Franky Schaeffer has written the one book I'd like to read right now: Crazy for God (subtitle: 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... ). It's a memoir that does what I wish I could do but don't have the street cred to back it up. He writes a book that exposes the unintended consequences of aligning Christian moral ideals with political power in America. He exposes the dark sides of venerated evangelical leaders through the eyes of a son raised in the context of a Christian icon in his father (Francis). In short, with love and pain, he tells the truth.
I got to thinking about all the Schaeffers and the incredible influence they've had on me. I spent two different brief stints at L'Abri in Switzerland: the first in college for a week in 1982 and then the following summer for just over two weeks in 1983. I spent hours listening to Dr. Schaeffer on tape, I ate in their home and the homes of their children, I read as many Dr. Schaeffer books as I could both at L'Abri and when I returned home. I learned that culture and faith need not be at odds. I learned that Christians were supposed to be thinkers with questions, not apologists with answers.
In the fall of 1982, I read A Christian Manifesto by Dr. Schaeffer and for the first time understood that faith was supposed to make a difference in politics, in the larger culture. I do remember harboring some apprehension about the sweeping statement that if the government supported Christian moral values through legislation, it would be good for everyone because these laws would be based on truth (even if secular Americans didn't see it that way). I remember asking myself and my Campus Crusade leader if that posture precluded pluralism, a sacred, primary value in America. I had my doubts, but I still found the book challenging and compelling reading. It's interesting to remember that moment of pause and anxiety, and then to see what has become of the Religious Right. Even so, the How Then Shall We Live? series (conceived by Franky Schaeffer) combined with Reagan's election to office twice led me to my right-wing Republicanism which remained unabated until about two years ago.
In the following years, I joined the Los Angeles L'Abri chapter and attended their local workshops. When I married, I wore out my copy of Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer (who taught me how to make housework an artistic expression, not the drudgery I had assumed it had to be). When I had children, one of the first books I read was by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay called For the Children's Sake where she unfolded a vision of a liberal education - one rich in the arts, music, nature study, literature, composition and nurturing. Our leaders used her book for a Bible study at the Anaheim Vineyard even though up to that point, it had only circulated in homeschooling circles that I knew of. That book had a profound ripple effect in my life and I can say without question that Brave Writer would not be the business it is without that early influence of the Schaeffers on how I viewed a rich education for children. In 2001, I attended a L'Abri conference in Minnesota to hear Susan speak. I also got to say goodbye to Edith in a serendipitous and memorable encounter.
All this to say: when a Schaeffer speaks, I listen. Franky used to bug me. He has a strident (at times caustic) writing voice (which sometimes seems the inheritance of sons whose dads are larger than life public figures - they have to shout to be heard). I remember Franky's conversion to Greek Orthodoxy, I remember his writing about films.
This latest book is something else. He's telling the truth... truths that have been hidden in the dysfunctional family called the evangelical church. I've been blowing my whistle on this movement in my own way for the last seven years. It's not easy. Loads of people want to limit your experiences, tell you that your version of faith was an aberration, that you misunderstood, that the people are the problem, not the theology or ideology, that you are just bitter or had bad experiences, and so on. In other words, evangelicals largely act like siblings in an alcoholic family: pretending it's not as bad as it really is.
I read this linked interview with Franky and want to share it with you. Read the whole thing. Perhaps I'll write more about particular parts of it later. I know I'll be ordering the book today. Peace.