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Crazy for God: 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

Crazy for God: 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

3.8 27
by Frank Schaeffer

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By the time he was nineteen, Frank Schaeffer’s parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had achieved global fame as bestselling evangelical authors and speakers, and Frank had joined his father on the evangelical circuit. He would go on to speak before thousands in arenas around America, publish his own evangelical bestseller, and work with such figures as Pat


By the time he was nineteen, Frank Schaeffer’s parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had achieved global fame as bestselling evangelical authors and speakers, and Frank had joined his father on the evangelical circuit. He would go on to speak before thousands in arenas around America, publish his own evangelical bestseller, and work with such figures as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Dr. James Dobson. But all the while Schaeffer felt increasingly alienated, precipitating a crisis of faith that would ultimately lead to his departure—even if it meant losing everything.

With honesty, empathy, and humor, Schaeffer delivers “a brave and important book” (Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog)—both a fascinating insider’s look at the American evangelical movement and a deeply affecting personal odyssey of faith.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
American Author’s Association website, December 2008
“A story that needed to be told…A very personal and brutally honest memoir, that opens up and exposes the underbelly of the evangelistic movement…Gives the reader a rare and different look at some of various leaders of the fundamentalist moment...The book may open some eyes and minds about the dangers of politics and religion…A must read book for serious seekers looking for their own authentic path to enlightenment, or at least some inner peace.”

De-conversion.com, 12/2/08
“A must read for the de-converting…It is brutally honest, eye-opening, at times laugh out loud funny, and heart breaking.”

Princeton Packet, 2/13/09
“Mr. Schaeffer knows what he’s talking about. He was there, and his book lays it all out, chapter and verse.”

TCM Reviews
“[A] moving memoir…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.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 4/15/09
“In a witty recollection that takes a different path from the average evangelical story, Frank Schaeffer offers an intimate portrait of a life within and without the spotlight of mass congregations…Schaeffer is more than qualified to offer candid commentary concerning the religious right in these United States…Written with an intricate collection of detail, a smooth ability to turn elements of conflict into startling moments of realization, and a wonderful search for meaning.”

Tallahassee Democrat, 7/25/09
“Part memoir, part biography, and part expose of a fundamentalist moment in U.S. religion and culture. As memoir it is at times funny, at times moving. As biography it provides an interesting, not to say intimate, perspective on Francis and Edith Schaeffer. As expose it provides revealing glimpses into the emergence of the religious right and some of its most visible leaders.”

Evangelical Studies Bulletin, Spring 2008
“[A] breezy new autobiographical book…The inner story of young Frank(y)’s childhood, adolescence, meteoric phase as up-and-coming evangelical political activist, and subsequent career keep the pages turning…[An] entertaining and provocative read.”

Semi-Autonomous Collective blog, 12/27/09
“Aggravating at times, frustrating by moments, but overall terribly touching, Schaeffer isn’t hiding any flaws from the picture he paints of his own family. If there is one book to understand where the religious right comes from, it’s that one.”

Springfield News-Leader, 8/22/12
“Excellent resources for anyone interested in the strange history of the heretical anti-abortion doctrine being taught in American churches today for the purpose of garnering political support.”

Christianity Today's Books & Culture
Memoir obviously demands introspection, and Schaeffer doesn't hold back.Schaeffer describes a life that was by turns happy, difficult, idyllic, and completely nuts.He's a world-class storyteller.He can make us laugh, make us wince, and make us really think about things, all at the same time.
New Statesman
A brilliant book, a portrait of fundamentalism painted in broad strokes with streaks of nuance, the twinned coming-of-age story of Frank and the Christian right. But this story moves in more than one direction: both coming-of-age narratives are pulled against the current by the tragedy of Francis Schaeffer, a man who let his children, biological and ideological, guide him down a path from which he'd spent his whole life struggling to get off.
—Jeff Sharlet
Sounding a refreshing variation on the I-was-lost-but-now-I'm-found theme, Schaeffer's apology rings true.
Boston Globe
Crazy for God isn't just another James Frey-style memoir of personal dysfunction.It's an alternately hilarious and excruciating look at Schaeffer's life with his Christian missionary parents and after he left their orbit.
Jane Smiley
It offers considerable insight into several issues that have bedeviled American life in the past thirty years, and while it isn't scholarly, when taken in conjunction with his other works.it gives us not only a handle on the mess we are in but also quite a few laughs.
The Nation
Washington Times
A story about the dangers of inauthentic faith.An important book.A cautionary tale about the damaging effects on children whose parents have an excess of spiritual pride.
Library Journal

Schaeffer (Portofino) shares his personal responses and reactions to his mostly unsupervised upbringing in L'Abri, an idealistic, isolated, intellectual Christian community in Switzerland. This community initially hosted collegians, but with the Sixties and all that came with it, it grew to include people of international significance. Young Schaeffer mixed with them all, despite feeling trapped and rebellious. At times, he was haunted by the thought that he should have pursued his early career success in painting. Nevertheless, and despite his lack of education, Schaeffer became an able speaker and successfully produced Christian films and wrote numerous books. In a reaction that did not come as a surprise, he completely broke from all his avenues of evangelical Christian fame to struggle in the secular world, at one point shoplifting so that he could eat. His attempts in secular film (e.g., Baby on Board, with Judge Reinhold) failed, but he has found some success as a best-selling secular author. This is not just a book about rejecting Christian evangelicalism. It has parallels in secular culture and is an honest read about family life and its challenges. Suitable and recommended for large libraries.
—George Westerlund

Kirkus Reviews
Interesting glimpses into the burgeoning religious right folded into a deeply personal memoir. After World War II, Schaeffer's evangelical parents founded a mission in Switzerland called L'Abri, where he grew up. A large portion of the narrative is dedicated to those years and his conflicting memories of them. At times the author describes his father as a moody, even abusive man; at other points he speaks of him with great respect and love. He depicts his mother as a juggernaut who wore her piety on her sleeve and indoctrinated the children, yet his devotion to this "sexy saint" borders on oedipal. Likewise, he alternately paints his youth as an idyllic utopia and a period of boiling frustrations. At all times, however, Schaeffer is brutally honest. Pot-smoking, group masturbation, running away from boarding school, even the tricks he played on a mentally handicapped woman who lived at L'Abri-each unflattering incident is related in vivid detail. During the author's young-adult years, his parents became quite well known, and he was solicited to work with his father on the 1974 evangelical documentary series How Then Should We Live? Schaeffer encountered many figures in the increasingly public and political evangelical movement; he offers particularly eye-opening accounts of his personal encounters with the likes of Pat Robertson, James Dobson et al. He became convinced that he did not fit into the evangelical mold and in fact had simply been living and speaking about matters in which he had been steeped since birth but basically never truly believed. His break from the movement and what followed in his life comprise the final chapters. Candid, sometimes angry and clearly cathartic for theauthor. Agent: Jennifer Lyons/Writers House LLC

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Da Capo Press
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are Saying About This

Andre Dubus III
"As a lifelong liberal democrat, it's a pleasure for me to see Frank Schaeffer turn his back on the extreme religious right here, but it is a far deeper pleasure to go where this painstakingly honest and courageous memoir really takes us, into a finely nuanced exploration of how easy it is to lose one's way and how difficult it is to find one's true direction home. We are fortunate that Frank Schaeffer's path has taken him from the rigid fundamentalist thinking of his youth to where he is now, working not in stark black and white, but in the blessed gray from which true art arises. Crazy for God is a brave and important book."--(Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog)

Meet the Author

Frank Schaeffer is a bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction, and also a documentary and feature film director. Frank and his wife, Genie, live in Massachusetts and have three children.

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Crazy for God 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a sometimes serious, surprisingly funny, but honest portrayal of what life was like growing up as the son of one of the most well-know evangelical leaders of the 1960's and '70's. As the son of a minister myself, I can relate to being 'folded into' into the ministry of my parents. I can also relate to having lots of strangers in my home night and day and a sense, whether real or imagined, that the my parents thought 'the work of the Lord' was more important than me or my interests. I can remember, like Frank Schaeffer, being forbidden to dance, go to movies or even join the cub scouts because it was on the same night as mid-week prayer service. I , like Schaeffer, felt different from all the other kids. And like Frank Schaeffer, my parents had their battles and my preacher dad had an explosive temper. Like Frank's dad, my dad never showed his temper outside the home. It made me also question my faith and Christianity. Unlike Frank however, I now consider myself an agnostic for several reasons, only one being the way I was raised.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting look into the life of Frankie Schaeffer the son of prominent Christians Edith and Francis Schaeffer of L'Abri fame and gives the reader a perspective of the ups and downs of being the offspring of extremely busy, driven people during an exciting period of time in American politics. In addition, Schaeffer's writing style means easy reading, and insightful, interesting, and humorous takes on some sensitive topics. But, I rated this book just ok because when you get down to it, most of the book is about what appears to be self-justification for questionable behavior on his part. In striving to justify himself he trashes the world around him, including his parents and ends up bringing their honesty and integrity into question. In the process he proceeds to mock not only them, who he confessed loved him dearly, but also associates and teachers. And, he does so in a manner that can only be termed ¿cruel¿ especially to those unable to defend themselves at this point in time. To his credit he does manage to recognize and confess some of his failures, but seems to lack the fortitude to acknowledge they were based on his desires, not his parents or peers. After all, he admits to being the dominant personally who was driven to have his way. And, by taking advantage of his parents love for him, always seemed to get it to the detriment of the L¿Abri community. As someone who respected Edith and Francis Schaeffer particularly for their work in the area of Christian Apologetics, and having talked with a number of individuals whose lives were changed for the positive by having had the opportunity to spend time at L¿Abri, I found his treatment of his parents and many of his friends, disappointing. It is an interesting book, but I think it may have been written too soon. Perhaps the writer is still on a journey of sorts when it comes to deciding who he really is and what he believes about his parents and the events that transpired. I wish he had waited a few more years down the road. Time has a way of putting things in perspective and I suspect the picture painted by Schaeffer is a bit distorted by guilt and perhaps disappointment in self. I would like to see him write more on the same topic 5 years from now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading, 'Crazy For God', my how this story hit home for me in our journey of faith and life. I know that no two journeys are the same, but the lessons learned and the perspectives shared in this journal of life seem to touch on some familiar themes in our life. To Frank I would say - 'Thank you for your courage and your families courage to tell your story! I am deeply touched by your boldness to tell this story with honest vulnerable transparency. I love the fact that you took a step of courage and shared your doubts of God and even at one point questioned his existence. You are putting to paper what all of us have wrestled with in our minds, but are too fearful to admit. Thanks for sharing the worts of your humanity as well! It was a breath of fresh cool clean air to breath.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book, and am very thankful that I did. Having lauded Francis Schaeffer back when I was a college student, and thinking that he was the 'thinking person's' Christian, I now see the struggles within the man and the family. What a shame that Francis Schaeffer himself wasn't able to write about his own torn inner self so that we humans who thought we knew him could know him even better than what his son has been able to provide, insight-wise. However, the book that Frank 'the little sh*t from Switzerland' as others called him, has written, is more than good enough. I found myself and my own struggles in many of his. That whole feeling of being a traitor if you question what you had heretofore believed. For the past few years, I have gone through my own crisis of faith, wondering what I believed, or indeed, even IF I believed. I find I still do believe--for now--but not as I did before I had so many unanswerable questions. It's interesting to me that Frank Schaeffer does not get more explicit about his own faith, how it looks, what he believes in, but focuses more on how nutty his upbringing was and how some of the family have mellowed with time, and others have not been able to get over their allegiance to what they were once taught to consider gospel truth. His description of his wife Genie leads the reader to believe that her love and acceptance of him 'teenagers when they married' has a lot to do with him being able to be himself. I congratulate them on their commitment to their marriage and to each other. Rather than think of Frank Schaeffer's 'walking away from the faith of his childhood' as some kind of failure, I think it more indicative of the maturing of faith that his father and mother probably would have loved to be able to give themselves and each other, had there not been such external 'and internal' pressure to continue on the same constricted path that they had originally begun to forge. This is good reading for anyone who calls himself a Christian--whether you are one who thinks you have all the answers, or, as Frank Schaeffer himself admits--has often been wrong about what he believed.
OneWomanInk More than 1 year ago
Not much more to say than that we need many, many more books that tell the truth in an era of lies, propaganda, and media manipulation. That it is a fantastic blend of history and memoir makes it all the better. That this story has been ruminating for decades, shaping domestic and foreign policy, religious freedoms and rights, and is ultimately destroying America...well, it not only sickens me, but scares me to death. Plus, I had a few laughs, as well! Frank Schaeffer is a gifted writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thought provoking, funny, courageous, and poignant. What a fascinating life. In his new book, Crazy for God, Frank Schaeffer is willing to share his journey as it winds its way through private and public personalities and situations. The youngest child of the famous and gifted Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Frank brings us his unique story with particular authority, credibility and courage. It takes courage to speak up now while so many people in this book are still living. They are in the American and European public as well as in his family. This memoir is Frank's journey, with his experiences, continued faith, and open critical self-evaluation. We should all be so honest
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine trying to explain your life - good, bad, inconsistent, embarrassments - everything. That's pretty much what Frank Schaeffer has done in ¿Crazy for God.¿ Having read many of the criticisms from those who can't seem to come to grips with the concept of Francis and Edith Schaeffer being less than models of perfection, I have to question whether those individuals finished reading this memoir. I find a Frank Schaeffer who painstakingly tries to share his struggles, doubts, shortcomings, regrets, failures, and - finally - his coming to terms with his father, mother, wife, children, and faith. I find Mr. Schaeffer to be much harder on himself 'and his work' in this book than on anyone else. Schaeffer does something else - he allows us to get the perspectives of his friends, siblings, and children. He seems to give them all the room they need to share their memories and offer their slants on the events in their shared experiences. Chapter 25 is a must read for everyone who has ever attended a prayer meeting. Having more than a passing familiarity with at least two of the worlds Mr. Schaeffer exposes 'the political and the evangelical', I find his accounts to ring with more truth than most in either camp would care to admit. In the end, we find a man who is more interested in dealing with life in all of its inconsistencies and nuances than in defining everything in a simplistic ¿black/white - us/them¿ fashion. I would recommend this book for anyone who is ready to wrestle with some of their own preconceived notions about themselves and their beliefs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While Schaeffer gives a great behind the scenes look at the rise of fundementalist christianity and the religious right during the 70s theres a hint of envy here too. Seems like Schaeffer making his dad into the one true pioneer of those days and every other fundementalist leader a copy cat who imitaded his fathers genius if not simple minded charlatens. Schaeffer does the usual apologia for his own shortcomings and ruthlessly washes the famlies dirty laundry in public mostly to excuse and justify himself while laying claim to his fathers mantle for his own aggrandizement. Horrifically self serving the book reads like a confession at an AA meeting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Author certainly did have a personal committment to details of his experience. Some of the details were not of interest to me as a reader but the overall content and conclusions I DID resonate with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great indictment of the religious right in America told from the perspective of someone who was there from the beginning. It is insightful and at the same time amusing as it puts a face to the evangelical movement and gives some insights into how it started, how it was twisted, and where it went wrong.
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This memoir is well-written, but I found my enjoyment hampered by the unlikeable nature of most of the main figures. While this provides evidence that Schaeffer was probably presenting an accurate portrait (not least of himself), it makes it hard to root for any of them.
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