Frank Schaeffer saw the birth of the religious right from the inside. His father, the brilliant Presbyterian theologian Francis Schaeffer, was the intellectual father of the movement. He channeled the countercultural spiritual yearnings of ’60s-era Jesus Freaks into the right-wing movement that now dominates the Republican Party. It was Schaeffer who first led evangelicals to mobilize against abortion, for many years ignored as primarily a Catholic concern. His three-party documentary, How Should We Then Live?. which Frank produced, inspired a whole generation of evangelicals into politics, including Michele Bachmann, who cites it as a formative influence. As his son, Frank was a conservative Christian celebrity in his own right, keynoting the Religious Broadcasters Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Now, though, he has a new message. The Christian right, he says, is fundamentally motivated by an anxious, terrified obsession with sex, an obsession that once drove him as well. “Since the 1970s, the American culture wars have revolved around a fear of sex and women no less insane and destructive than any horror story to come out of Afghanistan,” he writes in his intriguing if hyperbolic new book, Sex, Mom and God.
Sex, Mom and God is actually Schaeffer’s second memoir about his odd hothouse coming of age. His first, 2007’s Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, was built around his larger than life father. This one is centered on his adored, paradoxical mother, Edith Schaeffer, an author who wrote books for Christian women like The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Edith was a fascinating character, at once a strict fundamentalist and a sophisticated, warm-hearted aesthete. “Mom was a much nicer person than her God,” Schaeffer writes.