Thursday, January 29, 2015

on Schaeffers and shortcuts ... how Christians left and right can use proxy and celebrity as shortcuts

A few weeks back there was a lively discussion that emerged over at Mockingbird discussing the art of Thomas Kinkade and the use of observations by Francis Schaeffer to discuss themes in the arts.

Having grown up with some exposure to the work of Francis Schaeffer it was interesting to read Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God years ago.  The son seems to have nothing much to work with except leveraging the celebrity of his father and has had less than grateful things to say about his old man. This is, in its way, fairly normal American.  But if Francis Schaeffer became a hero to the Religious Right Frank Schaeffer seems to have positioned himself as a sorta religious left.  "I'm not my dad" is about all he has to work with and yet as weaknesses for ideological grandstanding go the son, at length, doesn't seem much different from the father.

Sometimes it seems as though we turn into our parents not only in spite of our best efforts to not be like them but paradoxically through our most ardent efforts to not be like them. Back in the Crazy for God writings Frank seemed perfectly willing to admit he bullied his father into become more militantly opposed to abortion when Francis Schaeffer had taken a fairly standard Protestant line in the 1960s and earlier 1970s by regarding abortion as a "Catholic" issue.  But after a couple of election cycles Frank's version of events suggested his father, were he alive, would have approved of reactionary anti-American terrorism.  Well, if so, then wouldn't Frank have supported it back then, too? 

That Frank Schaeffer took the time to plug for one of his books the week of Nelson Mandela's funeral seemed mercenary and lazy in a way that even Mark Driscoll would have thought twice about. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has been grateful for elements of Francis Schaeffer's legacy, particularly his willingness to engage the entire range of the arts.  That's ... probably about as far as it goes currently, because Schaeffer asserted a few things that Wenatchee doesn't entirely agree with.  Tonality in music is more optional than obligatory and atonality, pantonality and a other elements of music that erupted into the avant garde in the last century are not in any way indicative of some abandonment of a "Christian worldview" overall.  Schaeffer's Christian worldview/humanism dichotomy was often reductionist.  In concert music some of the most innovative contributors to the avant garde hailed from some religiously pretty conservative backgrounds.  Stravinsky eventually (after a long while) returned to the Orthodox fold.  Messiaen and Penderecki, Catholics. 

The simplest way to describe what I think has run amok with any Schaeffer, Francis or Frank, is that too many Christians use them as shortcuts, as go-to celebrities to prove their particular points, whether for conservative or progressive score-keeping purposes. 

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