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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