Crazy For God: An Evangelical Icon Speaks Out
Francis Schaeffer is a name that commands automatic respect in most evangelical circles. His book, How Shall We Then Live?, and its companion video series, have been credited as the primary catalysts that led to the formation of the religious right and the politicization of the evangelical church.
Now, however, Schaeffer’s son Frank (an evangelical celebrity in his own right) has come forward to set the record straight with his new book, 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. In an interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, he discusses what his father (who died in 1984) really thought about the religious right leaders who capitalized on his call to action, and what he thought the church should look like.
On the leadership of the religious right:
The public image of the leaders of the religious right I met with so many times also contrasted with who they really were. In public, they maintained an image that was usually quite smooth. In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have had a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.
On his father’s alignment with the religious right:
He has been used by people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others to give some respectability to points of view that really were not his. What made my dad’s heart beat fastest was talking about people’s philosophical presuppositions and how they lived. He wanted to put people’s lives back together again, people who had problems. The politicized view of him is illegitimate.
On the politics of the religious right:
I personally came to believe that a lot of the issues that were being latched onto by the Christian Right, whether it was the gay issue or abortion or other things, were actually being used for negative political purposes. They were used to structure a power base for people who then threw their weight around. The other thing I began to understand is that in dismissing the whole culture as decadent, in dismissing the public school movement as godless, in talking about anybody who opposed them as evil, the Religious Right was only a mirror image of the New Left. Thus, the Religious Right and the New Left are really two sides of the same coin. What gets left out is a basic discussion about the United States and the reality of living here, the freedoms we enjoy and the benefits of a pluralistic culture where people are not crushing each other over beliefs. This gets lost.
On the issue of homosexuality:
A lot of people in the evangelical and fundamentalist communities speak theoretically about homosexuality being no worse than adultery or divorce. However, in practice, they are not undertaking national campaigns to single out evangelical people who were married to somebody else at one time and got divorced. So actually there is a tremendous moral hypocrisy there because the whole gay issue has been singled out for special treatment.
My dad literally practiced what he preached. He said that homosexual sex was on the same level as adultery, premarital sex and spiritual pride. He didn’t differentiate between all this and write people off on the basis of it. He actually believed and acted on what a lot of people in the Religious Right say theoretically. But he literally was that way.
My dad didn’t see it as a special problem to be singled out from everything else. He didn’t see it as threatening. We had quite a few gay people come through L’Abri. As a child, I knew who they were and why. But my dad did not push them into programs where they were going to try to become straight based on special counseling. He didn’t see it that way. He just saw this as one amongst all kinds of challenges that face people humanly and was very compassionate about it.
We had a number of people who came to L’Abri who were not Christians or were Christians who were gay who never changed their orientation, and they didn’t become less friendly with my dad as a result. He didn’t make a big point of it one way or another. That is how his attitude manifested itself to other people.
So while Francis Schaeffer wasn’t fully gay-affirming, it seems unlikely that he would have had much use for ex-gay programs, much less for the political tool that the ex-gay movement has become. If nothing else, that fact (along with the rest of what Frank Schaeffer has to say) should give sufficient pause to inspire the leadership of Exodus International and Focus on the Family to reevaluate the political course that both organizations have committed themselves to.
Hat tip: Misty Irons
Sometimes, a person or group, must become completely polarized before coming into balance. They must learn from their egotistical beliefs, and others are hurt sometimes in the process. The current Exodus is one prime example, leaving stewn bodies in the street of broken hopes. Once they get that God is love, and is the middle door of understanding acceptance and honesty, he she or they will fall into grace, and away from polarizing destinations.
The founders of Exodus are a prime example, and would best be diefied if possible as to the true path of Exodus, fear hate and anger, to truth honesty and acceptance. The founders denied their true sexuality, so much so they started Exodus to teach others to hate their sexuality as they did, then they fell in love. God is love. Polarity to balance. They did it perfectly.
If the entire template of the founders of Exodus were taken into focus, then reality would be set up to truly realign what the true teaching was for the founders, and hence follow it through to the followers of Exodus itslef.
Since the founders at the time may have found failure in not being able to keep up with the original show, maybe they felt they could not go on with the possible entire second chapter under the Exodus umbrella, that being realization and acceptance.
Regardless, all these things are set up (by US) for us all to learn, then move on. In a sense, these severe polarizing businesses, are just reflections of all our own inner polarizations that hurt us. One would do well to take pause where the mirror is striking within, and heal it, and move on. Anger hate and drama towards Exodus is not the answer, love acceptance communication and in this case education is the answer. When enough people have been healed of the fear around sex, “exgay” will listen, for they are lost sheep looking for resolution, just like everyone else. Talk to those who really listen, not ones who are blocked. Just keep healing the sick, that’s what gets attention from the heart. And the heart is the only healer there is.
Francis Schaeffer! Wow, haven’t heard that name in awhile, thanks for posting this. I have two thoughts: Frances died 23 years ago and much has changed. Frank cannot speak for Francis, of course, so I am curious how Francis might have evolved as has the Christian right as regards tgt.
When you say: “So while Francis Schaeffer wasn’t fully gay-affirming…,” I am guessing you are speaking tongue in cheek?
Equatiing “homosexual sex” with adultery, etc., affirms that it is “sin” and leaves little difference between Francis and James Dobson’s views from what I see.
Nobody can say with absolute certainty, but based on the full text of the interview it seems unlikely that he would have been any more enamored with the religious right today than he was in the early ’80s.
It was understatement. But while Schaeffer and Dobson may have been close together in underlying belief, I do see a significant gap between them given Schaeffer’s reported willingness to accept people where they were without trying to change or otherwise condemn them.
Thanks for pointing to the interview with Frank and his most interesting synopsis of his father. Schaeffer was someone who was highly respected and looked up to in my home and to see the more human side of him really heightens my respect of him. Growing up in “ministry” I traveled in some of the same circles and, at least in those I know personally, the characterizations are pretty dead on. I’m glad to see more of a spotlight put on them.
In the interview with Whitehead, Frank talks about how fear is what drives in money for these ministries. At one point in my life I worked for one of them, helping draft “appeal letters” and I can tell you without doubt that it was always fear that drove, and continues to drive, the financial success or failure of the ministry.
Thanks again for a great write-up and linking to the fascinating article. I look forward to reading Frank’s book over the Christmas holiday.
It should also inspire pigs to fly. I think both are likely to happen simultaneously.
It should also inspire pigs to fly. I think both are likely to happen simultaneously.
But, of course, also only coincidentally.
(just a clarification on behalf of all pigs, airborne or otherwise)
Might go check out the book’s avails — sounds like it could be an ICP.