July 22, 2009

Christian Extremism in America: The Family

I had heard of the secretive Christian extremist organization known as "the Family" before the latest high-profile Republican sex scandals hit the news. However, I did not know much about the group. In fact, all I had really heard was that they were a well-connected Christian dominionist organization in the Washington D.C. area. I still do not know very much about them, but I have to say that what I've been learning in the aftermath of the Ensign, Sanford, and Pickering scandals has been more than a little concerning. I hope that more information about the group emerges, so much information that they are essentially neutered. After all, it strikes me as nearly impossible to view this group as anything less than a serious threat to democracy.

Bruce Wilson has an informative post on the Family over at Huffington Post, and as much as I hate the thought of relying on them as a source of information on any subject, it seems like a reasonable place to start because he assembles information from a variety of reputable sources. Religion Dispatches also has some good information on the Family. Here are some details about the group worth knowing:
  • The Family is the oldest conservative Christian organization in Washington D.C.
  • The Family runs (but does not own) the notorious "C Street House" as a church to provide assorted politicians with inexpensive living space, Christian bible study, and "spiritual counseling."
  • "C Street House" is owned by an organization, Youth With a Mission D.C., headed by Loren Cunningham, a man with a vision for worldwide Christian dominion. Cunningham links to Campus Crusade for Christ and Christian Embassy, a D.C.-based ministry that tries to convert Pentagon officials.
  • The Family is responsible for the annual National Prayer Breakfasts and runs assorted prayer groups in which both Republican and Democratic members of Congress participate.
  • According to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (added to my to-read list), the Family is "committed to a political theology that views democracy as a form of secular humanism, to which they're deeply opposed."
It does not sound to me like members of the Family, including the politicians who continue to associate with them, have much interest in democracy. If this group was not on your radar before, I suggest they should be now.
The kingdom of God that’s to be built here on earth, Family organizers are fond of saying, is not a democracy.
- Jeff Sharlet

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