- Paperback: 417 pages
- Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Pbk. Ed edition (September 30, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306817500
- ISBN-13: 978-0306817502
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 264 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 Paperback – September 30, 2008
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American Author's Association website, December 2008
"A story that needed to be told...A very personal and brutally honest memoir, that opens up and exposes the underbelly of the evangelistic movement...Gives the reader a rare and different look at some of various leaders of the fundamentalist moment...The book may open some eyes and minds about the dangers of politics and religion...A must read book for serious seekers looking for their own authentic path to enlightenment, or at least some inner peace."
"A must read for the de-converting...It is brutally honest, eye-opening, at times laugh out loud funny, and heart breaking."
"Princeton Packet," 2/13/09
"Mr. Schaeffer knows what he's talking about. He was there, and his book lays it all out, chapter and verse."
"[A] moving memoir...For those interested in a different perspective on Francis and Edith Schaeffer, l'Abri, and the fundamentalist right-wing evangelical movement, as well as the touching story of someone deeply involved in it all, this is a must-read."
"Augusta Metro Spirit," 4/15/09
"In a witty recollection that takes a different path from the average evangelical story, Frank Schaeffer offers an intimate portrait of a life within and without the spotlight of mass congregations...Schaeffer is more than qualified to offer candid commentary concerning the religious right in these United States...Written with an intricate collection of detail, a smooth ability to turn elements of conflict into startling moments of realization, and a wonderful search for meaning."
"Tallahassee Democrat," 7/25/09
"Part memoir, part biography, and part expose of a fundamentalist moment in U.S. religion and culture. As memoir it is at times funny, at times moving. As biography it provides an interesting, not to say intimate, perspective on Francis and Edith Schaeffer. As expose it provides revealing glimpses into the emergence of the religious right and some of it
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Yet it was not all that it seemed...Schaeffer's writings encouraged my tendencies to moral absolutism which proved, in the end, to be highly destructive. I tried very hard to be a plaster saint, and I tried just as hard to erase all doubts...but the effort ultimately cost me the better part of two years in a hell of anxiety and soul-crushing depression. Needless to say, such an experience alters one's theology! Emerging on the other side of such an experience, I discarded Schaeffer wholesale, along with much of my evangelical baggage. I turned away from evangelicalism in the late 1970s, about the time that Schaeffer and his son Frank began to ally themselves with right-wing political causes, particularly the pro-life movement.
But it was a breath of fresh air to read that Francis Schaeffer Jr. had himself undergone a de-conversion (or at least a radical change of perspective). Frank Schaeffer's insights into the dynamics of the Schaeffer family and l'Abri Fellowship were eye-opening...not because they were particularly salacious (they weren't), but for the revelation that the Schaeffers were not untouchable demi-gods who inhabited a place of immaculate theological certainty, not moral heroes free from temptations and untainted by less-than-lofty motives...but rather ordinary human beings with jealousies and conflicts and hormones, just like the rest of us. How we could have ever believed otherwise now seems incredible, but hero-worship is a powerful impulse in the human heart, and we college evangelicals certainly thought we had found a hero in Francis Schaeffer.
I applaud Frank Schaeffer for baring his soul with brutal candor, and the story of how he emerged from the cold atmosphere of his parents' Calvinism with his humanity intact (or restored, possibly) will be an inspiration for all who face (or have faced) their own crises of faith and doubt.
At the center of this memoir is Frank Schaeffer the youngest child and only son of Francis Schaeffer (1912 - 1984) and his wife Edith (1914 - 2013). Francis and Edith founded L'Abri Mission in Switzerland and both were influential writers and Evangelical Protestant Super-Stars. Their mission and writings were so powerful that they attracted many bright, idealistic, and intelligent people into Evangelical Protestantism. In particular, Francis wrote philosophical and religious works that are easily comparable in quality and influence with anything by any other philosopher in the Western tradition. His works specifically seek to counter the ideas of the Existentialists. The L'Abri Mission became a shelter for thousands of people seeking higher things, including rock stars, artists, spiritualists, and others. A list of supporters included a who's who of the 1960s spiritual awakening including Timothy Leary and Joan Baez.
Three ideas of Francis Schaeffer need to be mentioned to understand why he had such an influence on the Religious Right in the late 20th Century. One idea, summarized here in my own voice is that there is a logical, philosophical spot for "God" in human ideas. Should "God" be removed from that spot, a new thing will be put in its place and that thing will be, in the end, ridiculous on its face. Think here of the Golden Calf. Once a person gets this idea, one sees that it is carried out everywhere in society-for example, go see Lenin's Tomb. Next, Francis Schaeffer argues that the amazing explosion of thought and creativity in Western Europe in the 14th and 15th Centuries lead to two separate ideological schools. The first was the Protestant Reformation, and the second was the Renaissance. The Reformation-with "God" at its center-led to societies, such as the United States, the Dutch Republic, and England becoming economic powerhouses with a genius for political organization and reform . The Renaissance took on Humanist ideas which did not have "God" at the Center-or within the proper theological place for "God." Therefore the Renaissance led to the siesta economy of Latin America, the Inquisition, the French Absolutist Monarchy, and the French and Bolshevik revolutionary bloodbaths.
Francis Schaeffer's influential third idea is that there are "absolutes" and a society without those "absolutes" will be unable to self-correct as necessary. These "absolutes" are "Biblically based" and the Bible itself is not in error. Unfortunately, exactly what those "absolutes" are is ill-defined. Additionally the contradiction between the "inerrancy" of the Bible, when clear scientific evidence disproving the "young Earth" theory of six thousand years is not satisfactorily explained. Additionally, the Bible is free to be "inerrantly" interpreted several ways.
Frank Schaeffer produced and directed two movies for his illuminated father. The first movie explores Francis' philosophy and is almost Art History as much as Evangelical Protestantism, the second film is What Ever Happened to the Human Race? This second movie came on the heels of the Roe vs. Wade decision and its powerful Pro-Life message turned hitherto un-political Evangelical Protestants into ferocious activists. Frank Schaeffer, almost single-handedly, kick started the Culture War after he convinced his reluctant father to become involved in the abortion issue.
This book thus explores Frank's growing from a child to a mature adult in a hot-house that was frantically pious, fervently spiritual, and globally famous. Frank's insights gained during this time and eloquently shared run from inconsequential to important enough to be re-expressed in this review.
The inconsequential, but interesting gossip is that Francis Schaeffer was as human as any other sinner on this Earth. He argued with his wife and was often abusive. Edith and Francis had active and frequent sexual relations. Edith was earnest about her faith to the point of being an overbearing bore. Despite the amazing success of their mission Edith in particular missed what might have been-a lifestyle of secular elegance like an Aristocrat. Francis also fell into depressions. Both Francis and Edith carefully blended the power of prayer with a here-and-now practicality boarding on manipulation. Specific needs were often prayed about during a visit from a wealthy donor. Francis' sons-in-law helped in the ministry and eventually went to war with each other. Frank's sexual urges were normal for a teenager and he rather eagerly fell into temptation-he rather fortunately had to marry a great woman "under the gun." Francis also enjoyed breaks from the piety. On vacations with Frank, Francis didn't say grace or bring a Bible.
There is some other criticisms of other Evangelical Super-Stars as well as the silly sacredizing of pop-culture like T-Shirts showing a muscular Jesus bench pressing the "Sins of the World."
The important insights follow. First, the chapters about the abortion issue is the best part. Each word punches the reader with an uncomfortable and profound idea. Schaeffer argues that Evangelical literature was outselling the New York Times' bestsellers by a large margin and this fact was ignored by the political elites to their own misfortune later. Next, the US Supreme Court made abortion legal from On High. This is different from abortion advocates using the legislative branch to gradually and ethically liberalize the laws with the consent of the public. The high handed Landmark Case caused a vast and talented pool of people to radicalize politics around a single issue. Landmark Supreme Court decisions must be further explored here. The Supreme Court is often seen as a just body-defending the rights of an individual against a larger hostile society and its oppressive laws. However, many of its high profile cases wherein the popular will of a large segment of the country is overturned creates political calamities that are too large to ignore. There is a clear DNA chain between the Dread Scott Case and the Civil War, and there is a clear DNA chain between white flight, ruined cities such as Detroit, and environmentally damaging things such as suburban sprawl and carbon emissions from Brown vs. Board. (Plessy vs. Ferguson supported existing laws and didn't cause a "culture war.") In short, the Supreme Court needs to be given a careful second look in this regard.
The feminist protestors from organizations such as NOW are shown by Frank to be nothing more than shrill, ideological harridans. The chants about 'My body; my choice' were off-putting to many sensitive Americans when they thought about the nuance of the abortion issue. Additionally Frank finds the feminists who deliberately become pregnant in order to have a right-of-passage abortion appalling. Today, feminism is even more an intellectual desert low-lighted by The Vagina Monologues and responses to valid criticism with 'Wow! Just wow!"
Next, many of the rank and file Evangelical supporters are right when they suspect that their leadership and institutions are out of step someway with their followers. At L'Abri homosexual behavior was quietly tolerated. Those moms who are hoping to use Evangelical (and other Christian) institutions to get their effeminate boy who is, um, "on the fence" so to speak to marry a woman and give mom grandchildren hoping are in vain for support. Additionally, a young, Midwestern woman seeking to deepen her Christianity was lower in the hierarchy at L'Abri than a famous, heroin using rock star.
Finally, the abortion issue poisoned politics by trapping politicians into ridged political positions. The Evangelical Protestant movement was also trapped. Evangelicals focused on wait until married campaigns, while the crony capitalists got the economy to turn into a globalist mess that has made marriage in America the preserve of the economically successful upper half. Young Christians are now single, sexual scofflaws that can't afford to start a family. Evangelicals trapped themselves in an echo-chamber of culture that made supporting Israeli brutality a sacred duty, and made supporting the GOP like supporting God. George Bush and his reckless adventures can partially be blamed on the Religious Right. Christianity will continue on as before in some way, but the Evangelical Protestant movement had its figurative legs blown off by an IED and it bled out by the waters of Babylon. While dying, it was robbed of its wealth in the Housing Bubble.
Frank Schaeffer might be an Evangelical apostate, but the five tightly coiled springs of Calvinism clearly show up in this and other writings of his. It seems that John Calvin continues to powerfully hold the minds of men. Frank also writes other books that are "support the troops" types. In his blog he also claims to see the Tea Party as a second version of the Religious Right. This reviewer disagrees. There is a new political "right" with the Tea Party as a part, but the post-Bush II "right" is being launched with different philosophical underpinnings. As Francis would recognize, they might appear to be in the same place for now, but with entirely different presuppositions their ideas will go in vastly different directions.
A five star memoir. I got the book Saturday afternoon and finished early on Sunday morning.