Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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Reviewing recent books in the fields of science, social science, history, art, music, current affairs, and fiction with attitude and passion: An Intelligent Guide for Intelligent People.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sex, Mom, and God

Why’d God make it like that?

SEX, MOM, and GOD:
How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics—
and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

By Frank Schaeffer
281 pp. Da Capo Press

Reviewed by Sue Ellis

Frank Schaeffer’s latest book is a fond and sometimes hilarious look back at his mother’s child-rearing methods and the effect they had on him—especially her forthright interpretations of God’s will in regard to sex.

I only had the stamina to explain sex to my children once. I gathered them into a group and gave them the scientific version as succinctly as I could. My son asked, “That’s dumb. Why’d God make it like that?” I had no answer, and I never brought it up again. The author’s mother left me in her dust. Edith Schaeffer is to sex education what Julia Child was to French cooking, and sounds every bit as dauntless and charming. She used the Bible as a reference, but rearranged the written word whenever she encountered passages she didn’t like.

I winced at the author’s honesty. He’s not easy on himself as he recalls his zealous experiments with girls—even an anatomically correct snow maiden he sculpted for himself and then ‘dallied’ with. I cringed for him, laughed with him, and identified with his fallibly human self.

Sex, Mom and God also reveals the author’s regret for his involvement in the anti-abortion movement in the 70s and early 80s. It’s clear that the regret is not only for the political ramifications of his work, but for any impression he might have given that women are second-class citizens. To understand why his change of heart is so remarkable, you have to understand his roots:
My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. My mother, Edith, was herself a spiritual leader, not the mere power behind her man, which she also was. Mom was a formidable and adored religious figure whose books and public speaking, not to mention biblical conditioning of me, directly and indirectly shaped millions of lives. For a time I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical antiabortion Religious Right movement. In the 1970s and early 1980s when I was in my twenties, I was my own right. And I wasn’t just Dad’s sidekick; I was also Mom’s collaborator in her mission to “reach the world for Jesus.”
His was an unusual childhood. He spent much of it in Switzerland where his parents established L’Abri Fellowship ministry—a place that became a retreat for young women; a place where they could find forgiveness and wise counsel. In contrast, the author routinely witnessed his father hitting his mother, and also heard her disapprove of his father’s fiery sermons.

Schaeffer writes about the people and experiences that have influenced him, and how he eventually began to question the written word. It’s a considerable thing for a man like him to publicly proclaim his disillusionment with the way the Bible was written. I respect that, and I like that he does it while maintaining his love for Jesus and for his mother. After reading about her, I’m not surprised that he comes across as a sensible and nice guy. Edith Schaeffer once wrote:
Children are meant to understand compassion and comfort because they have received compassion and comfort – and this should be in the family setting. A family should be a place where comfort is experienced and understood, so that the people are prepared to give comfort to others.
Frank Schaeffer’s journey demonstrates that the world could be a better place if we were all able to reassess our beliefs and values—to examine them closely and glean only those worth saving. When all is said and done, I hope he decides to stop kicking himself. Maybe it would comfort him to know that not all of us were paying heed to his message anyway. There are a fair number of us who are adroit at switching channels or dodging a preacher’s visit. A friend of mine from a small town in northeast Washington liked to giggle about the time her dear, tangle-tongued old dad answered the door to a couple of crusaders armed with pamphlets. Believing them to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, he blurted, “No thanks. We’re all prostitutes here.”

To order "click" on the title here:

Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

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