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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 29, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 249 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part autobiography, part parental tribute and part examination of how American evangelism got to where it is, versatile author Schaeffer tells a moving story of growing up and growing wise in his latest (after Baby Jack: A Novel). Raised in Switzerland in the utopian community and spiritual school his evangelical parents founded, Schaeffer was restless and aware even at a young age that "my life was being defined by my parent's choices." Still, he took to "the family business" well, following his dad as he became one of the "best-known evangelical leaders in the U.S." on whirlwind speaking tours. While rubbing shoulders with such empire builders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Schaeffer witnessed the birth of the Christian anti-abortion movement, and became an evangelical writer, speaker and star in his own right. His disillusionment, when it came, hit hard; while he would eventually achieve modest fame as a filmmaker and author (of novels and nonfiction), the initial stages of Schaeffer's post-religious life were anything but glamorous; a particularly moving passage describes Schaeffer shoplifting pork chops rather than return to the evangelical fold. Schaeffer does not mince words, making his narrative honest, inflammatory and at times quite funny; despite its excess length and some confusing chronological leaps, this story of faith, fame and family in modern America is a worthy read.
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"Memoir obviously demands introspection, and Schaeffer doesn't hold back...Schaeffer describes a life that was by turns happy, difficult, idyllic, and completely nuts...He's a world-class storyteller...He can make us laugh, make us wince, and make us really think about things, all at the same time." -- Christianity Today's Books & Culture

"Crazy for God isn't just another James Frey-style memoir of personal dysfunction...It's an alternately hilarious and excruciating look at Schaeffer's life with his Christian missionary parents and after he left their orbit." -- Boston Globe

"A brilliant book, a portrait of fundamentalism painted in broad strokes with streaks of nuance, the twinned coming-of-age story of Frank and the Christian right. But this story moves in more than one direction: both coming-of-age narratives are pulled against the current by the tragedy of Francis Schaeffer, a man who let his children, biological and ideological, guide him down a path from which he'd spent his whole life struggling to get off." -- Jeff Sharlet, New Statesman,10/25/07

"A story about the dangers of inauthentic faith...An important book...A cautionary tale about the damaging effects on children whose parents have an excess of spiritual pride." -- Washington Times

"Interesting glimpses into the burgeoning religious right folded into a deeply personal memoir...Schaeffer is brutally honest...He offers particularly eye-opening accounts of his personal encounters with the likes of Pat Robertson, James Dobson et al...Candid, sometimes angry and clearly cathartic for the author." -- Kirkus Reviews

"It offers considerable insight into several issues that have bedeviled American life in the past thirty years, and while it isn't scholarly, when taken in conjunction with his other works...it gives us not only a handle on the mess we are in but also quite a few laughs." -- Jane Smiley, The Nation

"Sounding a refreshing variation on the I-was-lost-but-now-I'm-found theme, Schaeffer's apology rings true." -- Booklist, starred review

"This is not just a book about rejecting Christian evangelicalism. It has parallels in secular culture and is an honest read about family life and its challenges. Suitable and recommended for large libraries." -- Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books Group; 1st Da Capo Press Pbk. Ed edition (September 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306817500
  • ASIN: B003P2VBWG
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,846,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I became an evangelical Christian in 1984, and one of the first heavy-hitter apologetic authors I discovered was Francis Schaeffer. His son, known at the time as "Franky," was also writing books, and as my first Christian mentor said to me, "Franky's a bit more radical than his father." I liked both authors, since at the time I was big on Christian conspiracies and rigid theology as promulgated by such fundamentalist luminaries as Jack Chick and Bill Gothard. I dove deep into the evangelical world, attending various churches, serving in many ministries, and even graduating from seminary with a Pastoral Studies MA degree in 2002.

However, during the last year it all came crashing down, ironically after walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. During my trek I had plenty of time to think about the last two decades, and in the end I came to a decision. Yes, as an evangelical I'd made a few good friends and had some positive experiences. But the bad far outweighed the good. I'd had enough of trying to jam theological square pegs into the round holes of rationality. Plus, I could take no more cult-of-personality pastors, egotistical theologians, holier-than-thou legalisms, guilt trips, and plain goofiness. So when reality intruded on my faith, I either had to acknowledge it or shut my eyes even tighter. I chose the former option and abandoned evangelicalism.

As part of my journey I read the "new atheist" books by Hitchens, Dawkins, Stenger, and so forth. Although I found them challenging and relevant (along with abrasive and polemic), these authors have probably never bought into any religious belief.
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Format: Hardcover
Frank Schaeffer doesn't really fit into a brief description. An American, he grew up in rural Switzerland. His parents were fervent Calvinist missionaries living in a Catholic culture which they regarded as barely Christian. Their chalet, known as L'Abri, became a house of hospitality in which a never-ending seminar on culture and Christianity was the main event. Though an Evangelical, a strain of Protestantism usually hostile to the arts, Frank's father was an avid lover of art done in earlier centuries by, in most cases, Catholic artists -- an enthusiasm that in time inspired his son to become an artist. Later Frank gave up the easel to makes films, first documentaries in which his father was the central figure, then more general evangelical films, and finally several unsuccessful non-religious films aimed at a general audience. Eventually -- profoundly disenchanted with the form of Christianity his parents had embraced, and still more alienated from the shrill varieties of right wing Evangelical Christianity that both he and his parents had helped create, Frank joined the Orthodox Church, where he still remains, though no longer in what he refers to as the stage of "convert zeal." After his son, John, became a Marine, Frank became something of a missionary for the Marine Corps, and the military in general, at the same time avidly supporting the war in Iraq in which his son was a participant. A statement I helped to write that urged George Bush not to attack Iraq was the target of a widely-published column Schaeffer wrote in the early days of that war. Now he regards the Iraq War as a disaster and has become an outspoken critic of George Bush.

"Crazy for God" is a gripping read, both candid and engaging. More than anything else, I was touched by Schaeffer's unrelenting honesty.
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Format: Hardcover
He was once the fair-haired boy wonder of evangelicalism, there at the creation of the American Religious Right. He helped define the culture war, especially over abortion. He helped create the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, the Republican majority, the conservative Supreme Court and the New Evangelicals. Now, he's an apostate, a unborn-again seeker, a member of an Eastern Orthodox church, and a a self-acknowledged failure. Which means that, strangely, he's a finally a success.

Frank Schaeffer, the son of evangelical theologians Francis and Edith Schaeffer has, in his memoir Crazy for God, provided a beautiful, touching, and painfully honest story of growing up in the evangelical sub-culture in the age before it emerged as the culture. His portrait of his famous (at least in some circles) parents, and their Swiss Christian community, L'Abri, will anger those evangelicals who regard the Schaeffers (especially Francis) as saints. But, if you're looking for a Daddy Dearest, you'll be mightly disappointed. There is no scandal here, other than the scandal of evangelical Christianity in America once it got itself fitted into Constantine's vestments.

Frank paints his father as an art-loving historian, a free-thinker more at home in the Florentine Accademia than on the radio with Dr. Dobson. The elder Schaeffer apparently detested the power-hungry theo-politicians like Dobson, Falwell and Robertson, and was far more concerned with reaching young people in search of life's big questions than in reaching the halls of power. Still he allowed himself to be manipulated by the theo-politicians, to become the most sought after evangelical teacher of the 1980's.
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