Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Family:
An Intimate Look at Snakes Fornicating

by Pa Rock
Defender of the Wall

Those who know me well understand the importance that reading plays in my life. Some people will argue that you are what you eat, but I have always subscribed to the notion that you are nothing more than the sum total of what you allow into your mind, whether that is a lifetime of sitcoms and soap operas, a laser focus on some religious manual, or the works of the world's greatest thinkers and imaginators.

I have a book by the bed (currently 2666 by Roberto Bolano), a periodical in the car for reading before work and during lunch (the current edition of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine), and often something waiting on the couch as well (right now it is the first three volumes of the Foxfire Collection by Eliot Wiggington and his students). My sons, who drag my library around each time that I move, can attest that I have enough reading matter to keep up this pace for another century or two, whether I buy any new books or not - which I tend to invariably do!

One of my favorite genres is horror. I am well steeped in H.P. Lovecraft, and have more than a passing knowledge of Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Poppy Z. Brite. Recently, however, I have finished a book that was far more sinister and frightening than anything ever imagined by those professional horror scribes. The book, The Family by Jeff Sharlet, is a well researched look at one of the most secretive and influential organizations at work in America today, a right-wing religious group whose ultimate goal is to tear down the wall that has historically separated Church and State in America, and to ensure that a fundamentalist America is preeminent on the world stage. Their adherents read like a global Who's Who of political and military leaders.

The Family was conceived by a depression era immigrant preacher in Seattle by the name of Abraham "Abram" Vereide who had an innate fear of the New Deal, the Red Menace, and unions. Abram saw America as being sorely in need leadership by men who were able to control the masses while living a life dedicated to Jesus. Abram's followers did not necessarily refer to themselves as Christians, and they were not focused on the needs of the poor. They believed that if the country was led by men whom God had obviously chosen to lead (predestination), then good itself would eventually trickle down to the masses. The early leaders of the Family were admirers of the way that Hitler had controlled Germany and Europe, and they supported murderous dictators including Suharto in Indonesia and Pinochet in Chile - for they, too, instilled order and obedience in their countries.

Abram retired in the 1960's and was replaced by a minister out of Oregon by the name of Doug Coe. Coe believed that the aims of the Family could best be accomplished if the leadership remained in the background. For years he has been one of the most powerful, yet almost unknown, political operators in America. Hillary Clinton referred to him as her religious mentor in her autobiography, and he has had complete access to the Oval Office under several Presidents. At this time Coe appears to be in the process of retiring, and his heir apparent is a Pentecostal minister named Dick Foth - who claims to have been John Ashcroft's best friend for the past 54 years. (How scary is that!)

A major tenant of the Family is referred to as "Jesus Plus Nothing," a belief in the divinity and power of Jesus without all of the New Testament social work and concern for the poor. They pray to Jesus, the man, and ask for specifically what they want, such as money, power, and influence which they can then use for the glory of God. One belief of the Family is that if a person prays to Jesus for something forty times, the prayers will be fulfilled. The group, under the direction of Doug Coe, has developed an extensive mythology of prayers that were supposedly answered and had enormous influence on the world.

The Family has traditionally operated through a system of small prayer cells that receive basic direction through the Family's leaders, but act independently of each other. (A structure eerily reminiscent of terrorist cells.) These cells are made up of Congressmen, business leaders, military officers, and others with varying degrees of influence.

The Family maintains and builds on its influence through providing connections and introductions to those in power and those who want to be players on the national and world stages. Those new to Washington, for example, quickly realize the political and economic benefits of membership in one of the Family's prayer cells. It's all about connections.

In addition to remaining staunchly anti-union over the years, the Family has also gained political power through Red-baiting and now Muslim-baiting. Members of the Family were directly responsible for Cold War political measures that mandated that the words "In God We Trust" be placed on all U.S. currency, and also maneuvered to get those words selected as the country's official national motto. Around that same time they were successful in getting the words "under God" inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. Today we are seeing a rise in General Officers who view the conflict in the Middle East as nothing less than a righteous war against Islam.

The Family started the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, and tried unsuccessfully to get Presidents Roosevelt and Truman to attend. Eisenhower reluctantly agreed to lend the prestige of the Presidency to this religious event, and every President since this time has been a participant.

Like most, if not all, right-wing fundamentalist groups, the Family sees men as being the natural leaders of families and nations. But unlike some of these fascist types of groups, they are adaptable. Favor was curried with Hillary due to her proximity to President Clinton, her position in the Senate, and the very real possibility that she could have become Commander-in-Chief. Now that she is the head of the State Department, she will be mixing with Family members and supporters both at home and abroad. And while the Family was more philosophically aligned with McCain than they were with Obama, they have already been successful in having the new President attend and speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. They realize the value in keeping every door open.

The Family has grown ridiculously wealthy over the years and today it is a big property owner in the Washington DC area. Friends of the Family, particularly friends with influence, are often given the opportunity of residing in these prime properties. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who is mentioned extensively in this book for his close connections with the Family, lives in one of their properties.

Jeff Sharlett, the author of The Family, went undercover to do some of his research, residing for awhile at Ivanwald, one of the Family's group homes for young men of promise in the D.C. area. He also spent a great deal of time going through their official archives at Wheaton College, an access that is no longer available to the general public. Sharlett uses nearly four hundred pages of text to outline Family connections, intrigues, and consequences. He backs his work up with forty pages of notes and sources, and over twenty pages of index.

Sharlett's work shines a light on an area that was intended to remain cloaked in darkness. He shows religious leaders shamelessly using politicians for their own ends, and politicians getting their needs met through liaisons with these men of God. The Family provides readers with a rare opportunity to observe snakes fornicating.


xobekim said...

Thank you. For years I have been ranting and raving about the Radical Religious Wrong and their minions in government. Good to see facts supporting my gut feeling.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Hey Kansan,

Keep a very close eye on Sam Brownback. He is heading back to Topeka to sit on the governor's throne for awhile, hoping that will give him a clearer shot to the White House. Be very afraid!

Brenda from Mac County said...

While I love conspiracy theories, I don't automatically consider everything you say to be correct. I remember your telling me in the 1980s that one could save money by turning off the car's air conditioner and driving the windows down. WRONG! (look it up.)
But I will withhold judgment for a bit. I'm a bit horrified that you would add HIllary Clinton to your op ed here, unless you are one of those Hillary haters I have grown to dislike. LOL.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Okay. You got me on the air-conditioning thing, Brenda. What I probably meant to say was that if you keep your your car windows up and turn off the a/c, then you will save money! Now that I'm into my mature years and living in the Valley of Hell, I run from one air-conditioner to another! Damn the cost - and crank that sucker up!

You also got me on Hillary. I'm not her most ardent fan. I felt she was too hawkish and too bound to Bush positions. My preferences for our first female President would be Napolitano, McCaskill, and Sebelius - in that order.

The author of the book made a big deal out of the fact that Hillary referred to Doug Coe as her religious mentor. Coe has a ubiquitous and nefarious presence in D.C. power circles, but does not want that to be known beyond the beltway. Politicians and religious hucksters form a symbiotic coupling, not unlike a pair of snakes getting it on!

xobekim said...

That's the first time anyone has ever called me a Kansan. Its true, nobody every called it out before.