Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Crazy For God"

I usually don’t write book reviews, but I think I want to start. I hesitate in doing so because I think I am horrible at it, but I started thinking that using my blog would be a great way to practice. I’m excited because this book that I have just finished will make for a great first try, so please, be gracious.

A friend told me about “Crazy for God”, and the description of the book definitely caught my interest. A few days later I went on Amazon.com and looked at some of the reviews from readers. There was one review from a man who claimed to “love” the book. Apparently, he was so caught up into the way Frank Schaeffer “left” the Evangelical “church”. The more I read this man’s review, the more I began to get really frustrated. I had to read this book. So I picked it up on Thursday night and could not put it down. I ended up finishing it in three sittings – super easy read.

If you don’t know, Frank Schaeffer is the son of the famous Francis and Edith Schaeffer, of L’Abri, in Switzerland. Francis and Edith are two of the most famous evangelical speakers and authors of the 20th century. After going off the deep end for a bit, Frank came back to his “roots” and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a huge name in Christian homes around the world. This autobiographical journey is broken up into four parts – “Childhood”, “Education”, “Turmoil”, and “Peace”. I rushed to get to the “Turmoil” section (of course), but eventually when I made it through to the end of “Peace”, I realized that “Childhood” was the most intriguing.

In the beginning, the prologue was filled with really awkward cuss words, and it seemed as if it was written by an angry teenager who was mad at his parents for “brainwashing” him with “religion”. I was almost turned off by this part, and was ready to return the book, but decided to keep reading. One thing is for sure, Schaeffer is a great writer, and I loved the short chapters. There is just something about short chapters that makes you feel like you have accomplished so much. As I read, I was happy to discover that Schaeffer didn’t completely bash his parents, but just seemed to tell the truth. I began to fall in love with each family member, from his parents and three sisters, to his three brothers-in-law. Schaeffer had a significant age difference between himself and his sisters (whom were all married during his childhood years). Schaeffer tells stories of his parent’s fame, and how people just “worshipped” them. He seems to express anger and resentment towards this as he is pushed to the side, and not even educated by anyone until he goes off to boarding school. At one point, during his stay at his second boarding school, Schaeffer writes about how his parent’s “never visited him once”. He ran away from that abusive boarding school, just to come home to L’Abri to find himself in a lot of trouble.

He screamed for attention anyway that he could; finding companionships in older women and sexuality (I would definitely rate this book at an “R” in my Christian mind, and at PG-13 in a worldly mind…because PG-13 movies can be really explicit sometimes…). Finally, he fell in love, got the girl pregnant, and was married. Genie is his wife’s name, and they are still together today (which is awesome). I fell in love with Genie right away. Genie seems kind and so patient. She is exactly the woman that Schaeffer needed, and she really loves him. I walked away with two things from reading the first two parts of this book, from the two most important women in Schaeffer’s life. First, as a mother, I never want to put the “ministry” or whatever is going on in my life, above my children’s needs. Between this book, a lot of episodes of “Super Nanny”, and life lessons, I have realized that what children need most is nurture. They need to be nurtured in every sense of the word…but that’s another blog post. And secondly I learned from Genie that a wife needs to fully understand what grace is, and must give that grace to her husband on a daily basis. A wife needs to be there to pick up the broken pieces, and be dependable to her husband. I have no doubt in my mind that Genie has made Schaeffer a better man… now if Schaeffer could only learn how to present his wife as holy and pleasing to the Lord.

I kept praying all throughout the book, “Please let Schaeffer mention Jesus Christ”. Anything about Jesus’ love would have done. But there was nothing about Jesus. Schaeffer was so wrapped up into “religion” and “evangelical Christianity”, that (I believe) this is the reason he has completely lost sight of everything. Some key things that Schaeffer wrote which just broke my heart were the following:

“Perhaps I converted to the Greek Orthodox Church (rather than simply abandoning religious faith) because spirituality is a way to connect with people and might even be part of a journey toward God. (If there is a God.) According to Jesus, community is spirituality: ‘Love one another.’ To me, the Greek Orthodox Church is not the community but a community. Community is an antidote to the poisonous American consumerist ‘me’ and ‘I want’ life that leads to isolation and unhappiness.”


“ …Perhaps mom and dad were right. In an infinite universe, everything must have happened at least one, someplace, sometime. So maybe there is a God who forgives, who loves, who knows. I hope so. Anything is possible in a world where a daughter forgives her father for ignorance, for anger, for failure, and places her daughter in his arms.”

Schaeffer also said some interesting (and good!) things about the “church” and our culture today:

“It seems to me that there will always be a need for some abortions to terminate some troubled early pregnancies. But this is no small thing. It is a sad reality. But compassion for women facing a tough pregnancy has to be balanced by the greater good. Sometimes compassion for the innocent means saying no to a couple that wants to abort their child because their daughter is going to need surgery to correct a harelip and they want the perfect designer baby. Sometimes it means saying yes to a thirteen-year-old who has been molested or raped.

I think there is a difference between killing in cold blood, when there are other alternatives, and killing out of necessity. And I don’t think this difference is always clear. But executing a criminal who is no longer a threat to anyone is different (practically and symbolically) from shooting a hostage-taker who is about to kill innocent people. Fighting Japan after it attacked us was different from attacking an Iraq that was no threat to us.

I want to live in a society that is willing to struggle with these balancing acts. I want to be in a society that values human life, because I am a human, and far from perfect, and I want to be valued.

What I don’t want to live in is a culture that makes sweeping and dismissive secular or religious ‘theological’ one-size-fits-all decisions that oversimplify complex issues. And ideas of the good life based on perfection are a trap, a trap that prophetic books like Brave New World gave us fair warning about…we have been warned.”

And finally…

“I think my problem with remaining an evangelical centered on what the evangelical community became. It was the merging of the entertainment business with faith, the flippant lightweight kitsch ugliness of American Christianity, the sheer stupidity, the paranoia of the American right-wing enterprise, the platitudes married to pop culture, all of it…that made me crazy. It was just too stupid for words.”

I think that this is so unfortunate. It is unfortunate that Schaeffer would have to completely “miss” Jesus because he is so caught up in the politics of church. Schaeffer says that he won’t leave the “church” all together because he doesn’t want to miss out on community and relationships, but in actuality, he IS missing out on the most important relationship he could have – the one with his Creator.

I still think it’s funny that I was so incredibly “right-winged” and super conservative before I became a Christian, and then as soon as I discovered the truth, I discovered the “left”. I say this only because I want to admit to you readers (and to you Mr. Schaeffer if you ever come upon my blog) that I cannot relate to you. I cannot relate to being raised in a strict evangelical (fundamentalist) Christian home. I didn’t have parent’s that paid no attention to me, because I was my parent’s whole focus. When I became a Christ follower, I never really jumped from church to church because I found my satisfaction in Christ. In my humble opinion Mr. Schaeffer – I don’t think you really know who God is. And I think that I am able to make that statement, because you cant even publish your own book without making a note in parenthesis which questions if God really exists or not.

But I have hope for you Mr. Schaeffer. Because as I followed your journey, I recognized that you had no concept of true grace. You hit your firstborn child, and abused your wife over and over because you don’t understand grace. But I have hope because in the last paragraph of your book where you wrote about your daughter’s forgiveness (and grace) shown through the handing over of a grandchild...  you assumed there could be a God because of that gracious act. 

It is no coincidence to me that you would stop dead in your tracks to ponder the existence of God due to an act of grace Mr. Schaeffer. Your picture reminds me of one we both know – one where God the Father hands over His only Son to the entire world.


In the end, this book challenged me to show grace, all the time, because of the grace I have been shown. I hope that through my actions, more people will come to understand God, and not just a religion. And my prayer is that Frank Schaeffer will understand this as well.


Grant said...

Your blog needs more drug abuse and sadness.

Carrie said...

Well, I am not abusing drugs, but I am definitely really really sad. Maybe I should be more open to my readers about my sadness. I'll think about it ;)

Thanks for stopping by Grant. I miss you.

Alicia Miller said...

Great post, Carrie. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on nurturing.

Carrie said...

Alicia, thanks! I am so happy you read this post because most people say my posts are "too long". I remind them that I write mostly for me, but I really liked my first book review and I am happy someone read it! And thanks for your encouragement on writing something about nurturing... now I am excited about that....