Friday, May 21, 2010

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Also watched “Fraility” a disturbing little film about faith and families—don’t know what else to say about it.

And finished “The Family…” Is it paranoid? Conspiracy theorist? It seems well-researched and has certainly taken on great meaning in light of recent events to pundits of the left such as Rachel Maddow whom I respect (and—full disclosure--kind of lust after because I love smart nerds).

According to the book, there is a quiet, not-quite hidden or secret, but shadowy nevertheless, organization, known now as the Family who works behind the scenes of Washington politics and from there the world. In it’s guise of innocent prayer groups it places “influential men in key places” thereby spreading JESUS throughout the world. But theirs is a Jesus unrecognizable to me or to most Christians whether they be holiday Christians or Evangelicals.

Theirs is Jesus unfettered by scipture, focused on the 'global picture' and therefore unconcerned about the tiny players (read you and me, the poor, the victims of dictators) and unhindered it seems by common sense. I didn't realize as I started this, but perhaps that is why I was thinking of World Citizen by Sylvian:
We raise the men
Who run the fascist states
And we sell them arms
So they maintain their place

We turn our backs
On the things they've done
Their human rights record
And the guns they run

Their concern is with "key men" in high places. That is, their belief is that God has "chosen" some men to have power (they must be chosen by God, right? Else why would they have power?) and that those chosen should be prayed over and with to spread Christianity, or rather complete loyalty to Jesus as they avoic the "Christian" label as they find it "off-putting." This is not proselytizing in the traditional sense, this is a new world order.

They take as their inspiration the story of King David, chosen by God despite what we would consider evil and sinful behavior. In fact, Governor Sanford (a member of The Family) referenced King David in his strange, rambling apology for his infidelity and deception of his family and his constituents.

I have always had a problem with the story of King David. Why should this sinful and proud man be so beloved by God. I try to rationalize it as C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist does by saying that an all-powerful God is beyond our comprehension, so his actions cannot be limited by human sensibilities.

But it falls kind of flat. This is one of the cenral tenants of The Family. That these petty sins of minor men are unimportant for the 'great men' who are 'loyal' to God.

This means that they celebrate Hitler, Lenin and Stalin as men who 'got it'--the uniting and leading of men. They befriend and supposedly pray with dictators such as Suharto of Indonesia. The crimes against humanity are nothing compared with power. That's why men like Sanford or John Ensign seem to have so little real remorse and do not resign. After all they have a greater good to do.

But The Family is not limited by party lines. It's members are Democrats as well as Republicans. Independents as well as party-liners. All united by their sense of being chosen. It is Ayn Randism with the face of God. Even Hilary Clinton has participated in The Family's prayer breakfasts although she is not one of the elite.

At its very mildest it is an old boy network providing a ladder for those hoping to rise in politics. The author, Jeff Sharlet, begins his story in one of the family's houses, Ivanwald, with other young men, some Christian some just looking for a leg up.

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