Note from the Author:
It is not very often that I come across a youth that has the character to stand up for what is right amidst peer pressure from family, friends, church leaders and a church “system” that is demanding conformity to religious dogmas and rules. My experience in this sect has allowed me to see the trail of destruction of young people who refused to conform. Many of them were either publicly humiliated, shunned, slandered, or all three. Others were shipped off to boys or girls homes to be “forced” into submission to the sects’ rules and standards. Needless to say, many did not recover emotionally from it, and today, their lives are a reflection of the tragedy that has ensued as a result. Independent thinkers are usually “marked” for “forced” conformity or, they become a “target” for abuse – spiritual, emotional, physical and sometimes, sexual. To see someone so young stand strong as an individual and think for himself is quite remarkable; not only this, to write about it publicly takes the utmost courage. Another thing I noticed was that Jarrod had the ability to recognize the “problems” in the church that others turned a blind eye to. He did not just ignore them, instead, he let these “problems” aid him in keeping the “blinders” off his own eyes. This young man deserves our utmost respect. — C.McClaskey
I was born on April 23, 1995, in Hammond, Indiana. My parents, at that time, were employed under Pastor Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. My Mother was a secretary and my Dad was a part of the maintenance team. They had met a few years before at Hyles-Anderson College and had both dedicated their lives to serving the Lord. Because of my parents’ commitment, this also meant that every step they took, I would be taking with them. Pretty much every day I was at the church and had grown accustom to that lifestyle; from morning until night it was my life. Once I was old enough to go to school, my parents enrolled me in Hammond Baptist School. There, I gained the foundation that I was supposed to hold true to for the rest of my life.
Up until the third grade, I had done everything I was supposed to do. I was the typical church kid who grew up in the ministry. I was a young kid who fell asleep in church, ran around in the auditorium and, made a mess of stuff. The church was my whole life. It always felt different going to see family who weren’t “like us”. My parents always told us to just be good and when they did things “we didn’t agree with,” to just stay respectful but to not participate. It was kind of hard being a kid like that. When we went to amusement parks we got “the stares” because my mom and sister always had to wear dresses. We couldn’t watch a lot of movies but my other family members could. We were also not allowed to participate in some of the activities they were able to participate in. Even through all of this, it did not mean much to me, because all of my friends lived in the same situation. After I got a little bit older though, reality started to set in.
After my second grade year, Jack Hyles, the Pastor of First Baptist of Hammond, passed away. Then, it became a competition to see who could get the church and run it best and, to see who would be the next big “leader” of First Baptist. My parents were always loyal to Dr. _____ and, not thinking of what was best and God’s plan, they followed a “man” to West Virginia to work under “his ministry” instead of God’s ministry. The move wasn’t too bad for me because I was only 9, I believe. My Mother became the pre-K teacher and my Father became the janitor in the school, working 80 hours a week for next to nothing. Life for me was pretty much the same. The church wasn’t as big as my old one – FBC Hammond had an attendance of about 5,000 at the time, I think, and my new church was running around 800. My day to day life was go to school, help my dad at the school, and go home to sleep. I was at the church and school every school day from 7:30 AM to anywhere from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. On the Saturdays, most of the day was spent doing bus visitation and Sundays was of course, church all day.
The routine of spending my whole week at church lasted from the third grade right until my ninth grade year. It was then that I gained a little more freedom from my parents and started seeing what the real world had to offer. I started getting some friends who weren’t exactly the greatest “Christian” kids and, saw all the freedoms they had, and I wanted that. Thus began my mission to get to the “real world”. I started sneaking out a little bit. All I was looking for was something different. I knew there had to be more to life than following all the rules and becoming a pastor and staying miserable my whole life like I had seen in all the leadership before me. After having my fun, my eyes started to open more. I have always been the kind of person to question things, not always to be ignorant, but just so I know why things work the way they do.
After my ninth grade year was over, I started hanging out with a lot of older kids and began to really develop my own personality. In the school and the church I guess I started to become sort of a “bad kid”, probably because I wasn’t some kid they could boss around or acted like all the other church kids. I became my own person and developed my own sense of logic; I wasn’t under there “mind control” any longer. It still wasn’t easy separating myself from them. It was the only thing I knew, but I still needed to find something different. Half way through my tenth grade year, I got in trouble with another girl in the school and they saw it fit to kick me out of the school. They told me if I was good and came to counseling, and they saw that I lived a good lifestyle, I might have a chance of getting back in. The first summer went by and my parents made me do as they said. When school came back around, I was told I had to keep waiting. After that, I was done trying to please them. It was not fair to me to have to live a certain lifestyle in order to gain back access to a Christian school. As a Christian, you’re supposed to help the ones in trouble, not shun them out and make them live a, and I quote, “near perfect life for 3 months”. After I had my meeting, and they told me to be good for another 3 months, I gave up trying. By that time I had a job, my own car, and a whole day of doing whatever I felt like. Since both of my parents were working full time at the church, there was no time for them to actually make sure I wasn’t getting into trouble.
A few months passed by and I was ready to be in a school atmosphere again. I was homeschooling during the time I was away from the Christian School. During this time, I will add, I taught myself everything. My parents always worked and no one had the time to help me. This actually made me learn a lot better; it gave me a chance to figure things out for myself and to work through tough circumstances.
The Spring semester was coming around and my parents finally decided to put me back in an “other” Christian school. Public school was always out of the picture because they could never live with themselves for putting me in something so bad. At this time, I had started to stay away from the church. I was pretty much looked at as a rebel. I didn’t go to their school and I didn’t follow all the rules. I didn’t wear a shirt and tie to church and I didn’t always listen to old time gospel hymns. I didn’t have good Christian friends and was viewed as “wrong” for associating with people who weren’t fellow believers. At the time, I really wasn’t too concerned about having a lot of friends or getting into trouble. My big thing was playing basketball and that’s all I really cared about. I remember at the church school when we played basketball we always had to keep our shirts tucked in and wear plain t-shirts. We had to wear sweatpants for practices and games. We could never wear shorts because they said our thighs would show and that was “nakedness”. At the new school I went to, it felt like I finally caught a break. They even let us wear shorts!! I wouldn’t have to wear a shirt and tie to school all the time and, the girls even wore pants. To my parents, this kind of school wasn’t a true church-run-school and was considered a “contemporary” church-run-school that did not believe right. They saw it as “bad” because of the way the girls could dress. They had modern music and we even used more than the KJV Bible. My father didn’t even want me to go but, they thought it would be better than the public school.
I started to grow away from my old church. I no longer went every week and I would only see some of my old friends a couple of times a month. After all of what happened with them kicking me out of the school, I was pretty much done with the whole thing. The church always had its problems. I knew it did but, nobody else wanted to believe it. While in it, you don’t see all of the problems it has, but once out of the movement, they all become crystal clear. I’m not mad at my parents for my upbringing, it gave me a view on life different than most. I learned how to get through it and to take the best out of the situation.
Now, I am 17 years old. I have stopped attending an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church completely. I have cut all ties with any of the staff there and only communicate with some of my old friends in the same situation as me. Since then, the church has split and a lot of the problems that were always there, have now been revealed and it has become a big mess. In the end, God will have his glory; and when a man is lifted above him, he will shut it down. It happened in FBC Hammond, SBBC, and others as well. God is a jealous God and will always put us in our place. As for now, I am on the path of finding out truly who God is and not just believing everything that has been shoved down my throat my whole life. Christianity is not about forcing a person down the path you believe they should go, it is simply to lead them to God and for him to show them the path to take.