Donald Trump assumes the legacy of Jack Hyles

This post is about Jack Hyles, and it isn’t. It’s about all us within evangelical Christianity. I think it makes more sense to present the story in reverse order:

Jack Schaap just got out of Federal prison, where he did nine years of hard time for sexually abusing an underage girl. Schapp was lead pastor in one of America’s biggest churches. I went to Hammond, Indiana to his 15,000-member church in a Scooby Doo van with a bunch of laid-back Wheaton grad students just to observe an evening service. At the time, I didn’t know much about IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist) churches, but learned all I needed from that evening. It was still when his father-in-law and predecessor Jack Hyles was pastor. We were advised to dress well – and although we left our tattered jeans at home, we stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the suits and ties, and ankle-length dresses. We were seated right in front of the “Preacher Boys”, apparently their version of spiritual apprenticeship. We learned later that the favored pet among them was Dave Hyles – the pastor kid. Brother Hyles harangued the congregation for half an hour or so, occasionally alluding to the Bible – and calling out people by name he reckoned weren’t paying close enough attention. Then came time for the “appeal” and mass baptism. One after another entered the alligator pit – but only after long-haired hippie types were shorn of their locks. It was surreal. Hyles died in 2001, rebuking sinners till the end while refusing to confess his own.

Schaap repeatedly used his authority as pastor and personal “counselor” to groom the minor – repeatedly initiating sex in his office, during a church youth conference, and at a secluded cabin. The court denied his two attempts to reduce his sentence, noting that he demonstrated little remorse in “trying to cover up and eradicate evidence”.  Neither did it go over well when his attorneys maintained the 16 year-old victim was just a slut. The church joined in shredding her reputation, submitting over one hundred letters asking for clemency – effusive in praise of their pastor-felon, yet not a word of compassion for the young girl. “You hurt my entire family,” she wrote. “We all trusted you. We went to church for our entire lives. Now, I am in counseling to deal with the constant anger, sadness, guilt, and shame that I feel.” So Jack did his time, albeit losing some good conduct reduction when reportedly caught with his hand fondling a woman’s crotch. His plans following release are not known. But with many still willing to “lift him up back on his feet”, I assume he will be restored to a pulpit somewhere.

A corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. It didn’t start with Schaap. The senior Hyles was a long-time adulterer until his death. Hyles the junior – still living and ministering faithfully within the IFB bubble – was an alleged serial rapist, reportedly being hustled off by his influential father to from one church to another in the wake of recurring scandals.  In 2020, reports emerged of screenshots a woman in her 20’s took purporting to show the 67 year-old – balding and pudgy – man bragging about his penis and wanting to masturbate online with her. “I’m the boss; I can do whatever I want”, he allegedly wrote. IFB churches may be conducive to this depravity, but they are not unique to it. As one victim stated, the experience made her “understand that these people exist everywhere,”

Like his father-in-law who demanded “100% Hyles” obedience and issued denials while rumors were swirling around him, Schaap exercised command control over his congregation. They absolved themselves from accountability to anyone but God. It’s not a rare occurrence among many within the evangelical cult. All of us nurture our own gardens of rotten fruit, and I point these out not to heap scorn, but to emphasize a truism of evangelicalism, with which Trumpism shares many cultic elements:

  • A strong authoritarian Leader unaccountable to anyone.
    • Invincibility of the Leader as “anointed”, who is never wrong..
    • Leader espouses morality, but does not live it inwardly.
    • Belief in the Leader’s word, regardless of reality.
    • Unquestioned loyalty to the authoritarian Spiritual Father.
    • A strong us-versus-them mentality.

Once during a sermon, Jack Hyles held up a cup embossed with skull and cross-bones, and clearly marked “Poison”. He called over a deacon and asked him to drink it. He gulped it down without hesitation. “People keep wondering why the evangelical church has been one of the staunchest supporters of Donald Trump”, asks Karen Spears Zacharias . She answers her own question: “Why not? Donald Trump is the legacy of Jack Hyles’s life and ministry.”

Why not? Because they are all personality cults. And dangerous. Because they gladly get drunk on kool-aid brought forth from an evil tree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.