Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Frank Schaeffer and some things that need saying

Frank Schaeffer is not for every one's taste. He can sometimes be, I suppose, a bit polarizing. But then, can't we all? Schaeffer is generally not one who needs any encouragement when it comes to speaking his mind. I respect that. His Dancing Alone was one of the first books I read when I began my investigation into Orthodoxy. For someone of my background, and at that initial stage of the journey, the book made quite an impression. You might say it jolted me out of my complacency. Not everyone needs that, but I did. So, I owe Schaeffer a debt of gratitude.

He is now an occasional contributor to The Huffington Post. The following recent article, copied in its entirety, falls in the category of "Things That Need to be Said." Enjoy.


Changing the Failed Strategy of the Religious Right Into a Winning Formula That Helps Heal Our Country

Along with my late evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer for a time in the 1970s and early eighties (long before I became a "secular left wing back-sliding" novelist) I was an instigator, propagator and founder of the anti-abortion hard right of the Religious Right. Today I am one of President-elect Obama's most enthusiastic supporters and wrote dozens of articles, blogs and opinion pieces supporting his candidacy. As a result I'm getting a daily dose of hate mail from the same people who used to regard my family as royalty within evangelical subculture.

Long after I left that evangelical/hard right subculture I converted to the Greek Orthodox Church (in 1990) and so I'm also getting to a few "how can you support the abortionist Obama" hate e-mails from some of the more right wing and politicized members of the Orthodox community. (Most of them are converts who brought their former evangelical and/or Roman Catholic right wing politics into their new church.)

All the hate e-mails have one thing in common: a disdain for President-elect Obama (some with vile overt racist overtones) and all refer to him as "an abortionist," or "in favor of infanticide," or "wanting to force gay marriage on America," etc., etc., etc.

Every single one of these hate e-mails assumes a basic premise: President-elect Obama has -- through some nefarious underhanded means -- tricked our "Christian nation" into following him so that he can secularize our God fearing people, impose "anti-Christian" laws, and generally drive the goodhearted, moral and Christian American people over a cliff of socialized sexual decadence.

Aside from the absurd inaccuracy of this oddly paranoid vision, stoked by the likes of talk radio's village idiots, half-truths, exaggeration and outright "he's a Muslim isn't he?" lies, there's an even more basic problem: the evangelical right wing, Roman Catholic right wing and their Orthodox, and Mormon counterparts circulating these hate emails don't seem to have noticed that--

A), We live in a pluralistic democracy that never was a Christian nation, in the sense that, say, Byzantium was when ruled by an Orthodox emperor in league with the Orthodox Church hierarchy of Constantinople, or that the papal states were in the Middle Ages, or even the way that the Massachusetts Bay State colony was under Puritan rule.

And...

B) Have any of these folks noticed that today they are in a distinct ideological numerical minority now whatever our historical American beginnings were?

America is a country with Hindus, Muslims, tens of thousands of splinter group Protestant denominations all over the map, both theologically and politically, a Roman Catholic Church split when it comes to politics, where some Catholics love Vatican II and want further liberation, and others regard the Middle Ages as a golden age. Then there are the Jews, divided into dozens of subsets, and many non-believers and on and on it goes. Whatever the argument about America's "Christian heritage" was there's no argument about the fact that today we are a polyglot, diverse society.

Let's suppose for a nutty moment that the evangelical/Mormon/conservative Roman Catholic/ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Muslim view of such issues as abortion, homosexuality, marriage (gay or otherwise) is correct. For one crazy instant let's even assume that God wants everyone in America to live as if all the injunctions of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran, when it comes to sexual moral behavior or not eating shellfish, are to be practiced literally, up and to including the stoning to death of homosexuals. How then to best get back to some sort of Promised Land of rectitude and God-pleasing ways?

Clearly the election of our new the pro-choice, tolerant, progressive President-elect, represents the sweeping aside of the Republican majority in Congress and their triumphal neoconservative American exceptionalism. It is also an utter repudiation of the evangelical right and their fellow travelers.

The Republican/evangelical right's world view has been replaced by a battered, it's-the-economy-stupid!, state of mind. Economic collapse and perhaps worse awaits us. We are losing one war, and the other war was clearly a mistake. And the fools who got us into this mess need not apply for any post higher than dog catcher for years to come. Most American know all this.

This knowledge signals not just a loss for the Religious right but a resounding and permanent defeat. It also signals (to anyone sane) that even if you except the Religious right's view that, for instance, all abortion is murder, gay marriage an affront to God's natural law and so forth, a change of tactics is in order. Obviously no one is getting convinced, but rather the culture is moving in the other direction. In fact the Religious Right has made its case so badly that with friends like them the right's causes need no enemies.

What might a change of tactics be? How to effect change at the same time as practicing love for one's neighbor without which love -- by Christ's standard anyway -- everything else becomes mere sound and fury signifying nothing?

Here's the answer. (Yes, I said the answer.) First, admit that the traditionalist view of matters sexual, reproductive and moral is now the minority view. Statistics on teenage sexuality and pregnancy, divorce, single parenthood, polls on how Americans view gays, statistics on premarital sex, multiple serial monogamy "marriages," the number of children being raised by stepparents (including in many so-called conservative evangelical homes), all point to the fact that trying to close the "barn door" on these issues through legislation is futile.

Take abortion. Polls show that most Americans feel that abortion should be legal but somewhat more restricted, in comparison to the permissive license for all abortions at any time and for any reason provided by Roe v. Wade. Therefore if Roe was ever overturned by the Supreme Court (which has been the stated aim of the 30-year futile pro-life effort), every serious student of this matter says that abortion would remain legal, if somewhat slightly more restricted in most states. That doesn't even account for the availability of abortion through the abortion pill.

Fact: abortion is going to remain available in America, with or without new appointments to the Supreme Court by President-elect Obama.

Fact: It doesn't matter one way or the other what any president says or does "about" abortion. It is here to stay, unless the population has a change of heart. So it boils down to changing hearts and minds, not laws.

The same goes for laws related to easy "no-fault" divorce.

The same goes for legal rights for gay men and women, whether those rights are called "marriage" or something else.

The horse is long fled, the barn door permanently open. There are no short cuts to change. It boils down to each heart and mind.

Religious conservatives should stop pretending that they are living in 13th century Rome, or 11th Century Byzantium, or 21st-century Saudi Arabia. Where conservatives, and especially religiously conservative people, are actually living is in the American version of Babylon, or, for that matter, on Jefferson's Monticello estate while he's busy with a pair of nail scissors cutting out the bits of the New Testament he doesn't like.

Deal with it!

That being the case what strategy can people who wish to change their culture to a more traditional one employ? Is it to, for instance, spend millions of dollars on California's Proposition 8 to outlaw gay marriage? Will this win long term when the whole of society is becoming more and more tolerant of gays? Or is that just a good way to make most Americans disdain and/or fear the Mormon Church and other conservative religious people and to make the gay community hate them and everything they stand for forever?

Note to my old friends on the American Religious Right:

Your new winning strategy begins by you acknowledging where you are living. Do you want to just talk to yourselves or change America? This is not the Bay State in the1600! Therefore writing the kind of political screeds that might have passed into law in 17th-century New England, is a dead end. All Prop 8-type overtures will eventually loose. Trying to overturn Roe, or roll back the acceptance of gay marriage by the force of law is futile. What makes sense is an entirely positive campaign of hope rather than negativity.

Rather than telling lies about your fellow believers, such as President-elect Obama - that he's a " secret Muslim," a "Manchurian candidate," a "Communist," a "child molesting, sex pervert," "that he will ban talk radio..." and so on and on, how about telling the truth? The truth is that President-elect Obama is a born-again Christian (just like you evangelicals are) but with progressive social views on certain social issues that you conservative Christians (Mormons) and other religious folks disagree with. However Obama has shown that he is sensitive to those who disagree with him, for instance on abortion, by saying that there ought to be government programs to help women and babies in a way that makes abortion far less frequent. Do you want that to happen or not? If so get on board.

Having once told the truth about those with whom you disagree you evangelical right wingers, and all your fellow travelers, should concentrate on providing both the inspiration for, and the means for, positive change of heart. You could do this in a way that would actually advertise religious faith as an attractive alternative to secularism, rather than making it seem that you are the sort of ignorant rubes who are about to pull a hood over your heads and burn a cross on somebody's lawn.

Positive action could change the dynamic of the American political debate. Instead of being labeled as professional haters you on the Religious Right would be seen as agents of compassion, consistent with what you say you believe.

What if right wing Christians, Mormons and others volunteered to work with the Obama administration in helping to set up programs to provide women with the means to have and keep their children? How about evangelicals leading the cheering section for Obama's health care reform? What if those same Christians set up programs to make sure that gay men and women in their communities are not discriminated against and protect them if they are? What if these same Christians work to welcome, care for and protect immigrants, instead as portraying them to as enemies and the "other?" What if instead of being against gay marriage you were for keeping all marriages together and worked to reduce the numbers of evangelicals getting divorced?

If the fight for the rights of the unborn became a positive effort to hold President-elect Obama to his word when it comes to health and welfare programs for mothers and babies, if the fight against gay marriage took the form of outdoing all other groups when it comes to fighting for the rights of gay men and women to be treated with dignity, and for all married people to find ways to make their relationships work, if the fight against illegal immigration took the form of reaching out to the immigrant community, both legal and illegal, with compassion care and love, educational programs and with the welcome Jesus commands us to have for the stranger in our midst... the entire enterprise of the Religious Right would turn from a bitter hate-inspiring (and now massively politically losing) effort, into what has always been the actual business of the best of Christian faith from time immemorial: missionary outreach to "the least of these" in the name of the Christ who, according to the Scriptures, "desires the salvation of all humankind."

I have a question: if your idea of fighting for moral change via political means is so great, how is it working out so far? Roe was 30 years ago. Closer to overturning it our we? Did the nation fly to Sarah Palin? How many abortions have you stopped since W. took office? How many gay men and women love Jesus more because they met your groups? And, by the way, why did you all give us 8 years of the worst presidency in our history, being that without your votes W. would be running a ball club now instead of running America into the ground.

Your born-again president has bankrupted our country, destroyed the Christian community in Iraq, and killed tens of thousands of innocent people, including over 4000 of our men and women? If you don't learn from these failures what will you learn from? Do you think America will ever trust your judgment again unless you change? And now you are putting yourselves on the wrong side of Obama, a man who is going to be one of our great presidents.

Conclusion

Members of the Religious Right wouldn't have to give up one iota of their principles, moral or otherwise if they took the advice set forth above. But rather than relying on the political and legislative process to force other people to comply with the right's American version of Sharia'h Law, their effort could be to make converts through generosity and love.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of 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. Now in paperback.


The link can be found, here.

26 comments:

Ian said...

I have found Mr Schaeffer rather polarizing in the past, and this letter seems similar; but given his views may echo my own here I can see me agreeing somewhat with him. A fascinating and detailed letter; thanks for sharing. Food for thought.

Ranger said...

Thanks for the post. I really thought that I would disagree with most of the editorial, but, ultimately I whole-heartily agree. I've never been a fan of the religious right, and Shaeffer really takes them to task, in a good way.
It's funny, because I could not even come close to voting for Obama for fear of what he "might be" But, I am very hopeful, that President-elect Obama is a thoughtful, intelligent non-idealogue (the last one is the adjective that I have not been sure of, the first two are givens).
If he can bring to the stage one thing... I am whole-heartily behind him, that is: DIALOGUE.... something we have not seen in this countr y for a very long time.

John said...

Ian and Ranger--I reacted in the same way to this article as you did. One has to be careful just parroting the Schaeffer line at times (hence my qualifier at the beginning of the post.) But upon reading, I found myself to be in almost total agreement. Ranger, I also believe Obama is not an idealogue. In fact, I do not believe this election was driven by idealogy at all--in other words, I don't believe the country has suddenly lurched leftward. Rather, I think it was about simple competance. And, as you say, dialogue will be a most welcome change if it comes; for true dialogue implies humility as opposed to arrogance.

James the Thickheaded said...

For Frank... making his case is always best done with an H-Bomb dropped from 10-feet... even when a gentle "please" or a touch as light as a feather would do. Frank admits as much in his books... and that it sells better, too.

By contrast, real salesman never leave you feeling the tire treads accross your back, but make you think you just met your life's best friend. Yeah... you still lie on your face in the mud with tire treads on your back .. but in your mind you're thinking, "Cool....the dude really rocks!"

That said, I think it's key that Frank does not say that you have to agree with the positions of these folks. He's silent on that. If he were less passionate, perhaps he would have made the point as Fr. Meletios Webber does... that we can love folks best, we can forgive them most in truth when we disagree with them most. Not later... but now. It gives us the passion and energy to be good to them when it is indeed something we don't do for ourselves, but as an offering or sacrifice.

The problem is that in some cases forgiveness and love is not enough for some... and what they may want and feel entitled to demand is our approval for all that they do... something we may rightly or wrongly with hold from ourselves.. and thus run into a wall with others demanding what we don't grant ourselves.. we don't know how to do it?

As to the Obaminator.. there are and may be many good things about the new Prez... but as for me, voting for him (twice - if you include the primary) was something of a "Network" moment: Don't underestimate the "I'm damn mad and I'm not going to take it anymore" factor. And yes he was the best in the running, too. Usually my guys fade in the stretch... or at the gate! But not this time... so I'm laying my dough on the odd chance that a new generation might be less messed up and more inclined to fix things than my own.

s-p said...

I'm generally a-political and not a Franky Schaeffer fan in general, although I often find his rantings entertaining. But like everyone else on the com-box, I can't find myself disagreeing with much of what he says here... in fact, if I were more involved in politics I'd probably write something pretty similar. Thanks for the post.

Kirk said...

I will take the lead and disagree with Schaeffer.

Schaeffer throws up several straw men in his screed, for instance:

"Let's suppose for a nutty moment that the evangelical/Mormon/conservative Roman Catholic/ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Muslim view of such issues as abortion, homosexuality, marriage (gay or otherwise) is correct. For one crazy instant let's even assume that God wants everyone in America to live as if all the injunctions of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran, when it comes to sexual moral behavior or not eating shellfish, are to be practiced literally, up and to including the stoning to death of homosexuals. How then to best get back to some sort of Promised Land of rectitude and God-pleasing ways?"

I haven't heard anyone advocate the stoning of homosexuals.

How about this quote: "...rather than making it seem that you are the sort of ignorant rubes who are about to pull a hood over your heads and burn a cross on somebody's lawn."

Can you feel the love coming from this statement? Me neither.

"And now you are putting yourselves on the wrong side of Obama, a man who is going to be one of our great presidents."

Only time will tell. Remember that just eight years ago the shoe was on the other foot, and it was those on the Right making the exact same argument in reverse.

I believe it was Chrysostom who taught that where the gospel is not preached there is no persecution. What are we to make of such words? Would Schaeffer find himself exiled by Emperor Obama? I doubt it.

Having said that I do agree with Schaeffer on one point: the treatment of aliens. Other that that issue, I do not feel the need to jump on an Obama bandwagon just so that I will be on the right side of history.

Kirk said...

I suppose that what offends me about Schaeffer's piece is this: the article was not written for the evangelical audience it purports to address. It was written to readers of The Huffington Post--social liberals all. Thus, he can get by with characterizing all of the Christian Right as people who spread lies about Obama's religion, ignorant rubes all of them! His audience will cheer the noble post-evangelical poster boy for these sage observations. Throw in a baited reference to Sarah Palin while he's at it: more red meat.

I take less issue with the individual points that Schaeffer makes than with his conclusion that the only Christ-like solution is to vote for Obama. If Christians are to consider themselves as under Babylonian captivity, does that mean that they should cast their votes for Nebuchadnezar? I think not.

John said...

James,

It was sort of a "Network" thing for me, too. That, and penance for my colaboration in the events of 2000 and 2004.


Kirk,

What? You don't follow "The Huffington Post"??? Next thing you tell me is that you don't read "The Daily Beast," or watch Keith Olbermann, either! Seriously, though, I think what everyone has been saying on this thread is that you don't go to the Well of Frankie Schaeffer expecting to drink from the cooling waters of subtlety and nuance. For better or for worse, that's not his style. Also, he is a semi-regular contributor to "The Huffington Post," so this is his forum of record.

That said, I went back through the article and sifted through some of the bombast. First, he was responding to the crush of hystrionic hate-Obama e-mails he received. This was a very real phenomenon. Goodness knows, I received enough of them. Second, he was addressing our "Christian nation" myth and American exceptionalism. Finally, he was pointing out to the Religious Right how being in the back-pocket of the GOP has failed them miserably, and has actually even pushed them further away from their stated objectives. Now, could he have done the same thing in a nice, respectful, civl tone? Certainly so, but it wouldn't have been a Frankie Schaeffer article, and it probably wouldn't have generated any blog commentary (and we all know that is the MAIN thing!)

I do take issue, ever so slightly, with 2 of your comments. First, even given all this, I don't think Schaeffer was saying that voting for Obama was the only Christ-like decision one could make. Also, I see no parallels between this election cylce and 2000. Sure, we were suffering from Clinton fatigue back then, but no one was looking to GWB in the same sense as Obama. Any real enthusiasm for him deflated following his pick of Cheney as running-mate. A substantial lead petered-out into the slimmest of wins (if you want to call it that.)

James the Thickheaded said...

John:

Ditto the penance for collaboration in 2000 which was also my penance for 1992... repented unsuccessfully in 1996 and 2004 and now hoping to not feel compelled to repent in 2012. But I have a poor track record here. So I guess if there's a saying that a fool and his vote are soon parted... then I'm that fool.

Milton Burton said...

Kirk===

As for not having heard anyone advocating the stoning of homosexuals, you have obvioulsy not read of Rousas Rushdooney and the Christian Reconstructionist movement. He is precisely for stoning gays, and he is not an uneducated man. Google him.

D. I. Dalrymple said...

Amen to (almost) all of it.

Doug (formerly of The Scrivener)

Kirk said...

I have been involved in local politics for three or four years now. The things that bothers me the most are the pandering and the rabble rousing. To use the presidential election as an example, on the right we heard that Obama was secretly a foreign-born Muslim, that he wouldn't hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem, that he wants to take away guns and increase abortions; on the left we heard that McCain was senile and was indoctrinated by the Vietcong during his POW days; that Sarah Palin's baby was actually her daughter's child, that she she wanted to ban books at the Wasilla public library (I guess whether this action would be a virtue or a vice depends on whether she wanted to ban Rush Limbaugh's book or Al Franken's), and on and on. There was so much misinformation and disinformation and gossip and lies. Both sides are guilty. Both sides justify themselves by the ends they seek to achieve.

And this is how it is in politics on both sides in every political race from dog catcher to POTUS. It really is sickening. And sinful. And I can see why the Christian course of action should be to keep our mouths shut, stay out of the process, and quietly go vote our conscience on election day.

JamesoftheNorthwest said...

Well count me as one who is less in agreement with Schaeffer's work here, though I certainly do not count myself as "the religious right." I'm actually finding myself more and more a libertarian.

For every bomb here dropped on the GOP and the religious right, one similar can be dropped on the Dems and its collection of equally less than laudable interest groups - I suppose.

I will take issue on one specific point though. GWB did not overturn RvW, but overturning RvW is not the only goal for one voting with life issues in mind. There are a multitude of life issues that surround it and Bush did a good job of taking up that mantle. Obama will reverse many of them and may even NUKE them with FOCA which he PROMISED Planned Parenthood he'd sign "first thing."

So suffice to say, I guess I'd take Schaeffer a little more serious if he'd apply his pontificating venom a little more equally to both parties. If the GOP deserves it, so do the dems.

John said...

Well, I find myself agreeing with what Schaeffer is saying (if not the tone) as well as with Kirk and James. (So I guess that means I am either broad-minded or wishy-washy, ha!) Let's agree--both institutional parties are deplorable; both have blood on their hands, though perhaps in different ways. The point that Schaeffer is making, I believe, is that the Religious Right have been played for dupes by the national GOP, and that their strategies have not been successful, and they now find themselves even farther away from their stated goals. To use one of my dad's old country expressions, they have "driven their ducks to a poor market." Indeed they have. Schaeffer is a partisan. He is not an equal-opportunity indignant. But then, he doesn't purport to be. In the past, I have posted on the Armenian Genocide and the persecution of the native Christians of the Middle East. The fact that I have said not a word about the genocide in Darfur does not invalidate the points I was making about the other atrocities. I think this may apply to Schaeffer, as we recognize he is addressing a certain situation, from a particular angle. The fact that he does not present an "on the other hand," does not, in and of itself, invalidate what he is saying. It reminds me of a great line from that old classic "The Little Foxes." Oscar Hubbard is in an intense argument with his autocratic sister, Regina (played by Bette Davis in one of her best roles.) She tries to divert the conversation in another direction, at which time, Oscar cuts her off by saying (smilingly) "but that's not the story I'm telling."

s-p said...

Yes, John and Kirk (and JoftheNW), I tend toward libertarianism, but I think when you distill FS's points down to bare bones, the Christian far right has not accomplished its goals through political activism and in fact has alienated much of the populace which is in fact more secular than religious, even if they are religious. Franky's polemics and "style" always gets in the way of his meat. Its like "Dancing Alone"...remove the hyperbole, pejorative adjectives, straw men, nonsequiturs and you have a couple of good sentences with astute points worthy of consideration.

JamesoftheNorthwest said...

Well, we could go point by point through his, but I guess my main thrust here is that just because one voted for the GOP candidate doesn't mean they are a duped religious righter...at least no more than an Obama voter is a duped religious lefter. All groups are played by these parties and I think it's a poor argument to project generalities on people thusly.

I stand by my point though that if one is a single issue voter and that issue is pro-life (or even if that one issue garners the most weight for you) then the GOP is reasonably your choice and Schaeffer's argument that Bush got them nothing for their votes is dead wrong. People who opt to vote for a pro-choice candidate must wrestle with the fact that that WILL make a difference in MANY MANY smaller policies that will take more lives. For instance: federal dollars (mine and yours) will soon be made available to create human embryos in labs for the sole purpose of destroying them and harvesting their cells.

By the same token, I am all for GOP voters being fully aware of the affects of their votes in the policies to be advanced.

One wonders how anyone can celebrate on November 5th? I generally wouldn't unless I knew policies were about to include things like MORE freedom and less government. I know...dream away, J.

As a side, let's remember that it was a democrat who bombed Serbia...so perhaps the blood on the hands of the parties isn't all that differently obtained - at least in terms of war which I think is decidedly a more debatable issue than abortion.

I know quite a few "hope n' changers" who are more and more realizing via cabinet picks that the hope and change is sadly (for them - remember I am in hyper-liberal Seattle) looking a great deal like 1991. meanwhile I know many a depressed McCain voter who is smiling more and more. What a strange world.

Schaeffer, I think, has drank Obama's Kool-Aid and has projected upon the Prez-elect the image he'd like to see - in accord with the gift Obama has and admits to several times in his book. In other words he is being as duped and used by his political party of choice as ANY evangelical is by the GOP.

I would not call any President-Elect a great "President" not only because he has not even taken office yet, but also because he IS one who has pledged to sign FOCA which has all the makings of the ugliness found in Frankie's anti-Obama spam filled email box.

JamesoftheNorthwest said...

I can't resist, however, taking on one other specific point:

What if right wing Christians, Mormons and others volunteered to work with the Obama administration in helping to set up programs to provide women with the means to have and keep their children? How about evangelicals leading the cheering section for Obama's health care reform?


The Libertarian in me just passed the HUGEST kidney stone known to man! And upon arrival it screamed: "ARE YOU INSANE!"

I mean really....all this is is the Christian Left shoving their beliefs upon people who may not wish to pay for such programs. What's the difference between this and the Religious Right wanting to ban Gay Marriage? I mean...does Frankie not stop to think that whereas Jesus may not want Gay people persecuted, that He might not also like to see rich people FORCED to give their money to the poor via big government programs?

No, if we Christians are to put our money where our mouths are with regard to crisis pregnancies (and many ARE Frankie)...let's not do it with a vote. Let's keep it in the far far far more efficient and effective private - VOLUNTARY - sector.

Okay...sorry...I'll stop.

John said...

(Just realized there are 2 different Jameses posting here. I guess I am not used to so much activity.)

s-p,
You express my sentiments, exactly. One of these days I will go back and look over "Dancing Alone" again. As you know my religious background, you know I was already accustomed to straw men-ha!

James o.t.N.,

I certainly didn't mean--and didn't say--that the individual GOP voter (a condition I have a lot of experience with) was a "duped religious righter." What I did say is basically that the GOP has promised much and has delivered little to the Religious Right. Yes, Schaeffer is dealing in broad generalities, but the argument he makes is not a poor one.

I agree that if a voter is narrowly focused on a single issue, and that issue is abortion, then they are going to be more comfortable in the GOP. I am as pro-life as anyone I know--I honestly don't know I could be more so. That said, I have never been a single-issue voter, ever.

Opposition to the Bush Administration and the continuation of its policies in no way excuses the "Butcher of Belgrade," and our bone-headed Kosovo policy. Clinton/Albright and crew are rightly to be condemned for what they did then, and the current ramifications of that policy. That said, I believe it's a stretch to compare Clinton/Serbia with Bush/Iraq. So, we disagree on that.

Re: cabinet picks
My GOP co-workers are chuckling about this, taking their cues from Fox News. But the Obama voters I talk with are not dissatisfied at all--just the opposite actually. I am convinced that this election was not about ideology at all. Rather, it was about simple competence. This is the "change" occuring--competence over incompetence--whether they had previous experience in the Clinton adminstration or not.

Yep, I agree Schaeffer gets a little carried away in his enthusiasm for Obama. But even among die-hard Republicans, I find the grudging admission that he has the potential to be a great president. But we shall see. The main thing he has going for him right now is his NGB factor (not George Bush). That will give him a good start, but sooner or later, real results will be expected. Again, we shall see.

Well, my wife and I are off to NYC for 3 or 4 days, so far better or worse, this discussion will have to continue without me until I return.

Thanks all, for contributing.

JamesoftheNorthwest said...

Well, suffice for me to say there is much more I could argue about with Frankie here....he generalizes far too much. But I think what I most disagree about is that he - because of his partisanship (keep in mind though he was all for Iraq a few years ago and I would not be surprised if "your born-again" president was "his" too) - but he seems to imply that if you were a REAL Christian you'd support liberal agendas and big government programs as long as they in some way are deemed to be of a charitable nature.

Well, what can a Christian Libertarian say about such a thing except: BUNK!

I don't disagree that he hits the target spot on in some regards to the Religious Right...but unfortunately he does so from the Religious Left side of the fence...as if they do not have a multitude of the same, but differently labeled, targets to be hit. In other words, he's simply arguing from the other side of the same dysfunctional coin, but claiming his side is superior. I guess I just have a hard time pounding on the Religious Right (I did my fair share of that as a Episcopalian...I'm relatively sure its one of the articles of faith there) unless I offer the same blows to the Religious Left.

John, the GOPer's take their cue from Fox News..okay fine...but the Dems take theirs from "Huffington Post" from whence this article originated.

Milton Burton said...

I see Schaeffer's style as what you whoud get had H.L. Mencken been a Christian. In short, I like it. The world is full or fools and faruds who do not need to be suffered gladly.

Mencken was the most honest (and probably the smartest) journalist we have ever produced, and he could think more clearly about Christianity than many Christians. As proof of that I post here his admiring obituary of J. Gresham Machen

“Dr. Fundamentalis”

The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D., who died out in North Dakota on New Year’s Day, got, on the whole, a bad press while he lived, and even his obituaries did much less than justice to him. To newspaper reporters, as to other antinomians, a combat between Christians over a matter of dogma is essentially a comic affair, and in consequence Dr. Machen’s heroic struggles to save Calvinism in the Republic were usually depicted in ribald, or, at all events, in somewhat skeptical terms. The generality of readers, I suppose, gathered thereby the notion that he was simply another Fundamentalist on the order of William Jennings Bryan and the simian faithful of Appalachia. But he was actually a man of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.

What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen’s attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.

II

My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious. I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism. But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear. Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position. On the one hand they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful, but on the other hand they presumed to repeal and reenact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested. In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there. Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. His operations, to be sure, did not prove that Holy Writ was infallible either as history or as theology, but they at least disposed of those who proposed to read it as they might read a newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what they chose.

III

In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. When the Prohibition imbecility fell upon the country, and a multitude of theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for it into the New Testament, he attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily. He not only proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly; he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused, as a convinced and honest Christian, to have anything to do with the dry jehad.

This rebellion against a craze that now seems so incredible and so far away was not the chief cause of his break with his ecclesiastical superiors, but it was probably responsible for a large part of their extraordinary dudgeon against him. The Presbyterian Church, like the other evangelical churches, was taken for a dizzy ride by Prohibition. Led into the heresy by fanatics of low mental visibility, it presently found itself cheek by jowl with all sorts of criminals, and fast losing the respect of sensible people. Its bigwigs thus became extremely jumpy on the subject, and resented bitterly every exposure of their lamentable folly.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country’s most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan’s support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

IV

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been challenged in recent years on many grounds, and in consequence there has been a considerable decline in religious belief. There was a time, two or three centuries ago, when the overwhelming majority of educated men were believers, but that is apparently true no longer. Indeed, it is my impression that at least two-thirds of them are now frank skeptics. But it is one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its essential substance, leaving it in the equivocal position of a sort of pseudo-science, comparable to graphology, “education,” or osteopathy.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again–in Henrik Ibsen’s phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed–but he was undoubtedly right.

Milton Burton said...

Note to Jamesofthenorthwest. "Whence" is an old contraction, sans apostrophe, that means "from which" or "from where." Condequently, one should not say "From whence." One merely says "whence." And yes, I know that it says "from whence" in the Aplstles' Creed, but it too is incorrect. I think its modern form was written by Mothodists, so...

Kirk said...

Frankie was on NPR's Fresh Air today. Check the NPR website for the podcast.

John said...

Kirk--you were listening to Fresh Air? Now that's a slippery slope, if there ever was one-ha! Seriously, though, thanks for the tip. I will certainly check it out.

Kirk said...

John, I learned to love NPR back in Abilene, listening to KACU. (Why the ultra-conservatives don't latch onto that little morsel, I'll never know. You'd think they'd want the campus to listen to all Limbaugh, all the time! (or at least James Dobson and Paul Harvey))

My computer's internet radio has five stations in the pre-set: Ancient Faith Radio, Ancient Faith Talk, KERA, WRR, and KMOO. I would really recommend that all of your international readers listen to KMOO to experience the flavor of our deep East Texas culture. Just go to www.kmoo.com and click on the 'listen' link. :P

John said...

Kirk, I haven't thought of KMOO in ages. Thanks for the link (I think.)

I used to listen to NPR all the time. My wife and son like to tell exaggerated accounts of traveling in the car with me in years past, and how all they ever got to listen to on the radio was static--as I was always fiddling with the dial, trying to bring in some faint NPR signal. They embellish a bit, IMO, but they enjoy telling it, so I don't protest too much.

Theron said...

Wow, I just listened to the interview and was touched and disturbed at times.

i come from a similar background. I am a graduate of Liberty, so I truly understand all the disillusionment that comes when you get to see behind the curtain.

I was worried that the interview was going to come off as a rejection of Christianity, but it seemed to turn near the end.

Very touching and very human. I do not envy the life the Schaeffer lived, and yet like all of us we can similarly look at ourselves and cry out Lord Have Mercy.