The author, Franky Schaeffer, was the son of a Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, whose work was developed during the 1960s through the 1980s. The younger Schaeffer was more brittle and ascerbic than his father and his work ranged from brilliant cultural dissection to grade-B horror movies, colorful paintings to black satire. This book was considered one of the classics of the period. It was a time when some in the Christian world had begun to reassert themselves as a cultural force, but the warnings of the tome, subtitled, The Myth of Neutrality, were largely ignored. Ignored, to be certain by the secular society, but, more meaningfully, ignored by the Christian world which was content with its mess of pottage.
Schaeffer's book cried, "Censorship!" But the world never heard it -- his voice had been censored.
Foster opened to the Foreword.
In the twentieth century, evangelical Christians in America have naively accepted the role assigned us by an anti-religious, anti-Christian consensus in society. We have been relegated to a cultural backwater, where we are meant to paddle around content in the knowledge that we are merely allowed to exist.
You've got it there , Foster thought. He recalled his early days in the newsroom, how they used to chuckle over the antics of fundamentalist preachers. Staff cartoonists always portrayed them as overweight men with plaid, polyester suits or prissy, heavy-hipped women with outdated hairdos. It had never occurred to him at the time that this "humor" was precisely the mechanism that the much-hated racist bigot used to bolster his prejudices. Later, when he compared the drawings to the stereotyped cartoons of Jews used as propaganda for the German Third Reich, a chill of recognition hit him.
Christian-baiting had been an occasional sport among his co-workers. When conducting interviews with "the fundies," they would pause long after the interviewee had finished his answer. Most of these people -- naive to media methods -- would feel compelled to fill in the empty space and begin to ramble further on their subject. Out of that, there would often be an inflammatory -- or better yet, foolish -- quote for the reporter to use.
But most of the time the bias was mere laziness. Reporters all had friends among the agnostics, atheists, and liberal preachers but few were personally acquainted with anyone who was a Bible-believing Christian. Nor did they make any efforts to get to know them because they considered them to be "Neanderthals." Thus the true thoughts and feelings of Christians were alien to media people. When reporters heard them speak, they selected the quote most like a slogan to use in the story -- whether it accurately represented the person's view or not. They were looking for the jazz.
Foster -- though alone -- blushed at the memories of such blatant and hypocritical prejudice. He continued to read.
The guard secured the door behind her then walked over to the wall-mounted intercom, punched in a code, and waited for a reply. After a hurried and hushed exchange, he resumed his post. It was only minutes before the Old Man arrived, advisors in tow.
"Let me talk to him first," said the Old Man. No objections were forthcoming.
The guard allowed the Old Man to enter and shut the door behind him.
The Old Man took the tree steps to cross the cell and sat beside the bed. "I see you've survived," he said.
No other response would have been more natural than the "Where am I" that the stranger croaked.
"You have many questions, I'm sure," the Old Man replied. "First, I'll tell you that one of our people found you nearly dehydrated out in the desert and brought you back to our community. You've been unconscious while our medics worked on you for, oh, I guess it's five days now. Can you tell me who you are and where you're from?"
"My memory's kinda fuzzy. I don't remember what I was doing in a desert," he answered. "Could I have a little water?"
"Sure," the Old Man answered as he guided the cup towards the man's lips. "But what shall we call you? We've been calling you Sears because of the Sears company label on your clothing, but you carried no identity card."
The was a look of surprise in the eyes of the stranger, then a narrowing look of suspicion. The Old Man would never have guessed that the simple term "identity card" would have triggered caution in the man. The stranger's mind raced for a resolution to his perceived dilemma -- at least on that would give him the maximum latitude for future action.
I wonder if they are commies? he thought. Maybe they're trying to find out about our experiments.
After composing himself, he said, "I . . . I . . . I don't know. It's like I know it but there's a wall between me and my own name. Can you tell me more about finding me and where this place is?"
He seems to be avoiding giving information, the Old Man thought. While trying to pump me for information.
"All in good time," said the Old Man. "It seems you're going to need more time to recover. There's not much to do out here, though. I'll have some books brought in for you if you like. Meanwhile, until you remember, can we just call you Sears?"
"Sure," Sears responded, "and, yeah, I'd like some reading -- science fiction, if you have it."
"We do, and you will get some," said the Old Man as he left.
The door closed and there was a telltale, metallic "click" that informed Sears that the door was, in all likelihood, locked from the outside.
This has got to be some kind of communist thing, he thought. Best not let on though.
There were two men named Jones in the community. One, who was a carpenter, was called Carpenter to avoid confusion with the other, an engineer, who was called, simply, Jones.
Jones was young. A brilliant engineering student and a graduate who had achieved early success, he had committed the incredible faux pas of not allowing the homosexual head of a large engineering firm to seduce him.
Jones was branded "homophobic" and offered "treatment" for his disorder. There might have been criminal sanctions had the powerful CEO pressed the issue, but the state mental health agency felt that Jones was merely neurotic rather than psychotic in his homophobia -- he was treatable. The courts turned the matter over to the social services people who scheduled a series of lectures and group-therapy sessions for the erstwhile neurotic.
"I have nothing against homosexuals," Jones insisted in the session. "I just have no inclination toward same-sex relationships myself."
The group said he was either in denial of his own homosexuality as indicated by his virulent reaction to the offer of sex (he had said, "No.") or he was unreasonably insecure about his own sexuality and had an irrational fear that a single homosexual encounter might "make him gay."
Jones' treatment included his appearing before a review panel after a year to determine if he was "cured." About a month prior to this review, Jones was called in by one of the panel members -- one who also presided over the Gay and Lesbian Alliance -- for a one-on-one chat.
"According to your records, you seem to be having difficulty with denial of your own sexuality," the man said placing his hand on Jones' shoulder. "The panel will not see this report in a favorable light unless there is some indication that you have turned the corner," he added as he began to massage Jones' neck.
Jones left the room, left the city, left the state, and left society entirely.
One of the community's collectors spotted him in the engineering section of a large library. He looked so incongruous in his battered attire reading the latest engineering journals, that the collector was fairly driven to strike up a conversation with him. Now, five years later, Jones plotted the next excavation, designed the ventilation and power ducts, worked out water storage, and a host of other things for the community.
Straight blonde hair habitually fell into his eyes and he habitually pushed it back whenever he hovered over his work table. At 5' 11", Jones towered over the squatty Foster as they walked through a new section of corridor.
"I think what finally began to get to me was the deliberate 'fixing' of history," Foster told the muscular young man. "I began to see a good goal of stopping prejudice against blacks and Jews, for instance, being warped into a legal way to silence certain ideas. I always thought that -- given a free discussion of ideas -- that the truth, or the closest idea to it, would eventually prevail."
"That much of an optimist, huh?" Jones asked in his deep baritone.
Foster stopped. "I suppose that is rather optimistic, isn't it? Well, anyway, I recall when Canada passed hate crime laws that were primarily aimed at stopping a burgeoning neo-Nazi movement -- a good intention if I ever saw one. Later, some insignificant individual published a little tract that questioned the extent of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. His scholarship was lousy and the overwhelming evidence for the Holocaust easily outweighed his nasty little propaganda piece. Even a casual reader would pick up on the specious arguments -- unless he were already inclined to the Nazi philosophy. It was mere preaching to the choir. Still, he was charged under the hate crimes laws and later convicted. In essence, the Canadian court had adopted an official view of history with regard to these events. Now this bigot was not a very sympathetic figure for the news readers to behold, so, little was said about the obvious censorship of his ideas. No one wanted to defend his rights of free speech for fear of being lumped in with his ideas. Later, France actually codified this same idea by legally banning materials which questioned the Holocaust.
"When I saw that happen, my confidence in the good intentions of hate crime laws was seriously eroded. It only hit me fully several years later. Then, it became more personal.
"The U.S. had adopted hate crime legislation both nationally and in 47 of the states but we had, meanwhile, also become something of a banana republic to the technologically superior Japan. We supplied more raw materials than finished products -- and we bought their finished products. It was a real blow to the pride of Americans -- and they have plenty! But Japanese business was good for U.S. business and the rising anti-Japanese sentiment was cut off early when pressure was brought to bear to apply those hate crime laws to people who vocally opposed Japan's trade advantage. At first, it only applied to those whose opposition was purely epithet, but it soon crushed even the mention of Japan in a bad light.
"At the time, I had spent six months diving through dusty law books and reams of economic statistics and uncovered some real inequities in our trade relations with Japan. There were clear violations of monopoly laws, international treaties, and some outright cheating. My editor urged the story on. I wrote up the information in as dispassionate a way as I could muster, gave the Japanese equal space in quotes rebutting or explaining my discoveries, and took it to my editor -- the editor who gave me the idea in the first place. He loved it. But he pulled the plug on it the next day. He said it sounded too racist." Jones shrugged. "But is that censorship? Or is that simply the editorial privilege of the people who hired you?"
"Rejection of the story is their privilege," Foster answered. "I've had my share of rejected stories -- and without squawking. But this was different. I found out later that, in anticipation of the story, a Japanese businessman -- through his law firm -- informed the publisher that they would insure that he was personally charged with violation of the hate crimes act if the story ran. Anyone who knows how these things work knows that it would not stick on the publisher but slide down to the news editor. But it would still tar the paper with the 'racist' tag. The publisher never made the decision -- he didn't have to. He simply passed the information to my editor -- who, you remember, loved the story -- and he, knowing the rule of descending blame, canned the story and accused me of being a racist."
"Did they charge you or anything?" Jones asked.
"Didn't charge me, but I'm sure I was reported to someone. Things took a distinct turn from that day on. I was wary of everything I wrote and I felt like I was on probation to everyone in the newsroom."
In the classic dystopian novel, 1984, Winston was charged with sending offending bits of history down what was cynically referred to as "the memory hole."
Jones walked with Foster to the dining hall where they took a table. It was not an ordinary meal time and few others were in the room.
"My defection was rather sudden," Jones began. "I always just charted a middle course through everything. In college, I just tried to keep to myself and get my work done. Not that I was blind to what was going on -- my old dad had warned me about some of the things that were happening -- I just figured I could slip past it all. My old dad used to always tell me, 'If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. And you must stand for what is right.' It was one of his favorite sayings -- before he was put into treatment. I always thought he was hopelessly lost in the dead past so when they put him in treatment, I figured they were doing him a favor."
"Well, he was lost in the past," the voice of the Old Man came from behind. "Excuse me. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. But he was lost in the past -- a past where there were objective truths."
"I suppose so," Jones answered. "My old dad used to talk about absolutes in morality and virtue and beauty -- areas where absolutes were especially denied. I was really embarrassed by it all but I think some of it stuck with me. Maybe that is why I chose engineering. It was a place where I could have absolutes without dealing with them in those other areas. I managed to slide by until I had been out in the profession for almost five years. When it came down to cases, I guess I still had absolutes. My old dad maintained his stands until they filled him with psychotropic drugs. By then I was in serious doubt about this 'treatment' but there was little I felt I could do. I am ashamed to say I did nothing -- at least, nothing until it was my own skin on the line. The last I saw of my father was when they were taking him for shock-treatment because they could not seem to get him to take his medication as often as they wanted. The shocks eventually killed him."
All the talk of Jones' "old dad" reminded Foster of his own father. He had always thought of him the typical 1950s father -- authoritative, ever-working, and completely ensconced in the moral code of the time.
Like Jones father -- and the Old Man -- he had a very settled idea of right and wrong. Unlike the Old Man -- and maybe Jones' father -- he could not give a reason for his beliefs. This was the reason for their departure of the ways during the turbulent era of the 1960s. Foster's father died just a few years after he had left home and while he had never been protective of him before his death, he became protective of his memory.
"I know what you mean, Jones," Foster said. "I tried to lay low myself after my Japanese business story. They succeeded in keeping me quiet with the threat of social ostracism. I didn't breathe an unfashionable word -- though I had started thinking and studying about a few things. My wife had already passed away so I was free to do a lot of reading."
"But the signs of the official quashing of free speech began early," Foster continued. "I remember when students at Portland State University celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court decision that flag-burning was covered under freedom of speech by a large flag-burning ceremony in 1989. On that same campus there was a glassed-in display case available to any group on campus to freely express their opinions. One group, the PSU Conservative Alliance, secured its use for an anti-abortion display that contained alleged documentation of the philosophical connections between Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood's founder, and the German Nazi party. Central to the display was a large swastika with an unborn child at the center. The campus exploded in virulent controversy -- coming largely from the same quarters as had joined in the flag-burning, free speech exhibition. They demanded that the display be taken down because it was 'taking free speech too far.'"
"But the free speech people were not the only ones censoring," the Old Man interjected. "One of the big mistakes of American Christendom was to try to fight books that had anti-Christian messages by having them banned altogether or removed from libraries. In the early Church, Christians engaged in healthy debate with the heretics. One would publish a denunciation of Christianity and Christians would carefully draft an apologetic aimed at defusing the critics. As it commands in the Bible, we should be ready to give an answer to every man for the hope we have. This was seen as a common duty of believers. But American Christians were not disciplined in such means and reacted in fear. When it came to novels -- where were the writings of Bible believers? Why were there so few Christians who wrote novels based on Biblical ideas -- especially without having to hammer out Bible verses every few pages in the text?
"It seemed that most Christian artists were forced to 'sanctify' each work with copious -- and frequent -- quotations, thereby making it pretty much unmarketable to the general public. Christians demanded it this way -- then complained when the New York Times Best Seller List refused to include Christian works even when they regularly outsold those listed. The Church insisted on its cultural ghetto and whined when the rest of the world honored their boundaries.
"Artists who dared to step outside the imaginary shield of 'sanctified' art were shunned. I recall a well-known popular singer in the early 1980s who was converted from his drugs and wild living. He produced several 'Christian' albums and received a lot of airplay on religious stations. After about a year he released a single, country-western style song about going back to his old girlfriend. The song had been inspired by the command in The Revelation to 'return to your first love.' Though the verse itself is purely spiritual in meaning, he thought of it as a need to recapture the love he had for his wife while they were newly in love. Christians, however, did not listen to the words closely and assumed he was talking -- in true country-western style -- of having a girlfriend on the side. The man was deluged with critical letters from people who had never even heard the song -- which, by the way, became quite successful in the non-religious charts. But the criticism persisted despite his broadcast explanations. Another, a female singer named Amy Grant, became quite successful in the secular recording industry and was considered 'backslidden' because her songs did not say 'Jesus' or 'God' enough. Her songs were delivered from a Biblical, moral perspective and were reaching people with those ideas, but that was not enough for the Church.
"Probably neither of these artists will be the greats who will be remembered in several centuries, but their contributions were meaningful and would have been more so had the Church the vision to send them out as missionaries with a blessing."
"There's a lot of truth in that," Foster added. "From my perspective as a journalist, Christians often just hyped our stereotypes of them with their blunders. They treated us with suspicion -- and there was some just cause -- but their presumptions about us did nothing to endear them to us."
A knot of people entered the dining hall. It was close to supper and the room would soon be filled. Foster did not feel very hungry and excused himself to take a walk outside.
The Old Man accompanied Jones toward the serving area. "How are you coming along on those new vault designs?" he asked. The question was interrupted by the small figure of a boy running through the hall and careening off of Foster before hitting the floor. Foster bent over but the boy was quickly up.
"Sorry, mister," he said and turned as if to go.
"Lizard!" a man entering the room called.
The boy turned toward him. "I've told you before, Lizard, that I won't stand for you running inside," he said walking over to Foster.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm okay," he answered dusting himself off. "I was just headed outside -- I'll take him if that's alright with you. I'm Foster. He'll vouch for me," he added pointing a thumb at the Old Man.
"I'm Russ Kiley. My wife, Cathy, and I live just down the corridor from you," the heavy red-headed man said extending his hand. "The boy's Russ too, but we call him Lizard because of the way he loves to climb on the rocks out here."
Foster turned to the skinny little dynamo. "How old are you, Lizard?"
"Eight," he beamed. "Are we going outside?"
"Sure, but you gotta go slow for enough these old legs to keep up."
With that, they headed toward the exit.
Go To Chapter Three