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[PDF/EPUB] The Family The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power Author Jeff Sharlet

Jeff Sharlet Ë 4 Download

S angry masses but its sophisticated elites Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith From that core Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power a family that thrives to this day In public they host Prayer Breakfasts; in private they preach a gospel of biblical capitalism military might and American empire Citing Hitler Lenin and Mao as leadership models the Family's current leader Doug Coe declares We work with power where we can build new power where we can'tSharlet's discoveries dramatically challenge. This book was read in March April 2013 It is a fascinating book chockfull of grand conspiracy theories that sound almost ridiculous unless one watches the news or reads up on what is actually happening in the worldJeff Sharlet is a better man than me As testament to either his objectivity as a journalist or his evolved sense of non judgmentalism Sharlet never once refers to the people he is writing about as fanatics lunatics nutjobs whackos Jesus freaks or insane Nor does he call them fascists bullies or creeps Many of these words and floated through my brain as I read Sharlet s phenomenally disturbing book The Family The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power which is very odd because ten years ago I may have actually sympathized with and related to the people about which Sharlet s book is writtenTen years ago I would have called myself a Born Again Christian and I probably would have said it if not with pride then without shame Today I have a hard time calling myself a Deist let alone a Christian not because I denounce the teachings of Christ on the contrary I try my best to live by them but because in my humble opinion a portion of the people who call themselves Christians are not I realize that this sounds extremely judgmental and presumptuous on my part but I can t help the way I feel Christianity as it is practiced by I would like to say a minority but I don t have any statistics on this nor do I think any truly ualitative statement can adeuately be made about this as it is my opinion based solely on observation and experience so I will simply say some has subverted the true lessons of Christ Sharlet seems to think this as well although he is a little elouent about it He is also a lot sympathetic towards the mostly men in the book many of whom were and I suspect still are friends of Sharlet when he was invited to live in the nondescript suburban house in Arlington Virginia called by its inhabitants Ivanwald This house is the central headuarters of the Family of Sharlet s title Also known as The Fellowship this group is comprised of the Washington power elite State Representatives Senators Judges lobbyists and yes Presidents who use the home as a kind of Christian commune Nonpartisan although Sharlet admits that there are far Republicans than Democrats and open to women although again Sharlet admits that there is only a handful of women involved the Family has been for decades an organization of Christ centered they do not like to call themselves Christians people of political clout who come together for prayer and spiritual guidance Charles W Colson the Nixon aideWatergate felon who converted to Christianity in prison and a respected member of the Family in 1979 once estimated the Family s strength at 20000 although the number of dedicated associates around the globe is much smaller around 350 as of 2006 p20 Looked at one way these devout men could appear to be a harmless selection of the creme de la creme of Washington DC elite One could almost respect and admire them and for the most part it seems Sharlet does Looked at another way however The Family is a frightening organization working within the shadows and under the guise of piety and religiosity bent on accumulation of power and world wide domination It may sound melodramatic and off the wall until one looks deeply at the history of this organization an organization of men who according to Sharlet consider themselves a core of men responsible for changing the world p 3 The History It s not a stretch to say that America is probably one of the most religious countries in the world Religion is after all one of the main reasons that settlers from England first arrived on this country s shores Sharlet writes America has been infused with religion since the day in 1630 when the Puritan John Winthrop preparing to cross the Atlantic to found the Massachussetts Bay Colony declared the New World the city upon a hill spoken of by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew p 2 The Pilgrims and our Founding Fathers spoke in the vocabulary of religion and their many decisions that helped shape this country were decisions weighed by their religious convictions Our earliest literature is the sermons of the famous fire and brimstone preacher John Edwards From him we see the embryo of American fundamentalism The fundamentalism of our colonial era as compared to the fundamentalism of today was however vastly different according to Sharlet American fundamentalism s original sentiments were as radically democratic in theory as they have become repressive in practice its dream not that of Christian theocracy but of a return to the first century of Christ worship before there was a thing called Christianity p 4 Arguably of course our colonial government was as theocratic as one can get but it lacked something that today s fundamentalists seem to have no lack of a lust for power over othersI have heard many Christians say that they oppose the concept of imposing their morality upon others and I believe many of them when they say that It s the ultra conservative right wing fundamentalists who I worry about They don t say it because they don t oppose it Their goal is to impose their morality on everyone and they aren t afraid to admit it Sharlet writes Both populists and elites within the Family call their attempts to control the lives of others evangelism p8 Whether it s an attempt to prevent women from having the choice of abortions or preventing gay couples from reaping the benefits of marriage Christian fundamentalists clearly want to set the rules and they cleverly attempt to do this using the Christ card If the Family had their way Sharlet implies abortion would be outlawed gay marriage would be outlawed homosexuality would be outlawed Divorce adultery pornography the list of things that they would most likely love to see abolished would be uite long So why does the rational minded liberal Christian and secular segments of the population not speak out One of the reasons is that very few people even know the Family exists not because they are secretive but simply because they do not talk about it The Family is Fight Club the first rule of the Family is Don t talk about the Family Second rule is Don t talk about the FamilyAs Sharlet explains This so called underground is not a conspiracy Rather it s a seventy year old movement of elite fundamentalism 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 p7 In simpler terms as the Family themselves describes in a confidential mission statement We desire to see a leadership led by God p 19 So who started this Family and why The answer begins with one man Abraham Veriede Known by most people as Abram Veriede was a Norwegian born preacher who arrived in this country right before the catastrophic effects of the Great Depression devastated this country Somewhat annoyed by what he saw as an effiminization of Christianity Abram longed for a faith made of sterner stuff Sharlet writes For nearly 2000 years Abram concluded Christianity that is the religion the rituals the stuff of men with their weak sinful minds had bent all its energies toward the poor the sick the starving The down and out Christianity gave them fishes when it could and hope when it had nothing else to offer But what good had it done What had been accomplished between Calvary and 1935 p 89 In Abram s mind the answer to that uestion was nothing Instead of preaching to the so called down and out Abram shifted his focus on people who could based on their own successes get things done men of industry and power the Carnegies and Rockefellers of the world This in essence was Abram s revelation To the big man went strength to the little man went need Only the big man was capable of mending the world p 89 Sharlet describes Abram s theology as a religion for the elite the up and out as he called them and called his trickle down faith the Idea and it was really the only idea he ever had p 91 Abram envisioned a world ruled by powerful men who were themselves ruled by Christ a perfect world in his opinion He coined the phrase new world order to describe this brave new world The uestions were where and when to begin Thankfully a dockworker strike in 1934 in San Francisco helped answer those uestions This was the spark that lit Abram s movement Elite fundamentalism took as its first challenge the destruction of militant labor Destruction was not the word Christians used however They called it cooperation p 108 Among the list of enemies of Abram s elite fundamentalists in those days were unions communists and Father Coughlin the popular radio priest from Detroit Michigan Coughlin was full of hatred for the capitalists who had lined their silk pockets Coughlin as much as or than the communists seemed like he might call for blood one day and soon p 115 This Abrams could not allow In Abram s worldview it was common people like Coughlin and the rest of the nation s poor who represented a blockade for the creation of Christ s Kingdom on Earth Money was the key something that the poor obviously lacked which therefore made them insignificant Ironically Money was like power Those who had it should not speak of it concern themselves with it acknowledge its existence as a factor To do so was worse than bad manners it was blasphemy an attempt to refute God s ordering of economic affairs p 115 Abram s theology clearly struck a chord in the minds of the rich men to whom he preached a group of men whom as Abram said did not want to be preached at p115 Who knew telling your audience exactly what they want to hear would work so well It wasn t long before Abram had his first key player Arthur Langlie A representative of the New Order of Cincinnatus a group of young businessmen who were opposed to FDR s New Deal Arthur Langlie became a city council member in Seattle in 1934 Langlie ran under a popular platform that had two solutions to economic malaise slash taxes and attack vice As councilman Langlie purged the city s police department He then turned his ax toward the fire department poor moral specimens and public school teachers indoctrinating the youth with godless notions p 118 Strange how times haven t changed much Eventually Langlie ran for and won the position of mayor Unions didn t stand a chance under Mayor Langlie Good government as Langlie called his platform of budget slashing and punishing moral rectitude trumped labor p 120 He promised to end political corruption but he didn t so much end corruption as legalize it Langlie wasn t opposed to a government organized around the interests of the greedy he just didn t want to have to break the law to serve them p 120 Graft and greed for the glory of God was good So Langlie accepted the constraints of democracy as he found them He did what business asked purged welfare rolls abolished guaranteed wage laws denounced Democrats as un American In 1942 he investigated the possibility of using martial law to suppress organized labor but when his advisors told him it would be unconstitutional he settled for ordinary strikebreaking He governed in other words as a right wing Republican p 122 After Langlie numerous other protegees and devotees of Abram began to surface around the country coming into positions of power One of those students was Henry Ford Abram took Ford under his wing who was naturally attracted to Abram s theology of biblical capitalism which was for Ford a brilliant marriage of two of Ford s interests the Gospel and fascism While Abram himself never uite adopted the language and spirit of fascism his theology was nevertheless conducive to some of fascism s attributes Nazi sympathizers like Ford Charles Lindbergh and Baron von der Rapp a former German nationalist and a Christian preacher were inevitably uite taken with Abram s fundamentalism Rapp taught that the poor with their demands for government services which he understood as a failure to trust that God would provide were the adversaries of the church But not through their own doing rather absent some modicum of prosperity they were too bitter to properly appreciate Christ s providence p 173 He went on to preach that God is not the God of ethics of morality God is great God made this order and chose its leaders p 175 Sadly this mindset God wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer has been carried over into the current fundamentalist worldview Power for its own sake is all that matters Perhaps this is illustrated best in the most powerful man currently in the Family Doug Coe David Kuo a former special assistant to the president during George W Bush s first term and author of Tempting Faith The Inside Story of a Political Seduction soon discovered that Bush may have talked the talk in regards to his faith but didn t really walk the walk In Kuo s book he recounts the story of how he and a few others transformed the Office of Faith Based Initiatives into the very Republican vote getting machine its critics had accused it of being from the beginning We laid out a plan whereby we would hold roundtable events for threatened incumbents with faith and community leaders he writes In 2002 those roundtables contributed to nineteen out of twenty victories in targeted races p 383 Disillusioned by his experience in the political arena with Bush and his fellow elite fundamentalists Bush by the way is a member of the Family as if there was ever any uestion Kuo uit his position after Bush s first term Kuo writes We were good people forced to run a sad charade to provide political cover to a White House that needed compassion and religion as political tools p 383 Embedded in that last statement though is the uestion Could they honestly call themselves good people As Kuo said The Fellowship s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp p 25 The Family according to Sharlet has wormed its way into so many coups and revolutions throughout the world resulting in millions of deaths all in the name of furthering the great cause of global Christian fundamentalist totalitarian rule Yet they are immune from prosecution and blame How is this possibleOne reason is the dedicated work of one man Doug Coe Coe was personally chosen by Abram to be his successor and he has been doing a phenomenal job ever since In 2005 Time magazine labeled Abram s successor Doug Coe the stealth persuader a term that might just as easily have fit his mentor p 91 92 D Michael Lindsay a Rice University sociologist said One in three of 360 evangelical elites interviewed mentioned Coe or the fellowship as an important influence Indeed there is no other organization like the Fellowship especially among religious groups in terms of its access or clout among the country s leadership p 25 Coe normally a uiet man who does not allow himself to be interviewed or even photographed that often has gone on record saying We work with power where we can build new power where we can t Among the many powers that the Family has worked with around the globe are dictators like Suharto and Duvalier vicious monsters notorious for their genocide but also their Christianity Coe remains unapologetic It is according to him and the Family all for the glory of God They can get away with it because there is nothing to tie the Family to these dictators Everything is done through private channels and no documentation exists That a group like the Family exists at all is terrifying disgusting but probably not that surprising That so few people know or even care is the shocking part Bewildering is the number of people who will probably read The Family and walk away thinking that it is ultimately a good thing what the Family is doing That is simply unforgivable Then again if I still considered myself a born again Christian I may have walked away from Sharlet s book with a much different take away message too

characters The Family The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

The Family The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

A journalist's penetrating look at the untold story of christian fundamentalism's most elite organization a self described invisible network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerfulThey are the Family fundamentalism's avant garde waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe They consider themselves the new chosen congressmen generals and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells to pray and plan for a leadership led by God to be won not by force but through uiet diplomacy Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington Virginia and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its wallsThe Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power not it. As Jeff Sharlet has been at pains to stress since The Family was published the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power is not a conspiracy Rather it is secret because it is discrete and because it has been overlooked by journalists and the secular writers of American history Abraham Vereide s name is familiar enough if you know modern evangelical history or read Christian books Billy Graham describes him as a remarkable man Corrie Ten Boom sought out his endorsement when she arrived in the USA after the war and Norman Grubb of the World Evangelisation Crusade wrote a popular biography for Zondervan in the 1960s but his political significance remains under appreciated and the motivation of his movement unscrutinized For Sharlet Vereide stood at the vanguard of an elite fundamentalism that shaped the last half century of American and world politics in ways only now becoming visible This elite fundamentalism in contrast to the vulgarity of televangelists and mass revivalists works uietly behind the scenes to bring together decision makers and leaders in private fellowship and prayer under a simple or vacuous creed of Jesus Plus Nothing In public we see the Prayer Breakfasts and in 2007 Al Gore s name dropping of Vereide s successor Doug Coe in debate with James Inhofe but in private there are prayer cells and retreat houses where Family theology facilitates a back channel of influence and networking both in the USA and abroadThe Family is divided into three sections in Part One Sharlet sets the scene with his own encounter with the Family before setting off on a background excursion into American revivalism briefly exploring the worlds of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney Sharlet s approach to these historical subjects is strangely and eccentrically gothic the straight historian may perhaps be annoyed by Sharlet s dark impressions of Edwards watching an anorexic starve to death or the way he portrays Finney s forest grotto religious experience as something almost Lovecraftian but it makes for engaging read than a the usual potted biography we might find in any general history Throughout the book Sharlet s research is interspersed with personal reflections and anecdotes allusive references striking turns of phrase and unexpected diversions depending on your temperament or your reason for reading the book you will find this thought provoking and original or slightly irritatingPart Two tells the actual story of the Family and is informed by material which Sharlet found in the organisation s archives before public access was recently withdrawn We learn how Vereide a Norwegian immigrant who became an executive with Goodwill Industries in Seattle responded to labour conflict in his adoptive city with a plan backed by local businessmen Walter Douglass and William St Clair to use the Bible as blueprint to take back the USA from irreligion and the communist threat This meant a cooperative model of management labour relations in which labour would understand its need to behave responsibly Sharlet notes Vereide s links to Frank Buchman who was thinking along similar lines Sharlet describes Buchman a huckster which I think is unfair his impression is taken from Tom Driberg s polemical writing against Buchman s Moral Re Armament and there is no reference to Garth Lean s counter balancing sympathetic but serious biographyVereide s aim would be achieved by ministering to the up and out bringing Christ to elites As this new Fellowship the earlier name of the Family developed eventually reaching the elites of Washington DC Vereide s associations became murkier Vereide had already made links with Henry Ford who was trying to shake off his reputation for anti Semitism and Charles Lindbergh became the leader of a Fellowship prayer group Merwin K Hart a fascist sympathizer from New York provided further Fellowship members while a KKK Senator named Ralph Brewster helped Vereide run prayer meetings at the Hotel Willard in 1942 The only figure from organised labour was James Duncan whose main concern was stopping black Americans from joining the workforce at Boeing Post war Vereide lobbied on behalf of Germans with uestionable Nazi era pasts Funding for Vereide eventually came from the William Volker fund which also subsidised publication of The Road to Serfdom and the grim theonomy of Rousas Rushdoony Sharlet is particularly troubled by Fellowship complicity with Suharto s bloodletting in Indonesia Vereide described Suharto s coup as a spiritual revolution and Indonesia went on to develop its own Prayer BreakfastIn the post Vereide era under the direction of Doug Coe the Fellowship chose to submerge as its influence became pervasive with politicians and dictators from around the world meeting discretely in a Fellowship property in Washington DC Sharlet tells us that as his interest in the group developed he wrote an article on the subject for Harper s in 2003 he came under surveillance Coe himself has a public profile most famously he features in Charles Colson s autobiography one of those as told to John and Elizabeth Sherrill bestsellers Born Again playing a central role in bringing Colson to faith during the Watergate scandal and Sharlet describes Colson as now being one of the leading theorists of American fundamentalism The purpose of the original American Prayer Breakfast Sharlet shrewdly notes was to lop oft the left end of the political spectrum and cauterize the wound and today the Family enjoys influence across the political establishment in America it is far bigger than the Religious Right and Hillary Clinton is a friendIn Part Three Sharlet looks at what he calls the Popular Front the broad network of popular conservative evangelicalism megachurches and home churches neo Pentecostal spiritual warfare anti abortion activists approaches to sexuality and Bush s Office of Faith Based Initiatives The Family largely disappears from view in this section and instead we have the familiar topic of how evangelicals in the Bush years developed and enjoyed access to power only in the last instance to be used for electoral gain Underlying this apparent diversion is Sharlet s interest in the how elite and popular fundamentalism intertwines or contrastsBut what is the elite fundamentalism which inspired Vereide and the Fellowship Sharlet calls it the Idea a flexible faith for an expanding American empire which is so lacking in content that even the Muslim General Suharto can come on board Vereide valued submission to power rather than belief and this concern with power Sharlet suggests motivates the Family s strategy One aspect of Sharlet s research which provoked particular journalistic comment is the incredibly crass way in which Family leaders speak in awe of the leadership abilities of Hitler Stalin and Mao Of course these men are reviled as evil but each one in a grossly simplistic reading of history came from nowhere and with the help of a small group of associates managed to change the world Apparently they failed because their purpose was bad not because the whole idea of realising a vision through putting trust in big men inevitably leads to disaster as Vereide put it today is the age of minority control This control is extended through capitalism Vereide s British biographer Norman Grubb saw capitalism as a wedge to spread Christ abroad and exerted through management Sharlet traces the line from Bruce Barton s Babbitt cult of business friendly Christianity through to Rick Warren s Purpose Driven time management manual itself inspired by management guru Peter Drucker One critic of the Family Sharlet meets complains of a moral vacuum Although Sharlet avoids old school academic theorising we can detect the spectre not of Marx but of WeberSharlet is not the first to detect power as the operative motive in fundamentalism Martyn Percy s Words Wonder and Power explores the concept as it relates to leadership in neo Pentecostalism this book also provides a rationale for using the term fundamentalist in a general way a gripe that Randall Balmer has made against Sharlet The links between American political elites and fundamentalism also reminded me of Colby and Dennette s doomed epic Thy Will Be Done Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil which although a great read fails to make a conclusive and direct connection in than 900 pagesThe Family highlights many areas that deserve further research and the seam that Sharlet has struck is far from completely excavated what exactly was the role of the Twelve a group which Vereide joined Why did missionaries stay at the Zurich home of Alfred Hirs who ran the Bank of Switzerland and link up with Baron Von Gienanth Who exactly was Wallace Haines who stood in for Vereide in Europe when Vereide was ill and who also features briefly in Stewart Dinnen s biography of Norman Grubb What did the Havana prayer cell get up to Many clues remain unpondered in archives in long out of print popular Christian paperbacks a genre often overlooked and in private reminiscences And of course there is one uestion which Sharlet has asked but which we can never have a full answer to what exactly is the scope of the Family today

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Conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal the waging of the cold war and the no holds barred economics of globalization The uestion Sharlet believes we must ask is not What do fundamentalists want but What have they already donePart history part investigative journalism The Family is a compelling account of how fundamentalism came to be interwoven with American power a story that stretches from the religious revivals that have shaken this nation from its beginning to fundamentalism's new frontiers No other book about the right has exposed the Family or revealed its far reaching impact on democracy and no future reckoning of American fundamentalism will be able to ignore. The book is heavy going at times and I felt as if I should have had a highlighter in hand to aid myself in remembering all the names and dates The overall result is a powerful journalistic expos that is an eye opening glimpse into backroom dealings of Washington and beyond I have always found myself on the left in the political spectrum to the left than mainstream Democrats so I am not surprised to read about America s manipulation of foreign governments but I was surprised to learn of the direct influence of this one particular Christian organization Many well known politicians have directly benefited from and helped to push the agenda of the Family including Tom Delay John Ashcroft and others It was interesting to read of the involvement of such Democrats as Sen Bill Nelson and Hillary Clinton but as Sharlet points out the Family is concerned with one s total subservience to the power of Jesus as interpreted by the hierarchy of the Family than their particular political party Everyone in power becomes useful when they give themselves over to the ideas embodied by the free market Christian warrior that is idealized by the founders of the Family


10 thoughts on “The Family The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

  1. says:

    This is a must read In the same way that Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine mapped out a process that has been going on in plain sight for a long time Jeff Sharlet shows us a process that has been going on stealthily for many many years As the Shock Doctrine sheds light on an appalling abuse of power so The Family sheds light on some very creepy goings on primarily at home The notion one might have in approaching The Family is that it is p

  2. says:

    This book was given to me by my father in law a retired Church of England minister who had numerous clashes in his career with narrow minded Christians in and out of the Church hierarchy He has understandable concerns about what he reads about the Religious Right in the US and given the book's uniformly excellent reviews in Australia he gave me Sharlet's THE FAMILY I was riveted from the first chapter Sharlet w

  3. says:

    As Jeff Sharlet has been at pains to stress since The Family was published the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power is not a

  4. says:

    This book was read in March April 2013 It is a fascinating book chockfull of grand conspiracy theories that sound almost ridiculous unless one watches the news or reads up on what is actually happening in the worldJeff Sharlet is a better man than me As testament to either his objectivity as a journalist or his evolved sense of non judgmentalism Sharlet never once refers to the people he is writing about as “fanatics

  5. says:

    3 for readability; 5 for relevance The Family is known to most Beltway politicos and in the corridors of political powerhouses throughout the world Known well but little understood This is an areligious ultra conservative tightly knit network of American political and economic power that operates on the basis of a single premise i

  6. says:

    The family a bunch of guys that build prayer cells around powerful politicians big deal who cares? Let them do what they want to doThe fact that they want to have their own little group and meet and pray is no big deal But it becomes a big deal when their belief system begins infringing on politics not only in ou

  7. says:

    The book is heavy going at times and I felt as if I should have had a highlighter in hand to aid myself in remembering all the names

  8. says:

    This is the product of years of journalistic research about and involvement in American fundamentalism as it pertains to US politics and the 'culture wars' of today The author's thesis is that Christianity founded as it i

  9. says:

    I'd been looking for some light reading something uick and thought this was an expansion of Sharlet's 2003 article on Ivanwald As I in

  10. says:

    I would have given this 3 stars if only it were titled slightly differently This book is less about The Family a seemingly innocuous organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that actually has deep political influence within the Republican party and even among some Democrats as much as it is an analysis of Christian fundament

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Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.