- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

I still remember the first time I saw Frank Schaeffer, then known in the evangelical Christian world as “Franky,” the son of revered scholar Francis Schaeffer.

It was 1983, and Franky, then 31, was giving a rousing speech about laying down one’s life in defense of the unborn to pro-lifers gathered at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Twenty-six years later, Mr. Schaeffer, 57 - who changed his moniker to ‘Frank’ around the time his 1992 autobiographical novel “Portofino” was published - is unrecognizable. He is now Greek Orthodox, although contrary to the position of his church, he believes abortion should be legal. He does call for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, on the grounds that it launched an intractable culture war.

His invective against his former allies has puzzled the evangelical world. The coup de grace was his 2007 book “Crazy for God,” where he dumped a load of dirt on his father and Edith Schaeffer, his 90-something-year-old mother, by asserting the couple’s world-famous Christian retreat, L’Abri, was a con job.

Thus, evangelicals applauded when Os Guinness, a disciple of Francis Schaeffer and a formidable scholar in his own right, blasted Mr. Schaeffer as “cruel, distorted and self-serving” in a March 2008 essay in the magazine “Books & Culture.”

Nonplussed, Mr. Schaeffer responded with a blast of his own and continues to score tirades against the “hate-filled morons of the Religious Right” via his Huffington Post blog, where he explains the machinations of the religious right as a collection of racist, anti-American and Armageddon-loving bigots.

His most famous screed came out June 1, when he said that he, his late father and other pro-life leaders were responsible for the May 31 shooting death of abortionist George Tiller because “we helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.” He then appeared on MSNBC to push his book and assert that “people like me are responsible for what we said and did.”

“If he feels this way,” a friend of mine sighed afterward, “why doesn’t Franky turn himself in?”

So far, he hasn’t.

“The right and left in this country have inflated the rhetoric to the point where there are direct results in ways we did not intend,” Mr. Schaeffer told me the other day. “We were not calling for individuals to be killed but flirting with language that, in the minds of unstable people, could take it to the next step.”

Now his rhetoric is cited as prime evidence for the theocracy the religious right supposedly wants to impose on America.

Maybe that’s why he’s coming out this fall with “Patience with God,” an effort to separate the Almighty from those despised evangelicals and fundamentalists. Some of his biggest fans are children of evangelicals who were foot soldiers in their parents’ battles.

“I get so much e-mail from people who feel disenfranchised,” Mr. Schaeffer told me. ” ‘Crazy for God’ was my response to former evangelicals who consider themselves to be devout Christians. Ruth Graham [daughter of evangelist Billy Graham] wrote me to say this, too, was her story. We were all sacrificial lambs. I’ve even been hearing from Oral Roberts’ grandson.”

Is he ashamed of his former life, I asked.

“No, not at all,” he said, “but I don’t think I’d do the same thing again.”

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column publishes on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at jduin@washingtontimes.com.

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