped from today’s headlines…and leave it at that.
Certainly the Turpins lived lives of turmoil and desperation. And strange things always happen in families in such times. 2 Kings 6:24-29 records a family situation where famine resulted in adults making bargains to each others children, and then backing out of such agreements when only one of the children was eaten. Certainly a prime example of the departure of natural parental love.
2 Timothy 3:3 predicts a time in the last days when people would be “without natural affection.” We think that fathers and mothers will just naturally be loving and provide the best for their children. But the daily news reveals that this is not the norm.
Matthew 24:12 predicts future times when “the love of many will grow cold.” This is proven time and time again in the way bosses treat employees, men treat women, straights treat gays and parents treat children.
Isaiah 49:14-16 speaks of the Israelites saying as the captivity to Babylon approached “The Lord has forsaken us. The Lord has forgotten us.”. But God says “Can a woman forget the child that is nursing? (Yes…it sometimes happens – women leave unwanted children in dumpsters and toilets every day.) Are there times when a woman has no compassion on the child of her womb? (Yes…it happens all the time.) Yes, these may forget…but I WILL NOT FORGET YOU. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…” which reminds us of Jesus and the scars of Calvary. When Jesus looks at his hands…he thinks of you.
Now sometimes we might expect fathers to be cruel. They are quick to take off their belts and give their children the whoopin’ they deserve. My father wasn’t like that, but I’ve heard stories. But somehow, we ascribe to mother’s a natural maternal love that will always nurture, feed and protect. My mother was like that.
It is too early to know what Mrs. Turpin was thinking when her children cried out in hunger or asked to take an third shower this year. Is she too a victim in this dysfunctional home, kept under the thumb of domineering “male headship” kind of marriage? She must have known that something was not right in the home, for she talked her parents and sisters out of nearly every visit for at least 2 decades.
Did she ever meditate on Jesus’ statement “If a child ask his father for a piece of bread, will he give him a stone? (or chain him to the bed?). (Jesus’ implied answer is NO!) If he shall ask his Papa for a fish (fillet, sandwich or taco), will he give the child a poisonous snake? (or a slap up side the head?) (Again…the implied No!) If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children…how much more shall your wonderful God who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:9-11.
Oh how much our world needs the last half of the Elijah message found in Malachi 4:6 (My own church has focused so much on the tithe message found in Malachi 3:8-12, that they have missed the Elijah message.) The first Elijah message is the message John the Baptist preached. “Prepare to meet the Lord…Messiah comes. He is here.” The second Elijah message is “Prepare to meet the Lord…Messiah comes again.”
And you know what Malachi 4:6 says is the way to be ready for the coming kingdom? It is a restoration of the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers! It is strong bonds of family love, if I may paraphrase the verse.
Oh how the world needs religious belief and practice that doesn’t fracture the family! Oh how children need parents that will do them good and not evil all the days of their lives, preparing them to leave eventually and cleave in a healthy way to their spouses!
This is the message I wish Mr. and Mrs. Turpin had been able to hear and follow as she was pregnant with child number 1.
So if you are a parent with children (either under your roof or on their own)…on your next opportunity (and for every opportunity to follow) tell your children you love them. Don’t complain the long showers they take at your house. Don’t object to the large pile of ketchup you wash down the drain. Fix them a big meal and tell them it is a big wonderful world…and God has a plan for you to go out and transform your little corner of it to make it even more wonderful!
Love God. Love Humanity.
Do Justly. Love Mercy. Live Humbly.
Pastor Kris Widmer
(1) turpitude: a depraved or degenerate act or practice.