Frank Schaeffer: A Journey Through Faith, Art, and Activism

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter, and public speaker, known for his outspoken views on religion, politics, and culture. His life and work represent a dynamic interplay between his evangelical upbringing, subsequent disenchantment with the religious right, and his ongoing quest for a more inclusive and compassionate worldview. Schaeffer’s journey is a compelling narrative that intersects with significant cultural and political shifts in contemporary America.

Early Life and Background

Frank Schaeffer was born on August 3, 1952, into a prominent evangelical family. His father, Francis Schaeffer, was a renowned theologian and founder of the L’Abri community in Switzerland, a place dedicated to intellectual and spiritual inquiry. His mother, Edith Schaeffer, was a prolific author and partner in the ministry. Growing up in this environment, Frank was deeply immersed in evangelical Christian teachings and the cultural milieu of mid-20th century evangelicalism.

The Schaeffer family was not only devoutly religious but also deeply engaged with the arts and intellectual discourse. This unique blend of rigorous theological training and appreciation for the arts profoundly influenced Frank’s early development. However, it also set the stage for his eventual disillusionment with the evangelical establishment.

Early Career in the Evangelical Movement

In the 1970s and 1980s, Frank Schaeffer played a significant role in the burgeoning evangelical movement in the United States. He collaborated with his father on several influential projects, including the film series “How Should We Then Live?” and “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” These works were critical in shaping the ideological foundation of the religious right, particularly in their opposition to abortion and secular humanism.

Frank’s contributions to these projects were substantial. He brought a creative flair and a sense of urgency that resonated with evangelical audiences. The films and accompanying books were widely distributed, helping to galvanize the Christian conservative base and influence public policy debates. During this period, Frank was a sought-after speaker and commentator, deeply embedded in the evangelical leadership.

Disenchantment and Departure from Evangelicalism

Despite his success, Frank Schaeffer began to experience profound doubts about the direction of the evangelical movement. He became increasingly disillusioned with what he perceived as its growing political radicalism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. This period of disillusionment was marked by a series of personal and professional crises that culminated in his departure from evangelicalism.

One of the critical turning points in Frank’s journey was the realization that the movement he had helped to shape was becoming more about political power than spiritual renewal. He observed a disturbing trend where faith was being weaponized to advance a conservative political agenda, often at the expense of compassion and inclusivity. This shift was antithetical to the principles he believed should underpin genuine Christian faith.

Frank’s break with evangelicalism was not just ideological but also deeply personal. It involved a painful estrangement from many of his former colleagues and mentors. However, it also opened up new avenues for exploration and growth. Freed from the constraints of the evangelical establishment, Frank embarked on a journey of self-discovery that would lead him to reexamine his beliefs and redefine his identity.

Exploration of New Beliefs and Artistic Pursuits

After leaving the evangelical fold, Frank Schaeffer dedicated himself to exploring new avenues of thought and creativity. He became a vocal critic of the religious right, using his platform to call for a more inclusive and compassionate approach to faith and politics. His writings during this period reflect a deep sense of introspection and a commitment to social justice.

One of Frank’s most significant contributions in this phase of his life is his series of memoirs, beginning with “Crazy for God” (2007). In this candid and often provocative book, he recounts his upbringing in the evangelical world, his role in the religious right, and his subsequent disenchantment. The memoir is both a personal narrative and a critical examination of the cultural and political forces that shaped contemporary evangelicalism.

“Crazy for God” was followed by other notable works, including “Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)” (2009) and “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” (2011). These books continue the themes of personal introspection and cultural critique, offering readers a nuanced perspective on faith, doubt, and the human condition.

In addition to his writing, Frank Schaeffer also pursued a career in the arts, particularly film and painting. His work as a film director and screenwriter reflects his ongoing interest in storytelling and his desire to explore complex themes through visual media. Films such as “Wired to Kill” (1986) and “Baby on Board” (1992) showcase his ability to blend entertainment with social commentary.

Activism and Advocacy

In recent years, Frank Schaeffer has become a prominent advocate for progressive causes, including LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, and social justice. He frequently speaks out against the excesses of the religious right and the dangers of political extremism. His activism is informed by his belief in the importance of empathy, inclusivity, and the need for a more humane and compassionate society.

Frank’s advocacy is not limited to public speaking and writing. He actively engages with various grassroots organizations and participates in initiatives aimed at fostering dialogue and understanding across ideological divides. His commitment to social justice is evident in his support for policies that promote equality and protect the rights of marginalized communities.

One of the central themes of Frank’s activism is the critique of what he terms “toxic religion.” He argues that religious beliefs should inspire acts of kindness and compassion rather than serve as a tool for exclusion and division. This perspective is rooted in his own experiences and his ongoing quest to reconcile faith with the complexities of modern life.

Personal Life and Legacy

Frank Schaeffer’s personal life has been marked by both triumphs and challenges. He has been open about his struggles with mental health, the impact of his upbringing on his family relationships, and his ongoing journey towards self-acceptance. These experiences have enriched his writing and public speaking, making his insights more relatable and compelling.

Despite the controversies and criticisms he has faced, Frank Schaeffer remains a significant figure in contemporary cultural and political discourse. His willingness to challenge conventional wisdom and speak candidly about his beliefs has earned him a diverse and dedicated following. His work continues to inspire conversations about faith, politics, and the human experience.


Frank Schaeffer’s journey from evangelical insider to outspoken critic and advocate for social justice is a testament to the power of personal transformation and the enduring quest for meaning and authenticity. His life and work offer valuable insights into the complexities of faith, the dangers of political extremism, and the importance of compassion and empathy in a divided world.

Through his writing, filmmaking, and activism, Frank has challenged us to look beyond simplistic narratives and engage with the deeper questions that define our humanity. His story is a reminder that the path to understanding and acceptance is often fraught with difficulties, but it is also one of the most rewarding journeys we can undertake.



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