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Web Letter

Frank's sister is prone to rage? Who would not be after tending to a invalid mother for years on end? Come on.

And Jerry Falwell? What percent of Francis Schaeffer's work had to do with him? Little. Just the part Frank pushed him into.

All of this is sad, since it reflects the mind of Junior and not Senior. To all Nation readers who love it, all I can add is, I hope your own kids write so flatteringly of you while you languish under someone else's care.

Frank Schaeffer may have writer's grace, but he certainly lacks any class whatsoever. A disgrace to his mother's memory. But at least he is now embraced by those he has chased for years. The Boston literati now love him. What relief for all concerned.

Joe Martin

Hampton, VA

Sep 5 2009 - 10:20pm

Web Letter

Was Francis perfect? No. Was Edith perfect? No.

Are writers about selling books? Yes.

Frank still has some growing up to do, I believe, and so do we all, please.

There has been only one perfect being who lived on this earth who truly, perfectly modeled godliness--Jesus of the first century. Don't look at my walk, look at his.

The one carrying on the L'abri culture is Schaeffer's son-in-law: Ranald McCaulley. Is Ranald rich and lusting for cameras and news articles about himself? no. This man rides a bicycle to work everyday--a bicycle with pedals, not a motor.

So there has been come good coming out of Switzerland, and Ranald is a product of that and the message about his savior, Jesus, the Christ.

L'abri in Cambridge: http://www.christianheritageuk.org.uk /

Headquarters: http://www.sacred- destinations.com/england/cambridge- round-church.htm

John Pounders

Birmingham, AL

Aug 24 2009 - 5:56am

Web Letter

I noticed you mentioned Os Guinness in your article and thought you and others might like to read his comments regarding the book.

Taylor Vernon

Baton Rouge, LA

Feb 28 2008 - 11:10am

Web Letter

An interview with Frank Schaeffer (by John Whitehead) may be of interest, as it concerns both the book and family. It reflects a broader appreciation of the empathy of the father by F.S. than is reflected in the review by Jane Smiley. A question arises as to why recognition of that does not manifest in her reading. An answer may be that the review is also autobiography.

Kirk Allison

Saint Paul, MN

Dec 30 2007 - 8:32pm

Web Letter

Thanks to Jane Smiley for this fascinating review of the new Frank Schaeffer book. I was grateful for the chance to hear an insider talk about L'Abri, and glad to hear that Frank has matured and mellowed a bit. I always sensed that there was something odd going on with him--an angry bitterness and ambition--that was very troubling. That he tells stories of the hard times and human foibles of his famous, evangelical parents, is fascinating, but I believe Ms. Smiley takes them as gospel without any consideration that he could be (knowingly or unknowingly) overstating his parents' eccentricities. (And sometimes, Smiley says stuff that simply isn't in the book, such as her claim that in the early days Edith Schaeffer was endlessly shilling for money. Frank makes them sound bad in the book; Smiley makes them sound even worse. Her big ending--with an allusion to Salem--was utterly gratuitous.)

There is much to ponder in this memoir for those who were involved in the evangelical intellectual and social awakening of the late twentieth century, and for those of us who appreciated Schaeffer's reminder to take culture seriously as people of faith, and to be passionate about racial justice and the responsible use of wealth, environmental care etc. we will always be grateful, even as we were anguished by his turn to the hard right. That the elder Schaeffer got in bed with the newly formed Christian right and was co-opted by them (even as he was dying of cancer) seems to be mostly the doing of young Franky, still then, as his first book put it, "Addicted to Mediocrity." Indeed.

There is a large and important question, though: is he telling the truth about L'Abr and the views and habits of his parents and siblings? I wonder if his other siblings think he's inaccurate and unfair. It is not unreasonable to wonder how accurately he gets it. Is he is speaking honestly--now, finally--or is this yet another manifestation of a very troubled ideologue, stuck still in attack mode, but this time against evangelicals instead of against secular humanists?

Byron Borger

Dallastown, PA

Dec 12 2007 - 12:35am

Web Letter

Frank Schaeffer writes in Crazy for God, "Dad and I were sitting in Falwell's study just after Dad spoke at Jerry's church.... Out of the blue, Jerry brought up the gay issue. Dad said something about it being complicated, and Jerry replied: "If I had a dog that did what they do, I'd shoot him!" He's telling it straight. I was sitting at the same table, shocked and swallowing hard at the cruelty of his statement. I prayed, "Lord Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Later we boarded Falwell's Israeli made jet, walking past an armed guard. Someone made the statement that he had to prevent people from putting sugar in the gas tank. Just before we landed Edith Schaeffer was rooting around some cabinets looking for something and pulled out a loaded gun. I wondered what a man of God was doing with those attitudes and that weaponry. I wondered where the trust and love were. I wondered what difference knowing Christ made. It didn't seem the fancy Christians I was meeting while I squired the Schaeffers around the country weren't any different than the guy who gunned his motorcycle outside my window at work.

When Frank Schaeffer writes about how crushing people's worship of his parents was, he's telling it straight. I traveled with them and was often the one the Christian leaders stumbled over when they wanted to speak to Francis and Edith Schaeffer. I felt as used as a tissue after someone blew their nose. People often mistook me for their daughter. It's no wonder. My father died the first day of a three-week tour, and that made a powerful bond, whether the Schaeffer or I wanted it or not.

I worked in publicity for Crossway Books, basically launching that company, and arranging some of the fame Frank writes about. When Frank sat down with Ken Woodward at Newsweek, it's because I spent a year cultivating a friendship with that religion editor. I made the arrangements for his parents and his trips around the country promoting their books. Newsweek, Publishers Weekly, US News & World Report and The Today Show, in addition to the Christian media, covered the Schaeffers, with page-long articles.

Frank might have written about his voracious sexual appetite in Crazy, but he showed me nothing but respect as a colleague. Sure he was a handful, sure--he poked me when I napped on the plane, telling me that I was sleeping my life away, and he hated my Tab habit. He tallied up how much money I'd spend on it by the time I died, if I continued to drink it at that rate. But he never, ever did anything untoward in the days and weeks we traveled together.

He still scared me. I thought I was promoting an American Hitler. I saw how people listened to him. I heard how he changed the gospel, saying if you weren't against abortion you weren't a Christian. Like Frank, I too felt like I was betraying my own beliefs, but too much had changed for me to quit my job too. I'd call secular journalists and tell them there was a revolution coming down and they'd better pay attention. Ken Woodward of Newsweek told me that it was my job to promote him, and that I was doing a service by bringing what Frank said to the light of day. Woodward believed in the apathy of the American public. He didn't think a blood-and-guns revolution would happen anytime soon. But I had quite a window on these people. I became a source. And wrote down my stories. I also felt like a whore and behaved like one as well. It wasn't like me to be that casually, sexually active. I pursued the motorcycle guy and others. And showed up for work, wondering what my bosses would say if I happened to get pregnant, and trying not to blush when they condemned such casual behavior.

Frank had to know I didn't believe in everything he was saying. He had to. But he still respected my work. He did not hire yes people, even when he was playing the big wheel in the evangelical world.

Nowadays it's posh to say belief in God is a destructive thing. There's no such thing as an active, living God moving in history. I can respect that. In the middle of my years working with the Schaeffers my own faith was crushed. But at the bottom I found God and prayer like breath. I wanted to be what Madeleine L'Engle called an atheist for Christ. I can't explain it more than that. I asked that question: What difference does knowing Jesus make in a person's life. Are people really converted?

Frank Schaeffer became a slow answer to that question. I've watched him through the years. He did not become a peculiarly American Hitler. No, he made some bad movies and converted to Orthodoxy. He wrote some wonderful novels. I have hesitated to publish my stories about him, but nothing I could have said would outdo what he said about himself or his parents in his own novels and this book Crazy for God. In fact, I sent him a draft of my novel about this time in my life. His reply? If you portray me as an expletive or worse, it's fine. I used everything, so can you.

Crazy for God is the story of how God works in a person's life, arching and sparking through it, despite crazy beliefs and a funky weird childhood, despite the money and power and fame most people long for. Frank's story has been an answer to my question: What good is knowing Christ? What difference does it make? It is some good. There is something to it that is more insistent than gobs of money and fame. Christians call it grace.

Read Crazy for God for its insight into the nutty culture of evangelicals. And read it for that quiet power that Jesus likened to a grain of mustard seed growing and spreading quietly in one man's life.

Blessings and all good things,

Katherine W. Andraski

Belvidere, IL

Nov 5 2007 - 10:33pm

Web Letter

Having read Jane Smiley's review, I can't wait to read Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God. The Schaeffers, junior and senior, were heroes of my adolescence as I sought to reconcile the competing demands of my fervent fundamentalism and my intellectual aspirations. As I approached college in the late 1980s, Francis Schaeffer seemed to rescue fundamentalism from my small-town Texas context (Friday-night pregame prayers, Christian rock concerts, end-time tracts, etc) and renovate it with a high-class European splendor.

As I read Carlyle, Byron and D.H. Lawrence in freshman English, and heard Steven Jay Gould expound on evolution, I could clutch my copy of How Should We Then Live and feel safe at home in my "Christian worldview." Frank Schaeffer's books were also thrilling to me at the time, particularly Addicted to Mediocrity, a broadside against American evangelical philistinism. The opening sentence sticks in my mind. To paraphrase: Whenever Christians try to "reach the world" through the arts and literature, the public gets the idea that Christians' minds, like soup in a bad restaurant, are better left unstirred. This from a self-styled defender of the faith! Only now do I appreciate the real conflict veiled in those "constructive criticisms."

Today, as a liberal Christian of a pacifist-social justice-Anabaptist stripe, I see Francis Schaeffer's thinking as muddled, pretentious and shackled to an incoherent ideology. I do owe the Schaeffers a debt, though: At a time when my only choices seemed to be the "Godless humanism" of the academy and the anti-intellectualism of the pulpit, they hinted at a vision of Christianity in which ideas, art and the environment are cherished. But I would have to make my own journey toward that blessed land, and am making it still.

James Smith

Waco, TX

Sep 28 2007 - 9:02pm

Web Letter

I have never heard of the place called L'Abri, I do not remember ever reading anything written by Frank or any of the other Schaeffers and I've never actually met men of the stature of Falwell and Robertson; however, I have read much of the Bible and spent many years discussing and debating all that is Christian and Christian-like. It’s one of my favorite subjects, and whenever such topics get covered in the media, I get a little excited and do my best to jump into the discussion.

When talking about God and religion I sometimes pound my chest with pride and arrogance about what I know or believe that I know, while at other times I sit humbled as the transcendently beautiful inspiring message being delivered works its way through that logical mess called my brain and enlightens my soul. In this particular instance, while not giving me goosebumps, this article did strike a chord and has provided me with the inspiration to reflect some on my life and my beliefs.

I spent a number of years during my youth practicing being a born-again Christian. I evolved into many things since, including becoming agnostic, quasi-atheist, a believer again and, most recently a questioning predestination(ist) with strong ties to Gnosticism. (I dare you to figure that one out.) Okay! If I can’t convince myself to totally adopt atheism and if I'm going to accept a Christian version of the existence of God, then I have to conclude that we are totally predestined simply because of the “fact” that this is "His" plan and not mine.

As a Gnostic, I believe that all we need to know about humanity can be learned through introspection. All that is needed is for us to break the chains of denial and acknowledge who we are, freeing us to see both the demon and the angel within our hearts; and when we do this, we will know all there is to know about our brothers and sisters. However, the way most Christian thinking has evolved, it’s become a sin to look within for answers. As a result, most Christians continue looking outwardly, depending on some external force to reveal to them the truth.

Christian preachers tend to proclaim that in order for us to be free, to have knowledge, to understand and have hope, we must shun introspection and replace it with the practice of giving ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our fears, our concerns, our joys and our lives over to their mythological god. In other words, in order to be free we must become slaves to the Christian god. They also tend to rebuke the idea of total predestination, preferring instead to believe that their god, while planning our beginning and end, somehow also gave us free will. This, while not based on rational thinking, I believe is based on a fear that a world predestined by God is somehow far worse than the one we now live in. Such teachings though, contradict our very nature and imprison us rather than free us.

I guess, though, some would say that preachers are doing God’s work. Whether it be scaring the hell out of us at 5, 15 or 75 or comforting us during times of sorrow and pain, “it’s all for the greater good,” salvation! But I’m not the forgiving kind when it comes to that sort of Jekyll and Hyde personality. While growing up in children’s home and foster care I experienced a similar rationale after being abused by an adult. On several occasions, several different adults pounded the crap out of me while furious about some minor disturbance I caused them. Later, after their guilt set in and/or a sudden fear of losing their parenting job arose, they apologized for busting me up. Suddenly I was supposed to feel badly for them and give them another chance. Whether priest, preacher or parent, such contradictory behavior expressed by those who pretend to care the most about our destiny is truly disturbing, so when I see these “men of God” profiting off such insanity, I find nothing redeemable or forgivable about their behavior.

And so it is that preachers will continue writing books and making millions of dollars professing truths revealed only to them, while people with atrocious educations, horrible childhoods and self-defeating tape-recorded messages playing in their head 24/7 scrape for crumbs. But unlike many who have suffered similarly, I seem to have gained spiritually from the truths revealed to me. In an unexplainable way, I believe I 've benefited spiritually and emotionally from the pain inflicted upon me, whereas most of those I grew up with weren’t so fortunate. As a result, I would not trade a day of my life with that of one of heavens gatekeepers; however, I am convinced that most of the children I grew up with would welcome that one-day exchange, if only to catch their breath.

I can only speculate about the demons Mr. Schaeffer has been dealing with, the trauma he has had to overcome and the tools he was given to help him do so. But when I think of all the kids in foster care and the hundreds of thousands of others who would probably be better off there than with their birth family, I know from personal experience the demons they have to deal with, the trauma they have to overcome and the lack of tools they were given in order to do so. I just wish more time was spent on their stories and on how to help them overcome their horrendous conditions than stories having to do with people who are (pre)destined to succeed.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share these thoughts.

John LeVan

Thorndale, PA

Sep 28 2007 - 4:07pm

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