The Family: Worse Than Christian Extremism

sharlet-the_family.jpgThe publication of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet first opened our eyes to an secretive world few had imagined. Right here in the U.S., something resembling a shadow government right out of a political thriller had been operating under our noses for decades. Powerful members of Congress from both parties have been meeting together and with assorted world leaders in prayer sessions led by anti-democratic extremists without our knowledge. We know "the Family" primarily thanks to the high-profile Republican sex scandals at the "C Street House," but I am discovering in the pages of Sharlet's book that what still hasn't received sufficient attention in the mainstream media is far more disturbing.

According to a post by Bruce Wilson (Huffington Post), the Family is essentially a Christian dominionist group. Sharlet's book confirms this to some degree but contains more than a few surprises. There is more than Christian extremism happening here, much more. What I am beginning to realize is that progressive, moderate, and even fairly conservative Christians have as much if not more to fear from the Family than we atheists. It is clear that some of what I wrote previously about this organization requires considerable expansion.

Who is the Family, and What Do They Want?

According to Sharlet, the Family is an intensely powerful, surprisingly well-connected group of men with a truly global reach. Publicly, they bring us the National Prayer Breakfast, an event which they use primarily as an opportunity to broker political networking. For example, one of the ways they have gained worldwide power is by arranging meetings at this event between foreign dignitaries and U.S. politicians.

And what do they want? Empire. This is an organization that is not primarily about Christianity; it is an organization primarily about acquiring the all-encompassing power we call empire. What I am learning in the pages of Sharlet's book is that even the Christian dominionism with which the group cloaks itself is secondary. In fact, it may be more of a means rather than an end.

Why Should Atheists Care?

All Americans who value democracy should be deeply concerned about this group and the unabashedly anti-democratic views they espouse. Sharlet explains repeatedly that one of the Family's heros, one of the people they have modeled themselves after, is none other than Adolph Hitler. That should tell you plenty.

It is not always easy to distinguish between what the Family really believes and what they find useful fictions. However, it is important for atheists to know that we (i.e., atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, etc.) are clearly identified as "the enemy." What this means is that many powerful members of Congress, Pentagon generals, and other men of influence consider us their enemy. Let that sink in for a moment.

What Christians Need to Know

The biggest surprise to me so far in Sharlet's book is that the Family rejects the "Christian" label. They talk about stripping Christianity and anything else that resembles religion aside and leaving nothing but Jesus. Sure, the "follower of Christ" label they prefer to "Christian" is in vogue right now in evangelical fundamentalist circles, but it appears that they mean something very different here.

Sharlet explains that the Family knows what Jesus wants of them because it is what they want. I'll say that again in a different way: whatever the leaders of the Family (e.g., Doug Coe) wants is what Jesus wants. This is the point where most Christians would object that it is supposed to be the other way around. Not so for the Family. Remember, this is primarily about their own power.

The manner in which they view Jesus and interpret his teachings bears absolutely no resemblance to anything I learned in my years in a mainstream Protestant church. None whatsoever. Their philosophy sounds far more Hitler than Jesus even though they do attempt to package it in the language of Christian extremism. I make no secret of having a rather negative attitude about religion in general and Christianity in particular, but I'm here to tell you loud and clearly, this is a true perversion of any Christianity I've ever known.

I'm going to keep reading because I feel that I must. I suspect additional posts will follow.