MARK KIESLING: 50 shades of Jack Schaap, and none of them gray

2012-08-01T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: 50 shades of Jack Schaap, and none of them gray nwitimes.com
August 01, 2012 12:00 am

It's pretty ironic, all this that is swirling around the former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond.

I say ex-pastor, because Jack Schaap was basically fired by the church's deacons for an alleged dalliance with a teenage girl associated with the church's college.

But the church did the right thing, in my opinion, and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich concurred.

"They met with us. They did the right thing," he said of church officials. "They have cooperated fully."

And now not only is Schaap under investigation by the sheriff, but the FBI also has been brought into the picture, Buncich said.

Although Buncich declined to say why the feds are interested, sources close to the investigation say the girl was taken to Illinois and Michigan for Schaap's interludes.

The girl was allegedly brought by a church worker to a Cook County forest preserve where she met Schaap.

The Michigan connection may be that Schaap is from Holland, Mich. Who knows? Perversity knows no bounds.

"If this had been a 38-year-old woman, we would not even be having this conversation," said a detective involved in the investigation. "That would be between him and his wife. But this is a criminal case."

Church spokesman Eddie Wilson told me the church is eager not to cover this up or make excuses for their former pastor.

"We have 15,000 people in this church," he said, which claims to have the nation's largest Sunday school. "We want to be open and transparent. We have a lot of people here who are unhappy with this situation, but we are going to move forward."

The girl in question was 16 when the alleged affair began in April, said a source, and was affiliated with the church's Hyles-Anderson College near Schererville although not a student.

Without commenting on the guilt or innocence of Jack Schaap, this begs the question, does it not: Would this have been his first such sin?

I mean, when a church boasts of having the world's largest Sunday school and when it operates a nationally known college, does this not provide a host of potential victims?

I'm not commenting on whether Schaap is guilty or not, but it does say something when his church fires him and when the sheriff's department and FBI are investigating him.

First Baptist is the same church where the man who founded it in 1965, the Rev. Jack Hyles, was accused in a 1990 book, "Fundamental Seduction," of an extramarital affair.

Although Hyles died in 2001, his legacy of the nation's largest Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church carried on with Schaap, who had married Hyles' youngest daughter, Cindy.

The couple, said Wilson, a spokesman for the church, are now in seclusion.

As a Christian, I can only ask that others pray for the church, for Cindy and their kids.

But I can't bring myself to ask you to pray for Schaap, who may or may not have preyed on children who have come to him with psychological trauma.

I hope one day I will be able to do so. But I make no guarantees.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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