Frank Schaeffer has gaudily departed from the evangelical Christian family he was raised in, and how writes hair-on-fire articles about the dangers of the radical religious right. Last week, we found him warning on MSNBC of how Michele Bachmann represents a “theocracy in waiting” from people “who actually hate the United States as it is.”
Unsurprisingly, The Washington Post thinks Schaeffer’s new book Sex, Mom & God deserved a rave review in the Sunday paper, and went to find author Jane Smiley, who once wrote that Ann Coulter’s parents should be ashamed of themselves and that “Americans aren't nice or decent people, and conservative, overtly patriotic Americans are even less decent and less nice.”
The Post is probably not unaware of Smiley’s cozy fondness for “Frank,” as she calls him in her review. On the Huffington Post, Schaeffer thanked her for a “lovely long piece” in The Nation hailing his previous my-Christian-family-was-nuts memoir “Crazy for God” back in 2007. (Or will the Posties be surprised and hadn't managed to Google the two names?) Smiley summed it all up: the religious right can't handle women or their sex drive:
In “Sex, Mom, and God,” Frank makes the case that he and his parents were prime movers behind the political rise of the religious right in the United States, and he further makes the case that their home life was about as nutty as it could be....
Frank seems to have been born irreverent, but his memoirs have a serious purpose, and that is to expose the insanity and the corruption of what has become a powerful and frightening force in American politics. He considers himself an eyewitness to the insanity during his childhood, and an eyewitness to the corruption during his early adulthood. The root of both, according to this book, is the perverse and destructive view that the “God-of-the-Bible” takes of women and sexuality — that women are inherently corrupt and that their sexuality must be controlled by men. Frank’s point in “Sex, Mom, and God” is that female sexuality is at the heart of the abortion debate that energized the religious right, and he asserts, from his experience of both his very troubled father and himself, that profound anxiety about women and hypocrisy about the sex drive shape the evangelical bid for power in the United States.
This sounds exactly like longtime NPR thespian Garrison Keillor, who wrote in Time in 1995 about how Bill Clinton could take comfort because when "the Republicans get feverish and clammy and speak in tongues and handle snakes, he can go out to Omaha and Houston and be charming and graceful" while "The Republicans are going to be the Party That Canceled the Clean Air Act and Took Hot Lunches from Children, the Orphanage Party of Large White Men Who Feel Uneasy Around Gals." (Keillor's not uneasy around the gals: he's been married three times.)
Schaeffer pleased Smiley by theorizing that God should be more tolerant, like his mother. That "God of the Bible" is an awful being:
Frank contemplates women primarily through his mother, a beautiful daughter of missionaries and the organizer and enabler of L’Abri and of the career of Francis Schaeffer. Frank makes the case that Edith has lived the distortions of Biblical discourse for her entire life — she is now 96 — and has accommodated them by shading over the cruelest instructions or ignoring them entirely. She has, for example, used birth control in spite of biblical prohibitions against Onan spilling his seed, and she has been kind and compassionate toward lesbians, the unsaved and Frank’s own wife, whom he impregnated when they were unmarried teenagers — no stoning for Edith. As a result, Frank considers his mother to be a better spiritual model than the God-of-the-Bible, and he would like other evangelicals to understand this, too.
Smiley concluded the review: "Frank has been straightforward and entertaining in his campaign to right the political wrongs he regrets committing in the 1970s and ’80s. As the author of 10books since 2000, and plenty of articles and blogs, he has been more than industrious. As someone who has made redemption his work, he has, in fact, shown amazing grace."
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