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Amelia Hendrix, a tall brunette and the daughter of a Presbyterian Church in America minister, has spent her life as "a poster child for the church." Toward the end of her four years at the University of Tennessee, however, that role proved harder to play. Her "Christian bubble" dissipated as friends from church got married, and she found herself befriending people with different values: non-Christians, gay students, and pot smokers at the record store where she worked.

At university, Amelia took classes on modern American religion. "That was eye-opening," she said. "I did a lot on Jerry Falwell, the conservative party, and the consolidating of the Christian right. It made me question everything I'd been taught. I was raised conservative, pro-life, anti-gay; I was taught that Christians should be in power. I came out thinking nothing I was taught had been right."

When Amelia graduated last December, she told her father she was thinking of going to L'Abri, the Christian study center and commune in the Swiss Alps founded by celebrity apologist Francis Schaeffer. "When I brought up the idea, Dad said, 'That's great, I love Schaeffer,'" she said.

If her father remembers L'Abri as it was when Schaeffer was alive—a place where thoughtful young Christians went to breathe the fortifying Alpine air and to sit at the feet of their goateed guru—Amelia embodies what L'Abri has become: a community ambivalent about Schaeffer's legacy and ill at ease with mainstream evangelical culture. Half a century after L'Abri's founding and more than 20 years after Schaeffer's death, students come with very different questions, and they look askance at the politicized faith that Schaeffer helped create.

From Radical to Politico

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March 2008

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