It’s my first post, yeah!!!
Okay, back to business…
“Crazy for God.” When I first saw this title in an Asheville bookstore just over a month ago, I knew I had to at least stop and take a look at the book. After I got closer to the book, read the subtitle of the book and thumbed through its pages, I knew I had to buy the book. Once I got back home to Georgia later that evening and started reading the book, I knew I had to write about this book and some of the concepts that were presented in the book in my first post on this blog.
The full title of the book is “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.” It is written by Frank Schaeffer. Now there is some great dish on some of the Religious Right that we are familiar with this in country, which may be compelling information as we are in the midst of a vigorous election cycle, but that is not really why I found this book so compelling. (If you want to get the gossip, you’re going to have to buy the book. J)
Frank Schaeffer is the son of famous American evangelicals Francis and Edith Schaeffer who founded Switzerland’s L’Abri, an idealistic community that attracted spiritual seekers from all over the world – a kind of Christian hippie community. Essentially, his parents, who are now deceased, were missionaries, and Schaeffer reveals much of their lives as well as his own in the memoir. The premise of the book is that his “parents’ call to ministry actually drove them crazy.” “I think religion was actually their source of tragedy. Mom tried to dress, talk, and act like anything but what she was. Dad looked flustered if fundamentalists, especially Calvinist theologians, would intrude into a discussion and try to steer it away from art or philosophy so they could discuss the finer points of arcane theology.”
I am a Christian. I am also the daughter and granddaughter of ministers. I have two to three uncles (depending on who you ask in the family) who are ministers. Growing up in Christianity, I felt attracted to it and repelled by it at the same time. And sometimes I still do. I love the Jesus that is presented in the Bible, but sometimes Christians can seem crazy or just plain weird. According to his book, Schaeffer and I are “kindred spirits” in that he was both attracted and repelled by Christianity. Schaeffer does a good job of presenting some examples of some crazy and weird Christians. And he also discusses some Christian concepts that nearly drove him crazy as well.
I heard about witnessing all of my life, and apparently Schaeffer did too. Here is an excerpt of his take on witnessing. “Everything we did was to be a witness. (To ‘witness’ was to ‘share Christ.’; in other words, talk about your faith in hopes that you would convince the other person listening to convert. To witness also meant to live in such a way that people would ‘see Christ” in you and want to convert because your life was so admirable.) People’s eternal destinies hinged on a word or tiny event, maybe on no more than an unfriendly look. Even an improperly served high tea on Sunday afternoon could send someone to hell.” He essentially said that his parents’ instruction about witnessing made him second guess his every action from eating to playing with his childhood friends and their eternal consequences.
Okay, I don’t know anything about high tea, but I, like Schaeffer, have always been instructed since I was a child that I am to live my life as a witness of Jesus Christ so that others people would be inspired to convert to Christianity. Wow! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone (including myself) watching me all of the time. Although I have been consciously trying to live as a Christian since 1996, I still mess up a lot, and sometimes, I mess up in a big way, so if you’re looking at my life as a roadmap to Heaven, be prepared to make some hellish detours from time to time. A friend once told me that she admired my faith in Christ. I asked her to explain more. She said that sometimes she could almost see an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder. She said that sometimes I listened to the devil, but I eventually listened to the angel. I smile every time I think about her statement. So at best, I am a witness to earnest imperfection.
Another persistent theme in the book is his parents’ visible struggle between living what they thought a Christian life should look like or the bohemian existence which is what they really wanted to live. In the book, Schaeffer describes a girl named Lynette who gave up dancing to be a Christian and how his mother rejoiced when she heard the news. However, in her old age, Schaeffer’s mother loved to dance to that “jazzy music” [that was] banned from our home when I was young: if we were changing radio stations and hit upon any of the tunes she sings so gleefully in old age, Mom would turn off the radio with a snap and reproachful stare. In the early unreconstructed fundamentalist years, Mom always said ‘Real Christians don’t dance. It isn’t pleasing to the Lord.’”
I have felt this tension as well. As a child, I somehow got the message that dancing in general was not encouraged, and in particular, dancing to secular music was frowned upon. That message is one of the reasons that I resisted the whole Christian thing when I was in college. I just couldn’t see myself not going to parties and shakin’ it fast and watching myself, ha,ha! I know that being a Christian involves self sacrifice – that theme is throughout the Bible. But thankfully, according to my relationship with God, that doesn’t mean that I have to give up listening to secular music or dancing to it. It is so irritating when I come across Christians that feel that you should never listen to secular music. On any given day, I may be blasting Canton Jones or Lil Wayne in my car. And as an artist, I feel that that I have to have the freedom to explore any avenue that I may find interesting. (Of course, there are exceptions, e-mail me if you want to know more.) I really don’t feel that God wants to squelch that impulse within me.
And what about religious paraphernalia? Some of it is downright weird Schaeffer talks about some of the paraphernalia sold at a booth at a Christian Booksellers Association convention years ago. He described items at the booth which were “copied from the secular world, but made bizarrely religious.” He described the “evangelical version of the ‘Budweiser’ towel, a rip-off of the then-popular Budweiser commercial ‘This Bud’s for You!’ There was a lookalike beer on it with two crucified hands and the logo, ‘This Blood’s for You!’ being offered at the convention. It was very popular.” How crazy is that?
And to be honest, sometimes I really cannot stand to listen to some Christian songs. Apparently, Schaeffer has experienced the same distaste for some Christian music. “I wished God had never made any men or women with a ‘ministry in music.’ I wished he’d strike them all down so I’d never have to spend another minute listening to another fat lady (even the men were ‘fat ladies’ to me) sing another Jesus-is-my boyfriend song to synthesized violin playback.” I’ve experienced that same phenomenon in which people (in particular women) try to equate their relationship with God as a relationship with a spouse or boyfriend. When I turn to the empty side of my bed on some nights, I am not thinking that Jesus could be my man. That’s ridiculous! Can I get an “Amen!” from my saved, single and smart ladies?
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I could pull out more points, but I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing Christianity. I love God with all of my heart, soul and mind, but I’m not “Crazy for God,” thank God! Any thoughts?