This is an excerpt from frank Schaeffer's new book. Writing in the Washington Post, Jane Smiley called Sex, Mom and God "laugh out loud funny" and her review concluded like this: "Frank has been straightforward and entertaining in his campaign to right the political wrongs he regrets committing in the 1970s and '80s. As the author of 10 books since 2000, and plenty of articles and blogs, he has been more than industrious. As someone who has made redemption his work, he has, in fact, shown amazing grace."
Mom was sitting on my bed next to the eight-year-old version of me, reading the story of King David's Sin to me (again), when she looked up from her Bible and cheerfully declared, "Your father demands sexual intercourse every single night and has since the day we married because he doesn't want to end up like King David!"
I got that sinking feeling. I knew Mom was about to launch onto her favorite topic (besides Sex): how examples of Sin in the Bible help us all "better understand Fran's Many Weaknesses."
"Uh," I said noncommittally, while trying not to sound too interested.
"You see, Dear, King David and Fran share a Very Strong Drive in That Area. At least Fran recognizes his Need." Mom paused, smiled sweetly, then added in a brisk upbeat tone, "But I don't want you to get the wrong impression; it's not that I don't enjoy being with Fran in That Way. Within a Christ-centered marriage the union of a married man and his wife is a wonderful gift. It's just that because Fran has a Daily Need, I have to go with him on every single speaking trip. I hate leaving you alone so often, even in a good cause."
To an outsider, Mom's constant citing of Bible passages like King David's Sin to "explain" Dad's failings might have seemed like a snide rebuke. Actually, it was Mom's way of defending Dad. She was placing his Sins on a high pedestal right up there with the failings of the biblical heroes. Mom was excusing Dad by saying in effect, "Even King David, that the Bible says God loved most of all, sinned terribly. He was forgiven and I forgive Fran, too. Moreover, if even King David was awful sometimes, how can Fran be perfect?"
I don't know if the good cause Mom referred to was traveling to teach Bible studies (from Holland to Italy to England and France), enjoying the "union of a married man and his wife," or keeping Dad from straying by meeting his "Daily Need." Since the Bible is full of Sex, and since Mom wanted (had?) to talk about Sex, Dad, and God--a lot--my mother could use our Bible studies as the excuse to "share" the Facts Of Life and exonerate Dad in the context of putting him in the company of biblical heroes who had "sinned too, Dear."
One thing I do know is that every time Mom left home, she'd leave a note and small gift for each bedtime she'd be away. My parents' speaking trips sometimes lasted up to a month. I remember the sense of being enveloped in her love as Debby or Susan would read the daily note to me as I'd unwrap that day's gift. (I collected a whole shelf full of excellent model car Dinky Toys in this way.) I also look back on my mother's tremendous warmth and kindness as her love spilled into the lives of the next generation.
My mother showed unbounded love to my daughter, Jessica, and son Francis when [my wife] Genie and I were living in "Noni's" home (as her grandchildren call Mom). From birth until Jessica was ten and Francis seven, Noni played an outsized role in their lives. We lived with my parents in their chalet's basement apartment for the first five years of our marriage, then we moved into our own place across the street. (When Jessica was ten and Francis was seven, Genie and I moved to the States and our children's daily encounters with Noni ended.)
My mother's influence in Jessica's and Francis's lives was significant. She patiently compensated for Genie's and my being so young. As Genie says, "Noni was the best mother-in-law a young married woman could ever have had. She never 'advised,' rather was just always there to help and, when asked, gave the wisest relationship advice I've ever heard." And Jessica and Francis loved visiting Noni; as Jessica described it, "Going upstairs to Noni was a moment each day when I felt as if I was stepping into bright sunlight."
When Mom was home, she always had handy a Bible story that, with just the slightest nudge, could illustrate my father's Sins-- from his Strong Drive In That Area (King David) to his sometimes violent Moods (King Saul). And the cross she had to bear because of his "unfortunate working-class background" (reminiscent of Esau and the Bible's other "rough-mannered men") was handily illustrated by the Apostle Peter, along with the other confused and uneducated working-class fishermen Jesus called to follow Him and to whom He had to explain everything, just like Mom constantly had to instruct Dad.
Mom often said, "Shall we consider King David?"
"Yes, Mom," I'd answer, knowing full well that we were going to consider King David with or without my permission.
"The story is in the book of Second Samuel," Mom said, flipping open her well-worn and heavily underlined Bible. She started to read in her impeccably clear, lilting, Bible-reading voice, enunciating each word c-r-i-s-p-l-y and pronouncing the biblical names perfectly: "Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem." Mom paused to comment, switching from her Bible-reading voice to a more intimate, conspiratorial, tone: "You see, Dear, David wasn't where he belonged. If David had been out on the battlefield killing the enemies of God where the King was supposed to be in the springtime, instead of turning his palace into a peep show, this never would have
"What's a peep show?"
"We'll get to that later. The point now is that David was battling a midlife crisis, too. He wasn't in Paris, where Fran dragged me that time. But like your father, David wasn't where God wanted him either, which is always that first tragic step of backsliding, as Fran knows. Do you understand?"
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway