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