July 22, 2014

To Frank Schaeffer: ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it

(HT: Orthodoxy Today)

The State of Kansas vs Frank Schaeffer in the Murder of Dr. George Tiller

By George C. Michalopulos

Recently, the notorious abortionist Dr George Tiller was gunned down in his church in Wichita, Kansas. The killer was a man who appears to be a dysfunctional loner with grave psychological problems. Nobody in the pro-life movement has stepped forward to applaud him or his actions; routine condemnation has been the order of the day.

One man however, has bravely stepped forward to take responsibility for this act. Frank Schaeffer, a self-described former member of the “Republican Party hate machine,” a group that included his father Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, and Ronald Reagan among many others, recently offered a mea-culpa in the left-wing journal The Huffington Post. Schaeffer believes that his life’s work as a young man in the Evangelical movement directly led to this incident because he helped create a “climate of fear” with his documentary (Whatever Happened to the Human Race?) and other work that made such atrocities like Tiller’s murder inevitable. As such, he puts himself in the pantheon artists like J. D. Salinger and Jodie Foster, whose ouvre inspired the murder of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of President Reagan.

On closer reading however, Schaeffer’s credibility is suspect from his first paragraph. He states that he “got out of the religious right (in the mid-1980s) and repented of [his] former hate-filled rhetoric.” Actually, he did no such thing. Sure, he may have abandoned the Evangelical Right, but as a new convert to Orthodoxy, he helped create an “Orthodox Right.” As for his abandonment of “hate-filled rhetoric,” one can read his various books and writings or view any of the numerous books and DVDs he produced since that time. There is more than enough venom against the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and secular humanism in the Schaeffer canon to choke a horse.

To be fair, it is possible that Schaeffer’s recollection of the “mid-1980s” extends to the years 2000-2002, in which he traveled the country barnstorming Orthodox Churches, telling them that America was going to hell in a hand-basket. One of his bugbears was abortion and the degradation of man. The other was the threat of Islamo-fascism. I first heard the term “Islamo-facism” in 2002 and it was from his lips. Schaeffer’s grave disappointment in President Bush actually started then, when he rightly saw Bush’s phrase that Islam was as a “religion of peace” as a sham. I got the impression sitting in the pews at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma that in Schaeffer’s mind, Bush should have taken up the Cross instead of placating the Islamic masses who were “an implacable enemy” of our civilization.

It’s impossible to get into a man’s heart and judge him. That belongs to God alone. All I can do is look at his words and actions and note the inconsistencies. In earlier times there was a coherence to his message. Now I am not so sure. Not to put too fine a point on it but his recent writings don’t square with Orthodox teaching concerning abortion which appear to be increasingly liberal.

Unfortunately for Schaeffer, the Gospel and the historical record stands in his way (not that this matters to those who inhabit the febrile precincts of The Huffington Post). The Orthodox Church has preserved the deposit of the faith uninterrupted and inviolate. It was only the Orthodox Church that was both right-teaching but more importantly right-acting. These were Schaeffer’s words, not mine. I’ll never forget his analogy of Orthodoxy as a tripod, one leg was Scripture, the other was worship, and the third was praxis. It did no good, he told us, if we went to church on Sunday and to our abortion clinic jobs on Monday.

He woke us up from our sleepy, Greek Orthodox ghetto thinking in a startling fashion, telling us that the abortion wars were not about the Evangelicals and the Catholics only, but about us. He reminded us that these shocking words were in fact the common witness of the Church which it has maintained for 2000 years, and that we as Orthodox Christians would have to give an account to the Lord for our apathy in this matter. Maybe Schaeffer didn’t believe this right-wing hokum then, but he sure made us think that he did. A lot of other people who came to hear him speak believed it as well. Schaeffer’s “street cred” among Evangelicals contemplating Orthodoxy was significant. If they thought that he was a political liberal — especially regarding abortion — they would not have given Orthodoxy a second look.

The Orthodox Church may be miniscule in the United States, but our witness is greater than our numbers. The teachings which mandate against the murder of innocent life is one of Orthodoxy’s gifts to Christendom. It was the Orthodox Church Fathers — with whom we are still in communion — who condemned abortion as a grave evil. It was the Orthodox Church which preserved the Didache, which still influences many non-Orthodox about correct Christian praxis, including the condemnation of abortion, even today.

Schaeffer not only appears less reticent about the moral prohibition against abortion, he seems to advocate it — at least in terms of supporting the arguments that blunt the moral objections against abortion. He holds back only about partial-birth abortion, that grisly procedure performed by Tiller that doesn’t even qualify as a method of execution of those guilty of heinous war crimes. But even here his complaint is not moral but tactical. Partial-birth abortion makes the entire abortion regime “too all or nothing” Schaeffer says, and gives legitimacy to the anti-abortion crowd. We can’t have that. The enemy must be deprived of any moral standing whatsoever. In order to keep abortion legal, Schaeffer feels that we should “re-regulate [abortion] according to fetal development.” (Gee Frank, why didn’t we think of that?)

Moreover, wiser heads tell us that we should instead opt for a more sensible regime in which “sex education and condom distribution” would mitigate the number of abortions. Maybe we should listen to Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin’s baby Daddy who told Larry King that “condoms should be mandatory.” This position may be sensible to Schaeffer and his new friends who think Christians are, well, icky, but it is not Christian. It certainly isn’t Orthodox. To my knowledge, no Orthodox theologian believes that human beings are animals operating without any autonomy and that abortion is necessary to either cull the lesser orders or emancipate a woman from the results of one too many drinks. Maybe Schaeffer still hasn’t shaken off the Calvinism of his youth. I challenge him to find the Scripture, the canon, or the Church Father that makes these facile distinctions.

To be sure, we Orthodox share culpability in the advance of the culture of death because many of our leaders are silent and many laity are complicit. We even rewarded two Greek Orthodox Senators with Church honors although they voted to uphold President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban (Tiller’s specialty); a procedure so gruesome and morally abhorrent that only three doctors in America perform it (and are very well-compensated for it).

This silence plays to Schaeffer’s advantage as the newly found “voice of reason” on the Left. Honest liberals who don’t know any better tend to look at Schaeffer and think, “here’s a Christian who makes sense.” Since Schaeffer jumped ship from the Religious Right to Orthodoxy, this must mean that the Orthodox are far more “tolerant” about the issues that matter to the Secular Left, they reason. (On the Left of course, “tolerance” is defined as any position that supports the Secular Left). Schaeffer’s kitchen makeover doesn’t just stop at abortion either. Support for homosexual marriage is also moving from the back to the front burner. Although cozying up to the Camp of Tolerance has won Schaeffer plaudits from secular elites, he will eventually have to make a decision — either own up to the true teachings of the faith or renounce them.

I began this essay commenting on Schaeffer’s admission of guilt in the murder of Tiller. Besides himself, he mentions other culprits as well, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Republican Party, and the pro-life movement. So what’s a man of real conviction to do? Schaeffer tries to make it all better by ending this essay with the words “I am sorry.”

I’m sorry? That’s it? That’s the best he can do?

Let me suggest a more principled way. If Schaeffer really feels guilty about Tiller’s murder, let him go to Wichita and turn himself in to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office. After all, the shooter was just the trigger-man. Rather, Schaeffer, along with his father, Reagan, Falwell and other miscreants are the real culprits because they created the “climate of hate” that caused the killing.

Will this happen? Not likely. The truth is that Schaeffer doesn’t really feel guilty about the killing. The apology is merely a tactical ploy calculated to win favor from the secular left. Schaeffer isn’t intellectually honest. And he certainly isn’t true to the precepts of his faith either.

George C. Michalopulos, is a layman in the Orthodox Church in America. He was born in Tulsa, Okla., where he resides and works. George is active in Church affairs, having served as parish council president at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and as Senior Warden at Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church. Together with Deacon Ezra Ham, he wrote ‘American Orthodox Church: A History of Its Beginnings’ (Regina Orthodox Press: 2003). He is married to Margaret and has two sons, Constantine and Michael.

Comments

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    Andrew says:

    George,

    This is your best work yet! Its size and scope are fantastic. Keep them short and concise like this George. You work is a gift to all of us!

    Congratulations on exposing the flip-flopping Frank Schaeffer as someone who has abandoned the basic moral tenets of the Orthodox Faith and blows where the popular winds of the day take him. Mr. Schaeffer is an example of the fashionable fundamentalism that has devoured the GOA and some other Orthodox parishes.

    If we follow Mr. Schaeffer’s new wisdom on abortion and apply it to the times of Slavery Franky would be saying “I am against slavery but I think it should be legal” or during the times of Dr. King Franky would say “I am against Segregation but I think it should be legal”

    I have always been amazed how the new and improved Frank Schaeffer dials down the moral Tradition of the Orthodox Church in his new writings. If you read Mr. Schaeffer on the Huffingon Post you get the impression the Orthodox Church is the episcopal Church with a Byzantine Cross.

    It is dishonest for Mr. Schaeffer to wrap himself in the veneer of Ancient Christian Orthodoxy while taking positions that undermine the Church. Has the new and enlightened Mr. Schaeffer addressed the issue of same-sex marriage and his faith?

    Today Orthodox Christians do not need the fashionable Orthodoxy-Lite of Frank Schaeffer. They need the Tradition of the Church preached and lived in its fullness.

    The sad part of it all is that Mr. Schaeffer is today more of a fundamentalist than any of the people who he targets in his work.

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    Robert says:

    This once again demonstrates the personality cult is humming along on all cylinders.

    What is Mr. Schaeffer’s claim to fame? Why is he given a podium, pray tell?

    I mean no disrespect.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Andrew, you are kind. My beef with Frankie is that as an Orthodox Christian (a big if btw), he’s definitely misrepresenting what the Orthodox Church teaches. At heart, I’m a libertarian –live and let live kinda guy–and if someone wants to believe that Elvis Presley is the Angel of the Bottomless Pit, go right ahead. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts. I just don’t like it when Frank and others wrap their religion around their socially libertine beliefs. No one’s forcing these people to belong to our faith. I can give them the addresses of any number of ECUSA, UCC and Unitarian churches where they would feel more at home.

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    Brian David says:

    I very much appreciated this essay. Much of what you say resonates with the thoughts I’ve had in regard to the younger Schaeffer’s writings. Even when I was still a recent convert, hot with an admixture of immature zeal for the Church and prideful disdain for my own spiritual heritage, I still found Dancing Alone too simplistic to take very seriously. His many good points in the book are drowning in a sea of caricature. In any case, I was once glad to know that he had made his way to the Church. However, of late I have had serious concerns about many of his recent statements and essays. I do not have the knowledge of him to quite go so far as to state that his apology is insincere, but he seems to have undergone extreme changes in ideology and worldview in a very short time, and in a way which makes his overall message incoherent. He seems unstable.

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    Anthony Alai says:

    Franky Schaeffer was my first contact point with Orthodoxy. Because of him, I started looking at the Orthodox Church , but unfortunately, walked away for 8 years due to my own evangelical antiRomancatholic tradition. I could not understand the major differences between Roman catholic and Orthodox until years later when Brad Nassif, JI Packer and Michael Horton wrote a book entitled: ’3 views on evangelicalism and Orthodoxy’. After 1.5 years and about 1000 hours of studying early Church writings, I found Orthodox Faith closer to the Church of the first centuries. By The Grace of God, I was about to enter the Orthodox Church, when I ran across a couple of shockers:

    1. Legalistic judgmentalism in a local Orthodox Church
    2. Franky Schaeffer’s shocking ranting and raving against The Christian Faith in practice.

    With the Patient help of a local Orthodox theologian, I walked through the fathers of the early Christian Church, to find The Theology of Orthodoxy Pure, despite the contradictions by some who called themselves Orthodox. I pray for Franky and others who enter into an awful antiOrthodox binge in the name of Orthodoxy and thank God for your article, rightly calling Franky’s words as betrayal to our ONE Christian Faith. It is vital to address Franky’s outspoken words, since he even called all of us Orthodox who did not support his proabortion genocide supporter, obama, in the last election, equivalent to the drunk man in the front of the bus molesting young girls. That CNN interview was a horrible display of antiOrthodox spirit from franky, who claims to be representing our Faith. If more do not call this inconsistency out, and we do not ask His Bishop to hold him accountable to The Faith, then we will open the door for the enemy to stop seeking souls from entering the ONE TRUE FAITH, because of words of a man, who they would wrongly assume represents Orthodoxy.

    Thanks kindly for the article dear brother. Franky, just like the rest of us, needs to be humble to our Orthodox spiritual fathers. May He repent soon, so others are not hurt by his words.

    humbly in Christ,
    Anthony

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    George Michalopulos says:

    I now wish I had put something in my essay regarding his bishop and the necessity of ecclesial discipline. Assuming that Frankie is still Orthodox, his bishop is complicit in his misrepresentations of the Orthodox faith.

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      Jason Homey says:

      Hi George,

      Are you aware of any Orthodox priests or bishops who, in writing, have gone on record as specifically denouncing Franky Schaeffer’s recent writings on moral subjects? I ask this because Schaeffer’s name has recently come up in discussion among some of my conservative Protestant friends, and I am looking to find some material (from an Orthodox source) to present to them that deals specifically with Schaeffer, so as to help my friends to disassociate the name of Franky Schaeffer with the label of ‘convert to Orthodoxy’.

      Thanks and God bless,

      Jason

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        I wish I could help you out on that one Jason, but I can’t as of this point. Hopefully someone will screw up the necessary cojones and put him in his place. If I may speculate as to why no bishop in the OCA or AOCNA has said anything, it’s probably because they “defer” to his bishop, Methodius. (Whom, I must suspect, more or less agrees with Frank.)

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        Robert says:

        Jason,

        It may be best to point out that Franky is just that – a new convert to Orthodoxy – and he carries lots of baggage with him. Then point your friends to the Fathers of the Church.

        Your Prot friends also need to come to understand that not one person can speak for Orthodoxy (in an official capacity). This is not Rome, this is not Wittenberg. You can have an interesting conversation about ecclesiology and epistemology.

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    Tamara Northway says:

    George,

    Have you seen this article? Frank Schaeffer blogs for the Huffington Post.

    Pushing the Gay Agenda in the Greek Archdiocese
    WRITTEN BY GLEN CHANCY
    MONDAY, 02 MARCH 2009

    http://www.orthodoxbiz.com/20090301355/commentary/pushing-the-gay-agenda-in-the-greek-archdiocese.html

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    Robert Mahoney says:

    Great article.

    As an Orthodox Christian I can whole heartily agree with Calvinist Gary North when he says regarding Frankie “Please, do us all a favor and shut up.”

    They way he trashed his mother and father in his last book….shameful.

    Frankie has found a new platform to draw attention to himself, they on the left will grow tired of him eventually. The new will wear off. I just hope he will one day just go and join ECUSA or the PCUSA.

    I haven’t purchased a single book he has published since 2006.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Tamara, yes I have. That’s why I made a passing reference to it in my own essay. I know I risk the wrath of those who would think I’m a “homophobe” but that’s not the issue. Frank is very careful in his denunciations of the various religious groups who he feels are retrograde. Curiously, he never mentions the Orthodox Church, which leads me to believe that he has tacit approval by higher-ups to pursue the libertine agenda. Which is basically, “we Orthodox aren’t like those terrible Mormons, Baptists, Roman Catholics, etc.”

    This of course presents a false flag to libertines, leading them to think because of the beauty of our liturgies, we aren’t hung up on traditional morality. At least, that’s the gist of Glen’s piece if I understand it correctly.

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    Cynthia Curran says:

    Just because there was some homosexual relations in the Byzantine empire doesn’t make ir right. After all, the Byzantine empire had brothels which housed girls against their will even under 10 years old. This is even referred to in the Justinian law code which tried to outlaw the practice. Also, according to English writer John Julius Norwich some of the Byzantine emperors had mistresses at 15 years old. One of the Michaels and one of the Leo’s are supposed to have a mistress that they had since 15 years old which their relatives disapprove for marriage for politcal reasons. These two examples show just because the Byzantines did something doesn’t make it right. Frank reads too much into Byzantine culture to support his views.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Cynthia,

    you are correct. Frank has fallen in with the “beautiful people” and he’s their token Orthodox/”sensible Christian,” whatever. that’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Read Glen Chancy’s essay (which Tamara referenced on an earlier posting on this thread). It’s inflammatory but I can’t say that he doesn’t have a point or two. In fact, he may be on to something.

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    Glen Chancy says:

    It’s inflammatory but I can’t say that he doesn’t have a point or two. In fact, he may be on to something.

    Greetings George -

    Thanks for linking to my essay. I enjoyed yours as well concerning Schaeffer’s apology. I did have a question about the comment I quoted above. You characterized my essay as inflammatory. I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Do you feel that my essay was poorly researched, or that I was not fair to the Huffingtons and to Schaeffer?

    Thanks!

    Glen Chancy

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Glen, please forgive me. I think it’s well-researched. It’s not inflammatory to Schaeffer or Huffington, but quite possibly to the GOA. At the time I read it, I thought “right on!” but I didn’t know that much about it to comment on it (again, I’m talking about the GOA angle), just a gut feeling. Since then, I’ve come to see that you are definitely onto something big. If you’d be so kind, please feel free to contact me privately. Ask John Couretas to give you my email. I definitely want to pursue this. And again, please forgive me.

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    Demetrio R says:

    George,

    I can not but agreed with you more about your article, it was right on. I watched Frank on CNN (Watch D.L. Hughley interview Frank Schaeffer on CNN! You can catch watch the clip on Frank’s web-site: http://www.frankschaeffer.com/ . He definitely comes across as a complete left wing evangelical, with a hidden agenda, attacking the right wing Christians. He doesn’t even profess his faith, and as a genuine Orthodox Christian he would of been better to have spoken of the message of the gospel, “LOVE”. Would it not been better to have delivered his message to viewers, listeners and readers of the Holy Fathers.

    I will keep Frank on my prayer list. We Orthodox Christian must not forget our duties and responsibilities…. TO PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER!!

    Love in Christ.
    Deme

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Demetrio, you are right: we should pray. thank you for your kind words.

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    Cynthia Curran says:

    I read on another blog that Frank didn’t have even a nice personality years ago either. There is now a left wing of evangeclicalism known as the emergating church which is similar to liberal mainline protestism which is liberal on both theology and politics.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    You know, we should all cut Frank some slack. I personally think he’s been getting some “attaboys” from his bishop. He sure isn’t getting any Orthodox catechesis. I think the Orthodox Church, in the person of his bishop, has let him down. The question is “why?” Is it because of the general worldly drift of New England? Has it infected the GOA in those parts?

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    Robert says:

    Franky is hurting Franky. The cult of personality is given full sway. He is being used, once again.

    There is a lesson in all this.

    We must pray and ask God for mercy on him, his bishop and on us.

    My concern for Franky is that he will soon realize what has happened. He set himself up and others enabled him to do so. My prayer is that he may run to, not away from, the Father.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    our Father awaits with open arms.

  20. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Andrew says:

    My guess is Franky’s bishop will look the other way unless he says something against the omogenia (race).

  21. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Andrerw says:

    Action Alert! The December 2009 issue of THE WORD Magazine which is available on antiochian.org has a very favorable review of Frank Schaeffer’s latest work Patience with God. I believe the review seriously neglects many of the problems Mr. Schaeffer’s current views present for Orthodox Christians. Read his huffingtonpost pieces and watch his interviews on youtube. Also check out the lifesite article on abortion.

    I would like to encourage AOI readers to write into the WORD Magazine in a reasoned and respectful manner and help correct this error. The email address for the WORD is on the inside cover. This is a great opportunity for AOI readers to shine.

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      Robert Mahoney says:

      Does not surprise me one. dang. bit. :roll:

      Clearly the staff at that magazine have been attending the DailyKos school of journalism if they publish such a review of Frankie.

      The man just spews hatred, he talk so much about the conservatives hatred for Obama (I think that is just Frankies projection. I dislike what Obama is doing, but in the progressive group think any disagreement = hatred) that one has to wonder if the man is just sitting at home waiting to hear that Obama has been shot.

      I wrote a kind note to Frankie reminding him that it was people of his ilk that have a tendency of putting holes in politicians they disagree with.

      Was it conservatives who put holes in Lincoln, JFK, Bobby Kennedy & Reagan?

      Good Lord when will this man’s 15 minutes be up already?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Excellent point, Robert! The Left is so intellectually bankrupt that they make the Phanar look flush in comparison.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I don’t know the different between Frank or Jim Wallis among protestants. Wallis believes that because the old testment had the year of the Jubilee then the federal government should be heavily involved in the economy. However, Frank S has not been evangelical in years:therefore, doesn’t seen the bible as the reason for doing certain things politically. Frankie was a late convert to the same political views of Jim Wallis.

Care to comment?

*