Frank Schaeffer is back in the news with the recent release of _Sex, Mom, and God_. After spending much of his young adult life behind the propaganda of the Religious Right, he has spent the last twenty or so years "doing penance for his sins". He helped to work up a whole generation of Christian conservatives to embrace the political right, and now he has been trying to purge himself of the guilt of having been complicit in this movement. _Bad News for Modern Man_ is the perfect example of how fanatical he once was in favor of the Right.
Schaeffer is in many ways a frustrating character. He is indeed a very talented writer and communicator. He can be wonderfully self-introspective and self-critical at times in a very constructive, honest, and refreshing way, a characteristic that I believe he inherited from his Calvinistic parents, though he might be chagrined about the "Calvinistic" part of that statement. He even has a lot of challenging things to say. For example, in _Bad News_, he describes this idiocy: it is possible to be praised in our culture for terminating the life of a fetus just prior to birth while being condemned as a murderer for terminating the life of a child only a few minutes later after birth. Schaeffer does make an excellent point.
But the problem with Schaeffer is all of the other insane baggage he carries along. He rails against more level-headed evangelicals who lack the backbone to take a stronger, more assertive stand against the abortion industry. It is as though if you don't agree with him in every radical detail, your devotion to God is held suspect. Nevermind the fact the many Christians have been working to promote adoption and other quiet, pro-life actions that do not get sidetracked by major political battles -- or even derailed -- by abortion doctor assassinations. Ignore the fact that there are bible-believing Christians who have positive views of women and see it actually taught in Scripture (not some oversimplified Bronze Age misogyny), who find no conflict between creation and evolution, and who look at issues of sexual identity in a more nuanced way -- reluctant to follow the cultural trend to trivialize marriage but sensitive enough to know that sexual orientation is not easily changed and wrestle with the tough choices and challenges that gay and lesbian folks face. No, for the early Frank Schaeffer, such Christians are too wishy-washy.
Now look at Frank Schaeffer today. In _Sex, Mom, and God_ he chides most evangelical believers for being crazy and just plain stupid. His logic is filled with non sequitur statements and broadly oversimplified generalizations. It is as though Frank has exchanged one form of ranting and raving with its opposite. Frankly -- pardon the pun -- I did not trust him when he wrote _Bad News_, and I can not trust him now with _Sex, Mom, and God_. It is just too bad that Frank comes off as so extreme and confusing: at one moment he sounds like a reactionary religious liberal angry at fundamentalism and the next moment he is a genuine Eastern Orthodox believer. The "new" Frank Schaeffer is more enlightened and mature than the younger Schaeffer. But this new "penitent" life has come with a price. Moderation does not appear to be a virtue that this author embraces. If you want sound and sober thinking, you have to apply a pretty big filter to Schaeffer. However, if you want to see the extreme fluctuations of a crazy conservative gone crazy liberal to who knows what next, then read Frank Schaeffer.