My colleague Bryan Smith has a remarkable, gripping investigative piece in this month’s Chicago about the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. You may recall it from the arrest of pastor Jack Schaap for taking a 16-year-old girl across state lines to have sex with her; he pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
But Smith’s piece goes deeper, to paint a portrait of “what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches": “Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.”
The lede is vivid, an account of Schaap’s “Polished Shaft” sermon. It’s as profoundly creepy as Smith describes.
If you’re counting, that’s simulated masturbation, a giant knife, and a compound bow and arrow set. As Smith writes, Schaap was given to surprisingly, shockingly sexual sermons, quoting one member as saying “it was so vulgar sometimes that it was just a grief to my spirit.” Schaap’s defense of this… was not any less creepy:
I want to say to my fellow brethren cremate me over this. Absolutely destroy me on the blog pages. Massacre. We’ve lost lost scores of HAC students because pastors get furious when I talk about this. But who wrote the book on sexuality folks?
Nobody wants to be more intimate with you than God does. The language that Jesus Christ used when he talked to his Father about what he wanted for his people. Read John 17 mom and daddy and tell me how intimate he wanted your kids to be with him. Read John 15 and ask me if Jesus Christ just wanted to shake hands. [whispering] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you. I in you. You in Me. We in the Father, the Father in us. Don’t try to reach some ambiguous theological nonsense in that. Jesus was saying, can I put it in language that everybody understands. He says “I want be the most intimate of intimates with you.”
Here’s John 15 and 17. The meaning seems clear enough to me, straight out of the KJV: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you…. I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
But it gets more disturbing, at least from a moral perspective. Before Schaap was arrested, ABC’s 20/20 did an investigation into the Independent Baptist/Independent Fundamental Baptist church movement, a loose-knit, theologically simpatico group to which the Hammond church belongs, and allegations of abuse and misogynistic fundamentalism among the churches. Schaap appears briefly, criticizing wives: “it irritates me and bothers me when a man falls in love with a beautiful woman God made and she just lets herself go… you keep what you were when you caught that man. And you stay at that…. Good grief! Touch that man’s heart! Motivate that man! Inspire that man to do something big for God!”
They also capture Schaap preaching “it’ll be cold day in hell before I listen to a woman tell me about theology.”
After ABC contacted Schaap, he hung hellfire on 20/20.
He said “Don’t you think that’s kind of think that’s demeaning to the genders?”
I said, “Ask Adam what he thought about getting his theology from a woman." I said, “It damned the whole world. The reason your sorry soul is going to Hell is because a woman told Adam what God thinks about things.”
I wouldn’t get theology from a woman. I don’t mind if mamma teaches the kids, I don’t mind a strong lady, and a wise woman, and a gracious godly woman, that follows the lesson and teaching of the pastor.
No woman ever got me involved in ministry. I didn’t follow a woman into ministry. A woman didn’t write this book. No woman wrote the scriptures right here. A man wrote the Bible – got it from God. A man hung on the cross. His name is Jesus Christ and God called a man to lead the church here. Hey! I’m glad I’m a man!
A little more than a year later, Schaap began his relationship with the 16-year-old girl, whom he was counseling.