Michael Woodhead


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

Frank Schaeffer
Da Capo Press
ISBN: 978-0-306-81750-2
Memoir, Religion

Those familiar with the Schaeffers will also probably be familiar with some of Frank's evangelical works which include Addicted to Mediocrity and A Time for Anger amongst others, as well as the film presentations How Should We Then Live, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race. However, he is also the author of The Calvin Becker Trilogy (Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma) and Baby Jack, as well as the non-fiction works, Keeping Faith; Faith of Our Sons; and Voices From the Front.

As may be discerned when one reads this book, in many respects, Frank is still an 'angry young man', although this time, his anger seems more directed towards himself than at anyone else in particular. This moving memoir takes the reader behind the scenes, so to speak, of the author's life with his parents and siblings, friends, co-workers, wife and children, and reveals much more than what the reader might expect. That is to say, in 'real life', the Schaeffers, like many other Christian 'icons' -- and Frank isn't afraid to name some of them -- were, and are, just as human as the rest of us, some of them with even greater foibles than we might want to believe.

Frank presents the memoir in four sections -- Childhood, Education, Turmoil, and Peace. Although focusing on his own emotional and psychological tribulations, he manages to help the reader understand how people and experiences helped shape who he first became, and why he gradually distanced himself from the evangelical movement, turning instead, to Greek Orthodoxy.

Frank is remarkably transparent throughout this book, sharing how more and more alienated he felt in spite of the fact that he and his father were popular evangelical authors and speakers, particularly to fundamentalist churches and organizations crying out to them that they needed to "take back America".

Further, Frank describes his vacillating life as a rebellious young man, a filmmaker and a father, and his eventual journey back to a new prominence as a writer.

The book ends on a poignant note: "...maybe there is a God who forgives, who loves, who knows. I hope so. Anything is possible in world where a daughter forgives her father, for ignorance, for anger, for failure, and places her daughter in his arms."

For those interested in a different perspective on Francis and Edith Schaeffer, l'Abri, and the fundamentalist right-wing evangelical movement, as well as the touching story of someone deeply involved in it all, this is a must-read.