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by Frank Schaeffer


Full Disclosure

A response to Os Guinness.

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Close personal connections would usually disqualify someone from writing a review of a book if what he writes is to be presented by a serious and normally scrupulously fair publication. To put it mildly, Os Guinness ["Fathers and Sons," March/April 2008] is not objective.

Readers of Crazy for God can decide for themselves about what Os says. (And those who've read only the article by Os might read Betty Smartt Carter's review from the previous issue of Books & Culture to get a second opinion.) Nevertheless, when an author writes a review/essay/ad hominem attack on the work of another author, there are certain common courtesies without which the whole process becomes suspect. Foremost is to come clean—up front—about personal history that colors what is being said. Os failed to do this.

First, in Crazy for God I make a less than flattering reference to Os, recalling his habit of girl–chasing while he was working at L'Abri. The girls being chased were the students coming to L'Abri. I mentioned this in the context of my hormone–driven bad behavior. I was fifteen, Os was thirty or so. Looking back, I'm sure Os feels plenty of embarrassment, an emotion that would hardly endear my book to him.

Second, Os has built a career on an evangelical reputation based in part on his association with my late father, Francis Schaeffer. Os has a continuing stake (in every sense of that word) in the Schaeffer brand name.

Third, I'm a person who converted to the Greek Orthodox Church, a regular blogger for the lefty Huffington Post, a critic of the evangelical world, etc., so there is some ideological distance between Os and me. Rather than dealing with our differences forth rightly, Os instead chooses to psychoanalyze me.

I note that other people a bit closer to my parents than Os—my two sisters Debby and Prisca, who were L'Abri workers for most of their lives and who also contributed sections to my book—have supported Crazy for God, as have two of my father's closest associates, my brothers–in–law Udo Middelmann and John Sandri. They (and many others of the past and present "L'Abri family") take a rather different view of Crazy for God than Os does. Some even feel that it enhances my father's reputation as a courageous human being working out his salvation with fear and trembling like the rest of us.

Having been oddly psychoanalyzed on the page by Os, I think it's only fair that readers ask whatmight havemotivated this attack cloaked as a review.The answer may have more to do with Os than with me.

Frank Schaeffer is the author most recently of 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 (Carroll & Graf).


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Os Guinness replies:

I am honestly not sure what Frank is referring to as my motive. I was not the slightest bit offended at anything he wrote about me in the book. He spelled my name wrongly (as he always used to, endearingly), he wrongly called me a "Schaeffer clone" and put me in the "Be–cool–for–Jesus" crowd, he added several years to my age (I was actually 27 and single), and he made another point or two. But those were minor matters. I replied to his book for one reason only: His portrait of his parents was wrong and destructive. It left me alternately grieved and outraged, and I wanted to witness to the truth as I see it before God. I hope one day we can sit down and talk it over amicably


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