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Peter T Chattaway

frank(y) schaeffer

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I subscribe to an Orthodox e-mail list and someone there recently posted a message expressing concern over Franky Schaeffer's novels, which apparently mock his evangelical/fundamentalist roots -- the person who posted this message was especially concerned about the "pornographic" direction the novels seem to be taking, as evidenced by the cover of the newest book in the series, which comes out next month.

user posted image

You can read a brief excerpt from the novel here. Any thoughts? Me, I'm still waiting for the day when I'll get a chance to see Schaeffer's films, which I have heard are pretty bad, but I might check these novels out some day too.

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Good gad, the cover looks like any one of the hundreds of cheapo seventies paperbacks they're trying to get rid of at my local thrift store. laugh.gif

I will be sure to check out the excerpt. What is the score with Schaeffer these days? Has he totally renounced his evangelicalism/fundamentalism?

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Forgive my ignorance. I see from the website he converted to Orthodoxy--it all sounds vaguely familiar now.

Is he still a spokesman for conservative causes in the vein of his early days?

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Although probably coincidental, that photo (not the cover  :oops: ) certainly makes me think of L'Abri (or at least Switzerland).

Maybe that's the idea. Franky could be showing a break from the L'Abri idea or displaying a more explicit idea of joining the freedom of an artist with the commitment to Christ. Then again maybe it doesn

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The thing about these novels is the vivid picture they compose of that subculture. It's perfect. Transpose the settings to the Caribbean and the Southeast and you have my childhood (though television was not out of bounds until "the gulag", just rarely available). The clothesline caper reminds me of trying to be in the "wrong" section of the Sears catalog.

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: The thing about these novels is the vivid picture they compose of that

: subculture. It's perfect. Transpose the settings to the Caribbean and the

: Southeast and you have my childhood (though television was not out of

: bounds until "the gulag", just rarely available).

The first book is certainly vivid, all right. I just finished reading Portofino and I kept wondering, the whole time I was reading it, what Schaeffer's surviving family members make of it. Surely Schaeffer could not possibly have written this book without knowing that many people would assume, rightly or wrongly, that he was airing his family's dirty laundry. I haven't got a clue how much of this book is autobiographical and how much of it is fictional, but I am very curious to learn, now -- I simply could not read about Dad's "Moods" or Mom's excessive piety (and adulterous flirtations!) without thinking of Francis (whose films I saw at school shortly after he died) and Edith (who spoke at my church once). Schaeffer does a very good job of capturing the fundamentalist, narrow-minded attitude of a certain section of the Christian subculture -- and it's not too hard to see that he's drawing a metaphorical parallel between the constant division and multiplication of Protestant sects and the ever-present threat of a marital split between Dad and Mom -- but I was curious to see if we'd ever catch a glimpse of Dad doing something more like, I dunno, appreciating the arts or something.

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Well, they are comic novels, afterall. Other than not expecting picayune fundies to appreciate art, maybe he thought these other experiences to be funnier. Besides, I wonder if there is not a little of laughing at his own inner demons here.

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It's gotta be tough to be the child of someone famous and powerful. For a while there, it seemed that Frank/y was largely going to follow in his father's footsteps, albeit with an angrier edge, via Addicted to Mediocrity and Bad News for Modern Man.

With Portofino and the like, I suspect he's attempting to step out of his dad's shadow, trying to exorcise some inner demons of his upbringing via humor and autobiography partly modified and disguised as fiction. Doctrinal merits or debits aside, I wonder if his conversion to Orthodoxy is part and parcel of this same attempt.

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Andrew wrote:

: With Portofino and the like, I suspect he's attempting to step out of his

: dad's shadow, trying to exorcise some inner demons of his upbringing

: via humor and autobiography partly modified and disguised as fiction.

: Doctrinal merits or debits aside, I wonder if his conversion to Orthodoxy

: is part and parcel of this same attempt.

Yeah, one of the things I couldn't help wondering as I read this book was how autobiographical the scenes of young Calvin visiting Catholic churches and crossing himself and saying 'Hail Mary' were. Is Schaeffer trying to tell us that the seeds of his adult conversion to Orthodoxy were there even when he was a child? Certainly he makes the Protestant opposition to such things look ridiculous -- like when he sums up Calvin's Dad's views on "tradition" in this paragraph from page 202:

Then Dad said how we were not bound by dead, man-made tradition like the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics, who believed in free will and other heresies, and how if everyone followed the teaching of Calvin and the other great Reformed theologians like Zwingli, they would understand what the Bible
really meant
because Calvin was right about it so we didn't need traditions to follow because we had Calvin and the PCCCCUSA.

The PCCCCUSA being described on page 128 thus:

. . . we had split again and our part of the split was now called the Presbyterian Church of the Calvinist Conformed Confession United States of America. This split had been over the issue of whether Hodge or Warfield had a better idea of how to interpret Calvin's position on Total Depravity and Regeneration. I think we went with Hodge but I'm not sure. The main thing was we knew we were right, and the only real believers in Reformed doctrine left, so Dad and the other leaders made a new church.

I have no idea if there's anything autobiographical about THAT -- was Francis involved in any church splits? -- but I do think Franky is playing up the absurdity of the Protestant notion that we are somehow free of 'man-made tradition', and I also think it is quite possible that the marital strife in the book may not be based on real life but may be a fiction designed to bring the divisiveness of Protestants home. But I am just speculating here.

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"I think we went with Hodge, but I'm not sure." What a great line. Your passage shows splits perfectly. This may be apocryphal, but I remember reading of Scheaffer being part of a Carl McIntire splinter group off of the OPC. He was part of a mission to Europe to scout locations for a possible expatriate church community, fell in love with what became L'Abri and stayed behind.

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... Me, I'm still waiting for the day when I'll get a chance to see Schaeffer's films, which I have heard are pretty bad, but I might check these novels out some day too.

I viewed WIRED TO KILL last week, and wrote it up. I'm not at all happy with the write-up, but until I have time to "fix it in the editing room," it'll do.

*

WIRED TO KILL (1986, USA)

I don't want sleep. I want revenge!

Franky "Boy Am I Angry" Schaeffer here proves to the world that he is, in fact, as Addicted To Mediocrity as the next guy. The overwhelming ineptitude of the film-making might almost qualify this post-apocalyptic revenge turkey for a "So Bad It's Good" designation

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But the fun wears out fast when the film starts to show its nasty, sadistic side, and you begin to see Franky's previous "Boy Am I Superior" schtick as not merely naive and hypocritical, but nasty and sadistic as well

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This in the recent IMAGE email;

The Blood of the Lamb, a juried and invitational exhibition juried by Frankie Shaeffer, is now on view at LynnArts in Lynn, Mass. The exhibition features work of artists from the three faiths founded in the middle east: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Included in the show is work by CIVA artists Sandra Bowden, Tanja Butler, Tyrus Clutter, Bruce Herman, and Rosemary Scott-Fishburn. The show is on view through November 29.

For more information - http://www.arts-north.org/members/lynnarts.htm

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Hey baxter! Whoever you are, nice find. Welcome aboard.

BROVO Frank! What a nice piece. I'm just glad that I was able to look back and laugh at similar shenanigans before I became aware of Frank's novels about similar events. Life is good when God grants one that sort of grace. I expected his novels to be attacked, but in my own particular myopia, it never occured to me that he would be pilloried for the book written with his son.

IMO, the money qoute from baxter's link:

So I'm caught in the shrinking space between two cacified political doctrines of the left and right. My correspondents seem so certain of everything-- especially that God is on their side.

   

  ....It seems the life is too short, sweet, and mysterious for us to be able to exhaustively \"explain\" anything much, let alone explain everything with certainty.

Frank is turning out alright, I must say. This is a vast improvement over the fireballer I encountered when both of us were in our early 30's.

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I'm bracing myself for another of Frank's takedowns of L'Abri, and his parents' work.

This makes me sad.

Can anyone comment on Franky's writing over the past, say, 25 years. I read several of his books back in the late '70s/early '80s, and even when I agreed with his points, I found him so insufferably smug and hypercritical that I found it a very unpleasant experience. I'm hoping he's grown up in the intervening quarter century, but I don't know. And if I'm missing out on anything other than kvetching, I'd like to find out.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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FWIW, Andy, when I searched on Frank's name, I was surprised to pull up this old thread. I'm positive Frank has been discussed recently, apparently in another thread, but I haven't dug around for said thread.

Peter: A little help?

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I'm bracing myself for another of Frank's takedowns of L'Abri, and his parents' work.

This makes me sad.

I'm with Dreher on this one. I don't sense any takedowns at all, at least from what Dreher says. I like what he says about the Scheaffers on vacation (Frank wrote two comic novels with those vacations as settings). I sympathise completely and it mates to my own experiences as an MK. Further, while they were alive rumors were always about concerning the Scheaffers' tempestuous marriage. I never read Edith's work, but the rumors seemed to be sourced from her books, or reading beween their lines.

Andy: You hit Franky's (as opposed to Frank) work on the head. He had a huge chip on his shoulder for his father's late-in-life-exposure with respect to abortion and the dichotomy of Francis' views on political activism v. involvement. His propaganda films were brittle and cranky. His books and speeches were worse. He picked fights needlessly and, like the Palestinians, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to make common cause with possible co-belligerents. He was an all comers antagonist. I'd be interested in memoirs that start with the deaths of his parents and go on from there. He's changed even though you sometimes see a remainder of that old entitlement (his press conferences announcing his books co-written with his Marine vet son on C-SPAN were revealing to a guy like me who made that family a bit of a hobby).

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Don't have but a minute, but I'm at L'Abri at the moment, In Greatham England. Everything is of course permeated by Francis Schaeffer. I'll be working with Ranald Macaulay's (son-in-law of older Schaeffer) ministry over the summer. It's a shame to hear that he (Frankie) is so cold to L'Abri. I actually have grown to love it here. What are his main complaints?

Edited by Joel C

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Hard to say until his memoir comes out. When you have time, go to Christian's link of Rod Dreher (reporter/film critic/columnist, once brought up evangelical, now Catholic convert). He wisely leaves out details of galleys he has received until the book promotion starts.

OTOH, we can guess a bit. First of all, he grew up at the original Swiss L'Abri in the sixties. His Dad landed in Switzerland as a dissident hard fundie Presbyterian and stayed. Frank is now and has been Orthodox since at least the early '80's, so it is reasonable to assume that he will be rough on the fundie milieu as well as the tension of having just about anyone wander in off the road and stay in your house for a while. In exerpts I've read of his comic novels, he makes great and hilarious sport of the social/cultural aspects of his strict upbringing that come about during the only two weeks a year that the Scheaffer family is somewhat freed from having to be The Scheaffer Family. One can imagine the grist made in the upcoming book of the other 50. Personally, I identify with what he went through despite the fact that my father was not a christian guru of philosophy and life who entertained all comers. Smaller trials were indeed tough enough for me.

Besides, L'Abri is now an industry and institution in and of itself and I don't mean that in a bad way. When you are starting from scratch on an eccentric ministry, there is no "book" to go by. A lot falls through the cracks and gets pinched between the floorboards, so to speak. I know whereof I speak. My father was Trans World Radio's first Chief Engineer of a wholly owned station. TWR was reinventing an organisational wheel while trailblazing a new sort of international ministry concept. TWR went through a lot of talent and a lot of personnel, my parents included, back then. It was painful. I eagerly anticipate Frank's book. The Church can stand some astringent truth telling. I hope that is what is in the book.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: . . . Rod Dreher (reporter/film critic/columnist, once brought up evangelical, now Catholic convert).

Actually, Dreher, like Schaeffer, is a convert to Orthodoxy now.

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Hard to say until his memoir comes out. When you have time, go to Christian's link of Rod Dreher (reporter/film critic/columnist, once brought up evangelical, now Catholic convert). He wisely leaves out details of galleys he has received until the book promotion starts.

OTOH, we can guess a bit. First of all, he grew up at the original Swiss L'Abri in the sixties. His Dad landed in Switzerland as a dissident hard fundie Presbyterian and stayed. Frank is now and has been Orthodox since at least the early '80's, so it is reasonable to assume that he will be rough on the fundie milieu as well as the tension of having just about anyone wander in off the road and stay in your house for a while. In exerpts I've read of his comic novels, he makes great and hilarious sport of the social/cultural aspects of his strict upbringing that come about during the only two weeks a year that the Scheaffer family is somewhat freed from having to be The Scheaffer Family. One can imagine the grist made in the upcoming book of the other 50. Personally, I identify with what he went through despite the fact that my father was not a christian guru of philosophy and life who entertained all comers. Smaller trials were indeed tough enough for me.

Besides, L'Abri is now an industry and institution in and of itself and I don't mean that in a bad way. When you are starting from scratch on an eccentric ministry, there is no "book" to go by. A lot falls through the cracks and gets pinched between the floorboards, so to speak. I know whereof I speak. My father was Trans World Radio's first Chief Engineer of a wholly owned station. TWR was reinventing an organisational wheel while trailblazing a new sort of international ministry concept. TWR went through a lot of talent and a lot of personnel, my parents included, back then. It was painful. I eagerly anticipate Frank's book. The Church can stand some astringent truth telling. I hope that is what is in the book.

I have little doubt that growing up in the Schaeffer household was challenging. It can't have been easy to want to play catch with dad, and to encounter a bunch of hippies instead, following dad around as if he was St. Francis of the Knickers.

But I guess I'm still mystified by the vehemence -- and indeed by the bitterness -- of Frank(y)'s reaction. I really haven't kept up with him in a long time, and I hope and trust that he's mellowed. But he was the quintessential Angry Young Man, and it was not a side of his personality that was winsome and attractive. "Let it go, dude," I wanted to tell him. "For the sake of your own soul, so that you will not be eaten up by bitterness and resentment."

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Francis Schaeffer is above reproach. He ripped Kierkegaard mercilessly, and to this day I'm convinced that he simply didn't understand him. He wasn't much of a writer, and he blithely sailed through several millenia of cultural history in order to make big pronouncements that were at best generalizations. And frankly he became something of a reactionary crank in his later years. Then there were, of course, all the dirty hippies underfoot, which I'm sure got tiresome. So I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Frank(y) and his views.

But look at what the old man accomplished. Evangelical Christianity is what it is today largely because of Francis Schaeffer. All the dirty hippies grew up, and a lot of them pastored churches, and I see the fruits of Francis Schaeffer's labors all around me today. I see a church that is not afraid to be culturally engaged, and that is at least partly because of Francis Schaeffer. I see a church that values the arts, and that is at least partly because of Francis Schaeffer. I see a church that insists on a rational basis for its faith, and again that is due in large part to the work of Francis Schaeffer. And my own church tradition (I think it's fair to call it a tradition, even though it's only a few decades old) is modeled on L'Abri -- small house churches, a primary focus on living in community, and ministry to the surrounding neighborhood. In other words, I see far more good than I see evil in Francis Schaeffer's legacy. It's too bad that Frank(y) can't see that as well.

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But I guess I'm still mystified by the vehemence -- and indeed by the bitterness -- of Frank(y)'s reaction. I really haven't kept up with him in a long time, and I hope and trust that he's mellowed. But he was the quintessential Angry Young Man, and it was not a side of his personality that was winsome and attractive. "Let it go, dude," I wanted to tell him. "For the sake of your own soul, so that you will not be eaten up by bitterness and resentment."

You may be assuming too much. I don't see evidence of vehemence from what I've read of Dreher. This is something that Christian suspects and he might be right. I don't see evidence yet. My personal view is that he's mellowed over the recent decades and that sort of thing usually leads to a more balanced perspective on the past. For myself, I had way more hostility to the gulag than anything else in my upbringing and I made peace with the gulag while still in "the wilderness" before Anglicanism. Of course, that doesn't mean Scheaffer and I are on similar trajectories either. Far from it.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Francis Schaeffer is above reproach. He ripped Kierkegaard mercilessly, and to this day I'm convinced that he simply didn't understand him. He wasn't much of a writer, and he blithely sailed through several millenia of cultural history in order to make big pronouncements that were at best generalizations. And frankly he became something of a reactionary crank in his later years. Then there were, of course, all the dirty hippies underfoot, which I'm sure got tiresome. So I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Frank(y) and his views.

Excellent one paragraph summary of what evangelicals have been saying for a long time. For you it was Kierkegaard, but he treated almost everyone the same way in his books. His lectures were another matter, but few have heard them and I couldn't sit through tapes of such dry commentary when I had the chance. My suspicions started with his deconstruction of Beethoven as lead blocker for the flight from God in music on one of those tapes.

But look at what the old man accomplished. Evangelical Christianity is what it is today largely because of Francis Schaeffer. All the dirty hippies grew up, and a lot of them pastored churches, and I see the fruits of Francis Schaeffer's labors all around me today. I see a church that is not afraid to be culturally engaged, and that is at least partly because of Francis Schaeffer. I see a church that values the arts, and that is at least partly because of Francis Schaeffer. I see a church that insists on a rational basis for its faith, and again that is due in large part to the work of Francis Schaeffer. And my own church tradition (I think it's fair to call it a tradition, even though it's only a few decades old) is modeled on L'Abri -- small house churches, a primary focus on living in community, and ministry to the surrounding neighborhood. In other words, I see far more good than I see evil in Francis Schaeffer's legacy. It's too bad that Frank(y) can't see that as well.

Yes, well put. If his son can't see this, as you say, it might be because while he was still an evangelical he kept up the good fight for a while and gave up. I think that complacency, for him, was a worse crime than painting over the Sistine Chapel Ceiling (re: original cover art for his Addicted to Mediocrity). OTOH, I suspect that his mellowing was in precise proportion to his laying down of sword and shield for his father's wars and battles. I'll bet his own were caught up in the various dialectics of his upbringing and those were fought in his comic novels. This is why I hope for something more than Christian's suspicions with this coming memoir. Remember, Dreher is saying little about content and we are the ones speculating in various directions.

First guy to see the book gets a prize. until then, heh, on with the speculation and tributes to the two of them.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Yes, I should reiterate that my suspicions are based in part on some of Frank's thinly veiled critiques of his parents in his fiction writing. Maybe the upcoming book won't be a "takedown," but I'm preparing for the worst.

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