This post continues a critique of Frank Schaeffer’s Christmas Eve article in Salon.com. Please also see Part One and Part Two of this series.
I had a mixed reaction to the following sentence by Schaeffer:
“I was friends with the Human Life Review founder and editor: brilliant Roman Catholic anti-abortion crusader Jim McFadden.”
It’s the only time, in an article of approximately 2,224 words, Schaeffer calls anyone “brilliant,” or calls anyone within the conservative movement anything remotely positive.
I was happy to see that pro-choice Schaeffer would still, these days, identify an “anti-abortion crusader” as “brilliant.” Aside from President Obama, everyone else in the article is either condemned on his own merits or damned by his association with the conservative movement, particularly the anti-abortion vein within the movement.
What’s missing, however, is a balanced assessment of Schaeffer’s own late father Francis Schaeffer, who over the course of decades was a compassionate and humane pastor to numerous troubled and searching young people.
It’s incredible to me that in an article about abortion, Schaeffer continues with the same polarized, all-or-nothing, black-or-white-and-no-grayscale thinking that marked his tenure as a conservative, anti-abortion evangelical.
In an article in which Schaeffer deploys the word “extremist” as an undesirable epithet, isn’t it kind of strange that he has swung from one extreme to another? In the article, he makes no qualification of his current pro-choice point of view. The difficulty with that has everything to do with Schaeffer’s strange moves around the issue of abortion, and almost nothing to do with the issue itself. Consider, for a moment, the extreme poles of the abortion debates:
– A newly fertilized egg is fully human, not potentially human, and ending its growth is just like first-degree homicide of a (born) child.
– An unborn fetus can be ethically and morally terminated as long as it is in a woman’s body, (including) throughout the third trimester.
So, while glossing over a complicated and complex issue to make a self-agrandizing public confession and to throw Dad under the bus, Schaeffer seems to have swung from one exasperatingly extremist position to another exasperatingly extremist position. Worse yet, Schaeffer takes the extremist position of maligning his Dad for his position on one issue.
Meanwhile, Frank Schaeffer ignores the significant, compassionate help offered by the late Francis Schaeffer to the hundreds (a safe guess?) of people who circulated through L’Abri Fellowship in Huemoz, Switzerland, who heard his humane lectures that took contemporary film, literature, and philosophy seriously — something his fellow Presbyterians were very, very rarely inclined to do. That might be why the late Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s small decision to open their Huemoz home eventually became a larger fellowship with branches in different countries.
Of course Frank Schaeffer had his own experiences with his late father.
Of course he has a privileged insight into the movement in which he worked.
But Schaeffer’s article is not just one-sided but singularly based upon a faulty premise (see Part One). The article brings to mind a line from a Blues Traveler song: “…a bad play where the heroes are right / And nobody thinks or expects too much.”
Schaeffer has inaccurately assessed the Tea Party movement, overlooked obvious complexities in abortion ethics, and oversimplified his late father’s generally good legacy.
I suspect Frank Schaeffer’s fundamental self has not changed. He’s still a desperate guy deploying extremist rhetoric to get attention. He’s just looking for someone to listen to him, and he seems willing to place any content within the vehicle of his extremist rhetoric, in an attempt to be heard.