Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Crazy for God

I've never been political interested in American politics. In fact, I usually detest anything that even hints of politics popular political propoganda. I can't stand all the labels that are used to define the undefinable - the human person. "Conservative, liberal, pro-lifer, pro-choice, moderate, free market capitalist, socialist, etc." But that's just me.

If you come from a Protestant Christian background, then you owe a lot of your involvement in the political arena to the late Francis Schaeffer. He, more than just about anyone, paved the way for the Moral Majority, the Religious Right, and Conservative Evangelicalism as we now know it. Read up on him; it's a fascinating subject, even if you don't care about politics.

I have a history in evangelicalism that I won't expand on here. As with any cultural heritage, we all have some baggage that weighs us down. When I was in college and learned that some of the things I always took for granted may or may not reflect reality best, I started looking for some mentors, writers who could help me come to grips with some of my spiritual struggles.

That's when I discovered the work of Francis Schaeffer's son, Frank. I found his book Addicted to Mediocrity, a short book that gave me some new categories to think in:
(It) shows how Christians today have sacrificed the artistic prominence they enjoyed for centuries and settled instead for mediocrity. The evidence for this sad state of affairs abounds. We are flooded with "Christian" doodads, trinkets, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc., that use God's name as an advertising slogan--"Things Go Better with Jesus"--putting the Creator of the universe on the same level as soda pop! Moreover, Schaeffer writes, "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."
Frank Schaeffer is an angry man. But the ideas in his books have helped me come to terms with some of my own "anger" with my cultural background. I laughed (and cringed) all the way through his novels Portofino and Saving Grandma, although they more than hint at his continued anger toward the faith of his father. His latest autobiographical book, Crazy for God, (reviewed here and here) due to be released in a few weeks, is sure to stir the waters. His father is an icon in certain circles, a secular saint.

I'll be the first in line to buy his new book. If you look past all that anger, he does have something important to say. And I think, if we let him, he can help us learn to laugh at ourselves.


bella said...

Reading this post and being reminded of this side of you, made me miss you guys.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book.

aunt bonnie said...

Waste of time and good money, Tommy, to fill your mind with all the bad things written about Christians and Christianity, truth or lies. "Think on these things...."

Your 62-year-old
Aunt Bonnie

Tom said...

Isabel: I'll let you know what I think.

Aunt Bonnie: Thanks for caring about me. I'm still going to buy the book though. :)

I'll be perfectly honest. Part of the reason I'll buy the book is a bit voyeuristic. Maybe even gossipy. But there is something deeper, I think.

Frank Schaeffer understands the culture that framed much of the way I see the world. He copes with it by getting angry and being condescending toward evangelicals (he's converted to Greek Orthodoxy).

But a lot of what he says is true. His novel Portofino is jaded and skeptical, but it's stayed with me for years. It's subversive in the good sense of the word. Makes you take a look at yourself and re-examine your beliefs and practices. That's what good stories are supposed to do.

I don't agree with Frank, but think he should be read. I'll let you know what I think of the book. :)

Thanks for the input. I really do appreciate it.

Carole said...

Good Post. I think we Christians are so afraid of saying 'something is very wrong with this picture', because we think we are saying 'something is very wrong with God'. Not true...but nevertheless.

Of course I think this is true for all intense beliefs. Environmentalists will not denounce tree spikers, and pro-lifers will not denounce murderers of abortion doctors, and animal rights activists will not denounce break-ins at medical labs. Each fear that by denouncing the outrageous they are admitting that they aren't right. Nothing could be further from the truth, but so it goes.

I wrote a murder mystery with a pastor's wife protagonist and so far have had no luck in getting it published. And every reply I get back from Christian publishers and agents is the same..."You make Christians out to be the bad guys, You are too hard on the Christian community...You sound too angry." Maybe those things are all true, yet it seems to me, I was as gentle as a lamb towards the Christian community.

Tom said...

Carole: If your book is a entertaining as your blog, I really hope that you find a publisher. There seems to be a fine line between commentary and anger. All too many "Christian" publishers are afraid of rocking the boat, it seems to me. I met with a publisher of Bethany House here in Minneapolis many years ago and he told me up front that they just want safe, exciting stories.

Who published Buechner or Grahame Greene or John Irving? Not sure if it's the same market, but.... Best of luck.

Elbog said...

To put in into a nutshell(mine), it began for me in the 70's with Larry Norman's "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?", and ended in the 80's with the Call's "I Still Believe." There's more, of course, and the journey continues, but there's so much more to being a follower of Christ than 'mere Christianity', to borrow another author's phrase. . .

Tom said...

Larry Norman... there's a blast from the past. Would welcome a chance to hear more about your journey...