Did Francis Schaeffer advocate the "violent overthrow" of the U.S. government?
In 1982, Frank’s father (Francis Schaeffer) wrote a book called A Christian Manifesto in which he called for the use of force if all other means of stopping abortion failed. He compared the United States and its practice of legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany and argued that whatever means might have removed Hitler could be used to stop abortion here. In 1984, Frank Schaeffer wrote A Time for Anger. in which he argued the same point. His book became a national best seller with the help of the evangelical movement. Dr. James Dobson alone gave away 100,000 copies.
Gerald is not only wrong, but I believe — having corrected him once already on this very matter — he joins Frank Schaeffer in wilful slander of his father.
The charge that Francis Schaeffer advocated “the violent overthrow” of the U.S. government was previously made by Frank in the Huffington Post in March 2008, in which Frank cites the following “passages” from A Christian Manifesto:
There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate… A true Christian in Hitler’s Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion… It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s law it abrogates it’s authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation…
As I demonstrated in my March 2008 response to Gerald / Vox Nova, Frank Schaeffer makes his charge only by cobbling together a smattering of partial sentences by his father from some 25-30 pages of his book, taken out of context.
Rather, in response to the grave scandal of abortion — the state-sanctioned murder of innocent children — Francis Schaeffer actually asserted the following:
Christians must come to the children’s defense, and must come to the defense of human life as such. The defense should be carried out on at least four fronts:
First, we should aggressively support a human life bill or a constitutional amendment protecting unborn children.
Second, we must enter the courts seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.
Third, legal and political action should be taken against hospitals and abortion clinics that perform abortions. [...]
The ‘fourth front’, according to Schaeffer, consisted of presenting a Christian alternatives to abortion, in the form of crisis pregnancy centers.
According to Schaeffer, the pursuit of legal-political restrictions on abortion must be accompanied by the provision and witness of Christian alternatives — and vice versa. (To rely solely on the latter, neglecting the legal route, he thought utopian).
As far as the use of armed force, Schaeffer commented:
“If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force, and if there is a vigilant precaution against its overreaction in practice, then at a certain point the use of force is justifiable. We should recognize, however, that overreaction can too easily become the ugly horror of sheer violence. [p. 106]
The “force” that Schaeffer goes on to entertain is that of civil disobedience — such as refusing to pay a portion of our taxes:
Of course, this would mean a trial. Such a move would have to mean the individual’s choice under God. Happily, at the present time the Hyde amendment has removed the use of national tax money for abortions, but that does not change the possibilty that in some cases such a protest would be the only way to be heard. One can think of, for example, tax money going to Planned Parenthood . . .
Finally, Schaeffer contemplates the “bottom line” for Christians, after such efforts at civil disobedience fail:
“If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in its own way to worship Caesar. And that point is exactly where the early Christians performed their own acts of civil disobedience even where it costs them their own lives. [p. 130]
Ever the disgruntled son, Frank Schaeffer never met an opportunity which he didn’t take to slander, misrepresent and otherwise publicly dishonor his dead father.
And to the extent that Campbell parrots Frank in such libelous behaviour, we have every reason to be wary of them both.
- “Fathers and Sons: On Francis Schaeffer, Frank Schaeffer, and Crazy for God (Christianity Today Books & Culture, March/April 2008). A review of 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.
- Jaded: Frank Schaeffer 35 years later, by Dr. Philip Blosser (Musings of a Pertinacious Papist November 3, 2007).