Growing up Schaeffer

"Growing up Schaeffer" Continued...

Issue: "Mission: Impossible?," Oct. 13, 2007

"After a careful reading of an advance copy of the book two months ago, Deborah and I were very impressed with the many places where Frank Schaeffer honors his parents and their life. Deborah's own memories of her childhood, written independently (and which Frank uses in full in the book), surprisingly do not differ that much from those he states as his own. We were very moved by this excruciatingly honest and often very funny memoir."

Flesh & blood

Schaeffer son puts away the airbrush

WORLD: You confess at the beginning of this book that it is a memoir. Given the inflammatory nature of much that is in the book, wouldn't you have been better served to do the research of a historian or biographer?

SCHAEFFER: To represent myself as an objective historian or biographer would have been false. In attempting to be honest, I thought it better to simply admit up front that these were my impressions, and let the reader take them for what they're worth. I didn't want to speak with an omniscient voice. That wouldn't be fair. And there is nothing in that book that I have any worries about as being not true, as in did not happen. Believe me, after 23 drafts of the manuscript, this is not just shooting from the hip.

WORLD: Your family, especially the relationship between your father and mother, has been depicted as the ideal evangelical family. That's not the picture you paint here.

SCHAEFFER: My mother and dad were opposite personalities. Mom was someone who tended to fight with my father through her children. That was not unique to Edith Schaeffer. But my mom and dad were humans. Within the household there was a rivalry. The Schaeffer household was one of flesh and blood.

WORLD: But why not let these family matters remain family matters?

SCHAEFFER: When you write a book like this, you have to choose between loyalty to the reader and the truth as you remember it, or to some sort of airbrushed propaganda. I chose loyalty to the reader and loyalty to the truth.

WORLD: You say that for years you wrote airbrushed propaganda for the evangelical market.

SCHAEFFER: Absolutely. With, by the way, the best of intentions. But that's what it was. I had a point of view and I would ignore things that didn't fit my point of view. That's the problem with those on both the left and the right. They self-censor, for reasons of survival. They choose not to write things that they know to be true but which might offend their target audience. I've tried to stop doing that. I'm not saying I always do that, that I've achieved some sort of impartiality. But I try to write as I see things and not as it will help a particular ministry, or my career, or will sell a book to the evangelical bookstore chain.

WORLD: Yet, underneath your disdain for what you believe is the artificiality of evangelicalism, you still hold many of the same beliefs. You're still a practicing Christian. You are still pro-life, though you're not politically active on that issue anymore. You've remained married to the same woman for almost 40 years now. You still have a high regard for authenticity and truth. You're a writer and painter. Some would say that the apple hasn't fallen that far from the tree.

SCHAEFFER: That would be a fair assessment. The difference is that I no longer say what I say or write what I write based on whether it will improve my chances of getting on Dobson's radio program.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren is vice president of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.


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