The Real Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer
I wrote about the real Francis Schaeffer in my memoir Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and received many wonderful emails and letters. I also got some rather nasty ad hominem criticism from some of my father’s evangelical followers and especially from several evangelical leaders who have made their “professional” religious careers by associating themselves with his reputation. But most people beginning with my editor (who like most of my secular readers had never heard of Dad until I wrote about him) believed that I’d folded a tribute to Dad into my memoir about the rise of the religious right and my family’s part in it.

However the most wonderful tribute to Dad and to my book in many years came last Sunday, long after it was published when I got this email (used by permission of the writer) that really speaks to who Dad was and to the man I knew and loved. I’ve reproduce it here unedited.


“From: Steven Gabbard
Sun, Jan 13, 2013 1:31 am


I saw your recent articles on Alternet and ordered Crazy For God on my Kindle. I stayed up and finished it last night. I really enjoyed it. I admit I read it for the juicy insider bits about American evangelicals. But the parts I ended up enjoying the most were the parts about your father during the sixties. It was like ‘wow, I would’ve like to have met that guy’. His not being racist or homophobic was refreshing. I found myself thinking that if I had known someone like that when I was younger and searching, I might have taken Christianity more seriously than I did. It was because of the bigotry and anti-intellectualism that I saw practiced by the Christians in my family that I dismissed Christianity when I was an adult. I am an atheist now and quite content to remain one. But if things had been different 30 years ago and I had met someone who was charming, intelligent, and socially enlightened like your father was during the sixties, I could see that it was possible that I might have taken a different path than the one I walked. That thought is an uncomfortable one. We like to think that we arrive at our deepest convictions through logic and much soul searching. But happenstance plays a larger role than we like to admit. I had to put the book down at one point and face the fact, ‘things could have been different’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that so clearly before.


Brave New Films

Anyway, that was what I got when I read your book. Wanted to share it. I’ll pick up another one of your books soon. It’ll probably be Portofino, that one sounds interesting.


Your new fan,
Steven Gabbard”

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. To book Frank Schaeffer to speak at your college, church or group contact him at

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About the Author

Frank Schaeffer

Frank SchaefferFrank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book -- And God Said, "Billy!" exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on KindleiBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback. Follow Frank Schaeffer on Twitter: all posts by Frank Schaeffer →

  • Jonathan Starkey


  • bluecenterlight

    That is fascinating. Life is the choices we make. To connect the two, I saw a PBS mini series called “God in America” it was fascinating. But specifically the Shaeffers approaching Jerry Falwell for the first time. Mr. Falwell initially did not want to get involved in politics, because his view ( along with most of the church) was that politics is dirty. The church has no business attaching Jesus to a corrupt institution. But he changed his mind. He began to like the power and position it afforded him. How many people get to ride on air force one? But I think most people at the end of the day have conclude that he ended up as corrupt as the institution he was trying to change ( hostile takeover of Jim Bakkers ministry comes to mind) What if he had made a different decision? Interesting to ponder.

  • James

    I’ll definitely have to get this book. I can identify with what this atheist is saying, and it grieves my heart at what has become of God’s body in America. God’s message has been corrupted by cultural warriors and the real church needs to take it back. The world is in a mess, but there’s reason for that. It’s not because the world has lost its Christian values. It’s the world. It never had Christian values. The world has become a mess because the Church has lost it’s Christian values. In the mid 70’s I was proud ( at peace ) with being a believer. I could be intelligent, enjoy reading challenging literature, love my non-Christian friends and offer them a better way. There was not a war going on between my non-believing friends and my friends who attended church. Now, there’s a war going on and it has nothing to do with honoring God and everything to do with culturally myopic, and fearful people who have some paranoid delusion that they have no power in this world ( I speak of the so called religious right ). Let me say this for any believer who is willing to hear me: if you are a believer in the redeemer of this world, then you have the Holy Spirit in your life and you have zero reason to fear. Even if our political environment were to radically change and the full force of the world were to come down on your necks, He who is in you is GREATER, than he who is in the world. I miss early Francis Schaeffer, and the vitality of the Jesus Movement church, when we were being salt and light. Is there any hope of revival in the body and casting out these false sheep among us?

    • bluecenterlight


    • Shasta4737

      James, your comments really speak to my heart.

  • Shasta4737

    Although I’ve finally become a Christian now, it took me years and years to get beyond the anti-intellectualism, bigotry, judgmental-ism, and well, just plain meanness of so many in the evangelical movement. It’s still difficult, especially since I live in the bible belt. I can’t even find a church to attend here where politics aren’t front and center and right-wing to the extreme. I so wish I would have known about Francis Schaeffer when I was younger. Thank you Frank Schaeffer for helping us out here. Your book about your father was wonderful! God Bless You!

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