Family Ties

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Sharlet.jpgWaPo’s Manuel Roig-Franzia’s has a story today on that mysterious “C Street” house where Mark Sanford went for some Bible study and help with his sparking problem. It’s a Capitol Hill residence associated with “TheFellowship” or “The Family,” the secretive religious organization best known for sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast. The guy with the skinny is Jeff Sharlet, whose book The Family traces the history, current activities, and spiritual ideology of the group. For his initial take (and a peek inside the C Street domicile), look at his 2003 Harper’s article, “Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats.”

While I think Jeff is too alarmist, there certainly is something creepy about The Family. Sure, if this were a century ago, it would be simply one more muscular Christian, Student Volunteer Movement-type exercise in mainstream American evangelicalism–making the world safe for Christian democracy, a la Woodrow Wilson. Its anti-“religion,” Jesus-only credo has its roots in America’s restorationist tradition. It is establishmentarian, welcoming Democrats as well as Republicans, specializing in networks.

But this is not 1909. A secret society of a global elite getting together to get themselves and the world right with Jesus cannot but seem ominous, even if it doesn’t manage to succeed in keeping its members’ pants on. (Sen. Ensign–remember  him?–lives in the C Street house.) Call it a Protestant Opus Dei. The Family would have done better if Hillary Clinton been managed to become president, since her own involvement with The Family is not insignificant. Perhaps Sanford has inadvertently given Jeff a gift.