Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CRAZY FOR GOD – can we be too honest?

I recently finished Frank Schaeffer’s book Crazy for God. I really, really enjoyed reading it for several reasons. For one, I am a great fan of LAbri and I know some of the characters in the book. The other reason, and it took some contemplation to figure this out, is the deep level of honestly struck a cord with me.

My greatest pet-peeve with Evangelicalism is its dishonesty. I’ve tried to peel back layers of the façade, like layers of an onion skin, but with each layer that I remove, I see myself loosing more Christian friends and becoming more and more isolated.

Frank Schaeffer takes this purging of the masks to a far deeper level than I had ever imagined doing myself, leaving the only the raw core and little else. I don’t know how he mustered courage to do this. How, I ask myself, did he handle the rejection and alienation of people he loves (family and friends)? With his blatant discontent for the Evangelical mainstream, I don’t think it bothered him to loose the rank-n-file Evangelical.

But the thing that makes such brute honestly so refreshing is the realization that we are all mortal. I still carry the highest regard for LAbri and their founders. The things that Frank says, only reinforces some of my secret suspicions (regarding the personalities of Francis and Edith Schaeffer). But I still love them. They still have made a major impact on my Christian life and it is even more encouraging to know that they are made of the same stuff as I am . . . human flesh in all its glory and disgust.

When I was living in the Navigator Evangelical “utopia,” the onion was fat, with layer upon layer of facades of godliness. Any breach in the outer (think of the thin, brown, outer-most layer of an onion) it was scandalous. The reason was that we thought (and all Evangelicals think) that holiness or godliness was obtainable by us mortals. To support this myth, we all pretended to be godly. Since all my roommates, and the other men and women in the Navigator training center appeared to be godly, I had to too. One breach in this façade and the whole construct of our theology of sanctification (practicing X, Y and Z and you will be godly and rarely sin) would start to crumble. Read my posting “The Year of the Rabbit” and you will see that is precisely what happened to me.

I can remember a conversation with a dear friend in the Navs. He was upset that one of “his men,” (that is a young Christian in one of his Bible studies) had gone with some other guys to see “The Cheerleaders.” This was an R-rated movie, basically to sexually stimulate young men visually with beautiful women. It wasn’t X and I doubt that there was even much nudity. When he told me that, my 23 year-old state of perpetual horniness came to the surface and I smiled and said, “I’ll like to see a movie called "The Nav Girls." We had some very attractive women in our ministry at the time. Well, this made my Nav friend very angry with me. What I said was blasphemous! I am willing to bet, that our relationship was never the same, even after all these years. He is now Navigator staff and has very little respect for me.

But I can remember that day, with deep guilt after he reacted so strongly, trying to figure out what my sin was. I knew that I was being honest. I would love to have seen the Nav girls parading around in bikinis or in their underwear. Was I the only man in the Nav group that had those feelings? I was terrified that I was . . . that secretly I was hideous.

But now, looking back, I am sure that I only expressed verbally what all of use warm-blooded men desired. It didn’t mean it was open season on lusting for the girls, or even seducing . . . or worse. But also I learned that day, that you must suppress honestly at all cost . . . because I figured I was the only evil one and I had to hide it.

Crazy for God has gotten mostly positive reviews from the Christians who have posted on Amazon. I think why his brute honesty (including his horniness), the fact that Francis and Edit were NOT perfect. That Francis wanted to hang himself at times (which I too have considered) tells me, that I am not to be ashamed and to hide, that we are all on the same page, made of the same flesh and covered by the same blood of Christ.

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