Welcome Jeff Sharlet, and Host Siun.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

Siun, Host:

In 2008, I had the chance to host an FDL book salon with Jeff Sharlet when his book, The Family, was released. Drawing on his experiences living at one of the organization’s houses as well as his significant research into the history of this secretive religious group, Sharlet’s bestselling book exposed us all to this frightening circle of influence.

In his new book, Sharlet brings us up to date on the Family’s influence, focusing on the recent sex scandals tied to the C Street house and the organization’s activities overseas and then takes a look at the pervasive institutionalization of evangelical Christianity in our military. Each of these are tied to the disruption of our constitutional government that finds us so dismayed these days.

He begins with C Street and the sexual scandals of Sanford and friends. This is the story that hit the headlines and for a time drew wide attention to both the C Street house and its hidden owners. But Sharlet does not merely point to the obvious headlines. Instead he asked us to look at what these sexual scandals mean. As he noted in a recent interview:

Yes, absolutely — but sex matters, too. My friend JoAnn Wypijewski, writing in The Nation, said it best—”Christians thunder, liberals sneer, but it amounts to the same thing, counting sins.” Talking about political sex is actually a form of prudishness, a euphemism for real political problems. We are afraid to talk about secrecy, about the possibility that our elites don’t have our interests at heart, that they are not part of “us”; so we can only do so when that secrecy, that other intimacy, is made literal, physical, through sex scandal. Sex removes corruption from the world of ideas. Sex is an act. It is secret. It proves the politician is both not part of “us”—that he has other engagements, that he’s gone on the Appalachian Trail—and that he is: just like us, physical, bound to the world of grunting desires. Talking about sex allows us to talk about secrecy by encoding real political problems in universal questions of desire and deception. Sex talk as metaphor is usually fatalistic, and ultimately conservative. It’s always prudish, a substitution of naughty but bawdy sex for the dirt and despair of a broken democracy.

From C Street itself, Sharlet heads to Lebanon and Uganda where American politicians, acting on behalf of the Family – and often underwritten by taxpayer dollars – recruit members of foreign elites through “stealth evangelism.” These activities include “development centers” (funded by State Department grants) in Lebanon where promising youth are drawn in with offers of education and trips to the US, groomed to become “followers of Jesus” and represent the Family’s beliefs as they become leaders in their own governments. And they include the deep involvement of Family operatives in the Ugandan campaign to make homosexuality a capital offense. Sharlet recounts his trip to Uganda where he spoke with young gays as well as the politicians who wish to kill them – and those politicians are quite clear that they plans are sanctioned and encouraged by followers of Doug Coe here at home:

That was the crux of the matter for Bahati. To him, homosexuality is only a symbol for what he learned from the family is a greater plague: government by people, not by God. The “original sin” according to “Jesus Transcends All,” a sermon distributed to international guests at the National Prayer Breakfast … “was not murder, adultery, or any other action we call sin. The original sin was, and still is, human choice to be one’s own god, to control one’s own life, to be in charge.”

This rejection of human and constitutional governance figures as well in the final section of C Street which reports on the growing Christianization of the US military. While parts of this information have been available before, Sharlet’s reporting shows the ever more institutionalized role of this intensely right wing religiosity; a role that overrides civilian control, prodding soldiers to become Christian warriors, answerable only to God. The stories are chilling, from Gen. Petraeus endorsing the Christian book, Under Orders, as one that “should be in every rucksack” to the brutal harassment of soldiers who don’t demonstrate the right beliefs to Sharlet’s conversations with a Col. Young who describes “miracles” under his command including:

Of the fourteen Americans killed in Kandahar under Young’s watch, at least six were “Bible-believing Christians,” a disproportionately large number compared to the demographics of his command. He sounded joyous. Why was this a miracle? I asked. “God took the ones that were ready to go!”

Reading C Street is frightening – and important. Sharlet builds on his earlier work to show us how deeply this challenge to constitutional democracy has gone. As he notes:

The names don’t matter The fundamentalist threat to American democracy isn’t a person, a politician whose defeat would put the matter to rest once and for all. It’s an idea. In it’s most modest shape it’s the question posed by a future air force officer: “Who are we to question why God builds up nations?: — imperial narcissism so blind the questioner believes his fatalistic acceptance of his own power is a form of humility. In its bluntest expression it’s the “government by God” preached at C Street. In its most awful, it is the “God-led politics” of Uganda, the nightmare scenario of fundamentalism in power.

And this argument is the real contribution of Sharlet’s new book – beyond the accounts of individual politician and episodes, he reminds us that:

The threat isn’t theocracy, an idea nearly every fundamentalist denounces as the province of mullahs and the Middle Ages, but the conflation of democracy with authoritarianism. Not the jackbooted kind or even the iron fist within the velvet glove, but rather the “Father knows best” variety…

Understanding this “trickle-down paternalism” is critical if we are to work effectively against it — and Jeff Sharlet’s C Street is an exceptional guide to help us understand the work ahead.

136 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jeff Sharlet, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy”

BevW October 3rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Jeff, Welcome back to the Lake.

Siun, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks, Bev. Thanks, Siun. Glad to be here.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thank you Bev. It’s a real pleasure to have Jeff back – and to read his new book.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Readers interested in checking out an excerpt may want to look at the upcoming issue of Mother Jones, which features a piece of chapter 3 as an article titled “Junkets for Jesus,” on how C Street congressmen are using your tax dollars to promote “the political philosophy of Jesus” overseas. What’s most disturbing is their interpretation of that philosophy — free market fundamentalism, even when it comes to some of the world’s worst dictators.


dakine01 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Good afternoon Jeff and Siun and welcome back to FDL this afternoon Jeff

Jeff, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but I assume you’ve seen the news reports out of I believe Ft Eustis where the commanding general spent over $100K for a “Christian Rock” concert and where GIs were forced to attend or forced to stay in the barracks on extra detail.

Does all of this trace to the Family? I know when I was in the USAF in the late ’70s/early ’80s there were occasional proselytizers but they weren’t able to get away with that level of BS

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I really enjoyed reading this new book Jeff – chilling though it is.

I was a bit surprised but then really engaged by your view of the Sanford scandal. Your view seems … sympathetic … to him in a way that we have not heard before – and more interesting I think as a view of our sexual “prudishness”

Could you say a bit about your thinking on this?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Harper’s subscribers may also be interested in an excerpt on the C Street-linked kill-the-gays bill in Uganda, based on my visits with the bill’s author in Kampala. Sub only, unfortunately — “Straight Man’s Burden,” in the September issue. I contributed a related cover story, not an excerpt from the book but on the same subject, to the September issue of the Advocate, a national LGBT news magazine.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 5

Dakine — sadly, that’s the tip of the iceberg. I dedicate one of the book’s longest chapters to a year of reporting I did on the fundamentalist front within the military, from the colonel in charge of the Kandahar Air Base who described his mission as, well, a missionary for Christ to the three star general who feared for the future of the secular armed forces, describing the situation created by fundamentalist fellow officers in command as a “fucking clown show.” There’s a lot of overlap with the Family — General Claude Kicklighter, for instance, founder of Christian Embassy at the Pentagon, was also a board member of the Family — but it’s also an even more militant expression of those ideas.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:10 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 7

Thanks for the added links Jeff … and good to see the book and info is getting well earned exposure.

Your travels in Uganda sounded amazing … were you worried about your safety? and were there repercussions for your guide?

Jeff Kaye October 3rd, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Hi Jeff, and thanks for coming to the Lake. Thanks to Siun for hosting, as well.

Jeff, I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that both Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell were Mormons, and that people at SERE called them the “Mormon Mafia.” But I don’t believe anything on this is in your book. How do you see the tension between the evangelicals and the Mormon proselytzers in the military, and particularly the Air Force? Are they rivals? Are they suspicious of one another? Or do they co-exist just fine (for now)?

Thanks for researching and writing on such an important topic.

Jim White October 3rd, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks for being here, Jeff, and thanks to Siun and Bev for hosting and putting this together.

Jeff, I am intrigued by the account of the early days of the Family where Arthur Langlie got into office with the help of the New Order of Cincinnatus, which you described as “a sieg-heiling, uniformed fraternity”. Coupling that with the work he did on union-busting really set the tone for the backwards views now promoted by the C-Streeters now in office.

I wonder if there is any chance that this book will raise awareness even a bit within the traditional media to start to make these connections on the history of the ideology of this group. In discussing the book, has anyone in the media mentioned any of this part of the history of the Family?

SanderO October 3rd, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Religion is one of the mind control strategies of our junta. Unifies people across state lines in top down controllable hierarchies and at the same time feeds them all sorts of nonsense which is fodder for fighting with other religions. It’s the main distraction to keep people dumb and controllable. So no wonder these idiots think this is or needs to be a xtian nation.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:13 pm
In response to Siun @ 6

I’m glad you picked up on that, and I’m glad you picked up on journalist JoAnn Wypijewski’s great line above — “Christians thunder, liberals sneer, but it amounts to the same counting of sins.” The tragedy of Mark Sanford to me isn’t that he left what was a truly monstrous marriage, but that he came back. I don’t mean to endorse adultery — in a more progressive world, Sanford would have known how to get out of that marriage a long time ago. Instead, fundamentalism held them there and drew him back. Progressives gloated — we should have been saying, “Welcome to the human race, Mark. Now maybe you can be as understanding of those who don’t have the same sex life as you — starting by legalizing same sex marriage in South Carolina.”

That’s not what happened, but as you study Sanford, you see the inklings of the different man he could have been, were it not for the influence of political fundamentalism.

ghostof911 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:14 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 7

Hi Jeff. My eyes were opened to The Family by your disturbing 2005 article in Harper’s. Also read the Uganda story. What is the reason for the intense focus on Uganda? Because of it’s mineral wealth?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:15 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 10

Thanks, Jeff. In fact, I’ll be speaking in Salt Lake City later this month, but Mormonism hasn’t been part of my research — except for the antagonism toward Mormons shown by the dominant fundamentalist movement within the armed forces, where I spoke to senior officers who A) didn’t think Mormons were Christians; and B) weren’t clear whether Mormons were even covered by the first amendment.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:15 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 13

I really appreciated that view Jeff … your sense of what could have been – for Sanford but also for the rest of us if our cultural reactions to human sexuality were less constrained … was a welcome shift in viewpoint.

hackworth1 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Sharlet, your truth-seeking and truth-telling work is excellent and appreciated. You are a real American hero for going after these dangerous people. Thank You.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:16 pm
In response to Jim White @ 11

Jim — history is always a hard sell for the media. I should say that a number of great documentary makers approached me about making a film on that aspect, but I’d already made other arrangements, TBA when the time comes. That said, we saw The New Yorker’s Peter Boyle take a stab at the history — and completely mangle it, making a mockery of that magazine’s tradition of fact checking. That was because Boyer didn’t bother doing any archival research. History is a hard sell to the media because history is hard — it takes more than a few interviews.

meepmeep09 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Thanks for being here, Mr. Sharlet.

Have you read Peter Boyer’s “Frat House For Jesus” story over at The New Yorker, and if so, do you have any thoughts on its value?

I learned of Boyer’s article via Moe Tkacik’s post in Washington City Paper, where she tore Boyer a new one for basically emphasizing the prurient/sexual stuff, at the expense of the far more consequential efforts to influence national and international policy in some very nasty ways.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:19 pm
In response to ghostof911 @ 14

Ghost — no, it’s not quite as cynical as that. Geopolitics matter — that relationship with Uganda began in the Cold War. The man who built the relationship told me his motives were entirely humanitarian, and I believe he may have experienced him as that. But his memos from the beginning describe an effort, in coordination with Sen. Chuck Grassley and “our friends on the hill,” to steer Uganda away from leftist sympathies.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:21 pm
In response to meepmeep09 @ 19

Scott Horton at Harper’s asked me about the Boyer piece in the New Yorker. I tried to respond as politely as possible. But suffice it to say that between the City Paper response, mine below, and others, we still haven’t named all the errors and just plain puzzlers in that piece. Here’s the link.


4. In a recent piece for The New Yorker, Peter Boyer suggests that the alarms you sound about C Street are overblown. It’s a “frathouse for Christians” occupied by men who may occasionally do some foolish things but are essentially harmless. What did you think of Boyer’s piece?

I prefer journalism. A week before the piece appeared, a fact checker for The New Yorker contacted me about the piece. I was curious about what kind of research Boyer had done, and, frankly, concerned that he might have used some of my work, since The New Yorker had an advance copy of C Street. Not at all, the fact checker assured me—Boyer had done his own archival research. An hour later I received an email entitled “Correction”: “Peter did not visit the archives, though he has seen archival material.” Material, she added, supplied to him by a leader of the Family.

Lazy reporting aside, the real danger of a piece like Boyer’s is that it perpetuates unexamined claims made by the Family. A reader of the piece might be mistaken for believing that the Family had played an instrumental role in putting an end to Uganda’s murderous anti-gay campaign. An email correspondence between the Americans, some of the Ugandans, and A. Larry Ross, a leading evangelical publicist, speaks not of confronting the consequences of their influence but of “managing PR”—Ross even writes of managing fact checking for The New Yorker. The truth, meanwhile, is that the anti-gay campaign continues, and its leader—also the Family’s “key man” in the Ugandan parliament—insists that he’s received no pressure from the Family to slow down. He also told me he’d never heard from Boyer. That pattern plays out through the piece, a study in knee-jerk centrism informed mainly by his subjects’ professions of their good intentions. Real research, the kind where you engage with documents and critics, results in a different story.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:25 pm

That was a great response Jeff … and the opening “I prefer journalism” made my day!

It does seem that there’s this general unease with coverage of the Family … as if looking to closely or accurately might make us see things we wish to ignore.

Similar to the desire to make the C Street stories simply about sex scandals rather than the wider power and influence tied up in it all?

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Jeff, to what extent is the Family entrenched in the Obama administration? Has the president been supportive of their prayer breakfasts or otherwise involved?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:27 pm
In response to SanderO @ 12

Sander, with respect, my reporting leads me to believe it’s more complicated than that. I describe the tension at play as that between Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, who gave us the idea of “liberty of conscience,” and William Wilberforce, the 18th-19th century British MP who led the fight to abolish the slave trade, and an icon of C Street.

Williams was actually the more devout — fanatically so. His zealousness for his faith led him to conclude that others might feel as strongly about other views — and that we must all be guaranteed absolute liberty of conscience. The First Amendment is his grandchild.

Wilberforce did something great — because he believed his God told him so. He also believed his God wanted the freed slaves to be a “grateful peasantry,” and that the law should ensure that the poor stay poor, just the way God wanted them. Paternalism, and fundamentalism, are his legacies.

Two devout believers, two very different outcomes. Religion is never as simple as a “thumbs up” or thumbs down.

ghostof911 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Are you familiar with Bohemian Grove? It’s another all male semi-secret organization. It has parallels with The Family in that both resemble pagan religions worshipping the false god of power. Wondering if there might be any overlap of the membership.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Siun @ 22

Siun — on the national level, that has a lot to do with the business of journalism and with the kind of blind centrism so many reporters mistake for balance. But there’s a lot of great investigative stuff going on now at local levels, reporters in Kansas and Tennessee and Michigan and Oklahoma and Pennsylvania asking the tough questions of their representatives that the national press doesn’t. Not just lefty press, either — just ordinary reporters. There’s even great investigative reporting going on on the right — the best (besides mine!) is in World, the leading fundamentalist magazine which sees C Street as giving the faith a bad name. They’ve really followed the money and done some important work.

hackworth1 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Jeff, what has motivated Democrats like Hillary Clinton and many others to abandon secular values – freedom of Religion with the implied freedom from religion and join the ranks of C Street.

Had the Democratic Party not sold us out to C Street and National Prayer Breakfast, we would be a more progressive society by now.

To what extent is C Street the cause of Obama’s sandbagging on DADT?

Teddy Partridge October 3rd, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to Siun @ 23

Isn’t the Secretary of State part of this dangerous religious cabal?

(Hi Jeff, hi Siun, thanks so much for today’s Salon!)

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to ghostof911 @ 25

I gotta admit, I’m pretty dismissive of Bohemian Grove. It’s an elite club, sure, Doug Coe, the leader of the Family has been there — but it’s no different than Renaissance Weekend, the Aspen Institute, or, for that matter, Brookings, really. Just clubs for the connected. Not terribly ideological. Not very democratic, either, but there are bigger problems.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 18

I agree history is a hard sell for the media. Sex scandal is easy. Money scandals are hard too, but a few outrageous details go a long way in the media. Exposing the Family is great what I wonder is if there is anyone who is working on nailing them with any illegal money issues?

A few years ago I spoke to some groups about methods to strip religious groups of their non-profit status. They were not interested because of the fear of it being used against their religious group. In my research I found out that most religious organizations are more cautious than necessary reguarding political speech.

Jim White October 3rd, 2010 at 2:33 pm

In a really key passage on pages 88 and 89, your description of the aim of the Family, to recruit key elites into the movement through “benevolent subversion” is particularly chilling as it reaches this paragraph:

The fundamentalist threat of this book’s subtitle isn’t a barbarian at the gate. Nor is it an ideology that erects statues, a theology in jackboots. It’s far more practical than that. It’s a religion that asks, like Doug Coe does, “What does Jesus have to say about building roads?” And just as important, Who’ll get the contract? What’s the margin? We’ve reached a point where piety and corruption aren’t at odds but are one and the same.

The way you then tie that to the end of empires really is disturbing to contemplate since it describes so well what is going on in our country. The push for “submission” seems to me to even have spread pretty far into the Obama administration with its endorsement of Bush’s surveillance and state secret policies. And now that the administration is telling progressives to “buck up” and “get in gear” for the elections, that really seems to me to be a call for the same sort of submission.

How do we get out of this trap as a country?

SanderO October 3rd, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 24

I agree and I don’t intend to throw the baby out with the bath water. However, religion is a tool for manipulation and control – ask women.

nycterrierist October 3rd, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to spocko @ 30

“In my research I found out that most religious organizations are more cautious than necessary reguarding political speech.”

I wish most politicians were more cautious regarding religious speech!

Jeff Kaye October 3rd, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to Siun @ 6

Jeff, in your book you note how long it took for the C Street story to get out there (for which you have played the dominant role), and criticize the reliance of the press on “conventional wisdom,” with “scoops” nothing but twists or variation on already known stories, which “reassures the reader that his or her cynicism is justified and yet contained within the known realm of vice” (p. 18). While the C Street story may have broken through such societal inertia (and especially, as you also note, with reporting on religion and power), do you have any further thoughts on how to get new and important stories out into the public consciousness, to mainstream them?

meepmeep09 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 21

Thanks. We’ve come to expect that sort of fakey “journalism” from some quarters, but it’s a shame to see it coming from The New Yorker, which has been the source of so much good journalism.

Caveat lector for all writings, I guess. Nearly all of us are dependent on folks like you who do original reporting that is honest and accurate, so we just need to proceed carefully in choosing authors, and to read critically thereafter.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Three questions on Democrats and C Street, particularly Hillary Clinton. Kathryn Joyce and I reported on Hillary’s longstanding ties with the C Street gang in Mother Jones, and I wrote on that in my last book. NBC Nightly News followed up with an investigative report, which compelled Hillary to distance herself from a network she’d found useful as a back channel to the right. Your view on the value of that depends on whether you think bipartisanship is worth it any cost — including basic principles. She spoke at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast and used the forum to denounce the C Street linked Uganda kill-the-gays bill — good for her. She also repeated some howlers that went unchallenged anywhere but in the fundamentalist press that’s hostile to C Street.

As for DADT and Obama — alas, that’s a sell out of a crasser, more basic order. There are friends of C Street in the Obama administration just like any other, but in 2010 the National Prayer Breakfast faced protests for the first time, as gay rights and human rights groups, Christian and secular, and Washington watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and EThics in Washington, pressed Obama not to attend. He did. But was there a choice? That’s the fix of the PRayer Breakfast — what president can say he’s against prayer, which is how it would look?

Bluetoe2 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:38 pm

At what point does the U.S. public begin to consider the sanctioning of the deportation of religious zealots more interested in theocracy than democracy or should the public sit idly by as they continue the slow motion coup d’etat? If the U.S. could deport “Reds” in the early 20th Century surely it can deport the Talibangellicals.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to spocko @ 30

YES — see C Street, the new book, especially chapter 3. Meanwhile, an interdenominational Christian group of pastors called Clergy VOICE is pressing a complaint against C Street with the IRS because they think C Street gives church a bad name — and maybe does so illegally. A Justice Department investigation of the Ensign scandal is coming awfully close to C Street, as Senator Tom Coburn, Ensign’s fellow C Streeter, has been forced to cooperate and talk about his role in arranging what look like pay offs to Ensign’s mistress’ family.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:39 pm
In response to Bluetoe2 @ 37

Never ever ever. See the First Amendment.

hackworth1 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Jeff, are you familiar with the Holy Land Religious Theme Park in Orlando? Local news just reported that this Tuesday is free admission day. The regular admission is $35 per person. It is by law, the reporter stated, that the theme park must provide one day per year of free admission in order to retain its tax exempt status for property taxes.

That’s a hell of a deal. No doubt the principals profit handsomely on the backs of taxpayers as they encourage rubes to vote Rethuglican.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 2:41 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 38


ghostof911 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 36

what president can say he’s against prayer, which is how it would look?

If he were invited to join in prayers at a mosque, I’m sure he would have managed to find a way out.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Jim White @ 31

There’s no 12 step program for the problem of political fundamentalism, but any solution has to begin with what James Buchanan, a mostly awful president, described as “the noise of democracy.” “I like the noise of democracy,” he said — the rough and tumble of debate, cacophony, not harmony. My original subtitle for the book was going to be “The Fundamentalist Seduction of Democracy,” since fundamentalism — especially elite fundamentalism — offers this rather appealing notion of harmony and unity. But that’s not democracy. Democracy is cacophony and solidarity.

eCAHNomics October 3rd, 2010 at 2:43 pm


Haven’t read the post or the comments yet, but love your work. I think I saw your every appearance on Rachel for the first book.

Quite serendipitously, I tuned in to your book tour on cspan2 at the same point twice this weekend: toward the end of the Q&A. I noticed you didn’t answer the part of one Q about Hillary’s involvement with C Street. Is it only thru their prayer breakfast attendance, or is her involvement much deeper?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 40

I am. Fortunately, the Holy Land Theme Park in Orlando isn’t a threat to anything but good taste.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 39

Hear hear!

It does seem that the rise of Family power however parallels the demise of a broader democracy here and at times when reading your work Jeff, I wonder if both are simply signs of a shift in our cultural atmosphere or are cause and effect. How powerful do you feel the Family is these days is (I guess) my question.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 44

Thanks, eCAHN. I address Hillary’s involvement — it’s marginal, but important — above, but more fully in my last book, The Family.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:47 pm
In response to Siun @ 46

How powerful is the Family these days? It’s an interesting question. I think the ideas that animate the Family and C Street are very, very powerful — liberals as well as conservatives have simply lost hold of the First Amendment and the even deeper idea of liberty of conscience. I don’t believe there is much of a left in American to challenge the C Street ideology, and most establishment liberals don’t want to. We’re in a moment not unlike the 1950s — without the Cold War prosperity.

Jeff Kaye October 3rd, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 15

If you happen to get interested in the links between the U.S. torture program and far-right fundamentalist Christians (apparently both Mormons and evangelicals), see this article I wrote at FDL sometime past.

As for your excellent book, I do have one remaining question. How many of the C Street politicians do you think are only cynically or instrumentally using the venue (as you imply Clinton is) versus true believers?

ghostof911 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:49 pm

More to the political present, how much is Jim DeMint using is influence in The Family to wield political influence on the Hill? Is The Family linked at all with the recruitment of the Tea Party candidates?

Teddy Partridge October 3rd, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 38

What’s the status of the Ensign investigation now, do you know?

Sure would be nice to see something pop before Election Day, although I’m sure our de-politicized DoJ wouldn’t do such a thing…

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:52 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 49

Jeff — I think the cynicism vs. sincerity question is usually a distracting one we on the left waste a lot of time on. Consider Sen. Jim Inhofe, who, as I write in the book, includes among his C Street circuit of African leaders a number of bad guys with a lot of oil. Inhofe and oil — well, you know how the human body is something like 80 % water? With him, it’s 80% crude. So is his missionary work cynical, or sincere? The answer is both, completely both. And it’s awful either way, which is what matters.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I’m 99% there will be no news on Ensign before election day, lest it look like Justice is trying to influence the Harry Reid race by tarring Nevada Republicans.

Gitcheegumee October 3rd, 2010 at 2:53 pm

WOW, I almost missed the whole shebang,here!

Jeff, great work…any thoughts on Reverend Moon and the Family?

[Mod Note: While of possible interest, the Rev Moon and his family are not part of the book being discussed so is Off Topic]

eCAHNomics October 3rd, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Also Jeff, think you’ll get quite a hoot out of this anecdote, as will MarionfromSavannah, a frequent commenter here, if she happens to read it.

A couple of three years ago, a friend & I visited Savannah to do the tours of the privately owned historic houses that are open to tours for 4 days every April. (He, now deceased, lived in VT, me in NYC, but both of us own historic houses, mine in the mid-Hudson). The tour was started 70 years ago as a fundraiser for the Episcopalian church, so the opening event was cookies & punch in the square in front of the church, followed by a short, mostly musical, service in the church, at the beginning of which the pastor talked about the history of the 1820s building. At the end of the service, customary for many Protestant sects, the minister shook hands with departing attendees. I wanted to hear the organ postlude, so my friend & I were among the last to leave. I asked the minister if he would mind if I asked him a Q, to which he did not object. It was: I notice that you referred to your church as Anglican, not Episcopalian. Why is that? I expected an A to the effect that the parish preceded the Revolutionary war, or something historic like that. Instead I got a whole bunch of ununderstandable gobbeldy gook, so I thanked him & we left. A night or two later, we had arranged to meet Marion & MrMarion for drinks, so I related my story & my puzzlement. To which she responded with great guffaws. Turns out (by now you know the punch line) the Savannah church objected to gay & lesbian ordination & had decided to reconstitute themselves under the Ugandan Anglican church. Only the minister was too embarrassed to explain that to me in simple declarative sentences. It was very funny.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:55 pm
In response to ghostof911 @ 50

DeMint is a longtime C Streeter, as are many of the politicians most friendly to the Tea Party movement, such as Sen. Coburn and Sen. Inhofe. But DeMint is the guy — and in his combination of laissez-faire economics and authoritarian religion — plus the exploitation of the populist right — I think you see the perfect embodiment of the C Street formula as it began back in 1935.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 2:55 pm

The sections of the book on Lebanon are quite interesting. The move to make potential leaders who are muslim into Family loyal “Jesus followers” but *not* to convert so they can maintain influence in their home countries is just awful. Is there any awareness in Lebanon for example of this move to insert leaders with a Family agenda?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 54

Not much there. I’ve compared notes with John Gorenfeld, who wrote a very useful book on Moon, and we didn’t find much. That is to say, nothing of significance — there’s tons of overlap, of course, because they’re after the same demographic in Washington, but Moon is off on his own ideological bender.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 2:57 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 55

Sad but funny. And increasingly common as Episcopal churches leave the Episcopal Church USA just because they can’t stand to worship next to a queer person.

ghostof911 October 3rd, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 56

Thanks Jeff for confirming the suspicions.

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Jeff, I am intrigued with a little speech Gates gave the other day, raising alarm about lack of — I think he called it cultural and religious diversity among recruits to the forces. This on top of a major problem on a base in North Carolina, where C-Street related leadership seems to have been running weekend events.

The Gates comments didn’t get a lot of play, at least not yet, but is this related?

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 59

The intensity of the reaction to gays always mystifies me … what is the status of the death penalty law now in Uganda?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to Siun @ 57

Yeah, it’s actually been pretty big news there, which is good because it provides some safety for one of my informants, Toufic Agha. Agha is a Canadian-Lebanese teacher recruited into the Family who left when he realized he was part of a stealth evangelism campaign. He provided me with documentary evidence of Sen. Coburn’s links. Now, he’s being credibly threatened by some of Coburn’s pals there. They’re trying to discredit him by saying that he’s working for “a Jew, Jeff Sharlet,” but it isn’t working, as senior Muslim journalists and clergymen realize that there’s a Christian crusade in Lebanon backed by powerful US politicians, that threatens that country’s incredibly fragile peace.

Gitcheegumee October 3rd, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 58

Thanks so much for the feedback,Jeff.

Have you by chance any info that O’Keefe(the punk who punked ACORN) has any ties to the Family? Jus askin’.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to Sara @ 61

Interesting Sara … do you have any links to the Gates’ speech?

Lorraine Watkins October 3rd, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 58

Late again.

I am so glad you are writing on this. From what gleaninings I have found and just knowledge of how these Coburn minds work I see this as a monstrous enterprise. They intend to dominate the world and believe that they deserve to. It reminds me of Cecil Rhodes and the secret society etc.

gesneri October 3rd, 2010 at 3:01 pm

It does occur to me that attempting to co-opt potential Muslim leaders in such places as Lebanon could backfire on them. I can see the Family being taken in by a clever Trojan horse and getting into serious trouble when the co-opted turned out to be a terrorist.

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 3:03 pm
In response to Siun @ 65

I just heard parts of it and a little description on NPR. No links, I do just listen to the radio.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:03 pm
In response to Siun @ 62

The status of the kill-the-gays bill in Uganda is a vitally important question, because Peter Boyer’s New Yorker piece would lead one to believe it’d been killed, itself. Not at all. Boyer left that out. David Bahati, the author of the bill, called me after the New Yorker piece to laugh about it. “Nobody from the New Yorker ever called me,” he said. The bill is still up for consideration. Now, if I had to bet, I’d guess that the death penalty will be stripped out — but a lot of the damage has already been done, as Uganda has been whipped into a witch hunt and a half a dozen other neighboring nations, through their local Family groups, have begun considering similar initiatives.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 64

Nope. Just a punk.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to gesneri @ 67

That is exactly what happened in the case of former congressman Mark Siljander, a Family leader. As I write in the book, he pled guilty this July to using the Family to launder money from an organization banned as a terrorist group — he lobbied for the gorup, thinking he was making them Messianic Muslims. Instead, he became a front for Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan who is the first sitting head of state to be indicted for genocide.

eCAHNomics October 3rd, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 59

Recently read American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips, who argues that, on the theme of bad (extreme) religion driving out good, it is self-generating. For virtually the entire history of the U.S. (forget if he includes the colonies), parishioners have been leaving the MS sects & starting up their own, more extreme ones, sometimes, but not often, owing to charismatic leaders. Savannah is just one example of that. The minister was a ‘nice’ guy, but hardly charismatic. So, perfect illustration of Phillips’ point.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to Sara @ 68

Thanks Sara … I’ll poke around and see if I can find it.

Teddy Partridge October 3rd, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 71

This is what I don’t understand about their operations, I guess. Can’t the DoJ or State department go after other Family leaders for these kind of connections with evil despots? Or does the American government’s relationship with the despots complicate this?

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:11 pm

In line with Sara’s question about Gates, I have to say that it was when I got to the portion of C Street on the US military that I felt physically ill due to what I was reading. The pervasiveness of this infiltration is shocking – and way beyond the bits and pieces we notice from time to time.

Jeff, do you see any real pushback from DoD?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Teddy — the Family leaders’ connections with despots are the American government’s connections with despots. A clear example comes from the archives, when Senator Mark Hatfield wrote Nixon that Suharto, the genocidal dictator of Indonesia wished to communicate with the White House thru the Family. That has replicated itself many times over.

Lorraine Watkins October 3rd, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Sooner or later we are going to as a people confront the power of religion in this country. We tip toe around with soooo much respect for the nuttiest of ideas and have a president who makes a point Jesus spoke to him (then modified to say through his teachings) for fear of offending voters. Then wonder why everyone is so ignorant of the most essential facts of science and nature. Oh well….. Gotta go

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Jeff, I also have a historical/theological question.

Have you ever run into any effort to link “The Family” as in anything contemporary, up with the “Family of Love” or the “Familists” of the 16′th Century? This was a Dutch, and then Dutch English group, the English were mostly from around Cambridge, but many apparently secret society members in the Court of Queen Elizabeth. In Holland they apparently hid under both Reform and Catholic auspices from about 1550 till Armada times when things went bad. Many apparently off-shoots from survivors of Munster, and others intellectuals around Amsterdam linked with Erasamus.

Some, apparently, after leaving Holland, melded themselves into Quakers in the early days, particularly those who ended up in Bristol.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 76

Jeff, what is it that Coe etc actually gain in all this? is it wealth or power or something else? For example, the big megachurches with their preachers make sense as money making operations but … and I feel naive saying this … I don’t get the payback the Family aims for beyond raw power which may well be enough.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to Siun @ 75

There are a lot of individual officers who understand the First Amendment and care about it. The Secretary of the Air Force seems to sort of get it. But the problem is so pervasive that it’s hard to do much — especially when you have inspector generals like General Claude Kickligher, giving a pass to Christian Embassy in an investigation. Problem is, General Kicklighter started Christian Embassy in the Pentagon. He found himself not guilty. Another three star general, speaking on background, told me that what’s needed is for first Obama to address the problem head on, for courts-martials to follow, and for military training to radically revise its approach in order to include more clearly basic constitutional concepts. None of that is happening right now.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to Sara @ 78

No, the Family really grows out of an early 20th century movement. Theologically, the most important influences are 19th century muscular Christianity, the salesman religion of Bruce Barton, the elitism of Moral Re-Armament, and a kind of dumbed down version of John Knox and Calvin.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Siun @ 79

Power, access, ego — or maybe that should be EGO — and the self-righteousness of believing that they’re serving the world. And while the Coes aren’t in it for the money, it’s worth noting that they’re living very well — and that according to an evangelical watchdog group, there are 11 of them on the payroll.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 48

. I don’t believe there is much of a left in American to challenge the C Street ideology, and most establishment liberals don’t want to

Of course. Why would they? There is no money in it. Who will give them money to do this? Corporate donors? Rich atheists? Muslims? Jews? 
You know the screaming and whining would be epic. They want to be the victims even when they have majority power. 

What would happen would be screaming emails used to raise funds to fight us off. They aren’t above using a dead bogie woman from the past, Madalyn O’Hair. 

kindGSL October 3rd, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 82

Could they be tied to the CIA?

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:21 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 80

And it sounds unlikely such a change would happen with Obama’s unwillingness to confront the military generally.

Most weeks, I write about our wars for FDL and too often what I cover are the civilian casualties and it does seem that this christian warrior culture is a major factor in the lack of discipline of US troops in muslim countries.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to Siun @ 75

Yea, they will get right on that. Just as soon as they replace the scopes with bible passages engraved on them. On my local right wing talk radio the theocon host didn’t see what the problem was.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to kindGSL @ 84

I’d be wary of words like “tied to.” Are US senators “tied to” the CIA? Um, yeah. That’s sort of the idea. A more useful, if somewhat antiquated, term is “the establishment.” Are they part of the establishment? Yes, they’re part of its most anti-democratic flank.

Teddy Partridge October 3rd, 2010 at 3:23 pm

What would you predict for the future of The Family post-Coe? Seeing the breakdown of the Moon journalistic empire prior to the leader’s death, I wonder what mechanisms Coe has in place to ensure the survival of the organization and its tenets.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:26 pm
In response to Siun @ 85

That’s absolutely true, Siun — that’s why I start that chapter with the story of the young lt who drove a Bradley fighting vehicle through Samarra with “Jesus Killed Muhammad” written in giant red Arabic on the side. He boasted to me of taking out much a civilian block.

But it’s not as purely barbaric as it sounds. I think of the cadets at the Air Force Academy, officers, now, who told me that they worried less about being killed than killing as sin. That didn’t make them more careful — their fundamentalist politics persuaded them that when they killed, it wasn’t sin. It’s worth noting that they’ve essentially been let down by the civilian government, which has sent them into wars where they can’t find a legitimate or honorable rationale for what they’re being asked to do.So they turn to fundamentalism.

mzchief October 3rd, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Q: Wouldn’t completely enfranchising GBLT with all citizen rights skewer the blackmail stranglehold the mil-tele-bank-gelicals have re the Congress?

{ Hello Jeff, Siun, everybody thank you for holding this Salon/attending! Pardon me while I catch up on the comment thread …

WOO-HOO! regarding the “Justice Department investigation of the Ensign” development mentioned in Jeff Sharlet @ 38 }

kindGSL October 3rd, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 87

That is not what I meant.

The CIA does some really nasty stuff, torture, illegal drugs, child prostitutes, mind slaves. Are they tied to those sorts of activities is what I am getting at. Lots of people in Washington DC are, are they?

Especially drugged children used for sex and blackmail. Who is doing that and who is covering it up? Are they involved? I suspect they are, so naturally I was wondering what you think.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:28 pm

His sons David and Tim are spoken of as successors, but there is indeed a lot of tension in the movement — as there was in 1969, when the founder, Abraham Vereide, was “promoted” to Heaven, as they put it, and Coe seized control from older and more moderate leaders. But his sons are not nearly as charismatic or bright as Doug Coe, so there could be another leadership struggle. Or, possibly, a meltdown.

peglegpeggy October 3rd, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Do these C Street people have any direct connections with Fox News (though doubt FNC promotes their agenda indirectly)?

eCAHNomics October 3rd, 2010 at 3:28 pm


I’m also about 1/4 of way thru Manifest Destiny by Albert K. Weinberg, written in 1935. He argues that much of what the U.S. takes upon its shoulders comes from religious convictions, a large part relying on the OT directives to humans to civilize the earth. And, like the Israelis, that U.S.ians are a chosen people, the only ones up to the task. Only, unlike Israelis, the U.S. has a whole string of successes over a longer history to show that god’s will is truly being done by the U.S.A.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to kindGSL @ 91

Dude, all I can say again is: Establishment. Senators and reps are “tied to” anything the CIA does.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to peglegpeggy @ 93

Just ideological sympathies.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to mzchief @ 90

MZCHIEF, that’s a pretty interesting idea, especially given how many leading Christian conservatives have told me that they don’t themselves feel particularly strongly about LGBT. But it remains useful as an organizing tool. Ted Haggard, before his fall, made exactly that point when I talked to him. Same-sex marriage was coming, he said, but until then it was great to whip up the masses.

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 81

I find it surprising the contemporary “Family” at some point, didn’t try to root themselves in this aspect of the Reformation. Must admit, have been very impressed with the work of Diarmaid MacCullogh, both “The Reformation” and the massive new “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”. Found the Familists in “The Reformation” and am pretty sure that accounts for that odd Dutch Female in my early Quaker Family.

He also has some interesting reflections on the C-Street sort of “Politics” and much to say about contemporary Uganda.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 94

Manifest Destiny is indeed a very present idea in American life, from Senator Inhofe, who believed he had a Christian, and American, responsibility to teach Africa how to live (and to get rid of the gays) to all the military people I spoke with who saw their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as reproducing the influence of a “Christian nation.”

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 95

I think it’s very tempting to fall into complex conspiracy thinking rather than look at the real con-spiring that makes up our establishment. The answers are much simpler in reality than ornate … and as mundane, more frigtening?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:34 pm
In response to Sara @ 98

I’ll certainly have to read MacCullogh on Uganda. But as for older theological roots, the Family simply isn’t interested. It’s an anti-history, anti-intellectual movement — “Jesus plus nothing” — not history, not theology, not the past, not responsibility.

kindGSL October 3rd, 2010 at 3:34 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 95


I had an idea to end war globally based on religion.

It was a three part political action plan based on building a new political party and movement, a religious reformation, and ending the drug war. I have been tortured for my religion so I suspect I have standing to sue, but every time I come up with a new plan, they write a new law to stop me.

If these Senators are tied to having me tortured, why aren’t they being impeached?

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to Siun @ 100

Exactly, Siun. I’m always disappointed when lefties get into talking about “what’s really going on” — as if what’s going on right before our eyes, business as usual, wasn’t a problem. There’s no conspiracy — there’s just a broken democracy.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 89

Wow. What bible passages do the fundamentalists use to show them it isn’t a sin to kill? I remember when the Iraq war was started that the Catholic church couldn’t find a good enough rational for a “just war” rational. It always pissed me off that not enough Catholics were protesting the war, too busy focusing on pregnant women.

My local right wing radio theocon is pro-torture. He believes that Jesus is pro-handgun because he says Jesus sent his disciples out with swords “which were the handgun of the day”

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to kindGSL @ 102

Dudette (apologies) — let’s start small and work our way up to the end of war. That’s a mighty tall order.

RevBev October 3rd, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 99

I am so glad you reported that reason.(Not that it’s a good one.) There surely hasn’t been any other one that clearly presented. What do you hear about military Chaplains? They presumably are very non-denominational.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:39 pm
In response to spocko @ 104

Among others, Matthew 11:12 — “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” For a chilling embodiment of this thinking, see John Eldredge’s fundamentalist bestseller, Wild at Heart.

meepmeep09 October 3rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to Siun @ 100

Yep, Hannah Arendt and her “banality of evil” observations don’t get nearly the attention and respect they deserve. It’s almost as though we fear the logical consequences of such observations, and how they threaten our self-applied exceptionalism, vis-a-vis the rest of the Animal Kingdom to which we truly belong. Massive and intricate conspiracy theories are so much more comforting, in that regard.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to RevBev @ 106

I devote a good part of the book to the breakdown of the military chaplaincy. It’s a very sad story. Captain MeLinda Morton, a chaplain forced out of the Air Force and now something of a historian of the chaplaincy, estimates that about 80% of the chaplaincy has become fundamentalist/Christian Right, wildly disproportionate to the movement’s numbers in the military. Best summed up by Lt. Col Gary Hensley, who as top chaplain in Afghanistan delivered a sermon in which he shouted that the Army in Afghanistan is the “new Israel,” responsible for saving Afghanistan for jesus.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 107

Holy crap! I’ll check it out.

eCAHNomics October 3rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 99

I am amazed at how embedded Manifest Destiny is in the U.S. right from the founding fathers. Even inalienable rights Jefferson was a subscriber of the notion that is was the U.S. duty to give that gift to others less qualified to do it for themselves. And to that end, he would not allow even European descendants living in the Louisiana Purchase to have the vote, even on local issues, because they weren’t ready for it.

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 101

Yes, I must admit he has some lovely things to say about the so called Prosperity Gospel, not the person of, but the style of Eddie Long, and how fast this is spreading as a political force particularly in Africa and Latin America. He sees it as “down game” from the closed elitism, which would describe the C-Street Crowd nicely, those to whom few rules apply.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to meepmeep09 @ 108

I like to say that the Family illustrates the inverse of Arendt’s formulation: the evil of banality.

mzchief October 3rd, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 97

I think the Christian-ists feel strongly about keeping the status quo across the States of what is actually a legal compartmentalization of the citizenry with different sized, non-touching boxes. If you mean that with complete parity of all marriages (there are 1100 Federal rights that go with that) that DADT and ENDA must go buh-bye as well, then I see a huge number of people made more equal instantly. I think the perturbation of basic legal equity set up by the States from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (via administrative law) must go as well.

RevBev October 3rd, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 109

Thank you. That is tragically sad. Just a fleeting thought if any of this religious craziness adds to the stress and PTSD that we are hearing so much about. Thanks for the tip about your book.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:46 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 109

Wow again. I count as one of my better life moves as convincing a friend not to join the military. “they might talk about getting you a college education, but make no mistake, you will be part of a killing organization.”

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to RevBev @ 115

The section of Jeff’s book on the military is really must- reading …

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 3:49 pm


Since we’re about to wind down … what do you see as the ways we can counter the Family and the christianist military?

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 3:51 pm
In response to Siun @ 118

Seconded! What specifically can we do?

RevBev October 3rd, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Thanks, Siun. I teach groups of kids on Sunday. I am so anti-war, sometimes I do have to tread lightly. This stuff makes me sick, almost truly.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to RevBev @ 115

RevBev, the collapse of the chaplaincy into a fundamentalist proselytizing force really is sad. I know about Col. Hensley’s lunacy because a filmmaker named Brian Hughes set out to make a positive film about chaplains like the one who’d helped him, a non-believer, deal with a crisis he experienced during the first Gulf War. Instead he found Hensley, shouting about hunting souls. I spoke to more soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen (that’s the term they use) than I could count who shared similar stories of being betrayed by their chaplains, often at very, very vulnerable times. One soldier remembered a dead buddy, whom he knew to have been an atheist, being made an opportunity for a chaplain to explain the Christian purpose of the war in Iraq. Another young West Point cadet, absolutely brilliant, considered transferring after she was ordered to a chaplain who told her to stop reading Foucault and instead read the Chronicles of Narnia. At the Air Force Academy, any number of women have been encouraged to give up their pilot slots so they could be better wives. The list goes on — it’s a real dereliction of duty, and it makes everything all that much harder out there for the many wonderful chaplains who are an essential part of a military under the First Amendment.

Sara October 3rd, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Robert Gates seems to be saying that we have too far narrowed the part of the population we recruit, and is calling for more pluralistic recruitment, at least that is how I heard his emergency speech last week reported.

Maybe we go after all those folk in the PEW Poll who claim a faith, but then in the follow up questions, indicate they know very little about the core beliefs.

BevW October 3rd, 2010 at 3:55 pm

As we come to the end of this lively Book Salon,

Jeff, Thank you for stopping by the Lake again and discussing your new book.

Siun, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Jeff’s website

Jeff’s book

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

kindGSL October 3rd, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to mzchief @ 114

I think it is all part of a big cover up.

RevBev October 3rd, 2010 at 4:00 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 121

Thanks for all of that. My work is very non-denominational. Sometimes it’s tricky to thread that needle. Seeing your descriptions of what’s out there is very scary and disheartening. Many people think “we” are at a major turning point in religious thought and practice. Looks very timely, doesn’t it? Thank you for your thoughtful information.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 4:00 pm

What to do? You know what to do — you’re already doing it. Just keep doing it.

1. Get educated. Yeah, I want you to buy C Street, but you don’t have to — you can start by asking tough but respectful questions of your representatives about their understanding of the First Amendment.

2. Resist conspiracy theories. They’re the death of the left. Far more dangerous is conventional wisdom.

3. Cleave to democracy — the cacophonous kind, not the “smooth, democratic unfreedom” of a harmonious establishment.

4. Get involved — right now, the Ugandans need your help fighting the American backed crusade to eradicate homosexuality. We all say “never again.” Here’s your chance. Check out the link to “Dangerous Liaisons,” my story in the Advocate, above, for links to LGBT and human rights groups in Africa that need your help to counter the Senator Inhofes of the world.

5. And while you’re at it, let’s get Senator Inhofe out of office. An good bet this election cycle is beating Rep. Joe Pitts, a Family core member, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Help his opponent, Lois Herr. Why? Because she’s not Joe Pitts — she knows what the First Amendment says and why it matters for everyone.

6. Support the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization dedicated to First Amendment freedoms for military personnel. THis group sometimes strikes some people as over the top or hyperbolic, but I can’t tell you how thankful so many men and women in the military, of all faiths and no faiths, are to MRFF for its fight against a fundamentalist takeover of the chain of command.

7. Buy the book. Give one to your library. Or get other great books. Better books, even — start with Roger Williams.

Jeff Sharlet October 3rd, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Thanks, folks.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 4:01 pm


Thank you for spending time with us again – and for doing the work you do. I really hope folks read (and BUY!) C Street since it’s so important … and also a really good read.

And Bev, thank you as always!

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 4:02 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 126

And I hope everyone is taking notes … that’s a very good list!

Thanks Jeff!

RevBev October 3rd, 2010 at 4:03 pm
In response to Siun @ 128

You’re welcome ;). Kidding, you know.

spocko October 3rd, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Thanks Jeff! Great list.

meepmeep09 October 3rd, 2010 at 4:11 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 113

Oh, that IS intriguing, and if I understand its implications correctly – and I hope you’ve written about this (somewhere) – probably spot-on, since a stance of helpless inactivism and/or hopeless hedonism isn’t any good either. Your list of actions at #126 offers some great suggestions for positive action.
__ __ __ __ __ __

Beyond the links provided by BevW at #123 – anyone who wants to follow this remarkable journalist and individual* elsewhere might want to know he is on Twitter, and is also a co-founder of a fascinating and eclectic site called “Killing the Buddha”, named after a book he authored some years ago (go here for a fun and informative 2004 review of the book, by Daniel Asa Rose at the NY Observer). The book (which I haven’t read) and the Website are written for those of us who don’t find any value in churches, and who may not believe in a deity, but who do recognize the power – good and bad – of faith, even though we may eschew the various objects in which such faith is placed by various folk.

*We’re neither related nor acquainted, I swear. I’ve never even met the man, though would like to one day.

Jeff Sharlet’s Twitter account

Killing the Buddha Website – this link (for the ‘Manifesto’) goes to the page explaining the site, including its name – links along the top of the page lead to their blog, contributing editors/authors, and other sub-sites.

Siun October 3rd, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for adding those meep!

gesneri October 3rd, 2010 at 4:32 pm
In response to Jeff Sharlet @ 89

It’s worth noting that they’ve essentially been let down by the civilian government, which has sent them into wars where they can’t find a legitimate or honorable rationale for what they’re being asked to do.So they turn to fundamentalism.

Thank you for that. It’s too easy to categorize all soldiers as crazed psychopaths. Some are, but so are some civilians. Many more have been corrupted/broken by their experiences.

knowbuddhau October 3rd, 2010 at 5:47 pm

OMG I can’t believe I missed Jeff Sharlet. Expletives fail me. I gotta learn to look ahead.

meepmeep09 October 4th, 2010 at 6:01 am

It is only available to subscribers, but for those who can get it (or can prevail on someone who does have access), here is Jeff Sharlet’s May 2009 article in Harper’s, “Jesus killed Mohammed:
The crusade for a Christian military”
. Ayup, the situation is as bad as that title implies.

And yes, it is an ongoing outrage that the same civilian politicians who vote us into such Glorious Foreign Adventures – with the cheering approval and drum-beating of corporate media and big money insiders – abandon their steaming, stinky, bloody messes for the armed forces to deal with soon thereafter, only popping their heads up occasionally, to ask, when-oh-when will the Magic War Unicorn finally bring us Victory and Glory.

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