Crazy for God

I remember how enthralled I was with Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the excitement of hearing Francis Schaeffer (in person! I couldn’t believe it!) speak to a large crowd in a Denver, Colorado auditorium. Feeling the fervor of encountering God (all over again) was exhilarating.

Reading everything I could get my hands on that he and his wife Edith wrote – I felt ‘full.’

Since the 1960s and 1970s, I’ve not kept that same fervor but have rather ‘quietly’ come closer to what I term – Encountering and Seeking and Dwelling in God. Thus, reading Frank Schaeffer’s book about how he now doesn’t espouse the same fundamentalism as the Schaeffers preached and lived, was most interesting to me.

Recently, I re-read portions of How Should We Then Live and it was a different Read to me in 2012 than it was in the 1970s.

Excerpt from Schaeffer’s Crazy for God:

Whatever I believe, or say I believe now, the shape of my life is defined by my mother’s prayers–whether these have actually been answered or whether the force of her personality was enough to make it so. In that quietest inner place, my mother is still young, beautiful, and present, leaning forward listening with rapt attention at a concert, or with a book on her lap, eyes sparkling and opening up the universe of Treasure Island, or as poor Oliver picks his way through the harsh Victorian urban underworld.

. . . It was Dad who depended on Mom, though, not the other way around. After he died, Mom often said “I’m glad he went first. He never could have managed without me.” She was right. Dad could hardly boil water for tea, and he never booked a boat or plane ticket or planned a vacation. Mom was in charge of our finances. Dad got in Moods, became discouraged, suffered bouts of depression. Mom never showed any weakness.  She could do everything, and she let us know it, including mentioning the fact, again and again, that although it might say “From Mom and Dad with Love” on a birthday or Christmas present, she had bought the present, wrapped it “at two AM,” and decorated the tree it was under and/or baked the cake, because “you know poor Fran can’t do anything.”

. . . When we were children and someone “came to the Lord,” Mom always made a big point of telling us when that person had said something about this or that Schaeffer child having played a part in their journey to salvation, through us children having been kind and understanding or through the answers we offered to that “seeking person’s” spiritual questions. “You played a real part!” Mom would exclaim, and, at other times, “The Lord has called us all into this work, and Dad and I couldn’t do it without you!”

. . . Mom’s spiritual pride, mixed with fierce spiritual ambition for her children, mixed with a willingness to be a doormat to her overbearing husband–as a further example of her piety and her ability to be the perfect wife for the Lord’s sake, while Dad was so far from perfect–left my sisters and me with a lifetime of conflicted emotions. Whose side were we on? Whose side should we be on? How much Christian service was enough? Should we try to live up to Mom’s spiritual fantasies about us? How could we ever live up to Mom’s expectations on the one hand, and to her absurd claims about her children’s spirituality and zeal on the other?

. . . The implication was that whatever you were doing for the Lord, more was required. Normal life was just a series of interludes between bouts of evangelical zeal. And the spiritual pride that underlay Mom’s zeal made her children grow up with the feeling that no matter what we did to serve the Lord, it was never enough. Mom had gotten there first, and the rest of us weren’t even in the race.

. . . Traditional Protestants such as my mother’s missionary parents, or my newly born-again father, inherited the enthusiasms–and the paranoia–of the counterattack by fundamentalists against the so-called modernists.

. . . I think my father lived in a tremendous tension that pitted his growing interest in art, culture, music, and history against a stunted theology frozen in the modernist-fundamentalist battles of his youthful Christian experience. . . . The theological battles of the 1920s and 1930s shaped Dad in the same way that political battles would shape the Vietnam generation in the 1960s. Passions forged in those battles became part of a personal identity that was difficult for people who did not share the passionate and polarizing experiences to understand.


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