|Jack Schaap delivering his "Polishing the Shaft" sermon at the church's 2010 Youth Conference. See video of the sermon.|
On March 20th, Jack Schaap, the prior pastor of the 15,000 member First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual abuse of an underage girl whom he had been counseling.
More than 100 letters of support were sent to the judge before the sentencing hearing. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the letters attested to Schaap’s “decades of good works” and claimed that “stress and health problems, including prostate troubles” had led him “to stray.”
Schaap’s wife described her husband’s “affair” with the girl as “consensual” and said that her husband was suffering from “a severe case of prostatitis.” She asked that the judge grant leniency in her husband’s sentencing.
And though the pastor still had plenty of supporters, the church was apparently not so supportive of the girl. After the scandal broke, she was expelled from Hammond Baptist High School and her family expelled from the church.
The evidence against Schaap was overwhelming. Prosecutors pointed to nearly 700 text messages, phone calls and letters along with photographs on the pastor’s computer.
“In a statement, the victim wrote that Schaap would text her from the altar during his sermons. In another statement, written as a letter to Schaap, she wrote: ‘When you first kissed me I was shocked. . . When I asked you if it was wrong, you said ‘No.’ You told me that I was sent you from God, I was a gift to you.”
Like so many other clergy perpetrators, this is a pastor who essentially used God as a weapon to sexually abuse a kid.
But lest you start thinking that Schaap was just a rogue “bad apple” sort of Baptist pastor, consider the dreadful history of First Baptist Church of Hammond – a history that was recently detailed in a feature article in Chicago Magazine called “Let Us Prey.” Schaap’s conviction is simply the latest in “a string of assaults and sexual crimes committed by pastors across the country” who all “have one thing in common:” they all have ties to the First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.
“According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians . . . plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents,” Schaap is part of what some call “a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse” at the church. “Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church – many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools – who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking of a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.”
It is a culture that many say is "enabled by cover-ups and cultlike control."
"Cultlike." I know it's a word that a lot of people don't like. But really. "Prostate troubles?" How else do you explain the lunacy of people who offer that as an excuse for their pastor's sexual abuse of a kid?