I hope you are all having a nice weekend and have finished all of your shopping and miscellaneous arrangements for the holidays. Given that there is a "war on Christmas," I wanted to do my part by sharing this story about the "religiously minded" and devout "Christians" doing wrong.
Many churches are shows and spectacles. How else could they pass that donation bowl around if there was not some entertainment value to be had?
Folks are there to see each other, profile, and to gossip. Religious communities are also just another conglomeration of people with all of the good, bad, ugly, and the like thrown in. As the joke goes in the black community, and for certain evangelicals in particular, the preacher (and other religious leaders too) is the same cultural figure as the pimp--both drive nice cars, are flashy, wear lots of jewelry, make their money by exploiting others, and are cults of personality who exploit the weak and vulnerable.
Apparently, that rule is especially true for First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.
Let me be clear. I would certainly enjoy a sermon about masturbation and polished shafts. I am practical that way:
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. He lifted a stick in his left hand and a silver cloth in his right. He moved the bottom of the stick near his groin and angled it away from himself. Head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut, mouth gaping, he began rubbing the shaft rapidly with the cloth, up and down, up and down…. What he was doing was unmistakable: simulating masturbation, in front of thousands of children, in the middle of a church service. A row of white-coated high-ranking churchmen seated behind Schaap watched in silence.I would also be a regular church goer if there were sermons like this one within walking distance. The after party and "fellowship" must be particularly joyous:
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. “He would just repeatedly talk about sex and repeatedly talk about women, how they were dressed and body parts . . . 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.I am suspicious of authority figures. I am especially suspicious of those who have power in a community where magical thinking, i.e "faith" are used to legitimate it. Once any person starts channeling "the word of god" my default judgement is that they 1) need counseling and 2) are egomaniacs who are not to be trusted for they can rationalize their own deeds through appeals to a "higher authority." In all, bad people can use the religiously minded and group think as covers for, and a means to, further their own wickedness.
That is not God's fault; it human nature. Even while writing said sentence I must default to the puzzle of theodicy in order to resolve the two statements.
The outcome at the First Baptist church would seem to validate said observation:
Unfortunately, it went well beyond talk. 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. Denied bond, he awaits sentencing in the Porter County Jail; the minimum term is ten years.
But Schaap is not simply one of those rogue evangelists who thunders against the evils of forbidden sex while indulging in it himself. According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians interviewed by Chicago—plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents—he is part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches.
Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.The whole piece in Chicago Magazine is well worth reading. It is not at all surprising given how the "moral majority" projects their own insecurities and deviant predilections onto others.