All in The Family: Sanford, Palin, Ensign, et al
Prior to the Sanford and Ensign scandals, the Fellowship Foundation, aka “The Family,” was one of Washington’s best-kept secrets, their meeting house on C-Street being a place where, for decades, our elected officials– from governors to congressmen to senators — have met to hammer out politics, policy and business on the anvil of God, a place where the most powerful men in our country:
“… revealed the most intimate details of their desires, failings, ambitions. They talked about lust, anger and infidelities, the more shameful the better — since the goal was to break one’s own will. The abolition of self; to become nothing but a vessel so that one could be used by God. They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls “Jesus plus nothing” — a government led by Christ’s will alone. In the future envisioned by Coe, everything — sex and taxes, war and the price of oil — will be decided upon not according to democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the anointed few. — Rolling Stone, 2006: “God’s Senator: Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback” by Jeff Sharlet
The Best Place to Hide an Elephant
The Family’s role in national politics has long been embraced by politicians on both sides of the aisle: from Republican presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H. Bush and George W. Bush, to Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama — not to mention the scores of presidential candidates, senators, congressmen and governors over the past 75 years (see lists at bottom of post). It is therefore nothing short of remarkable that — until Mark Sanford’s recent mention of the C-Street house during his adultery confession — most people had never heard of the Fellowship, a secret Christian organization that is as radical as it is powerful, earning it the moniker, “The Christian Mafia,” a name used by members and non-members alike.
The group’s secrecy has been due, in great part, to a 1968 memo sent out by its leader, Doug Coe, who called on its members to “submerge” The Family’s public image so that — simply put — its political, business and religious leaders could more effectively do God’s work, invisible to the distraction of media scrutiny.
The Family was founded in 1935 in response to FDR’s New Deal — but more specifically, in response to a prophesy received by the group’s founder, Abraham Vereide, during the Great Depression. According to the account given by Jeff Sharlet (author of the recently published book on the Fellowship, titled, “Family: Fundamentalism, Friends in High Places”) Abraham Vereide started the group after God reportedly spoke to him, telling him that the Great Depression was a punishment from God — the result of man’s disobedience to God’s law.
In the early days, the Fellowship’s focus was toward anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-union, anti-Jew, anti-New Deal, pro-Nazi causes. This seemingly discordant list of agendas was married toward a singular goal, which was God’s calling: to serve as the invisible hand by which God would touch the hearts of leaders, so that they may spread spread capitalism and free markets throughout the world. Just as God had punished man through the Great Depression, God would reward men who spread free markets and capitalism throughout the world.
Much as Vereide’s prophesy compelled him to blaze a path toward what has been called Biblical Capitalism, the Fellowship’s mission has never been about money, per se, nor even about religion. While its members see themselves as answering God’s call, their hands-on mission is to pave the way for the “chosen ones” — those particular political, business and religious leaders to whom God has revealed himself. These leaders comprise the network of what the Fellowship, itself, terms “cells”:
Communists use cells as their basic structure. The mafia operates like this, and the basic unit of the Marine Corps is the four-man squad. Hitler, Lenin and many others understood the power of a small group of people.” from the Doug Coe, in a Fellowship document titled “Thoughts on a Core Group.”
The nature of The Family’s mission was described in Jeff Sharlet’s the 2006 Rolling Stone article “God’s Senator: Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback” in which he described the cells as:
“God-led” cells comprising senators and generals, corporate executives and preachers. Vereide believed that the cells — God’s chosen, appointed to power — could construct a Kingdom of God on earth with Washington as its capital. They would do so “behind the scenes,” lest they be accused of pride or a hunger for power, and “beyond the din of vox populi,” which is to say, outside the bounds of democracy.
Vereide had a particular aversion to government regulation of his day (e.g. the banking regulations FDR put into place during the Great Depression). According to Vereide, laws and regulations interfered with a believer’s ability to freely do right by God. Big Government was the enemy, which Christian fundamentalists hoped to undermine by taking over the key sectors of society: politics, government, education and media. Vereide’s vision has rippled down through the ages, his words echoed in the speeches of politicians from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin. Today, we have Vereide’s vision to thank for the trickle-down economics, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the faith-based initiatives that have driven our economy into the ditch.
Into the White House, Through the Back Door
The Fellowship’s first effort on the national stage was to establish a National Prayer Breakfast in the White House. Through this, they sought to annually consecrecate the United States to Jesus, compelling America toward the godly nation they envisioned. Both Roosevelt and Truman rejected the Prayer Breakfast as a blatant violation of church and state. In 1953, however, President Eisenhower capitulated, under pressure to return a political favor he owed to Kansas Senator Frank Carlson, a Family member who, at a 1955 meeting of the Fellowship, declared the group’s mission to be “Worldwide Spiritual Offensive,” a vision of manly Christianity dedicated to the expansion of American power as a means of spreading the gospel.
Thus, the National Prayer Breakfast became an American institution.
Today, 56 years later, most people assume that the National Prayer Breakfast originates from the White House, when in fact is it organized by the Fellowship, under the leadership of a man named Doug Coe who is not a minister but is, by some people’s estimation, one of the most powerful religious figures in the country, as well as one of the most powerful men in Washington.
They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls “Jesus plus nothing” — a government led by Christ’s will alone. In the future envisioned by Coe, everything — sex and taxes, war and the price of oil — will be decided upon not according to democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the anointed few. It’s a good old boy’s club blessed by God.
Doug Coe, like The Family, was unknown to most Americans until the Sanford & Ensign adultery scandals catapulted Coe back into the evening news. Back? Fact is, the “invisible hand” of Doug Coe was a real presence during the 2008 presidential election, earning brief noteriety for one of earlier speeches (see video below) in which he praised the leadership methods of Hitler, Lenin and Mao.
Watching this footage, one can’t help but wonder: What sort of man would present the strengths and commitment of leaders like Hitler, Goebbler and Hemmler as not only worthy of emulation, but of being Christ-like? More to the point: Who, exactly, would embrace such a man? It depends on whom you ask — and, to some extent, when you ask.
Comparing Hillary Clinton’s timeline from the video, we see her describing Doug Coe in 2003 as:
“A souce of strength and friendship…. a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God.”
In June 2007, while explaining how her faith had gotten her through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Hillary spoke of The Family as “an extended faith family” that came to her aid, and desribed them as:
…. people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me.
During the 2008 primaries, however, people “close to” Hillary (responding to questions about her assocation with The Family and Doug Coe) said:
She does not consider him one of her leading spiritual advisors, has never contributed to his group and is not a member…. He is not her minister.
Invisible or not, Hillary’s connection with The Family — like any politician — is not simply a matter of faith. It is a matter of political viability. It is about power.
Under Reagan, Fellowship cells quietly arranged meetings between administration officials and leaders of Salvadoran death squads, and helped funnel military support to Siad Barre, the brutal dictator of Somalia, who belonged to a prayer cell of American senators and generals. . It is, too, why the founders of our nation drew an emphatic line in our laws to preserve the separation of church and state. It is the reason that author Jeff Sharlett said that James Madison — seeing our country returning to rule by divine right, an anathema to democracy — would be rolling over in his grave.
C-Street Family Values
While The Family is based at the C-Street house, the building itself is actually owned by an organization called Youth With a Mission (YWAM), a group that was also founded in the wake of a vision from God. Coincidentally or not, The Family’s mission is strikingly similar, if not identical to YWAM’s mission:
The truth about Doug Coe and The Family is, perhaps, best understood not by people of faith, but by those who hold a somewhat cynical view of the relationship between power, money and human nature. How else to explain the common bond that draws together such a diverse global network of people: End-Times evangelical factions and cults that stand — side-by-side under same umbrella — with U.S. presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, industry moguls, third-world dictators and some of the most powerful lobbyists in the world?
Over its 75-year history, the Fellowship has become — like any fraternal order — an exclusive club that can make or break a man’s career, as its members curry automatic favor simply by virtue of their association with the organization. Even as — unlike, say, the Klan — the Fellowship does not require an oath of loyalty, membership dues, robes or secret handshakes, its members know who is (and who is not) part of the fold. Their individual religious affiliations are of no import, nor is their level of active participation in “God’s work.” All of the members of The Family — the active and passive alike — ultimately contribute to the group’s mission: to spread capitalism, free markets and Christianity around the globe, per God’s law, so that, come the apocalypse, His kingdom will be ready.
It took some time — 56 years, to be exact — of our politicians turning a blind eye to the separation of church and state to give birth to the monster we have today: the increasing rule of our country by the political-spiritual incestuousness of a group called The Family, whose National Prayer Breakfast — the jewel in their crown — has grown to be one the biggest lobbyist events of the year. Business moguls, politicians, dictators and lobbyists with suitcases full of money flock from around the world, gathering in Washington, where deals are cemented through the invisible handshakes of the Fellowship — wedding power, money, politics and, ultimately, the fulfillment of God’s calling 75 years ago to a man named Abraham Vereide.
Enter Sarah Palin.
It can be said that Sarah Palin and Doug Coe were lucky to have dodged the media bullet in the wake of her nomination to the McCain ticket. After all, it was the The Family that put here there, through John McCain, via the invisible hand of the Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham). That McCain was — in his desperate effort to romance the religious Right — little more than a hapless puppet to the greater cause of fulfilling God’s call was of no import to the Family. Nor, apparently, to John McCain. The important thing, in the eyes of The Family, was that Sarah Palin had received God’s calling. She’d proved this in the months leading up to her nomination, through her seemingly illogical, wholesale firing of officials throughout Alaska, who were replaced with Family. She also proved it through her work and prayer over the Alaska pipeline, and through her affiliations with Family-friendly religious causes in Alaska.
God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that. — Sarah Palin, speaking before the Masters Commission graduates at the Wasilla Assembly of God in June 2008.
Sarah’s creative license with ethics and the laws of the land (just as with Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. John Ensign) merely serve as evidence to The Fellowship that she is one of the “chosen ones.” Like King David, Hitler, Lenin and the other “chosen ones” Doug Coe conjures in his speeches, Sarah Palin is one of those elite few who, being called by God, are not expected to comply with man-made ethics and laws.
The tragedy for all of us is not just that Sarah Palin believes this, herself, but that there exists a national and global network of Family members who — regardless of whether their goal is money, power, political capital or answering God’s call — are equally dismissive of man-made ethics and laws. As such, they will do whatever it takes to please or, at the very least, not offend The Family — up to and including paving Sarah’s path to the presidency.
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. — Denis Diderot French (1713-1784)philosopher, and man of letters, the chief editor of the L’Encyclopédie, one of the principal literary monuments of the Age of Enlightenment
For more information:
Wall Street Journal: The GOP Loves the Heartland to Death — “It tells us something about Sarah Palin’s homage to small-town America, delivered to an enthusiastic GOP convention last week, that she chose to fire it up with an unsourced quotation from the all-time champion of fake populism, the belligerent right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler….”
Religion Dispatches: This is Not a Religion Column: Sarah Palin, American (by Jeff Sharlet)– “Small Town Spirituality, Big City Hate: For those with ears to hear it, Sarah Palin’s speeches echoed the work of Westbrook Pegler, a mid-century Rush Limbaugh, and then some….”
Religion Dispatches: This is Not a Religion Column: Biblical Capitalism (by Jeff Sharlet) “The roots of the economic crisis tap directly into a movement within American fundamentalism. Much has been made of Palin’s Pentecostalism but her links to The Family go unnoticed….”
Religion Dispatches: RDRoundtable: Welcome to “The Family” Is an “aggressively anti-democratic” Christian movement quietly steering us toward a “theocentric” state? Three scholars discuss The Family with the author. Sparks fly.
Political Research: Palin Quotes Domestic Nazi Westbrook Pegler [This page includes many hard-to-find quotes from Westbrook Pegler]
Mother Jones: Hillary’s Prayer: Hillary Clinton’s Religion & Politics “For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of a secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill. Is she triangulating—or living her faith?…”
The Nation: Hillary’s Nasty Pastorate “There’s a reason Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she’s a lot more vulnerable than Obama….”
NPR: Family: Fundamentalism, Friends in High Places — [Be sure to listen to the radio broadcast of this story via a link on the same page].
Billy Graham Center Archives: Records of the Fellowship Foundation
Insider Magazine: EXPOSÉ: The Christian Mafia — Where Those Who Now Run the U.S. Government Came From and Where They Are Taking Us — [An excellent, well-researched paper that goes deep into the bowels of the history and politics of the C-Street Fellowship, and includes comprehensive lists of past and current members, residents and affiliates.]