Frank Schaeffer may be the world’s leading expert on the corruption behind the movement known as the Religious Right. He was raised as a significant member of its founding culture in the 60s and 70s but saw the light and renounced it. Scion of the movement’s founder Francis Schaeffer, the New York Times described him as “a traitorous prince to an evangelical royal family.” Today Schaeffer, 67, fulminates against the Religious Right’s hypocrisy and its corrupt agenda, an agenda that was first enunciated by his father.
“The United States [is] in the grip of fanatical right wing white nationalist evangelicals,” Schaeffer says, “who have taken over the Republican Party and have people like William Barr as the attorney general … pushing for a theocracy, the same theocracy my father Francis Schaeffer pushed for in his last book ‘A Christian Manifesto.’” The great danger of his father’s book, Schaeffer warns, is that it calls for “the violent overthrow of the United States government if all democratic means fail to overturn Roe v Wade.”
While most Republicans rarely mention abortion these days, and have become cynical and overt enough to grab power for its own sake out in the open, Roe v Wade remains a compelling rallying cry that gets hauled out and cynically dusted off whenever it’s needed. It’s a brilliant strategy that few Republicans at the top actually believe in any longer. After all, powerful, cheating Republicans use abortion as their principal go to strategy when their girlfriends and mistresses become pregnant. But it makes for great tawdry virtue-signaling and a useful form of gender control, and naysayers run the very real risk of appearing unsympathetic or even callous.
Fascinatingly, the Religious Right has managed to sneak abortion past the Bible fundamentalists, who usually require strong Biblical authority for their most important tenets. The Bible says nothing on abortion (or next to nothing, depending on whose interpretation you believe) and yet abortion has become the single most important issue to keep the lower echelons in line, and Roe v Wade their number one judicial enemy.
The root of this fanaticism and the bizarre capacity of their adherents to believe anything, no matter how evil it may be, comes from what we might call the tyranny of certainty. After all, if God says a thing is so and you believe it, you become certain of it, and then there is no longer any room for discussion and you’re free to be as tyrannical as you need to. This may explain how millions of people can follow a clown like the Trump-thing. Religion ultimately always leads to this kind of tyranny, and therefore “Religion has no place in civil authority and government,” as Schaeffer puts it.
“Be warned,” Schaeffer says, “we talk about religious freedom and, oh, we are so delicate and we’re so afraid to criticize religions, we’re going to be called islamophobe, or antichristian or antimuslim … [but] there is a move across the planet now to simplistic stupid answers founded within religions that – and I’m sorry to say it and this where I will offend people – are mythology. They are not true.”
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.