The 1970s Evangelical antiabortion movement that Dad (Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer), C Everett Koop (who would be Ronald Reagan’s surgeon General), and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. We turned it into an extremist far right party that is fundamentally anti-American.
You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.
You see, in the late 1960s Dad published the first of many best-selling evangelical books. When Dad toured Evangelical colleges and churches all over North America, I often accompanied him while Mom and Dad—unbeknown to them at the time—were gradually being elevated to Evangelical Protestant sainthood. This meant that a few years later when Dad took a “stand” on the issue of abortion, a powerful movement formed almost instantly inspired by his leadership, and the Evangelical-led “pro-life” movement (and the Religious Right) was born.
My father is still a hero to many Religious Right leaders, such as Dave Andrusko (editor of the National Right to Life News). In his review of two books on the history of the antiabortion movement, Andrusko notes that the antiabortion movement “attracted people by building on the foundation established by theologian Francis Schaeffer. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of [Schaeffer’s] book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? and [the 1970s] twenty-city film and lecture tour [undertaken] to awaken the evangelical community.”
By the early 1980s the Republicans were laboring under the weight of a single-issue religious test for heresy: abortion. As I describe in my new book WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace (and I hope offer an alternative to the harm we did) I was there—and/or Dad was.
We were leaders participating in various meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp, Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush, Sr., when the unholy marriage between the Republican Party and the Evangelical Reconstructionist-infected “pro-life” community was gradually consummated. Dad and I—as did many other Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell—met one on one or in groups with key members of the Republican leadership quite regularly to develop a “pro-life strategy” for rolling back Roe v. Wade. (Senator Jesse Helms named Dad as his favorite author when asked by the American Spectator magazine to name his favorite books.)
And that strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their antiabortion commitment to Evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them—by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, “we” would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of antiabortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majorty on the Court to back them to.
When Evangelical and Republican leaders sat together, we discussed “the issue,” but we would soon move on to the practical particulars, such as “Will blue-collar Catholic voters join us now?” (They did.) Soon Evangelical leaders were helping political leaders to send their message to the “pro-life community” that they—the Republican leaders—were on board.
For instance, I organized the 1984 publication of President Ronald Reagan’s antiabortion book with Evangelical Bible publisher Thomas Nelson. Reagan’s book had first appeared as an essay in the Human Life Review (Spring 1983). I was friends with Human Life Review founder and editor: brilliant Roman Catholic antiabortion crusader Jim McFadden. He and I cooked up the presidential project over the phone.
The president’s book expressed his antiabortion “views” as ghostwritten by McFadden in order to cement the Reagan “deal” with the antiabortion movement. We called the book Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. I suggested to Reagan’s people that two Schaeffer family friends—C. Everett Koop and Malcolm Muggeridge (a famous British writer/social critic and convert from Far Left politics to rabid Far Right Roman Catholicism with whom my father once led a huge pro-life demonstration in Hyde Park, London)—provide us with afterwords to “bulk out” an otherwise too brief book, which they did within a week or two after I called them.
Once they were “on board,” Republican leaders like Senator Jesse Helms and Congressmen Jack Kemp and Henry Hyde (to name but three whom I met with often, in Jack’s case in his home, where I stayed as a guest) worked closely with my father and me, and we (along with a lot of other religious leaders) began to deliver large blocs of voters. We even managed “our” voters for the Republican Party by incessantly reminding our followers of “the issue” through newsletters, TV, and radio broadcasts. For instance, I worked closely with James Dobson in the early days of his “Focus on the Family” radio program, and I was on his show several times. He offered my “pro-life” book A Time for Anger as a fund-raising fulfillment and distributed over 150,000 copies. The book eventually sold over half a million copies.
No one seemed to notice (or mind) that the Republicans weren’t really doing anything about abortion other than talking about it to voters. And by the mid-to late 1980s the cause shifted: We Evangelicals paid lip-service to “stopping abortion,” but the real issue was keeping Republicans in power and keeping Evangelical leaders in the ego-stroking loop of having access to power.
Fast-forward thirty years to the early twenty-first century: The messengers, leaders, and day-to-day “issues” changed, but the volume and tone of the anti-government “debate” and the anger in reaction to the Obama presidency originated with the antiabortion movement. To understand where that anger came from and who first gave voice to it, consider a few prescient passages from my father’s immensely influential book (influential within the Evangelical ghetto, that is) A Christian Manifesto,which was published in 1981.
As you read these excerpts, bear in mind what would take place in the “health care debates” over what came to be disparaged as “Obamacare” thirty years or so after my father’s book was read by hundreds of thousands of Evangelicals. Anti-health-care-reform rhetoric—”Death Panels!” “Government Takeover!” “Obama is Hitler!”—that the Far Right spewed in the policy debates of 2009 and beyond seemed to be ripped from the pages of Dad’s and my writings. Note the ominous rhetorical shadow Dad’s book cast over a benighted and divided American future, a future that produced the climate of hate that eventually spawned the murder of abortion providers such as Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in 2009. Here’s a bit from Dad’s writing on how the government was “taking away” our country and turning it over to Liberals, codenamed by Dad as “this total humanistic way of thinking”:
The law, and especially the courts, is the vehicle to force this total humanistic way of thinking upon the entire population.
Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try and change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it.
There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate.A true Christian in Hitler’s Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion.It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation.
In other words, Dad’s followers were told that (1) force is a legitimate weapon to use against an evil government; (2) America was like Hitler’s Germany—because of legal abortion and of the forcing of “Humanism” on the population—and thus intrinsically evil; and (3) whatever would have been the “appropriate response” to stop Hitler was now appropriate to do here in America to stop our government, which Dad had just branded a “counterfeit state.”
Is it any wonder that to the Evangelicals running the Republican Party these days that they see themselves as the children of a revolution? Shutting down the government was nothing to these people. They see our government as the enemy, and they are running it. We were outsiders asking for change. The change came and now people as demented as I was are running the show.
Dad’s books sailed under the radar of the major media, which weren’t paying much attention to religious books despite the powerful influence they were having on the direction of American politics. Manifesto sold more than 1 million copies in Evangelical bookstores.
Dad and I were rewarded by the Republican leadership—admittedly before some of Dad’s fans were killing doctors but after we were spreading anti-government and anti-American venom—for our “stand.” By the end of the 1970s the Republicans depended on agitators (or “prophetic voices”) like us to energize their rank and file.
They still do.
Mark my words, the subtext to the GOP assault on us in 2016 will be the extremism my family contributed to. For the Republicans the next election won’t be about politics. it will be a holy war– again.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
Available now on Amazon
 Dave Andrusko while reviewing Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars by Cynthia Gorney (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) and Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War by James Risen and Judy Thomas (New York: Basic Books, 1997) in First Things 78 (November 1998): 32–36.
 Endorsements of Dad and his books as quoted on Amazon.com, www.amazon.com/How-Should-We-Then-Live/dp/1581345364/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285237692&sr=1–1.
 Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1981),49.
 Ibid., 128.
 Ibid., 117–118.