Deranged Left-Wing Fundamentalist Syndrome

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


Children of conservative religious backgrounds who spend a lifetime rebelling against their parents often replicate the “fundamentalism” of their youth.  Except their mutated version is often angrier, more intolerant, and unmitigated by the sense of divine grace that permeates even the most zealous of Christian “fundamentalists.”

Franky Schaeffer, hyper resentful son of the late great evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer, is an icon of this pathology.  But in the wake of the horrible Connecticut killings, he has outdone even the most foaming at the mouth caricature of himself.

“George W. Bush was a serial killer of children too for no better ‘reasons’ than the shooter in the school was,” Schaeffer pronounced in his latest diatribe.  “Why were we in Iraq? Bush also went on a senseless killing spree. It was birthed by insane Christian Zionism, defended by neoconservative anything-for-Israel idiocy. Period.”

Yes, it’s all quite simple, just as any good fundamentalist should angrily, yet confidently assert.  But few Christian “fundamentalists” of any note typically talk this way, certainly not Schaeffer’s father, nor even his disciples, such as the late Jerry Falwell, who would have been quickly browbeaten into a public apology had he likened a political opponent to a serial murderer, especially in the wake of a crime so abysmal.  Christian “fundamentalists,” even when negative, typically have hope in a final victory for goodness, as their faith demands.  Their leftist scoffing children often do not, hence they are completely cynical and see human history as a miserable cycle dominated by rubes lacking their own wisdom.

“But these days this freedom is starting to look like crap,” Schaeffer decreed of American liberties.  “I am beginning to think that our country is a blood-soaked monstrosity that mostly won’t admit what it is and we are.” Admitting that “hate is not cool, even wrong,” he then delineates all the millions of Americans who merit his disdain:  militias, gun owning “urban white moms and dads,” secessionists who remind him of the Klan because they’re really motivated by prejudice against a black president, the “white trash” who harken to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News, and the “idiots, stupid, ignorant persons, blockheads, boors, bucolic buffoons, bumpkins, oafs, peasants, yahoos, yokels… and other Republicans.”

Schaeffer’s hate list is a long one.  He also despises Democrats who support drone strikes, Christian Zionists, and the “radical hate-filled bigots occupying the West Bank,” who in his mind seem to be honorary contemptible Americans.  All of this bigotry “infects and ‘inspires’ our crazies with a virus of lethal scope,” he explained.  “It’s in the air so to speak.” America’s strong military is also to blame because it’s “about 10 times bigger than we need for self-defense” and is an “invitation to murder.” Former President Bush of course is his prime example of mass murderer.

But Schaeffer generously granted that America’s intrinsic taste for murder can’t be faulted on Bush.  It’s always defined us.  He recalled the Puritans killing Pequot Indians “not long ago,” i.e. over 350 years ago.  He cited high prison incarceration rates and how America has “watched blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities marginalized, targeted killed, raped, shot, and imprisoned.” So America is not a civilized country and “actually, we never were.” After all, Thomas Jefferson, was a “slave owning rapist.”

Indeed, “this whole place stinks of the blood that’s been shed, from the Native Americans slaughtered and lied to, to the 3 million buffalo shot down from train windows and wagons by swaggering fools for no reason, to the glorification of weapons by the lynch mobs surrounding one black man hanging from a tree to all the ‘sporting rifles and shotguns’ that somehow turn out to be military weapons just-for-fun.”  Schaeffer’s knowledge of American history seems mostly confined to the worst analysis of Harold Zinn.  America was always rotten, based on a “Calvinistic theology of retribution and hate” in the north and slavery in the south.  “We never had this country,” Schaeffer concludes, without defining “we,” which presumably includes himself and a few other isolated, noble souls.

Schaeffer’s father, a Presbyterian theologian and commentator, strongly critiqued America’s failures.  But he did so with hope of renewal, based on God’s love, and knowing that not all dead white men in American history were necessarily evil.  The younger Schaeffer, who’s largely lost his faith, of course offers no hope because he doesn’t really believe in it.  He offers only fury, smugness, and despair.  The father believed all of humanity is sinful but God offers redemption.  The son, so obsessed in rejecting his father’s faith, seems to locate evil only in people identifiable with his father: virtually all Americans, but especially Christians, conservatives, gun owners, and “white trash.”

The older Schaeffer, who loved rather than hated, is still revered by millions even decades after his death.  The son, although on MSNBC and in The Huffington Post, will be mercifully forgotten, unless, we can pray, he too seeks redemption.  In the spirit of this season, let’s hope he does.

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  • Mary Sue

    The son is what James Patrick Holding would refer to as a "Fundy-Atheist" (or at the very least a Fundy Skeptic). And it's true. Fundamentalists who rebel against the faith they were raised in, do indeed keep the fundamentalist mindset.

  • http://johnnyangeladvocacygroup.net JohnnyAngel Advocacy

    Editor(s), It is a wonder that this thinking can follow a Francis Schaeffer. The manager of the Human Genome project, Schaeffer’s books on belief in the Christian religion were an amazing turn-around for a man dedicated to science. He was amazed at the DNA and a link to the Supreme Being in the universe so stridently supported by his scientific work, that he had no where to turn except to the realization of God. This is why I believe we are chosen to believe. God has the final say. Pre-determined destiny is a facet of Christianity that not too many people like to hear and talk of. It is in the pages of the Bible though, it is also the best explanation why father and son are so divided in their thinking.

    • John kelsey

      You have the wrong Francis. You are thinking of Francis Collins.

  • R.C.

    If Schaeffer's parent's had raised him properly–he would not have turned out as he has! Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it–most so called Christian parents fail at this!

    Schaeffer needs to realize–Barack Obama is not a black man–but rather he is half Negro and half white; he also needs to realize the racism on the left and that most of those who dislike B.O. do so because of his ideology–not because is he half Negro!

    • bluffcreek1967

      With all due respect, I think you failed to understand the nature of Proverbs 22:6 which is a general truth, not an exact promise guaranteed in every family. The nature of Proverbs is that of general observations on life, but not every passage within its pages is necessarily meant to be taken as verbatim promises. There have been many good Christian parents who have properly and faithfully raised their children 'in the Lord,' yet they have turned their backs on their upbringing. I don't know how Francis Schaffer raised his son, but ultimately Franky's rejection of it has been his own foolish choice.

      • Mary Sue

        Yeah, though it is recorded that several people who were religious had trouble with their kids but didn't really take action. Case in point, the Priest called Eli, when Samuel was an apprentice, had two sons that were doing a lot of really, REALLY bad things, and the most Eli would do is give them a stern talking-to. But it wasn't enough…

      • johnnywoods

        Prov. 22:6 might better be understood as meaning that when the child is grown he will not be able to forget what he was taught not that he will not depart from it.

  • Bartemais

    Perhaps I am wrong but I always thought of Christian fundamentalism as those Christians that maintained a high view of scripture and the fundamental issues of the faith as opposed to those who had a low view of inspiration and a left leaning “social” type gospel. I would think Frankey Schaeffer would fit more into the later view although maybe he is uniquely cynical in his views.

    • Mary Sue

      The nature of "Fundamentalism" is often mistakenly believed to be "faithful christianity". In actuality, it's a bit different and more complex than that. The meaning of the word from its original intent has been drastically misunderstood by lay people and the non-religious alike.

      Fundamentalists were those (particularly in the Calvinistic branches of Christianity, as well as Baptists) who relied on certain "Fundamentals" about doctrine, which didn't necessarily match up with what the Bible says.

    • Questions

      Fundamentalists generally are regarded as those who interpret the Bible literally, word for word. They tend to be highly dogmatic, as all people are who adhere to a belief system that allows no room for interpretation. The father was a fundamentalist, and unfortunately, the son has swung his own pendulum every bit as far in an opposite direction. For every action, there is a reaction — how true.

  • rockman

    I believe that should be "Howard Zinn, not Harold.

    • S. Norris

      Details? On FrontPageMag? Who cares about details?

      [sic] should be in the name of the website. And probably 'Sick' too.

  • jakespoon

    He hates people who hate. A self loather if there ever was one. I don't care what his ol'daddy did or what he wrote,he didn't raise this one right. My daddy was 62 years old when my brother came home from the Army, he stood up in my daddy's face and told him how it was gonna be (I forget about what),the next time my brother blinked,it was from his back,looking up at the ceiling. No more back talk as long as he stayed in my daddy's house. A little manual love will work if it is done for the right reasons.

  • tagalog

    Once you know that a person thinks that the bulk of the American people are stupid rednecks, you have his number. It's obvious that he doesn't believe in popular rule, self-rule, consent of the governed, democracy, republicanism, whatever name we might put on it.

    Believing that most people are stupid is a dead giveaway of the political leanings of the believer.

  • Gary Cummings

    Frank Schaeffer is right about American violence from the genocide of the American Indians to the war crimes of George Bush in his war n Iraq. It is a shame that most "evangelical christians" who follow the older, now deceased Francis Schaeffer are pro-war and whitewash the lies of American History.

    • Mary Sue

      no, he's not right about alleged 'war crimes' in Iraq.

    • tagalog

      Evangelical Christians led the fight to abolish slavery during the decades after the Constitution was ratified and up to the Civil War, and they led the struggle to educate the conquered Indian tribes so that they wouldn't be exterminated or consigned to a century of abject poverty as reservation freaks.

      Evangelical Christians today favor the continued existence of democratic institutions in the Near East.

      George Bush didn't commit any war crimes in Iraq. Even Belgium and the U.N. don't think he did any such thing. It's only Americans who think that.

    • aspacia

      Gary,

      Okay, how about going back to ancient Greek violence? How about Roman violence? Aztec violence. Native American tribes violently driving competing tribes from their lands. How about the Zulus.

      The point is that Human History is blood soaked regardless of country.

    • epaddon

      Anytime I hear someone condemn America for taking away land from the "original inhabitants" my response is always this. Prove your intellectual consistency by condemning the fact that the Muslims occupied lands that were historically Christian for more than a thousand years in 1453 with the conquest of Constantinople AND they desecrated the most important holy site in that city, the Hagia Sophia, by turning it into a mosque. If you aren't just as passionate on that subject, then there's a place you can put your hypocritical double standards.

  • Marco Bell

    Franky Schaeffer is correct when referring to Bush's approach to domination and destruction.
    The Bush-Cheney regime conducted itself with abandon and recklessness that changed our worldwide reputation from somewhat judicious, to incredibly cruel and unjust.
    Humanity and our Constitution suffered a blow by the brashness of our former Criminal in Chief!
    Franky Schaeffer will succeed as a beacon of hope for our future, should more Americans awake to the truth.
    God help us, where ever She is!

    • UCSPanther

      Give it up. GWB & co have been irrelevant for over 4 years now and Obama is far more incompetent and corrupt than GWB ever thought of being.

    • Mary Sue

      What about the Democrats' domination and destruction right there in the United States? Look at Detroit, FFS! That was no Republicans' doing!

  • Jean

    It's an interesting phenomenon. Having been raised among missionaries, I've seen it a lot. I think it has to do with paternal focus being on others outside the family and the nature of the child. While my parents were not missionaries, we were strongly Presbyterian and my own brother is deranged very much like Frankie Schaeffer is. Like I say — it's interesting — and distressing.

    • Mary Sue

      good point.

    • tagalog

      I too am a Presbyterian. It's sad to see the depths to which the PCUSA has sunk.

  • Mo_

    What a disgrace this man has become. His parents would be horrified. No parents are perfect, but they certainly do not deserve such treatment – especially now that they are dead and cannot defend themselves or set the record straight on anything he says.

    And what projection! I bet he sees himself as oh-so-tolerant and high minded. Yet his words are nothing but hatred and incoherent rants about everything. What a miserable, wretched creature this man is.

    I imagine being so consumed with hatred must be exhausting. Perhaps at some point he will weary himself, revisit the faith of his parents, realize what a fool he's made of himself, and repent.

    Until you take your final breath, it's never too late.

    • Questions

      I've met a lot of religious extremists consumed with hatred, too. It isn't just that nutjob Phelps family out in Topeka.

  • Mo_

    One correction:

    "The younger Schaeffer, who’s largely lost his faith, of course offers no hope because he doesn’t really believe in it. "

    'Largely lost'? No. He never had it. That's the trouble.

  • turtlemom3

    Franky Schaeffer at one point converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and wrote a marvelous book about his conversion: Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion.
    I don't know what on earth happened to him between then and now, but whatever it is it has destroyed him.
    I will pray for him.

    • Mo_

      I had wanted to read one of his books just to try and understand why he has become the way he is now. As you said, there must be something!

      But from the snippets I have read, and from his various quotes, it just seems too distasteful. It's one thing to reject the faith of your parents. It's another to become so full of hatred that you can find nothing good to say about those parents or anyone else, and to be so consumed that you are nearly incoherent.

      I find it tragic.

  • Jode

    How sad. Praying for him and his "friends"

  • Michaela

    Mo_

    I find it interesting that this “miserable, wretched creature” is seemingly capable of just “hatred and incoherent rants,” yet your first response to his article is your own clear disgust and inability to fathom to a teaching you do not subscribe to.

    Schaeffer is emphatic. He is speaking emotionally. He is spreading what he believes with his heart to be true – the demise of the soul. He definitely learned all his communication techniques from good ol’ pa and his oh, so noble crew. How dare he ever develop his own mind?

    As per Mo_’s response, I imagine his valid points worth noting will remain lost among the people whose behavior he finds so repulsive.

  • Ghostwriter

    While fools like Garry Cummings and Marco Bell don't seem to understand is that this guy appears to me,to be a complete jerk. It's one thing to leave the faith of your parents,it's quite another to badmouth them,even when they're dead. While his father believed that America was a good country,his son doesn't. And there is where I part ways with those like Schaeffer. America may not always have been in the right but it's done far more good than bad.
    And as for Michaela's silly statement about Schaeffer being emphatic,maybe he should have done that for his parents or for others who disagree with him. He sounds like an incredible jerk,a walking insult to his father,someone who probably doesn't know what he did to earn such anger from his son.

  • Exouthenemenos

    "Schaeffer’s father, a Presbyterian theologian and commentator, strongly critiqued America’s failures. But he did so with hope of renewal, based on God’s love." That's an awfully generous rendering of Francis Schaeffer. Wow. I knew you guys at IRD were propagandists, but the historical revisionism is reaching a new level in this piece.

    • Corday dArmont

      You have obviously never read Francis Schaeffer.

  • cynthia curran

    So when I talk with Eastern Orthodox people I don't use emotional speech like the emperor Justinian committed genocide against the Sarmarians or the Ostergoths or the Vandals. Justinian went to war agains the above mention people and their numbers were greatly reduce.

  • Michaela

    Ghostwriter,

    I neither qualified nor condemned his communication methods, or even the whole of his statement. The fact that he's a jerk is a side issue (and a subjective one at that, so my opinion on that matter will remain anonymous).

    The point isn't that he is offensive how he says it. The point is what he says. You will never understand him if you refuse to accept that.

  • cynthia curran

    Franky is obessed with evangelicals or conservative Catholics. Maybe Mark should stop writing Frank is not going to changed anytime soon. Frank should try to get back into orthodoxy with someone who has a more moderate view of the west. There are some out there that don't hate the west.

  • newerc

    Franky is obviously very intelligent, and was taught to think for himself. Too many times, though, I've seen intelligent people become unable to "handle" the reality of the condition of the world. It's the analyticals who end up depressed, as they see the realities that others are able to ignore. This can lead to incredible frustration that results in anger. People say he needs the faith and love of his father. I say it's possible he needs an adjustment in the chemicals that govern his basic well being. It' been remarkable to see the changes in outlook and abilities to deal with things with less negative emotion after getting the proper medication. Life becomes easier, more productive and relationships become healthier.

  • rongoodman

    You attack him for being angry but have done nothing to repudiate his positions. It looks like he's come out ahead.

  • Innercityswede

    Yawn, who is this guy? Never heard of him before I doubt I will again. Just another angry liberal spewing bile. Irrelevant.

  • bachagaloupe

    More hooey from Tooley-another theo-con who takes his inspiration from the bolsheviks who called anyone who disagreed with them pathological or insane.

    • Ingrid Schlueter

      Er, no, Mr. Tooley hit the nail on the head, or the angry, left-wing fundamentalist Frank Schaeffer on the head, rhetorically speaking.

      • bachagaloupe

        Of course you think Hooey Tooley hit the nail on the head,since you're probably a neo-con or a theo-con like him.Those who express disagreeable opinions or views are deemed pathological or insane.It's right out of the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyite revolutionary playbook.—

  • Ingrid Schlueter

    Frank Schaeffer has had this one coming for years. I remember him as Franky, back when he used to earn a paycheck doing impassioned (he's a gifted speaker) pro-life speeches to evangelical audiences. He was an evangelical then, but soon converted to orthodoxy before converting to agnosticism before converting to pro-abortion, Obama supporting, professional Mr. Angry. It keeps him in groceries, I guess.

    • Pudentiana

      Ingrid you got the number here. It keeps the money coming in and it seems the son is a showman who needs an audience very badly. Gotta pay those tuition bills.

  • Mike D'Virgilio

    Mr. Schaeffer has always been something of a jerk. He'd be happy to know that he was part of my inspiration for becoming a right-wing conservative. And I still am! Back in the early to mid-1980s when I was reading his right-wing books he always seemed to me a bit too histrionic and absolutist, but much of what he said made sense to me. Plus he turned me on to National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and it was all over!

    His bile, really his natural state, directed toward his parents, and others, while sad and pathetic doesn't surprise me. Francis was hugely influential in my Christian intellectual development, that Christianity isn't just religious truth but truth for all of life, every nook and cranny of it. He and Edith may not have been the best parents because they were so focused on others, and their children likely suffered for it. But none of us is perfect, and as James says, "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" Frank seems to know nothing of mercy and grace, and he is a sad little creature for it.

  • maggie rogers

    This is heart breaking if true. I knew Frankie Schaeffer to be a smart, dedicated Christian and I hope and pray he has not gone over the edge. I may go see him.

  • Scott Campbell

    So are you defending slavery and the subjugation of indigenous peoples? Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in order to start a war with Iraq didn’t he? You speak of his hate or resentment but it sounds like you hate Schaeffer.