Tag Archive: Jack Hyles

Lest You Forget Why You Ran Screaming from the IFB Church

fundamentalism

Many of the people who read this blog are survivors of the worst that the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement had to offer. (if you don’t know what an IFB church is, please read What is an IFB Church) From mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse, to being physically and sexually abused at IFB group homes, many of you know first hand how toxic and murderous the IFB church movement is.

Bob Gray Sr. is the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. Gray’s son, Gray Jr. now sits on the throne of family empire. Gray Sr. is what I call a consummate bean counter. He knows right down to the soul how many people he has won to Jesus. Years ago, I calculated, based on the salvation numbers touted by Gray Sr, that every person in Longview, Texas should now be a Christian. Gray Sr. is a devoted follower of  the late Jack Hyles, the adulterous pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Last year, the Longview Baptist Temple gave a warm welcome to David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles, a man known for being a serial adulterer.

Gray Sr. is proud to be a general in the IFB army. He is proud of his blind allegiance to Jack Hyles. Several years ago, Gray Sr. let it be known that he was proud to be a topical preacher. Topical preaching is the style of preaching where the preacher chooses a topic to preach on and then finds Bible verses to support his chosen topic. It is proof-texting at its best and it is a style of preaching that is quite common in the IFB church.

Many IFB preachers have about 4 sermons. They have four thousand titles for those four sermons, but they only have four sermons. When a preacher preaches topically, it becomes quite easy for him to make the Bible say anything he wants it to say. As my friend Steve said, who was once a member of Longview Baptist Temple,  Gray Sr’s sermons all sound the same. Sadly, this is a common problem in the IFB church movement. They have the same set of sins they preach against over, and over, and over. I am beginning to think that the people who attend IFB churches must be the worst sinners in the world. Why must their pastors spend so much time telling them what vile, wicked, sinners they are? Aren’t they getting the message? Isn’t the Holy Spirit communicating with them, reminding them of their duty to obey God? Besides, since IFB church members are expected to be at church every time the doors are open, when do they find time to sin?

Take Gray Sr’s March 2014 blog sermon. It is what I call a double barrel shotgun blast sermon. Gray hits almost every IFB hobby horse. To sum up Gray’s sermon, whatever it is, he’s against it. See for yourself:

…A pastor who was upset with my preaching said to me, “I don’t have to preach like that because what we believe can be found in our constitution and not in our church pulpit.” Well what I believe can be found in the pulpit as well as on paper. Those types of preachers are basically cowards. They are what I call silent disciples!…

…Get this! Satan has not changed one bit. There are still Pharaoh’s in this day and time that we live in! The cry still is, “Let my people go!” Satan still says to God’s people, “Worship God, but do it in Egypt! Stay in the world and worship God! Be spiritually minded on the inside and don’t worry about the outside! Live in the world, dress like the world, talk like the world, and sing like the world but don’t give the outward appearance of being fanatical. This is post-modernism, emerging church, or cultural acclimatization…

…In America today you have giant charismatic churches, emerging churches, and Rick Warren wannabes where the choir has become a “worship team” looking like the heathen world. They act like it and sing like it. The bands on their platforms are just like the world’s bands. The women wear their pants, their shorts, and their mini-skirts while the men wear earrings, necklaces and all together praise God. This world has dictated their lifestyle and not Heaven! This cultural war has invaded the local church.  First with a “Contemporary” hour tacked on later is a “Traditional Service.”…

…The pharaoh’s of this world say, “Use Egypt! Avoid dogmatism, avoid division, avoid separation from the world, use Egypt’s music, have contemporary worship services, have worldly bands, and please most of all have unity.” Today’s pharaoh’s say, “It’s ok to drink in moderation.” If your talking about coca-cola that is ok! Today’s pharaoh’s say, “You’ll not have an appeal to this world if you don’t use the world to appeal to the world. Stay in Egypt while you worship God! Mark my word it will not be long until four letter vulgar words will appear in the music on church platforms….

…Born again people drinking cocktails, wearing shorts, listening to ungodly music, using religious rock, and inviting the world into church is worshipping God in Egypt. Born again people going to Hollywood movies where nudity, cursing, humans acting like animals, and the merciless senseless violence is worshipping God in Egypt. Born again people lying on the beach in the summertime in their underwear is worshipping God in Egypt…

…There was a time in our nation when your child could play little league, or soccer, or football, or basketball in the public schools, but not anymore. The cursing and the bad examples will completely engulf and create a worldly mindset that you will regret when your children become adults. Stay away from the influence that breeds compromise. We are not to get our pleasure from this world.

Your local church, your pastor, your Sunday school, your youth programs, your fellowships, your music, and your activities must remind people of Heaven not Egypt. If you don’t believe what I am writing then just look at those who attempted to be a Christian while staying in Egypt. Check out those who turned on their pastor and left the man of God’s influence. Oh, the stories of tragedies in just my 42 years of ministry. It really is sad!

Satan says to a pastor, “Ok have your beliefs just don’t go very far from the world. You don’t want to be called a fanatic. Have the old hymns and add new choruses led by a worship leader. Use some contemporary religious rock music. Keep your beliefs just don’t go very far from the world Have your traditional services, but also provide at a different time a contemporary service.” The sad truth is that those contemporary services are nothing more than a second-class amateur hour for rock music in Jesus’ name. It has turned into an American Idol contest…

…A rebel teen said to me one time in anger, “You’ve become an old man that’s out of date.” I replied, “Yes, and I’m going to continue to stay further out of date.” If being in date means using false Bibles, drinking, going to filthy movies, and acting like barn yard animals then I would just as soon stay out of date. If being in date means denying the inspiration of the old King James Bible I will stay out of date.

The same Christianity of the Bible ought to be the Christianity of every generation. Haircuts on the males are not out of date! Long hair on the females is not out of date! Dresses worn by ladies is not out of date. No dresses on the males is not out of date. God said to man of God, “Go tell Pharaoh to let my people go…

…It’s time student’s respected old age, teachers, and staff. It’s time for the godly adults to be the heroes of young people. It’s time for Lee Roberson to be more popular than Tiger Woods.

Egypt’s music is rotten. We are facing a rotten Hollywood, rotten TV programs, rotten magazines, and rotten stars have produced ruined young people. Why, they are staying in Egypt or hanging around Egypt.

These young Gadarene demoniac stars have captivated the young people especially our young ladies. Young ladies have become young females with their provocative dress or lack there of in public. It is shocking how unashamed young females are in public. Their hairstyles, music, morals, and lack of respect for themselves, let alone for any one else is destroying not only them but our nation also.

How about trading the Rolling Stones for the stone that was rolled away. Let us trade the world’s rock for God’s rock. Let us trade the singer called The Prince for Jesus the Prince of Peace. Let’s trade Elizabeth Taylor for Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. Let’s trade Michael Jordan for Michael the archangel. Let’s trade Playboy for praying men. Let’s trade the new morality for the old morality Let’s trade the NIV for the KJB. Let’s trade situation ethics for Bible ethics. Let’s trade homosexual marriages for heterosexual marriages. Let’s trade living together before marriage for living together after marriage. Let’s trade visitation for soul winning. Let’s trade king Elvis for King Jesus..

…A world of rap and hip-hop music with filthy four letter words being sung at OUR WHITE HOUSE. We as God’s children ought to refuse to stay in Egypt, hang around Egypt, or leave our children in Egypt and refuse to leave our possessions in Egypt. Every dime you spend for ungodly movies and ungodly magazines or any other ungodly activity is in essence leaving your possessions in Egypt. I have said for years that there will be more people in Hell because of a lack of cash than for any other combination of reasons…

Aren’t you glad that ran from this kind of mind numbing, soul deadening insanity? Gray speaks of leaving Egypt. Little does he know that, for many of us, leaving Egypt meant running from the emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse that IFB preachers like Gray pass off as good, hard preaching. Gray calls it stepping on toes, I call it stepping on the self-worth and spirit of a person and grinding them into the ground.

The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

Jack Hyles was pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana from 1959-2001. For many years, the church was the largest congregation in America. The church held a Pastor’s School and Youth Conference each year that brought thousands of people to Hammond to see first hand what God was doing through Dr. Jack Hyles. (See post The Legacy of Jack Hyles.)

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, no one was bigger than Jack Hyles. IFB churches and pastors measured success by:

  • Church attendance
  • Offerings
  • Souls saved

In these three areas Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church were the king of the hill.

jack and beverly hyles statute

Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

Like most IFB churches, First Baptist Church was owned and operated by Jack Hyles. No, Hyles didn’t literally own the church, but there was no doubt about one thing, this was the house Jack built. Hyles had unlimited power to rule the church as he saw fit, and even when caught in an inappropriate sexual relationship with his secretary, he was able to wiggle free, and remained pastor of First Baptist Church until he died on February 6, 2001.  A statute of Jack and Beverly Hyles can be found in the church courtyard, an ever-present reminder that First Baptist Church owes its existence to Jack Hyles.

People not raised, schooled, and indoctrinated in the IFB church movement often have a hard time understanding how Jack Hyles could wield such power over people.  It seems so “cultic” to them, and truth be told, there are elements of IFB belief and practice that are “cultic.” While the IFB church movement is not a cult in the classic sense, it does have beliefs and practices that are harmful to people emotionally and mentally. Because it is a movement built on a foundation of anti-intellectualism, pastors are given an inordinate amount of power over people. The pastor becomes the resident intellectual, even though he is likely no more educated than the people in the pew. The pastor is considered God’s chosen man, the man of God who speaks on God’s behalf. He is uniquely called by God to the ministry and he is to be obeyed. Failure to obey will bring judgment from God, at least according to IFB preachers. (Sermons on pastoral authority are quite common in IFB churches.)

Jack Hyles was considered a god in IFB church circles. He was also revered by many outside of the IFB church movement. People read his sermons in the Sword of the Lord, and cassette recordings of Hyles’ sermons made their way around the globe. He was the Big Kahuna, and when he spoke everybody listened. It is important to understand how popular Hyles was.  People would drive hours to hear him preach at a Sword of the Lord Conference. They would hang on his every word. After all, look at the size of his church. This is PROOF that Hyles and God were on a first name basis.  When it came time for the invitation, hundreds of penitent Baptists would stream down the aisle to the altar and prostrate themselves before Hyles, praying that God would forgive them of their sins and give them Holy Ghost power to do whatever Hyles was telling them to do.

It is hard for me to admit, even to this day, that I was a part of this; that the  churches I pastored participated in this. (I left the IFB church movement in the late 1980s.) It is hard to admit that I was caught up in a religion that encouraged worshiping men as gods. Hyles, like Bob Jones, even had a college named after him: Hyles-Anderson College.

Granted, any time a group of people gather together under a common belief or ideal, there is the tendency to elevate certain people to god-like status within the group. IFB churches do it, Evangelicals do it, and yes, even atheists do it. Look at the typical Atheist/Humanist conference and you see the same speakers over and over. To some degree, it is human nature to fawn over those we think are in some way unique, successful, or who have some sort of special insight.

It has been thirty years since I heard Jack Hyles preach. I heard him preach many times during the heyday of the IFB movement — the late 1960s to the late 1980s. I would attend Sword of the Lord conferences whenever I could . Sometimes, I drove several hours just so I could sit at the feet of great IFB luminaries such as Jack Hyles, Lee RobersonLester Roloff,  Bob Gray of FloridaCurtis HutsonJohn R. Rice and Tom Malone. (Malone was the President of Midwestern Baptist College, the college I attended from 1976-79. Lester Roloff was accused of promoting child abuse, and Bob Gray of Florida was arrested for molesting children.)

the captain of our team jack hyles

A poem written by a devoted follower of Jack Hyles

What was it about Jack Hyles that drew people to him (and God is not the right answer)?

Jack Hyles was a superb orator. He knew how to use words, cadence, volume, and inflection to deliver sermons that most preachers could never deliver. As oratorical specimens, his sermons were flawless.  His sermons rarely had much Bible in them since he typically preached textual or topical sermons, but his sermons were perfectly scripted, with each point and sub point in perfect harmony. When Hyles chased a rabbit down the rabbit trail, he did it on purpose. He was methodical and disciplined in his preaching.

Hyles told a lot of stories about himself, his mother, and his feats as a pastor-god. His stories often made up the bulk of his sermon. Young preachers such as myself hung on every word, every story. Here was a man mightily used by God. It was many years before I could divorce myself from my worship of Jack Hyles enough to see his sermons for what they really were; grandiose brag sessions of a narcissist. I also came to see that the stories Hyles told were often lies or distortions of the truth, though I am inclined to think that Hyles really believed his own narrative.

The IFB church movement prides itself on being anti-cultural. The movement is known for what it is against and not for what it is for. In his sermons, Hyles would rail against Southern Baptists, The National Council of Churches, Evangelicals, pants on women, alcohol drinking, sex, and any other ill he deemed “worldly” or contrary to the received truth of the IFB church movement.

hyles baptist church

Yes, there really is a Hyles Baptist Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, pastored by Ron Talley.

When Hyles would preach against these things, his words elicited deep emotional and physical response. People would shout or say Amen or Preach it, Brother Hyles. People would stream down the aisles to confess their sin, their disobedience to God. The Sword of Lord would report the “number” of people  who came forward. (The IFB follows a corporate model, dominated by numbers.) If you want to see how the numbers racket works, read Bob Gray of Texas’s blog. A Hyles disciple, trained at Hyles-Anderson College, he knows exactly how many souls have been saved under his ministry. He is the ultimate IFB bean-counter.

When preaching at a conference, Hyles would often have an afternoon Question and Answer time for preachers. Young, aspiring preachers, along with old struggling preachers, could ask Hyles questions about building a great church. I can’t tell you the number of times I saw Hyles eviscerate a preacher because he asked the wrong question. One time, a young preacher asked a question about how to choose a good youth director — not that Hyles would know since his son, serial adulterer, David Hyles was the youth director at First Baptist. Hyles asked the young man how big his church was and after the young preacher told him, Hyles belittled him and accused him of being lazy. The young preacher should have felt humiliated, but he more likely felt that “God” was speaking to him through Brother Hyles. Hyles, like many top shelf IFB preachers, could be a bully.

Hyles liked to give off an air of invincibility. His illustrations made him seem like a man who could charge into the flames of hell and come out without one hair singed on his head. He told illustrations such as:

There were two men playing tennis and at the end of the game, the loser graciously shook the hand of the winner.

Bro. Hyles, how do you handle losing (code for failure)?

Hyles would thunder, I don’t know, I’ve never lost.

And then he would preach forcefully and loudly about not being a loser, a quitter.

When you take all these things together, it is easy to see why Jack Hyles was, and still is, worshiped. Some consider him the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. I understand how people become mesmerized by the Hyles mystique. However, when a person puts some distance between himself and the IFB church moment, he starts to see that the movement is a man-centered, man-worshiping religion. Are their good, decent people in IFB churches? Sure. For whatever reason, they cannot or will not take off their blinders so they can see things as they really are. IFB-preachers-turned-atheists such as myself have little influence over them because they see us as traitors and God haters.

I wonder what it will take to finally bring the IFB house crashing to the ground? Evidently, sexual scandal won’t do it. Maybe it is too much to ask for. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has pedophiles running amok, yet faithful Catholics still show up for mass and give their money to the church.  It seems that we as humans quite easily ignore what is right in front of us.

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

For further information:

Read Andrew Himes’ book, The Sword of the Lord, The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family.

Read Bryan Smith’s Chicago Magazine article, Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church

Read the Legacy of Jack Hyles

Read the 1980s Biblical Evangelist story on the Jack Hyles scandal

During the uproar over Hyles’ illicit affair, loyal Hyles followers wore “100% Hyles” buttons to show their support for Hyles.

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Jack Hyles Gives Advice on How to Raise a Girl

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Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana

In chapter 20 of How to Rear Children, Jack Hyles, former of pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, gives his advice on making a lady out of girl:

The women’s liberation notwithstanding most men still want someone ladylike and feminine for a wife. To be sure, all good Christian men want submissive, feminine, ladylike, and godly wives. Yet, we live in a society which wants to homogenize the sexes. The boys wear make-up and the girls wear blue jeans. The boys wear flowered shirts while the girls wear work shirts. The fad is for the boys to be feminine and the girls to be masculine. Consequently, if parents rear a girl to be ladylike, they will be swimming upstream, going against the grain, and climbing uphill, but it can be done. If it is done, however, it will be on purpose and some of the following suggestions must be used in order to make a lady out of a girl.

1. Dress her like a girl. Let her have long hair. Let her wear lace and ribbons. Do not let her wear that which pertaineth to a man. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” The parent who wants to make a young lady of a daughter should see to it that she does not wear revealing clothes, but that she dresses modestly. I Timothy 2:9 and 10 says, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety: not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

This must be started early in the life of a girl. If she never wears pants for the first time, she will always wear skirts. If she never wears mini-skirts for the first time, she will always wear skirts of a modest length. In these days of hot pants, mini-skirts, and pant suits, may God give us some old-fashioned mothers and dads who well rear some sweet, feminine ladies for our boys and dress them accordingly.

2. Teach her strict obedience. Other chapters stress the fact that obedience is the most necessary ingredient to be required from the child. This is especially true in the life of a girl, for she must be obedient all of her life. The boy who is obedient to his mother and father will someday become the head of the home; not so for the girl. Whereas the boy is being trained to be a leader, the girl is being trained to be a follower. Hence, obedience is far more important to her, for she must someday transfer it from her parents to her husband.

This means that she should never be allowed to argue at all. She should become submissive and obedient. She must obey immediately, without question, and without argument. The parents who require this have done a big favor for their future son-in-law.

3. She should not be allowed to play alone with boys. The parents should see to it that she plays with other girls. This is important for many reasons. She should play only with toys that are uniquely for girls. This, by all means, should include dolls, doll clothes, housecleaning equipment, dishes, pots and pans, etc. She should participate in sports enough to become coordinated but she should not excel in sports. If later she marries a man who is very athletic, she could become more proficient in some particular sport that he enjoys, but if she becomes an expert in a sport that is usually associated with men and boys, it could prove embarrassing to her future husband, and for that matter, it could entice her to become more masculine than she ought to be…

…5. Teach her to be an intelligent listener and an articulate conversationalist. She should read a variety of good books and magazines and have a wide variety of knowledge. It should be obvious to any male with whom she is conversing that she is an intelligent listener and that she can understand and respond to his conversation. She should never seem to know as much as he does (even though she may actually know more) but enough to talk intelligently about his interests and to make him feel that his conversation is falling on receptive ears and an understanding mind. This means that she should learn all she can about everything, especially things that interest men. For example, she should know football, but she should not play it. There is nothing a man wants any more than to be understood by an intelligent listener.

The wise lady will never “take over” the conversation. She will add just enough to make a valuable contribution and to show her intelligence on the subject, but she will always make her man feel that he is the more knowledgeable…Though she should not be a football fanatic she should know enough about football to enjoy watching the game with her boyfriend, fiancée, or husband, if he so chooses. It should be obvious to him that she is enjoying the game and that she is knowledgeable about it, but that he can teach her even more.

6. Teach her to make her dad feel like a hero. A young lady that can treat her dad properly is more likely to treat her husband properly. If she makes her dad feel like a man when he is in her presence, she will not doubt make her husband feel like a man when he is in her presence. If the daughter is careful to refill Dad’s glass at the table, see to it that he gets the best chair, listen to him intelligently when he talks, participate intelligently, yet meekly in the conversion, she will someday transfer this to her husband and her husband will rise up and call her “blessed.”…

…8. Teach her not to be too forward to boys. A young lady should not initiate a correspondence. If she cars for a boy she may respond to him with courtesy and feminine reserve so as to let him know she like him, but she should not be the aggressor, neither should her respond except within the bounds of propriety and right. It certainly is not proper for a young lady to call a young man on the telephone for a social talk, If there is obvious business, it may be done with reluctance, but it should never be done when the call is strictly for social purposes.

9. Do not show off her talent to others. As is mentioned elsewhere in this book it is far better for a parent to compliment character than talent. Many children have been ruined because their parents were too proud of them and their performances. This not only hurts the child but it disgusts other adults. In such cases the child receives far too much attention and then wants it for the rest of her life. Hence, she becomes maladjusted. Let her gain her own attention by her performance. Let her attract her own audience by her own ability and opportunities, not by the insistence of a mother or father who is overly proud of a daughter.

10. Let her do things that enable her to be a necessary help to another who is in the limelight. This is very important for a young lady. That is why learning to accompany a soloist is good training for a girl. Learning to take dictation is also good training. Both of these things train her to be a necessary helper to someone who is in the limelight. The Bible teaches that a woman is made not for the limelight but to complement and supplement. Proverbs 32:23 says, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”

The girl should be taught that her lot in life is to be obedient and helpful to her husband…

…11. Teach her to pull for her dad. The wise mother will teach the girl to make a hero of her father and always pull for him. She should pull for him in business and do all she can to help. She should pull for him in any athletic contest and do all she can to cheer him to victory. In everything he does she should stand on the sidelines and root for her dad. She is being taught to root for the biggest man in her life and to cheer and spur him on to bigger heights. When she is married she will transfer this to her husband and will be a great encouragement to him.

The mother must teach the daughter that when the father is a success the daughter is also a success. She is a very vital part in his success, and as a member of the team she can share the victory and the spoils. When this attitude is properly developed she will feel the same way when she is married. When the husband wins a victory it will be a team victory rather than a victory just for him.

12. Teach her to plan for a profession but to hope that it will not be needed. Mothers and fathers should teach their daughters to train for some kind of profession that is always in demand. There is always the possibility that the daughter will never marry or that she will become a widow with children to rear and will not remarry. Because of this she should plan to pursue some profession that will enable her to support herself and her children in any eventuality. She should be taught that if possible, she should not follow this profession when married. This gives her a dependence, if the opportunity arises to be dependent, but an independence if needed. There are many professions that a young lady could pursue such as that of a school teacher, beautician, secretary, nurse, etc.

13. Teach her the sanctity of the body. Teach her that boys should keep their hands off and that her body should be clean in every way. She should care for her body. She should be well groomed and physically clean. Then she should also be moral and virtuous. Talk with her about situations which arise in the lives of most young ladies. Teach her how to handle each situation. Explain to her that that is the reason she should not be in a car alone with a boy. Teach her what to do if improper advances are made. Let her be conscious of the fact that her body is a very sacred thing and should always be treated as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

14. Teach her to do feminine chores. As is mentioned elsewhere it is better for a girl to do the dishes than the yard, to wash the pots and pans than the car, to clean the bedroom rather than the garage. She should do the duties that she will do when she is married and a successful mother and wife…

…The most noble goal that parents can set for their daughters is to help them become Christians. The second most noble goal is to lead them to be ladies, for one of the great needs of our generation is Christian ladies…

 

I’m Not Preaching Now, I’m Telling the Truth

preaching

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from 1976-1979. Midwestern, started in 1954 by Alabama preacher Tom Malone, was a small fundamentalist Baptist college.  Malone pastored nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. In the 1970’s, Emmanuel was one of the largest churches in the country. Today its buildings are shuttered and a FOR SALE sign sits in the dust-covered main entrance door.

During my time at Midwestern, I heard Tom Malone preach several hundred times. Considered by many to be a great pulpiteer, Malone’s preaching was fervent and punctuated with illustrations meant to drive home the point he was making. During one sermon, Malone said something I never forgot. In the middle of sharing an illustration, Malone said:

I’m not preaching now, I’m telling the truth.

Everyone laughed and then he finished his illustration.

Over the march of my life from infancy to the grave, I’ve heard thousands of sermons and preached thousands more. I’ve heard men that had no public speaking skills and others who were wordsmiths capable of enchanting hearers with their preaching and illustrations. Sadly, there are a lot more of the former than the latter.  Even though I am an atheist, I still enjoy hearing a well crafted sermon delivered by a man who knows how to turn a word into an epic Broadway production.

Preaching only the Bible is boring, uninspiring preaching. An effective sermon requires illustrations. Jesus was a master storyteller. His sermons made ample use of illustrations meant to drive home a spiritual point. A preacher that is good at his craft knows that illustrations are key to helping listeners understand and embrace his sermon. And therein lies the danger.

When I started preaching, I used illustrations from illustration books. As I aged and experienced more of life, I began to use more and more illustrations about my experiences and personal life. If a preacher isn’t careful, it is easy to massage his illustrations to “fit” a particular sermon or audience. Sometimes, the illustration becomes a lie.

As I mentioned above, I’ve heard a lot of sermons. I’ve heard thousands of illustrations and personal stories, all meant to get my attention or drive home a point. Over time, I came to understand that many preachers played loose with the truth, often shaping their stories to make a particular point or to cast themselves in a positive light. In other words, they lied, even if they don’t understand they are doing so. Often, a speaker can tell the same lie over and over until they reach a point where the lie become reality and they think it is the truth.

Take Jack Hyles, by all accounts a masterful speaker and storyteller. He was also a narcissistic liar. I heard Hyles preach numerous times at Sword of the Lord and Bible conferences. His sermons were usually long on illustrations and short on Scripture and exegesis. For Hyles, it was all about the sermon, the story, and the invitation. Everything he said was meant to bring hearers to a point of making a decision for or against Jesus.

Here’s a story Hyles told about winning an auto mechanic to Christ:

When I got to his house, he was working under the car. He was lying face up on a creeper and could not see me as I arrived.

“Hyles Mechanic Service!” I shouted.

“Who called you?” he asked.

“I was not called,” I replied, “I was sent.”

“Well, roll yourself under and see if you can see what is the trouble.”

I got another creeper, laid down on it, and roiled myself under the car with him.

“Looks like to me you need the valves ground,” I shouted.

“How can you tell from under here?”

“I am not talking about your car. I am talking about you.”

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am Pastor Hyles of First Baptist Church.”

Then he became inquisitive, and I explained to him that he needed Christ as Saviour to make him a new creature and that he was in worse shape than the car. With both of us lying on our backs looking up at the bottom side of the car, I told him how to be saved. When time came to pray the sinner’s prayer, he closed by saying, “Lord, I am just coming for a general overhauling.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. The next Sunday he came forward in our service professing his faith in Christ.

Great story, and one I have no doubt is an admixture of truth and lie. Every time I read a story like this I am reminded of that Sunday morning almost forty years ago when I heard Tom Malone say, “I’m not preaching now, I’m telling the truth.”  Now, that will preach, as the Baptists like to say.

So Glad for a Place Called Hell, A Jack Hyles Loving Christian Says

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

My posts on Jack Hyles,David Hyles Jack Schaap,and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and its bombastic luminaries have wide circulation on the internet. With wide circulation comes an increase in comments from Baptist fundamentalists who feel it is their duty to expose their ignorance for all to see. While they THINK they are putting the preacher turned atheist in his place, what they are really doing is illustrating the bankruptcy of the IFB church.  Their emails, comments, blog posts, forum comments, and sermons are reminders that IFB preachers and church members are unable to embrace or accept any form of criticism. When you are certain you are right it is hard to accept anything/anyone that says you are not right or that your thinking is flawed.

Several years ago, I received an email from a Jack Hyles loving older woman in Florida. I assume she is older because she references a picture in the post from the early 1970’s. Without further adieu, I present to you yet another reason why I am glad not to be a Christian:

Hi, I want to thank you for the picture of Dr. Hyles on your article. I am going to copy and print it for my husband who was in Hammond at the time of this photo. He dearly missed by us and we both think he was honor to be in his ministry for seven years. By the way, I am glad that you are an atheist and out of all church. Maybe you can join Madame Murray O Haire in Hell one day and you both can have a heyday criticizing each other. Good luck with the hereafter, there is one but you are going to in the dark place where no one can see your ugly face again. So glad for that place called HELL.

*all spelling and grammar errors belong to the email writer.

See all posts about Jack Hyles

See all posts about Davide Hyles

See all post on IFB church

 

Pastor Steven Anderson Hates Bruce

steven anderson bruce jenner

Snark/sarcasm ahead

Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe Arizona, has a huge hard-on for Caitlyn Jenner. Well, I shouldn’t  say huge hard-on because Anderson is a small-minded, small dick narcissist who loves to say outlandish things so he can continue his five minutes of media fame. While I would love to say that Anderson is an outlier, his type can be found in every Evangelical sect. Anderson happens to hail from the Jack Hyles wing of  the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He prides himself in being uneducated, as does his wife Zsuzsanna. If you have not read my post Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona, I encourage you to do.

When I first read Anderson’s quote, I thought to myself, Anderson is upset at me. After all, when you do I Google Search for Pastor Steven Anderson, my post about him is usually in the top five to fifteen search results. The ranking varies depending on if the news media has done any reporting on Anderson.  Sadly, Anderson had BRUCE JENNER in mind, not Bruce Gerencser, even though, as one Facebook commenter said, “Don’t feel bad, Bruce. I’m sure he hates you, too!

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 3

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

In my last post on this subject I wrote:

In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject.  It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people: wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people…

Let me digress for a moment and lay some groundwork for what I will say next. Evangelicals believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various  arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If they don’t they are not Evangelical.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, when we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.

God has given them a man or a woman (most often a man) to teach and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people?

People want to believe that when they go to church they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.

This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for churches to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe the facts. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana (at one time the largest church in America),was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement was divided into two groups of people; those that stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.

The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church.  He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year prison sentence.

Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities.  He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty hours out of every twenty four hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.

In the Evangelical church, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question…well that’s never happened.

Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about evangelicals, but many of they take seriously the teachings of the Bible. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.

Church members are taught to NOT trust their own reasoning. They are taught to NOT trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading  books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters.. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.

Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.

Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people.  I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want  to help people and to teach people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.

Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total number of churches. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at the mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’  church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.

No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He  the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board.  The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss a pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.

As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.

I am sure you have heard the line absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many churches. Over time, the pastor becomes  a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?

The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors and political personalities, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.”  “What a powerful man of God you are!”

The pastor and the church are complicit in providing a fertile ground for abuse to occur.  While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account  for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it failed to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving the same way as church members and non-Christians.

Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible.  Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes it is bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes it really is good people doing bad things.

Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?

First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AM SOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”  Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher)

Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to the pastor about the troubles they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk.” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and mental/emotional stress.

This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalist?)

As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.

Most church members read the bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and they are encouraged to only send their kids to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.

Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.

When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.

Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blinds them from seeing themselves as they really are. As this point, the pastor lacks self-awareness and is extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.

Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and  responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.

Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Uncounted pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.

Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the person. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.

Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed provocatively.  Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats.  She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs she definitely had my attention.  It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.

In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.

A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But, we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an Independent Baptist church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, explains most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastor. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control–and I readily admit there are some kids that need help beyond what  parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home, such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (See Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)

Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he  gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do, The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students.  Rarely, does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the student and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the student is on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.

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The gods Have Clay Feet: A Few Thoughts About Pastors

pastors gods with feet of clay

The Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian church has many gods. While they will profess to worship the true and living God, the God of the Bible, often their true object of worship is human and not divine. Most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches have a congregational form of church government. Some churches have adopted an elder rule form of government. Regardless of what form of government a church adopts, there can be no doubt about who really runs the church. The CEO, the boss man, the head honcho is the pastor, also known as  the senior pastor, executive pastor, and prophet, priest and king.

The pastor is the hub upon which the wheel of the church turns. He (there are very few she’s) is the man who runs the show. He sets the course for the church. He is a modern-day Moses leading the church to the Promised Land. He is the visionary with a vision that the church is expected to follow. He is, after all, the man of God. He is divinely called by God, a call that can not be explained with human words. He is the man of God, given a message by God, to speak to the people of God.

He is a man not to be trifled with. He has been anointed by God. He has been set apart by God to do the most important work in the world.  His calling is higher than even the President of  the United States. The congregation is reminded that the Bible says “touch not mine anointed.” They are also told the story about the Elisha, the mocking boys, and the bears:

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. 2 Kings 2:23, 24

You have been warned, says God’s man. Say anything negative about the pastor and you run the risk of bears eating you; or cancer, heart attack, accident, or death.

The pastor is the Lone Ranger’s Tonto. He is the Green Hornet’s Bruce. He is Batman’s Robin.  God and the pastor are joined at the hip. After all, the pastor has a divine calling; a calling that can’t be explained. In fact, the only way anyone knows for sure a pastor is God-called is because he says he is.

Most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches are independent. Even those who belong to denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention are independent. Each church is a local, autonomous entity, accountable to no one but themselves. The Southern Baptist Convention has a HUGE sex abuse problem, yet little is done by the Convention because each church governs itself. The convention has no power over churches or pastors, or so they conveniently claim.

Since most Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian churches are independent, there are few standards or requirements for starting a church. Anyone can start a church. Anyone can claim to be a pastor. Anyone, Anyone, Anyone. In most states, there are no legal requirements for starting a church. The Federal government, by default, treats churches as exempt from taxation. By default, they receive most of the benefits of 501c3 status without actually applying for it. Starting a church is a con artist’s dream. Just tune into a Christian TV channel for proof of this. There are no educational requirements; no ordination requirements. Anyone can become a pastor. It really is that easy. (Please see What is a Church According to the IRS)

In charismatic/pentecostal circles, some pastors have added titles to their name. Not content to be called pastor, they demand that they be called bishop or apostle. Several apostles have set up shop right here in the county I live in . Once again, a man is an apostle or bishop because he says he is. God has imparted to the man a special anointing, a special dose of Holy G-h-o-s-t power that raises the man to a higher level in the church. Or so he says.

Now let me try to tie all this together. I am writing under the anointing right now, so it is hard to put this all together for you common folks. But  I will try.

We have independent churches with independent pastors without any checks or balances. A man can start a church whenever and wherever. The church becomes his church, the religious equivalent of a corporation. The pastor is considered divinely called by God because he says he is. How dare anyone question GOD! This type of religion flourishes in America. We are a people who applaud the entrepreneurial spirit. Starting a church is akin to starting a business. We worship personalities: entertainers, sports figures, preachers, playmate of the month, etal. We are a lazy people, content to let others think for us.

So what do we have? Churches operated by entrepreneurial pastors. These churches are often filled with people who love to worship personalities, and in this case the personality is the pastor. Content to let the pastor think for them, run the show, and speak to them on God’s  behalf, many Christians have surrendered their autonomy for a seat at the feet of the most awesome pastor in town.

The pastor becomes god. He is given so much control and power that it is almost impossible to unseat the god when the church finds out the pastor has feet of clay. I said almost… Daily news reports of pastors committing crimes, seducing church members, sexually abusing children, and stealing money are too common to be just aberrations.  I could write for hours about pastors I know who have a scandalous past, yet they are still pastors. They just moved down the road and started a new church or they stood their ground and ran off their accusers.

In the 1980’s Jack Hyles, at the time pastor of the largest church in the United States, was accused of sexual improprieties with a married woman in his church. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Yet, he successfully withstood his accusers, and when he died two decades later he was still pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. The church that Jack built lost thousands of members, but he remained god until he went the way of all human gods.

Jack Hyles’ son David was also accused of sexual improprieties. He left the church and moved on to another church in Texas, a church his father previously pastored, Not one word of his past peccadilloes was shared with the new church. David Hyles continued his sexual exploits and  conquests. He had sex with women in the church and was only exposed after compromising photos were accidentally found by someone in the church.

After Jack Hyles died, his son-in-law, Jack Schaap became the Pastor CEO of  Hyles Industries. Like his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Schaap had a problem with fidelity. Schaap was accused of having sex with a church teenager. He was later convicted and is now serving a twelve-year sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Aberration? Hardly. In many churches, the pastor has incredible power. They become gods. The pastor does the preaching, does the counseling, and is the chairman of  the board. Everything goes through him. In some churches, the pastor even checks the tithing records to see who is giving and how much they are giving. One pastor was told by the Church treasurer that the many of the Christian school teachers were not tithing. The next Sunday he berated the teachers and told them that he was going to have their tithe taken out as a payroll deduction if they didn’t start tithing. Never mind the fact the church paid the teachers poverty wages, and if they tithed they would be well BELOW the poverty line.

One pastor decided one Sunday to preach against the evils of attending the Prom. When it came time to preach, he instructed the ushers to lock the doors so no one could leave. Everyone was going to hear what he had to say. This same pastor had the deacons secretly follow church members to see what they were up to. Young couples considering having children were encouraged (required?) to counsel with the pastor first before engaging in procreation.

One pastor had a portrait of he and his wife hung over the water fountain in the church foyer. He joked “that way every time someone  gets a drink they have to bow to me.”Funny? Not when you consider the horrific mental and emotional damage caused by these megalomaniacs.

Children who grow up in Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches are conditioned to accept that the pastor is the final authority. Even in matters of faith, the Bible is not the final authority, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible is. The church believes whatever the pastor says the church believes. If he started the church, he likely wrote the church’s doctrinal statement, constitution, and bylaws.  He determines what is truth and what is error. Remember he is God called; God speaks through him.

It should come as no surprise then that some men aspire to be pastors for reasons other than serving others. It’s the perfect job. No one to answer to but God, and he seems to never have anything to say. Conscientious, faithful men do a wonderful work and serve the church, however, far too many men are corrupted by the power they are given. Some men have ulterior motives and the pastorate becomes a safe place to hide. I know of men who had irregularities in their past and the pastorate allowed them to keep from being held accountable for their past deeds.

One pastor had no social security number. He had not filed an income tax return in years. His church paid him in cash. When the IRS changed reporting requirements, requiring evangelists and special speakers to be given 1099’s if paid over a certain amount, some churches began giving evangelists and special speakers (pastors) cash offerings. Many a pastor has received a brown-bag offering.

Pastors have incredible, and quite legal,  ways to avoid income tax. Some incorporate as a charity or a ministry. The ministry has a “board” that is made up of the pastor’s family or friends  By incorporating they avail themselves to the tax benefits that corporations receive. Pastors buy cars, trucks, travel trailers, and houses and put them in the church’s name. They receive a tax-free housing allowance. Many pastors have little taxable income. even though they live quite comfortably, It is a great gig if you can get it.

One day, the inevitable happens.The pastor, the god, falls from his exalted throne. Over time, people become disillusioned with the pastor. They  take issue with his preaching, his vision, his wife, his children, his theology, his suit, his hairstyle, his entertainments, etc. People tire of pastors just like they do the other gods they worship. Perhaps he commits a grievous sin. He has an affair,steals money from the church, or embraces a teaching that the power brokers in the church consider heresy; heresy being anything they disagree with.

All of a sudden, the church remembers that IT has power. They remember they can take down their god and vote him out of the church. And so they do… The god may fight to keep his power, to keep his throne, but most often he negotiates a settlement package, the conditions of surrender,  and moves on to another church. The church promises to never let another pastor have the power that he had.

But then a new god comes to the church. A new vision, a new inside track with God. He is a wonderful preacher. His wife and kids are adorable. He is given the reins of the church and once again the pastor is restored to his throne. And so it goes…

In no way do I wish to disparage good men and women who conscientiously serve their churches; people who sacrifice and work selflessly day in day out. But they, most of all, should know that what I write is true. The American Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian church is overrun with power-hungry, ambitious  men who have an eye on their own kingdom and not God’s. They are the god of the church, not the God they preach about.  Sadly it seems, in many cases, this is exactly what the church wants.

While I no longer believe in the Christian God, I  did spend 50 years in the church. For many of those years, I was on the inside, knowing its secrets, knowing who did what and where the bodies are buried. I know whereof I speak.  I know what I have seen and what I have done myself in the name of God. I know too much and I have seen too much for it to be anecdotal or coincidental.

I am not sure I have any answers. We can’t look to the structured denominational churches for answers.  They too have their power-hungry gods. They too have  scandals, as is clear for all to see with the scandal ridden Catholic church. It is hard not to at least question whether the Christian church is hopelessly corrupt. Regardless of the good men and women who serve selflessly, perhaps the church is irreparably broken.

Some people, realizing this, start new movements,but, over time, they most often become just like that what they opposed and despised. They organize, men gain power, and over time there are new gods to worship. Perhaps the best we can hope for is individuals who take the ethical and moral teachings of Christ seriously and live accordingly. They steer clear of organized religion. They seek no place of power or authority. They seek only to love God and love their neighbor.

I am convinced that Jesus, real or not, has been lost in the mire and corruption of the modern Christian church. I have little confidence that he can be found. He has been swallowed by a Leviathan called Christianity, and if Jesus appeared today he would most likely be nailed to a cross by those who say they worship him.

Pastor Bob Gray Sr. Pines for the 1950s

woman wearing jeans

Last year, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, took to his blog pulpit to whine and complain about church women no longer obeying Deuteronomy 22:5:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

That’s right, Brother Bob is upset about Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church women wearing pants. Of all the things a pastor could or should be worried about, Gray is concerned about women wearing what he perceives to be men’s clothing. Gray writes:

… Did we somehow become lost and confused as to what the issue was really about? Does it really not matter if men dress differently than women and women than men? Is it really important that there be a distinctiveness between masculinity and femininity? The issue wasn’t as much about pants as it was principle. He was looking at a much bigger picture than most. Perhaps we saw the issue to vaguely. Perhaps we missed the point entirely.

Many men who once agreed on the issue of pants have now changed their position. Perhaps the position was too small or too narrow in the first place. Perhaps pants in and of themselves was not the issue. Perhaps the real issue was the matter of the distinctiveness between the attire of men and women. Pants gave us a focal point for the real issue, which was that men ought to dress like men and women like women.

Has that changed? Does it matter? Should we care if boys dress like girls? Should it matter to us if girls dress like boys? Is it really relevant? There has always been a focal issue that rallied us behind a principle. Long hair on men rallied us against rebellion, which was the bigger issue. Pants was the focal point for the principle of women not dressing like men. Yet when it comes to the issue of women wearing pants we seem to have missed the point. What is the point? The point is the Bible principle.

What is the Bible principle? The principle is that men should dress like men and women should dress like women. Has that changed or is the Bible still true? Should men wear clothing that pertains to a woman? Should women wear clothing that pertains to a man?…

… Distinction was brought to a higher level in the New Testament. (I Timothy 2:9) Deuteronomy 22:5 has been elevated to “modest” clothing.  No skinny jeans here! The Bible principle is for today.

So, if the principle is still true why are we criticizing those who took a stand regarding women wearing pants? I for one must allow others to disagree on the issue, but I’m concerned when they ignore the importance of the Bible principle upon which we built that position. If we lose the principle then we lose the purity of the Scripture.

If we begin to criticize those who took a stand then we should be explaining how we then are carrying out that principle. What should women wear that which a man shouldn’t? What should men wear that women shouldn’t? Does it matter? It has to because it is covered in his word…

… What is the distinction? If you tell me my position is wrong then simply explain to me what the distinction is that you are making between the attire of men and the attire of women. I’ll be satisfied with that.

If you’re going to criticize me because I have put some kind of distinction into the principle then tell me what your distinction is based upon that same principle. Whether Deuteronomy 22:5 means pants on women or not it must mean something? What does it mean? Explain it…

…Let’s face it the breaking down between the sexes has taken place. We no longer have the distinctions we once had between men and women including the way they dress. Dr. Hyles and others warned us of this danger more than they warned us of women wearing pants. He warned us of the danger of losing the distinction between the sexes. Pants was a symptom of the issue, but many have turned this against those who warned of the true danger….

…Tell me pastor what should women wear, or does it matter? What should men wear? Does it matter? This is not legalism. This is applying principles to our lives. There’s a legitimate reason that we took the positions we took. I’m saddened by the condition of our country, but I am not surprised. Same sex marriage is a result of the casual way we have dealt with issues in our country and even in many churches…

… So, now I put the responsibility back on your shoulders. Tell us what to do? If there’s no problem then there’s nothing to worry about, but I think we all know there is a problem. Dr. Hyles was right. The unisex movement is a satanic pursuit to blur the lines between the roles and identity of men and women. How do we fix it? What’s the standard going to be? Is there going to be no standard? I think it’s time to give it a second thought.

If the pastor’s wife has no distinction in her dress, then no wonder the pastor has lock-jaw and is like the Ant-Artica and frozen at the mouth.  This makes it difficult to lead a local church let alone a movement…

That’s right, women wearing pants is a “satanic pursuit to blur the lines between the roles and identity of men and women.” Perhaps these slutty, pants wearing Baptist women need to channel Flip Wilson and say, The devil made me do it.

Gray considers himself an old-fashioned IFB preacher.  Old-fashioned for Brother Bob is the 1950’s:

 Then I go into some of our churches and find myself wondering who is standing for the Bible principle of distinction in God’s house.  The decline of American morality is reflected in our distinction.  The decline of our churches is also reflected in our dress distinction.  50 years ago it was not so in public and for sure it was not so in our churches.

The Mrs. Cleaver look was in almost every home in 1950’s.   Not so in either the home or the house of God, in a lot of cases, in this new Millennium.  If God wanted a distinction in the Old Testament how much more does He desire it in the New Testament.

You see, preachers like Gray pine for the 1950s; the time before the free love and rock & roll generation. He yearns for the days when women were housewives, homosexuals stayed in the closet, and birth control was illegal. He yearns for the days before the Civil Rights Act, Gun Control Act, and the EPA. He yearns for the racist days of his youth, a time when there was order and everyone knew their place.

I feel sad for preachers like Gray. They have spent a lifetime preaching on frivolous issues like pants on women, short skirts, long hair, rock & roll, contemporary Christian music, and premarital sex. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List)  The narrowness of their preaching makes it impossible for them to back up. To do so would be considered compromise, a sure career killer in the IFB church. So, they remain in their little box, unable to join the world that past them by decades ago,

Gray, without realizing it, revealed what the REAL reason is for all the preaching against pants and short skirts on women:

If you are an honest person you will have to admit that females in public have taken the half off sale seriously. Hip hugging skinny jeans revealing mid riffs. I travel every week of the world around this great nation of ours. It is embarrassing for a man who is doing the best he can to keep his heart right with all of the female flesh on display.

Thanks to four generations of Puritanical preaching and rules, IFB men have been turned into pathetic weaklings unable to handle their own sexuality. They’ve been told their entire life that women are Jezebel’s, seductresses out to lure them into the bed of fornication.  They’ve been taught that the reason they give into their weakness and have lustful thoughts is because women refuse to cover up their flesh. If only women would stop wearing pants, short skirts, and halter tops, and stop wearing clothing that accentuates the female shape, why horn dog IFB teenagers and men would not have a problem with lust. As any woman knows, having attended an IFB church, women are the gatekeeper. If they fail in their job and men lust after them, it is the woman’s fault.

This kind of thinking is as old as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. When God confronted Adam about eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam replied:

The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Adam, like countless IFB preachers, blamed the woman.

What Bob Gray and other IFB preachers have done is turn out generations of men unable to handle their own sexuality. The slightest bit of female flesh brings a rise in their pants and soon their thoughts turn to banging Sister Sue in the church pew. When Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond , Indiana,  was arrested and convicted for having sex with a minor in his church, many IFB preachers blamed the girl. In the post The IFB River Called Denial, I wrote about what one IFB loving woman had to say about the slut that took down Jack Schaap. Here’s what she said:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

You see, even the women in IFB churches make excuses for the lustful behavior of men and teenage boys. These church-going, Jesus loving sluts are out to steal their husbands and sons. It’s their fault, right? If they just dressed like the women on Little House on the Prairie, all would be well.

It should come as no surprise that the IFB church has a big problem with sexual abuse and misconduct. These poor men can’t help themselves. Instead of teaching them how to responsibly handle their sexuality, they are taught that lustful, carnal thoughts and behaviors are not their fault. If the pastor ends up having sex with his secretary on his office floor, it is the secretaries fault. I knew of one pastor who would, for years, send out the bus workers on visitation, and then he and his secretary would use that time to have sex in his office. When the truth came out, you know who was to blame? The secretary.

Every man must be accountable for his own sexuality. Teenage boys should be taught sexual responsibility. They should also be taught that it is OK to have physical contact with the opposite sex. (see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule)  They need to be taught that desiring a woman is normal, as is sexual arousal.  Exposure to normal heterosexual feelings and desires will do wonders for the teenage boys of the church. Instead of repressing these feelings and desires, they should learn to act on them ethically and responsibly.

IFB preachers like Gray  take viral teenage boys and turn them into eunuchs. Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t masturbate, don’t look at scantily clad women on the TV or internet. These boys are treated like toddlers and they grow up to be infantile men.

By his own admission, Gray has a problem keeping his thoughts pure. Whose to blame for this? Women. Instead of accepting responsibility for his lustful thoughts, he blames scantily clad women. Gray’s an old man now, surely he can contain himself when he see an attractive young woman? Evidently not.

Once I left Evangelicalism and its Puritanical, oppressive, against human nature, sexuality, I no longer feared what looking at an attractive woman might do to me. I can now enjoy the beauty without turning into the beast. As my wife has told me many times, you can look, but don’t touch. I am confident that I can handle my sexuality and I know many of the men who read this blog would say the same. Once freed from the infantile, emasculating rules of the IFB church, we are now free to be the sexual beings we are meant to me.

1991 Current Affairs Report: Jack Hyles Stole My Wife

jack hyles praying

Jack Hyles Praying

What follows is a 1991 Current affairs report about Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, stealing deacon Victor (Vic) Nischik’s wife. His wife was Hyles’s secretary.  If you are not family with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles. (see all posts that mention Jack Hyles)

Video Link

25 years after this report, the followers of Jack Hyles continue to deny Hyles did anything wrong. The last comment on the video, posted six months ago, stated:

It amazing how all of you seem to hate a guy you dont know.  There was absolutly no evidence this happened and as a matter of fact in most cases he was out of town.  Vickie boy got caught molesting little girls so he turned things on Dr Hyles.  Any idot could see what happened.  Why do all you folks condem Jack Hyles but dont hold people you like and love to the same perverted standard?  Its because you didnt like what he was teaching….and what he taught came from the Bible.  You better hope you are right because if your not your going to give an account for your words.  And I will be there making sure that happens.

The IFB River Called Denial

cindy and jack schaap 30 years of marriage

updated, corrected

A couple of years ago, pastor Jack Schaap was fired over a sexual relationship he had with a sixteen year old teenager. The girl was in the church’s Christian school and Schaap was “counseling” her.  Schaap was later arrested and convicted and is now serving a 12 year sentence in a federal penitentiary. (you can read the texts, letters, and cards Schaap sent to this girl here)

Several decades ago, Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, was accused of having an affair with his secretary. The evidence for his affair was overwhelming, but the church rejected the evidence and Hyles remained the church’s pastor until his death.

Both men pastored  First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Hammond, Indiana. The church was an American Baptist church until Jack Hyles pulled it out the convention. At one time, the church was the largest church in the world.

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

Sexual and financial scandals are quite common in the IFB church movement. Pastors have sexual affairs, molest children, surf porn sites, cavort with prostitutes, lie, cheat, and steal. They are, in every way, just like the rest of the human race. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, church bus workers, Christian school workers, and every-day church members are also just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. No matter how much they might protest, they know if the curtain was pulled back, it would expose for all to see that IFB pastors, leaders, and members are no different from atheists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Methodists, or Southern Baptists.

They are human beings, capable of doing good or bad things. They are capable of being good, decent, kind, loving people and they are also capable of being evil, unkind, indecent, and unloving. Like all of us, they have the power to choose what kind of person they want to be. No matter what their theology tells them about the depraved, sinful condition of the natural, unregenerate, unsaved human heart, they KNOW they have the power to be whatever kind of person they want to be. They KNOW that there are countless atheists, deists, non-IFB Christians, and Catholics who are good, decent, kind, loving people, all without believing the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God or believing in the IFB God at all.

The IFB religion, and it IS a sectarian religion no matter how much they protest that it is not, believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. IFB churches and pastors are literalists. Most of them are young earth creationists who believe the universe is 6,019 year old.  Most of them believe in the pretribulational, premillennial second coming of Jesus Christ.  They believe that the rapture, the great catching away of every Christian, could happen at any moment. After the rapture comes the Great Tribulation, a seven year period when God pours out his wrath on unbelievers. According to most IFB adherents, after the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return once again to earth, establish his millennial reign, fight a final battle with Satan, judge everyone, and destroy and make a new heaven and earth.

They also believe the miracles in the Bible actually happened and that everything in the Bible is meant to be taken literally unless it is very clear that it is not meant to be taken literally. They have specific, albeit contradictory, hermeneutics for determining this. As Bible literalists, they believe Christians are to live sanctified (set apart for God’s service), godly, holy lives. To ensure this, they have long lists of things they consider sins, sins that no Jesus loving, sin hating, devil chasing, IFB Christian would ever commit.

pastor steven anderson

Steven Anderson pastors Faithful Word Baptist Church, an IFB church in Tempe, Arizona. He believes it is a sin for a man to sit down to pee and for a woman to see a male gynecologist

Every IFB church and pastor has their own l-o-n-g list of things they consider a sin. Besides the “big” sins like adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, IFB churches have rules (standards) about things that many non-IFB Christians might not consider a sin. Things like:

  • Watching TV
  • Listening to secular music or Contemporary Christian music
  • Going to the movies
  • Gambling, playing cards
  • Men and women swimming together
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Cursing or using bywords
  • Women wearing pants or shorts
  • Women wearing anything that reveals their “shape
  • Long hair on men, short hair on women

Over the years, I heard IFB pastors, including myself, say the following things were a sin:

  • Wearing wire rim glasses
  • Having a beard
  • Having a mustache
  • Wearing any clothing with “worldly” advertising
  • Going to stock car races
  • Sending your children to a public school
  • Using any Bible but a King James Bible
  • Not having a Sunday evening or midweek service
  • Not having an altar call
  • Using recorded (canned) music
  • Marrying a non-IFB Christian
  • Going to a non-IFB college
  • Having non-IFB friends
  • Working on Sunday
  • Letting your children play sports on prayer meeting night or Sunday
  • Not giving at least 10% of your money to the church, along with extra offerings for revivals and missions
  • Eating in restaurants that serve alcohol
  • Allowing women to pray while men are present or teach anyone other than women or children

I am sure, by now, you are trying to figure where the heaven I am going with this post. Let me tie it all together.

The IFB church movement prides itself on being “better” than other Christian sects and the “world”. Their literalist belief system, along with their list of sinful behaviors, are the standard every IFB church member is expected to live by. For all their talk about salvation by faith and grace, their religion is all about works, as is every religion, to some degree or the other. They will tell you that a person does not have to do any works in order to be saved, but ask them if a person who refuses to live by the above standards is a Christian and they will likely say, I doubt it.

In the IFB world, “true” Christianity is determined by how well a person adheres to the church’s/pastor’s interpretation of the Bible and whatever list of “standards” they have. Some allowance is given for difference of opinion, but not much. Church members who don’t conform are labeled as worldly, carnal, weak, fleshly, or backslidden.

The moral and ethical standard is high, way too high. Remember what I said earlier about IFB pastors, leaders, and church members being just like the rest of us? Well, this poses a real problem for them. They take the high moral ground, believing they are superior to everyone else, including other Christians.  They consider themselves pillars of moral virtue. But, they are not, and when pastors, leaders, and church members get in trouble, like in the case of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles, they have a real dilemma on their hands. Their moral and ethical failures expose the bankruptcy of their  claim of superiority. They show that the fundamentalist emperor has no clothes.

The right thing to do would be to admit their failures, confess their “sins,” and come down from Mount “I am Holier than Thou.” Of course doing this would mean that they are just like the rest of us and that ain’t gonna happen.

david hyles greatest men

Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

The latest major IFB scandal, courtesy of Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond, provides for us an excellent example of  HOW IFB churches handle having their “humanness” exposed.

First, they deny.  When the Schaap scandal first became public, IFB commenters on blogs, news sites, discussion forums, Facebook, and Twitter were quick to deny that Schaap had done anything wrong. The accusations were lies and they were certain that Schaap was completely innocent.

Second, they marginalize. When they could no longer deny the reality of the Schaap scandal, they turned to letting everyone know that Schaap was a “sinner” just like everyone else and, while his “fall” was regrettable, people should not judge the IFB church movement or First Baptist Church negatively. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel. Actually, it can.

Third, attack the critics. Instead of owning the scandal, many IFB defenders decided to attack those who reported the scandal or wrote negative things about Schaap, Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, and the IFB.

Across the blogosphere, in discussion forums, in blog comments, and emails, the defenders of the IFB  attempted to ameliorate  the scandal by attacking people like me. They couldn’t dismiss my impeccable IFB credentials so they attacked me personally or they dismissed me out of hand because I am an atheist. Why should anyone listen to what Bruce Gerencser has to say, they write. He’s a God-hater. He’s bitter, angry, and has an axe to grind. Besides, he never was a “real” Christian. They try to discredit the messenger so they won’t have to deal with his/her message. The goal is direct attention away from the facts.

Fourth, if all else fails, attack the victim. Let’s not forget that there is a victim in the Jack Schaap scandal. Schaap’s “sin” was not a victimless one. He had sexual relations with a minor in his church.

Jack Schaap is a 56-year-old man. He is almost my age. The victim was almost young enough to be his granddaughter. As a grown, mature man, he should be in control of his sexual desire. Surely he KNEW it was morally and ethically wrong to have sex with this girl. Schaap had the power to control the relationship he had with this girl. He was the grownup, he was the “man of God,” he was a married man with children, he was the one with everything to lose

If he had overt sexual desire, a need to get laid, he could have sought out the help of a professional, a prostitute. I am sure there are plenty of adult establishments in the Chicago area that Schaap could have went to in order to get his sexual need met. More than a few IFB pastors have availed themselves to the services of a prostitute. But, Schaap did none of these things and now everyone knows

In the sleaziest of attempts to justify Jack Schaap’s behavior, they attacked the girl. One commenter on this blog suggested the girl was a slut, that she seduced Schaap. She wrote:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

I responded:

Bullshit.

It doesn’t matter how hot she was or whether or not she flaunted herself before him.

He is a grown, mature man, a few years younger than me. By now, he should have learned how to deal with temptation and keep his penis in his pants.

It is reported that he was counseling this girl. If this is true, then he abused his power and authority and, here in Ohio, could be held criminally liable.

Whatever the girl’s faults, she is not the problem in this story.

She responded:

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

And, I responded:

You mean stealing pathetic, poor Christian men who have been taught they are helpless creatures unable to withstand sexual temptation? How about teaching them to be accountable for their own sexual behavior? They have a choice, do they not? Or are they so weak that the slightest temptation turns them into sexed crazed maniacs who are unable to control their lust?

The only right answer to the Jack Schaap scandal, the Jack Hyles scandal, or any other church scandals, is IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE disclosure. Instead of trying to cover the matter up or trying to make it disappear, churches should show they take these kinds of things seriously. What First Baptist Church in Hammond needed was a Penn State moment. They needed to come to terms with fifty years of cover-ups and denials. The deacons and church membership needed to own their own culpability in Schaap scandal. They are they ones who did nothing about Jack Hyles and his serial-adulterer son David. They are the ones who allowed an abusive, controlling, cultic environment to develop in the church. They are the ones who, like lemmings, sat and listened to Schaap’s preaching, shouting Amen. They are the ones who practiced the Jack Hyles Rule, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

david gibbs

David Gibbs, Christian Law Association

Instead of having a Penn State moment, First Baptist Church called in attorney David Gibbs, the Ray Donovan fixer of the IFB scandals. Gibbs has fixed and sanitized countless IFB sex scandals. Instead of encouraging churches to come clean, Gibbs helps them minimize fallout and loss. The goal is not restitution or helping the victims. Instead, it is all about protecting the church’s testimony.

David Gibbs’s law firm, the Christian Law Association, advertises itself this way:

The Christian Law Association exists to preserve Christian liberty for your children and grandchildren.

CLA received in excess of 100,000 phone calls annually, not counting the thousands of pieces of correspondence from those who are in some way facing legal difficulties for doing what the Bible commands. These cases involve Christians arrested for witnessing to others in public, public school students being told they do not have the right to read their Bibles at school, churches being excluded from communities, Christians being fired for sharing their faith at work, and thousands of other shocking assaults on our precious religious freedoms. CLA provides free legal services based in part on the generosity of God’s people.

Missing from this description is helping pastors and churches manage scandal and marginalize victims. Missing is their motto: Protect the Church’s Reputation at All Costs! Minimize Financial Payouts so the Church can Continue to Win Souls for Jesus.

This will not be the last scandal in the IFB church movement. Their theology and ecclesiology makes it certain that scandals will continue to happen. IFB  pastors, leaders, and members are human. That they will, despite their theology, do things that are considered bad is a given. The only issue left to decide is HOW they will respond to these bad acts.

jack and beverly hyles statute

Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

The Joe Paterno statues have been pulled down as a public act of contrition, but the Jack Hyles statute remains, a reminder of who it was that built First Baptist Church. One can only hope that public scrutiny will force the IFB church movement to own their “sins” and that dramatic change will be made, resulting in a reduction of  predatory acts against children and teenagers. One can hope, but as of today, it is business as usual in the alternate universe called the IFB church movement.

Cindy Schaap, Daughter of Jack Hyles, Divorces Convicted Felon Jack Schaap

cindy and jack schaap 30 years of marriage

Cover of book written by Cindy Schaap about her wonderful marriage to Jack Schaap. Cindy is the daughter of Jack Hyles.

 

As most of you know, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, is serving a 12 year sentence in federal prison for having sexual relations with a minor. (a girl who was a member of the church and Schaap was counseling her)  For more information on Jack Schaap, please read the Chicago Magazine article, Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church. You can also read the letters Schaap sent to his victim here.

As anyone who spent any time in an IFB church can tell you, divorce is forbidden. The thinking goes…God hates divorce and God intends for marriage to be between one man and one woman for life.  While IFB church members do divorce from time to time, it is not a common occurrence.

For months now, rumors have been flying over the marriage of Cindy Schaap and Jack Schaap. Are they still married? Did they get a divorce?  Well, wonder no more, you who are looking for the latest dirt on the Hyles/Schaap crime family. According to a document sent to me today, on May 28, 2014, Cindy Schaap was granted a divorce from Jack Schaap.

 

cindy schaap divorce

cindy schaap divorce pg 2

Let me be clear, I have no problem with Cindy Schaap divorcing her husband. No one should be forced to remain married to someone they no longer want to be married to. Whatever her reasons, it is her decision, end of story. What interests me is how her divorce will be “explained” within the Kingdom of Jack Hyles and the broader IFB church movement.

Later this week, I plan to write a post about marriage and divorce and how IFB churches handle divorce.