Frank Schaeffer: stop idolizing dad, Oprah please notice my book!

Christianity Today recently posted an editorial titled “The Problem with Juicy Memoirs,” directed pointedly at Frank Schaeffer, asking, “What does it mean to honor one’s father and mother in this therapeutic age of the self?” If you haven’t been following along, CT and Books and Culture have volleyed back and forth with Frank in open letters and reviews that have been, well, depressing.

Son of a Preacher Man by Betty Carter

Fathers & Sons by Os Guinness

Full Disclosure by Frank Schaeffer (Frank’s response with a rejoinder to fess up, Os!)

I’m bemused by all this coverage. If anything, this volley lacks any real content, and CT’s pedantic call to “honor father and mother” will certainly fall on deaf ears to Frank. In Frank’s rejoinder to Os he says,

Os has built a career on an evangelical reputation based in part on his association with my late father, Francis Schaeffer. Os has a continuing stake (in every sense of that word) in the Schaeffer brand name.

I think this comment, more than anything else, reveals what this is all about. Publicity. Reputation. Brand Name. It’s ironic to me that Frank would go on Cspan Book TV telling the world about what’s wrong with Binny Hinn and the Evangelical personality cult, even as he knows that the celebrity he now seeks from mainstream press exposure is devoted to forming his own following.

Frank’s problem lies in his easy readiness to speak for his mom and dad. To reframe their legacy the way he wants, all the while admitting that he waited until they were out of the picture to do so! For instance, when Frank says, “Dad could have easily been a tool of the left as he was for the right. There was nothing about him that would have kept him out of that camp.” Ahem, other than the fact that the household was crazy fundamentalist?

The book publishing world these days is all about starting a movement. Get people talking, get them spending. I sort of wonder what Frank meant by “Almost All” in his subtitle: “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 wonder whether what he won’t take back are his beliefs about money. (Is Capitalism Christian? Toward A Christian Perspective on Economics, 1985) His book on economics was a flame at socialism in all it’s hidden forms. (Ooh scary.) If Frank has ever been anything, he’s been an opportunist. He helped “found the Religious Right as a teenager because he wanted to make movies.” Maybe it’s time we stop funding his little mid-life crisis the way we funded his teen angst.


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