______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Don’t Ask. Don’t Sell. February 27, 2012

I had a “conversation” with a Greg McCaw, a former CCM insider (he was “no longer needed” after he came out). He estimates that as many as 35% of those in the Christian Music industry are closeted gay.
Based on his experience, Mr. McCaw suspects most who work alongside them within the industry know of their orientation. Just not the general public.
So in reality, people like Marsha Stevens-Pino (For Those Tears I Died), Clay Aiken, Jenifer Knapp, Tonéx, Ray Boltz, et al, were not outsted from the industry because they were gay, but because they admitted publicly they were gay.

According to Greg, “It is OK to be LGBT privately, as long as you don’t say that you’re LGBT.  This is especially true if you have a talent that is quite marketable.”
Privately pro-LGBT thinkers keep quiet because they know most of their buyers are fundies.  It’s easy to become victims of the hypocrisy of religion.

There are many who make their living from selling “Christian goods” who are sincere believers that do valid ministry.  But, as Greg also says, Christian events and “the Christian music industry and the Christian publishing industry… are not primarily about ministry, they are primarily about sales.”

That’s all good and fine, I suppose.  Most of us probably already know that anyway.  But when people become less than who they are, or must be somewhat decietful concerning their views just to ensure their paycheck…
well, that’s not very Christian at all.
Making your money “off the gospel” is usually a dangerous thing.  It’s easy to end up being an ear-tickler.  Especially, I believe, in fundamentalist circles.

You can justify your cowardice because, in the words of Frank Schaeffer, “there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.”

Yes, the livelihood of many gay Christians, as well as their straight allies, is tied to the CCM industry’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” policy.
Thank God, the tide of public opinion is turning, brought about in part, by the many Christians and denominations who are taking a stand for equality, consequences be damned.  This has happened time and time again throughout history, in relationship to various issues of human rights.
These people are those to whom, in my opinion, true ministry is more important than the Christian Money Machine.



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.


Prayer August 28, 2011


[Here’s some funny/sad material from Frank Schaeffer.
I can relate to these forms of what mistakenly
passes for “prayer”.]


[My parents] would launch into a prayer that was earnest and full of theological content.  The excuse for the prayer, for instance the information that someone was ill, would get briefly mentioned.  Then a lot of solid theology would also be mixed in.  It was clear they were praying at the person with them, not to God.
The prayers were often a not-so-subtle vehicle for sermons.  Praying out loud was also a way of advancing one’s case, the advantage being that no one dared interrupt you or argue back.

Prayer was [also] a way to remind God no to let his attention wander or forget that we, and we only, really understood what he was suppose to be doing.  So we prayed at him, too. Reading between the lines [you get this:]
“Dear Heavenly Father, in Your Word You say that when two or three are gathered together, You will be in the midst of them.  Well, we’re gathered here, so do what we’re telling You to do because we have You over a barred and can quote Your own book back at you!  We claim Your promises, and because You can’t break any of those since You wrote it all in the Bible, You’ll do what we say, and You’ll do it NOW!  Amen!”

Theologically speaking, we believed in an absolutely powerful omnipotent and sovereign Lord.  But in practice, our God had to be begged and encouraged to carry out the simplest tasks.

We lacked the faith to pray effectively and make God do stuff.  So we prayed for the faith to make God give us faith to make him do stuff.  But getting enough faith was the biggest problem, so we prayed for the faith we needed to pray for faith.  But how much faith did it take to pray to have enough faith to pray for faith?  And if God knew you wanted faith, why didn’t he just give it to you?
It was like spending all your time calling directory information for phone numbers that you aren’t allowed to call unless you can guess the number right without asking.

— Frank Schaeffer [from “Crazy For God“]


Bad Theology and Crazy Politics November 3, 2010

Bad Theology and Crazy Politics (Why the Republicans Won)
– by Frank Schaeffer

One reason the Republicans won on Tuesday is because many of their supporters have already given up on this world and are waiting for the next. I know, I used to be one of them.

Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of sixteen novels (so far) represents everything that is most deranged about religion. It also is a reason and symptom of the hysteria that grips so many “conservatives” in the Republican Party. Frankly: to borrow from Jon Stewart they do believe that these are the “End Times” not just “hard times.”

My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. My mother Edith was also a spiritual leader, not the mere power behind her man, which she was. Mom was a formidable and adored religious figure whose books and public speaking, not to mention biblical conditioning of me, directly and indirectly shaped millions of lives and ruined quite a few too.

For a time I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement. In the 1970s and early 80s when I was in my twenties I evolved into an ambitious, “successful” religious leader/instigator in my own right.

I changed my mind for reasons I describe in my book Patience With God (just published in paperback). I no longer ride around with the likes of Mike Huckabee (who named my Dad’s fundamentalist books his favorites) “saving” America for God, nor am I a regular on religious TV and radio these days.

I still see a religious connection in public policy though that I think a lot of commentators miss — for instance, that lots of the energy behind this mid-term election came from the ghosts of the Religious Right.

The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children’s books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the “other,” as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who do abortions, and possibly even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.

And now that the “death panel” republicans who also claimed Obama is the Antichrist are in power, maybe its time to take a look at the religious insanity that beats at the heart of their movement.

No, I am not blaming Jenkins and LaHaye’s product line for murder or racism or any other evil intent or result. What I am saying is that unless you take the time to understand the End Times folks you will never “get” the mid-term election result.

Feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals. It’s also one of the big reasons that the nutty fringe is now the “center.” If you believe the Bible is literal and true and that this is the “End” then the crazies look sane and the sane look crazy. Welcome to the new congress.

And convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos (or from the first black president) that will be the “prelude” to the “Return of Christ,” is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion. Glenn Beck cashes in on this when he sells gold on TV and survivalist gear.

But this End Times cult may also not be the best philosophy on which to build American foreign policy! The momentum toward what amounts to a whole subculture seceding from the union (in order to await “The End”) is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens.

Enter the “new” Tea Party candidates.

The evangelical/fundamentalists/Republican Far Right — and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008 and now in the mid-term lashing out, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then dominant Republican Party — are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. .

As I explain in my book Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion Revelation was the last book to be included in the New Testament. It was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during Advent. But both Rome and the East were highly suspicious of the book. The West included the book in the lectionary late and sparingly. In other words, the book of the Bible that the historical Church found most problematic is the one that American Evangelicals latched on to like flies on you know what.
Don’t stop now!
Read the rest of this VERY interesting and thought provoking article. CLICK HERE.


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