The Family: Secret Right Wing Religious Group

Discussion in 'Politics' started by OPTIONAL777, Jul 15, 2009.

  1. The Christian Mafia...

    A new book on "The Family"

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    Editorial Reviews
    From Publishers Weekly
    Checking in on a friend's brother at Ivenwald, a Washington-based fundamentalist group living communally in Arlington, Va., religion and journalism scholar Sharlet finds a sect whose members refer to Manhattan's Ground Zero as "the ruins of secularism"; intrigued, Sharlet accepts on a whim an invitation to stay at Ivenwald. He's shocked to find himself in the stronghold of a widespread "invisible" network, organized into cells much like Ivenwald, and populated by elite, politically ambitious fundamentalists; Sharlet is present when a leader tells a dozen men living there, "You guys are here to learn how to rule the world." As it turns out, the Family was established in 1935 to oppose FDR's New Deal and the spread of trade unions; since then, it has organized well-attended weekly prayer meetings for members of Congress and annual National Prayer Breakfasts attended by every president since Eisenhower. Further, the Family's international reach ("almost impossible to overstate") has "forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most oppressive regimes in the world." In the years since his first encounter, Sharlet has done extensive research, and his thorough account of the Family's life and times is a chilling expose.

    Book Review: “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet

    This column was first published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 26, 2008.

    Jeff Sharlet is the best journalist currently covering American religion. Among those who connect subject to predicate, there are few who do so with Sharlet’s grace, insight, or humor. His recently published book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper Collins, 2008, $25.95 cloth) was every bit as good as I expected it to be. Often, while reading The Family I found myself interrupting the conversations of those around me to read aloud Jeff’s well-crafted insights.

    The subject of Sharlet’s book is “The Family,” also called “The Fellowship,” a self-identified “Christian Mafia” which, for seven decades, has operated in the shadows of American power, exerting great influence without accountability or oversight. They are evangelists and powerbrokers with a theocratic agenda, a lust for power, and a strange fondness for such creeps of history as Adolf Hitler, Mao Tsedung, and Genghis Khan.

    In 2003, Jeff Sharlet published an article in Harper’s Magazine called “Jesus Plus Nothing,” which tells the bizarre and troubling story of Sharlet’s month-long stay at Ivanwald, a Fellowship-run retreat house for young men in Arlington, Virginia. “Jesus Plus Nothing” remains one of the few mainstream media treatments of the Fellowship. The first part of {italic}The Family{/italic} is an expanded version of “Jesus Plus Nothing,” and it is a great read, the part of the book to take on vacation.

    If the first part of the book is most entertaining, the second part of the book is most informative. Drawing upon information gleaned from research in the Fellowship archives at the Wheaton College Library, Sharlet tells the Fellowship’s story from its beginnings as a group of business and political leaders banded together to fight the growing influence of unionized longshoremen in depression-era Seattle, through World War II and its aftermath, into the Cold War, when Fellowship operatives began to engage in what the earlier President Bush described as “quiet diplomacy” in the fight against communism. The story continues to the present day and to the Fellowship’s advocacy for the latter Bush’s policy of privatizing governmental assistance to the poor through the office of “Faith Based Initiatives.”

    For me, the most disturbing of Sharlet’s revelations was the cataloging of rogues for whom, in Jesus name, members of the Fellowship have provided political favors in the form of access to American political and business leaders. The short list of those befriended by the Family includes Indonesia’s General Suharto, who is said to have killed more than a million people in Indonesia and East Timor, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier whose Touton Macoutes subverted traditional voodooism to terrorize Haiti’s population, killing more than 60,000 people in the process, and Eugenio Rios Mont from Guatemala, an Evangelical who killed more than ten thousand indigenous Guatemalans in the name of fighting communism. A longer list includes diabolical strongmen from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa, as well as a host of lesser-known Nazis who benefited from the Family’s intercession in the wake of World War II.

    In the third part of The Family Sharlet treats us to reprints of articles he published in Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine. Sharlet’s narratives take us to Colorado Springs to visit Ted Haggard’s congregation in the days before the president of the National Association of Evangelicals’ uncomfortable unmasking as a gay man. Later, we travel with Sharlet to New York City and to Portland, Oregon to visit hip young Evangelical Christians in their natural habitat. While this latter part of the book really isn’t about the Fellowship, Jeff is a good enough storyteller that most of us won’t care.

    Readers of The Family who support and defend the Fellowship invariably will point out that some of the Fellowship’s work is positive and good by just about any measure. The Fellowship provides a safe place in which powerful people receive spiritual care. This is good for all of us. The Fellowship’s quiet diplomacy has made possible peace between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and helped to facilitate the Camp David Accords. This is good for the world. I am told that they also do significant work with the poor. They invited Bono to speak at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, and how bad can that be?

    “Why,” the Fellowship’s supporters will ask, “did Jeff Sharlet not cover the Fellowship’s various charitable endeavors in greater detail? Why did he rake so much muck when there is a wholesome side to the Fellowship?” Just last week, in a conversation with someone who is sympathetic to the Fellowship’s work, I learned about the Fellowship’s efforts to promote human rights around the world; my own fellowship mentor—from the days when I was a college-aged failure of a Fellowship recruit—has used his connections to finance the building of an hospital in Honduras. Fellowship members and supporters are quick to reference such evidence of Fellowship benevolence.

    I don’t believe that the Fellowship’s good work excuses the kind of spiritual abuse described in the first part of The Family or the codling of dictators described in the book’s middle, but because the positive work is used to justify much of what I find to be creepy about the Fellowship’s existence, I hope Jeff will spend more time on this particular issue in his next book.

    The Family may be the most important book written in a very long time about the intersection of religion and politics in America. It brings the Fellowship’s work out of the shadows and provides the kind of public accountability that heals spiritual wounds and keeps the republic strong.

    But don’t take my word for it. Go buy the book. You won’t be sorry.
  3. A little strange. Its funny when people see someone that calls themselves a Christian doing something wrong, they just flip out and try to point out that all Christians are like that. I mean, there will always some Christians that live pretty decent moral lives, then do one or two things wrong that just the media will jump on. I mean...Even with the diciples, you had Judas looking out for himself by betray Jesus for 30 silver coins, so you cant expect all of Christs followers today to be exactly like Christ.
  4. You obviously don't get it.

    This is not about isolated sinful actions of Christians...

    This is about the political power and cult like abuse by an organized group of so called "Christians."

    The Family is just out in paperback this month. Here are some of the responses to its hardcover publication last year:

    “One of the most important accounts of the intersection of fundamentalist religions and politics in recent memory... Sharlet combines his experiences going undercover at The Family’s Arlington, Virginia, compound, skillful interviews with insiders and allies, and exhaustive historical research to produce this riveting account that transcends the recurring question of whether the religious right is dead.” ” — American Prospect

    “Just when we thought the Christian right was crumbling, Jeff Sharlet delivers a rude shock: One of its most powerful and cult-like core groups, the ‘Family,’ has been thriving. . . . Sharlet’s book is one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes you’ll ever read—just don’t read it alone at night!” — Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed

    “Jeff Sharlet [is] a confessed non-evangelical whom top evangelical organizations might be wise to hire—and quick—as a consultant. As an outsider, Sharlet sees what a lot of us insiders need to see.” —Brian Mclaren, one of Time’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals”

    “An engaging writer with a keen eye… the author discovered a right-leaning political ideology informed by deference to capitalism, a weakness for foreign dictators and a fascination with the leadership techniques of Adolf Hitler.”—The Washington Post

    "The finest religion book of 2008, far and away." -- Tony Jones, author of The New Christians, on

    “It’s not possible to comprehend the entanglement of religion and politics in our country without reading The Family . . . Sharlet has done us all a favor.”—Kansas City Star

    “This is a gripping, utterly original narrative about an influential evangelical elite that few Americans even know exists. Jeff Sharlet’s fine reporting unveils a group whose history stretches from the corporate foes of the New Deal to the congressional lawmakers who gather each year at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Christian Right will never look the same again.” — Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: the Life of William Jennings Bryan and The Populist Persuasion: An American History

    ”Passionate, principled, and powerful.”—Bookforum

    May be the best book anyone has written about the politics of the Christian right.” – Minnesota Independent

    “Simply outstanding.” – Chattanooga Times Free Press

    “Deeply researched yet fast paced, moving easily from first person to third person and incident to overview, The Family is an exceptional piece of bookcraft…. Sharlet proffers one shred of hope—‘believers and unbelievers alike, all of us who love our neighbors more than we love power or empire or even the solace of certainty.’ Secular humanists can scoff if they like, but I’m here to testify that Sharlet is both more intelligent and better informed than most of them. If he believes that ‘believers and unbelievers alike’ fall into this sainted host, I believe him.” – Robert Christgau,

    “One of the most important books on American religion and politics to appear this year…. this is a subject that demanded unconventional reporting…. and historical legwork. To his credit, Sharlet ably accomplishes both, demonstrating both thorough research skills and elegant—at times, outright beautiful—prose.” – Chris Martin,

    “Sharlet’s storytelling is elegant, and his evocation of the mood of theologian John Edwards’s work is one of the most compelling this reviewer has ever read. Further, his analysis of what such seemingly mundane details as the wording of prayers reveal about the mindset of his subjects is perceptive. Sharlet has unearthed an occurrence that is all the more startling for its being hidden in plain view. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal (starred review)

    "Jeff Sharlet’s prodigiously researched text reminds us of conservatism’s abiding power. The book does for conservative Christianity what Greil Marcus did for punk in Lipstick Traces (1989): it establishes connections between disparate phenomena, thereby enabling fresh thinking about religious conservatism.... Sharlet touches on some of the “spectacles” that attract bloggers, but he contextualizes and analyzes them much more perceptively than is customary. Though one would like to see further explication of important categories like gender, this work contributes vividly to our understanding of Christian conservatism. While the tone is different from that of an average monograph, this work is original in its conception and articulation and is a fine contribution to the literature." --Jason C. Bivins, Journal of American History

    “I was once an insider’s insider within fundamentalism. Unequivocally: Sharlet knows what he’s talking about. He writes: ‘Our refusal to recognize the theocratic strand running throughout American history is as self-deceiving as fundamentalism’s insistence that the United States was created a Christian nation.’ Those who want to be un-deceived (and wildly entertained) must read this disturbing tour de force.” — Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back