Culture Of Abuse, Misogyny Detailed In Chicago Magazine Profile Of First Baptist Church Of Hammond

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 12, 2012 11:00PM

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Former First Baptist Church of Hammond Pastor Jack Schaap
If you want to know about the culture that allowed former First Baptist Church of Hammond pastor Jack Schaap to transport a 16-year-old girl across state lines in order to have sexual relations, then head to Chicago magazine’s website immediately. Chicago’s Bryan Smith wrote a detailed investigative piece that reveals a culture of misogyny, sexual and physical abuse and literal interpretations of the Bible at First Baptist that precede Schaap’s crimes by decades, were tolerated by the church’s deacons and may have been carried forward by graduates of the church’s Pastor Schools and graduates of its university, Hyles-Anderson College.

Jeri Massi, who documents sexual abuse of children among Christian fundamentalists, told Smith the sheer volume of allegations connected to First Baptist is “astonishing.”

Examples from First Baptist “take in everything: pedophilia, violence, defamation of the innocent to protect the guilty, heresies against Christian doctrine, defiance against lawful authority. . . .” And all this barely half an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago.

Websites dedicated to tracking the suspected crimes of Christian fundamentalists have documented a dozen cases across the country of preachers whose actions have led to a litany of arrests and civil lawsuits. Few are as high profile as Schaap, who agreed to a plea deal in September and said at his hearing he was not aware of the federal laws against transporting minors across state lines to have sex. But Schaap was merely following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Jack Hyles, who transformed First Baptist from a sleepy Indiana church into the 14th largest church in the country.

Hyles did so with an iron fist and an authoritarian manner that would make dictators look like consensus builders. Hyles advocated corporate punishment of children as a Godly duty.

Spanking “should be deliberate and last at least ten or fifteen minutes,” he continued. The blows “should be painful and should last . . . until the child is crying, not tears of anger but tears of a broken will.” They should “leave stripes” if need be. The age at which such punishment should begin? Infancy.

Smith spoke with Linda Murphrey, Hyles’ middle daughter, who described parishioners as “zombies.” Smith also touched upon the methods First Baptist used to bring children to its bus-based “youth ministry” that still is in effect today. When the word of God didn’t work, recruiters used things like ice cream, goldfish and pony rides to attract kids. If these men weren’t involved with a church they would have had to register as sex offenders. (Disclosure: As a 9-year-old, I briefly attended First Baptist services via the youth ministry and the methods Smith lists only scratches the surface.)

When infidelities such as extramarital affairs were revealed by members of the church, Hyles and his deacons would lay the blame on what a man’s wife did to lead him astray. Jack Hyles was named as a defendant in a 1997 lawsuit filed by a 42-year-old woman who attended the church, who claimed she was raped and beaten multiple times between 1991 and 1996.

We wrote when Schaap was arrested of his tendencies toward misogyny and sexism in his sermons; he often referred to a relationship with God in a sexual context. Chicago’s Whet Moser discovered a video of one of Schaap’s sermons titled “The Polished Shaft.” As you can see, Schaap touches on all the interpretations of the phrase.

Schaap will be sentenced for his crimes in January; he faces at least 10 years in prison.