One of my favorite polemics of all time is a piece by Dr. Gary North, Franky Schaeffer, Please Shut Up! (no copyright; reprint anywhere), a March 1992 postion paper on blasphemy published by the Institute for Christian Economics (ICE). You won’t find the PDF file easily on a Google search, so I’ve posted the correct link above.
In the paper, Gary takes issue with Franky Schaeffer’s bad theology. Schaeffer apparently was appalled at the wares being hawked by Christian t-shirt companies at a book-sellers conference he attended. According to Franky (who now goes by just “Frank”) those who produce these schlocky evangelical icons are somehow guilty of “blasphemy.” Gary North, in his inimitable style, takes Frank to the woodshed. The writings of his father, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, were that of a momumental genius who made an important early contribution to both the burgeoning Christian Reconstructionist movement and the so-called “Religious Right.” Gary rightly points out though that Schaeffer Sr. stopped short of being postmillennial and theonomic. Further, the publishers of Schaeffer’s complete theological works edited out some of his Calvinistic doctrines that they thought would be distasteful to their readers. (But this is just a rough and dirty synopsis of the paper. To read it all, follow the above link.)
Frank Schaeffer is a product of this inconsistent theology. Afraid to go “too far” into the austerity of Puritanism, he swung toward Eastern Orthodoxy around 1990. Now 20 years later, he’s done another about face and has even renounced his father’s pro-life views. He states that he’s personally against abortion, but it should be legal. We recently saw him on the Rachel Maddow show claiming, “And when you look at what happened to Dr. Tiller, there is a direct line connecting the rhetoric that I was part of as a young man, and this murder.”
On his website, he substitutes personal attacks for reasoned argument. Those who oppose government imposed health care are “the gun-toting fringe.” He speaks with mock authority on the motivation of pro-life movement as a “psychological sickness that is the basis of the Religious right’s power to delude other people who are also needy and unstable.”
He’s now making the news talk show rounds in an attempt to promote his new book claiming that we who work to repeal Roe v. Wade are evil Pharisees – even while he pontificates on why Roe was a bad decision. To those who admire his father’s legacy, seeing Frank the younger go through such convolutions is not only infuriating, but also dizzying.
I’ll comment more on this in part 2, but here is a snippet from Gary North. Reading this, keep in mind that it was written prior to Frank Schaeffer’s slide into complete apostasy. It turns out that Gary North is a prophet.
In the fall of 1984, Franky cancelled all his future Christian audience speaking engagements, and he disbanded his own Christian Activist tabloid newspaper a few months later. He sold the tabloid’s mailing list and then disappeared from the evangelical scene. For a while, anyway. Franky simply could not sustain the theological battle without the inspiring presence of his father and without biblical law.
He goes away periodically, but he refuses to stay away. This is our problem. He has nothing positive to show for the last fifteen years of his on-again, off-again tantrums, nothing of quality to bring to the table, no published theory of Christian aesthetics, no plan of action, and no money. But he reappears periodically to perform his routine, which can be best described as whining for artistic relevance. Each performance gets more frivolous, and each one is directed not at the increasingly decadent humanist culture of our day, but at the tentative steps of evangelicals to respond, a century late, to the enormous threat of a now visibly debauched humanism.
Ironically, Franky’s father was the primary public literary figure in the appearance of the Christian cultural resistance movement. But Franky spends his time these days battling what he regards as the Philistines of fundamentalism rather than the Assyrians of humanism. Fundamentalists do not meet his standards, he tells us. Not his theological standards – he has none to speak of – but his artistic standards.
This, from a washed-up producer-director of an R-rated teenage violence film. “Physician, heal thyself!”
Freddy and Franky
There is a stupid horror movie series, enormously profitable, called Nightmare on Elm Street. The character of the series, Freddy Krueger, is like Dracula: he keeps rising from the dead. He has a shriveled up face and wears gloves with long metal blades. The advertising for each sequel announces, “He’s back!” Freddy Kruezer reminds me of Franky Schaeffer. We think he has gone, but he keeps coming back.
I think of Freddy’s long, blade-like fingers. I think of Franky, always ready to point the finger. Yet when I visualize Franky as Freddy, it is always with his “pointing finger” firmly implanted in his right nostril. “Look at me, look at me, everyone; see how outrageous I can be this week!” No matter whose reputation suffers.
There comes a time for Christian social commentators to discuss theology. Franky refuses. There also comes a time for Christians to grow up. Franky refuses. For years, Franky Schaeffer has been playing the role of Young Turk. He is not aging gracefully.
Francis Schaeffer was a serious man who devoted his life to evangelism. His son has devoted his life to whining. Even when he is on the right side of an issue, he whines. Francis Schaeffer was a self-taught, self-disciplined scholar, not a Young Turk with bad manners. I do not recall that he ever called a fellow Christian a blasphemer.
Franky Schaeffer has capitalized on his father’s name and reputation for over fifteen years, squandering a valuable legacy. He has little spiritual or intellectual capital remaining. It is time for him to go out and look for a job.
In the 1960’s, liberal talk show host David Suskind bored America weekly with his five-hour interview shows on late night television. A humorist wrote a song about him: “David Suskind, Please Shut Up.” Someone needs to write one for Franky Schaeffer. It needn’t be funny.
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