Sunday, April 22, 2012

Colson: An Evangelical Homophobic Anti-Woman Leader Passes On

Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most beloved and bigoted homophobic and misogynistic voices with the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson, a Watergate felon who converted to “evangelicalism” but never lost his taste for dirty political tricks against opponents.

Colson was a vocal far right leader who tried to fill my late father’s religious right leadership (Francis Schaeffer) shoes by borrowing material from his books, even repeating one of Dad’s book titles as if he (Colson) was writing a sequel.

Colson had his “books” ghost written by Harold Fickett and other writers, some of whom like Fickett (who I worked with closely many years ago) used to complain to me almost daily about what an egomaniac Colson was to work for and how he did all he could to hide the fact that his work was written by others while rarely sharing credit.

Colson teamed up with far right Roman Catholic activist Professor Robert George of Princeton to launch the dirty tricks campaign to brand President Obama as “anti-religious” with Colson’s and George’s “Manhattan Declaration.” This was a trap they set for the administration that finally paid off when they talked a number of bishops into branding Obama as anti-religious because he wanted women to have access to contraception even if they worked for Roman Catholic controlled institutions.

Colson worked closely with various right wing Roman Catholic bishops to launch the current Republican Party war on women and gays in the name of “religious freedom” having become one of the chief practitioners of the evangelical/far right myths of victimhood at the hands of left wing media, colleges etc., etc. Colson was also a key figure in organizing the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage California iniatives. Colson was a key figure in calling the depriving of women of insurance coverage for contraception a religious “civil liberties” issue and provided evangelical cover for the Roman Catholic bishops’ misogynist bigotry.

In 1974 Colson entered a plea of guilty to Watergate-related charges. He entered Maxwell Federal Prison Camp in Alabama in 1974 as a new Christian who had just “discovered Jesus” just in time to turn his new found faith into a second act as an evangelical guru. He made his reputation by being one of the meanest political operatives in American history on record for fabricating lies for his master Richard Nixon-- behavior he reverted to when helping the Roman Catholic far right bishops launch their anti-gay and anti-women attacks.

Colson emerged from prison with a new mission to use his newfound evangelical “born-again” platform to help prisoners. For a time he seemed to have actually changed course and worked for prison reform and prisoner care. Then (very much like his good friend Franklyn Graham) he reverted to type and began to fight in the far right holy war against the Democratic Party, women, gays and progressive causes.

Colson re-launched his Nixon-style bid for far right leadership in the political arena with conservative Roman Catholics in two documents called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The evangelical-Catholic declaration of unity against gays, women and the “pro-abortion” Democratic Party was a direct rip off of my father books “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” and “How Should We them Live?” Colson somewhat too cutely called his ghost written imitation, “How Now Shall We Live?” (Unlike Colson my father wrote his own books and was not a homophobe or anti woman. Dad was pro-gay and pro-women and thought Roman Catholics were just plain nuts re contraception.)

In 2009, Colson was a principal writer with Robert George of the Manhattan Declaration, which called on far right evangelicals, Mormons  and Catholics to defeat President Obama in 2012, albeit without mentioning Obama by name under the “non-political” guise of  the “sanctity of human life,” issues and “traditional marriage” and “religious freedom.” These calls for a “return to biblical law” (or the Catholic version so-called “Natural Law”) have long since been the bishops’ and evangelical right’s code words for gay and women bashing.

More than half a million Fox News watchers signed the Manhattan Declaration after it was first signed by a virtual Who’s Who of evangelical leaders in the anti-gay, anti-women crusade. Collaborating with other Christian leaders, Colson aimed to launch other grassroots movements around “moral and ethical issues of great concern” in other words he returned to being Nixon’s hatchet man again at the end of his life showing greater loyalty to far right Republican Politics than to the gospel.

Colson worked closely with members of a far right "religious liberty" group -- the Becket Fund -- led by the ultra conservative Roman Catholic William P. Mumma (a Wall Street banker) working closely with the Roman Catholic bishops to sue the government in order to force women to forgo contraception if they happen to work for Catholic run corporations.

The view they were defending was summed up by the leading Catholic philosopher of the 20th century and Vatican favorite, Elizabeth Anscombe in her anti-contraception essay "Contraception and Chastity," where she wrote:  "If you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition. It's this that makes the division between straightforward fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature and of contraceptive intercourse. Hence contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery." (G. E. M. Anscombe, "Contraception and Chastity," London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975

Most Roman Catholics would not sign on to such weird extremism. But "most Roman Catholics" are not in charge of their church today.

And most Americans will not thank the Roman Catholic activists suing our government to force us to adopt Anscombe's view of contraception even in the name of "religious liberty." Liberty as defined here as the "right" of the Roman Catholic Church to deny progress in women's rights. The suit will mean that any time the social issues might have faded away the Roman Catholic church's attack on women will remain "news."

The far right ideologues who want to turn depriving women of contraceptives into a "religious liberty" issue are counting on trying to get their "case" before at least 4 Supreme Court Justices that have a right wing Catholic worldview --Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. This fact alone will make millions of women vote for reelecting the President just to make sure he has the chance to appoint another one or two moderate pro-women justices.

Bluntly put, between the Becket Fund/Wall Street  suit, the Pope weighing in and the American bishops anti-Obama activity ramping up with Colson to try and defeat Obama in 2012, the Roman Catholic leaders seemed anxious to declare holy war on the Democratic Party. And Colson was their willing Protestant facilitator, helping to craft the mirror image of the racist policy Nixon used to turn Southern Democrats into Republican voters, only this time the tactic was to use “family values” to get white members of the underclass to vote for corporate America.

Colson’s and George's trap for the president, the "Manhattan Declaration," was instantly signed by more than 250 American "mainstream" (mostly Evangelical) conservative religious leaders. They joined to "affirm support for traditional marriage" and to advocate civil disobedience against laws contradicting the signers' religious beliefs about marriage and/or the "life issues." The drafting committee included Evangelical far right leader Charles Colson. In fact, in close contact with operatives like Karl Rove, this whole group began to pump their followers up for the battle to come for the 2012 elections.

It is not coincidence that Colson was assigned by these extremists to be the point man for the anti-Obama crusade. He put his name on a piece crafted by the Robert George group when it came to the bogus "Obama is anti-religious" charge.

To ramp the case up Colson teamed up with a Catholic bishop and wrote (or had George write for them) in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after the "story" (a trumped up fabricated story at that) about Obama's "anti-religious" stance broke. Then throwing red meat to the faithful, Chuck Colson wrote in an open letter to his fellow believers on Wednesday (Feb. 8) where he compared the administration birth control mandates to policies enacted in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

In the WSJ op-ed Colson and the Catholic bishop blew their cover, they cited their own creation as proof that they had grassroots support when of course (like the Tea Party) they had had their "issue" created top down. they write:

At this critical moment, Americans of every faith, as guardians of their own freedom, must, in the words of the First Amendment, "petition the government for the redress of grievances." That's why over the past two years more than 500,000 people have signed the "Manhattan Declaration" in defense of religious liberty. They believe, as do we, that under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law.

It was a neat trick in the mold of the Nixon “method” Write a declaration, get 250 leaders to sign it then use Fox News etc to promote it "grass roots" then come back and use the fact that it's been signed off on by the pro-life movement as "proof" that the president is out of step with religious freedom! It was the sort of dirty trick Colson was master of. As the New York Times noted:

“Few played political hardball more fiercely than Mr. Colson. When a deluded janitor from Milwaukee shot Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama on the presidential campaign trail in Maryland in May 1972, Nixon asked about the suspect’s politics. Mr. Colson replied, “Well, he’s going to be a left-winger by the time we get through.” He proposed a political frame-up: planting leftist pamphlets in the would-be killer’s apartment. “Good,” the president said, as recorded on a White House tape. “Keep at that.”
Mr. Colson hired E. Howard Hunt, a veteran covert operator for the Central Intelligence Agency, to spy on the president’s opponents. Their plots became part of the cascade of high crimes and misdemeanors known as the Watergate affair.”

There are a number of leading American extremist "conservative" Roman Catholics, like Professor George, who are part of a strange, informal, anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion alliance that Santorum has drawn his ideas from. One such far right Roman Catholic ideologue wrote a book calling on Christians to join Muslims in a jihad against the secular West.

In Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War (Ignatius Press, 1996) my old friend Peter Kreeft called for "ecumenical Jihad." Kreeft's was not a plea for blowing people up. He was calling for winning elections and, failing that, for undermining the election results when they are judged "wrong" by religious people.

Kreeft called for an alliance of fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, to prosecute a culture war against what he called the "demoniacal Western cultural elite." The book was (tellingly) dedicated to several key far right leaders: e.g., Chuck Colson, Michael Medved and (of course) the reactionary's reactionary, Richard John Neuhaus.

The late Roman Catholic convert priest Richard John Neuhaus and I often talked when Neuhaus was starting his far right First Things journal. I contributed several articles to some of the early issues of First Things. (This was before I left the religious right, the Republican Party and my evangelical background.)

According to what Neuhaus told me back then First Things was supposed to be the pro-life/Catholic version of the Norman Podhoretz's Commentary magazine.  Podhoretz who, at first, was friendly with Neuhaus broke with him over Neuhaus's extremist anti-abortion -- and extremist anti-American - views. This was after Neuhaus started openly describing the U.S. government as an illegitimate "regime." As the Washington Post noted:

Father Neuhaus played a central role in forging an alliance between evangelical Protestants and Catholics and in bringing conservative Christians into the Republican conservative coalition in the 1980s and 1990s. During that same period, he began an institute and published a journal, First Things,  that reflected his interests in religion and public policy. Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said Father Neuhaus was a guiding force in the creation of faith-based initiatives -- private religious groups given government funding to carry out social policy -- that have become identified with President Bush's White House. Father Neuhaus set the groundwork for the idea in two books, To Empower People written with Peter Berger, and Christian Faith and Public Policy (both 1977).

As I Alexander F. Remington noted in the Washington Post on January 9, 2009, in 2005, Time magazine named Father Neuhaus one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America.

"Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed," Father Neuhaus once wrote. It was a stance that was at times too rigid for many conservatives. After President Bill Clinton vetoed in 1996 a ban on a procedure critics call partial-birth abortion, Father Neuhaus said, "We are at a point at which millions of conscientious American citizens are reflecting upon whether this is a legitimate regime." That same year, he sponsored a symposium on "The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics."

Colson and Neuhaus were the moving force behind the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" initiative/manifesto which called for a (non-violent) holy war against secularism. And that "initiative" took the Far Right Reconstructionist ideas of Rushdoony, dropped the most inflammatory rhetoric, and made them "mainstream," thus moving the so-called mainstream Evangelical enterprise to the far (anti-government) right.

The groups Kreeft, Colson and Neuhaus had in mind to "bring together" were alienated Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews and conservative Roman Catholics, wallowing in their sense of victimhood, to which Kreeft added Muslims. Of course the ultra-conservative Kreeft and extremist Neuhaus were against contraception and equated it with abortion. Thus the logic of their argument was that of my fathers' too: the United States Government was enabling murder, was disparaged as a "regime" that needed to be overthrown.

These neo-conservative/Roman Catholic "intellectuals" helped set the stage for the anti-contraception Quiverfull Movement and for the Patriarchy Movement, giving a gloss of intellectual respectability and aid and comfort to what were nothing more than oppressive ideas rooted in an anti-Constitutional theocratic far right wish list for changes that were supposed to roll back the parts of the democratic processes - say Roe v. Wade, women's rights and gay rights -- that far right Catholics and Protestants didn't approve of.

Few men have done more to trade (betray?) the gospel of love for the gospel of empowering corporate America and greed through the misuse of the so-called culture war issues to get lower middle class whites to vote against their own economic interests in the name of "family values.” Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a “Job well done.”

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is  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


dcouch said...

Thanks, good article. Opened one of Colson's "books" that argued that elitism was good. Also read John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience" which was inspired by Chuck's continuous smear campaign against John Dean's wife. The man was packaged as a spiritual leader......Not so much.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Thanks Dcouch, Colson called me a number of times trying to get me to endorse him as my father's "successor." Even back in the bad old days before I dropped my evangelical shtick I (like my father) distrusted Colson. I never knew anyone close to him who thought he was anything less than odd to say the least.

S. Dubinin said...

Thanks Frank. And than God one of them can't play anymore. It's just been too easy for them. Fortunately,their "orthodox/natural/biblical" law has become thin enough to see through, right along with their ethic.

Jeff said...

Frank - When you withdrew your post yesterday I thought maybe you were regretting what is said as "speaking ill of the dead". In addition, the many comments on Facebook yesterday confirmed my fear that many well-meaning people do not feel comfortable regardless of whom it may be. I think I can understand this reaction. Regardless, thanks for addressing the negative issues generated by Colson that we the living have to deal with.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Jeff, I just wanted to get it right and make more of it. I knew Colson and talked to him. there is nothing I said in the post that in one way or another I didn't say to his face or in print when he was alive and could respond. Best, Frank

pmPilgrim said...

Thanks, Frank. Your ongoing work and courage to speak to the "powers" is an important task.


Great post, Frank. Colson is a good example of how the Christian book publishing and television world latched onto this new born-again, celebrity, convert and made him a national evangelical leader in no time at all. Colson became born-again in the mid-70's, and within two-three years, with no real theological training to speak of, he has a "ministry" and is cranking out book after book.

It's interesting how gullible the evangelical subculture is. If a person can play the "amazing grace" card, all doors are open and no questions are asked,especially if your books become best-sellers.

Thanks Frank for reminding us of Chuck's real history and legacy.

Glenn said...

It might be too soon to answer this, but what do you think happens to the strategies Colson set in motion? Does his death matter to the Right's chances of further success stories, or does it leave a void that might lead to an undoing of the current alliances?

David said...

Your dad Francis was "pro-gay?" In what way? Given God is not "pro-gay" in any way that is evident to me in Scripture, what was the source of this opinion? Is this viewpoint in print in any of his works? I am not challenging your integrity or memory of your dad, I am just perplexed how to reconcile this viewpoint with the writings of Francis Schaeffer. Christian Regards. David Leach

JCF said...

This is a very comprehensive post, thanks. * Personally, I think the last line is a bit too far, in making eternal judgments (though far LESS judgmental than in most of the Progressive and/or LGBT blogosphere!). I leave "absolutely everybody" (L. Crew) to the Mercy of God. Colson will need it---won't we all!

* When doing my doctoral research 10 years ago, I came across Kreeft's "Ecumenical Jihad" (a book that I think would be more well-known, had 9-11 not made its title cringe-tastic). What a piece of work, huh? My favorite bit, was where Kreeft jokes that we need not "burn heretics, we can just cryogenically freeze them!" Load of laughs, that Kreeft.

Frank Schaeffer said...

LARRY, thanks for the note. Good point about the fast track "grace card." I wish I'd noted that in the post.

GLENN, my guess is that Robert George and the RC bishops are well on their way to running the religious right along with Land of the Southern Baptists and the usual "family values" suspects. They won't miss a beat.

DAVID, re my Dad being pro-gay... Ask any gay man or woman -- and there were many -- who spent time with Dad in the Swiss L'Abri how they were treated, if they were ever told to "pray away the gay."

Also note that when in the early 80s Anita Bryant came to lunch with Dad, Mom and my wife Genie and I in Rochester Min asking for Dad's support of her anti-gay Efforts Dad said he'd have nothing to do with her and took her to task, she actually stormed out and they never spoke again. She had assumed (as Dobson did later) that my father was "religious right" in the whole agenda. He wasn't. He was anti-abortion but never went with the whole reactionary package. He was pro-green, pro-women (who he promoted as equals in L'Abri), and pro-gay in that he never once latched on to the anti-gay issues as the "next step" in the "battle" as did most if not all leaders in the Evangelical world.

As for God not being pro-gay, I'm not sure what you mean by that. God made every gay man and woman as they are. Do you mean that God and what the Bible "says" about God are one and the same? The Bible is a book filled with good things and lots of nonsense too. God -- if there is one -- is the creator of everything you see in the Hubble plus more. What some collection of Bronze Age mythology says and what is really out there (and in us) isn't the same thing. Don't blame the creator for religion or religious books.

Emanuel Goldstein said...

Frank, how many prisoners in jail have you visited?

Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi Emanuel, just left you an answer on another page/post re women in Arab countries. Must be slow day for both of us. Maybe you and I need real jobs! Re jail visitations, what's your point? Did I say anything in the post that was untrue about Colson? Too bad he didn't stick with his declared ministry but rather got back into the dirty politics of far right oppression of women and gays in the name of Jesus. Also note when I have visited prisoners over the years, not many I admit, I never got paid to do so. Good works by people who do them as a profession are no less good but prison ministry was the way Colson earned his living: running a ministry. And that good work gave him credibility and time and money to move the evangelical movement to the right. Too bad that is what he'll be remembered for.

JW said...


It seems to me that you are mimicking the very thing that you are accusing the 'far religious right' of doing. That is throwing stones, accusations, and calling names of those on that side. To me it reads like a person who is desperately licking wounds and becoming some kind of 'I told you so' Bully while hoping to rally others to AMEN you in the process. It reads like an child and not a balanced thinker regardless of whether your opinion is right or wrong.


Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi JW, did I say something untrue?

Ex-Crusader said...

Great article - very informative. Thank you.

Steve said...

Whether or not it you believe it fits the context of your argument regarding his religion and politics, I would have appreciated at least a mention of Colson's "Prison Fellowship," even if your opinion is negative. My family used to send contributions to that organization as well as to "Habitat for Humanity," strongly associated with Jimmy Carter.

chaplain mike said...

Frank, I think you missed a great opportunity to show forth the Gospel and Christ's grace in this post.

Stephen York said...


To begin, your commentary is vital, especially to those of us who had to grope our way out of right-wing Christian ministry and right-wing GOP politics. I began my odyssey in the mid-1980s. I determined that my sanity was worth more than my ordination. I have no regrets. I could no longer equate what I read in the Bible with my politics. Period.

In those days, there were few guiding stars. I had two: James A. Forbes, Jr. of Riverside Church of NYC, and James Fowler, author of STAGES OF FAITH.

I was shocked and comforted to find the story of your own odyssey. I remember your work from "the old days." You have come long way, as have I.

You are astute and factual in your observations about Charles Colson.

Thank you.

Stephen York, fellow sojourner

Frank Schaeffer said...

Steve, good point but you know everyone else in the world more or less just printed the press release ignoring Colson's real second act after Watergate and that was his use of the same political dirty tricks now for the Religious right he'd honed in the service of Nixon. everyone else talked about Prison Fellowship.

Mike,Colson did more to harm the gospel than anyone alive beside Falwell, Robertson and Dobson. When will people ever learn that these right wing folks have destroyed Jesus' reputation more than any atheists. Being falsely nice about Colson isn't grace. I'd as soon say something "positive" about the child molesting bishops.

Steve D said...

Good people practice good religion. Evil people practice evil religion.

chaplain mike said...

Frank, I am no unalloyed fan of Colson. That's not really my point. I also would not deny that there are times when commentary such as you give here is appropriate when engaged in responding to those with whom we disagree. I also would understand if you feel like someone should counter the overwhelming eulogizing that is going on at the moment for Colson. However, I think you are doing more damage to your own reputation and the causes you passionately believe in to speak this way about someone in the immediate aftermath of their death. It will only stir up his defenders and create a fog of useless debate and angry give and take.

If Jesus could speak forgiveness to those who had just cruelly shamed and beaten him and driven nails in hands and feet, surely we who bear his name can at the very least be silent at the death of even our worst enemies.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Mike, I have nothing to forgive Colson for. He never did anything to me. Thanks for worrying about my "reputation" but that's not the point. My take on his life and work is in the context of the politics Colson chose to follow. It is a public discussion of his public life. I say again: Colson's legacy was to take the political "methods" of Nixon/Watergate and apply them (years later) to the culture war battles under the cover of good works for prisoners. He was fighting a dirty covert war against progressive politics while hiding behind religion. Friends of religion should demand honesty. It is the reputation of Christianity you should worry about. With "friends" like Colson, Dobson, Robertson, Robert George, the far right Roman Catholic bishops etc., etc., Jesus needs no enemies.

Unknown said...

If all of Colson's books have been ghost-written, I wonder if the ones he officially co-authored are actually works by his co-author and he only added his name for credibility and marketing purposes...

Do you know who were the "ghosts" behind his early books (Born Again, Loving God, etc.)?

Frank Schaeffer said...

Good question, I don't know. I was agent/friend for one writer who did about 6 books for him. I was close to that relationship. What Colson did with others I don't know. I do know as a writer myself that anyone that "writes" that way is not someone I'd think would ever write anything themselves in the way actual writers do. I only mentioned this point because it just proves what flimsy intellectual credibility the man had. The evangelical ghost writing business is big business. I've known Billy Graham's "writers" and many more. It was so bad that the evangelical publishers my father worked with were always surprised that he and my mother actually wrote their own books. They did. Evangelical "publishing" is more like celebrity publishing in the general market. One friend of mine actually made a small fortune in both markets. He always told me that the Hollywood stars had smaller egos.

5minutes said...

I think we could probably generate enough electricity to power the planet off the spinning Francis, Sr. is doing in his grave right now.

Your entire post is less of a critique on Colson's life, his theology, his decades of work with Prison Fellowship, and his experience of coming to the cross and more of an attack on a man who committed the crime of disagreeing with your extremist leftist politics.

You throw around terms like "pro-women" and "pro-gay" and imply that your father was both, which is interesting since your father actively opposed abortion and called homosexuality an antithesis to God's Creation. Rose-colored lenses, I guess.

Indeed, Colson's biggest sin, in your estimation, seems to be the fact that he was a conservative Republican. In fact, your implicit denial of Colson's place in the kingdom ("Wherever Nixon is today he must be welcoming a true son of far right dirty politics to eternity with a 'Job well done'") illustrates to me that you have supplanted your faith in the God Who Is There and Is Not Silent with a religion based in a political ideology.

Shame on you, Franky.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi 5min... you make some good points and I'm glad you responded. We all suffer from talking to too many like minded people. So thank you. But you are wrong about one thing, Dad generating electricity in his grave re Colson. Ever since Colson became a creature of the Family in Washington with Doug Coe as his mentor Dad regarded Colson as in bed with what Dad called fascists. Dad refused several invitations to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast because of the Family being the organizers. Dad did not like Colson. Dad did not like the Family, actually felt they were horrible. Dad also believed as did our friend Jack Kemp that the turn to the right by the religious right was a mistake. Theology aside Dad despised Nixon, actually did not answer a letter Nixon wrote him back in the day. So whatever other points you are making when it comes to Colson and his far right mentors at the Family Dad and I are/were on the same page.

RickT said...

I believe your father would disagree with your point of view in assessing the merits of Chuck Colson's life.

You seem to focus on two issues—
1) Colson's participation with Nixon in the Watergate-plagued era, and
2) his ghost-written books which leveraged terminology made popular by your Father.

What you ignored was his apparently genuine conversion from corruption, and his complete devotion to ministry for the remainder of his life. Colson's passion for the pro-life movement was equalled only by his devotion to reaching out to prisoners and their families, seeing them as Christ did in terms of their sin and their need for salvation.

Your stance in support of the most pro-infanticidal president in the history of our nation is problematic in itself. I’d like to encourage you to consider your paradoxical positions in light of God's compassion for the unborn and those in prison. God loves them and reaches out to them. Can we truly do less?

Finally, your harsh tone in the immediate aftermath of the death of Chuck Colson is an inappropriate insult to his family during a time of profound grief. As Christians, I believe we can and ought to demonstrate more charity and love and err on that side, rather than harboring bitterness and anger over perceived slights. "Let no root of bitterness" rule in our hearts is indeed good advice.

Will Y. said...

Frank, I have no idea who you are. Another kid of a famous father who think that makes them important. Another leftist with a shtick that requires demonizing the right. But your bitter unloving tone and obvious arrogance is a bit much to take this close to a man's death.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ghjelte said...

I never write into blogs but I guess this is when I start. Franky, your Addicted to Mediocrity was a watershed for me as an artist in my 20's, I'm in my late 40's, I now work with many top film music composers, and part of that is due to you. Thank you.

Your writings on Colson stunned me, though. It doesn't matter what you write is correct or not. I know the corruption involved. But as great as truth is, love trumps truth. The man just died, the time will come when you can critique him. We all go to the grave, and all of us have good things to be remembered for. Colson and his prison ministry, and his books, regardless of the author, served many people.

Don't lose your edge, but please speak the truth in love. Now is not the time to harshly critique the man. Don't rationalize it by the attention the remarks get because of the timing. We all will be known for our love, not our truth. You sound like the persons you yourself critique.

Please reposition yourself.

The Johnsons said...

Which book was it Frank where your father began with describing a watershed in the Alps? Then he continued to state that the watershed issue of "our time" is inerrancy. He on the side of inerrancy, you now on the side of "Bronze Age mythology"? Please come home Frank.

Dennis Jernberg said...

Legal birth control is the Holocaust? Ouch! That invocation of Godwin's Law lost me any last remaining respect for Colson I had left. Now I agree with you completely, concerning him.

Evangelical ghostwriters: now there's something I didn't know about before...

Jonathan Barnard said...

Dear Frank-

How does your belief about God making men and women gay fit into Eastern Orthodoxy?

Also, what did you mean when you said "God -- if there is one -- " you still believe in God? Are you still a practicing Orthodox Christian?

Most Sincerely,


JD Curtis said...

Congratulations Frank Schaeffer, Youre Officially the World's Biggest Idiot

Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi JD perhaps you're right but what in my article is untrue? Best, F

BeautiControl Skinlogics said...

Being right or "What did I say that was not true" is not the whole story. How you say the "truth" matters as well. I am very familiar with your fathers work and yours as well, having read most of both of your works.
What is honestly sad to me after having a father that was a jerk and a hypocrite in the work of God myself is the deep seated anger and bitterness that you project. Since you are criticizing others why don't you deal with that 2x4 in your own eye? You sound just like Dug Pinnick from the great band Kings X. He is so enraged by how he has been treated by some "Christians" or seen them acting that he can't seem to see God to save his life. Why don't you use your fantastic intellect to trash just the arguments instead of people? Look in the mirror Frank. Your anger is clouding your intellect and making some of your best work inaccessible to many people.
Sincerely, Tom Moody

GentleSkeptic said...

How you say the "truth" matters as well.

Yes. Especially when 'how' you say it can function as a handy distraction from the truth itself, yeah? Let's not lose the forest of truth for the tree of style.

Frank, you nailed it. Love you; don't ever back down from proclaiming the truth and shining a bright light on these charlatans, living or dead.


BeautiControl Skinlogics said...

Especially when 'how' you say it can function as a handy distraction from the truth itself, yeah?

Not even close to what I am talking about.
Not talking about style. Talking about nuance. Truth is critical and Wisdom makes knowledge acceptable. If you just want to beat the crap out of people, then sure, the truth is all that matters. If you want to influence people for God then that takes something more than just the truth.

I guarantee Mr. Schaeffer knows what I am talking about in my first post.

joe nuss said...

LOL, self-righteous much!? Wow, you actually believe in right and wrong? Aren't you a lost puppy.

Give it a rest "Franky". So you don't want to go someone else's party. Big fckn deal. Boo hoo. What injustices have been committed by anyone. None. As if some standard sense of "morality" were ever established except those by who has the a bigger show of guns and fists.

So you were the son of a "supposedly" oppressive, homophobic, narrow minded, bible thumper. Big fckin deal. Cry me a "god" damned river why dontcha. All of a sudden now you're the disciple of some other cult. You can't escape being a lemming. Noone can. Here's an idea: create your own fcked up world and be its "god". Then you'll be the conductor rather than the conducted.

Man, your bitterness leaves a bad after taste.

Quit pedaling your tripe you snake oil salesman. What makes you think you're any better than your father. You're not even remotely perceptible in the shadow of his intellect. Oh, Portafino was the last decent thing your wrote a55hole. If there's a hell, maybe I'll come look for you and beat your a55 just because it might bring me some pleasure.

Andrew Lohr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew Lohr said...

Mr Schaeffer,
Do you show love by name-calling? Would "far left...left wing...creation-hating...war on marriage" prove anything? Did Jesus use that kind of language to Simon the Pharisee?
Tim Stafford helped Colson revise "Loving God," and Stafford says Colson was OK to work with but rather overwhelming.
Truth? If God or genetics made anyone gay, they'd have no children. So there cannot be a strong gay gene; tendencies, maybe. There are choices; there is right and wrong.
'Gay' actions involve groupings; so do other actions. If there is to be freedom for the first, why not the 2nd?
Truth? People who work at Roman Catholic institutions need not forgo contraceptives; they just have to obtain them themselves, rather than force others with moral objections to contraceptives to pay for what the objectors consider evil. (There might be some institutions with stricter policies?) I'm not Roman and my marriage uses contraceptives, but I object to tyranny more than to anticontraception.
Andrew Lohr (what tune shall I sing my name to?)

airforceja said...

Wow. Such a mean-spirited, vile and vitriolic bashing of the so-recently-departed is just plain ugly. You should really be ashamed of yourself.

JD Curtis said...

JD perhaps you're right but what in my article is untrue?

In my above linked blog entry I implied that you are, based on this blog entry of yours and utilizing a standard dictionary definition, a 'bigot'.

You level the same charge at Colson but yet you do not spell out exactly what about Colson made him a 'bigot'. Would you mind explaining to me what, if any, criteria you considered before attacking the (quite recently deceased) man's reputation?

You see, I'm quite slow on the uptake and thus I would greatly appreciate it if you could point out to me just where the line is between, for example, bigoted and non-bigoted opposition to gay marriage and how Colson, in your opinion, clearly crossed the line.

Awaiting replies. JD

Ron Henzel said...


You claim that your father was "pro-gay." Some of your comments seem to imply that he even supported homosexual practice. But here's what he actually wrote:

"It is not our real fulfillment to have promiscuous or homosexual relationships. This is not what God has made us for." The Church Before the Watching World, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (CWFS) 4:137.

"The 27th verse [of Romans 1] does, of course, refer to homosexuality and includes lesbianism. As people have turned from the truth, they have gotten their sexuality mixed up. A number of homosexuals and lesbians have come to L'Abri where they hoped they could get help. We must show compassion and not act as though this sin is greater than other sins, or as though we are superior since we are not caught in this. But at the same time we must point out that the practice (in contrast to the temptation) of homosexuality is wrong." Death In The City, CWFS 4:275-276.

"A number of forces at work in America are antifamily. Among these are...the gay liberation movement." Whatever Happened to the Human Race, CWFS 5:505, note 11.

"How could these men have stayed in a denomination...where it is considered a 'victory' to have [merely] stalled the ordination of practicing homosexuals and lesbians?" The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 79. Cf. CFWS 4:100 where similar wording is found.

"When a San Francisco Orthodox Presbyterian congregation can be dragged into court for breaking the law against discrimination because it dismissed an avowed, practicing homosexual as an organist, can we be so deaf as not to hear any warning bells?" The Great Evangelical Disaster, 87. CFWS 4:101 where nearly identical wording is found.

"In the end equality without distinction is destructive to both men and women ... If we accept the idea of equality without distinction, we logically must accept the ideas of abortion and homosexuality." The Great Evangelical Disaster, 136.

"The above author's conclusions reflect this in a remarkably extreme way: homosexuality is similar to 'handedness.' That is, some people are right-handed and some people are left-handed; some people are heterosexual and some people are homosexual. And one is just as good as the other.

"It is hard to imagine how far these things have gone. Evangelicalism is deeply infiltrated with the world spirit of our age when it comes to marriage and sexual morality. Few would go so far as the extremes mentioned above. But there are many who quietly tolerate these views..." The Great Evangelical Disaster, 137-138.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Re Dad and the gay community: Of course he never changed his "official" position on gay issues. But in practice he was pro-gay and this went far beyond compassion. His secretary and L'Abri worker was a lesbian carrying an affair with another L'Abri helper in our house for many years. They shared a room next to the kitchen. No one said "boo" about this. If at age 14 I knew what the score was do you think Dad didn't? He tossed Anita Bryant out of his home in Rochester when she came to him in the 80s seeking support for her anti-gay punitive legislation. Dad stuck to his theology on so many issues that he "lived" (if I may) in an opposite way. In fact that his heart was so often out of sync with what he had to say he believed because the book "said so" was the exact dilemma I finally escaped by being willing to say that I not only question the book but reject it where it is contradicted by reality. Wasn't Jesus doing the same thing when He said "The Law says, but I say..." ? Until an evangelical can say he or she is open to rejecting the book where it is clearly false, wrong, dumb or mean, what is there to engage about given the outcome of the "engagement" is already boxed in by a mentality that is only willing to follow the discussion just so far and no farther? Put it this way would the Koch brothers really want an open ended discussion about the environmental reality of what oil companies are doing to the world? Not so much when millions of paychecks depend on a foregone conclusion. Are you ready to find another line of work if your doubts lead you there? And if you have no doubts what is there to talk about?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The Bible is a book filled with good things and lots of nonsense too. God — if there is one — is the creator of everything you see in the Hubble plus more. What some collection of Bronze Age mythology says and what is really out there (and in us) isn’t the same thing. Don’t blame the creator for religion or religious books."

The comment above is attributed to a Frank Schaeffer on this comment thread by Tom Gilson over at the Evangel blog which is under the First Things website.

Anyways, I was puzzled by the part that says "God - if there is one - ...."

Don't you believe in the triune God of Eastern Orthodoxy?

Ron Henzel said...


If the only example you can provide of your father being "pro-gay" was that he did not discriminate against homosexuals or lesbians in the area of employment, that makes him no different than Chuck Colson, who as early as 1985 wrote concerning homosexuals: "While it is wrong to discriminate, it would also be wrong to confer special civil rights for those engaging in immoral behavior." (Rights Divorced from Responsibilities are the Seeds of Destruction, November 1985. This statement was repeated verbatim in Colson's 1994 book, The Gods of Stones and Spiders.)

Colson has repeatedly affirmed the personal value of gays and lesbians as objects of God's love, just as your father did, in spite of being opposed to their sexual behavior, just as your father was. Colson's own Manhattan Declaration forbids Christians from condemning homosexuals:

"We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts."

Thus to call Colson "anti-gay" is to confuse being anti-homsexuality with being anti-homosexual—and given the depth of knowledge you claim for yourself with respect to Evangelicalism, it would seem that the confusion you are creating is deliberate. Colson's public statements in opposition to homosexuality are not one bit more inflammatory (to gays and lesbians, at least) than those your father made, and Colson's view of the basic civil rights of gays and lesbians also appears identical to your father's. And yet somehow, in your book, your father comes out as "pro-gay" while Colson is depicted as "homophobic."

Neither your father nor Colson had hearts "out of sync" with either what they said publicly or with what "the book" says. Perhaps if you'd discussed this more with your father while he was alive, you'd understand that better.

itisus said...

I appreciate the post above titled “Re Dad and the gay community” because it gets to the heart of the matter. The question actually isn’t Colson, but what is truth? Now there is a question Francis wrestled with and fought for.
When Jesus said “The Law says, but I say…” he never contradicted the law, invalidated the law, but rather fulfilled it, placed it in it’s fuller, deeper, even more convicting, even more difficult to live by meaning.
When he said (Matthew 5:27-28) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”, he was not saying it is ok to commit adultery, just don’t lust. He said not committing adultery is only part of fully obeying that commandment. Same with murder/hate, divorce, oaths, revenge/forgiveness & blessing, loving enemies (Matthew 5).
Someone might be able to fulfill most of the ten commandments by not ever murdering someone, stealing something or committing adultery…but they have not fulfilled the law if they have hated, lusted, etc. The bar is raised by Christ, not lowered.
Your view on “some collection of Bronze Age mythology” and “rejecting the book where it is clearly false, wrong, dumb or mean” shape your worldview and your blog posting above.
The protestant-era reformer here in Slovenia where I serve, Primoz Trubar, wrote this definition of faith: “Faith is thus a wholehearted, certain and steadfast trust in the things of God, which we don't see or feel or enjoy or understand properly, and which are quite difficult for us to believe in.” Just because we think some part of the Bible doesn’t match up with what some today think is right doesn’t give license to place our perspective above the written Word. Faith says, I don’t see how it fits, Lord help my unbelief.
If someone can dismiss a part of the Bible that they see as “Bronze age myths” or “false” or “dumb”, then the teachings of the Bible can be shaped to mean anything that person wants it to. And that is what Francis fought against. Once the Bible is removed as the foundation or is filled with holes by taking out potentially offensive parts it becomes a book of moral platitudes in line with modern thinking…and that is the real danger. Truth is truth, whether truth from 1700 BC, 33 AD, 1550 AD or today.
It is interesting to have the insider perspective in this blog, that Francis’ stated theology and his life didn’t 100% match (not unlike us), but should his struggles affect what truth is?
Thus Jesus was not rejecting Old Testament teachings “where it is contradicted by reality” when He said "The Law says, but I say..." ? The same Word that spoke to Moses on Sinai preached the beatitudes to the crowd on that hill. The issue is not Colson, the issue is what will be do with the Christ we see in Scripture?

Al said...


How can someone be pro-gay 'in practice' when they are making public statements that condemn homosexual behaviour? Surely someone who really is pro-gay in private practice and conviction, but speaks out against homosexual practices publicly and willingly is engaging in profound and ugly hypocrisy, cynically speaking and acting against their genuine convictions to court a particular audience and profoundly hurting people with whom they don't really have an issue.

Johannes de Koning said...

Hi Frank

You are a bitter guy, hey? Only the love of Christ can set you free...

Johannes de Koning

Paul Johnson said...

Such a work of hatred and fiction. One person is sullied by this vicious obituary and it is not Chuck Colson.

Tim said...

As you have always been a spokesman for Orthodoxy and progessive politics, I am interested in how other Orthodox priests and institutions are responding to your pro-gay position. it's a bit strange to me because when I was a cathecumen in Ben Lomond, Fr. John (Hardenbrook) told me I shouldn't mention my homosexual background indicating to me that the issue of being gay AND Christian wasn't acceptable. So has the Orthodox Church modified its position? Its been a few years since I "left" the Orthodox Church. Tim Warner

pylgrym said...

I agree with Andrew Lohr, above. Frank can't answer without Permission.