According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Frank Schaeffer (son of Francis) Speaks to the Destructiveness of Religious Legalism

 

 
The Real Francis Schaeffer
http://www.redletterchristians.org/the-real-francis-schaeffer/
 
by Frank Schaeffer
January 16, 2013
Comments
 
As I wrote about the real Francis Schaeffer in my memoir Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and received many wonderful emails and letters. I also got some rather nasty ad hominem criticism from some of my father’s evangelical followers and especially from several evangelical leaders who have made their “professional” religious careers by associating themselves with his reputation. But most people beginning with my editor (who like most of my secular readers had never heard of Dad until I wrote about him) believed that I’d folded a tribute to Dad into my memoir about the rise of the religious right and my family’s part in it.
 
However the most wonderful tribute to Dad and to my book in many years came last Sunday, long after it was published when I got this email (used by permission of the writer) that really speaks to who Dad was and to the man I knew and loved. I’ve reproduce it here unedited.
“From: Steven Gabbard
Sun, Jan 13, 2013 1:31 am

I saw your recent articles on Alternet and ordered Crazy For God on my Kindle. I stayed up and finished it last night. I really enjoyed it. I admit I read it for the juicy insider bits about American evangelicals. But the parts I ended up enjoying the most were the parts about your father during the sixties. It was like ‘wow, I would’ve like to have met that guy’. His not being racist or homophobic was refreshing. I found myself thinking that if I had known someone like that when I was younger and searching, I might have taken Christianity more seriously than I did. 
It was because of the bigotry and anti-intellectualism that I saw practiced by the Christians in my family that I dismissed Christianity when I was an adult. I am an atheist now and quite content to remain one. But if things had been different 30 years ago and I had met someone who was charming, intelligent, and socially enlightened like your father was during the sixties, I could see that it was possible that I might have taken a different path than the one I walked. That thought is an uncomfortable one. We like to think that we arrive at our deepest convictions through logic and much soul searching. But happenstance plays a larger role than we like to admit. I had to put the book down at one point and face the fact, ‘things could have been different’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that so clearly before.

Anyway, that was what I got when I read your book. Wanted to share it. I’ll pick up another one of your books soon. It’ll probably be Portofino, that one sounds interesting.

Your new fan,
Steven Gabbard”
 
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. To book Frank Schaeffer to speak at your college, church or group contact him at Frankschaeffer.com


Amazon Book Description
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
 
 
By the time he was nineteen, Frank Schaeffer’s parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had achieved global fame as bestselling evangelical authors and speakers, and Frank had joined his father on the evangelical circuit. He would go on to speak before thousands in arenas around America, publish his own evangelical bestseller, and work with such figures as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Dr. James Dobson. But all the while Schaeffer felt increasingly alienated, precipitating a crisis of faith that would ultimately lead to his departure—even if it meant losing everything.
 
With honesty, empathy, and humor, Schaeffer delivers “a brave and important book” (Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog)—both a fascinating insider’s look at the American evangelical movement and a deeply affecting personal odyssey of faith.






Helpful Customer Reviews
 
April 3, 2008

I became an evangelical Christian in 1984, and one of the first heavy-hitter apologetic authors I discovered was Francis Schaeffer. His son, known at the time as "Franky," was also writing books, and as my first Christian mentor said to me, "Franky's a bit more radical than his father." I liked both authors, since at the time I was big on Christian conspiracies and rigid theology as promulgated by such fundamentalist luminaries as Jack Chick and Bill Gothard. I dove deep into the evangelical world, attending various churches, serving in many ministries, and even graduating from seminary with a Pastoral Studies MA degree in 2002.
 
However, during the last year it all came crashing down, ironically after walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. During my trek I had plenty of time to think about the last two decades, and in the end I came to a decision. Yes, as an evangelical I'd made a few good friends and had some positive experiences. But the bad far outweighed the good. I'd had enough of trying to jam theological square pegs into the round holes of rationality. Plus, I could take no more cult-of-personality pastors, egotistical theologians, holier-than-thou legalisms, guilt trips, and plain goofiness. So when reality intruded on my faith, I either had to acknowledge it or shut my eyes even tighter. I chose the former option and abandoned evangelicalism.
 
As part of my journey I read the "new atheist" books by Hitchens, Dawkins, Stenger, and so forth. Although I found them challenging and relevant (along with abrasive and polemic), these authors have probably never bought into any religious belief. I wanted a story written by an intelligent, high-level Christian, someone who had originally dedicated their life to the evangelical church but ended up leaving for conscience's sake. With "Crazy for God" I found exactly what I was looking for. Here was fundamentalist firebrand Franky Schaeffer, now reborn as Frank, telling his fascinating story of living, as the cover blurb says, to "take it all (or almost all) of it back." I could barely put it down.
 
Mr. Schaeffer pulls no punches when it comes to evangelicals, family, and even himself. The most sympathetic figure is his father Francis, who seemed trapped in a joyless fundamentalist world he didn't create or desire. As for the author, it appears that his biggest problems with Christianity was its failure to overcome the baser instincts of human nature, and the ever-present stifling legalism he endured: witness the pious evangelical leaders who used the Schaeffers to advance their ministries (and themselves), his three sisters, who put up false fronts of stability while burning out and breaking down under Mrs. Schaeffer's relentless perfectionism, and young Frank, who goofed off, partied hard, and fornicated with abandon in plain sight at L'Abri, the family ministry center in Switzerland.
 
As one might expect in such a context, parts of this book are quite harsh - it's plain that the author is still nursing past wounds. Mr. Schaeffer is brutally transparent about everything from the voracious sensual appetites of his youth to the familial abuse within his household. In addition, he spares none of the evangelical royalty that his family encountered, including the "power-crazed" Dr. James Dobson, the "very weird" Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson, whose wacky exploits get more airtime than I can quote. He even rakes his radical "Franky" persona over the coals, offering a mea culpa for his entire ministry and political activist period.
 
One glaring omission: despite some tantalizing glimpses, he doesn't seem to delve into whatever specific theological problems he had with evangelical Christianity. I struggled with doctrines like eternal damnation and predestination, and I'd hoped to get Mr. Schaeffer's insights on these and other troublesome topics. No such luck.
 
After such a wild ride, it's nice to see that Mr. Schaeffer has come to a calmer and more stable place in life. However, he inadvertently demonstrates that we can never entirely escape ourselves. He has transferred his evangelical zeal to patriotism, exemplified by his devotion to United States Marine Corps where his son honorably served in harm's way. I'm glad he's pro-America, and the USMC deserves good publicity. But as one who spent six years as a jarhead, I'd like to caution the author that the storied Corps, much like the Church he now eschews, is an imperfect institution where high ideals are limited by human frailties. As for Christianity, given the tone of this book I found it surprising that Mr. Schaeffer still bothers with God at all. However, awhile back he joined the Greek Orthodox Church and has found a semblance of peace within its walls. But as for the evangelical camp, he and his house are staying far away, thank you very much.
 
As a former evangelical, I heartily recommend "Crazy for God." Be forewarned that it's rough on evangelicalism, and a person of faith will certainly struggle with the author's profanity, sensuality, and negative conclusions about evangelical Christianity and some of its glitterati. But it is Christians who need to read this book the most, so that they can engage with the uncomfortable revelations of a former evangelical star, and either come to a clearer-eyed place in their faith - or leave it altogether for their own sake.
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * *
 
 
An Honest and Surprising Book
 By Jim Forest
March 15, 2008
 
Frank Schaeffer doesn't really fit into a brief description. An American, he grew up in rural Switzerland. His parents were fervent Calvinist missionaries living in a Catholic culture which they regarded as barely Christian. Their chalet, known as L'Abri, became a house of hospitality in which a never-ending seminar on culture and Christianity was the main event. Though an Evangelical, a strain of Protestantism usually hostile to the arts, Frank's father was an avid lover of art done in earlier centuries by, in most cases, Catholic artists -- an enthusiasm that in time inspired his son to become an artist. Later Frank gave up the easel to makes films, first documentaries in which his father was the central figure, then more general evangelical films, and finally several unsuccessful non-religious films aimed at a general audience.
 
Eventually -- profoundly disenchanted with the form of Christianity his parents had embraced, and still more alienated from the shrill varieties of right wing Evangelical Christianity that both he and his parents had helped create, Frank joined the Orthodox Church, where he still remains, though no longer in what he refers to as the stage of "convert zeal." After his son, John, became a Marine, Frank became something of a missionary for the Marine Corps, and the military in general, at the same time avidly supporting the war in Iraq in which his son was a participant. A statement I helped to write that urged George Bush not to attack Iraq was the target of a widely-published column Schaeffer wrote in the early days of that war. Now he regards the Iraq War as a disaster and has become an outspoken critic of George Bush.
 
"Crazy for God" is a gripping read, both candid and engaging. More than anything else, I was touched by Schaeffer's unrelenting honesty. There are pages in which you feel as if you are overhearing a confession. Yet it's a very freeing confession to overhear, in the sense that it allows the reader to make deeper contact with painful or embarrassed areas of his own wounded memory. The book also serves as an admonition not to create a self for public display which is hardly connected to one's actual self.
 
Being raised in a hothouse of Calvinist missionary zeal, in which Schaeffer and his three sisters became Exhibit A (especially whenever their mother wrote or spoke about Christian Family Life) is not something I would wish on any child. I expect Frank Schaeffer will always be in recovery from that aspect of his childhood.
 
Those -- and they are many -- who still revere his parents (or for that matter Schaeffer's earlier self, in the period of his life when he was a hot voice packing in the evangelical/Christian Right crowds) are furious at this lifting of the curtain.
 
Yet I found Schaeffer much harder on himself than on his parents, whom he sees as having been damaged, in some ways made crazy, by the burden of a harsh Calvinist theology. Nonetheless his parents emerge as real Christians whose loving care for others, including people whom many Christians would cross the street to avoid, was absolutely genuine. (I was impressed by the book's account of his parents' response to homosexuals who came to visit L'Abri. They were as warmly received as any other guest.)
 
While objecting to his parents' theology and the distortions that it created in their lives and in the lives of many influenced by them, clearly he loves them passionately and deeply respects the actual Christian content of their lives -- their "grace, generosity, love and unconditional support."
 
Schaeffer's book also reminds me that it's one of the recurring tragedies of US history that, from time to time, various movements of self-righteous, ideology-driven Christians decide it's time to try to impose their ideas on society at large. Schaeffer has to live with the painful memory of having been one of the key figures helping to create one of the constituencies that did the most to put George Bush in the White House in their one-issue hope that he would find ways to make abortion, if not illegal, at least less frequent. After eight years in the Oval Office, in fact abortion is no less deeply embedded in American life than it was before Bush's election. Little if anything was done by his administration to help women who felt they had no option but abortion find alternatives.
 
I was touched by Schaeffer's comments about the powerful influence children can have on their parents, far more than the children usually realize. As Schaeffer has come to understand, in reflecting on his relationship with his father, that influence is sometimes far from positive.
 
Schaeffer -- now far more caring about the quandaries others face than he was earlier in his life -- has in the process become aware that self-righteousness is often the hallmark of each and every "movement," whether religious or secular, and whether for the unborn, for peace, for those on death row, for animal welfare, for the environment, etc., etc.
 
In putting the book down, I find myself profoundly grateful for where Frank Schaeffer's journey has taken him so far, yet hope for further evolution in his views in regard to the military and how those in the armed forces are used. I take it as a given that he is aware there are men and women who died or live crippled lives in part because of the impact on their lives of several of Schaeffer's earlier books which viewed the military uncritically and seemed unaware of how often those sent into battle -- because of accidents, misinformation, panic, bad orders, or even the passion for vengeance -- kill innocent people. Nor does he seem aware of the damage, often unhealable, done to those who bear responsibility for such deaths. I hope Schaeffer will give more thought to why the early Church took such a radical stand in regard to warfare and other forms of killing, accidental or intentional, and what that might mean for any Christian in our own day.
 
Also I would have been glad to hear more about what drew him to the Orthodox Church and what keeps him there, now that he is past what he calls the "zealous convert" stage. In his autobiography, being Orthodox is a minor topic.
 
As "Crazy for God" bears witness, life is mainly shaped by one's parents and family, peer group pressure, and -- not least -- the white water of ambition. Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. I was reminded several times of one of Kurt Vonnegut's insights: "Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be."
 
It's something of a miracle that Frank Schaeffer escaped from the highly profitable world of the Television Church"Crazy for God" reminds me of what a dangerous vocation it is, more perilous than mountain climbing, when one becomes a professional Christian, writing or speaking about the Gospel, Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, making some or all of your living doing this. It's a danger I live with too.
 
-- Jim Forest
 
* * * * * * * * *
 
 
December 4, 2007
 
He was once the fair-haired boy wonder of evangelicalism, there at the creation of the American Religious Right. He helped define the culture war, especially over abortion. He helped create the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, the Republican majority, the conservative Supreme Court and the New Evangelicals. Now, he's an apostate, a unborn-again seeker, a member of an Eastern Orthodox church, and a a self-acknowledged failure. Which means that, strangely, he's a finally a success.
 
Frank Schaeffer, the son of evangelical theologians Francis and Edith Schaeffer has, in his memoir Crazy for God, provided a beautiful, touching, and painfully honest story of growing up in the evangelical sub-culture in the age before it emerged as the culture. His portrait of his famous (at least in some circles) parents, and their Swiss Christian community, L'Abri, will anger those evangelicals who regard the Schaeffers (especially Francis) as saints. But, if you're looking for a Daddy Dearest, you'll be mightly disappointed. There is no scandal here, other than the scandal of evangelical Christianity in America once it got itself fitted into Constantine's vestments.
 
Frank paints his father as an art-loving historian, a free-thinker more at home in the Florentine Accademia than on the radio with Dr. Dobson. The elder Schaeffer apparently detested the power-hungry theo-politicians like Dobson, Falwell and Robertson, and was far more concerned with reaching young people in search of life's big questions than in reaching the halls of power. Still he allowed himself to be manipulated by the theo-politicians, to become the most sought after evangelical teacher of the 1980's. Francis Schaeffer is revered in evangelical circles, where his books and film series (produced by Frank) are still best-sellers two decades after his death. He created the intellectual underpinnings of the Religious Right (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing) and did more than any other theologian to gain evangelicalism its entry onto the political stage.
 
Edith is considerably more God-crazy than her husband, but her son clearly adores her. Beautiful, stylish, and fiercely intelligent, she is the fire in L'Abri's stove, warming everything with her presence, all the while irritating the living hell out of her family with twenty minute sermons masquerading as prayers, and her passion to "save" every living being in earshot.
 
Frank Schaeffer is honest about the dysfunction of his family, his sister's mental illness, his own sexual coming of age (sometimes uncomfortably so--the man apparently was a world-class wanker as a teen), the family fights over theology (which nearly wrecked L'Abri), and his parents' love affair with art, music and literature. He's also painfully honest about his failed career as a secular film maker, and genuinely regretful at giving up his early and promising career as an artist to chase the big evangelical donors who were underwriting the Schaeffer phenomenon.
 
Where he's at his best is also where's at his angriest: about the destructive role he played in American political life and the unleashing of the monster that ate the Republican Party. These days, he's a post-evangelical who rejects "what the evangelical community became. It was the merging of the entertainment business with faith, the flippant lightweight kitsch ugliness of American Christianity, the sheer stupidity, the paranoia of the American right-wing enterprise, the platitudes married to pop culture." He also considerably more nuanced about abortion, though calling him "pro-choice" would be a stretch.
 
In this he taps into that ironic vein that has created most of us evangelical apostates: the very success of evangelicalism, its emergence as the dominant religious influence in America, and its naked lust for power have driven us far from our home. One of Francis Schaeffer's most famous works is a film series about abortion and euthaniasia entitled, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? His son wants to know: Whatever Happened to the Evangelical Church?
 
Frank Schaeffer's apostasy is full of grace and truth. But what else would you expect from Francis and Edith Schaeffer's boy?
 
 
 

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