The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

I Was an Evangelical Poster-Boy

David Hyles, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap

I was a teenage poster boy for evangelicalism but no one told me. As absurd as that sounds it’s true. I just discovered that one of the most toxic creatures of evangelicalism — David Hyles — wrote about me in his book Successful Church Youth Work, page 42, published by the The Sword of the Lord.

Here is what Hyles wrote:

“On the first day we ran our bus route, one fellow came. This young man, Jim Peron, trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Jim went home and the next week brought two of his brothers, and they too accepted Jesus Christ. The next week another brother came, and he too accepted Jesus Christ. Then his mother came, and she accepted Christ. Soon his grandmother came, and she also trusted Christ. At this time (1974) this same young man is in Hyles-Anderson College preparing for the ministry and he himself is a fine soul winner!”

As the excerpt indicates this was said in 1974 but I only learned about it a few days ago when looking up a reference to something I wrote. I saw this reference and was curious and then I was surprised.

So why didn’t Hyles tell me about it at the time?

The basic reason is he got incredible inventive and typically dishonest for an evangelical preacher — he followed the scandalous footsteps of his father and then ramped it up some. He didn’t tell me because I could contradict him. I did ride his “bus ministry” to the church and when I got my own car in high school I fled First Baptist Church Hammond first chance I got.

I was told by my mother we boys should go to church and she clearly didn’t care which one. FBC offered bus rides and that was the only option so I went. But I was actually put off by the venom and hatred that I heard from the pulpit and the moralistic absurdities they preached. I remember Jack Hyles, David’s father and the cult leader, damning sinful “mixed bathing.” I wondered where this mixed bathing took place and how they found tubs big enough. Then I discovered they meant going to the beach!

They preached about the evils of Catholics, Hollywood movies and dancing — something only the Devil and unsaved dared do because dancing led to fornication. Oddly thost that preached most about the evils of fornication were fervent practitioners behind the scenes. I thought they were a nasty bunch. My mother decided we should go to the church’s private school when it opened and I ended up in David’s class. I saw him as a bully and something of a pervert. It was widely rumoured he was bedding half the girls in the school, even the younger ones, and his father covered it up for him. Later some of his victims came forward.

I heard Jack Hyles preaching at the school how David was chaste, godly virgin and thought him either a liar or a fool easily deceived. I later learned that victims of David tried to tell his father of these things and were dismissed out of hand. Jack, it turned out, had his own secrets — such as the mistress he kept around the corner from his house — paid for by the church.

David’s sister, Linda, who I also went to school with, called her father a cult leader. She exposed some of the scandals herself but only a few in a talk she has on Youtube. She mentioned how her own family knew Jack was housing a mistress and the husband of the mistress lived above the garage and allowed it because “God’s man” ordered him to do so.

I saw David bully boys at school along with seducing girls and I tried to stay away from him. I remember one gym class where we had to shower and as I was going into the shower I saw David and his gang sneaking up on a boy under the shower with his back turned to them. David urinated on the boy and he and his buddies found this hilarious. The victim was standing under hot water and never knew it was happening. I spent years trying to avoid Hyles as much as possible.

When we graduated it was just pretty much automatic we went to the newest acquisition of God’s grifter — his own college. I knew it well, it used to be a Capuchin Seminary and I and some Catholic friends used to visit it and some of the brothers. It was also a short drive from my house. I had to hide the fact I had friends who were Catholic, of course.

Now David’s poster boy description said I got my mother and grandmother converted — lies. I never even tried to do such a thing to them nor did I ever bring them to the church — a church I had long ago stopped attending myself. In fact, in all the years my grandmother was alive I only saw her in Illinois — she didn’t drive and so went to visit her. She never was in Indiana, where the church was, with me! David made up those conversions because it made him look good. It should also be noted I never once was “preparing” for the ministry and didn’t consider it. I didn’t have a desire to rip people off like the “ministries” I witnessed.

As for the “soul winning”—trying to get gullible people to attend the church —that was mandatory for all the students. The cult demanded we dedicate every Saturday to finding them new pockets to pick.

Halfway through my second year at the college I left the college. I knew it was shady and operated like a cult and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I started taking classes at the local extension of Purdue and relished the new found freedom of being allowed to think for myself — instead of being told what I was allowed to think by the school leaders under orders from Hyles. To pay for Purdue I got a job working in 24 hour sports complex. And that was when I started to see some more of the sick underbelly of the church.

My job was checking members in and giving them gym gear to use. I handled their bookings if they wanted to use the tennis courts or handball courts otherwise they were free to use the pool or all the exercise equipment.

I notice early in the morning an influx of “preacher boys” from the college as well as women who turned out to be from the church. The preacher boys would lecture me for sinning by handing out gym gear for “mixed bathing” but they would take it to use when they went swimming. I was close to twin bodybuilders and spent ever day with them. They told me how these “preacher boys” were hooking up with church women and finding remote spots in the rather large complex to hide and have sex. They had stumbled on them going at it several timAnother example of the evangelical obsession with sex — for themselves in affairs and assaults — for others it was all evil sin and a indication they were unsaved.

By the time Anita Bryant came along I was ready to openly denounce the hate spewed by evangelicals and a couple years later openly embraced my life as a non-believer. I didn’t believe in evangelicalism, I no longer believed in God, I didn’t believe the Bible, none of it. And I sure as hell didn’t believe that evangelicals were godly people — I saw their hypocrisy up close and ugly.

I convinced a journalist friend to write a critical piece of the church but the true magnitude of evangelical perversion was barely known to me then. In the years that followed it turned out this was a cesspool far worse than I imagined.

David’s sexual assaults on young girls at the church were exposed so daddy sent him to preach in Texas when evangelicals turn a blind eye unless forced to confront it. But there he left out a briefcase and someone opened it to see whose it was and found all these nude photos of women from the church. I believe it was 14 of them. Then there was another church scandal when he was shipped somewhere else and I believe that scandal involved 17 women.

He dumped his wife, who also went to high school with me, and married a women who was a swinger and the two sought threeways, fourways, etc. All godly of course. Their 15-month-old child was found bruised in the crib and dead and Jack Hyles was first on the scene, but then police or an ambulance were not called until after he got there to manipulate things. I heard interviews with the investigating police officer who said he was sure the infant was beaten to death but the body was whisked off to Texas to be cremated. A second son was born and was run over by the wife who said the infant fell out of the car and rolled underneath the wheels as she started driving.

Meanwhile the youngest Hyle daughter married Jack Schaap who became head guru at the church upon Jack’s death. Schaap went to federal prison for taking an underage girl across state lines for sex after she came to him for counseling about being sexually abused.

Since I got out of the church it’s been an endless series of sex scandals spanning the last fifty years.

I am convinced evangelicalism’s anti-sexual message is the root of it’s unacknowledged obsession with all things sexual. Their view of sexuality is a war against reality, much as the celibacy message for priests is, and the result is no healthy sexual outlets and thus a secret obsession for something they think utterly sinful. Their own sexual obsession means they preacher loudest when denouncing the “sexual sins” in others. They are attacking in others the very things they fear the most in themselves.

Not having a sexual outlet is like not eating, or breathing, there is only so long it’s possible and when it does comes out they do things in utterly dysfunctional ways; they assault others, they intimidate them into sex, they rape the underage. They preach total obedience and then pick which of their zombie followers to rape. Waging war on sex is waging war on reality and reality wins — they just pervert reality so badly it comes out in evil and cruel ways.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.