______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Crazy For God September 22, 2011

“The only answer to ‘Who are you?’ is ‘When?'”
– Frank Schaeffer

“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]”
– Frank Schaeffer

I’ve seen some reviews refer to this book as an autobiography, even though the author states it is not.  This is a memoir.  And, Oh My, what a memoir!  It’s also a “foreign period piece” of sorts, as well as a chronology of the very birth of the religious right.

The book is written in four major sections: Childhood, Education, Turmoil, and Peace.  The largest of these sections is the first one.   This is where the “period piece” I spoke of comes into play.  Frank was raised in Switzerland in the 50’s and 60’s.  A very different time in a very different place.  This is where L’Abri, the ministry of his famous father Francis Schaeffer and mother Edith, was located.  His writings, though, go even farther back as he describes the upbringing of his parents.

His parents!  He doesn’t really speak of them in an intentionally demeaning way.  He’s just brutally honest.  He’s just as brutally honest about himself.
His mother comes off as loving, but incredibly, religiously self-righteous.  There seems to be no one on earth that’s quite as “Christian” as she is.  She has a very strange love/hate relationship with all things “secular.”  She “always had her own agenda.  She was interested in how we fit into that, not in us (her children).”
His father seems to live in a constant moral, mental and emotional dichotomy.  He is most at peace, and most happy when not involved in his “calling.” He’s also given to fits of rage, and occasional spousal abuse. He’s “locked” into a life for God, while missing much of the joy of life with God.
“Left to himself, Dad never talked about theology or God, let alone turned some conversation into a pious lesson the way Mom did. Reality seemed enough for Dad.”

As religious as the Schaeffer’s were, they fancied themselves rather cosmopolitan at the same time.  The traditional Christians of America at that time would have thought them quite liberal.

Frank is supposedly home-schooled during his early youth, but the truth is he’s not so much schooled as he is simply ignored.
He dwells in an awareness of the hypocrisy of his parents lives.   They don’t, I think, really mean to be hypocrites.  They just have this compartmentalization that I believe is inherent with religious legalism.

So we learn a lot about young Frank’s upbringing.  He of course rebels, wanting nothing to do with the “ministry.”  At age 10 He starts “real” school.
Away from home, he learns “strange” new ideas.  Like, “The thought that you could be a normal person and still believe…[that you could] let God do the worrying about how sincere other people were.”  Frank “began wondering if the ideas I’d grown up with were really the only good ideas to live by.”
There are so many good stories in this section, but moving on…

Eventually, Frank joins his parents in “God’s work.”  It was Frank who pushed his father into getting into bed with the quasi-christian right-wing political types.  They used Roe v. Wade as a platform, and used that platform as a spring-board to create the whole “Take America Back For God” nonsense.  The book makes it pretty clear that, although the Schaeffers were sincere in their beliefs, their new associates were more concerned with votes than with true morality.
Get people stirred up, tell them you and your party are their only hope, and send them to the voting booth.

They became associated with the self-appointed “Christian leaders” like Jerry Falwell (unreconstructed bigot reactionary), Dr. Dobson (power-crazed political manipulator), and Pat Robertson (lunatic).
They intentionally “created” an enemy of the secular humanists and the Democrats.
Both father and son began to clearly see “that the evangelical world was more or less being led by lunatics, psychopaths, and extremists,” but they kept their mouths shut.
They sold out.
They needed that “next pay check.”
“It paid handsomely to babble loudly about Christ and saving America.”
Here’s a clear, history-repeated warning:  When your paycheck is tied to your “preaching,” seduction and hypocrisy can be damn near impossible to avoid.

We also look into the life of Frank the husband, Frank the father, Frank the movie producer (“Baby On Board”) and Frank the down-on-his-luck, broke thief!
He’s actually going to the grocery and stuffing pork chops down his pants.
“I’d remember that if it came down to it, I’d rather be arrested for shoplifting than ever be an evangelical leader again.  There was a certain basic and decent honesty about stealing pork chops that selling God had lacked.”

Finally, his novel “Portofino” hits the stands, and things start to take a turn for the better.  He even makes restitution for the pork chops.

Toward the end, he talks again of his mother.  I’ll let you read the details, but it almost brought tears to my eyes.
Mr. Schaeffer not only takes on the religious right, but takes to task those on the left a few times as well.
And, Frank uses one of his brothers-in-law (John) as a prime example of true faith, love and integrity.

This book has many stories, but the one that hit me the most is the story of how religion can rob people of their entire life.  It turns good people into a distortion of their inner beings in order to “serve God,”  while the true person God created gets trampled under foot.

I think “Crazy For God” falls under the category of “stranger than fiction.”  I’m glad Frank has invited us to see inside his soul, and somewhat share his journey.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

( Also read the excerpt “Prayer.” )


From Amazon:

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.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.


Some Quotes:

You can lose your faith and still pretend, because there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.

Fundamentalists never can just disagree.  The person they fall out with is not only on the wrong side of an issue; they are on the wrong side of God.

People’s eternal destinies hinged on a word or tiny event, maybe on no more than an unfriendly look.  Even an improperly served high tea on Sunday afternoon could send someone to hell.

The new religious right was all about religiously motivated “morality,” which it used for nakedly political purposes.

The evangelical homeschool movement was becoming profoundly anti-American.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Single issue politics deforms the process and derails common sense.

By the 1970’s the evangelicals had come up with an alternate “gated” America.  It wasn’t about being something but about not being secular.  What it was for, no one knew.

If [Americans] are asked to make a choice between freedom and security they’ll choose security.  It will be the new fascism. (Francis Schaeffer, circa 1972!)

Bush Jr., the Bible-believing, born-again president, delivered up his Iraqi fellow Christians to be destroyed.  A “faith-based” evangelical American president stupidly unleashed a civil war.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

If you push the so-called Sola Scriptura Calvinist approach and the “inerrancy” ideas to their absurd limit, all real study of the Bible stops… Scholarship can only be meaningful when you are allowed to ask real questions and let the chips fall where they may.

In John Calvin’s Reformation Geneva, women pregnant out of wedlock were to be drowned along with their unborn babies, and of course homosexuals were to be killed and heretics burned at the stake.  [Yeah, I really want a “Christian” America!]

Evangelicalism is not so much a religion as a series of fast-moving personality cults.

According to Jesus, community is spirituality: “Love one another.”

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.


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