Interesting glimpses into the burgeoning religious right folded into a deeply personal memoir.
After World War II, Schaeffer’s evangelical parents founded a mission in Switzerland called L’Abri, where he grew up. A large portion of the narrative is dedicated to those years and his conflicting memories of them. At times the author describes his father as a moody, even abusive man; at other points he speaks of him with great respect and love. He depicts his mother as a juggernaut who wore her piety on her sleeve and indoctrinated the children, yet his devotion to this “sexy saint” borders on oedipal. Likewise, he alternately paints his youth as an idyllic utopia and a period of boiling frustrations. At all times, however, Schaeffer is brutally honest. Pot-smoking, group masturbation, running away from boarding school, even the tricks he played on a mentally handicapped woman who lived at L’Abri—each unflattering incident is related in vivid detail. During the author’s young-adult years, his parents became quite well known, and he was solicited to work with his father on the 1974 evangelical documentary series How Then Should We Live? Schaeffer encountered many figures in the increasingly public and political evangelical movement; he offers particularly eye-opening accounts of his personal encounters with the likes of Pat Robertson, James Dobson et al. He became convinced that he did not fit into the evangelical mold and in fact had simply been living and speaking about matters in which he had been steeped since birth but basically never truly believed. His break from the movement and what followed in his life comprise the final chapters.
Candid, sometimes angry and clearly cathartic for the author.