Friday, December 14, 2007

Currently Reading: Crazy For God by Francis Schaeffer

About two weeks ago Francis Schaeffer appeared on CSPANs BookTV promoting his latest book, a memoir: Crazy For God. When listening to the introduction it clicked who he was and I was instantly interested. Actually what hit me first was in the introduction he was said to have been homeschooled. By the time the introduction was done I realized that he was part of THAT Schaeffer family.

(I have BookTV rated as three thumbs-up on my TiVo DVR so it sometimes will automatically record new shows for me to watch. That is how this show came to be recorded and later watched by me.)

About six years ago, while reading about homeschooling methods I was referred to read a book on the Charlotte Mason method written by a woman named Susan Schaeffer MaCaulay titled “For The Children’s Sake”. (It was recommended to me by four different people from all walks of life before I ended up buying it and finally reading it.) I found the book inspiring as MaCauley attempted to define what it means to be ‘educated’, although it was a bit dry in some parts. Also when I finished the book I was more curious than ever about the Charlotte Mason method but still didn’t “get” how to actually “do” the Charlotte Mason method of home education. (Susan is the sister of Francis, I now know.)

The Schaeffer family is American; they were Christian, Calvinist, missionaries living in the Alps, in Switzerland, in a place they called L’Abri, which is where their children were raised. The children were homeschooled and their education consisted of plenty of time playing outdoors and listening to books read aloud to them by their mother, many classics and books suited for people older than their age.

In the BookTV show, Schaeffer said that he was dyslexic and could not read until he was eleven years old. I’m not done with the book yet but did read that he was a bit ‘rebellious’ and already have read that he was using pot and hallucinogenic mushrooms at age 15. He got his girlfriend pregnant and married her (and is still happily married to her). He now lives in Massachusetts and is a member of a Greek Orthodox church.

This memoir seemed so interesting to me that I placed a hold on this brand new book at a nearby library. I am on chapter three right now. It is interesting so far.

So far I know very little about the now-deceased father, Francis Schaeffer. I do know he wrote a book for Christians telling them how they should ideally live, a book which is highly regarded by some even today. Right now their mother is 92 and has Alzheimer’s Disease.

I don’t know a lot of history of the Christian movement in America and the ties with the Republican Party. I know people say that all the time but I don’t really know or understand the exact relationship. I don’t know much about the big names in the Christian movement either (Pat Robertson and others). In the show he said that near the end of his father’s life his father was not so happy with his own role in the Christian movement and with the Republican Party and I want to know more about that. I am also curious mostly to hear how Schaeffer grew up, what it was like at L’Abri, what his home education was like and how he arrived to change from being a Fundamentalist Christian to become Greek Orthodox. I am always interested in hearing people’s stories of their spiritual journeys. I’m not reading this to find ‘dirt’ on anything related to Christianity or Evangelical Christians or Fundamentalist Christians.

I was interested also in ‘splintering’ which Schaeffer mentioned. He said that from its very inception America has always been a splintering group of people. Splintering is when a group of people seeks to only be around others of very like minds. They splinter off into a small group and they put down the others that believe the opposing view. Then when the small splinter group disagrees with each other, they further splinter down to smaller and smaller groups. Splintering groups usually don’t exhibit what I would call tolerance. They can’t ‘agree to disagree’. They feel they must ‘take sides’.

On the show he said that one issue with splintering in America is that it usually is not enough to go into a small splintered group but they often must show hatred for the other group. He used as an illustrating example that it is not enough that they support their viewpoints and opinions but he said they take it to a hatred of others who don’t agree with them. I have seen this over and over in different situations. I have seen it with some people I know personally doing this to others in their family. I have seen it within the American homeschooling community. I see it in a more distant and less personal way with political organizations and with environmental groups. Schaeffer joked that he should write a book about that next and I frankly wish he would. I can’t wait to read what he says about splintering in Crazy For God.

On the BookTV show someone asked how he thought that Christians would take the book. He said they would be in two camps, probably. Some would never read the book saying that anything that is negative about Christians or his family is something they want to avoid. The others would read it and be relieved to hear that the Schaeffer family is not as perfect as his parents tried to make out that they were (and therefore expected all other Christians to be as perfect), and it would make them feel better about their own selves.

The reason I don’t know much about the Christian movement in America is I was raised in a Godless home. I don’t have a lot of years of knowing or understanding what it even means to live the life of a Christian let alone a Fundamentalist Christian life or an Evangelical Christian life. It will be interesting to learn more about this, I think.

So far the book is very easy to read and interesting. So far the book is not negative in tone or filled with hate (which I bet some people will assume it is).

I also learned that Schaeffer has written a trilogy of fiction which he says some characters and events are largely based on his family and some of their real life experiences. I wonder what those books are like?

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Terri said...

The pastor at our church loves Francis Schaeffer. I haven't read any of his books, but I found your discovery of his son's book so interesting! I was raised in a Godless home as well for the most part. But in my adult life, I'm striving to learn more about being a Christian and what that means. I'm kind of interested in learning about their family, and I'll be checking that book out. Thanks for sharing your insights!

Sherry said...

I did get the impressionfrom reading some things that Mr. Schaeffer (younger) himself has written that the book would be hateful and disrespectful to his parents, but I'm anxious to read it myself to see firsthand what he has to say. I know that no families are perfect, but I get rather defensive on the behalf of those who are unable (Edith Schaeffer) or not around (Francis) to defend themselves.

Libby said...

Hi. I also homeschool using CM and classical. I am a believer in Christ. I hope that you will follow the Schaeffer family's story from many sides. I have mostly read books by Edith. She is very encouraging in the area of family life. She writes beautifully! I really don't pay attention to the added titles to "christian". My relationship with Christ is a personal daily reality. I pray and read my Bible,not as often as I should but I try. Also, I have found it very helpful to listen to online sermons while I clean my kitchen. Check out audio sermons by Carl Robbins at They are excellent! Also, Jerram Barrs has a class on Francis Schaeffer offered free online from Covenant Seminary. It is very informative about their lives.
Loving our children, washing dirty faces and hands, cooking, exploring God's creation, these are the ways I live my life in faith. Homeschooling mothers often feel so burdened. Jesus said "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28,29 I try to do this, sometimes I fail but... God really is there.

David Muir said...

Hi sherry,Just to correctr some small points,Frank Schaeffer is the son of Francis.Francis A Schaeffer who sadly died in 1984 was the author of such books as escape from reason, the god who is there he is there and he is not silentFrank his son was known previously as Franky,now known as Frank.Susan Schaeffer Macaulay is Frank's christ David