Like many men my age and with my sort of raising, I spent considerable time exposed to the teachings of Francis and Franky Schaeffer. (Oops, He’s FRANK now, sorry.) I remember the film they made together, “How Should We Then Live,” which singlehandedly introduced me to artistic obscurantism. There is God-glorifying art and then there is ungodly humanist art. The film was a tour de force through the “right way” to think. At the time I was only too eager to have someone tell me how to think Christianly.
Later in college, I was astounded to see the son, Franky, go very publicly Greek Orthodox, with his journey chronicled in Dancing Alone. Then I heard an interview on a St. Louis Christian radio station where Franky explained the heresy(!) of Sola Scriptura and very easily consigned the interviewer to hell for his Protestantism. At least his dogmatism hadn’t changed. When I queried someone also in the Orthodox church, they told me that Schaeffer’s approach to his new faith was much more strident than his fellow members, and that one Bishop had walked out of one of his talks.
In more recent years I noticed he’d written a book, and some articles about having a son in the military. It seemed he’d taken a completely different approach to writing. Now his most recent work is a memoir, 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. I’m curious about the book. From the exposure I’ve read in The Nation and the New Statesmen, it’s almost like Frank is trying to retell the history so as we don’t associate him with the wrong crowd anymore. Does this mean he takes back that book he edited on Capitalism twenty years ago? That’s really all I want to know.
I wish Christianity Today would sit down with Edith Schaeffer and Frank and one of his sisters and let them reminisce. Whose L’abri story is the real story? Is Edith’s Tapestry the official narrative? I wonder if there’s a cautionary tale here about Evangelical Demagoguery. When a worldview steps into the realm of epistemology, teaching just how to come to faith and how to think, maybe a little plurality, nuance, even (Dare we say it!) dialectical thinking is in order. And if that sort of conversation is just not allowed, maybe the speaker doesn’t deserve the limelight.
I’m rather bemused by Frank. I’ve got to hand it to him. He’s ever the opportunist, keeping himself in the spotlight, ever with a story to tell. And even when his narrative diverges from the Christian Right, they still see him as a native son. See Gary Demaar’s review and the review in World Magazine. To them he’ll always be remembered as Franky who ran the camera.