I often judge a book by how much it makes me think and reflect. Frank Schaeffer's, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back - certainly passed that test. The outdoors, mountains, adventures with firecrackers, hunting, hiking and, of course religion, all were a big part of my childhood and relationship with my father as it was for Frank. Some other similarities struck me as well. As the oldest, my mother was very open about her sexual relation ship with my father and, for the times, was very interested in my sexual education. She took me to the library to check out books on sex when I was in 6th grade (books only adults could check out at the time.) I soon became the resident expert on sex in our elementary and Jr. High school. I still consider myself somewhat of an expert in that area.
I found it absolutely refreshing to experience Frank's honesty throughout the book. At times I found myself asking, "Could I admit that kind of thing in public?" His honesty about relationships with children, in-laws, parents, etc. made the read so much more credible. As I was reading, every now and then I would be hit by a revelation or comment that compelled me to reread it. I think Frank sets the standard for honesty and openness. He can be very hard on himself, but he is kind and appropriately considerate of others privacy and viewpoints. He even goes so far as to include letters from siblings and children that contradict his own perceptions.
We are on different sides with respect to the abortion issue. But his approach is one that I could heartily support. I think President Obama's position is closer to his than mine. I strongly believe it is a personal choice for a woman but could support restrictions on late term abortions were there some way to guarantee that the religious right wouldn't use it to ban it altogether. Good care for young mothers and parenting training is the best known preventative for further pregnancies and abortions. If we spent as much time and money helping educate and support women in making good choices without respect to religious dogma, the number of abortions would decrease. Europe has far fewer unwanted pregnancies and abortions that we do. Dogma is not a substitute for good education.
Frank also explores our natural conflicts about our parents. We love them but see their faults or their perceived faults, as well. I think every child experiences that with their parents. I see it in my own son and daughter. They love me, but also resent some of my parenting when they were younger.
If you or someone you know has escaped from religion or is struggling with the religious parenting and indoctrination they received as children, this will be a good read - even cathartic. Frank writes his personal story like he is writing a novel (he is a good novelist as well). It is easy to read and will touch some part of your life. From his battle with polio to his relationship to his mother and father, his insights about evangelical leaders to his own honesty about his role in the debacle of religious takeover of the republican party, you will learn about yourself and some of the reasons for our current cultural/religious quagmire that came from the the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Gary North, and a host of others who are still crazy for god.