Francis Schaeffer on the Politics of Peace and Affluence

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different. There are tensions between long hair and short, drugs and non-drugs, whatever are the outward distinctions of the moment. But they support teach other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence. Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.

I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things. Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals–increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth–but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them.” – Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, 227

howshouldwethenliveSchaeffer was on to something 40 years ago it still rings true today. When the church melds with the world the church loses its distinctive voice (which is an essential voice in a society that rejects absolutes). The church has everything to lose in this game and nothing to gain. The reason we have been so easily drawn in is partly because the church lost its view of itself as distinctive from the world. Being part of a pseudo-Christian nation we didn’t think twice about adopting worldly values because we took it for granted that American values overlapped with Judeo-Christian values and so what harm could really be done in not maintaining our distinctiveness from society?

The answer is a lot…maybe even everything.

How sad it is when values are exchanged for goods and services and when ideals are traded for peace and affluence. How much will we give up in order to maintain our quality of life? How much of our faith will we be willing to compromise? How many of our values will we willingly flush down the toilet in the name of maintaining our stuff, our position, our power? Who do we and those who come after us become as a result of this sort of thinking and behaving?

These are sobering thoughts and we see the effects of this kind of thinking playing out all around us today. May we be the generation that stands up for what is right and holy and just. Let us be willing to check our comfort, our peace, even our affluence at the door if it means God is glorified, wrongs are righed and godly principles and values are upheld.

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  1. You’re probably better off at this point reading (his son) Frank Schaeffer’s “Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God”. Twitter: @Frank_Schaeffer ; FB: https://www.facebook.com/frank.schaeffer.16/

    Schaeffer, the older, wrote “How Then Should We Live?” in 1976 not as a rejection of church involvement in state but – along with his other writings – as encouragement for Christians to impose their beliefs through agency of the state. And we have had, especially since 1980, a poisonous religious nationalism and faith in empire fraudulently representing themselves as American Christianity to show for it. For 40 years.

    • Correct. He doesn’t reject church involvement in state. He sees the church as co-opted with the values and culture of the world who need to junk that and get back to using their influence to get things back the way they were. That’s my read of him anyway. I do think part of that is right and that was the part I was trying to highlight above. Good to know about Frank’s work…I will look into it.

    • Bob, I agree. I was one of those Christians in the mid seventies to start reading Schaeffer’s books, and I read them all, believing they formed an intelligent thought in how believers should go about shaping our government and society. But, by the mid eighties I moved on. I began to see the poisonous nationalism of which you speak, and other writings, such as those of Thomas Merton, that speak of compassion, yet with a stabbing truthfulness to all of us in our power and comfort, caught my attention. Most of my life I always heard that good preaching and teaching is supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”; but Merton was really the first writer I read who actually had the gift. His books, Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander, and Faith and Violence, are two I wish I could put into every evangelical leader’s hands.

      • I’ve become a student not just of Merton, but of Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr. And of John Bunyan as well: the account of Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair is still a pretty serviceable metaphor (with some RCC tweaks of course) even for the 21st century.

        • Henri Nouwen is good. Another that I have been reading for a number of years now is, Abraham J. Heschel. Intelligent, yet poetic,

          Regarding Schaeffer, I was a young preacher in the mid seventies, and I recall many Church of Christ preachers coming out of college really turned on to him. He was a way of becoming more progressive without becoming a radical liberal. For many of them. he was that first int oasis, outside the CoC, in their journey out of legal

          • (To continue my thought…my computer jumped on me)…

            …he was that first intellectual and emotional oasis, outside the CoC, in their journey out of legalism. And for those in other conservative denominations, he was their first intellectual empowerment in defending their understanding of faith and values. But a number of these have moved on. He helped them at the time; but their journey, as mine, had a longer road ahead.