User Ratings and Reviews
5 Stars Ah, now I understand
I’ve worked with Franky and his book provides a terrific insight into an artists’ mind.
5 Stars The Right Wing is Broken
Anyone who dares to trash Billy Graham makes me a little uncomfortable. In college I sang in the choir for his Portland, Oregon visit, and my Bachelor’s degree in conservative Protestant theology probably adds to the discomfort I felt while reading Frank Schaeffer’s book entitled, Crazy for God: How I Helped Found the Religious Right and Ruin America.
Schaeffer refers to Mr. Graham as weird, self-promoting (making sure everyone knew he was the “Chaplain to the Presidents” while Schaeffer’s own father did the same thing but kept it quiet) and implies that Graham “arranged” the marriage of his youngest daughter to a virtual stranger – the son of one of his valued financial supporters. Seriously.
The juiciest tidbits in the book that I almost felt guilty reading about were his gossipy revelations about Christian figureheads I had grown up respecting. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Christian “fund-raisers”, TBN, Bishop Fulton Sheen . . . nobody is exempt. I especially enjoyed what Frank’s mother said when hearing that George Bush Jr. was running for president . . . something to the effect that she was shocked because Barbara Bush had specifically asked her to pray for young George because she didn’t think he had what it took to amount to much of anything!
Who is this guy? The author, Frank Schaeffer, is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, thinker, theologian, and founder of a Christian community called “L’Abri” in Switzerland. Francis Schaeffer senior was a theologian and author known for embracing the arts and encouraging Christians to do the same. During the turbulent 60′s and 70′s when the counter-culture was feared and scorned by traditional conservative Christianity, the community at L’Abri encouraged questions and welcomed visitors such as Timothy Leary.
Frank Jr. produced a film series that toured America based on his father’s book entitled, How Shall We Then Live discussed the decaying of Western thought, including aborting babies. It included discussions afterward and contributed to serious discussion on the abortion issue in Protestant Christian circles (previously abortion was primarily a Catholic issue) that led indirectly to the Republican Party becoming THE party for the religious right based on the right to life issue alone.
I have to say that reading this book was difficult for me, since Frank Schaeffer’s father influenced my own spiritual life so positively. One of his books, He is There and He is Not Silent spoke to that doubt most Christians feel at one time or another about the seeming silence of God in a troubled world. So hearing that Mr. Schaeffer senior was abusive to his wife stung a bit.
The book mainly follows Frank Jr.’s life from his childhood through to his part in helping to create the religious right to his eventual rejection of that same dogma. It was nice getting the “inside scoop” on L’Abri, which I had idolized and wished I could visit, but it also seemed a bit nasty for him to trash things and reveal private things that could just as well been kept private.
His childhood experiences in British boarding schools are related with detail, and are quite enjoyable to read, with the exception of his insistence more than once on mentioning boyhood group wacking off sessions – I didn’t know young boys did that, and in fact, I just didn’t feel I needed to know it. But again, that’s my conservative puritanical side resisting this author.
I think the bottom line with this book is that it gives a fascinating, almost gossip column glimpse into the religious right. But to me, Frank Jr.’s arrogance in even suggesting that he had helped found the religious right just because he rode his father’s reputation into some speaking engagements and production of a religious film series seemed a bit much. I also had the icky feeling of reading about a cherished figure being trashed a bit, and by someone I don’t fully trust . . . because how can you fully trust an author that is trashing others and revealing family secrets? It’s like a mafia snitch . . . you enjoy getting the information, but you wouldn’t tell them a secret, you don’t trust them, and you certainly don’t respect them.
One of the most valuable parts of this work is the detailed explanation of how the religious right (Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, etc.) came to be, and how it formed mainly over the abortion issue, and how Christians came to embrace the Republican party mainly over this one moral issue. I never understood why I had to vote Republican to be a good Christian. Now I see that the parties truly divided militantly over the issue of abortion, when in actuality, Democrats have a more compassionate approach politically toward humanity in general in many ways. Voting around one moral issue is something I need to think further about, and if a book can make me think, I value it.
3 Stars An OK read
I’ve been on a memoir/biography/autobiography kick recently. I thought this would be an interesting look into someone who was such a big figure for the political right/evangelical movement.
While I found it to be an interesting read, I think he spent too much time talking about growing up in Switzerland and on his ego/film making as an adult. I didn’t feel like I got a real handle on the work that he did in America. I wanted to see more political and religious context in this book.
1 Star Why should anyone read it?
Franky never fit in the Schaeffer family, and even when he was helping his dad, there was concern about whether his heart was in it. Now that he has come out of his closet, he speaks as if those who are still within the movement are hypocrites and frauds like him. We are glad if he is being honest, but now that he has jettisoned all that was valuable from his life, one wonders why his book ought to be read by anyone. If it guides others to where he now is, it hasn’t helped anyone at all. He is a messed up boy who is being honest about how messed up he is. Those who hate what the Schaeffers stood for don’t need Franky’s help. And those who appreciate the truths they lived for don’t need to answer Franky.
5 Stars A fantastic read!
I am part of the evangelical community (the European part, that is far distanced from republican, far right, bush loving American evangelicalism). I actually pastor an Evangelical church(and find myself agreeing on most of what Frank says, and am also a big fan of the Orthodox church):). I am brought up in the same type of home as Frank, and I relate to some of what he experienced.
Anyways this is a great read. I disagree with some of the other reviews here (and elsewhere) that conclude that Frank is a bitter, offensive, get back at my parents kind of author and man. Far from it, he writes it as he understood his background and parents in view of a long lived life. He balances the good and the bad not only regarding his famous parents, but also from his own life. Its a liberating and fun read!
Frank has important and true things to say to the evangelical community and to the many fundamentalists that are part of it. And there is much to learn from his experience.If you don’t want to read to learn, read it for the pure pleasure of a fantastic read and a fantastic and crazy story!