Friday, December 21, 2007

The loneliest man who ever lived

I've done my Christmas preparations this week knowing that a friend of mine will barely make it through the loneliness of the holiday season. Like many people I know, he hasn't yet come out to his family or church, and he wonders if he'll ever know what it's like to be truly loved. One reason I'm apprehensive about Christmas every year is that I know it causes some people reflect on their personal sadness more than usual. Whenever I sense that sadness, it's hard not to be affected too.

Back when The DaVinci Code was all the rage, it was vogue to speculate that, contrary to the church's teaching, Jesus actually got married to Mary Magdalene and had a child. Jesus was actually a family man! My position has been that if people want to believe that, go ahead. It takes nothing away from my faith. Yet to me, the traditional and biblical teaching that Jesus dwelt among us as the loneliest and most sorrowful man who ever lived on earth rings much closer to the truth.

The Jesus I know came not to find joy or comfort for himself, but rather made himself poor for our sakes that we might become rich. As a single man, rejected by his hometown and misunderstood by his parents and siblings, he befriended the despised and forsaken and marginalized. The lonely. He identified with them by becoming despised and forsaken and marginalized himself. Then he told them the secrets of the kingdom of heaven and they believed, because they were wise enough not to put their hopes in the fickle promises of earthly life.

The notion of Jesus as a Family Man only makes him into another one of those people who makes people without families feel left out, especially during Christmas time. Fortunately, as a Bible-believing traditionalist, I don't have to buy into that. I believe Christmas is, ironically, a time to remember the birth of the loneliest man who walked the earth, who is most present and most at home among those whose hearts are broken.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frank Schaeffer speaks

I don't read popular books written by evangelicals any more. But seeing this quote from Crazy for God, by Frank Schaeffer (the late Francis Schaeffer's son), is tempting me to make an exception.

The public image of the leaders of the religious right I met with so many times also contrasted with who they really were. In public, they maintained an image that was usually quite smooth. In private, they ranged from unreconstructed bigot reactionaries like Jerry Falwell, to Dr. Dobson, the most power-hungry and ambitious person I have ever met, to Billy Graham, a very weird man indeed who lived an oddly sheltered life in a celebrity/ministry cocoon, to Pat Robertson, who would have had a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.

While the late Francis Schaeffer helped to launch the Religious Right movement because of the abortion issue, his son Frank Schaeffer reveals in this interview how contrary his father's sentiments were from his fellows on the issue of homosexuality.
JW: His views of homosexuality were quite different from those of today’s Christian Right, which is stridently anti-gay. But Francis Schaeffer didn’t see it that way. As you say in the book, he saw homosexuality as a serious matter. But he didn’t think they would stop being homosexuals if they became Christians. And he didn’t condemn them. Is that right?

FS: That is absolutely correct. A lot of people in the evangelical and fundamentalist communities speak theoretically about homosexuality being no worse than adultery or divorce. However, in practice, they are not undertaking national campaigns to single out evangelical people who were married to somebody else at one time and got divorced. So actually there is a tremendous moral hypocrisy there because the whole gay issue has been singled out for special treatment. My dad literally practiced what he preached. He said that homosexual sex was on the same level as adultery, premarital sex and spiritual pride. He didn’t differentiate between all this and write people off on the basis of it. He actually believed and acted on what a lot of people in the Religious Right say theoretically. But he literally was that way. My dad didn’t see it as a special problem to be singled out from everything else. He didn’t see it as threatening. We had quite a few gay people come through L’Abri. As a child, I knew who they were and why. But my dad did not push them into programs where they were going to try to become straight based on special counseling. He didn’t see it that way. He just saw this as one amongst all kinds of challenges that face people humanly and was very compassionate about it. We had a number of people who came to L’Abri who were not Christians or were Christians who were gay who never changed their orientation, and they didn’t become less friendly with my dad as a result. He didn’t make a big point of it one way or another. That is how his attitude manifested itself to other people.

It has often puzzled me that Francis Schaeffer had apparently helped found the Religious Right. I knew he was first and foremost a Christian thinker and philosopher and associated him most strongly with his ministry at L'Abri. I figured an intellectual like him would be above such a scheme. This interview with Frank Schaeffer has helped to put those pieces together in my mind. He tells how his father thought Pat Robertson was out of his mind and Jerry Falwell was harsh and inhuman, but he tolerated them in those early years as necessary allies in opposing Roe vs. Wade. The elder Schaeffer died in 1984. If he knew today what the Religious Right had become, his son says, he'd be rolling in his grave

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slow blogging

Sorry for the infrequent blogging lately. We just bought a house and are now in escrow. Someone once told me that buying your first home is like having a baby; it rearranges your whole life. I believe it. And the real busyness is yet to come.

When we first moved into our current apartment in the spring of '96, we had no kids. Now we have three. The landlord abides by two basic principles when it comes to keeping up the place: 1) Spend as little money as possible, 2) because he doesn't live here, after all. We've put up with that for eleven years, not to mention the shrinking space with the growing family. This move will be a tremendous blessing needless to say.