On the Religious Right

Frank Schaeffer – son of theologian/evangelist Francis Schaeffer (sometimes regarded as the founder of the Religious Right) – has some interesting thoughts on the movement’s future posted in an article on the Huffington Post today. He has made major moves to distance himself from his father – even converting to the Greek Orthodox church. I read a couple of his novels this year – they’re pretty funny, they deal with some of the frustrations of growing up in the home of a Calvinist Minister – I could relate, but don’t share his sense of disenfranchisement with reformed theology.

He brings up the Old Testament laws – like stoning homosexuals – as a strawman point in his otherwise reasonable piece. There are some theological problems with this point which he doesn’t go over:
1. The Old Testament laws are specific to God’s people – Israel – Israel do not run around imposing the laws on their neighbours – although foreigners can sign up.
2. Israel don’t do a great job of keeping the laws – and the laws were set at a standard that no human could keep – hence the need for Jesus.
Schaeffer’s argument basically focuses on these other points:
1. America is not “God’s people” – even if they are nominally a Christian nation – the presence of just one non Christian in America would debunk that.
2. Nor is America a theocracy.
It’s a good article on how the Religious Right could choose to be a force for good – rather than bleating and trying to repeal laws that are popular with the majority.
EDIT: I think I need to point out that I do think there are some issues that transcend the rights of the majority and the need for protection of minorities – and in fact there are some issues where this point of view is shaped by theology. Issues like abortion – where the question is not a question of freedom for the parents (not just the mother) – but also the question of protecting the innocent unborn child – and their rights. Schaeffer makes an interesting point that’s worth repeating if you haven’t clicked through to the article:

“This knowledge signals not just a loss for the Religious right but a resounding and permanent defeat. It also signals (to anyone sane) that even if you except the Religious right’s view that, for instance, all abortion is murder, gay marriage an affront to God’s natural law and so forth, a change of tactics is in order. Obviously no one is getting convinced, but rather the culture is moving in the other direction. In fact the Religious Right has made its case so badly that with friends like these them causes need no enemies.”


Paroxysm says:

Tim Schafer is more man than both this fellow and his father combined, put in a blender, concentrated and then multiplied 74 times.

AJ says:

Being a committed Christian but also quite involved in politics, is always a bit of a quandry as to how far you should try and mesh the two of them. Especially in a post-Christian multi-cultural pluralistic society like ours (and the US).

Nathan says:

Yeah, agreed AJ, I think it’s a fine line. Obviously there are issues where to vote a particular way alienates the Christian constituency – if you are engaged in the political process. It’s the Christian lobby I don’t like – they try to claim to speak for the entire Christian population – often on issues where there is no theological consensus – and often on issues that don’t really matter. They seem to forget that Jesus hung round with sinners – and particularly with sexually sinful people – without feeling the need to harangue at every turn, or even to impose some sort of theocratic rule on the city of Jerusalem. The lobby groups – particularly in America – often fall into this trap of identifying America with the kingdom of God – which is ultimately unhelpful.

The whole issue changes for people actively engaged/employed in policy formation – there it’s a real quandary where they’re in a situation where their beliefs must play some role in decision making. Otherwise politicians are completely lacking integrity. I just used there/they’re/their in one sentence and am quite proud of myself.

DanielS says:

Have you got a (non-wikipedia) reference for the claim of Schaefer being regarded as the founder of the “Religious Right”?

I’ve read a little of his work, and that wasn’t the impression that I got.

Nathan says:

“Along with my late evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer for a time in the 1970s and early eighties (long before I became a “secular left wing back-sliding” novelist) I was an instigator, propagator and founder of the anti-abortion hard right of the Religious Right.”

Just this quote from his son in that article linked from my post.

Nathan says:

And here’s another one. Frank Schaeffer may be a little embittered – but it’s a first hand account and label he applies to himself and his father.

DanielS says:


Andrew says:

when I was in the states last week and watching some news television about Prop 8, one reporter made the comment that laws on certain things should not be held to the mercy of popular whims. I must admit I found this statement quite ironic, as the argument about society ‘moving on’ and ‘everyone’s doing it’ seems to be fine until it goes the other way. All of a sudden it appears there are immutable and objective moral standards (i.e. the right for anyone to marry whomever and of whichever sex they choose).
Interesting article though.. he does make some helpful points, though it could have done without all the superiority posturing.
One of the things that I think Christians, and in particular the political lobbyists, forget is that we cannot even come close to obeying God without the Holy Spirit, and yet we seem to expect everyone else to do so without.