Friday, October 29, 2010

My Anti-Republican Party Blast

Here's my latest on Huffington Post

Click Here: The Stink of Right Wing Moral Failure Is About to Overcome America

The Stink of Right Wing Moral Failure Is About to Overcome America

In the 1970s and 80s I was a Far Right instigator, a leader of the (then new) anti-abortion movement. I describe why I left this movement in my book 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. My late father Francis Schaeffer has been called the father of the Religious Right. I -- following the Evangelical "holy tradition" of North Korea-style nepotism -- was for a time his sidekick. Together we helped set the table for the feast of reactionary hate America is about to dine on as the White Far Right/Neoconservative War Machine and the Religious non-reality-based anti-modern Permanent American Lynch Mob hits America in the mouth for daring to elect our first black president.

Make no mistake: the deep river of know-nothing sewage that flows just under the American surface is about to gush into view with the Far Right takeover of at least one part of our Congress.

Who is the Republican Far Right and what do they want? To understand our Republican future -- check out our recent Republican past. These are the "patriots" who gave us:

  • Two non-stop wars that needlessly killed over 5,000 Americans


  • Replaced our military with a mercenary killers-for-hire dirty world of "contractors" that now outnumber our men and women in every American military operation


  • Destroyed our economy by deregulating business and the banks


  • Launched an anti-gay "gays-choose-to-be-gay" mythology on America leading to the further oppression of gay men and women


  • Put secretive Far Right religious operatives including the "C-Street" ("Family") in positions of influence through members of congress who are in their pockets


  • Aided and abetted the death to gays legislation in Uganda


  • Tried to launch a race and religion war in America by stirring up hate against the Muslim minority


  • Have tried to turn non-Latino Americans into a Latino-fearing xenophobic anti-immigrant mob


  • Created the climate wherein abortion providers were first labeled "baby killers" then murdered


  • Lied about the President, saying he isn't American, is a Muslim, is the Antichrist


  • Unleashed a plague of guns on America feeding one murder spree after another


  • Struck down over a century of legal rulings limiting the buying and selling of elections by corporations, giving us a "new" and "improved" system of unlimited secret contributions to eviscerate even the pretense of actual democracy and finally hand America over to the super wealthy -- maybe forever


  • Run candidates for Congress who are calling for the violent overthrow of the American Government should they fail at the ballot box


  • Supported anti-science, anti-education biblical mythology


  • Backed candidates who want to force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term


  • Fought people fighting global warming and plunged us into an irrevocable date with global death while reaping short term profits for the coal and oil industry


  • Turned America into a permanent war machine and made a buck off the volunteers (like my Marine son) who serve


  • Put the American future in hock to Far Right Zionists forever by backing the settlers in the State of Isreal and by trying to undermine peace iniatives


  • Put America in hock to Far Right Evangelicals who are rooting for the "return of Christ" and the Apocalypse...



And should the Republicans take Congress you haven't seen anything yet.

To change the way things are we need to understand why at any given moment about a third of our population doesn't care about what is true -- or even fact-based -- but instead live life informed by self-reinforcing beliefs which are proudly non-fact-based and rooted in deep-seated resentment that can't be cured because what is resented never actually happened.

And if you'd like to know how THESE PEOPLE got to be this way and why resistance to facts in particular and loathing of education in general is proudly maintained within an impenetrable Right Wing Echo Chamber, take a look at my family and allow my biblically preoccupied childhood, youth and nepotistic evangelical career to become briefly yours.

But before you read another word by me or anyone else vote and get others to vote for any Democrat in any race.

Stop the flood of putrid moral failure that is about to engulf us.

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PBS "God In America" Interview With Frank Schaeffer

http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/interviews/frank-schaeffer.html


Interview: Frank Schaeffer PBS "GOD IN AMERICA"

Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God and Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism). He is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, a prominent evangelical theologian. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Oct. 23, 2009.

HIGHLIGHTS
Growing up the son of evangelical missionaries
His father's sympathies for the counterculture
Abortion was initially considered a Catholic issue
"The real issue was not abortion. The real issue was winning the culture war"
Why he left the evangelical fold
Do you remember when you first found faith? Do you remember the story of how you were born again, or converted?

... I don't have any recollection of a moment. I essentially was raised in the faith and caught it like you would a genetic problem. It wasn't something that I chose. It was more a question of, as time went by, making it my own: as a child, first out of fear that I would be lost; and then I guess in my teens and early 20s as an intellectual system that I bought into based on the fact that my dad pitched it to me, my mom had pitched it to me; ... finally as an intellectual decision to leave the faith that I had been raised in and see things differently. ...

Tell me a bit about your parents, their background, and how they came to Switzerland.

My mom was raised as the daughter of missionaries in China. ... My father came from a very secular background: a dad who quit school after the third grade, ran away and joined the Navy at 12; fought in the Spanish-American War -- a very hard-bitten, working-class man. He found Christ as a 17-year-old reading the Bible, looking for answers, and then in a tent revival meeting. His path was a real born-again experience.

“Suzie Q could both listen to Bob Dylan and still believe in Jesus, because Francis Schaeffer could put the pieces together for her. Before that she thought she had to choose...”My mom then tutored my dad, ... and I think because of her influence, he went to seminary and pursued what you might call a professional Christian path. ...

By the time they got to Switzerland and founded the mission [L'Abri] that they began in 1947, Dad was a pastor, had had a pastorate of several small churches in the States, and really was a very obscure, marginal figure. No one knew about him. He was just another guy going off to Europe, in his case to work with young people in bombed-out cities.

And what they faced was the things that all mission couples face: funding, and then a split in their church that left them high and dry when they left the mission that had sent them over. At that point they became independent, founded L'Abri Fellowship, and that's where I was raised. ...

I was born in '52; the mission was founded at about the same time. All my childhood memories are in that mission, a little chalet on the edge of the Swiss Alps, down near the Italian border.

Essentially the mission was a place that opened the doors to young people who would come through and ask questions, really kind of a weekender retreat. At the beginning, friends of my sister when she was at the University of Lausanne would come up to ask this American pastor questions about meaning and faith and the Bible, and all these things. And then it grew from there, until Dad was an internationally known evangelical leader and writing books. I would look across the dining table and see Billy Graham or Gerald Ford's kids, or whoever it might be.

Your parents were happy to go to Europe. They went on a mission, but there was dissension or drama in the evangelical community here [in the United States]. Can you tell me a little bit about what they were looking to get away from?

... When Dad came to Europe, he came hotfooting out of a fundamentalist versus liberal battle that had split the American denominations right down the middle. The people who went to the left or to the liberal side became what we now call the mainstream denominations. The people who went to the right and to the conservative side became the fundamentalist groups. …

Back in the '20s and the '30s, Dad cut his teeth on these denominational splits. He was a very fiery fundamentalist activist at that point. My childhood memories of growing up in the mission ... was hearing the names of both enemies and friends, so we knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. It was very ideologically divided, and then there were theological divisions as well.

What we really were in was a very narrow circle of faith where you were sure of your own relationship with Jesus. You believed your family was saved, other Christians were somewhat suspect, and anybody the least bit liberal in terms of their interpretation of Scripture, something like that, would be regarded as a non-Christian. ...

What's the basis of that theology?

My father changed as the years went by, but as a child, for instance, my parents taught a view of creation that believed in a literal six-day creation, and on the seventh day God rested; a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Garden of Eden, a literal temptation by the serpent, a literal piece of fruit that got eaten and so forth. All the miracles were exactly as reported.

By the time I was a little older, in my teens, my dad's thinking had evolved a little bit, and he might have not been so literal about everything and then would have had more room for Christians who had various theological disagreements.

So really it depended on what point you would have looked at his teaching and his life. ... The childhood memory of this strict fundamentalist -- you know, no cards, no board games on Sunday; no music except hymns and J.S. Bach; no books except the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress on Sunday; long church service, special day.

Then, if you fast-forward to my teen years, '68, '69, the ministry had grown, lots of long-haired hippies coming through with backpacks, interest in art and culture, lectures on what Bob Dylan's music meant, play any music you want on Sunday. ... My dad was a very cool guy at that point. ...

But when Roe v. Wade came along and the issue of abortion came up, my father ... took a pro-life position, an anti-abortion position, which then put him in bed with people like Jerry Falwell -- metaphorically speaking -- Pat Robertson, James Dobson and others, all of whom were very influenced by him.

So ironically, ... by the time he died in 1984, he was principally remembered as the intellectual architect and the father of the religious right, not because he was particularly to the right politically, but because of the fact that he was very much involved with this one issue, the pro-life issue, which defined the right for a whole generation of people. ...

... What was [your father's] goal in setting up this mission?

I think my dad's goals in setting up the mission of L'Abri were several things, probably some of which he only saw in hindsight. The first was a very human desire to not be messed with anymore by some board in America that's being taken over, in his view, by theologians he doesn't like. Part of it was just a good old American independence: "I'm going to do my own thing, start my own company."

Some of it was theological. He felt that fundamentalism had become so uncompassionate, so angry, so exclusive, that it had lost really a Christlike nature. So he went the opposite route, and that was he opened his home in the mission of L'Abri to everybody. ... I grew up in a home where gay people were not only welcome; they didn't even have to hide. And we're talking the '50s here. ...

Why he founded the mission of L'Abri was to really present an alternative to what he regarded as the harsh, uncompassionate side to this fundamentalist Christianity without giving up the fundamentalist theology. ...

Describe L'Abri for me.

... L'Abri itself was a tough place to grow up, because while my parents had this great open-home policy and terrific generosity toward other people, [they were] like so many very driven, very motivated, ambitious parents who are into high-powered careers. …

I was being home-schooled, which meant sort of no school, because I was running around a bit forgotten. My parents were dealing with young adults and teens, and to be a child with everybody around you being older than you are, it was kind of different.

And then the discussions were all incredibly serious. I was into my 20s before I realized that not all kids grew up hearing discussions of who people like [Swiss Reformed theologian] Karl Barth were or other theologians, or parsing what [German Lutheran theologian and member of the German Resistance] Dietrich Bonhoeffer really meant in one of his books, or what had happened during the Enlightenment. ...

I couldn't have named one [U.S.] state capital, but I could have told you all about the tribe of Dan and what had happened between Jacob and Esau. So talking about specialized knowledge [of] a fundamentalist childhood, essentially you live in a parallel universe of biblical, not just teaching but biblical geography, biblical names, places and all the rest of it. …

When you mix into that that we were waiting daily for the return of Christ and the Rapture and would see any event in the Middle East in terms of Israel, or the establishment of the state of Israel as the beginning of the end of times and the fulfillment of prophecy, ... as a child, you just kind of accept all this.

At a certain point in your life, you look up and you say: "This is really weird! What on earth did my parents have in mind raising me in this environment? How about just baseball? How about collecting bottle caps? How about something a little less heavy than waiting for the apocalypse?"

You start saying, "If I feel a little strange and alienated and out of sorts with the rest of this world, maybe it has something to do with this background." And of course when you look at other people, and you realize that you have so many people raised in fundamentalist backgrounds, you understand why they feel very alienated from the culture around them.

Whether they still believe what they believe or not, they were raised so differently in this alternative reality, sort of a non-fact-based reality, a faith-based reality, that it leaves you alienated from your culture, which is what I think a lot of the anger from the right comes from, a sense of alienation. ...

Tell me about why [your father] embraced the counterculture.

My dad embraced the counterculture because the counterculture embraced him. ... [He] was a charismatic, working-class guy who could preach a fiery sermon.

But he also had an incredibly inquisitive curiosity about culture. It came from the fact that when he came to Europe -- here's a guy who had never been raised on classical music, hadn't really looked at any art -- he fell in love with Europe.

On his missionary trips he would go to places like Milan, Florence, Paris, London, Berlin to teach Bible studies. Then he got into this habit of spending his afternoons in museums. Well, a whole new world opened up to him. ...

It was ironic, because we were these fundamentalist American Christians who didn't believe in popes or bishops or tradition or hierarchy, and yet I spent my whole childhood being dragged to places like the Duomo in Florence, the Sistine Chapel, and my father saying: "Isn't this beautiful? Isn't this great?" ...

Then secondly, he was converted to an interest in culture by his own students. People would come through L'Abri, couple of albums in their backpack, maybe an early Rolling Stones record, Bob Dylan, people reading poets, starting to ask Dad what he thought about [Jack] Kerouac or something. Well, Dad had to start reading and listening, and all of a sudden he realized he liked some of this stuff. ... He started listening to jazz records and made friends with art historians.

So Dad became two people. Dad became this missionary telling people Jesus saves, in terms of his formula, but in terms of his own interest, he became a terrific amateur art historian. He became someone interested in culture. He tried to fit it into his theology: What does all this mean about humanism and rationalism and existentialism? He tried to make it part of his mission so that he could better "reach" the young people by speaking their language, which was to be able to talk about these things. ...

So his approach to dealing with the counterculture, or what was happening in America, was to embrace it and bring it over, not to fight against it? ...

Yeah. When Dad was in Switzerland, he actually was a countercultural figure. The reason Timothy Leary ... came as a pilgrim to L'Abri and lived up the road from my dad and had discussions with him was because my father appeared to be a leader in the same movement -- not drugs and rock 'n' roll, but spirituality plus hippie values.

I grew up hearing lectures against bourgeois middle-class America. ... He would say: "Look, I disagree with the conclusions the hippies draw. ... I disagree with what the Beat poets say is their alternative, which is a sort of an agnosticism or an existentialism, because I believe we should turn toward Christ. But their analysis of the plastic culture is 100 percent correct." …

In terms of philosophical sympathy, he believed that they were much closer to the truth -- the counterculture in the '60s -- than the bourgeois American white middle-class church was that he had escaped in the '40s. ...

How did your dad go from hanging with Timothy Leary [to] hanging with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? How did that happen?

A couple of things came into play, and I'll start with a personal one. He had a young son -- that's me -- who was painting pictures and had had a couple of art shows and was very much in with the countercultural thing, who wanted to start making some films, wanted to earn a living doing this.

A Christian evangelical movie producer by the name of Billy Zeoli ... came to L'Abri ... and stayed for a couple of months, wanted to figure out what this guy was all about.

By the time he left, Billy and I had conspired to talk my dad into making a documentary film series, which then became something called How Should We Then Live? [It] was a series on history and culture where Dad would take his interest in culture but explain it to an evangelical audience who basically didn't even like art.

Billy Zeoli's idea was, they'll listen because they're worried about what's happening to their kids, who go off to college and suddenly read all these books and see all these paintings and hear all this music and listen to the rock 'n' roll, and watch the movies. We'll let Francis Schaeffer, as it were, inoculate us by giving us a correct biblical ideological twist of how to receive this information. ...

While we were making that series in the '70s, Roe v. Wade came down, and we changed the last two episodes to accommodate this new thing, which was going to be legal abortion. Dad used that as an example of where he felt the country had gone off the rails, losing its constitutional balance by allowing the Supreme Court to exercise what he called judicial fiat, unbalanced by anything else, to just come down and make this ruling.

So here's the deal. He used it as an example, but not a political example or one that would found a movement of pro-life -- just sort of a technical example: This just shows how checks and balances get out of whack when you lose your overarching Christian principles. ...

His son, me, who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant when I was 17, ... became passionately involved in the issue of abortion, just on a very personal level. I had this little girl, and Genie and I were these typical unwed teenage parents. I loved this little child; how on earth can anybody abort a baby? It was just personal and visceral.

So I said to Dad: "Let's not just talk about this as an example. Let's really make a stand on it, you know, like the Roman Catholics are doing, and really get out there and tell people we've got to do something about it." That was the beginning. So Dad listened to me. ...

He also had a lifetime friend, Dr. C. Everett Koop, who he had known back in his pastorate days, who was then surgeon in chief of Philadelphia Children's Hospital. ... He also had been talking to Dad about this issue and saying, "You've got to do something about it."

So how did Dad move from this guy to this guy? It's because of the abortion issue. It's because of Roe v. Wade. Had it not been for that, he would be remembered as a somewhat obscure, slightly-to-the-left, interesting cultural anomaly, a guru who had this following, who loved art and music and Jesus, and that would have been the end of it.

... Well, little did we know that, ... because of the time frame in which [the film series] came out, by pure coincidence [it] would happen to be exactly at the beginning of the whole Reagan era.

[It] would become essentially the first set of marching orders to that vast evangelical fundamentalist group of foot soldiers who would become the Reagan shock troops, as it were, Reagan Democrats and others, who would just happen to agree with Dad's take on abortion and would begin to look to him for leadership on this issue.

What was happening in the United States, and what was alarming the evangelical community?

The source of the alarm and what was happening in America at the beginning of the religious right is very simple: modernity. America was waking up to the fact that, a, it was part of the rest of the globe, but b, the modern era had hit, and this fiction that somehow America was this city set on a hill, unaffected by world events, was melting away.

It wasn't melting away because of the Soviet Union or the Vietnam War; it was melting away because inside the United States you had both the rock 'n' roll and the drug culture combining with existentialist and atheist philosophy that had finally made its way from European universities into American universities about 50 years later. And those forces all came together, where parents were just feeling that things were slipping away. ...

From the right-wing perspective and the fundamentalist perspective, what they feared and what they were reacting against was their kids being lost to both their churches and their faith. You have little Suzie going off to college, she comes back believing in evolution. Now she doesn't take the Bible too seriously anymore.

Little Jimmy goes off to school, and he plays around a little bit with drugs and rock 'n' roll and music, and he comes back, and he says, "Well, maybe there's another way of seeing things besides what I've been taught in church." So that questioning that came out of the counterculture in the '60s began to bleed into the evangelical subculture about 10 years after it hit the rest of society. ...

When you look at the success of, for instance, James Dobson, it's no accident that he made his name on a program called Focus on the Family. What's the translation? How do you keep your children believing like you believe when they are being assaulted by their schoolteachers, by their university professors, by what's on the radio, by what's on TV, by the rock 'n' roll culture, by the hippie culture, by the left, by the lesbians, by the gays? ...

[For] the first time in American history, what you've got coming out of the '70s and evangelical subculture is a world that looks at its own country as the enemy to be feared. It isn't the Soviet Union that's scary to the evangelical; it's America. ...

Why did the religious right react the way it did? It reacted the way it did because it was afraid of losing its children, and you would go to heaven, and your kids weren't. To someone not raised in that background, that may sound crazy, but for someone whose whole life is going toward the Second Coming of Jesus -- who will be taken and who will be left? -- do you want to be standing there in heaven, looking down and saying, "Somehow my kids were ensnared by the world. They gave up their faith in Jesus. They lost their salvation; they didn't believe. I'm saved and they're not"? …

And why my father became such a famous person to these people is because he was the guy who could explain this counterculture to not just the parents, but to the kids. Oh! Now they can stay Christian and understand it.

And that's where his power came from, because he had listened to Bob Dylan, and he had been listening to the Beatles, and he knew about the art, and he knew about the philosophy, and he could defang it for Suzie Q's mom and help explain it to Suzie Q.

So Suzie Q could both listen to Bob Dylan and still believe in Jesus, because Francis Schaeffer could put the pieces together for her. Before that she thought she had to choose Bob Dylan or going to church on Sunday. Francis Schaeffer said you can do both.

Not only that, you can still be a real evangelical and believe all this stuff literally, and I'll show you how. That's what his books were, and that's what his film series was, and that's what we were doing. ...

... Your father had a very definite idea of what America should look like. ...

In the '60s, Dad's idea of America was that the bourgeois, white middle class had lost its way; that it was racist, that it was materialistic, that it was all about cocktails and parties and cars and second homes. ... He looked at America as a country that had a Christian foundation that had strayed away from God, but he didn't see this in right-wing terms. He saw it in terms of condemning the materialism, the greed, of corporate America. ...

After Roe v. Wade, the critique went further. He never denounced his former views, but ... his argument became about a very specific issue that took on political overtones. And then the whole picture changed, because he was looking for allies who agreed with him on this.

We sat down with [Rep.] Jack Kemp [R-N.Y.], [Vice President] Gerald Ford, the Bush family, [Ronald] Reagan and other people, and they said: "We'll help you. We believe in this. Just make sure we keep getting elected and we'll roll Roe v. Wade back." ...

At the beginning of that issue, though, the evangelicals didn't want to know. It was a Roman Catholic issue, not a Protestant issue, and Dad had to go around basically twisting arms. In fact, he was the one who talked Jerry Falwell personally into taking a stand on abortion.

Before that, Jerry Falwell said: "That's a Catholic issue. It's nothing to do with us. Why would I want to take a stand on that? I'm just a preacher. I want to talk about the Gospel, not social issues." And my father was the one who personally talked Jerry Falwell into "taking" a stand. And then, of course, the rest is history.

... Talk about Catholicism and the animosity between Protestantism and Catholicism.

The animosity between Protestantism and Catholicism ... goes back to when people were burning each other at the stake. ... The theological view of just about everybody up until the 1950s and '60s ... was [that] Catholics are not real Christians. They trust in works, Mary, the pope, tradition ... and all that stuff my mother said was paving the road to Hell, because all you needed was Jesus in your heart. All these outward signs of faith and worship were not just wrong; they were evil, because they distracted you from Jesus. ...

Your father's reaction to your argument about Roe v. Wade had a lot to do with, "Why would I want to be involved?" Tell me about that. ...

... The very fact that the Catholics were talking about this meant that maybe it's wrong, because Catholics can never be right about anything. ... Theoretically, because the Catholics were against abortion at first made Dad very suspicious of the issue. ...

But his suspicion of it was also mirrored with people like Jerry Falwell and [Pat] Robertson and these other guys who at first said the same thing when he came to them. ... Their whole reaction was: "What do you mean? That's a Catholic deal. Why would we take a stand on that when we believe in contraception and all these other things? Isn't that part and parcel of the same deal?"

So in the early days of the pro-life movement, most of the religious leaders ... didn't want anything to do with what Dad was doing, because they said: "That's a Catholic thing. We're all about Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with the Savior. Why would we want to be sidetracked on this stuff?" …

If it had gone slightly differently, we would have had a completely different history of the United States at this point. There would have been no Ronald Reagan, no George Bush, no religious right, no evangelical groups to back these people. It was on a knife edge there in the late '60s and early '70s. Could have gone either way.

And I think the reason why the pro-life movement took off and became huge actually had nothing to do with abortion. It became huge because it was, "We've got to draw the line somewhere against all this secular encroachment on our religious culture founded by Puritans." ...

A lot of people were just waiting to draw the line somewhere against this rising tide of secularism they felt encroaching on their space. They wanted to fight back. No one had showed them how, because you had to have an issue around which to coalesce, and abortion was a handy issue.

I think what proves my point is the way similar issues have been used subsequently. I mean, what does gay rights have to do with abortion? Nothing. So why are the same people fighting about that and using the same techniques? What does health care reform have to do with euthanasia? Nothing. Why are they using the same thing?

Because the secular culture is going to take your children away; they're not going to heaven with you. You've got to draw the line somewhere. We have to fight back, so you pick a handy club with which to beat the society around you into submission. ...

And if Dad had come down the pike and written a book and passionately had a series of seminars saying that we have to stop our kids listening to rock 'n' roll, and we've got to get an amendment in the United States Constitution saying, you know, anything with a drum beat has to be made unconstitutional, it may sound crazy, but it could have been that. ...

Let's walk through what happens, from the historical tick-tock of this. You and your dad make these films. ... What's the reaction to it?

... That series [How Should We Then Live?] met with enormous success, packed venues. The book tables would be empty. We would be walking out of there selling more books in a minute than I'll sell of one of my novels in a year. I mean, if anybody wants to know where the big bucks are, it's in the God business when you really turn up the volume and have the heat and the wind behind you. ...

Then we came up with our second series, made with C. Everett Koop, ... an original pro-life activist Presbyterian, but who was in bed with these Catholics. And he introduced me to Bishop Fulton Sheen in New York, who once had a television program.

Bishop Sheen took me into his private chapel, and we knelt down at his little personal red velvet altar, in front of a big crucifix, very un-Protestant. He'd held my hand and then put his hand on my shoulder. He says, "Let's pray together that your father and the Roman Catholic Church can come together to fight this great battle for God." ...

After that, we were getting funding from the Knights of Columbus for our film series. ... All of a sudden, these Catholics that we had never liked and we thought they were the Whore of Babylon and everything, they're the ones showing up at our seminars. They're opening all the doors; they're sending checks; they're helping out, because the Protestants don't want to know. They say it's a Catholic issue. ... No one wants to know about this. So it was like pulling teeth.

And then ... someone like a Jerry Falwell, or somebody with some influence, they would meet with Dad, or maybe come to the seminar, or maybe invite him over to their church to talk based on the fact they had followed him in his other work. And [he] began to talk these guys into taking a "stand" on the issue. ... And then some things began to change.

First of all, Dad was very persuasive. Secondly, our film series [was] very persuasive, great piece of propaganda, and so the people that saw them got very fired up, and the word began to spread. But then we also made some converts to our cause who were in positions of influence, for instance Congressman Jack Kemp, who then invited us back to the Republican Club in an evening hosted by him and [Sen.] Bob Dole [R-Kan.]. Then soon after that, Dad met with Ronald Reagan and talked about this. …

The big night happened when Jack Kemp ... invited me into his home, and he didn't know what he thought about the series. ... We arrived; we had dinner. We started [the film] around 9:00 in the evening, and at about 4:00 in the morning we had finished watching the whole series. And Jack Kemp got up from that screening, ... and he says, "This is something the Republican Party really needs to get involved with."

From that point on, we were talking to people like [Rep.] Henry Hyde [R-Ill.], who was a Catholic but had had no allies among the Republicans up until that point, or very few allies. And the whole thing began to shift.

So in a way, we went over the heads of the people, and we went straight into the political arena, and we began to get people in the Republican Party to understand that this issue could give them both the majority in Congress and put their man in the White House. It was tremendously motivational. And they began to see it as a way to win elections. We began to see winning elections as a way to make our country a better moral place. It was a symbiotic relationship, but with two totally different agendas.

... How did your father and you convince Jerry Falwell a, to get in bed with Catholics -- was there a biblical basis? -- and b, that this was an issue that evangelicals, fundamentalists should be concerned about? ...

No matter what we said about abortion itself, the real issue was not abortion. The real issue was winning the cultural war by finding a place you could draw a line in the sand against what was the new left. ...

I think what happened was this: We would go to some place, like [to] Jerry Falwell, and we would talk about abortion, that babies are killed and they're dismembered, and it's a horrible procedure, and how come we have this, and God must hate this.

Part of that convinced people. But what really convinced them was to see how riled up ordinary rank-and-file Americans of all persuasions got, and they looked at that and they said, OK, we have an issue here that will work. ...

The next step -- because everybody loves access to power -- when Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp and people are sitting down with you and having lunch because they see it as using a political lens, not a moral lens, all of a sudden all these pastors who feel relegated to the fringe, they're totally irrelevant to American culture, nobody's listening to them, ... and a lot of these people didn't feel they mattered. Who cares what about these guys are saying?

But all of a sudden you take a stand on this issue, you're on the front page of The Washington Post. You take a stand on this issue and you've got a club with which to win an election, and you have a senator saying to you, "Thank you, pastor, for letting me come to your church and talk about my views on abortion." …

All of a sudden it was a dream come true. You have blue-collar Democrats voting for Ronald Reagan, and the Roman Catholics, and people like us just handed them to them on a silver platter. All Reagan had to do, and all Bush had to do, and all Ford [had] to do, is get on the phone every January for the march on the Capitol to denounce Roe v. Wade and say: "Hey, I'm with you. We'll reverse this. We need a constitutional amendment." ...

Then something changed, and that was, you can't whip the same horse forever, so you need new issues. So now what are we going to use to motivate people to vote the way we want them to vote and to come to our churches and to make me feel relevant? Well, who are these gay guys, and what are they saying? Let's go after them.

And by the time you get into the gay bashing, which followed like night follows day from the pro-life issue, you're into people who are literally trying to keep empires afloat. A James Dobson has to take in $100 million every little once in a while to just keep his empire going. Jerry Falwell was into an enormous thing; he was building a college.

Now, what they had been reluctant to do in the beginning because they just wanted to preach Jesus or whatever, they had to do because they built empires based on controversy. You can't have a controversy unless you have an enemy, and you need an enemy to not only raise funds, but to keep your access to power.

The whole mentality shifted. It was no longer about the issues. It was about access to power. It was about maintaining an enemies list that keeps you green and fertile and a happening cause. And that's where it all changed. ...

Your father wouldn't have done it without some kind of biblical basis to the argument, or biblical reasoning to join Catholics in an issue. What was the biblical basis?

... There's actually very little in Scripture about abortion. There's not a biblically based argument against abortion in the sense of a text. ... I think the real argument is that on the level of an ideal family, it's the same argument about premarital sex and all these other things. It's that here is the biblical ideal: one man, one woman, your children and so forth. This is the tradition; this is what everybody's always done. And in that context, abortion is wrong morally because of the connotation of kind of a casual approach toward sexuality. ...

[What was your father's reaction to the direction some leaders of the evangelical community took?]

... Dad was shocked when he showed up at some of these mega-ministries, like Falwell and Robertson, at the sheer materialism. The big corner office, the private jet -- the stuff shocked his sensibility. He and I would talk about this. And just giving a quick rundown, he basically regarded Pat Robertson, after talking with him, as literally -- not euphemistically, but literally -- a certified lunatic. …

James Dobson, he said he never met somebody who was more power-hungry and despicable. And he says, "You mark my words: This guy will turn around and stab us in the back in a heartbeat if it serves his purposes."

When it came to Jerry Falwell, he said he's a sincere guy, believes every word he's saying, he's a decent man, [but] he totally lost his way because he's become absolutely seduced by the American success model, bigger is better.

That's how he analyzed these guys. So we had a couple of big screaming fights just before he died, and I got out a year after he died. And I would say, "What are you doing giving them legitimacy?," ... which is ironic, since I'm the guy who talked him into starting it. ...

Dad would say: "We're not allies, that's for sure; we're co-belligerents. Just like we fought with Stalin for a few years ... with no illusions about who Stalin was but we had to defeat Hitler, we'll fight alongside these guys until we can do something about abortion, until the culture changes. Then after that, we're all done here." ... So it was a marriage of political expediency. ...

Did they come to your father, or did your father go to them?

Both. The leadership for the evangelical community had discovered Dad because of the success of his books, ... not because they were interested in Dad's subject, but they were reading them as a map on how to reach the "young" people who aren't listening to us anymore.

So when Roe v. Wade came along, Dad already had all those connections, and then he pursued them, saying, "Look, you're interested in my work and so forth, so you need to take a stand on this issue."

It was definitely my father going to them with this, or writing to them, or saying: "We're having a seminar in your area, and I noticed you didn't come, and you didn't bring anybody to your church. But three years ago you brought a lot of people. Why weren't you there this time? Let's discuss this." And that's how it happened.

Ronald Reagan wins the presidency; the Moral Majority is out there claiming victory. What happens in your life at that point? ...

When [the] Moral Majority is up and running and Ronald Reagan wins the presidency, all of a sudden I wake up one morning, so to speak, and remember that I had wanted to be an artist and a moviemaker, and my hero was Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. Basically it's, "What the hell happened?," literally. And I got this sick feeling. ...

My ambition as a young person had been to be an artist and a filmmaker, and I was raised in Europe in this little Christian community, living in a bubble, a totally hermetically sealed bubble. ...

Once I moved to the States in 1980, something interesting happened: I realized that the country we were describing to our audiences didn't exist -- this big, threatening, secular juggernaut that was going to take over our lives and make everybody abandon their faith in Jesus, that essentially hated God, this existentialist teaching in the universities, this sort of threatening image of the secular culture, the other, those people outside.

When I started actually meeting those people, when I started getting to know what life in America was really like, not as an outside observer living in Europe ... but living here myself, I began to actually like this country, and I began to actually be grateful I was here, and I was enjoying my life here. ...

It was essentially like the scales falling from my eyes. It was a gradual process, but somewhere between the early 1980s and '85, the year after my dad died, I just felt that I was essentially throwing my life away. ...

The success of what we were doing essentially drove me out, because the kind of people that we were being successful with were the kind of people I didn't like. It was a real disconnect. ...

So I got out. I literally left the evangelical community virtually overnight, watched my income drop by over two-thirds. By the way, never came back. ... [I] rebuilt my life as a novelist, and as a fiction and nonfiction writer, and started over again and essentially discovered a whole new world. ...

In terms of my Christianity, I'm a Christian, someone that no longer sees what I believe is the exclusive truth to the exclusion of other people. My youthful self would now denounce me as a heretic and an enemy. If I was 22 and in my fiery mode, I would start an organization to bring Frank Schaeffer down. That's the change in one lifetime.

Moving back up just a little bit, Ronald Reagan is elected. Do you remember how you and your dad felt about that?

When Ronald Reagan was elected, basically it was high-five time. There was a great sense that we had helped achieve this, and the personal notes from Ronald Reagan to my father thanking him said so. ... Ronald and Nancy would write Dad notes, handwritten little notes on the Christmas cards: "Without your magnificent work we never could have achieved this." ...

The bitter irony was that the people at the top of the Republican Party didn't care about the issue at all and were using the foot soldiers that Dad brought them from the evangelical ranks, Ronald Reagan being a good example of that. ...

So what I learned very quickly was that there was an overlapping agenda here, but that what they wanted and what we wanted was two completely different things. And we were fine with that as long as they said the right things, because we figured in the end we could win.

We didn't. Obviously the pro-life movement lost in terms of the culture war. But what they won was several successive presidencies in the White House, with Clinton as an interregnum, and control of Congress for years and control of the national debate.

[This] was a very sweet revenge for people who have a perennial chip on their shoulder, [an] inferiority complex, and believe they're being marginalized by "the elite," something you see right up into [former Alaska Gov.] Sarah Palin and John McCain when she's running around the country during the election process saying: "The real America is Republican. The real America has these values." Of course what she was building on was the world that my dad helped build for her.

So the real success of the movement is giving a voice to people who had none? Is that the upside, becoming part of the conversation?

The real success of the movement is two things in a nutshell. First of all, you are giving voice to people's worst fears, and you're saying to them: "You know that thing you're afraid of? It's even worse than that. Let me really tell you what the score is." That's always red meat to people.

The second thing you're doing is you're cashing in on a sense of loss of their own children and a culture, because they fear their kids' not going to heaven.

They fear that they will be lost and don't love Jesus anymore, and that they'll be in heaven and their kids will be in hell. They fear that because they think that the secular culture is in some sort of nefarious plot -- if not an actual conspiracy, then a philosophical agreement that you need to get these kids unindoctrinated, send them off to college, teach them some philosophy, put some doubt in their hearts, get them away from these Bible Belt parents, and turn them into liberal-voting Democrats -- you put those two things together, you have a very powerful motivation to latch onto leaders, whether it's Pat Robertson or especially a Dr. Dobson, telling people how to raise their families, or a Francis Schaeffer who gives you a way to understand this threatening culture.

The other side is just simple revenge, because your books haven't been reviewed in The New York Times. I can remember going on The Today Show with Jane Pauley, ... and I was on there debating the head of the American Library Association, telling her that ... the liberal elite media did not review our books, even though my dad's books were outselling what was currently on the best-seller list. ...

People fought The New York Times for missing the real debate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The real story they missed was the rising of the evangelical right. They wouldn't review their books; they wouldn't pay attention; they wouldn't send reporters to our seminars -- not just us, everybody. One morning they wake up, FOX News is sitting there, Rush Limbaugh's sitting there, and it's like: "How the hell did these people get there?" Well, guess what? We put them there. Not literally, but we created the world in which they could succeed. ...

What are the successes of what you helped bring about, and what are the failures?

... The failure is massive. Let's just work backward from George W. Bush. It's putting a completely incompetent man in the White House because he says he's a born-again Christian. Start there. Without the evangelical backing, George W. Bush would never have been president. Without the work we did and those like us did, there never would have been a political party taken over by the religious right, which is what the Republicans turned out to be.

So when you look at a manifestly incompetent [politician] like Sarah Palin, and you realize there are still people taking someone like her seriously as late as the Barack Obama election, ... you have to understand that the world that is able to look at a completely incompetent politician and say, "Yeah, let's elect him or let's elect her," on the basis of their theology, what they believe because they're correct on a few litmus test issues, that's the world we of the religious right created -- basically have put theology and social agendas ahead of even just competence, and that was a real dark moment for the United States.

In terms of successes, ... it was simply that we exercised the levers of democracy. These people [did] not have a voice; now they do. And that may be a bad thing for the country, but we're a more democratic country, because there are people who say that they will vote their conscience when it comes to religion, and they're no longer in the closet.

The problem is, the people that we energized are essentially the nation's village idiot when it comes to their views on things like gay rights, women's rights and these other things that really change people's lives. Essentially we may have energized a minority, but it's a minority with views that are generally oppressive of other people. It's no gift to our country that these folks are energized, but I guess if you're looking for pure democracy, we're closer to it because of it.

Is that what happen[s] when religion and politics try to mix? ...

... The problem with religious viewpoints mixing with politics is not the religion; it's the intolerance. And the intolerance doesn't necessarily come from religion, because not all religion is intolerant. I don't think that the human race or politics or democracy or America is worse because of religion.

I think religion just happens to be the handy thing that justifies bad behavior that would be bad behavior anyway. ... Religion is just the handy excuse, whether you're blaming it or whether you're using it to motivate people.

That said, I think we're a healthier country if we have a separation of church and state, because there's a difference between saying someone's politically wrong and demonizing them as morally wrong.

The problem with religion is that it doesn't just disagree; it damns you. So when you damn the other side literally to hell, or being lost, or being fools of Satan or whatever it might be, it's completely different than saying, "Look, I could be wrong about this issue, whatever it is, but here's my point of view, and I'm going to vote for it." ...

Now, there's some good news actually here that I've seen a real change in my lifetime, and that is there is a younger generation of evangelical Christians coming along who, for instance, more recently voted for Barack Obama.

Aside from the politics, [they] have become involved in issues such as human trafficking, such as standing against poverty, Third World debt, clean water for people. That obviously is an enormous shift from simply having politics based on reaction and demonizing your opponent. These people are doing something positive. And if their motivation is religious, so be it, but at least they're not just the party of no. ...

I think personally a more secular approach is less powerful because there's less motivation than if you feel you're serving God doing something, and you're doing something that has eternal consequences. When that energy is turned away from, say, bolstering the far right of the Republican Party and instead to cleaning up our rivers and air and the carbon footprint, or taking care of young mothers with babies or giving universal health care, then you've got a very good thing happening. And to me that's the hopeful future. ...

Obama -- you called his election a miracle. How do you think the history of the religious right [enabled it]?

If you look at the election of Barack Obama, the first thing in terms of the discussion we're having here is that he is a professing evangelical Christian. ... So you've got a religious guy in the White House again, but you have a religious progressive instead of a religious reactionary right-winger that his predecessor George W. Bush was. ...

The second thing is I think it's kind of a miraculous election, not just because of the fact he's our first black president, but that his trajectory through the political system was so quick that he wasn't able to wallow in the natural corruption that comes with a long time in office, long enough to lose what I would call that evangelistic purity.

He still actually believes in stuff, and he's come into the White House with an agenda that has a lot to do with principle; for instance, caring for young mothers with difficult pregnancies and putting together actual social programs that will really help them instead of spouting off about reversing Roe v. Wade and constitutional amendments and all this la-la stuff that will never happen. He's really actually trying to help people. ...

I think with Obama, we have a new day. And I think with the evangelicals who have always voted to the right, their children are beginning now to vote for a more progressive kind of a ticket. ... In people like Obama and others, they're seeing some role models of the way that you can hold on to your faith and at the same time have a much less reactionary, more progressive political stance on things.

And I don't think the abortion issue will go away. But I think the shift is going to be away from the courts and politics and more into the area of not just convincing people, but providing real alternatives.

Does he in a way represent the next part of the story of religion and politics in America? ...

... Now you have a generation coming along, saying, "Let's look at our spiritual values." For instance, a lot of the people arguing for gay rights are doing so from a religious progressive position, and they're not faking it. They're going to church on Sundays, they worship God, and they're gay.

You have a black president who's a progressive evangelical in the White House, talking about world poverty and hunger and the environment and stopping abortion, but not by coercive means, but by providing good alternatives for people. ...

How do you think your father would have felt about how his activism unfolded? ...

My father died in 1984. If he fast-forwarded to this present, and you sat him down to watch FOX News one night and Glenn Beck railing about how our president is a racist and hates white people, and Dad knew who Obama was, he would just say, "If I had anything to do with this, I'm going to throw up." He would really regret how it all unfolded.

The same with James Dobson. If Dad visited Dobson's empire out there in Colorado and realized how much time they spend gay bashing and trying to remove the rights of gay people to marry or whatever it may be, he would be physically ill, because Dad was a compassionate, decent human being. He made some wrong steps, but he was not a hater, and no one who knew him thought he was. ...

If I have any time to reflect as years go by, looking at my children and grandchildren, it's the quest to not deny spirituality but to look at it as an open-ended question, not "I have an answer," but "I'm on a journey, and everyone else is, too." Let's share this common path and look at each other with value instead of trying to get you to do what I want you to do.

If we could change that conversation in this country, then America could really use its spirituality in a way that we haven't seen for a long time in our history, if ever. I think that's a new chapter that needs to be written, and that's really what I'm personally interested in. ...

The Christian Manifesto -- talk to me about that.

Dad wrote a book at the very end of his life ... in which he said that should democratic, nonviolent means fail to bring America back to God on the issue of abortion, that first, civil disobedience should be tried, and secondly, if need be, a revolution cast in the mold of the first American Revolution. And yes, that would include force against the government. He compared America to Nazi Germany.

When I hear ... people running around comparing [Obama] to Hitler and saying that he's too this and he's that, and that medical care will be socialized and lead to euthanasia and death panels and all this stuff, you're hearing an echo of the language that my dad and Dr. Koop and I put into the national debate in terms of abortion now being recycled by the insurance industry to prevent health care reform. But we were the ones that started that. ...

What's so ironic is ... here you had a guy who's having lunch with the president calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government, and he just gets invited for afternoon tea. No one says a word. This came home to me years later when [the] Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright was criticized all over the map for being Barack Obama's black American pastor in a black neighborhood, for saying "God damn America" and that it had fallen away from God and God couldn't bless it anymore. And he's called seditious for doing that, and Obama's criticized.

Francis Schaeffer, friend of Ronald Reagan, friend of the Bush family, friend of Gerald Ford, confidant of Jack Kemp, guest in the Kemps' home, Schaeffer Bible study with the Doles and the Kemps and everybody coming, this guy's running around printing a book comparing America to Nazi Germany and saying that if all else fails, violent revolution is a godly way to go. That's kind of the margin of where the religious right went.

So when you see the current debates on right-wing politics, where you've got these loonies showing up at meetings carrying loaded weapons with signs saying, "The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of tyrants," there's a good chance that some of those guys read A Christian Manifesto at some point in their life. …

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Reading Of Crazy For God On audio

My Book Crazy For God is now on audio with me reading it from here



http://www.audiobooksdownload.com/Books/BK_GDAN_000440.htm