Schaeffer, Frank 1952–

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Schaeffer, Frank 1952–

(Franky Schaeffer)


Born August 3, 1952, in Champery, Switzerland; immigrated to United States, 1980; son of Francis (a theologian) and Edith (a writer) Schaeffer; married Regina Walsh, 1970; children: Jessica, Francis, John. Politics: "Republican (most of the time!)" Religion: Greek Orthodox.


Home—Salisbury, MA. Agent—Curtis Lundgren, Curtis Bruce Agency, 3015 Evergreen Dr., Ste. A, Plover, WI 54467. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, producer, director. Schaeffer Productions, Los Gatos, CA, president, 1976-85. Director of feature motion pictures, including Wired to Kill, 1986; Headhunter, 1988; Rebel Storm, 1989; and Baby on Board, 1992. Director of the documentary series Whatever Happened to the Human Race?


Critics Award, 1979, for Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Awards for best director and best film from Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films, 1986, for Wired to Kill.


Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (documentary series), Dutch National Television, 1978.

Addicted to Mediocrity (nonfiction), Crossway Books (Westchester, IL), 1980.

A Time for Anger (nonfiction), Crossway Books (Westchester, IL), 1984.

(As Franky Schaeffer) Bad News for Modern Man: An Agenda for Christian Activism, Crossway Books (Westchester, IL), 1984.

(As Franky Schaeffer, with Harold Fickett) A Modest Proposal for Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness, T. Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1984.

(Editor, as Franky Schaeffer) Is Capitalism Christian? Toward a Christian Perspective on Economics, Crossway Books (Westchester, IL), 1985.

Wired to Kill (screenplay), American Distribution Group, 1986.

(As Franky Schaeffer) Sham Pearls for Real Swine, Wolgemuth & Hyatt (Brentwood, TN), 1990.

Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions, Holy Cross Orthodox Press (Brookline, MA), 1994.

(With John Schaeffer) Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps (nonfiction), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor and author of foreword) Voices from the Front: Letters Home from America's Military Family, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2004.

Faith of Our Sons: A Father's Wartime Diary, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2004.

Baby Jack: A Novel, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2006.

(With Kathy Roth-Douquet) AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country, Collins (New York, NY), 2006.

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, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2007.

(With Kathy Roth-Douquet) How Free People Move Mountains: A Male Christian Conservative and a Female Jewish Liberal on a Quest for Common Purpose and Meaning, Collins (New York, NY), 2008.


Portofino, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1992.

Saving Grandma, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Zermatt, Carroll & Graff Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to USA Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and Huffington Post, among other publications.


Frank Schaeffer began his creative career as a moviemaker who produced and directed numerous documentary films, including the series Whatever Happened to the Human Race? He also directed Hollywood features before turning to writing full time. Schaeffer, who survived polio and has dyslexia, was born in Switzerland, the son of evangelical fundamentalists, and much of his early film work and writing consisted of documentaries and nonfiction books with a fundamentalist perspective. However, by the early 1990s he had moved away from his fundamentalist upbringing. He has recorded the trials and tribulations of growing up in a conservative Christian environment in a fictional trilogy of works featuring young Calvin Becker. The first in the series, Portofino, is the first-person story of Calvin, an adolescent who accompanies his Presbyterian fundamentalist parents and his two sisters on annual excursions to the Italian Mediterranean, where the parents hope to convert the Roman Catholics from what they perceive as paganism. While the father settles on the sunny beach and surrounds himself with religious literature, the mother roams the shore to proclaim her religious conviction to the hapless sunbathers and swimmers. Calvin, meanwhile, wanders about and meets an odd and enchanting assortment of people, including beach attendants, an old homosexual painter, and an upper-class English girl, Jennifer, who firmly holds her own views on religion as a member of the Church of England. Calvin also experiences a rather curious range of adventures, including an encounter with a dangerous octopus. Richard Eder, in his review for the Los Angeles Times, proclaimed Portofino "a rich brew of cross-cultural comedy." He added that Schaeffer "makes [the novel's] utterly unpredictable family … both painful and appealing." Portofino, Eder affirmed, is "sentimental, celebratory, evocative and very funny."

The adventures of Calvin continue in the 1997 novel Saving Grandma, in which Calvin's fundamentalist parents face one of their greatest challenges: saving the soul of the family's foul-mouthed grandmother, who is a definite nonbeliever. Calvin learns special life truths in the ensuing tug of war. The family, having settled in Switzerland where they are spreading the missionary word of born-again Christianity, usually spends summers in Portofino, but this year that pleasure is curtailed when Granny, recovering from a broken hip, comes to stay with them. While Calvin's mother sets out to read scripture to the older woman, Calvin secretly encourages his grandmother's disreputable behavior in this "clever, humorous, and satisfying" novel, as Booklist reviewer Kathleen Hughes described the work. Similar praise came from Entertainment Weekly reviewer Rhonda Johnson, who termed Saving Grandma "a raucous black comedy." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Schaeffer's "nuanced characterization of Calvin—part malicious prankster, part helpless victim of his absurd family."

The final novel in the trilogy, Zermatt, finds the Beckers on a ski vacation at the Hotel Riffelberg in the Swiss Alps. While the rest of the family takes to the slopes in hopes of saving souls, Calvin learns the pleasures of sin with a willing maid from their hotel. While Booklist contributor Joanne Wilkinson lauded this installment as "amusing and, at times, deeply touching," she also felt that it did not "quite measure up to the standards set by its predecessors." Higher praise, however, came from Library Journal writer Josh Cohen, who noted: "This examination of conflicting values is told with warmth and humor."

Schaeffer has also documented the distancing from his evangelical roots in nonfiction books. The 1995 volume Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions looks at his conversion to the Greek Orthodox faith from Protestant evangelicalism. As Vigen Guroian noted in the Christian Century, "Schaeffer's central argument is that Orthodox Christianity is uniquely suited to answer the contemporary religious and moral crisis in America." Guroian also remarked that Schaeffer "characterizes his evangelical Protestant upbringing as a huge swindle." More mainstream is the author's 2007 account, 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. As Dallas Morning News columnist William McKenzie commented in a 2007 interview with the author: "Twenty-five years ago, Frank Schaeffer was a high-flying evangelical filmmaker and speaker. He and his father, Francis Schaeffer, were regulars on the evangelical circuit, talking about the dangers of America going off course morally." Then came a change of course for Schaeffer, spiritually and creatively. Schaeffer noted in an interview for Powell's Books that Crazy for God "charts my journey from being born the son of cultic religious leaders to the present, with detours into Hollywood and the movie business, art and (at last!) the lucky stumble into writing fiction and nonfiction—in other words what I do for a living today." Writing on Blogcritics, Warren Kelly termed Crazy for God a "memoir and coming of age story, set in a turbulent time for both fundamentalism and evangelicalism." Schaeffer begins his story in the 1950s, when his influential father was coming to prominence on the religious right. He grew up in Switzerland in the community known as L'Abri, which his father had formed and which became a gathering place for spiritual folk from Billy Graham's daughter to Timothy Leary. Returning to the United States, Schaeffer accompanied his father on the evangelical circuit, becoming an insider in conservative religious matters and an outspoken prolifer. Yet it was this very project of dividing the United States over the issue of abortion that made Schaeffer reexamine his own spirituality and turn away from the Protestant evangelical religion of his parents and become a Greek Orthodox. Donna Chavez, writing in Booklist, concluded: "Schaeffer's apology rings true." A Kirkus Reviews critic also lauded Schaeffer's work, noting that it offered "interesting glimpses into the burgeoning religious right folded into a deeply personal memoir." The same critic further commented that the book is "candid, sometimes angry and clearly cathartic for the author." "This is not just a book about rejecting Christian evangelicalism," wrote George Westerlund in Library Journal. "It has parallels in secular culture and is an honest read about family life and its challenges."

Schaeffer has also pursued another major theme both in nonfiction and fiction: the relation of the civilian world to the military. When his nineteen-year-old son rejected a college education to join the Marine Corps, Schaeffer's world and worldview were shaken and challenged. In Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps, written with his son John, Schaeffer presents a dual narrative of a young man undergoing the rigors of Marine training and of a parent coming to terms with his son's decision. High praise for Keeping Faith was offered by a Kirkus Reviews critic who deemed it "dramatic and laugh-out-loud funny, beautifully written and deftly constructed, deeply affecting in its honest portrayal of the authors' passions: a stunning achievement." Booklist contributor Roland Green concluded: "One of the better books of its kind, and likely to remain so."

When Schaeffer's son was deployed to Afghanistan, the author kept a journal of his reactions, fears, and hopes, published in 2004 as Faith of Our Sons: A Father's Wartime Diary. Reviewing Faith of Our Sons in Infantry magazine, Keith Everett noted: "The Schaeffer family takes you on a roller coaster ride with each phone call from their Marine and each CNN report of another service member killed." Schaeffer also wrote a fictional account of this experience, Baby Jack: A Novel, described as "J. Crew turning Jarhead," by USA Today contributor J. Ford Huffman. Here, the parents are a painter and a society mother, and the son who shocks by joining the Marines is Jack. The father/painter, Todd, at first refuses to talk to his son and must ultimately learn to live with himself and his deep sense of guilt after Jack is deployed to the Middle East and soon killed in action. Not all critical reviews of the book were positive, but Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, felt "the vivid portrayal of the appeal of the military sets the story apart from much war fiction." Huffman said of Baby Jack: "The reader marvels at how Schaeffer makes this concise chorus of social conviction moving and memorable by emphasizing emotion over description."

Further similarly themed nonfiction from Schaeffer includes Voices from the Front: Letters Home from America's Military Family and AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country, written with Kathy Roth-Douquet. In Voices from the Front, Schaeffer gathers letters from military men and women serving in the Middle East to provide "an outspoken collection of those who lay their lives on the line for the sake of their country, in their own words," according to a reviewer for Wisconsin Bookwatch. AWOL, on the other hand, is, according to Army Lawyer contributor Charles Kuhfahl, Jr., an effort "to provide a critical analysis of the diminishing relationship between the upper classes and the military, and the alleged detriment resulting from the weakening relationship." For Kuhfahl, however, "the end result … is merely the collective penance or catharsis of two writers thrown together, who willingly discuss their self-enlightenment concerning today's modern military." Both authors learned to accept a different view of the military through the service in the Marines by those close to them. In Schaeffer's case, it was his son; in Roth-Douquet's, it was her husband. Writing in Officer magazine, Will Holahan commended the efforts of the authors, observing that AWOL "tackles a weighty subject … [and] raises some disturbing questions about how those who benefit most from living in this country contribute least to its defense, and those who benefit least more often pay the ultimate price."

Schaeffer told CA: "My pet, wife, and children are a good deal more important to me than my writing. Writing is a way of paying the bills and making life more interesting. Real life is the point, however. My writing is descriptive, not prescriptive. I do my living in the real world, not only on the page."



Army Lawyer, February 1, 2007, Charles Kuhfahl, Jr., review of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service—and How It Hurts Our Country, p. 38.

Booklist, September 1, 1997, Kathleen Hughes, review of Saving Grandma, p. 59; September 1, 2002, Roland Green, review of Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps, p. 30; October 15, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Zermatt, p. 391; October 15, 2004, Roland Green, review of Voices from the Front: Letters Home from America's Military Family, p. 384; September 1, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Baby Jack: A Novel, p. 58; October 1, 2007, Donna Chavez, 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, p. 24.

California Bookwatch, August 1, 2006, review of AWOL; January 1, 2008, review of Crazy for God.

Christian Century, June 7, 1995, Vigen Guroian, review of Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religions, p. 608.

Dallas Morning News, December 12, 2007, William McKenzie, "Q&A with Frank Schaeffer."

Entertainment Weekly, September 19, 1997, Rhonda Johnson, review of Saving Grandma, p. 79.

Infantry Magazine, May 1, 2005, Keith Everett, review of Faith of Our Sons: A Father's Wartime Diary.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Keeping Faith, p. 1204; July 15, 2006, review of Baby Jack, p. 697; July 15, 2007, review of Crazy for God.

Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Vicki J. Cecil, review of Saving Grandma, p. 220; September 15, 2003, Josh Cohen, review of Zermatt, p. 93; October 1, 2007, George Westerlund, review of Crazy for God, p. 77.

Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1992, Richard Eder, review of Portofino, p. E10.

Marines, October 1, 2002, Cindy Fisher, review of Keeping Faith.

Officer, January 1, 2008, Will Holahan, review of AWOL, p. 53.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997, review of Saving Grandma, p. 388.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006, review of AWOL.

USA Today, October 24, 2006, review of Baby Jack, p. 3.

Wisconsin Bookwatch, December 1, 2004, review of Voices from the Front.


American Vision, (July 30, 2007), Gary DeMar, review of Crazy for God.

Blogcritics, (November 7, 2007), Warren Kelly, review of Crazy for God.

Frank Schaeffer Home Page, (June 18, 2008).

Powell's Books, (June 18, 2008), "Frank Schaeffer."

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Schaeffer, Frank 1952–

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