June 6, 2020

Recommendation and Review: Crazy For God by Frank Schaeffer

404_frankschaeffercrazyforgod.jpgUPDATE: This reviewer totally gets it.

Crazy for God is available at many bookstores.

A really good review and the C-SPAN program link.

I just closed the cover on the 400 pages of Crazy For God and I probably shouldn’t be writing anything until I have more perspective, but I want to write now, while my impressions are fresh on my mind.

This is an important book. No matter what you hear or what associations you have with the name Franky Schaeffer, don’t avoid this book. The personal flaws of the author, and his decision to tell the truth about his life, do not get in the way of what this book represents: truth-telling. Truth telling that can be frightening in its honesty and delightful in its beauty, but truth-telling none the less. And in the end, grace filled, reconciling truth telling.

Every evangelical leader and parent needs to read this book. What Schaeffer has done is so rare in the evangelical world that you need to grab ahold of it now, before it vanishes under a pile of the usual nonsense.

I’ve dog-eared 30 pages of this book, and any one of them are worth quoting. There are some real zingers, some tearful portraits, some rants, some plain and blunt revelations and many glimpses of Christ.

You see, we don’t tell one another the truth in evangelical culture. We just don’t. We cannot be depended on to tell the truth and we are quite likely to stone the author who does. I’ve learned this first hand with a few forays into truth telling. When you tell the truth you make some people very angry and they are going to label you as apostate, liberal, dangerous and so forth.

The fact is, however, that we need to hear the truth so we can tell ourselves, our families, our children and one another the truth.

We’re full of a lot of lies, mythology, hype, spin, exaggeration, fund-raising, fictional testimonies and cover ups.

Our marriages aren’t what we make them look like. There’s abuse. There’s contempt. There’s neglect. There’s workaholism. There’s keeping up appearances.

There are secrets behind closed doors. There are bruises on the arms of mom. There are the shouts behind the walls. There are slapped faces, emotional affairs, desperate concerns for money, and lies. More lies.

There’s using religion to abuse children. There’s a dozen windmills we’re determined to fight even though they are windmills, not giants. We act like we’re sure of everything because we have the Bible, but in private we’re still trying to figure out what the Bible means. Many of us hold opinions in contrast to what we say in public or tell our children. Frank’s revelation that his father was always accepting of homosexuals and found himself despising many of the culture warriors he worked with isn’t about hypocrisy. It’s about the fact that evangelicals are much less concerned about who you are than what you believe. When Francis fires his own son-in-law for not teaching inerrancy at L’Abri, it is pathetic, because at his core, that was not how Francis Schaeffer lived his life.

We’re highly invested in appearances and living falsehoods. We believe and revere celebrities who, by and large, are people we ought to have nothing to do with. We’re (stand by) easily led and gullible, and we don’t want to be told that. Thousands of us will show up and believe pretty much anything said by our favorite preachers and teachers.

We need to hear the truth, because we’re a mess. We’re not worse than other people, we’re just LIKE other people and we don’t want to admit it. We’re very, very human, and our children know it.

Our children know it. They are seeing a story and that evangelical specialty, “protecting the children,” doesn’t work. Schaeffer’s book reminds us that our children are living their lives, too. All tangled up with our own, and seeing far more than we realize.

Frank Schaeffer is getting knocked around for saying bad things about his father and mother, but nothing is as obvious to me as the love he had for his parents. Forgiveness and reconciliation are everywhere in this book, and expressed in beautiful ways.

We all must forgive our parents. If we are parents, we must ask our own children to forgive us. We are all human beings, sinners and beggars. When Schaeffer finds the confessional in his Greek Orthodox tradition, he says he was finally able to start apologizing to his own family. Will we ever learn this lesson? Or will we just continue down the insane road that assumes somehow everything is all right because we have a collection of Bible verses propping us up?

Does Schaeffer’s personal experience color much of his story of growing up in L’Abri and founding the Religious Right? Yes, absolutely. This is a highly personal book, with details of failures, sex, desperation, stupidity and the insanity of being evangelical royalty. It will shock and offend many conservatives. It isn’t hard to see the opinionated, indulged jerk that occupies most of this story. He’s still there, but he is not the same person. Like Shakespeare’s Prospero, he has come full circle and embraced the pleasures of a reconciled, contented life.

It is also a book that is profoundly human, deeply self-forgiving and saturated in grace. It will do you good. It will do all of us good, because it will remind you that your life and your children’s lives cannot be untangled. In the end, they are left with the good and the bad of what we have given them, done to them and failed to do.

Schaeffer gives us dozens of reasons not to like him. You can sense that the arrogant young man understands why so many people found him selfish. There is no bragging in this book, and no glorifying sin. The honest language and detail do nothing as much as make “Have mercy on Frank, a sinner” an obvious and necessary prayer.

But that is exactly what Schaeffer wants. It’s what he has to say at this point in his journey. This isn’t the story of abuse in a marriage or hypocrisy in political life. It isn’t the story of the madness of evangelical fame. It is the story of the triumph of grace, contentment and forgiveness. It’s a profoundly hopeful book. Hopeful and helpful.

You won’t admire Schaeffer. You won’t want to see him as an evangelical leader. You won’t go Orthodox. You won’t toss your Schaeffer books. No, you will go home, look at your children’s pictures and wonder what story you’ve written with them.

Schaeffer recalls many good times with his dad, but none more poignant than his final good-bye. “I love you boy.” What moves the reader is that, with all that has gone on, all the human frailty, these words are what matter most.

If you need to keep worshiping evangelical icons, then by all means, avoid this story. It will tarnish your legend. If you want to hear the story of grace, faith, hope, love and forgiveness that we all long to live, then read this book.

Thank you, Frank. It was time and money well spent.

(For those who care, I bought this book with my own money. It was not a review copy.)


  1. Nice review, Michael.

    Isn’t Christianity a call to be honest and tell the truth? We need to tell the truth about who we are and honestly admit that we cannot fix ourselves. We need a Savior.

    Christianity has been perverted into morals and values instead of grace and forgiveness.

    “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

  2. Patrick Kyle says

    Sounds like required reading to me. Thank God someone is brave enough to tell the truth.(or has so little to lose by telling it) I have worked for a big TV evangelist and travel in circles with people who have worked closely with evangelical “luminaries’ and “celebrities’. The truth about their lives is mundane and often tragic. That’s why I would never want to have a “big time ministry”, my life is way too messy to stand up to that public scrutiny, and I’m not a very good liar. During a particularly hard time in my life I was missing church due to excessive dissipation. When I confessed this to my Pastor he said “If you can drive safely enough to get here, come. You need the forgiveness of your sins.” His words to me have made all the difference in the years since then.
    Thanks for the recommendation- I’ll read it.

  3. great review, Michael…I couldn’t agree more. it was a hard book to read, but even harder to put down. the emotional content is very raw, but Frank’s love for his parents is clear.

    as hard as it is to have the curtain pulled back on a family that I have a great deal of admiration for, it was a provocative reminder of the need to consider the legacies we are writing for those who come after us.

  4. I saw Schaeffer on CSPAN’s BookTV last weekend. The event show will repeat this Sunday morning for those with access. So far I haven’t found video of the event on BookTV’s website but maybe it will be available soon. Very interesting to hear him talk about the book (which I haven’t read yet).

    Thanks for the review, Michael.

  5. I found the CSPAN show to be very helpful. Schaeffer flat contradicted a lot of the stuff being written on the internet about him.

    I appreciate your willingness to encourage people to read the book.

  6. Say, didn’t Jesus die and get raised from the dead for people such as Frank, not to mention you and me?

  7. “We get all dressed up to sing Just As I Am.”

    I heard those words in a Ray Stevens song a few years ago.

    I’ve noticed that it is real hard to be honest and up front with those we are in church with. We’re afraid of what will be thought of us. So we just smile and pretend that everything is great. Questions, doubts, fears and so forth just have to be kept to ourselves.

    I have to admit that is one thing I like about the internet communities. I realize that they are not communities in the real sense of the word, but we can be honest with one another in them.

    Here are the words from another song, that unfortunately wasn’t talking about the church.

    “Sometimes you want to go
    where everybody knows your name
    and they’re always glad you came
    you want to be where people can see,
    our troubles are all the same
    you want to be where everybody knows your name.”

  8. Michael. If Franks writing was as frank and honest as your own is consistently, it will be a worthy read. Til then suffice it to say that your review gave me the reminder dose of humble pie that I also need every day. Randy

  9. Sounds like a book I might need to read… Or not… 🙂

  10. I look forward to buying and reading and passing along the book. I know it will be difficult in some ways, but I believe Michael when he says how important it is.

    Just his review has been helpful! See, I’ve been awakening from a long evangelicalistic slumber, and finding out how little I know and understand and how much there is to know and understand, and so I’m filled with an urgency [but not the wretched type 😉 ] – “So much to learn, so little time!” One result is to have had my nose buried in the computer monitor in the evening – “So many great blogs and resources, so little time!”

    I’ve also been filled with an urgency to serve the Kingdom, but Michael’s review of Crazy For God and my anticipation of reading it has been a kidney-punch reminder that an essential part of serving the Kingdom, the most important, really, is serving my family. I mean, really, at the end of my life, will I regret not having spent more time reading Piper on Wright’s view of God’s Righteousness?

    So, tonight, I’m going to take a break and be on the floor drinking pretend tea with my girls. And I will not consider it good service to the Kingdom which leaves my wife and kids to fend for themselves.

    Thanks for the reality check, Michael.

  11. The Chick Voice says

    Thanks for the recommend Michael. A number of years ago I read “Portofino” by Franky and knew he must have based much of it on his childhood experience. I LOVED that book and gave it to many people who were raised in the church like me. I’ll run and grab this to read. Thanks again.

  12. Michael Patton says

    Thanks Michael, I am buying the book.

  13. Mort Chien says

    Hi Michael,
    Without any rancor, I probably will not read Frank’s latest. Not because it isn’t good or true or well written. I am sure all of those things are true. Perhaps its too close to home and I, for one, am not ready to explore, yet again, those things so aptly told by one who has seen the shabby side (fetid underbelly might be more accurate) of contemporary American evangelicalism. I’ve seen too much of that myself and find it very discouraging. Without putting too fine a point on it, each of us has to determine before Christ, how wide the circle of confession must be with regard to our own sins. Whether what Frank has done in “Crazy…” is good or bad will have to be determined by wiser souls than I.
    Perhaps you or your readers can answer two questions. The first: does Frank Schaeffer remain within the bounds of historical Christianity or has he, as some accuse, left the Orthodox faith?
    The second question is related to the first, in particular if the writer, Schaeffer in this case, has left the faith (which he may not have – I do not know). Is it possible that for a few, reading such a book may be more harmful than helpful? I think for me, it may be so. And for others who find that reading such accounts of parental or personal sins arouse thoughts and feelings (hatred, jealousy, lust, …) that are sinful in themselves and may lead to sinful acts, perhaps they too should avoid such a memoir. Perhaps in my case this is so since I am inclined these days to a cynicism that really does not edify nor help myself or others toward sanctification.
    All I am suggesting is that those of you stronger saints may wish to be careful in what you recommend to whom. Why possibly destroy a weaker brother or sister for whom Christ died for the sake of a book (Rom. 14:15), even a truth telling, well written one.

    In grace,

  14. Mort:

    Let me begin my saying that your long application of your second question assumes so much that I am pretty much persuaded it’s not a question at all.

    Frank Schaefer is a confessing, believing member of the Greek Orthodox church. He is not longer an evangelical, but he is clearly a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ in the Orthodox way. If the truth about someone’s life needs to be avoided, well God help us.

    He will be on C-Span’s Book TV Sunday at 11 a.m. EST. See for yourself.

    I appreciate your concern, but let me assure you that I will not recommend as spiritually edifying what will destroy the faith of the reader. I’m a Christian and a minister and I take that quite seriously.

    Whoever is claiming that Schaeffer is not an Orthodox Christian is making some large assumptions, probably based on Schaeffer’s rejection on previous political positions.



  15. He may be alluding to Reformedcatholicism.com ‘s “open letter” to Franky, in which the blogger asks if the agnosticism in the book is a sign he is no longer a believer and how depressing the book was to the reader:


  16. What definition of an agnostic are they using?

    As a leading member of his communion, it’s hard to call him agnostic in the normal sense.

    Doesn’t claim to know all the answers anymore? Sure. Me neither.

  17. I think it was because he said in the book “God (if God exists)” which Franky explained was more of an apologetic tool (wording for the skeptic) than his actual thoughts. He says as much under comment 2 in the post (here are Franky’s words):

    “the thing you really did not get though is that to ask if there is a God is to do no more than “talk” with some of my readers who are not believers with the sort of respect that my dad always showed them. He said there was no point having a conversation unless we are open to changing our minds, and for him at least that always included being genuinely open to being wrong, even about God’s existence. I’m a believer but open to listening to people who are not. Endless repetitions about how sure we are about something doesn’t make it so. Dad always said in discussions at L’Abri that he would give up his faith if he became convinced otherwise. Without that openness, conversation is really just a monologue, of the kind that sadly most evangelicals (perhaps out of insecurity) seem bent on delivering in the guise of dialogue. That is probably why Dad hated the idea of “witnessing” to people rather than talking to them.”

  18. Michael,

    There is good reason why Frank Shaeffer is not well respected in the Orthodox world and this book offers another glaring demonstration of why. Indeed, he is considered to be an embarrassment amongst many Orthodox clergy and theologians.

    Without rancor, I think Mort’s comments need to be seriously pondered by all of us who justifiably become cynical about the evangelical church. I am certain that reading Schaeffer air his family’s dirty laundry will excacerbate the negativity someone might already be experiencing.

    And yes, this can be very damaging.

    I spent two years reading books and testimonies of former evangelicals who became Catholic or Orthodox. The effect was that I began to focus on all the bad things in the evangelical church. It got so bad that I went into a serious spiritual depression for more than a year.

    True, evangelicals are not very good at self examination, but Schaeffer’s brand of “honesty” is unfortunate in my opinion. Is it honesty, or anger that compels him to tell the world how often his parents had sex?

    I would respectfully ask the same question of you. When I would read these kind of bombs thrown at the evangelical hypocrits, I enjoyed it! This kind of self-righteous sneering, cloaked as honesty, only made me depressed and isolated and it seems that you may be similarly afflicted.

    I will not be reading this book and I would warn others to tread very carefully when it comes to embracing this type of “honesty.”

  19. All I needed to hear was “I won’t be reading this book.” That’s why I read it, then wrote about it.

    This comment thread is not going down the road of “Frank Schaeffer isn’t a real Christian” or “Spencer is recommending soul-damaging books.” Sorry. You guys get your posts, but I’m not hosting that debate.

    I stand truly astonished that an honest retelling of real life is off limits to some of you. There are some things more important than temptations to cynicism. It’s one guy’s actual story. Are we at the point that we can’t tell our own stories in our own words?

    I understand some people have read it and are upset about it. I understand their reasons and I respect them. I disagree. I didn’t have to read it. I did. You don’t think it’s worth reading….fine. It’s a free country and so far, only a few books are banned/burned.

    As I said, God help us. No wonder so many are saying good riddance to evangelicalism. We prefer the safety of silence over the painful truth that helps us.

  20. From GREG:

    As an interested follower of the post and comments on Crazy for God, I was trying to comment but there was no place to do so over there. I hope you will permit me to do so here.

    Two things: 1) the book is a memoir and that means it is told from Frank’s memory and perception – honest? well? 2) how actual this story is has to be related to the previous. Hyperbole, conflation, extrapolation, rhetoric are part of the genre. Seeing things a certain way through Frank’s eyes, may not be, in any definitive sense, the way they really were.

  21. Michael, thank you for the review, but I am left wondering, what has become of honour? Of course Frank’s parents had shortcomings, faults, blind spots, and sins; the legacy of all the son’s of Adam and daughter’s of Eve. That is a given. However, is not the man of understanding to both hold his tongue and honour his parents? I’m not asking for a cover-up, fiction, or lies, simply respect. It is obvious that despite their many sins and failings the Schaeffers were not only able to raise intelligent, articulate, believing children but also to disciple a generation. I don’t think I needed to know the details of their lives but I will be forever grateful for the grand and glorious vision of God’s Kingdom they taught me in my youth.

  22. Thanks for the review! Oldspeak has a good interview with Frank


  23. Frank honors his parents, I assure you. Of course, I don’t believe that everyone defines that the same way. Frank’s love and respect for his parents despite their flaws is very obvious.

  24. I apologize for implying that someone thinks Frank is not a Christian. I could argue the point, but I won’t. I apologize for misrepresenting anyone who said some of the Orthodox aren’t happy with FS. In his book, he is quite happy with his Orthodox experience and church. I really don’t want to know about intra-Orthodox disagreements, because I know absolutely zero about the Orthodox faith or churches.

    One again, I apologize.

  25. Michael:

    I completely understand your desire to not have a debate.

    Yet, at the same time, I must admit that I can’t think of a single time that you’ve said something negative about your wife or children or parents on your website. I know that I am hesitant to talk about my own parents in a public forum, simply because discussion may lead me to say things that are neither charitable nor true, even if they reflect my perspective and formation.

    I am planning on reading Franky’s book, as fast as possible (but given my finances and schedule, that may not be too quickly). But I think you may be fogging the waters by talking about “telling the truth”–after all, Christ himself certainly had no problem keeping the truth silent when the situation warranted it.

    I also think that further discussions of “truth v. charity–how much of each” rather than “he’s telling the truth–that ends it” could be most useful.

  26. There are truth, charity, reconciliation. I don’t know how to make that any clearer.

    Writing about my wife and kids now, as compared to me writing about my dad who is dead are two different things. I have written about my dad’s many problems and failures in essays on mental illness and depression.

    I won’t link them at this time because I don’t want them dragged into a discussion accusing me of dishonoring my dad, but I was just as honest.

  27. Isn’t Edith Schaeffer alive? And wasn’t she when all three of Franky’s fictional send-ups of his childhood were as well? I share Richard Loper’s reservation.

  28. Frank’s love for and relationship with his 92 year old mother are a big part of the book.

    Guys…..read the book, or don’t and say that you don’t have the right to pass judgement.

  29. Hello Michael,

    a bit of back-up for Frank Schaeffer: as a nephew of Edith Schaeffer, and a refugee from a broken- down family, at sixteen I came to visit my “Swiss cousins”, and stayed for a year and a half. Frank then had to share his father with a teenage boy in need, and for all Frank’s public reputation of ‘selfishness’ and ‘egoism’, he quietly tolerated me, even when his father decided I should accompany them on their sacred Monday day-long hikes.
    Those early morning departures on the postbus or cog-railway mountain trains were a vital healing remedy for my bruised soul, and although Frank couldn’t have been delighted with my inclusion, I can’t remember a single unpleasant incident. However, he could easily have spoiled things for me.
    My career has taken me through strange corners of the art world, and if I have survived spiritually, and have been able to develope my own way of working, it is in large measure thanks to having seen in Frank’s father that it was possible to live on the knife edge of doubt, and keep a child-like faith.
    I have never heard or read any theologian who could interpret the meaning of Christ’s cry on the cross “My father, why have you forsaken me?” as hair-raisingly rigorously as Francis Schaeffer,in an uncompromising choice for reality. That such a choice doesn’t threaten faith, but prevents it from becoming a comforting illusion, that can then dissolve when it is most needed, was one of Francis Schaeffer’s most vital teachings, and handed on more by example than in theory.
    Although if I were to write my memories of life with the Schaeffer family in L’abri, they might seem often in contradiction to Frank’s, I would know that they both honestly related to the same complex reality. Even Edith Scahaeffer’s “L’abri Story” fits into that complexity, and remains a valid perspective, not to be relegated to the scrap pile by her son’s story.
    No, life as it really is is a bundle of contradictions that only the divine view can see the unity in, and even then, didn’t Jesus weep when he looked out over Jerusalem? Following that greatest of examples, it seems to me that “Crazy for God” contains both the unadulterated sorrow, the unwillingness to varnish failure, and the irrepressible lust for life that mark honest faith.
    His father would be proud of it,I am sure.

    Jonathan Bragdon

  30. “Although if I were to write my memories of life with the Schaeffer family in L’abri, they might seem often in contradiction to Frank’s, I would know that they both honestly related to the same complex reality. Even Edith Scahaeffer’s “L’abri Story” fits into that complexity, and remains a valid perspective, not to be relegated to the scrap pile by her son’s story.”

    Thanks Jonathan for your most excellent post. You have an insider view that’s also appreciated.

    P.S. I read “Portofino” about 4-5 years ago and thought it was both funny and tragic.

  31. I read the Calvin Becker trilogy a few years back and wondered at the time just how much of this was autobiographical. Can’t wait to read “Crazy for God”. Thanks Michael for all your book reviews and recommendations.

  32. After reading so many interesting posts,I plan to read this book as soon as I can.

    By the way, I am a lapsed Lutheran.

  33. Pity we all can’t work out our neuroses in full public view, curse our roots and reject our upbringing, show the dark underbelly of our obsessive parents (all in the name of “truth”), and get $25.99 a pop for every book sold.

  34. Greg,

    Since you obviously read the book, on what specific page did Frank reject his upbringing and curse his roots?

  35. Cspan Book TV


    Frank Schaeffer talks about his memoir “Crazy for God” at The Book Rack in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

  36. Once upon a time I was an avid reader of his dad’s books. Years later I read Portifino and thoght, oh my, here’s a very different look at things as the novel seemed transparently semi auto biographical. Today, as a former protestant minister I would be most interested in reading this newer book and wonder how I’ve missed it up to this point. Thanks for noting it.

    O onionboy.ca {arts & fath} luminousmiseries.ca {faith & art}

  37. As Michael keeps urging, read the book before you shut it down. I personally am glad I did, though in parts of the book I found myself infuriated at Frank. Like Michael said above, “It isn’t hard to see the opinionated, indulged jerk that occupies most of this story.” But it’s also not hard to see that the grace and forgiveness that his father exhibited at his best moments (usually far away from L’Abri and the Evangelical spotlight) won out in his son in the end. And that gives me hope.

    It gives me hope because I too was once an “insider” in an Evangelical ministry on the rise. I too was heady at being at the center of power and controversy, close to the exalted leaders upon whose every word thousands lived or died. I loved that people associated me with them. But at the same time I loathed myself, both because I was supporting and enabling people who were not at all what their public thought they were, and because I knew I was not what people thought I was. The worst thing was that these people did not have one tenth the character and gracious love that Francis Schaeffer, with all his flaws had–and people, Franky goes to great lengths to show us that side of his parents as well.

    As I think back, the thing that most impressed me about Francis Schaeffer back in the 70s when he first rose to evangelical fame and I first began reading him was his insistence that Christian faith be firmly anchored in reality. Thus I was deeply moved by the part of Frank’s book where he describes the times when he and his father would escape alone to European art museums, where his father would intentionally leave behind his Bible and his antithesis talks, and would allow his son to see him just simply reveling in the sheer beauty of Renaissance art. That’s a reality that evangelicalism shuns, and it is a shame, because far from the tool of the right wing that he sadly became, Francis at his best showed us that God is not only not afraid of this world, he made it and loves it.

  38. Michael,

    My wife was nice enought to get my “Crazy for God” for Christmas and I just finished it. I share your opinion. This must be required reading for all Evangelicals! The book was sad, too honest at times, etc. But its true and we need to hear the message of Frank Schaeffer’s life. As one who became a born-again Christian in 1976 and bought every Francis & Edith Schaeffer book and even went to L’Abri a couple of times, we Evanglicals need to stop worshipping the living and return to the Gospel of mercy, forgiveness and hope. I applaud Schaeffer for what he’s written (and the great books he and his son wrote on the military) and hope it does receive a wide reading.

    Blessings for 2008!

  39. I have to say that Crazy for God is the book that I’ve enjoyed (not sure if that’s the right word to use here) more than any other in a very long time. The reason is, I had a long background within mainstream American Evangelicalism, was a missionary in the Middle East with a fundamentalists organization. Due to the extreme dysfunctionality of the group . . . one day my entire Evangelical world came crashing down.

    I was ready to leave the faith with LAbri being my last hope.

    To make a long story short, I have a great respect for the Schaeffers and their help for me and countless ones like me. I know (remotely) many of the characters in the book and what Frank writes, rings true.

    The odd thing is that I find comfort in the “disturbing” things that Frank writes. The comfort is that I’m not insane . . . okay, not too insane, because I observe the same reality that Frank does in the Evangelical (and non Evangelical) world around me. It is refreshing, in his brute honesty, for someone else to also say the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

    This kind of brute honestly doesn’t dampen my desire for God or my belief in Christ nor even my respect for LAbri. If we truly understand the Gospel (and the fallen state that requires the Gospel) then seeing our vulnerabilities is in no way a threat. God is a God of truth and Frank (at least appears to be) speaking truth.

    However, I’m not sure this is a book for everyone. If I were to have read it 20 years ago (while I was still on the “other side” deeply emerged in the wonderland of Evangelicalism), I would have found the book offensive . . . both in language, sexual content (in my Dualistic view at that time, sex was on the worldly side) . . . and sadly in the brute reality that I was habitually denying.

  40. We’re not worse than other people, we’re just LIKE other people and we don’t want to admit it.

    Speaking as one of the “other people”–someone who does not believe in God–I’m going to have to say, “Not exactly.”

    I’m a cradle atheist, born to atheist parents. My parents did not yell. My father did not beat my mother. My parents were conservative with money and never got into financial trouble. Neither of them had affairs. Their marriage has lasted 40 years now. My sister and I had untroubled childhoods and teenagerhoods in which we remained on quite amicable terms with our parents. We did well in school and now lead successful independent lives.

    The families of my believing uncles, aunts, and cousins, by contrast, have fallen apart, not just once, but multiple times. I have Christian cousins on their third marriages. I have a Christian cousin who’s AWOL from the Marines right now.

    Christians are not “just as bad as other people”. You’re worse. I’m not usually inclined to parse statistics but I remember reading you guys are the divorcingest people in America. The most Christian states in the Union also lead the nation in teen pregnancy, illiteracy, syphilis, and infant mortality.

    This is what happens when you anchor your lives on a collective delusion.

  41. Yes, we are just like other people…

    I feel both sad and relieved about this book, especially after having much involvement with L’Abri – which has been a huge influence over my life and that hasn’t changed. I plead guilty to having made Francis Schaeffer a hero. And yet I don’t reject anything of L’Abri of the Schaeffers because of Frank’s revelations, he has just shown them to be real people.

    I think it must have been a very hard, lonely and painful journey for Frank and I don’t know what it would be like to walk in his shoes. We are so conditioned to judge and be so critical in the evangelical world. Thank God someone has finally been this honest and honesty always comes with a price.

    There is so little honesty in the evangelical culture, it seems to be more about conformity and conditioning, at least it seems this way in Australia. It is this lack of honesty, and profound lack of love, which reveals what we are often like.

    In many ways, I’m absolutely amazed Frank Schaeffer didn’t throw ‘Sunday Faith’ in altogether years ago and I admire his courage to honestly step out of a sub-culture he no longer believed in. His early 1980’s books were angry works. I feel it has been an amazing leap of humility to expose his truth so publicly, something certainly we don’t do in this country [believe me there will never be an Australian Dr.Phil show!]

    L’Abri is still a very special place, which now often ministers to young evangelical people, which no doubt is very different to the 1960’s L’Abri. It’s the one place people can go and talk about real faith and real life, without being judged. It’s the one place people can go and be truly encouraged.

    I found Frank’s comments on the Iraq War disturbing and refreshing. Most Australians I know are totally against this War and have not been impressed with George Bush or the Evangelicals in America who support or approve the War.


  42. Part 2.

    Been thinking some more over the last day about Frank and the book…

    I guess in the end the Church fails us all.

    Expectations of others [not matter what the NT says ] are always deadly. I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way.

    I’m now wondering just how necessary it was to write this book, when he had already written the novel ‘Portifino’? Why the need to go further and be this explicit? Are there no boundaries?

    At least in the Catholic confessional, the words are between you and the Priest and God and no one else. And yet there has never been any tradition of confession among the Evangelicals in their church culture. Confession, Apology and Forgiveness just seem so important in this life to restore relationships and keep them honest.

    When a church or a Christian movement fails us, disappoints us, etc. what are we to do? Stay and try to change it, or leave and move on. And yet there is more work to be done; for if we have been deeply disappointed and hurt, there remains the issue of forgiveness for a group, organisation or denomination who doesn’t even know it has offended you as an individual.

    I’m wondering if Frank has been able to forgive the people he may need to. I don’t know. I just know it will be good for him to forgive in order to be free.

    Frank also has a habit of writing controversial books. I have been thinking about the effect of this book on his mother and sisters and other senior L’Abri people, people like Jerram and Vicki Barrs and Ranald and Susan McCaulay, Richard and Jane Winter and others. I’d imagine these people probably wouldn’t want to read it and understandably. Apparently, years ago Edith was upset enough by his first novel when it came out.

    Added to my thoughts are the limits of what we disclose to others and to the public. I guess I would be horrified to learn one of my sisters had gone public about the problems our family had, to see it in the local newspaper would be so humiliating. Nowadays it seems like there is no private/public arenas anymore, that everyone has a right to ‘confess’ all to the TV camera or Radio interviewer.

    In the end [and I may be contradicting myself here from my first post]I think I’m ambivalent about the publication of this book and I’m so glad Francis isn’t around to read it. I guess our motives for doing so many things are often mixed. One wonders what Frank will write next.

    There are I suppose many Missionary Kids [who are now adults] who are angry with the way they were raised and this is understandable, as they didn’t choose that lifestyle. A friend of mine has a famous evangelist father in Africa, but he is still a pretty angry guy because of the way he and his siblings were left to fend for themselves while Dad was away on trips. But again, this whole area leaves one with either forgiveness or bitterness and who can live with bitterness?

    Having lost my father a few years ago [whom I was very close to] I could never imagine saying things about him for the public to digest and judge. I could never dishonour my father in that way, unless I didn’t love him in the first place.


  43. Joan Steinfeld says

    I knew Franky Schaeffer briefly in his “film mogel”personna. I also know some of the people in his book and I am a strong supporter of L’Abri, who has been enriched by their commitment to God.
    I started to read “Crazy for God”out of curiosity. When I found myself looking up individuals to read the “dirt” on them, I shut the book.
    There is nothing Christlike or charitable about exposing people to public humiliation and scrutiny. Memoirs are by people who find themselves fascinating. Making your own sin public and then patting yourself on the back for honesty is farcical.
    Franky seems to have the same fascination with “naughty” language as Annie Lamott. Not an attractive trait in your late fifties.
    I have no idea how “true” the book is, but then I was unaware that Franky was an Evangelical leader. As to his innumerable talents and courage I only have his word for it and the testimonials he so thoughtfully provides.
    His films speak for themselves.
    I haven’t read his “fiction” but then I was unaware he was a “best selling author”. I do know that being Francis Schaeffer’s son opened a lot of doors for him.
    It appears he is still making a living off it.

  44. Thanks Joan, I completely agree.

    The whole thing has left a bad taste really, as I’m finding my soul saying “This shouldn’t be, this is going too far.”

    The sons of famous Christians I have found, either emulate their father to the enth degree, eg. Robert Schuller’s son and Billy Graham’s son or they go “crazy”.

    I realised recently, Franky Schaeffer never wrote a book about God or his relationship with God, devotional or otherwise and I’m now wondering what is the nature of his relationship with God?

    We are all very imperfect, we all sin and fail often, why then make certain money out of it, esp. when your mother is still alive? But how are we honouring our parents by exposing them to this kind of scrutiny, what really are the motives?

    Jerram Barrs published account of working with Francis & Edith Schaeffer [available at the Covenant Seminary website] tells a very different story to the one Frank is telling and Jerram is maybe the most Godly man I’ve ever met.

    Frank doesn’t seem to be bothered who he might offend in his writings and I can’t see how this is the Way Of Love. And I’m sure the World is having a field day with the book, so very sad. I can only hope he never writes another book.


  45. Going back and reading some of the posts, I felt like I needed, too, to add a few comments. I certainly did wrestle (while enjoying the read) with the concept of such a kiss-n-tell-all book. Of course the major concern is that people’s feelings would be hurt. As a great admirer of the LAbri people, that is certainly something I didn’t want to see. I’ve thought too, “Could he not have waited at least until his mother was gone before publishing it?” And all those things are worth considering.

    However, in my humble opinion, American Evangelical Christianity is so skewed in the “dishonest” direction that I think that we do need books like Franks to help us focus on the reality of our world and ourselves . . . being very, very human . . . but forgiven.

    Part of my reaction in response of growing up in the Bible belt, where our youth pastor molested young boys for decades and no one did anything about it. The reason he was never challenged by an adult was because of their concerns of a false Christian piety of “whom am I to judge?” or “If we bring this out into the public, his family will be really hurt and the church will be hurt.”

    This was the same conservative Southern Baptist church that I now found out (by my aging mother’s disclosure) that the senior pastor (now in his 80s) has had a mistress for 50 years! This was the same pastor who taught our high school class about being caste. And, in the midst of this farce, people wonder why 60% of the youth are leaving Evangelical churches.

    Then I spent a couple of decades in a very conservative parachurch ministry (even going on staff) and, looking back, it was like the Disney World version of life . . . extreme emotional dishonestly. We had the concept of sanctification, that we could reach a state of “godliness” by following the formula x, y and z. When in reality, we were just as broken as before. But when you believe that you are near perfection, you must created a world that was so far out of touch with reality that you forget what reality is.

    So I do think there is a place for Frank’s book . . . to help us know that we are of the same stuff as mere mortals. To remind us that it is the blood of Christ that makes us pleasing to God, not our pretending to be saintly.

    Having being around LAbri, I am sorry if Edith feels hurt . . . and I’m not sure she will. She actually gave me her copy of Sham Pearls that Frank had sent her. She smiled and handed it to me, commenting on the fact, “Sometimes Frankie is an angry man.” But I’m sure she loves him and he does her.

    I’m also sure that any of my kids could write such a book about growing up in our home. Yeah, it might be hurtful . . . but I’m not embarrassed by reality the way I use to be.

    And to the chap that says that Evangelicals are worse than Atheists, well, I would suggest he rethink that. The atheists have their own farce (the pretending of meaning, of morals and of value) that they must live with.

    I still give the book thumbs up and is a worthwile read.

  46. I spent a bit over two years working with a Francis Shaeffer disciple who set up his own “The Refuge” in a southern American state. Disciples tend to exaggerate the traits of their mentors. In this gentleman’s case, hospitality to the desperate joined hands with subordination of the family to the ministry. I came away from the experience emotionally drained, devastated, and vowing before God to never put my family at the mercy of “ministry.” Billy Sunday had a million notches on his Bible (“conversions”), but lost all of his sons to booze, broads, boodle — and one, to suicide. In my starker moments I’ll say — I’d rather see those million souls go to hell than fail in my duties to my family. IOW — my family matters more to me than an anonymous million others.

    The Roman Catholics used clerical celibacy to get a lifetime’s worth of consecrated output out of gifted men and women. The Jews, OTOH, would find an intelligent trophy wife for their brighter young rabbis, and encourage them to have many children. Less output from one life, but influence leveraged across multiple generations, is a better long-range strategy, I believe.

    The best movie on Christian child rearing I ever saw was the George C. Scott vehicle that blended the parable of the prodigal son, five-point TULIP Calvinism, and the porn industry. Hard Core had a bottom line — our efforts and controls do not guarantee a happy outcome. We dare not trust in them, but only in the Sovereign God.

  47. Michael,

    Old post, but I just saw it and can’t let this pass —

    on 06 Dec 2007 at 10:43 pm
    you wrote of Frank :

    “As a leading member of his communion … ”

    Oh, please ! A “leading member” ? Not really. You know little of the Orthodox Church. The man is no more a leading member of the Greek Orthodox Church than I am (another Protestant convert.) He’s a layman and not especially influential in Orthodox circles. (nothing wrong with that at all , of course , but it’s simply naive to characterize him as a leading member of the Greek Orthodox Church. He just happens to be the only Greek Orthodox you know of because he’s related to someone who is semi-famous in your circles: Francis Schaeffer. I don’t think Frank himself makes any such claim to be a “leading member” of the Greek Orthodox Church. )

    I realize that some Evangelicals continue to be fascinated by Frank. And yet his only claim to fame in Evangelical circles is that he’s Francis Schaeffer’s son , a fact which he seems to despise and yet simultaneously exploit to sell his books. It’s just a bit of a freak show : Come and see, come and see . “Whatever Happened to Frank Schaeffer ?” Come out and see the famous Schaeffer’s son who went Greek Orthodox. (kissing icons , praying for the dead, incense, monks, whoopee !) Step right up folks.

    Os Guinness had a falling-out with Francis Schaeffer and left the L’Abri community, but he was there and saw this stuff up close . He doesn’t put the senior Schaeffer’s on a pedestal and recognizes that both Francis and Edith had their failings , but Guinness thinks that Frank’s book is deeply flawed and unfair to his parents.

    Have you read his review ?


  48. M2008

    There is no doubt Frank loves and adores his parents. It is also evident and understandable that he is angry with the evangelical community. Consider, for instance, the leadership of the evangelical community endorsing political figures that do not represent Christian morality–in fact rejecting principles they themselves have pretended to stand for all these many years. Consider also the commercialization of the faith, etc.

    My assessment of Frank’s Crazy for God could be summed up in three elements:

    1. He is in a faith crisis himself and needs our prayer.
    2. He wants to tell the world he is the authority on his parents and not the evangelical establishment (hence the tidbits about Billy Graham, etc)
    3. His truth-telling (honesty) lacked wisdom; I wonder if he attempted to confront each of the leaders privately, etc (according to Matthew 18: 15-16.)

  49. For those of you who wonder whether Mr. Schaeffer’s book is worthwhile, appropriate, or necessary, I can only add my own opinion. I found it very honest, soul searching, and, ultimately, very love-filled. I am convinced of Frank’s love for his parents. I am grateful to Frank for his honest portayal of his own journey through faith into doubt and into something in between.

    I never felt as free as the day I let my “faith” slip away. I took Thomas Jefferson’s advice to heart, and questioned “boldly even the existence of God” and I came to the same basic conclusion that Mr. Jefferson did: there isn’t one, at least not in any form we would recognize, and certainly not the human being writ-large that is the idol of the evangelical world. One day I resolved that I would not believe anything simply because it gave me comfort, but only because I thought it to be true. Soon after that I saw the faith I had been programmed into for what it was, an elaborate opiate for the fearful masses.

    As one who was a child in a home of fervent belief, who later found that belief wanting, I found great comfort and honesty in Mr. Schaeffer’s book. And I should note that, just as Mr. Schaeffer has recently seen, I have found more truth and real love in the company of rough-and-tumble, foul-mouthed Marines than in any church I was ever in.

    And to Os Guninness who said in his review that Frank now believes that “there are no heroes once you see what really makes people tick,” I suggest he take a gander at what Frank writes about Marine Drill Instructors. Frank knows real heroes when he meets them, and now I think he realizes that the parading poppicocks who flounder around on the stages of the evangelical theatre/churches don’t hold a candle to the men of iron will and fierce discipline his son encountered when he joined the Corps.

    I suggest you all take heed and shed your heavy baggage. You’re fretting about with a lot of unnecessary self soul-torture. Live your lives in the here and now. It’s all we have. Neuro-scientists and evolutionary biologists are quickly explaining everything that you attribute to God and faith. All the “gaps” between the science are quickly being filled, so buck up, find some courage, and stare into the abyss with awe and wonder like the rest of us clear eyed pagans.
    Patrick the Rogue

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