My point, of course, was not (as he insinuates) to threaten violence, but to point out the folly of his guest poster saying “A life that can be taken is a life that is aware it can be took”. If that’s the case, then killing a sleeping or otherwise unconscious person is not murder.
Frank, I think, knows this. He’s been in prolife circles long enough to be familiar with such elementary points of logic. But he now dances attendance on a new audience of lefty culture warriors who eat up that “prolifers are violent nuts” stuff as readily as many righty culture warriors eat up the “Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Atheist who is just about to impose atheistic communist shariah on America” rubbish. So he dishes it out via insinuation, just as he chose to dish out his guest blogger’s dimestore eugenics that is also popular with the HuffPo/MSNBC demographic he now courts. Frank’s choice to trumpet the notion that abortion is the beautiful way God culls the lebensunwertes leben and improves the breed is, in some ways, the apotheosis of his trajectory of successive betrayals over the past 30 years. It’s the gospel according to Judas Iscariot and means, in plain English, “Let us do evil that good may come of it.” It makes the thoroughly pagan argument that, since innocents in the womb (and, by the way, every other human being not killed by man) die naturally, therefore it’s okay for man to appoint himself the Angel of Death and help God by killing innocents:
Evidently the God of nature is much more concerned about ensuring a healthy body for a potential human soul than the destruction of a fetus through miscarriage, because nature is the most prolific abortionist of all.
Our evolving understanding of miscarriage reveals nature is at work using her brand of wisdom to ensure not all conceptions result in live birth, one could argue for the sake of a potential soul. But we also know that nature sometimes fails in her tasks and so we seek to perfect or purge those failings, as we evolve in our own understanding and dominion over nature, to advance humanity’s well being.
Thank you, Dr. Mengele. “Innocents die naturally, so enlightened people can and should make them die for the greater good” is a program that has been attempted before. And the reason for stopping the purge of the lebensunwertes leben with the unborn is what? Obviously euthanasia and destruction of the weak and chronically sick (as well as other Undesirables) fits the agenda too.
This is tragic and nauseating stuff. But it is a weirdly logical outcome of Schaeffer’s ongoing usage (and that is the word) of people throughout his adult life. The one constant theme in Schaeffer’s work is a deeply disturbing eagerness to abort those who have loved him, done him good, provided his livelihood and prayed for him as he declares them unfit and evolves himself to a higher and purer breed. He has, with remarkable consistency over his adult life, systematically exploited as family and friends–and then re-exploited as enemies–the people who have been kindest to him: beginning with his own father and mother. God alone knows what his problem is, but it’s sickening and heartbreaking to watch. In this latest betrayal, he has chosen to become, as fellow Orthodox convert Rod Dreher pointed out, “the left-wing version of the stock character in fundamentalist circles: the supposed former Satanist who got religion and who now goes around peddling ooga-booga stories to gullibles who love a conversion story.” Frank Schaeffer is Mike Warnke for the MSNBC/HuffPo crowd, helping them delectate over the horror stories of the Red State Rubes (and, feel really good about their own superior secular pieties) all while he gets to pose as prophet and keep climbing the ladders of his Personal Evolution while aborting everybody he leaves behind as he enters his latest phase. The sole constant in each of his transformations is how much better he is than–and how much contempt he holds for–the people he is leaving behind and how deeply righteous he is for spurning and sneering at them. He has a prophet’s anger, but not a prophet’s love. A prophet stays with his people, even when they go into exile, even when they murder him. Frank always and repeatedly leaves–because it is always all about Frank.
Even his perpetual mea culpas for the supposedly “pivotal” role he allegedly played in the rise of the religious right and its corruption of American Christianity (a very legitimate thing to protest) have a pornographic quality of Baby Boomer narcissism. His
boasting penitential screeds against his past are just one more form of bragging: attacking others but, in the end, always leaving himself untouched as the heroic truthteller, prophet, and saint shaking the dust off his feet in protest against a rabble unworthy of his greatness. They are all varying forms of “I thank you, O Lord, that I am not like my crazy family, my nutty mother, or those stupid Evangelicals, or those impure Catholics, or those lying prolifers who believe that abortion is an “abominable crime“, or even like a lot of Orthodox. I have a Larger Perspective. I have Grown and no longer think belief in God or Jesus or the Resurrection matter, and I am also rocking this new ‘abortion is the way to improve the breed’ thing which is really putting me on the cutting edge of post-modern Emergent Spirituality with the Rachel Maddow and Arianna Huffington set.” Again and again he aborts somebody he has deemed unfit in order “evolve in his own understanding and dominion, to advance Frank’s humanity’s well being.”
The whole toxic mix of keeping up the now-fading Orthodox schtick (so he can feel deeply spiritual and superior to all those numbskull Catholics and Evangelicals) while increasingly prancing as a post-Christian Emergent for the delectation of the MSNBC/HuffPo lefties and going on about his Highly Evolved Post-Christian contempt for stupid believers and lying prolifers reminds me of Uncle Screwtape:
Sooner or later, however, the real nature of his new friends must become clear to him, and then your tactics must depend on the patient’s intelligence. If he is a big enough fool you can get him to realise the character of the friends only while they are absent; their presence can be made to sweep away all criticism. If this succeeds, he can be induced to live, as I have known many humans live, for quite long periods, two parallel lives; he will not only appear to be, but actually be, a different man in each of the circles he frequents. Failing this, there is a subtler and more entertaining method. He can be made to take a positive pleasure in the perception that the two sides of his life are inconsistent. This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabited on Saturday evening; and contrariwise, to enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a “deeper”, “spiritual” world within him which they cannot understand. You see the idea-the worldly friends touch him on one side and the grocer on the other, and he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction. Finally, if all else fails, you can persuade him, in defiance of conscience, to continue the new acquaintance on the ground that he is, in some unspecified way, doing these people “good” by the mere fact of drinking their cocktails and laughing at their jokes, and that to cease to do so would be “priggish”, “intolerant”, and (of course) “Puritanical”.
It says something about American political life in general (and though not merely, but perhaps still especially, Huffpo style liberalism) that Schaeffer’s personality type engages with his new political community in exactly the same way it engaged with his previous religious communities. Being a person emotionally consumed with exclaiming the rectitude of certain points of liberal orthodoxy satisfies exactly the same psychological necessities as being consumed with evangelical orthodoxy, or Eastern orthodoxy. The only thing he’s good at doing is being a footsoldier, and so he’s made a mercenary’s career out of shopping himself around to different armies.
Lesson: A man cannot serve two masters, but will always end up serving at least one. Choose carefully.
It turns out Orthodox theologican Vigen Guroian was right back in the mid-90s to have a strong sense of foreboding about Frank’s choice to seize on Orthodoxy as the then-latest club to bash people from his past and trumpet his superiority to the latest group of inferiors he had outgrown. I fear it’s only a matter of time till the Orthodox too fail to meet his exacting standards and he aborts them with the same viciousness he has turned on so many others who have shown him kindness and love, given that the Orthodox kind of have this thing about it mattering whether God exists, whether Jesus is God, and whether he rose from the dead. I’m not quite clear from Schaeffer’s words whether he’s really abandoned the faith or simply embraced a muddled notion that theology is a contemptible “western” thing and as long as he knows a few buzzwords like theosis and hesychasm he can pose as a deeply spiritual Easterner. It’s a favorite trope in some reactionary Orthodox circles that “westerners” are too busy trying to pin down the Mystery with all our hyper-theologizing (a justifiable complaint at times). But on the other hand this can (and in Frank’s case does) easily feed into post-Christian Emergent Progressive sloppiness about a sort of formless “spirituality” disconnected from Jesus Christ in all but the most tenuous lip service.
Today, Schaeffer goes “to a Greek Orthodox church not because I’m Greek Orthodox … I just happen to like Byzantine liturgies because it’s mostly in Greek so I can’t understand them. It’s good because it’s the words that bother me.” He explained that “to me, worship is finding a space to be quiet in, and not think clever thoughts … you just do the liturgy, and everyone can bring their own interpretation to it.”
To Schaeffer, “to be a Christian is not to believe in Jesus in terms of who he was, whether he is the Son of God, rose from the dead or not, it is to believe in that life as an example.” He claimed “there’s a difference between following the person, the teaching, and the example and belief in. Belief is useless … but doing is very difficult.” Although he holds no belief in the basic tenets of Christianity, Schaeffer still receives the communion every week. When asked by an audience member how his priest could give him communion despite his lack of faith, he sharply replied, “If we think that sincerity or correct theology will get you anywhere, good luck with that, because it won’t.”
That sort of denatured twaddle sells well with the MSNBC/HuffPo crowd who like “spirituality” but loathe Christian orthodoxy, big or little O. There might even be a way to square it somehow with a claim to prefer “incarnational” to “intellectual” faith in the Eastern tradition (I don’t know enough about the eastern approach to such matters). But I can’t help having the sense that as a rule of thumb, any serious Orthodox theologian–hell, any babushka–would have him for breakfast if he tried to palm that “belief is useless” stuff off as Orthodoxy on the Orthodox. It’s the sort of stuff that only appeals to other apostate Orthodox–like Arianna Huffington–or to muddled Progressive Protestants who want spirituality without specific and without suffering or even effort. It is to real Orthodoxy what Madonna is to the Blessed Virgin.
Is there a grain of truth in what Schaeffer has to say? Of course. There always is in dangerous falsehood. As has been pointed out in this space many times, an awful lot of conservative American Christianity has embraced a theory of salvation that boils down to “Opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world”. Many conservative Christians have made themselves the lapdogs and apologists of whatever the movers and shakers of the GOP demand, apologizing for unjust wars, torture, unjust wages, neglect of the poor, consequentialism and all manner of other corruption on the Right–and then told themselves that wearing a Precious Feet pin makes it all okay.
But the fact remains that on the question of the intrinsic grave evil of abortion (and euthanasia, which Dr. Mengele’s “let help nature along” apologetic also undergirds) conservative Christians are simply right and always have been: it is the murder of innocent human beings and an abominable crime. American–and world–civilization owes American conservative Christians (particularly Catholics, who held the line till Evangelicals like Francis Schaeffer finally got a clue in the late 70s) an incalculable debt for refusing to budge on this issue when most of the first world caved. Schaeffer’s Saruman move is the latest and most painful in a long line of his painful betrayals. What is required is not that the Right abandon the defense of the unborn, but that it become fully prolife and and not merely “anti-abortion in certain circumstances”. Is the prolife movement sick due the corrupting influence of the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism? Sure. But the answer is to heal it by making it more faithful to the teaching of Christ, not to euthanize it by embracing the “help God cull the unfit” lies of the culture of death.
I don’t normally butt into the hijinx of people outside my communion since I don’t much appreciate it when some non-Catholic starts telling us mackerel snappers how to arrange our furniture and order our internal affairs. But Frank Schaeffer has, since the very beginning of his entry into Orthodoxy, acted as one of the most obnoxious bullies of everybody outside his communion and is now laboring to facilitate the destruction of bodies and souls in his spite and pride. When it spills out of Orthodoxy and into the public square (just as when the Catholic abuse scandal affected the common good), it becomes everybody’s concern. Frank Schaeffer has been, I greatly fear, in grave peril of his soul for some time. But now he endangers the souls of others as he supplies fashionable pseudo-theological rationales for the crudest sort of eugenics apologetics and the sloppiest forms of apostasy masquerading as “spirituality”. So I offer this bleat of protest and I pray for him to repent or, failing that, to be thwarted by the power of God through Jesus Christ, for his sake and for the sake of those whom he endangers. I hope his priest or bishop take the plunge and confront this stuff soon, since it is now a scandal that harms not only the Orthodox, but those outside the Orthodox communion as well. His shepherds too have my prayers in that unenviable task that Christ will work through them for Frank’s good, for the good of all he touches, and for the glory of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.