Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jane Smiley on Frank Schaeffer's "Sex, Mom, and God": Home Life as Nutty as It Could Be

You have got to love a review of a book by a member of a pre-eminently influential family of the American religious right that contains the following throwaway line: 

In “Sex, Mom, and God,” Frank [Schaeffer] makes the case that he and his parents were prime movers behind the political rise of the religious right in the United States, and he further makes the case that their home life was about as nutty as it could be.

But, then, who couldn't love anything Jane Smiley writes?   Here, the Pulitzer-winning author of A Thousand Acres is reviewing Frank Schaeffer's Sex, Mom, and God, which explains how this particular American family helped establish the ideological path of the American religious right, and why Frank Schaeffer eventually broke with his father Francis Schaeffer and now seeks to warn the American public of the lethal consequences ahead for our culture if we permit the theocrats of the religious right to establish the kind of control over our political process for which they hanker.

As Smiley points out, Schaeffer's new book notes, for instance, that a key motivation of the religious right is to reestablish male control of women's sexuality: much that drives the religious right in its various crusades, Schaeffer argues, has to do with an out-of-control male hysteria about what will happen in a world in which women have the freedom to control their sexual lives.

Smiley writes: 

Frank seems to have been born irreverent, but his memoirs have a serious purpose, and that is to expose the insanity and the corruption of what has become a powerful and frightening force in American politics. He considers himself an eyewitness to the insanity during his childhood, and an eyewitness to the corruption during his early adulthood. The root of both, according to this book, is the perverse and destructive view that the “God-of-the-Bible” takes of women and sexuality — that women are inherently corrupt and that their sexuality must be controlled by men. Frank’s point in “Sex, Mom, and God” is that female sexuality is at the heart of the abortion debate that energized the religious right, and he asserts, from his experience of both his very troubled father and himself, that profound anxiety about women and hypocrisy about the sex drive shape the evangelical  bid for power in the United States. 

H/t to Timothy Beauchamp at AmericaBlog Gay for pointing readers of that site to Smiley's review.

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