More on C Street: Is It a “Shadowy Multi-National Government?”

24 07 2009

The plot thickens?

“The bottom line here is that [Dem rep. from Michigan Bart] Stupak is either being dishonest or confessing dangerous ignorance,” [Jeff] Sharlet said.

. . .Sharlet’s book describes The Family as a kind of shadow multi-national government, operating in secret through small prayer groups called “cells” and modeled after the organization of mafia and terrorist groups. Doug Coe, the leader of the group, frequently refers to the leadership lessons of Hitler and the example of the mafia as a model for how the group operates.

How far-reaching is The Family’s influence? David Kuo, a high-ranking official in the Bush administration who oversaw the White House’s office of faith-based initiatives, wrote in a recent book: “The Fellowship’s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp.”

See also:
Um, Holy Mackerel?

Rick Warren v. the IRS: Guess Who’s More Powerful?

It’s time to take political faith seriously. And if doing so strikes you as invasive, unseemly, and irrelevant to the job the candidates are seeking -– well, then, it’s really time to take faith seriously, including its uses and abuses in a democracy where piety and cynicism have long been comfortable companions.



6 responses

24 07 2009
Mike Licht

The Congressional Recess is coming. Don’t forget to sign up for the Fellowship’s Vacation Bible School.


24 07 2009

I knew there was something about VBS not for us — thanks MIke.
Sharlet in Salon

Since we’re also talking today about Professor Gates being arrested, I like your post here too.

29 07 2009

My Borders bookstore email today included a Q&A with Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power ” which as you know, I’ve read and find important:

What is the Family?

Jeff Sharlet: The Family is the oldest and most influential Christian conservative group in Washington. But they’re not interested in saving souls; they believe God has given them a mission to serve elite politicians. David Kuo, former special assistant to George W. Bush, calls them “the most powerful group in Washington that nobody knows.” But “Christian” is a bit of a misnomer. Although the group sometimes refers to itself as “the Christian mafia,” its leaders explicitly reject the label “Christian” all together. They say they follow Jesus, but they offer as examples of strong leadership men such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Whereas most Christians read the New Testament as a message of humility and love, they see it as a book about power.

How did you first learn of this secretive organization and their political influence?

JS: Shortly after 9/11, a friend asked me to meet with her brother, who was visiting New York City, he said, to “survey the ruins of secularism.” She was worried he’d joined a cult. As evidence that he hadn’t, he spoke of the prominent politicians involved, and invited me to come see for myself. I ended up spending nearly a month with the group.

How were you able to infiltrate the Family to research and report on them for you book?

JS: I knocked on the front door. As a journalist, I don’t make up secret identities or wear hidden cameras. I tell people who I am and try to listen when they explain who they are. The Family was a special case, because you only get in by invitation. But once you’re invited, they assume you’re there because God wanted you there. That’s a powerful assumption—it allows them to see you as what they want you to be.

Who are the Senators and Representatives currently associated with the Family?

JS: Besides [Sam] Brownback, some prominent newsmakers of late include Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Senator John Ensign (R., Nevada), whom I met while he was living at the Family’s C Street House, a former convent they registered as a church and which they use to provide congressmen with housing and instruction in their “worldview.” Other residents of the house include Senator Jim DeMint (R., South Carolina), Senator Tom Coburn (R., Oklahoma), and Rep. Zach Wamp (R., Tennessee).

Most of the Family-linked politicians are Republican—there’s also Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia, Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Representative Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Representative Anders Crenshaw of Florida, and more—but there have historically always been a number of conservative Democrats that allow the Family to claim a bipartisan approach.

How influential is Doug Coe, the leader of the Family?

JS: When Time magazine compiled its list of the 25 most powerful evangelicals, they asked me for recommendations. I suggested Coe. The reporter wasn’t familiar with him. I said, “Call some congressmen and ask who’s powerful. If you don’t hear Coe’s name, don’t include him.” Time put him at #4 on the list, under the headline, “The Stealth Persuader.” George Bush, Sr., once praised him for his “quiet diplomacy.” Ronald Reagan said he’d like to say more about Coe’s work, “but it’s working precisely because it’s private.”

What are the basic principles and beliefs that the members of the Family practice and preach?

JS: Today, the Family’s beliefs represent a kind of dumbed-down Calvinism. Like Calvin, they believe that God chooses who’s saved and who’s not without respect for action. But they go further. Family leaders have declared themselves a “new chosen,” on the principle that somehow the Jews are no longer God’s people. David Coe, Doug Coe’s son—and in the news lately as Senator Ensign’s spiritual advisor—once illustrated this chosenness for me and some of the men in the Family by saying to one of them, “let’s say I hear you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” The Family man, a young guy, said that Coe would think that he was awful. But Coe said he wouldn’t; because, as a Family man, he was chosen.

When you’re chosen, the normal rules don’t apply. You’re literally above morality, which the inner circle of the Family views as secular construct. What matters most is not what’s right and wrong—it’s obedience.

How was the Family involved in both the recent Mark Sanford and John Ensign scandals?

JS: Well, as I say, they helped keep the affairs quiet. But more importantly, they provide pious but self-serving justifications for their favored politicians to stay in power.

Sanford, explaining his decision to remain in power despite his own past declaration that Bill Clinton should resign for his affair, compared himself to King David—a core teaching of the Family, used to convey the idea that a politician has been chosen for power not by the people but by God.

According to allegations made by the former friend Senator Ensign cuckolded, himself a devout Christian, the Family recommended that Ensign give the mistress money to go away. Ensign’s wealthy parents did so, quietly handing over $96,000 to the mistress’s family, in addition to a possibly illegal $25,000 severance package presented to the mistress.

Why is the C Street House considered a church?

JS: Because the Family registered it as one. That makes this extremely valuable property tax-exempt. The irony is that the Family actually doesn’t like church. When I visited the C Street House during my time with the Family, the woman who oversaw the house whispered to me that Doug Coe “hates church.” Church is public; the Family’s religion takes place behind closed doors.

With these recent scandals revealed, what do you think the future of the Family and the C Street House will be?

JS: The Family has endured for three quarters of a century precisely because they’ve kept a low profile, never let themselves get too entrenched with one political faction and stayed quiet when they came under scrutiny, as they did when their role in a series of scandals in the early ’70s came to light. I don’t think they’re going to close up shop because of this.

But, if they’re smart, they will shut down the C Street House—and open up the same kind of operation under a different name. As David Coe told me when I lived with the Family, that’s been their method for decades. That’s why they endure, and why they play a more powerful role in American politics than any of their more public Christian Right allies.

25 02 2010
Blackwater, Google and Whales, Oh My « Cocking A Snook!

[…] international blackhats like Blackwater and the Mount Olympus-scaled, orgy-indulging, gay-executing Family aka Fellowship as tax-exempt business of god, or even self-styled don’t-be-evil good-citizen Google. If it has to monitor every video […]

26 08 2011
Asking Candidates About Their Faith (and Extraterrestrial) Beliefs « Cocking A Snook!

[…] been effectively manipulated into thinking it serves democracy NOT to ask, rather than to ask. Sharlet’s book describes The Family as a kind of shadow multi-national government, operating in se… Doug Coe, the leader of the group, frequently refers to the leadership lessons of Hitler and the […]

8 10 2011
What’s in the Word “Cult” Used By “Christians”? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] More on C Street: Is It a Shadowy Multi-National Government? […]

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