Robert P. George calls out Frank Schaeffer

I’ve been waiting for this. Robert P. George is an excellent thinker and astute cultural critic. He writes from the Roman Catholic tradition and there is much with which the Orthodox can find agreement (“Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis” is an excellent read). Frank Schaeffer, well, what can you say. I know the man and have been keeping up with his writing, not the books so much which are so-so for the most part — adequate but not memorable except perhaps for his scathing and unseemly criticism of his parents. (No parent is perfect, and no parent, except perhaps a rank abuser, deserves to have his failings pilloried in public by his children).

I knew both of his parents tangentially. A friend and I started the Students for Life group at the University of Minnesota many moons ago (the only accredited Feminist Studies program at any American university at the time) and invited Francis Schaeffer to speak at “Pro-Life Week” that we organized — the feminist studies department dutifully protested in full force. Later I got to know Edith Shaeffer. I was ordained at the time and spent a day with her on the day Frank got chrismated and explained what Orthodox Christianity was (she was relieved to find out it was not a cult). She is a very gracious and generous woman.

Later I got to know Frank a bit better (full disclosure: I was a co-editor of Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion) and thus was alarmed with what appears to be a drift from the moral tradition towards libertine liberalism — moral parity for homosexuals is his new cause). I keep up with his writings on the Huffington Post but find the slide into temporal moralizing almost intolerable — lot’s of self-assured finger-wagging, no serious thinking. I only check it every few months now.


HT: Mirror of Justice

“Natural Law” and “far right Reconstructionist extremism!”

Those of us working in the field of natural law theory sometimes encounter bizarre and even grotesque misunderstandings or misrepresentations of what natural law theory is all about.(I tried to clear up some of these in my 2007 John Dewey Lecture at Harvard entitled “Natural Law,” which was published in Volume 52 of the American Journal of Jurisprudence

(2007).)Among writers for popular forums, Andrew Sullivan has produced some rather spectacular misunderstandings, but now I’ve encountered one that makes Sullivan’s errors seem minor.It appears, as it happens, in a vicious and flailing attack on little ol’ me on the Huffington Post.The author is someone named Frank Schaeffer.Here’s the link:

Schaeffer goes off the rails before the caboose is even out of the station by classifying natural law theories as “theological” theories.Oy vey.I suppose that what threw him off is the fact that some Christian and Jewish theologians, quite legitimately, have deployed natural law concepts in larger projects of moral theology.That’s hardly an excuse, though, for failing to see that what a natural law theory is, is a theory about what can be known regarding principles of practical (including moral) judgment by unaided (i.e., natural) reason, that  is, independently of information supplied by scriptural revelation or other authoritative religious sources.From there, Schaeffer’s misunderstandings and misrepresentations get increasingly bizarre.Having evidently never read work by John Finnis, Elizabeth Anscombe, John Haldane, or other natural law writers on marriage and sexual morality, Schaeffer characterizes the natural law argument about homosexual conduct and relationships as follows:“homosexuality isn’t ‘natural’ and therefore it’s wrong.” To multiply errors, he adds that according to natural law theory, “there should be civil penalties against what is ‘unnatural.’” Then he informs his readers that “natural law is supposedly the opposite of positive law.”It goes from bad to worse, to even worse, to just plain silly.For example, Schaeffer gives his readers this pair of loony claims:“Natural Law rests on two ideas denied by the Bible: the self-sufficiency of man's mind and the capability of man to extrapolate moral understanding of right and wrong from observing the world around him.”Before the travesty is finished, Schaeffer even manages to classify the Marquis de Sade as a natural law philosopher.

I suppose no ignorant or mendacious rant about natural law is complete without throwing in a heavy dollop of anti-Catholic bigotry, so Schaeffer adds that in three paragraphs at the end.

The stuff about me personally is amusing in a sick sort of way.Schaeffer claims to have met me several times.Perhaps that’s true, but I remember meeting him only once.Admittedly, it was a memorable experience.We were on a panel together at Princeton discussing contemporary politics in the midst of the 2008 presidential election.I knew nothing about the man, but he immediately struck me as an odd and, frankly, somewhat creepily emotive character who, as they say, "had issues.”He seemed pathetically desperate to be important or, at least, to be regarded as important in elite intellectual circles.I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to decide whether this had to do with his being reared by fundamentalist Christian parents, a fact which, for some reason, he insisted on making a very big deal out of in his remarks.His speech was an emotional tirade that was perhaps the most self-referential piece of oratory I’ve ever heard.It was, you see, all about . . . him!We were supposed to be talking about the election, but what the audience got from Frank Schaeffer was autobiography—an account of the life and deeds of Frank Schaeffer. (Evidently, he was once himself connected to those dreadful right-wing fundamentlists until he "realized just how anti-American they are," which led him to forums like the the Rachel Maddow Show and the Huffington Post where he warns the Enlightened about the nefarious plans of his former comrades in arms "to derail democracy.")  It was so painfully embarrassing that even people on his side (that would be the pro-Obama side) were rolling their eyes to make clear to the rest of us that they found his behavior as peculiar and embarrassing as we did.

At one point, feigning (I think) the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet, he launched into a wholesale defamation of his fellow citizens, declaring that the allegedly intense and deep-seated racism of the American people would, in the end, unleash itself to prevent the election of Barack Obama.While the rest of us were grateful to get a little break from listening to his autobiography, I and some others were outraged.By no means was it only the conservatives.My liberal Democratic colleague Sean Wilentz, who was also on the panel, joined me in denouncing Schaeffer’s calumny.

Schaeffer describes me as a “far right Reconstructionist extremist.”I gather that his modus operandi is to hurl such epithets to smear anyone, however reasonable and civil (or, as he puts it in speaking of me, "polite and kindly"), who has the temerity to disagree with the moral and political views of Frank Schaeffer.What is really going on, I suspect, is that he is trying to make himself into a figure of importance on the left by defaming those on the other side.Evidently, he hasn’t figured out that the left is not composed entirely or even mainly of people like him.There are men and women like Sean Wilentz who won’t countenance calumny or demagoguery even against their political opponents, or in the service of political goals they share.

Then there is the hypocrisy of it all.Schaeffer hauls out the defamations (“far right Reconstructionist extremist!”), and the anti-Catholic bigotry, against me and against the Catholic bishops, demanding that we refrain from acting on (or even speaking about) our moral convictions in politics, only when it comes to issues such as abortion and marriage.When we act or speak against the death penalty, for example, or in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, or when the bishops advocate universal health coverage, Schaeffer is strangely silent.When immigration or health care is the issue, we hear nothing from Frank Schaeffer about the Catholic Church being “the world’s best organized pedophile network.”Gee, I wonder why.

Catholic readers might be wondering what this “Reconstructionism” is that I am, by Schaeffer's reckoning, "probably the most influential" advocate of (though, “of course, George would disavow being called a Reconstructionist”).You’ll get a kick out of this.“Christian Reconstructionism” was the political theology of the radical Calvinist guru Rousas John Rushdoony. who lived from 1916-2001.Rushdoony maintained that the U.S. should be governed by Old Testament law under a theory labeled “theonomy,” which, as far as I can tell, was merely his own variant of theocracy. From a quick review of published accounts of Rushdoony's life and thought, I gather than he was a racist and a Holocaust diminisher.Oh yes, and he didn’t think much of Catholicism or Catholics either ("preachers of a polluted gospel").Let’s see, that would make him a bit like . . . .


  1. I agree with your introduction. The tell-all nature of his writings about his parents is uncomfortable, though sometimes one can’t help but rubberneck. His critique of his own escapades in for-profit religion and politicking seems to lack self-awareness of the fact he is basically doing the same thing for a different team. He seems very much the pop intellectual peddling a worldview for a buck. Many seem to agree with his pathos and general position, which is good since the underlying thinking is less than coherent or consistent. I remember listening to him be interviewed by Rachel Maddow and thinking “who is this crazy guy?” I only then realized he was the author of the book that introduced me to the Orthodoxy that so changed my life (yup, Dancing Alone, so thanks to you, too*).

    * Well, the very, very first book I read was Way of a Pilgri my junior year of college (I even started saying the Jesus Prayer), but I didn’t identify it with “Orthodoxy” as much as I saw it as Russian and Christian and not Protestant. It was only when I was searching for a book by his dad at a B&N in NYC that I found Dancing Alone. I bought both of those books on larks, whims. I devoured Dancing Alone on planes back and forth from NYC to LA (and Nova Scotia, long story), and then started working my way through the bibliography (Ware’s The Orthodoox Church was next). 4.5 years later I was baptized in the Orthodox Church. That’s all by way of saying I have found his rather public descent into political passion rather painful – though I guess, it’s not so surprising to those that knew him in his Protestant days, which I didn’t until reading his Crazy for God about 2 months ago.

  2. Robert George is an intellect of the first order. I consider him an example for engaged Christians across America. He is everything Mr. Schaeffer is not. That be said, I think we all want to be angry with Franky but the more I see him babbling on TV and the more I read him at the Huffingpost the more I have come to believe he should be on the prayers for the sick list at all of our parishes. There is no doubt Franky is deeply troubled and wounded. He is a trainwreck. Just check youtube. The scars are there for all the world to see on TV.

    All politics aside the man needs healing more than anything else. I have no love for the politics of Frank Schaeffer. I believe he is pitching himself for a seat on Obama’s Faith Based Initiative group. But anyone in their right mind can see the guy is not well. I wonder about his long term stability.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Andrew, you may be on to something. This is Lent and we need to be merciful. I’m conflicted by Frank because when he was “on” he was “on” (about Orthodoxy, about 20 years ago. Maybe I saw in him something I needed, whatever, it kept me grounded in the Faith and compelled me to take the Faith seriously, as a thinking, rational man. Now however, he has clearly gone off the deep end and shown himself to be almost completely lacking in integrity. What’s so worrisome is because in his younger days he was a much more reasoned, logical thinker, and possessing a great deal of integrity. Either he’s completely lost it and can’t see the sloppiness of his thinking (in which case he needs constant prayer) or he’s devolved into Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton type mountebankery.

      Assuming that he still is an Orthodox Christian, I can’t help but wonder where his spiritual father is in all this morass? Assuming that he is still in the GOA, such opportunism as displayed by him brings forward yet another reason why we have every right to be disssapointed in that jurisdiction.

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Another story. The school had the only accredited course on Marxism at any American university taught by a committed Marxist — Dr. Marquit (forgot his first name), a Pole violently opposed to the Solidarity movement emerging in Poland at the time. I took the class. One day a student from East Germany came to talk and told us about the freedoms in Eastern Europe — freedom to form unions, all the usual propaganda.

    When the time came for questions, I asked, “If East Germany is so free, how come they had to build a wall to keep people in?” Marquit hit the roof and yelled, “Jacobse, sometimes I think you have your head in a bucket!” I responded, “Professor, that is exactly what I think about you!” Then the zinger, “I think you need to make Solzhenitsyn required reading in this class! Whatever happened to academic freedom?”

    (The books were turgid tomes written by true believers, imported from England or somewhere. I remember their covers were grey, purple, brown with heavy paper and enough glue in the bindings to lock a bus to the pavement.)

    I think I got an A in his class and even wrote a letter to the faculty on his behalf when they tried to shut him down (that I was an enemy of the people carried some clout with Marquit apparently). They shut him down, and the school started teaching a soft Marxism by grad students on their way to lifetime tenure.

  4. (More on Prof. Erwin Marquit:, for Fr. Johannes.)

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Great find. Thanks! Yes, Erwin, that was his first name.

  6. George seems to have missed the memo that natural law theories are theological.

    George has never constructed a theory of natural law that didn’t sound better in the original Latin. The reason why is pretty simple: “nature” and “law” are conceptual antonyms, which any close readings of the Greeks reveals. The problem with the theory’s espousers, and George in particular, is that they think if they engage in the game of not mentioning the “G Word,” they can escape the charge of trying to backdoor theology into secular circles. The problem is, they can’t. Every moral argument they raise circles back into (primarily Catholic) theological teachings. Where is this “purely secular” natural law which is secured on the high ground people like George and Finnis constantly point to? It’s not in Plato; or Aristotle; or any of the late Hellenic philosophers; and, I dare say, it’s not in any of the Church Fathers either (though, if it were, that would simply reopen the charge that natural law is disingenuous theology).

    I know there are Orthodox Christians out there who like to play the natural law card now n’ again, but I am baffled by it. It’s as if there is some sort of ever-present shame that one takes their moral orientation from the teachings of the Church. Granted, contemporary secular culture pays no heed to “faith based” approaches to morality, but then again, most of secular culture is busy promoting their own “moral ideologies” which fail to convince anyone but the camps which happened to draw them up. In other words, there’s more than sufficient reasons to be skeptical.

    I suspect, though I don’t know, that natural law which purports not to be bound up with a particular faith tradition is on life support. And though no one wants to be so crass as to pull the plug, I suspect most serious people realize that the end is nigh.

    Now, none of this speaks against natural law as an outgrowth of theology, even Catholic theology. Were I a Catholic, I can’t imagine not subscribing to natural law (of some sort). Once you accept the theological premises of the Catholic Church, this law follows, well, naturally. I just hope that I wouldn’t be so embarassed by my confession that I’d expend energy obscuring where my views ultimately come from.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Gabriel, this is a good summation. A full blown theory law is self-evident only if you first accept the theological premises, although Catholic theology points to Romans where those without the law have the “law written on their hearts.” Of course, then you get into the issue of what did Paul meant by the “law” — a cosmic moral law, or the Mosaic Law (for the Orthodox the answer is easy, the Mosaic Law).

      My hunch is that natural law “works” in a culture still infused with the memory of Christian anthropology to some degree or another. It may be failing because as that memory dims, the premises become incomprehensible.

      In fairness to George however, any moral theory must reference God, as impoverished as the references might be. At least the Catholic theory is well developed, as you point out in your last paragraph. In some corners of our society we are beyond the sense that a theory is even possible to posit, a point George indirectly makes in the first chapter of “Clash.”

    • Michael Bauman :

      Any coherent moral philosophy has a cosmological therefore theological foundation. That is precisely the point,IMO. Morals, ethics and cultural norms are always derived from some form of faith. The choice we have is where we place our faith. Once the ohoice is made, the moral precepts, obligations and norms follow. To attempt to argue Christian moral norms absent the Incarnate Lord and Savior is absurd.

  7. Roger Bennett :

    I can’t disagree with Andrew about Frank being sick, but his sickness is chronic, not acute.

    He was an angry Evangelical. His tone as he spoke about Orthodoxy after his conversion was angry (I don’t recall the tone of Dancing Alone). His Calvin Becker Trilogy of novels were deliberately ambiguous about the extent to which they were autobiographical – was Francis Schaeffer the model for Calvin’s father – a somewhat tormented fiend?

    I recall Frank in one of his talks saying that Orthodoxy was the “last stop” in Christianity for him – not in the sense that he was here for good, but that if Orthodoxy didn’t satisfy, he was out of Christianity entirely.

    Has he jumped the shark to promote his mediocre books, or has he apostasized (I haven’t heard him claim Orthodoxy lately), or is he just “deeply troubled and wounded” as Andrew says? I don’t know. I do know that his life is eerily similar to my own in many ways – so similar, and so disturbing, that I wrote about it yesterday on my fledgling blog (Frank’n’me being the point of departure, not the core point).

    His characterizations of Robert P. George as a Reconstructionist is absurd – either deeply ignorant or deliberately mendacious. I don’t know whether Rushdoony was racist or a holocaust diminisher, but I suspect that his disciples would desecrate my church and smash the icons if they came to power, imposing their view of Biblical law, and I want nothing to do with them.

  8. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Nice blog. Good content too. I’m going out on a limb here. Ignore it if you want. Using background:#526A74; in your stylesheet makes the striking image your chose pop out more.

    • Roger Bennett :

      I have no idea how to change the background. But once upon a time I didn’t know how to blog, so maybe I’ll figure it out.

  9. cynthia curran :

    Well, I read Frank’s book on his son joining the service and there was a lot of foul language. Not that I have not in my life time not use foul langauge. But the Bible and I believe the Church fathers are against such langauge and I really believe Frank is confused about religion in his book about his son. Many of us are time to time. And there was a lot of angry even in Frank’s protestant period. As for his father Francis, he had a better mind than Frank, he was right that the philosophical ideas of Paul Sarte or writers like Henry Miller caused a lots of problems for modern man, only his conclusions on theology were incorrect. As for Edith, I was surprise that she thought orthodoxy was a cult. Both Francis and Edith while not being that verse on orthodoxy knew that it resembled Roman Catholicism but had some differences. As for the Ronconstrucationts, I doubt that contrary to the left, they have much of a changed to come to power in the US. And unlike the period in Byzantine history when the icons were destroyed,the US president doesn’t have the same power as a byzantine emperor. And the medieval world, some rulers actually were able to use their power to force people to their beliefs. I just watched the history channel and Charlemagne had saxons and other German tribes that were pagan ax if they didn’t convert to Catholicsim

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Cynthia, correction: the president doesn’t have the power of a Byzantine emperor yet. We just saw the overturning of the rule of law yesterday. I wonder how Frank would square that with Christianity or common decency. My guess is that as long as the ends justify the means…

  10. cynthia curran :

    Well, Franky reminds me of the Daily Kos that probably doesn’t like Orthodoxy either because the Pagan philosopher Hypatria was torn to pieces by monks in Alexanderia in the 5th century. And some christians historians like Socrates didn’t approve of this happening but the Daily Kos has a lot of words against the Catholic Church of the early Byzantine empire and some of there criticism is correct in cases like Hypatria . Franky like the Daily Kos only sees certain events to criticized Evangelical Protestants and Catholics like the Daily Kos will only see religious fanatic monks that killed Hypatria as a criticism of both the Roman Catholic church and Orthodoxy because what happen during the early centuries of the byzantine empire.

  11. cynthia curran :

    Well, one thing I know Frank cliams to have dyslexia which does cause problems in one’s life. I myself while uncertain of this, started to read and write at an older age than normal, and I’m not the best at writing. So, because of his religious upbringing and delayed ability to read and write and Frank overcame a lot since he was an author, no small feat with or without dyslexa, one usually has it in the back of their mind that they are stupid whether its true or not. I know this for a fact.

  12. As a former Reconstructionist whose undergraduate education involved immersion in the writings of Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahsen, et al., I find it unfortunate that Robert George was lumped in with them. However, I was also disappointed with his flippant caricature of the movement and its theology.

    Rushdoony’s Calvinism wasn’t particularly radical. His anti-Catholicism was no different from the conservative Presbyterians of the era of his formative years. In terms of philosophy, he was a student of Cornelius Van Til. And whilst he was scathing in his written criticism of theology and philosophy which was found wanting in his analysis, he was one of the most gentle, kind and thoughtful men I was ever priviledged to meet and treated everyone with respect. In this regard he was nothing like Franky Schaeffer.

    Theonomy is simply the theory that the morality expressed in the Mosaic Law is God’s revealed standard of right and wrong, therefore civil governments have a responsibility to God to uphold that standard. Since the publication of Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law and Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics there has been great debate amongst theonomists as to how this should be applied.

    As for the ad hominem that Rushdoony was a racist, he was not atypical of someone born in 1916. He was also a student of the writings of the southern Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney (chaplain to Stonewall Jackson and later founder of Austin Theological Seminary). Though he may have been wrong in his theological opposition to miscegenation, he believed that ever human was of equal value and made in the image of God. He spent nearly a decade as a missionary to American Indians in Nevada.

    He was critical of some Holocaust scholarship in 1973. (I suppose it is a question of whether this aspect of history can be debated and analysed, or whether one has an obligation to accept certain figures because of a perceived moral obligation those who propose them. While I don’t deny the 6 million figure, I also note this seems to be the only atrocity in history not open to discussion.) His own grandparents were victims of the Armenian Genocide. His parents escaped the Genocide and made their way to America while he was in utero.

    Rushdoony was one of the early advocates of home schooling. He was often an expert witness in trials involving home school parents prosecuted for violating compulsory attendance laws. His historical survey of educational philosophy in The Messianic Character of American Education (1963) is worthwhile for those with no sympathy for secular humanism, even if they likewise have no affinity for theonomy.

    Lastly, there is no “was” to Christian Reconstructionism. Now in many variant strains, and namelessly or pseudonymously absorbed by many on the Right, it has been a powerful influence in American politics, especially in the South and Midwest, for the last twenty years.

  13. Geo Michalopulos :

    David, thanks for the brief history lesson on Reconstructionism. It behooves Christians of all types to not be so flippant or dismissive about political views which we know little about. In my estimation, whenever we see a movement arise, from the Montanists, to the Paulicians, to the Reformation, to even Mormonism, it is usually a response to a deep-seated need that is not being met by the society at large. Almost always they are moral backlashes to perceived immorality within the established church (esp the clergy/hierarchy). The Reconstructionists are no different in this regard. And lest anyone think that they’re desire to take over the political process puts them beyond the pale, remember that that is usually the way moral concerns are implemented. Abolition of slavery and female suffrage being two examples. (Not all of it is good, Prohibition was definetly a cure worse than the disease.) In my view, Reconstructionism is a reaction to the near-complete shattering of the moral concensus, as is Islamist jihadism for that matter.

    • I have to say that I most surprised that Robert George had to do a “quick review of published accounts” to “gather” some things about Rushdoony. This quick review seems to be been a quick review of the current Wikipedia article. Having had such a major impact on recent American political philosophy and activism, George should have already been conversant in Rushdoony and Reconstructionism.

      Just as an aside, it could be argued that in the case of the abolition of slavery, the cure was worse than the disease, given the approximately 620,000 deaths in the War Between the States. It could have been handled a whole lot differently. Slavery was abolished most places in the world (including the British Empire) without the shedding of blood.

      • Michael Bauman :

        The Civil War was not fought to abolish slavery, that was a regretable (to those who fought it) side effect. The Civil War was fought to establish the supremacy of the Federal Governement over the states. Union over state sovereignty. The power of the Federal government to tax as it willed and therefore control all commerce. The right of the Federal governement to have complete control of expansion, etc. Those objectives were achieved!

        The lack of a genuine moral outrage in the political leadership of the North against slavery while at the same time wanting to strengthen the central authority of the Federal government led to the tinder box that created war. As important an element as slavery was, without it another would have been found to assert Federal power.

        The Constitutional principals of separation of powers and a limited Federal government were victims of the war. What price have we paid there?

        That being said, I don’t know if there was enough political wisdom to have separated the Peculiar Institution from the cultural, economic and political life of the South without a war.

        No question we lost much in the process, but dosn’t sin always do that? As a nation we allowed the ownership of people into the core of our founding–so at odds with our stated principals.

        The political debates that have always been at the heart of the American experiment are still alive and well however. I find that hopeful.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Michael, you’re absolutely right about the War Between the States. Slavery was well on its way to withering away in the South (as it had in the North). It was industrialists in the North who feared (among many things) the fact that the South had two free ports: New Orleans and Charleston. These ports of entry would have allowed imports from Europe and the Caribbean to come into North America, which would have undercut the tariffs that were levied in the Northern port cities thereby undercutting the North’s manufacturing base. Also, it’s likely that the massive waves of German and Irish Catholic immigrants primarily to the North caused the Ango-Celtic majority of the South to fear that they would be overwhelmed. This Scots-Irish antipathy to Anglo-Saxons also abetted the Southern hostility to Mormons as they made their way between Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. (Mormonism was started in New York and its earliest luminaries were all of Yankee stock.)

          • Michael Bauman :

            George, yup. Despite all the high-mindedness of American politcal principals and the founding myths a good deal of our history is greatly influence by economic competition between 1) the colonies and the mother country; 2) between the North and South. Add greed and …there you go.

        • Sorry I could not get back to comment until now, but there was some sort of bandwidth problem when I tried.

          Michael, you misunderstood me. I was not suggesting that the War of Northern Aggression (as we call it in our family) was fought to free the slaves. It was a regretable side effect. It was a side effect nonetheless, so it still needlessly cost the lives of 620,000 American soldiers, besides the collateral damage to civilians.

          I am fully aware of the real causes, though we might debate some of the finer points, for example, whether Northern industrialist were behind the inception of the War, or rather whether they simply knew a good thing (if one can call evil “good”) when they saw it. For Billy Yank the war was no more about northern industrial supremacy (as George Michalopulous suggests) than it was about the abolition of slavery. The rank and file of the federal army was motivated by the message of the indivisible union. In the Upper South where most of my family lived and fought, this was the issue that separated neighbours. Likewise for my family (except one great-great-grandfather from Indiana, whose service to the invading army we have forgiven) the issue worth the sacrifice of my great-great-grandfather Holford’s life and the service of other ancestors, uncles, and cousins (not all of whom survived the War) was one of state sovereignty and the sanctity of their land as against the invaders.

          You are absolutely right that one of the major long-term and continuing effects of the war was the constitutional upheaval and the aggrandizement of the Executive branch.

          I do believe, however, that not only would it have been possible to have seen the end of the Peculiar Institution without war, it would have had much different long-term ramifications in terms of civil rights. If the sovereign States had managed their own political evolution, without the killing of their sons, the ravaging of their daughters, the destructive waste of their land, and the economic devastation of their aristocracy, followed by the radical Reconstruction pouring salt into their open wounds, there would never have been the racial hatred that developed and took generations to overcome.

          Was this the result of the sin of maintaining the Peculiar Instituion? Again, I think this is debatable. Slavery was a universal reality until the 19th century. Most nations allowed it. Does God judge us on the basis of whether we are at odds with our stated principles? Some have argued that the sin of the Peculiar Institution was that it maintained race-based slavery, whereas historically slavery has been color-blind. This is an argument to which I no longer adhere. It can be a tricky thing to suss out and judge the sins of our fathers.

          I also have to respectfully disagree with George about the German/Irish versus Anglo-Celtic hypothesis, which I think is much more eisegesis built on looking back at demographics than evidenced by the feelings at the time.

          • Michael Bauman :

            David, thank you for your thoughtful reply. As a student of Andrew Jackson I am well aware of the almost mystical populism that prevaded the political thought of the time. Ideas and attitudes that led many to trample on and wish to discard the sovereignty of the states and the freedom of the people.

            I don’t think God punished us for the communal sin of slavery, it is just the natural and logical consequences of refusing to deal forthrightly with the issue everyone knew was fundamentally divisive and could not be maintained.

            There was a clash of civilzations going on, however, the industrial, utilitarian plutocratic North vs. the agaraian, feudal, aristocratic south. That is of course a gross over simplification but I think demonstrative of the truth. There was definitely a clash between centralizers and confederationists.

            I would also agree that the North was the agressor and there need not have been war. The south was easily manipulated into open warfare however becasue of the rhetorical and political excesses of the leading aristrocracy. Humility, reason and good-will long gone by the time Lincoln was elected.

            Certainly the reality of slavery, both its ideology and mindset persist to this day.

            I actually see some of the same types of tensions, rhetoric and excess rampant in our discussions of the nature of the Church–who we are and how we should establish our polity in acord with tradition and the faith. Also how and to what extent we should be in the public square. We frame the debate in quintessential American terms without even realizing it. Our mother churches must be quite flumaxed by such an approach which has neither foundation nor resonance in their respective cultures, especially since the the impostion of the Turkish Yoke or the Soviet persecution.

            Interesting thought…..

          • Michael, I certainly agree there was a clash of civilisations between North and South. I think it is still seen in muted form to the present day.

            I also agree that our discussions and debates about the nature of the Church are framed in very American terms. I don’t think this a a bad thing. I think it is one of the reasons the umbilici tying the American Church with various mother churches need to be clamped and cut. It is another clash of civilisations.

            It is also another example of the struggle between centralisation and confederation. The mother churches want to centralise their own power (and the flow of American dollars), while many in the American Church realise that the hierarchy which governs best is local hierarchy.

  14. cynthia curran :

    What is ignore here is the gaining of strength of not the religious right but the religious left. The emergating church movement is popular among Evangelicals under the age of 30. And many of the megachurches are middle of the road politicaly like Joel Ostein who has a church numbering around 40,000- the largest in the US. Not to say, the Religous Right which appeals more to people over the age of 40 doesn’t have influence but the growth of some of the megachurches like Ostein’s not that much interest in politics or Brain Mclaren a harder left and heavy government social policy and pacifism in war should not be ignore either

  15. cynthia curran :

    erase my comment please. The one on the religous left.

  16. cynthia curran :

    Well, John Calvin tended not to want to go back to old testement law, since Paul Johnson, the english historian mentions that he put Micheal Severus to death under the Justinian law code in his history of Christianity. So, like other protestants and Catholics of the time, Roman Law had a greater influene. But probably modern Calvinist are unaware of this And in the US, the common law with exceptions like the state of Louisania- a great deal from Roman Law. What is interesting is the US and Western Europe have in the past 100 years moved away from penalities against Sodomy. Gay Rights activists complain that the Justinian Code use against Sodomy influence European Law until the early 1950’s. So, the Reconstrucationists have a big uphill battle. Both modern American Law and European Law penalities against abortion-particulary in the US with some exceptions and in both the US and Western Europe against Sodomy. Law changes are going in a more liberal direction not a more conservative one during the past 100 years.

  17. Frank Dancer :

    Is Schaeffer supporting homosexuality in this article?

  18. Honestly, just pray for Franky. Don’t be angry with him because the guy is not well. Just look at the video interviews and read the articles. It really is an unfolding tragedy. I was never a fan of the “old” Franky but the “new” Franky goes so far off the deep end that all I do is pray for him. If he is not careful that anger he wields will someday totally consume him.

  19. cynthia curran :

    Well, he does have some valid points, most christians would not support today Constantine’s view on using the death penality for adultery for example. I don’t think many modern christians including Orthodox along with Protestants or Catholics would take certain punishments from the old testment as seriously but the principle that adultery is wrong is true. I think Frank, had an upbringing that must have driven him to have a hard personality but he does have some good points in the article, and when you changed sometimes all of your thinking changes.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Cynthia, one of the most pernicious fallacies of the present is that we can “retro-activate” our biases for those of the past. The death penalty for adultery was near-universal in agrarian societies because it could result in the dissolution of the family, which was the fundamental economic unit. The stealth of one man’s wife would result in existing children being reduced to penury (and if there was a baby, the starvation of it).

      It’s the same thing in many ways with the hanging of horse thieves in 19th century America. The stealth of one horse was enough to cause a family to become destitute, which was a slow-motion type of murder in many cases. Instead, if we wanted to play the game of modern biases, we should instead marvel at what Constantine outlawed because of Christian influence: the mutilation of thieves, crucifxion, and slavery.

  20. alexis banias :

    Franky just needs to shut up, really. First, we need to pray for him because he is demented; initially, he flew the flag of Orthodoxy, then the Marine Corps, and now Obama. I am interested to see the next flag he will be wildly brandishing. Next, what is even more astonishing is that the Greek Orthodox hierarchy have stayed and continue to stay mum about him. His first Marine Corps novel, in which I had perused, was so replete with profanity, along with sexual content, that I couldn’t believe this was the same man who had written “Dancing Alone.” The hierarchy, or at least his father confessor should have seriously disciplined him after this horrible book. He is spiralling out of control, and I am glad to see that I am not alone in sadly wtinessing this. In addition, he has “sold out” to sell poorly written books. He has exchanged “the pearl of great price” for cheap, fleeting and worldly accolades.

  21. cynthia curran :

    That’s true about his book there is a lot of sexaul language and use of the F word. I don’t judge people’s relationship with God since I know of my own imperfections but he seem to be confuse about God or isn’t a good 100 certain of his existance. I think this would make him a poor spokemen for orthodoxy or christianity in general.

  22. Read all this with interest. I was surprised when I read Frank’s blog on Obama Will Win, …from December 2009 not to see any comments from your group, except for one they were almost all ecstactic. Jean

  23. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Ecstatic? About an Obama win? Where?

  24. cynthia curran :

    Well Frank’s main problem is not political, he was always critical whether he was protestant or orthodox.

  25. Sorry Fr., I didn’t punctuate or edit. See revised:
    “not to see any comments from your group. Except for one comment on his blog they were all ecstactic and grateful he’d written it.”
    The blog Frank wrote had been sent to me from one of Frank’s “worshippers”, so I’d gone hunting for the real Frank. Thank you for catching my errors. Peace, Jean

  26. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Thanks Jean. I see it now.


  1. […] as a launching pad was in the works for several days, but coincidentally, the AOI blog featured Schaeffer’s odd behavior as its centerpiece just a day […]

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