“Let me be FRANK” — A rainy afternoon Christian Atheist meditiation
|A rainy view from the Cambridge Unitarian Church manse|
In a piece called “Edith Schaeffer | A Very Special Heritage” written by Macaulay he tells readers about his first meeting in Cambridge during 1958 with the founders of the L’Abri Fellowship, Francis and Edith Schaeffer. He recalls the moment when the introductory chit-chat was ending and Edith took charge by saying to her husband “‘Fran’ . . . why don’t you say something to these young men?’” Macaulay continues
“[Fran] hesitated briefly and then launched into a survey of western thought, outlining along the way some of the devastating consequences from that so-called ‘enlightenment’.”
As most of the readers of this blog will be aware, the phrase “that so-called ‘enlightenment’” includes the religious tradition to which I belong and so, in other words, without fully appreciating it I had entered this “conversation” with Macaulay (who spent four years working with the Schaeffer’s, married their daughter Susan and set up the L’Abri Fellowship in the UK) not on terms equal enough to have a real debate or conversation, but simply to be told in no uncertain terms that the religious views I held were both devastatingly wrong and pernicious. It was the most passive-aggressive tea-party I have ever experienced and I was mighty glad when it was all over and I have hardly had cause to think of the Schaeffer’s, L’Abri or Macaulay since that day some fourteen or fifteen years ago.
However today, thanks to the continuing rain here in Cambridge, I decided to stay inside and deal with some work related correspondence from a couple of American colleagues. In that there was a passing reference to a book called “Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God” written by a certain chap called Frank Schaeffer. Now, I’m very interested in any person who calls themselves a “Christian Atheist” (as does Frank Schaeffer) not least of all because it is how I often describe myself — so of course I couldn’t but look him up and, when I did, Lo!, I discovered he is the son of the aforementioned Francis and Edith Schaeffer which, naturally, vividly brought back to me my encounter with their son-in-law and (albeit very briefly as we sat down for tea) with Frank’s sister Susan. I thought, whoa . . . from a L’Abri Fellowship type of Christian to Christian Atheist, . . . that’s an interesting journey. So what happened? Well, it’s clearly a long complex story but I did find on YouTube what I think is an excellent, informative and, at times, very moving (especially towards the end), fifty minute documentary about Frank’s journey called “Let me be FRANK”.
I really do recommend watching it at the link below— not only for the reasons I have just given above — but because it will give British viewers an powerful insight into the current shape of the conservative evangelical movement which has had such an influence on American politics and which has played a significant role in creating the conditions for the election of Donald Trump.