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.
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,
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 Frankschaeffer.com