Friday, September 19, 2008
Crazy For God
I'm conflicted, and don't know what to think about this book. I read it quickly, and it held my interest. At times I loved it, then hated it, then laughed, then shed a tear. In other words, my typical reaction to a Frank Schaeffer book.
The full title of the book is
"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".
Yes, typical Frank Schaeffer.
I feel like I have a long standing relationship with Frank. My first introduction to Frank's writing was his 1981 book "Addicted to Mediocrity" I already knew of his father, Francis Schaeffer, and his groundbreaking "What Ever Happened to the Human Race". They showed the film version at our church.
"Addicted to Mediocrity" gave voice to thoughts I had been struggling with for a number of years. Frank (who then published himself as Franky) wrote, "Whenever Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have attempted to 'reach the world' through the media--TV, film, publishing and so on--the thinking public gets the firm idea that, like soup in a bad restaurant, Christians' brains are best left unstirred."
It rang true to me. Frank pointed out that in the past, many great works of art had been created "to the glory of God". You know...... stuff like....... the Sistine Chapel and Handel's Messiah. At the time I read the book (and sadly not much has changed) Christian bookstores were full of plastic "Jesus Loves You" combs and "Footprints in the Sand" plaques. I was moved and challenged by the book and it left me hungry to find "the good stuff" to this very day. It effected the way I looked at art, and literature, and in particular, music.
Frank freaked everyone out in 1994 with "Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion". In that book he tells the story of his conversion to the Orthodox church. It was rambling, hard to follow, and cynical. He managed to tick off both the evangelicals and the orthodox. I still liked it.
But the book that really nailed me was "Portofino". I think I have bought this book 4 or 5 times, because I would give it to someone, then decide to read it again, buy it, give it away. I love Amazon's description of the plot.
"Calvin is the son of a missionary family, and their trip to Portofino is the highlight of his year. But even in the seductive Italian summer, the Beckers can't really relax. Calvin's father could slip into a Bad Mood and start hurling potted plants at any time. His mother has an embarrassing habit of trying to convert "pagans" on the beach. And his sister Janet has a ski sweater and a miniature Bible in her luggage, just in case the Russians invade and send them to Siberia. His dad says everything is part of God's plan. But this summer, Calvin has some plans of his own ..."
The story of Calvin was gritty and real. He was a boy growing up in the real world and trying to figure out how the "Christian world" fit in. Or rather, he was growing up in a Christian world, and trying to figure out how to apply that in the real world. He was embarrassed when his mother had a particularly long prayer over their meal in the restaurant. My gosh, the waitress had to wait! I lost my mind when his mother whipped out the "Gospel Walnut" while talking with someone on the bus. My kindergarten choir director at church amazed us with her gospel walnut.
Meanwhile, everyone one wondered how much of the "novel" was a description of his childhood, and the answer seemed clear.
If there was any room left for doubt, "Crazy For God" blows that doubt up. Franky/Frank tells us all. From his father's violent moods, to his mother's search to find her place in the creative, artistic circles, without compromising her faith. It's a sad and sordid story, and I think there were some things we didn't really need to know. But there were moments of tenderness and love and forgiveness too.
Frank doesn't spare himself in anyway. We now, officially, "know too many secrets, I wish now I did not know."(Rich Mullins). Frank was the "all too typical" "PK" (pastor's kid) who rebelled, all the while playing the part of the dutiful son and heir apparent to his father's ministry. Raise your hand if you've heard this one.
In the end, why did Frank write this book? To embarrass his parents? Considering his father had already died, clearly not. To make sure we all know the truth about life in the home of Francis and Edith Schaffer? Anyone who grew up in the church, if they are honest, knows that many families were not as they seemed. The church is full of imperfect people. Did he just need to get this all off his chest?
I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope that he just wanted to make sure we avoid the danger of putting leaders on pedestals. A lesson I learned early in life. For me it was a story about good intentions, with failed realities. I'm not sure I can really recommend it. For people who have walked this same road, it may be a comfort.
at 8:59 PM