Thursday, May 11, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors

Jeremiah 48:29-30 ASV "We have heard of the pride of Moab, [that] he is very proud; his loftiness, and his pride, and his arrogancy, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith Jehovah, that it is nought; his boastings have wrought nothing.

As a kid growing up smack in the middle of hysteric fundamentalism I never realized that FBCH was not a mainstream IFB church--I cannot imagine that now, but it is still very true among current members of FBCH. We heard Bro. Hyles preach so much about Hammond being the center of it all and all the thousands of pastors that looked to Hammond for encouragement and guidance. We heard stories from Bro. Hyles about all the people that uprooted their families from across the fruited plain in order to move to Hammond and be under his preaching and ministry. We heard about all the other churches in our area and across the nation that were selling out and changing and turning away from Fundamentalism. We heard about the weekly speaking engagements that Hyles had all across the nation and even the world to "help save America" and to "keep this nation free"! We saw his entourage of body guards and security guards armed with guns to keep "preacher" safe. We heard week in and week out about the plots on his ministry and even some death threats on his life because he was preaching the truth.

I can still remember as a kid thinking that Bro. Hyles was some sort of famous movie star or celebrity. We were given glossy pictures of him, coffee mugs with his face looking up from the bottom, and even a cardboard cutout of his face to wear as a mask--maybe someday he would remember my name--maybe someday he would mention my family from the pulpit during a sermon--maybe someday he would say "hi" to me in the hallway--maybe someday he would send me a letter he wrote with his own hand!

Recently I heard some chatter from some current members of FBCH about how Dr. Schaap was invited to the White House for a meeting with the POTUS. I also read about this and saw a picture of Pastor Schaap with President George W. Bush in an issue of "The Voice". The same shock and awe that Hyles' stories and image created in me years ago were evident in the glimmering eyes of those who regaled me with tales of a Baptist preacher going to Washington to set things right! It brought back memories of times when Hyles would talk about actually refusing a meeting with either Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan when he was President--Pastor Hyles was far too busy to meet with any mere President--he was carrying a nation and a world on his shoulders!

Adoring fans, bodyguards, and tall tales--all the ingredients for a hyper-fundy superhero! This was my relationship with my pastor for over 20 years--now you know why I am so wacky.



BeckyJoie said...

Which issue of the Voice? I couldn't find it. I'd say, "I'll believe it when I see it" but I don't know if I could even then.

G.Doane said...
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maranatha man said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. I can remember hearing Brother Hyles preach for the first time. It was a chapel service when I was freshmen at TTU in Chattanooga, TN back in 1976. I was spellbound as he told story after story. Having only been a believer for two years I wasn't really grounded spiritually. Therefore, the stories he told really moved me. Year after year he would speak at Temple. You would have to get in the church by 3:00 p.m. to even get a decent seat to hear him at the 7:00 p.m. service. Finally, I graduated and became a pastor. I then began a yearly pilgrimage to the "Christian Mecca," Hammond, Indiana for Pastor's School and Youth Conference. During those years Hyles was a little more flexible at where he preached (I kid you not). Back then he preached for the Free Will Baptists, Church of God, Bible churches and even non-denminational churches. This was before he was KJV only (Read his commentary on Revelation).
However, after the Robert Sumner report, I saw a drastic change in Brother Hyles. He became much more "fundamental." The lines of separation grew tighter and tighter. You were either on Hyles side or you were not a true fundamentalist. I saw the "before and after" personality of Brother Hyles. He started preaching strange theology about the church. How Rome was the mother of harlots, and all other denominations were the offspring of "the mother harlot" church.
On purposed, in paranoia, Hyles tightened the screws of separation tighter and tighter trying to recover his title as Pope of fundamentalism. The road became more and more narrow if you can believe that! Hyles and his followers were so separated they became isolationists. The true test of fellowship became, "where do you stand on the Hyles-Sumner issue?" If you did not stand with Hyles, you were automatically cut-off from fundamentalism and branded a liberal. Thank God I got cut-off! They say hindsight is 20/20. I can look back and see the before and after picture of Brother Hyles. The after picture which is suppose to look better, in reality got uglier and uglier!

Cameron Cloud said...

"I never realized that FBCH was not a mainstream IFB church"

While not denying the influence of FBCH, I personally believe its supporters as well as its detractors often overestimate its importance in what you refer to as "mainstream IFB".

PT Barnum said...


You are right. I live in Indianapolis and I have run into very few even in the IFB church I attend who know much of anything at all about Hyles and FBCH. Growing up in Hammond the impression was given that everyone knew about FBCH and that they were actually relevant--I now realize how comical this is from outside of the FBCH bubbleworld.


Mike Hess said...

Good post Matt! I also used to live with this same notion after hearing Hyles' self proclaimed fame of holding the fundamental world together and of carrying a whole nation on his shoulders. A whole nation? What did he mean by a whole nation? Perhaps a whole nation of warped individuals who were enamoured with Hyles outrageous stories that made him into this God-like figure.

Now pastoring a GARBC church, I fully realize how little influence Hyles had over the fundamental world. Now we see that the influence he did have was limited and abusive at the same time.


Joshua R said...

Ah, yes, how could one forget the glamorous stories of meeting Elvis Presley, Ted Williams, or former U of Kentucky coaching legend Adolph Rupp.

I think that even current churchgoers there would struggle to explain the pretended need for the security detail. Nevertheless, it makes for an incredible image-building machine.

As for the meeting with G.W.B., it is only fair to mention that there was a multitude of other ministers invited to the same event. Seeing that FBC has boasted having over 100,000 members as a statistic, it is easy to see that they are viewed as influential.

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