A tale of two Jack Schaaps

2013-01-04T17:00:00Z 2014-06-02T22:32:14Z A tale of two Jack SchaapsMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
January 04, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

It's a tale of two Jack Schaaps: a steadfast church leader and Christian pillar who stumbled by committing a major transgression, versus a brutal authoritarian with a penchant for extramarital affairs and sermons laced with sexual innuendo.

That contrast is found when comparing 140 letters that have flooded Hammond federal court seeking leniency for Schaap -- now federally convicted of having sex with a teen girl -- with a book written by a former Schaap associate that was published in October.

Schaap was a God-loving Christian leader who took one major misstep -- having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old parishioner, according to most of the letters filed in Hammond federal court recently.

But the picture painted in those letters from Schaap supporters asking for leniency in sentencing for the former First Baptist Church of Hammond head pastor are a stark contrast to Schaap's portrayal in a recently published book written by a self-proclaimed former Schaap friend and church associate.

Jerry Kaifetz, author of the recently published book, "Profaned Pulpit," told The Times on Friday the letter-writers who supported Schaap in recent federal court filings are "140 Kool-Aid drinkers" -- that is, loyal cult members who will support Schaap no matter what. The book is available on Amazon.com.

Kaifetz said he met Schaap in 1983 when Kaifetz became a student at First Baptist Church-affiliated Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville. Schaap was a professor at the college at the time, and the two became friends, Kaifetz said.

Through Hyles-Anderson and the church, Kaifetz said he maintained a close relationship with Schaap until 1990, when Schaap stopped speaking with Kaifetz after Kaifetz defied the church by reading a book that was critical of the institution.

Kaifetz told The Times that Schaap always seemed to crave power -- but early in their friendship tempered that hunger for authority with "a sense of Christian morality."

Over the years, however, that began to change, Kaifetz said.

Schaap's sermons and interactions with church subordinates and youth would become laced with sexual innuendo and references, Kaifetz said.

Kaifetz, formerly of Hebron and now a Texas resident, also said he witnessed Schaap's involvement in multiple extramarital affairs.

"He began to sexualize so much of what he taught," Kaifetz said. "He lost his bearings and that sense of Christian morality."

Kaifetz cited one 2010 sermon Schaap preached in which he used a long staff to mimic masturbation in front of a youth gathering. That sermon also was referenced in January's edition of Chicago Magazine in an article published about Schaap and former church leader Jack Hyles, whom Schaap succeeded.

Kaifetz said his book also details accounts from other parishioners that Schaap would attempt to make youth "subservient" by threatening physical violence if they used profanity or disobeyed other rules.

First Baptist Church spokesman Eddie Wilson did not return calls placed by The Times on Friday seeking comment.

The dozens of letters written to U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano on Schaap's behalf evoke a different image.

Schaap faces sentencing in Lozano's courtroom Jan. 15 after pleading guilty last year to having a 16-year-old girl transported from Indiana to Illinois and Michigan for sex.

Schaap had been counseling the girl in his capacity of head pastor at First Baptist Church. He faces a 10-year sentence -- something the letter-writers hope the judge will reduce.

One letter from a staff member at the church states of Schapp, "I do not condone his actions. However, he is a caring, generous, kind and thoughtful man that has made a mistake ... I believe Mr. Schaap is hurting a thousand times over for the mistake he has made."

Another of the letter-writers, Schaap's wife of 33 years, Cindy Schaap, wrote the judge that their marriage was "stable" -- that he was known for "purity and discipline."

Cindy Schaap's letter characterizes her husband's crime as "indiscretions, which caused him to plead guilty before the court."

But as a graduate of the church-affiliated college and seminary, Kaifetz said he believes the church itself fits the definition of a cult that was taught within the college walls.

"This was a classic cult by any definition," Kaifetz said.

"And these letters are the cult members trying to defend Jim Jones," Kaifetz said, comparing Schaap to a controversial 1970s cult leader.

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