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And, equally important, to attend the church-owned Hyles-Anderson College a couple of miles away, one of First Baptist’s biggest coffer fillers. Thanks for what you’re making me.” Schaap continued to rub the stick—up and down, up and down—and converse with God, sometimes angrily, sometimes ecstatically, for more than a minute.
But in July 2010, an hour into the “Polished Shaft” sermon—in a church packed with thousands of teenagers there for a youth conference—Schaap went further. What he was doing was unmistakable: simulating masturbation, in front of thousands of children, in the middle of a church service.
“It really is astonishing,” says Jeri Massi, a researcher from Raleigh, North Carolina, who has been documenting the sexual abuse of children in Christian fundamentalism since 2001. .” And all this barely half an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago.
“The wickedness, the heartbreak, the ruining of lives.” Examples from First Baptist “take in everything: pedophilia, violence, defamation of the innocent to protect the guilty, heresies against Christian doctrine, defiance against lawful authority. In the beginning—1959, in this case—Jack Hyles arrived at the First Baptist Church of Hammond as a skinny, charismatic Bible thumper with a Southern-fried drawl and a couple of cheap suits.
Head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut, mouth gaping, he began rubbing the shaft rapidly with the cloth, up and down, up and down. To the hundreds of people who posted comments under a You Tube video of the event, the lack of reaction is as shocking as Schaap’s sermon itself.
But to the congregation of First Baptist, it was all in a day’s preaching.
The effect was powerful, and it inevitably produced the desired result: swarms of male teenagers trance-walking their way to Schaap (pronounced “Skop”), ready to commit their lives to becoming pastors. Then, his voice dropping to a guttural whisper, he said, “Oh, oh, God.
The true believers of the ultrafundamentalist Independent Baptist movement were accustomed to Schaap’s style.
If he wasn’t scolding his flock for not living up to God’s demands (tithing, volunteering, “soul winning”), he was delivering R-rated sermons that, for example, likened the Lord’s Supper to having sex with Jesus Christ. in graphic detail,” recalls Tom Brennan, who attended the church for six years and is now an Independent Baptist pastor at Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago. Last September, Schaap, 54, a married father of two, pleaded guilty to taking a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at First Baptist across state lines to have sex.
Schaap did not respond to an interview request made through Porter County Jail.
It’s important to stress that even the people I spoke with who felt victimized by the church did not suggest that the majority of members are anything other than sincere seekers of Christ.