Frank Schaeffer is the son of Evangelical power couple Francis and Edith Schaeffer. He is an author of a number of fiction books and several interesting non-fiction books (like his series on the military).
But he is probably most well known either for his late 80s books (A Modest Proposal, Bad News for Modern Man, and A Time for Anger) or is more recent memoirs where he has renounced his earlier books and work.
This is the second of two memoirs of his that I have read. The first, Crazy for God (Bookwi.se Review), is primarily about Frank’s relationship with his father. The second, Sex, Mom and God is primarily about his mother.
In both cases, the books are really mostly about Frank. But they are about how Frank learns from his parents. Clearly Frank loves his parents. And just as clearly, Frank wants to disassociate himself from parts of his parent’s legacy.
Frank converted to Orthodoxy in the 1990s, making a clean break from the work in the Evangelical world that made his parents so well known. And Frank was a big part of making that fame. He produced a series of documentaries featuring Francis Schaeffer and helped to politicize the Evangelical community around abortion. He was a writer and an agent for his parents, and many other influential Christian writers. And he helped start a number of Christian organizations like the Rutherford Institute.
This book spends a lot of time talking about three areas around Evangelical’s relationship to women, abortion, gender roles and the bible. I think this is a useful book to read, especially if you have grown up in the Evangelical world. Because Frank Schaeffer is trying to expose some of the problems that Evangelicals have. But many of that intended audience will be turned off by the first portion of the book here he rejects most traditional biblical interpretation methods.
Frank spends a lot of time talking about ‘the God of the Old Testament’. And the way that he talks about it, many Evangelicals will assume he has rejected Christianity. It is clear to me from the rest of the book that he has not rejected Christianity. But he has made some decisions that lower the strength of the Bible, and change the perspective of God and culture in ways that will make many Evangelicals very uncomfortable.
Schaeffer is for gay marriage, against abortion, but also against making abortion illegal. He is for monogamy in marriage, but is not sure pre-marital sex is all bad. He is uncomfortable with most forms of overt evangelism, but also holds to the power of Christ to transform people’s lives.
All in all, Frank Schaeffer will confuse most readers about what he really believes. And I, for one, am glad that he is raising the questions even if I am not comfortable with all of the answers.
The parts that I think are most important are the background stories on the Christian Restorationists (people that believe that the US should become a theocracy) and the rise of Quiverfull movement, two movements that Schaeffer both had a hand in. In combination with his discussion of the problems of the Pro-life movement, Schaeffer make a clear call to step back from the power focused political action of the Religious Right. He also raises concerns about the rise of a Religious Left, but these are not nearly as strong. Many of the complaints that I read about this book are because of the strong emphasis on politics. But the story could not be told in the same way without discussing politics.
On there whole, there are several strong themes about leadership that run throughout the book. One, Schaeffer is concerned about hereditary Evangelical Leadership (his own, Franklin Graham, DeMosses, etc.) Two, he is concerned about leadership that is more about power than about ideology (and he suggests that the political action of the Religious Right is doing this right now. Third, he is concerned about the ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ of many Christian leaders. Here he mentioned the complementarian women leaders like Mary Pride or even Edith Schaeffer that preached submission to husbands, homeschooling and being a stay at home wife, but then leading business and ministry empires. Or institutional problems like sex abuse in the Catholic (and Evangelical) church. Or the work of The Fellowship that has both protected evangelical politicians that have been involved in adultery while actively sponsoring anti gay marriage initiatives.
I believe that the underlying theme of power in leadership is one that is not paid enough attention in the Evangelical world. But again, I am not sure that this is a book that will get to those that need to hear the message.
On the whole, Schaeffer is a good writer. I want to read his fiction books. But I am not sure the book will be read by many that are not already leaning to the political or theological left already.