The Schaeffer Zombie

Heard another interesting Dobson this morning. I picked it up on my car radio as I was driving to work, so I missed parts of it, but someone from Focus on the Family was interviewing Dobson and talking about, what else, the family. They spent the first five minutes or so talking about how the family was not a political issue, but a spiritual issue. That led to a discussion of how important “the family” was in God’s perfect plan, and how a Christian who doesn’t defend the family is betraying Jesus. And then, oh by the way, Dobson casually mentioned, in passing, that there’s an election coming up that could have a devastating negative impact on the family, and he was concerned about that. He wasn’t going to get into candidates or anything like that, because the family is a spiritual issue not a political issue. But Christians need to take steps to defend the family, “and I think you all can figure out what I mean by that.”

Yeah, right, “the family” isn’t a political issue (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say-na-more, knowwhatImean?). But what was really interesting was when the interviewer started “channeling” the late Francis Schaeffer.

“I’m sure Dr. Schaeffer would be proud of the work you are doing today,” says the interviewer. (I’m paraphrasing since I couldn’t take notes while I was driving.)

“Oh, yes,” agrees Dobson. “Dr. Schaeffer was a great man who had tremendous insights. He foresaw the terrible situation we’d be getting into once we opened the door to abortion and euthanasia and unprovoked wars and capital punishment”–oops, wait, Dobson didn’t mention anything about war and capital punishment, silly me.

What’s interesting is that this comes so close on the heals of the interview with Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer, in which Frank gives us the inside scoop on what Dr. Schaeffer really thought. (HT again to Daylight Atheist.)

FS: …I’m hoping that my book, aside from humanizing dad, will also redeem his reputation as someone who was known for something better than simply being a leader in the Religious Right. He really was known as a thinker.

JW: Are you saying that Francis Schaeffer wouldn’t be part of the Christian Right?

FS: Yes. He has been used by people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others to give some respectability to points of view that really were not his. What made my dad’s heart beat fastest was talking about people’s philosophical presuppositions and how they lived. He wanted to put people’s lives back together again, people who had problems. The politicized view of him is illegitimate.

The “JW” in the interview, by the way, is John Whitehead, conservative Christian scholar and apologist, so we’re not looking at a hatchet-job, anti-Christian screed here. Frank Schaeffer, too, is a Christian, though no longer a right-wing fundamentalist variety. Earlier in the interview, he also had this to say, in response to a telling question by Whitehead:

JW: His views of homosexuality were quite different from those of today’s Christian Right, which is stridently anti-gay. But Francis Schaeffer didn’t see it that way. As you say in the book, he saw homosexuality as a serious matter. But he didn’t think they would stop being homosexuals if they became Christians. And he didn’t condemn them. Is that right?

FS: That is absolutely correct. A lot of people in the evangelical and fundamentalist communities speak theoretically about homosexuality being no worse than adultery or divorce. However, in practice, they are not undertaking national campaigns to single out evangelical people who were married to somebody else at one time and got divorced. So actually there is a tremendous moral hypocrisy there because the whole gay issue has been singled out for special treatment.

Poor Dr. Schaeffer. He could stand up for himself when he was alive, but now that he’s dead the Dobsons of the world have no qualms about putting words in his mouth (as the interviewer did this morning, telling us the exact praises that Schaeffer would be heaping on the meek and humble Dr. Dobson). He essentially founded their movement, and they’re rewarding him by dragging his corpse out of the grave and turning it into their zombie slave, doing their will regardless of how much it may conflict with the man’s views when he was alive.  I can somewhat understand why they would do this to someone like Hitler or Gould, or even the still-with-us-but-not-quite-with-it Anthony Flew. But one of their own? Someone they revere as one of their spiritual/philosophical founders? These guys have no decency.

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2 Responses to “The Schaeffer Zombie”

  1. Jeff Eaton Says:

    But one of their own? Someone they revere as one of their spiritual/philosophical founders? These guys have no decency.

    Not really. Schaeffer has always been a totem of intellectual legitimacy in the Evangelical world. He was a very, very smart guy and an incredibly sharp thinker; his writing was one of the huge influences on my early life, and I can’t help but hold a lot of respect for him.

    His slide into the world of right-wing politics, at least as depicted in his son’s book, feels a lot like an alcoholic’s falling off the wagon. After decades of slowly walking away from the theological knife-fights of the fundamentalist churches in America, he allowed himself to be pulled into divisive social issues he had expressed disinterest in for years. He became less of an intellectual leader and more of an intellectual totem — someone whose name could be pulled up as proof that “thinkers” agreed with their point.

    It’s no wonder that he’s now trotted out as the Appeal To Evangelical Authority.

  2. mrrage Says:

    I too was heavily influenced by Schaeffer when I was a Christian. He was probably one of the more thoughtful and compassionate among well known 20th century Christians.

    But Schaeffer wasn’t that great of a thinker. Some of his most basic world view assumptions are no more than the old “God of the gaps” fallacy, i.e. he thought since there’s no scientific explanation for our consciousness, or personality to use his term, that there must have been a conscious, personal being that made us. This is just the beginning of what he gets wrong.

    As Jeff Eaton pointed out, Schaeffer did get involved in right wing politics. He wrote at least one book on abortion that I’m aware of, and the anti-abortion movement regards Schaeffer as foundation for there work.