Frank Schaeffer is an acquired taste. I have mostly enjoyed the three books of his that I have read. But he has a lot of anger. And some of it is directed toward valid issues. Some of it is over the top.
Frank Schaeffer is the only son and youngest child of Edith and Francis Schaeffer. He grew up at L’aBri, a retreat center in Switzerland that was focused on reaching out to youth. For a while Frank was one of the best partners in publicizing his father and mother’s work.
But after working to help organize the anti-abortion movement and helping give fuel to new religious right, Frank started working as a Hollywood director and eventually left the Evangelical world, became Eastern Orthodox and has become primarily known as a writer.
After primarily writing non-fiction recently, ‘And God Said, Billy!’ is his first novel since 2006. The end result is a conversion story of sorts.
We meet Billy after he has been in Hollywood for five years. Billy Graham (his mother named him after the evangelist in honor of her becoming a Christian at one of his rallies) left his wife and daughter because he felt a call from God to direct a movie about the book of Revelations.
Initially encouraged and supported by his (cult like) pastor, he eventually starts lying and stealing to support himself and ‘fulfill his calling.’ Eventually he is offered ‘his big break’. He is told if he directs a film in the still apartheid South Africa for free he will be able to make his own movie. The movie turns out to be a cheap slasher porn movie. Throughout Billy is hearing voices in his head that he attributes to God. Later he starts hearing other voices as well.
The first half of the book is a bit ridiculous. It reminds me the type of satire that Christopher Buckley writes. But more sad and tragic than funny. Billy makes bad decision after bad decision that he justifies based on a calling from God. Schaeffer is speaking against something real here. There are lots of Christians that have justified wrong things based on what they see as a greater good. (This is one of the Spiritual Dangers of Doing Good.) Covering up sex abuse of children is a perfect example. And one you do not have to look far to find examples of.
The final part of the book, after he is forced to confront himself and those around him there are extended narrative sections explicating Eastern Orthodox theology. None of it is really bad, and I agree with it (or agree with what I view as the major points given a generous reading.)
But I did have to put down the book for a while (before the conversion) and I almost didn’t pick it up. I get the point of building up the downfall, but I really wonder at the overall value of the book. Billy is a caricature, more a cartoon than a satire. And while Schaeffer’s writing is good, I don’t think it is as good as it should have been.
He has been fairly public about self-publishing this book. But maybe he would have benefited from ratcheting it down just a bit. A publisher probably would not have helped, but it might have.
The book is only $3.99 on Kindle. It is not bad and probably worth that price. But beware a content warning up front (language, adult content).
Related Bookwi.se Reviews
- Sex, Mom and God by Frank Schaeffer
- Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer
- Portofino by Frank Schaeffer (Calvin Becker Trilogy #1)
- Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer