Once again, the volcanic Frank Schaeffer trots out his tiresome shtick about how horrible he was back in the day when he was a conservative Evangelical, and what a rotten man his daddy was, and how it’s time for someone to blow the freakin’ lid off the Religious Right, etc., ad nauseam. It’s dinner-theater psychodrama, this stuff. It’s also the left-wing version of the stock character in fundamentalist circles: the supposed former Satanist who got religion and who now goes around peddling ooga-booga stories to gullibles who love a conversion story. Schaeffer goes around the bend one mo’ time to introduce, with hearty approval, a column by an associate that starts like this:
There have been some unspeakably wicked things done in the name of God over the centuries. In my lifetime I can’t think of a more insidious act done in the name of the Christian God than the Republican Party’s nefarious campaign to teach Americans that God opposes abortion.
Is Schaeffer even a member of the Orthodox communion anymore? What does his bishop make of him? The man seems consumed with rage (and arrogance–Why I Still Talk to Jesus, In Spite of Everything–how gracious of him).
I don’t know what Schaeffer’s formal status as an Orthodox Christian is, but his foaming public rage and denunciation of Christian orthodoxy is an embarrassment to the Orthodox. According to an account from earlier this year of his appearance at a progressive church, Schaeffer doesn’t believe in God anymore, but still receives communion at his Greek Orthodox parish:
Today, Schaeffer goes “to a Greek Orthodox church not because I’m Greek Orthodox … I just happen to like Byzantine liturgies because it’s mostly in Greek so I can’t understand them. It’s good because it’s the words that bother me.” He explained that “to me, worship is finding a space to be quiet in, and not think clever thoughts … you just do the liturgy, and everyone can bring their own interpretation to it.”
To Schaeffer, “to be a Christian is not to believe in Jesus in terms of who he was, whether he is the Son of God, rose from the dead or not, it is to believe in that life as an example.” He claimed “there’s a difference between following the person, the teaching, and the example and belief in. Belief is useless … but doing is very difficult.” Although he holds no belief in the basic tenets of Christianity, Schaeffer still receives the communion every week. When asked by an audience member how his priest could give him communion despite his lack of faith, he sharply replied, “If we think that sincerity or correct theology will get you anywhere, good luck with that, because it won’t.”
So why does Schaeffer bother going to church and receiving communion when he does not believe any of it? He answered, because “I can find the redemption, and in the circle of my church community I can find the redemption that eluded me when I was chasing it trying to have correct ideas about God rather than just working on the content of my own character, and the only place you can work on that is in the relationships with the people around you.”
It appears that his bishop, whoever he is, doesn’t give a flip about this man who publicly states that he doesn’t believe in God, or in Jesus Christ, but receives communion anyway, and makes his living in large part by publicly denouncing Evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians in large part for believing what Orthodox Christians are supposed to believe. And now the Greek Orthodox Schaeffer is promoting the idea that abortion, which has been strongly condemned by the Church since the beginning, is “simply another of God’s tools promoting our evolution toward perfection.”
It’s pretty clear what’s wrong with Frank Schaeffer. It’s harder to figure out what’s wrong with his silent bishop.
UPDATE: In this fascinating 1995 review of fresh Orthodox convert Frank Schaeffer’s book ballyhooing his new confession, the Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian expresses a great deal of concern that Schaeffer is not so much converting as merely moving his earlier fundamentalist hotheadness and absolutism into Orthodoxy. Even today, the more Frank changes, the more he stays the same.
UPDATE.2: Edward Hamilton, in the comments thread below:
It says something about American political life in general (and though not merely, but perhaps still especially, Huffpo style liberalism) that Schaeffer’s personality type engages with his new political community in exactly the same way it engaged with his previous religious communities. Being a person emotionally consumed with exclaiming the rectitude of certain points of liberal orthodoxy satisfies exactly the same psychological necessities as being consumed with evangelical orthodoxy, or Eastern orthodoxy. The only thing he’s good at doing is being a footsoldier, and so he’s made a mercenary’s career out of shopping himself around to different armies.
Lesson: A man cannot serve two masters, but will always end up serving at least one. Choose carefully.