Francis Schaeffer’s political legacy

Marvin Olasky writes: Who’s the major figure behind the election and re-election of George W. Bush? On one level, the visionary Karl Rove. At a deeper level, a theologian most Americans have never heard of: Francis Schaeffer, who 50 years ago this month founded an evangelistic haven in Switzerland, L’Abri.

Francis Schaeffer spoke at a pro-life seminar that me and a friend held while students at the University of Minnesota when I was a student there. He was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic for cancer at the time but still made the trip. May his memory be eternal.


4 thoughts on “Francis Schaeffer’s political legacy”

  1. I finally got around to reading this. If Francis Schaeffer would have been ecstatic over the re-election of George W. Bush, then his memory is certainly not worthy of much respect. We have had Republican rule in the Congress since 1994. We had 12 years of Republican rule in the White House from 1980 to 1992, and then from 2000 to current.

    What have we got to show for it? On the moral ledger side, are we any better off today than in 1978? In reality, we are much worse off. Marriage is still under assault, and Bush’s preferred solution is to basically do nothing while talking a mean game. (And endorsing Civil Unions, by the way.) All of the government programs that have been used as battering rams against the traditional family are still in place. The Department of Education has been expanded, and even more control over education has been stripped from the hands of parents. Pornography has gone mainstream. Our society is increasingly violent, as purveyors of sleaze and filth target our children as a hot market segment.

    On the legal front, the Supreme Court is still completely out of control. Whether it is sanctioning abusive Emminent Domain, civil forfeitures, capital punishment, or application of Hate Crimes laws, the Supreme Court is clearly out to remake America into an image of its own agenda. Bush and the Republicans have deferred to the Court on each and every blatant judicial overreach. A true conservative would have long ago told the Court the same thing as President Andrew Jackson, “You’ve made your decision, now you enforce it!”

    Instead, we get the Bush Administration enforcing blatantly unconstitutional Supreme Court decisions with which they are supposed to disagree.

    On the economic front, the U.S. is the world’s largest debtor with a massive trade deficit that is fueled by China’s peg of its currency to the dollar. As real wages stagnate, more and more jobs are being shipped overseas as the direct result of ruinous government policies. While praising the free market, the Bush Administration has proven to be even more interventionist than Clinton. At the same time, the anemic tax cuts have provided little relief to a hard-pressed middle class. The massive budget deficits are being financed with so much debt, that it is unlikely the U.S. will ever be able to repay it. It will prove to be the financial ruin of our children.

    As for foreign policy, other than mentioning the 50,000 Christian refugees who have fled our new democracy in Iraq in order to hide in Syria, suffice it to say there is room for improvement.

    Karl Rove reads Machiavelli’s The Prince at least once a year. Here is a famous quote from that book, “Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good
    qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.”

    A Prince is supposed to look religious and pious, but being so is harmful because a Prince must be ready to do horrific things. I feel that this is Bush’s strategy to the maximum. His piety appears to me to be false and pretentious, like that of the Prince. Christ warned of such as him, who would come in the name of Jesus to deceive.

    If I am wrong, then were is the proof? What has Bush actually done (actions not words) to warrant such accolades as have been thrown his way by Christian leaders? His chief accomplishment has been that he talks about their issues, does nothing about them, but thereby distinguishes himself from his Democratic opponents who are even more corrupt than he is.

    (Millions of abortions are still happening. Planned parenthood still gets money from the Federal government. The IVF industry keeps cranking out surplus embryos. Euthanasia is on the march as a movement. The borders are wide-open. Immigrants account for almost a third of welfare reciepients. The list just keeps on going, and going, and going.)

    In 2008, we’ll be at this again. The Republican Party will pick some warrior zealot who is soft on abortion and other social issues, but since we are ‘at war’ and he or she is ‘the lesser of two evils,’ a whole lot of people will fall in behind the new Republican leader expecting that he/she will right such wrongs as exist in our society. It won’t happen, not then and not now.

    Either we are asking too much out of politics, in which case we are misfocused, or we are asking too little out of Republicans. Chances are, the answer is that we are doing both.

  2. Glen, I think you expect too much from politics. Cultural change is not driven by politics, although politics certainly influences it. That influence can be significant, but it will never be the source of cultural renewal.

  3. I agree, but the emphasis isn’t mine. Politics is downstream of culture, which is one of my major points. Especially among Evangelicals, the emphasis on politics has blinded them to what is actually happening in their environment. Evangelicals expect that all of the time and energy they have invested in electing Republicans will pay major dividends in the ongoing culture war. That just hasn’t happened, and is quite unlikely too. As you stated, cultural renewal isn’t going to come from electing the right people.

    At the same time, it also appears that politically active Christians are setting a dangerously low-bar for their chosen champions to jump over. Every criticism of a Republican office holder is immediately answered, “Yes, but the Democrats are even worse!!!” Okay, granted, the Democrats are worse. But if we don’t expect something out of Republican elected officials, then why bother showing up to vote for them at all?

    The first step to renewal will be to embrace an authentic Christian faith. That is something that is sorely lacking in the United States. Evangelicalism is not authentic Christianity. As a religion, it is too sorely deficient to serve as an engine for cultural renewal. In reality, Evangelicalism is the absence of culture, rather than a source of it. What does Evangelical art look like? What does specifically Evangelical music sound like? What does Evangelical architecture look like? What are Evangelical burial customs? What are Evangelical family rituals? What are Evangelical dances?

    None of these things actually exist! The regular markers of a distinct culture are simply missing from Evangelicalism. Too much has to be provided outside the Evangelical faith. On the other hand, I could fill in the preceding categories with Orthodox answers. Hence, Orthodoxy can spawn a culture, whereas Evangelicalism simply can not. Or I should say, Evangelicalism can not spawn a stable, enduring culture.

    Besides persuading the nation to adopt Orthodoxy, however, I am also adamant that we have to pressure Republicans to do better. This isn’t happening. No matter what Bush does or doesn’t do, he is being defended by Christians. There is a lot that could be done politically, as many of our current problems have been created by bad government policies. Bush could kill the Department of Education and give control of schools back to communities, he could push for the Marriage Protection Act, Bush could repudiate Roe v. Wade and declare that the Federal Government will take no action to prevent states from closing abortion mills, Bush could push through punitive sanctions against China that would only be lifted if China drops its peg to the US Dollar, and Bush could end our IRS nightmare and replace the existing tax scheme with either a flat tax or consumption tax. Any of those things, accomplished in the political realm, would have PROFOUNDLY positive implications in our society.

    But instead of pushing the administration and Congress, we Christians mostly just sit on our hands and take the scraps they throw us. All the while, we drift closer and closer to outright rule by social activist judges. If it’s all just about winning elections, then all of this is a giant waste of time.

  4. I have read a little of Francis Schaeffer, and I have found his general critique of modern culture interesting and helpful. However, I have to wonder about his political notions. The Church always seems to be at its most spiritually powerful in positions of powerlessness. It is the powerless Christ, dead on the cross, which the Church proclaims as the “King of Glory”. Preaching the gospel from a position of political power is a difficult thing because that political power seems to have a tendency to overshadow the gospel. The Holy Roman Empire faced this problem when it became mandatory and mainstream to become Christian. If it were not for the monastic struggle of those who sought to eschew political power as either monastics in the desert, or as “Holy Fools” in the cities, I believe the Holy Roman Empire probably would have crumbled much sooner than it did.

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