Frank Schaeffer is saying he’s had a change of heart.
Over the years the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer of L’Abri famously abandoned his role as a leader in the religious right, embraced Orthodox Christianity, and became a spokesman for the political left. At every stage he has been known for being blunt and harsh in his style of speaking and writing.
In April, I wrote a post about his “dyslogy” for Charles Colson to which he gave the title, “Colson: An Evangelical, Homophobic, Anti-Woman Leader Passes On,” which many, including myself, described as spitting on Colson’s grave. I also wrote Frank personally at that time (an excerpt is in my post) and encouraged him to consider that he might be doing more harm than good by using such a sledgehammer approach.
And now, this week I saw that Frank published a piece in Huffington Post reconsidering the way of verbal condemnation. He wrote:
From supporters of President Obama to Tea Party activists Americans agree that we live in a time of deeply polarized politics. There are numerous explanations but I suspect it comes down to bad theology. I should know. I was my evangelist father’s (Francis Schaeffer) sidekick on the religious/political circuit in the 1970s and 80s. We did our bit to launch the religious right. Then I changed my mind and fled.
One thing didn’t change when I changed sides: My slash and burn fundamentalist style of attacking those with whom I disagree. This combative “style” lands me on cable news shows because these days even us “progressives” direct derisive exclusionary condemnation at our enemies. So I’ve been both a perpetrator and victim of retributive exclusion.
Now I’m questioning the wisdom of being a practitioner of dudgeon for hire, even for good causes.
I’m sure many will adopt a “wait and see” attitude to evaluate if this new attitude sticks, but I want to step forward and thank Frank for taking a step in the right direction. I dropped him a Facebook message telling him so, and now I want to commend him publicly for expressing a willingness to speak and write with more gentleness and kindness.
As for me I’m burnt out on rhetorically burning others. I’m going to try Hume’s agreeableness for a bit. Instead of damning each other, maybe we can learn to show mercy to those with whom we disagree, taking our cue from a teacher who said that love of enemy — not correct theology or politics — is all that can make us whole.
“What is desirable in a man is his kindness,” says the wise teacher in Proverbs 19:22. This does not mean we cannot engage in the occasional firm and direct rebuke, but it does frame that speaking in such a way that eliminates meanness and demonizing others from the equation.
We can all learn from that.