So I’ve just started reading The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. It’s positively bone-chilling so far. If anyone wants to grab a copy now (staff, readers or lurkers), you can join me in blabbing about it here as part of the oft-mentioned, yet-to-be-consummated Contrarian Book Club.
This nonfiction work by Jeff Sharlet concerns “The Family” — a 70 year-old network of fundamentalist followers of a personal (and aggressively capitalist) Jesus, whose members comprise “a veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government,” according to Family member and convicted Watergate felon Charles W. Colson. This fundamentalist movement is, according to Sharlet, “bent not on salvation for all but on the cultivation of the powerful, ‘key men’ chosen by God to direct the affairs of the nation.”
The movement is the elite twin of the armageddonite Christianity marketed by “Real Americans” like Sarah Palin. Actually, it’s easy to see Palin as a messiah of a kind — a miraculous conduit between the worlds of imperial Christianity, with its influence in the halls of power, and the paranoiac, populist strain common to megachurches and strip malls.
The Family, or “The Fellowship,” as they are also known, consider themselves “a core of men responsible for changing the world,” Sharlet writes. “Hitler, Lenin and any others understood the power of a small core of people,” states a document disseminated among the group’s inner circle. Leaders of this group hold seminars on “Biblical capitalism” and attempt to conform every aspect of society to God. They have absolutely zero interest in democracy (Christ’s reign will be a Kingdom, after all), although there are an alarming number of members in the US Congress.
As Lisa Miller reports in Newsweek:
Nothing about [The Family’s] organizational structure is visible to the public: not its board of directors, nor its executive team, nor its mission statement, nor its 200 subsidiary ministries, nor its national or global membership. . . Some of the world’s most powerful people are included in its circles—as regulars or merely occasional participants. It flies business and political leaders abroad to meet with other “friends”— heads of state and local despots—in the name of Jesus.
Subscribers to this ideology currently holding high office include:
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) [Chair, Senate Values Action Team]
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) [Chairman of Steering Committee]
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) [Former Chairman of Finance Committee]
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) [Former Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee]
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) [Involved in sex scandal]
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) [Chair of House Values Action Team; Member Committees on Energy & Commerce, Sec. & Coop in Europe]
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) [Member of House Appropriations Panel]
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)
Rep. Michael F. Doyle (D-PA)
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC)
Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KA)
And let’s not forget current South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who was also recently involved in sex scandal.
Historic members include Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Hillary Clinton is also rumored to have a connection to the group.
You may have also heard about the “C Street House” here in Washington, which my personal God, Wikipedia, describes thusly:
Known as the “C Street Center” or “Fellowship House,” this 1890 townhouse, located behind the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress and near the United States Capitol, has 12 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, five living rooms, four dining rooms, three offices, a kitchen, and a small “chapel.”
Rooms are rented to United States Senators and members of Congress who stay there as resident members of the Fellowship, reportedly paying $600 a month in room and board.
The property is exempt from real property taxes because it is classified as a “special purpose” use. District of Columbia law exempts from taxation “buildings belonging to religious corporations or societies primarily and regularly used for religious worship, study, training, and missionary activities” and “buildings belonging to organizations which are charged with the administration, coordination, or unification of activities, locally or otherwise, of institutions or organizations entitled to exemption.”
The Family’s Wednesday prayer breakfasts for United States Senators, which has been attended by Senators Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, John Ensign and Susan Collins.
The house is also the location for:
A Tuesday night dinner for members of Congress and other Fellowship associates.
An annual Ambassador Luncheon. The 2006 event was attended by ambassadors from Turkey, Macedonia, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, and Moldova.
Nothing like a good old-fashioned fundamentalist sleepover! It gets creepier. Here’s what Sharlett wrote about The Family for Harper’s in 2003:
During the 1960s, the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa’s postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand “Communists” killed marks him as one of the century’s most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration, the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise.
I bet that all made Jesus super-happy.
Again, I just started reading this book, so if you want to join me, feel free. Drop me a line and let me know if you’re on board.