Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review: Crazy for God

image Author: Frank Schaeffer
Philadelphia, De Capo Press, 2007
Number of pages: 406

It's hard to know exactly why Frank Schaffer wrote this book. I'll tell you right off the bat that it's a good read. No, a great read. But as to Schaffer's purpose for writing this book, it's anybody's guess. It's my opinion that he felt he had an important story to tell and no matter how you dress it up, celebrity life, no matter how pristine in appearance, can have a dirty, gritty, even disgusting side to it.

Frank Schaffer grew up the youngest child and only son of Francis and Edith Schaffer. The Schaffers were unbelievably influential in Christian Evangelicalism in the 60's, 70's and on into the 80's. Francis Schaffer was a profound thinker and apologist for the Christian faith. Edith was a fantastic and influential writer.

Franky was hell on wheels as a kid. We in the church world refer to him as a PK; a pastor's kid. I'm painting with a broad brush (you be the judge), but most of us that have volunteered in children's ministry have watched the pastor's kid control, manipulate, and use their daddy's position as pastor to conquer and divide. Franky Schaffer describes himself as this kind of kid that grew into that kind of young man.

His honesty about his family's flaws is brutal. His honesty about his own flaws is self-effacing and seriously entertaining. But I was saddened about what he had to say about his parents. He exposed all the flaws they worked so hard to keep private. But like a rubber-necker driving by a car accident, I drove by slow so I could take in all of the gore Schaffer dished out.

Let me pause here to say I am amazed at how and who God chooses to use and work through. Francis and Edith Schaffer touched and were used to heal and turn around the lives of thousands of people that came through their L'Abri ministry is Switzerland. Their books and audio tapes influenced an entire generation of Christian thinkers. They opened up eyes of the Christian community to the beauty of God's creation in art as well as the depths of horror humans are capable of as they permit abortion on demand. For all their family weaknesses, God still chose to use them mightily. And that gives me hope.

Schaffer's book gives us a peek behind the curtain. The Great Oz is just a guy pulling levers, pushing buttons, amplifying sound and projecting a giant image of himself. But the Great Wizard of Oz is not God, he's not a wizard, and he's not even that great. That's what we find when we go behind the scenes in Christian ministry. Their is family politics and nepotism run rampant in many of the biggest and most "successful" of ministries. Money and power are definitely the levers being pulled. Sometimes God is further from the "action" than the ministry leaders say he is. If that's what your brain tells you about some of our most high profile ministries, you might want to listen to your brain.

At least that's the take-away I get from Crazy for God.

I really liked this book and want to recommend it to you with a few cautions: First, I don't think Schaffer wrote this book for a Christian audience. He's busted out of the "Christian Publishing Ghetto" (his words), and he doesn't seem to be looking back. Second, there's cussing, adolescent humor (genuinely funny and a little too close to home) about masturbation; definitely locker-room humor. Thirdly, if you love Francis Schaffer's work, you'll be upset about the things his son has written. At least you should be. But don't let that stop you from getting this book because it's well written and will make you feel like you're less evil than your conscience (or your mother-in-law) is leading you to believe you are.

Os Guinness has an interesting take on Schaffer's book. Check it out here.


Vicki Small said...

Just typed and previewed a comment, then closed the window without publishing. I hate when I do that!

Anyway--never got into the Schaeffers' stuff, tho' I certainly remember the name and their influence. But I am not surprised to learn that, behind the scenes, they had some ugly stuff going on. Sadly, it happens too often, among evangelicals. I'm not sure why, except that we're all broken people who need to be careful where we stand, and we need to practice transparency more than image-management.

Anonymous said...

Bryon: Frank Schaeffer here, saying thank you for the review. As to "Why" I write, I'm a writer, this is what I do, and since my writing has been a mix of novels and memoir before Crazy For God is just my next book. Thank you for taking the time to read and review the book. Very Best, Frank

Anonymous said...

I REALLY wanna read this book. I'm a little scared to have my Francis Schaeffer bubble bursted though. Nonetheless, inadequate parents sometimes still do great things to advance the gospel. Francis Schaeffer's influence outstretches his life-span, and his character flaws.

Bryonm said...

Thanks for leaving the comments. It's good of you to stop by.

April: next time I have breakfast with Mike I'll brig it.

Marv Borst said...

There's no doubt Francis Schaeffer was human, and we recognize that. God uses flawed people because we are all flawed. That said, the way you blindly accept what Frank says is disturbing. There is an agenda to everything Frank does, and to throw his parents under the bus is an indication of who he is. There is much to question based on what others from Francis' life have said.

Bryonm said...


Thanks for the comments.