This guy has lost it. It's a terrible shame. Like Pat Madrid, I once had a phone conversation with him, in the 90s. Frank had become Orthodox, but the magazine he edited, The Christian Activist, was notorious for its anti-Catholic rants (see an example of a typical article, documented in a paper of mine, in the section, "Orthodox Anti-Catholicism"). I had written a letter to the editor, decrying this, and Frank called me up and we talked for a good 45 minutes (well, mostly I listened; couldn't get many words in): mostly about what he detested as liturgical mediocrity in Catholicism (but I hadn't written about liturgy; I was protesting the anti-Catholicism in his magazine). I also heard him speak once, since his conversion to Orthodoxy.
This recurring anti-Catholicism was the first indication that something was seriously awry in Frank Schaeffer, who had long since exhibited the characteristics of the typical "angry young man" -- with a complex over having such a famous and eminent father (a person who had a huge positive influence on many evangelicals, including yours truly).
Frank's rhetoric (even when I admired him) always did have, I thought ever since I became familiar with him, a certain sophomoric tenor and flavor, along with his trademark angst. Most of us who have followed his "journey" through the years probably thought that he would eventually outgrow this: you know: the usual zeal, lack of prudence, and excesses of youth. But we were wrong. It's far worse than mere "sophomorism."
Last September, Schaeffer put out his book, 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, in which he essentially renounced his past and trashed his father and mother. It was one of the most astonishing displays of ungratefulness and betrayal of one's parents (and the movements one was a part of) in memory. He had done a similar thing to a lesser extent in his semi-autobiographical novel Portofino (2004). His mother Edith has expressed extreme anguish and hurt over this, and longtime Schaeffer family friends are outraged by how Frank has behaved. See, for example, family friend Os Guinness' scathing review of this book and a further comment by Dr. Jim Eckman.
He had previously made no bones about his early support of Barack Obama: the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever, and wrote a patently ridiculous article, "Why I'm Pro-Life and Pro-Obama" (7 February 2008). Some remarkable highlights:
Today when I listen to Obama speak (and to his remarkable wife, Michelle) what I hear is a world view that actually nurtures life. Obama is trying to lead this country to a place where the intrinsic worth of each individual is celebrated. . . .Thus, he had renounced his evangelical background (in a way that very very few converts to Catholicism or Orthodoxy ever do; most remain warmly affectionate toward what they experienced and learned in those circles -- which is very much my own perspective), his own parents, the conservative political movement, the pro-life movement and its tactics, and now at length he has adopted a so-called pro-choice position and has blamed pro-lifers for the murder of the notorious late-term abortionist / childkiller George Tiller. Needless to say, all the major pro-life groups have renounced the murder of Tiller (see the statements; the US Catholic bishops have also uniformly condemned the murder). No one supports it.
The society that Obama is calling us to sacrifice for is a place wherein life would be valued not just talked about. . . .
Regardless of the official position of the Supreme Court on abortion, a country in which all Americans are offered some sort of dignity and hopeful future would be a place conducive to the kind of optimism each of us must hold in our hearts if we are to welcome children into this world. . . .
Similarly the Republicans have also been hypocrites while talking big, for instance about their pro-life ethic. But what have they achieved? First, through their puritanical war on sex education they've hindered our country from actually preventing unwanted pregnancy.
Schaeffer wrote in January 2009:
When I say that I think abortion should remain legal, what I mean is that the tactic of putting all this energy into overturning Roe, is, I think, just whistling in the dark. There’s been a lot of simplistic thinking on this. The time has come to really understand that that part of an absolute black and white position is not going to happen.This is how he describes evangelicals in an article from October 2008:
You know, just to put it frankly, the evangelical movement that I grew up in as a child used to be a fairly respectable and respectable—respectful group of people. They regarded themselves as Americans and part of the system. And now, I really think it’s been taken over by a group of people that have to be described fairly as just wing nuts.In another article from April 2009, Schaeffer contends that evangelical Protestants are rightfully characterized by "hatred":
The word 'evangelical' became synonymous with Republican. And then it became synonymous with right-wing Republican. Picture Christ. Christ is bearing the burden of being identified exclusively with evangelicals. And then evangelicals jump on his back carrying the burdens of the Republican Party. And the Republican Party is driven to the right by those very same evangelicals who bring their moralistic crusades on everything from gay rights to abortion to the table. When those things fail or they are hypocritically used, for example, as fund raising measures rather than actually doing something about the issue, they indulge in hatred or homophobic behavior. "A month earlier he had blasted the Republican party as practically the be-all and end-all of all evils. Note how Schaeffer described the Republican candidates for president and vice-president (with literally breathtaking disdain and utter lack of any restraint whatsoever) in September 2008:
All of a sudden, Christ has the Republican Party, the evangelicals and their hatred and their failed policies on his back.
Senator Obama won scholarships to America's top academic institutions, was voted by his peers to be editor of the Harvard Law Review, is a family man with an exemplary and obviously loving marriage, has a wife who is a brilliant charismatic woman, two lovely children, is a churchgoing born-again Christian comfortable with his faith, has avoided making the fast buck in the new gilded age of greed when he could have, served his community, is thoughtful, considered in his opinions, slow to anger, proved right in his judgment about the Iraq war, looks at every side of a question before making a decision, and is not given to grandstanding. He would be vastly ahead in the polls, even in polls of Evangelical voters who, after all, are also watching their savings and home values evaporate... unless he happened to be... black. . . .The very title of the above article tarred both evangelicals and Republicans as a whole, as "racist hypocrites." And again in October 2008, he spewed out more gems of charity about entire groups of people:
Turns out the Evangelicals would rather vote for a pagan reprobate compulsive gambler windbag philanderer of mediocre intellectual capability than for a well qualified fellow Christian (both in word and deed) because the reprobate windbag is white and their fellow Christian is black.
Everything else is just an excuse. Why? Because everything the Evangelicals and "conservatives" claim they are against is what McCain is. And everything they say they are for-compassion, justice, mercy, decency, family values, clean living, prudence and even temperament -- is what Obama is. (Note: Former diplomat African-American Alan Keyes, perpetual far right, the Rapture is on the way, support Israel, kill all Arabs, all-abortion-is-murder-from-zygot on, free-market purist, anti-welfare, anti-affirmative action Republican pro-Wall Street, trickle down, lower-taxes-on-the-rich candidate, never got more than tepid support from the same Republicans that have wildly embraced equally loony -- and white -- ideologue, Sarah Palin. So much for being "correct" on the issues!)
My point here is to cast a light on the gross hypocrisy of the Evangelical/Republican base using their own standards.
John McCain, . . . Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs. . . .Lo and behold, Schaeffer had worked to get McCain elected in 2000, and McCain had endorsed one of his books. So it is (do we detect a theme by now?) more anger towards a former colleague . . . Now he has reached a new low (even for him), having opined in yet another Huffington Post column of 1 June 2009, entitled "How I (and Other 'Pro-Life' Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller's Murder":
John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. . . . stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters, or risk suffering the judgment of history and the loathing of the American people—forever.
And the dangerous thing about Sarah Palin is, is that there’s a very direct line from her to the kind of extremism that would literally destroy this country. . . . are we going to give the right-wing evangelical/fundamentalist wing nuts of all stripes, of the Sarah Palin types, a voice in literally destroying this democracy? . . .
So, you know, my problem with McCain now is that by nominating Sarah Palin and, as I talked about in this editorial, by opening the floodgates of hate because of his ambition to win, basically doing whatever it takes to do that, he’s clearly choosing to try to empower the America that will destroy the real America. . . .
And you know what? It’s an imperfect world, but I would rather have a president that I disagree with on the issue of choice who’s fit to be president than an old man who has just shown such a lack of judgment as to literally connect himself to the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe. It isn’t just someone you disagree with politically.
My late father and I share the blame (with many others) for the murder of Dr. George Tiller the abortion doctor gunned down on Sunday. Until I got out of the religious right (in the mid-1980s) and repented of my former hate-filled rhetoric I was both a leader of the so-called pro-life movement and a part of a Republican Party hate machine masquerading as the moral conscience of America. . . .Far better is the response of television talk show host Bill O'Reilly, in an article printed in the Huffington Post on the same day:
I believe that abortion should be legal. But I also believe that it should be re-regulated according to fetal development. . . . As I say in my book today I believe that abortion should be legal but more regulated than Roe allows. I also think that we should do what President Obama calls for: use sex education and contraceptive distribution and programs to help women and children in a way that results in less abortions. . . .
The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as "murderers." And today once again the "pro-life" leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words. The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I'd like to say on this day after a man was murdered in cold blood for preforming abortions that I -- and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.
I am very sorry.
On Monday night, Bill O'Reilly responded to accusations that he helped fuel hatred and violence against Dr. George Tiller, the abortion doctor shot and killed on Sunday.I agree all down the line with Patrick Madrid's analysis:
O'Reilly has mentioned Tiller 29 times on his show since 2005, calling the doctor guilty of "Nazi stuff," a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, and saying that Tiller "has blood on his hands."
O'Reilly spent most of the segment accusing the "far-left media" of exploiting the murder of Tiller and refused to apologize for his previous comments, proclaiming to his critics: "No back-pedaling here."
At the outset, O'Reilly stated, "Clear-thinking Americans should condemn the murder of late-term abortionist Tiller even though the man terminated thousands of pregnancies. What he did is within Kansas law."
But then he quickly launched into his argument, saying "When I heard about Tiller's murder, I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would attempt to blame us for the crime and that is exactly what has happened." [video inserted into the article]
O'Reilly took aim at New York Daily News reporter Helen Kennedy, Huffington Post bloggers, Daily Kos and Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks, accusing them of exploiting the murder to attack him. He claimed, "Everything we said about Tiller was true."
I can't tell if they are the words of a man who has lost his moral bearings altogether (he now says abortion should remain legal and demonizes the Prolife Movement, and in particular, the Catholic Church, as a "hate machine"), or if he's just a coward who has abandoned his convictions because, had he remained faithful to them, he would earn only opprobrium and rejection from the fashionable, "progressive" Huffington-Post crowd he consorts with now.This is a tragic descent into moral cowardice. It's a sad day for evangelicalism: especially of the noble sort championed by Francis Schaeffer, for Orthodoxy, for the pro-life and conservative movements; even for Catholics (because he was an ally of sorts, for many causes that we believe in). It's a scandal all around. For those of us who have loved the inspiring work of Francis Schaeffer, as I have for over 25 years, it is particularly depressing.
As an aside. Let's not forget that Christians who want to remain popular and "in" with the "In Crowd" will be tempted to sacrifice their allegiance to the truth for the sake of human respect. Tragically, some give in to that temptation and make a wrong turn, gambolling down that wide and well-traveled road which Christ warned us away from, a road that leads directly toward a dark horizon.
I would like to set forth another theory that, I think, makes sense of seemingly absurd, incomprehensible developments in Frank Schaeffer's life. How does a man of his background possibly arrive at the viewpoints he is now expressing? Let me submit a hypothesis, as to how it happened. This is a man who has always been characterized by unseemly, out-of-control anger: of a type that borders on literal hatred or at the very least, a strong disdain and detestation: not just of false ideas but of the people who hold them. Christians are never justified in hating people or seething in resentment against them: no matter how sinful they may be. Frank seems to have poorly understood, all along, the clear, solid line between hating the sin and hating the sinner., and the command to gently defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). The supreme importance of being vigilant about never crossing that line is manifest now in the frightening path of compromise and loving the accolades of (liberal, secularist) men, that Frank has chosen.
This has undeniably been a leading motif or trait in his life, ever since he has been in the public spotlight. I was reading articles as far back as 1983, that described Franky (as he was then known) as the "angry young man of evangelicalism" and so forth. Indeed, the title of his first major book (1984) was, quite appropriately, A Time for Anger. Back then he was very angry (i.e., in the excessive sense I have outlined above) at pro-abortionists, liberals, secularists, folks who were ignorant about culture, etc.
Then when he converted to Orthodoxy (in the early 90s, I believe), he had to have another target (besides the evangelicalism that he had left), and it was Catholicism. Hence, the virulent anti-Catholicism that dominated his rag, The Christian Activist (I know, because I used to receive it regularly in my mail). It wasn't enough to commend the virtues and glories of Orthodoxy. Frank had to be "against" something else. He even had to go after his fellow Orthodox. When I heard him speak in person, he was belittling certain shortcomings of Orthodoxy having to do with ethnic provincialism, as "counting how many pounds of baklava one can eat" and so forth.
Now, as he "progresses" through life, he has in turn "dissed" and sweepingly condemned without the least restraint, his own parents and upbringing (in a truly pathetic, pitiful display that violates even one of the Ten Commandments), the Catholic Church, pro-lifers, conservatives, Republicans, and the evangelical Protestants he was once one of. It all fits the pattern of his life. Whenever he believes a certain thing, he has to demonize others outside of the movement he is part of. It's not just about the ideas for Frank(y). It's about a guttural anger and derision towards people who differ from him. If anyone has been conceivably guilty through the years, of "hatred" and lack of charity, and an uncontrollable tongue, it is Frank(y) Schaeffer.
How ironic, then, that he seals the absurdity of his intellectual odyssey towards secularist liberalism, by now accusing everyone under the sun of hatred and complicity in murder. He admits himself that he was formerly guilty of these shortcomings, by referring to his "former hate-filled rhetoric". The mistake he makes, however, is projecting his own ongoing faults and besetting sins of uncontrolled, unbridled anger onto everyone else he was ever associated with. And he does this precisely (obviously) to court approval with the enemies of traditional Christianity and traditional moral values, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or evangelical.
The truth, however, is that not everyone goes through life like Frank(y) Schaeffer does: motivated by always having to demonize everyone who disagrees with him, and writing public books and articles that exhibit his own demons of seeming radical personal insecurity (for those who are secure in themselves have no need to do this). Most of us who are Christians feel pretty good in our own skin, because we know that God loves us and has forgiven us, and has a plan for our lives. We can disagree with folks, without recourse to uncharitable rhetoric in the extreme. If Frank's own anger has caused, in the past, nuts like the murderer of George Tiller to become emboldened, then that blame rests squarely on his own back, not on everyone under the sun, that Frank(y) disagrees with and becomes incensed about in public.
I suggest (not that he would care what I think, on the remote chance that he ever reads this), that he leave the public eye, go into seclusion and examine his own soul and motivations for, maybe, five or ten years, if this is the best he can come up with in public utterances: sweeping, ultra-critical, literally prejudiced excoriations of huge groups of people (most of whom he has been involved with) and serious public compromises with traditional Christian morality. If that is all that can come out of his mouth anymore, he ought to shut it whenever a microphone or reporter or book editor is near and remove himself to the seclusion of a quiet, unpopulated place, where his sinful anger can be channeled into something remotely constructive and edifying. I hope and pray that there is enough of a robust Christian conscience left in him, for him to realize that drastic measures are now necessary, for his own sake, and for the sake of those he is influencing.
For further reading:
"Abortion Should Remain Legal" says Prominent 'Conservative' Frank Schaeffer
Time to Work with Obama to “Reduce Abortions” (Lifesite News, 13 January 2009)
Catholic Prof and Evangelical Leader Blame Catholic Church, Republicans, “Religious Leaders” for Tiller's Murder (Lifesite News, 2 June 2009)
That Sound You Hear is Francis Schaeffer Rolling Over in His Grave, Patrick Madrid