The story of the evangelical elite’s efforts to promote Christian ideals in U.S. domestic and international affairs.
Following his bestselling 2008 exposé The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Harper’s and Rolling Stone contributing editor Sharlet provides an unsettling account of the present-day inner workings of this secretive underground of Christian activists in government—variously known as the Family and the Fellowship—and its flagship C Street townhouse in Washington, D.C., which offers lodging, meals and prayer meetings for conservative Christian members of Congress. Elected by citizens, participating officials “persuade themselves that they were, in fact, selected by God,” and promote anti-gay, anti-abortion and pro–free-market ideas. Shortly after publication of The Family, the C Street house won national media attention in connection with the extramarital affairs of three Republican politicians and Family members—Nevada Sen. John Ensign, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering. (Ensign and Pickering were living at C Street.) Drawing on interviews and archival material, Sharlet details the scandals and Family efforts to cover them up, then clears the murk surrounding the spiritual group enough to show how C Street brings politicians and business leaders together to “do right by God and each other” by shaping legislation and fostering ties with—and U.S. support for—repressive foreign regimes. In Uganda, for example, the Family has poured millions into advancing God-led government and anti-gay efforts. One member, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, has often traveled at public expense to meet with leaders in Nigeria and other African nations to advance what he calls “the political philosophy of Jesus.” Sharlet also explores the evangelical transformation of the armed services. Christian proselytizing pervades the military academies, and such groups as the Officers’ Christian Fellowship, modeled on Family principles, view the global war on terror as a spiritual battle in which soldiers in Iraq have been forced to pray to Jesus. Sometimes called the “Christian mafia,” the Family sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual Washington event that has been attended by every sitting U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
An eye-opener that rings multiple alarms.