Book Review: Sex, Mom, & God By Frank Schaeffer
(This review was first posted on PoliticusUSA)
Sex, Mom, & God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
by Frank Schaeffer
To say that Frank Schaeffer’s new book Sex, Mom, & God is just a book about politics, religion, and the motherly role of women in the family unit would be doing a grievous injustice to a work that alternates from heartwarming to thought provoking to laugh out loud funny.
Frank Schaeffer brilliantly guides the reader through an exploration of the Bible’s strange, intolerant, and sometimes frightening attitudes about sex, and how these Biblical teachings, through the evangelical grassroots of the Republican Party have come to dominate the GOP stance on any issue related to sex i.e. abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc.
The heart and soul of this book is the author’s mother, Edith Schaeffer, “She presided over our household by glowing brightly for Jesus and exuding kindness for everyone she met, whoever they were. This kindness was genuine. Mom loved people the way hummingbirds are drawn to flowers. She fed them—both literally and spiritually—and in turn was fed.”
One of the many differences between the way Frank Schaeffer grew up and the evangelicals of today is that his mother was open about sex, and it was his mother’s openness that gave the author the unique insight that allowed him to have spent a part of his life as a member of the upper crust of the celebrity evangelical circuit, and the most insightful critic of modern American evangelical politics.
How does sex tie into evangelical politics? The evangelical belief in the literal nature of the bible has shaped political attitudes, “Since the 1970s the American culture wars have revolved around a fear of Sex and women no less insane and destructive than any horror story to come out of Afghanistan. The issues of gay rights, abortion, premarital sex, virginity, abstinence, and the “God-given role” of women (make babies, love Jesus, and shut up) have dominated our political/social debates. Why? Because sexual politics (American style) illustrates how deranged societies become when ideas about Sex are based on literal interpretations of the biblical “account” of the “facts” of existence.”
At its core Sex, Mom, & God is really three books. It is the tale of Frank Schaeffer’s own life journey with his sexuality. It is the story of a son’s relationship with his mother, and how that relationship has imparted lessons both consciously and unconsciously that the son carries with him for the rest of his life. And it is the story of the rise of the anti-abortion movement, and the institutionalized hate that has tainted the world view of many on the evangelical right.
It has come into vogue to not discuss the abortion issue, but Schaeffer explains that it is Roe v Wade that politicized the evangelical right, and abortion is the issue that fuels their hate, “To the post-Roe Right, hating the American government became the new patriotism. And, yes, other issues were involved besides Roe in goading Evangelicals and other members of the Right into a defensive crouch, but those issues—racial integration, a ban on prayer in public schools, gay rights, immigration and so on—paled in comparison to the slam-dunk blanket legalization of abortion when it came to stoking the flames of alienation.”
Schaeffer’s addresses how Sarah Palin has perfected the “holier than thou outsider victim approach,” the shooting of Rep Gabrielle Giffords, The Family, the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, and a real can’t miss part of the book is his thoughts on Franklin Graham. After having seen firsthand what extremism can do, Schaeffer has strong words for extremists on both sides of the abortion debate.
One of the traits of great writing is the ability to embrace the reader and take them on a journey. Frank Schaeffer’s writing style combines intelligence, warmth, humor, depth and insight. The book never overwhelms. Schaeffer never bores or bogs down. What Sex, Mom, & God offers is an engrossing story told in the most human of terms.
Sex, Mom, and God is hands down one of the best non-fiction books of the year. Schaeffer has managed to outdo himself and top his well known previous bestseller Crazy For God. He is a masterful storyteller, and a truly unique talent.
Don’t miss out on this book.