Book Review: “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet

This column was first published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 26, 2008.

Jeff Sharlet is the best journalist currently covering American religion. Among those who connect subject to predicate, there are few who do so with Sharlet’s grace, insight, or humor. His recently published book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper Collins, 2008, $25.95 cloth) was every bit as good as I expected it to be. Often, while reading The Family I found myself interrupting the conversations of those around me to read aloud Jeff’s well-crafted insights.

The subject of Sharlet’s book is “The Family,” also called “The Fellowship,” a self-identified “Christian Mafia” which, for seven decades, has operated in the shadows of American power, exerting great influence without accountability or oversight. They are evangelists and powerbrokers with a theocratic agenda, a lust for power, and a strange fondness for such creeps of history as Adolf Hitler, Mao Tsedung, and Genghis Khan. Continue reading

Doug Coe, The Fellowship, Hillary Clinton and Why You Should Care

This column was first published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on April 14, 2008.

By now we all know about Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor whose homiletical remarks have become a serious liability for the Obama campaign. Less known are the “pastor problems” of Hillary Clinton and John McCain. This week’s column is the first in a series of two columns that will look at the religious baggage being carried by Barack Obama’s fellow presidential candidates.

This has the potential of becoming a huge story: Doug Coe, a man Hillary Clinton has called a “genuinely loving spiritual guide and mentor for many” has been caught on tape praising the personal relationships shared by Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler. In the same speech Coe expressed admiration for the dedication of Chinese soldiers who, according to Coe, were forced to chop off the heads of their mothers as a demonstration of their commitment to the People’s Republic of China. Continue reading

One from the archives: Dysfunction in the Fellowship Family

A few years back, I wrote an article for Beliefnet on the Fellowship, a well connected Christian organization based in Washington D.C.  Initially, my editors at Beliefnet were enthusiastic about the piece, but eventually their excitement waned, and Beliefnet never published my piece. But the Fellowship is starting to be a hot topic again, with the publication in Mother Jones of a piece by Jeff Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce (former editors of mine at the Revealer), so it seemed like a good time to publish this piece. Since Beliefnet killed the piece it has had a good life as a PDF file on my church’s website. Now, for the first time, you can read it on a regular web-site. Enjoy!

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