July 5, 2010

Should You Read The Family?

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American PowerI finished The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power last week, so I thought I should share my overall impressions of a book likely to be of great interests to atheists in the U.S. The Family, written by Jeff Sharlet, describes the secretive Christian extremist organization that brings us the National Prayer Breakfast and became infamous last year during a number of sex scandals involving Republican members of Congress living at their house on C Street. This summed up most of what I knew about the Family before Sharlet hit the talk show circuit to promote his book. I would then learn that Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and other prominent Democrats had been linked to the Family too.

What I did not know until I begin reading the book was how much worse this organization was than had been depicted in the news media. After finishing the first few chapters, I wrote "The Family: Worse Than Christian Extremism," and now that I've finished, I realize how perfect a title this was. In fact, that post holds up quite well as a description of what the entire book is about.

Should You Read The Family?

Probably. But I want to make sure you know what you're in for. Sharlet seems far more interested in providing an exhaustive account of the history of the Family and how they came to be than he does uncovering what they're up to presently. This is not necessarily a criticism, but I was much less interested in a lot of this content. He does reveal their disturbing philosophy, the extent of their power, and the global reach they enjoy. He does name names of many members in Congress on both sides of the political aisle. He provides most of what the reader is seeking, but does not do so in a very accessible way.

Sharlet's book is thoroughly researched but not particularly well written. His writing style is overly dense - not in a complex way but in the way of using more words than necessary to tell his story. I found myself repeatedly wanting to edit the book, cutting out entire paragraphs. If you value clear and concise writing, you'll be annoyed by much of this book. There are plenty of gems here, but too much digging is required to uncover them.

There were many times when I became so engrossed in reading that I lost all track of time; however, there were at least as many where I became conscious of the sense that finishing this book was going to be a chore. The friend who gave me the book didn't have the patience to finish it, and I can empathize. But in the end, I did find the experience worthwhile.


Christians Should Read This Book

As I said in my previous post, I really wish liberal to moderate American Christians who belong to mainstream Protestant denominations would read The Family. They would be horrified at what is being done to pervert their religion by an elite class. I would hope that they would organize to expel any member of Congress with ties to this organization, and I would gladly join them in such an effort.

Sadly, I realize that too few Christians will read the Family because they will mistake it for an attack on their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not an anti-religion book in the slightest. It is an eye-opening examination of an anti-democratic movement of elites, cloaked in the garb of Christian extremism, and determine to obtain power by any means necessary.

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