Reviews of Iliad/Odyssey/Crazy for God
The Odyssey (Richard Lattimore Translation)
This is a much more appealing book to the feminine set because it involves a man's struggle to make it home to see his woman. It is also all about xenia which is hospitality in Greek. This is much less gruesome and is, at its heart, a love story. I loved this.
Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer
My friend, Carrie, gives a MUCH better review than I could ever give of this book. Here is her review: Crazy for God. In fact, it was Carrie's review that made me want to run out and get this book, and I wasn't disappointed. I couldn't put it down (If also helped that I was flat on my back for four days with a back injury). It was a fascinating read about growing up as the son of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, founders of L'abri in Switzerland. They created L'Abri back in the late 50's as a place for people with legitimate questions to come and read, listen, and learn about faith. It was learning about faith in the context of community at the foot of the Alps.
It sounded like a very beautiful place, but there were many things that were not so pretty for this pretty wild and rebellious man. His dad had a temper and would throw things at his mom. He indicated that she would sometimes have bruises on her body, but he never came out and said that he witnessed abuse, nor did he bother to ask his mom. So, it wasn't really clear how "far" his father's temper went. Temper is never a good thing, no matter how far, but how severe was it, and why didn't anyone do anything about it?
He does assess that his father was isolated and had no friends or peers and only people who would sit at his feet and listen. This is not healthy for any man! His parents sounded like they would have benefitted from having more accountability and support from others, yet their generation is not like mine. Sounds like too many people had Francis up on a pedastal to keep him accountable in how he treated his wife.
He does balance his dad out by talking about their lovely, all day hikes through the Swiss Mountains where they would never talk about God. He felt like his parents were happiest when they were away from L'Abri and when, for two weeks out of the year, they were in Portofino, Italy on vacation enjoying the art and culture. This was when he felt like his parents were really who they were meant to be: carefree and happy.
I felt like he was more severe upon his mother. It broke my heart somewhat how he spoke of her. He concludes the book with a picture of his mother dancing at the home in which she now resides in her mid-nineties. She has dementia, and he wished his mother would have been free to "dance" in life rather than playing the martyr she played as the matron of L'Abri.
The most heartbreaking part for me was this letter that Debbie wrote in the book about her mother after giving a glowing report about her father and their trips to art galleries and such:
"My mother's legacy was in stark contrast (to her dad's), as she single-mindedly pursued her ideals, often blinded by the realities of life or of our lives. As a dreamer and a highly artistic individual, my mother created her own life with passion and hard work. I compare her to early discoverers of the North Pole. She pursued her objectives with determination, though bits of bodies all around her were lost to frostbite. The havoc she caused to all around her, as they were dragged in to help her meet self-imposed deadlines and goals, was phenomenal and scarring to me as a child. The force of her personality was such that I, at least, never even thought of refusing. Also, I would say, that though my father taught me the love of the Real, my mother's idealism has taken years to peel away."
Can you say "OUCH"? Debby suffered from depression, and this gives you a window into Edith's life with her children. I also was saddened by how her husband, John, was treated when he didn't match up with the theology of L'Abri but Frank was not kicked out for having sex up in his bedroom. Something is a bit weird there, don't you think?
All that said, everyone in a family has different perceptions! I am amazed at how my brother and I see our growing up very differently, and how my experiences as a daughter did not match his experiences as a son! I do wonder what Susan's (Oldest daughter of the Schaeffers)experience was like because after I read her book called For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, I got the impression that it was pretty wonderful to grow up in the Schaeffer's world at L'Abri! Sadlly, she declined to comment in the book.
He alludes to the fact that he was largely ignored by his busy parents growing up, yet in the next breath, he will talk of his mother reading to him and tucking him in at night, his father going for those long, all day walks, and two weeks in Italy and one week skiing every year. Hello Frank, you probably got in one year more than most people get in a lifetime with their parents! Appreciate what you had and realize that you probably caught so much more than you ever realized by having the parents that you did. Think about it, all four of you are still married to the same spouse. Don't your parents have some influence in that stability? BE GRATEFUL and EXTEND GRACE! They were not perfect and neither are you. I felt like he was much more severe on his imperfect parents than he was on himself.
In fact, he openly admits to abusing his daughter physically and being an overall jerk to his children and wife in their younger years, yet he says, "I am human and all is forgiven" between us without extending the same kind of grace to his own parents who never physically abused him but had neglected and/or emotionally abused or manipulated him. I have compassion for that pain you felt growing up, but why not open up the dialogue with them about their abuse while they were alive (dad) or coherent (mom) instead of damning them in the public arena when they can't fight back or make ammends with you? That was disturbing to me.
I also felt like he was particularly scathing and severe on those Christian leaders in whom he only had a surface relationship. He is the hardest on James Dobson. I have no need to defend James Dobson for I have never been a follower of Focus on the Family, but Frank was very unkind and severe.
I was particularly bothered by his severe comments about Billy Graham in connection with the marriage of Graham's oldest daughter when she was seventeen, alluding to the fact that it was like an "arranged marriage" because the groom was the son of a wealthy donor. He was critical and judgmental as an outside observer, making a huge LEAP in assumptions without knowing any of the particular of the situation. The marriage lasted forty-two years and produced seven children! Maybe they wanted to get married. What do you know?
I am also bothered by how he "played a game" for fame and didn't truly believe in what he was doing. This is much more telling of his character than it is of his father or mother's who gave all they had to making L'Abri a success. So what if they had a little bit of competition between the two of them in the number of books they wrote! It speaks volumes to me that they gave 50% of all their royalities to their ministry, and 10% on top of that from the income they received for the books. That is an amazing indication of fine character!
I say this all knowing very little about his parents and having never put them up on a pedastal in the first place. So, I don't think I want to defend them. I have long contended that we put too many people in Christiandom into "superstar" strata when NO ONE needs to be there. We are ALL just little fish in a big pond, and God is the only superstar in my book. All that said, GIVE THEM A BREAK FRANK! They are only human with feet of clay, just like you.
I love the book though. He is a lovable guy, warts and all. I loved his honesty and candor. I loved the stories about his life (sans the sex details). I wished he would have just moved away and lived a life congruent with what he believed instead of living the lie, but that was his choice, and it probably was the thing that saved his marriage early on because he had to stay at L'Abri for financial reasons. He still gives credit to L'Abri and the community there for saving his marriage from divorce. (Wasn't there some throwing in there too, Frank, just like your dad?). Also, his wife sounds like a saint, and I am glad he does give her great honor in the book.
The book was really more damaging to himself than to his parents, but I can forgive him for his character flaws! I will probably read his fictional novel Portofino too. In fact, I have already submitted a purchase request to the library for it!
WOW! That was way too long. :)