On the QT over on C Street

Following up on Dan Burke’s post yesterday about the mysterious “C Street house” that is home to a number of congressional Bible studies and congressional bunkmates … WaPo has an A1 story this morning that takes a closer look inside the house (which is run by the overly secretive Christian group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_(Christian_political_organization)”>The Fellowship), and it’s worth a read. But here’s my favorite part: “The house pulsed with backstage intrigue, in the days and months before the Sanford and Ensign scandals — dubbed “two lightning strikes” by a high-ranking congressional source. First, at least one resident learned of both the [Gov. Mark] Sanford and [Sen. John] Ensign affairs and tried to talk each politician into ending his philandering, a source close to the congressman said. Then the house drama escalated.

Family seeks ‘proper Christian burial’ for famed explorer

(UNDATED) Two deadly gunshots signaled that Capt. Meriwether Lewis had reached his final destination. The famed explorer, known for traversing the continent as one-half of the legendary Lewis and Clark expedition, died in the yard of a remote inn in a little town in Tennessee. Like most cold cases, questions remain: did he kill himself or was he murdered? Now some 200 descendants of the former governor of the Louisiana Territory are determined to solve the mystery, clear the family name and give Lewis a “proper Christian burial.” “I like history to be true, and so far most of our history is based on hearsay and people’s imagination,” said Dr. William Anderson, who, at 92, is Lewis’s oldest living relative.

Michael Jackson, undead

A disclaimer at the beginning of the Thriller film reads, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.” OK, so what does it endorse?With apologies to Jacksonologists, for whom this may be a commonplace, as a non-fan I’m struck, viewing it for the first time (!), at the film’s exposing of the Jackson self. “I’m not like other boys,” Michael tells his date, before turning into a species of werewolf. Really? And then he becomes a zombie, joins the zombies, dances with them.

Family Ties

WaPo’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.

Survey: Overall, gays are not godless

(RNS) A significant majority of gays and lesbians — six in 10 — say faith is important in their lives, but heterosexuals generally state such commitments more often, according to a new survey by a Christian research firm. “People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” said George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based research company. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.” Among the findings: — 72 percent of heterosexual adults say faith is important in their lives, compared to 60 percent of homosexual adults. –85 percent of straight adults identify themselves as Christians, compared to 70 percent of gay adults.

Lawyer disbarred over missing Holocaust victim funds

TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) Only a few years ago, Edward Fagan was a world-renowned lawyer for the underdog, brash and audacious enough to take on Swiss banks and even whole countries to win judgments for Holocaust survivors and victims of South African apartheid. Now, the state Supreme Court has barred him from practicing law in New Jersey after finding that Fagan, 56, misappropriated nearly $400,000 of the money he won for the victims he so effectively championed. The justices agreed with a report that said Fagan knowingly misused client and escrow trust funds, and was also punished for his “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Fagan was disbarred in New York last year. “Somebody’s life work that goes bad in such a negative way …

Christian publisher still plans Kate Gosselin book

(RNS) Should a Christian publisher still release a $30 book from one of the namesake stars of “Jon & Kate Plus 8” promising “an inside look at one of America’s most close-knit families” after the couple has filed for divorce amid allegations of adultery and neglectful parenting? Publishing giant Zondervan is still advertising “Love is in the Mix: Making Meals into Memories,” by Kate Gosselin, for release in November. Amazon.com shows an Oct. 13 release date and a $19.79 sale price. Maureen “Moe” Girkins, CEO of Zondervan, said the company, a division of News Corp.’s HarperCollins publishing company, was going to “work with Kate to reassess the schedule for her next book.”

Feds warn black churches about computer scam

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning churches about con artists who are embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from African-American congregations through an alleged computer equipment scam. The scammers target primarily Baptist churches by signing them into a lease for “free” computer kiosks. Churches are expected to make payments to cover the equipment costs until they are reimbursed by “sponsors,” who are non-existent. The scammers than allegedly drain the church bank accounts using the account information from a check. “Often targeting African American churches, these scammers may profess a shared faith, culture, or concern for the community to gain the trust of the church staff,” according to the consumer alert by the nation’s consumer protection agency.

No longer Episcopalians, Anglicans launch own church

PLANO, Texas — Conservative Anglicans disenchanted with the liberal drift in their U.S. and Canadian churches say they are confident that a new church body launched this week will one day gain a seat in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has been organized, its leaders say, as an alternative for Anglicans who disagree with the theology of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. “This is the beginning of a recovery of confidence in Anglicanism as a biblical, missionary church,” said former Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker. Iker and other former Episcopalians frequently criticized their former church’s embrace of female clergy and the 2003 election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Iker seceded, with his diocese, late last year.

The Gospel According to 31,173 Americans

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Nearly nine months after it hit the road, Zondervan’s hand-written Bible Across America came home Wednesday (June 24) bearing Scripture verses inscribed by 31,173 people. Among them: a little girl who guided her blind sister’s hand; a father who flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles to write in it with his son; and Antoinette and Jim Barry, a couple from Palos Heights, Ill., where church leaders 44 years ago conceived of the New International Version Bible. The Barrys’ daughter, Maureen “Moe” Girkins, is president of Zondervan, the mega Christian publishing house. Last year, she inscribed the first verse (“In the beginning …”) from Genesis 1:1, and on Wednesday penned the final verse from Revelation 22:21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.

The House on C Street

So Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev) and Gov. Mark Sanford both hang out at “C Street,” a house in Washington apparently owned by The Family, a super-secretive Christian fellowship. This raises an interesting question: What are they doing in there? Shortly after the publication of his book on the Family, journalist Jeff Sharlet told us a little about them. Q: What makes the group worth a book? A: This is a group that denies its own existence and yet the tax records tell a different story, and a group that has been involved for several decades now in playing matchmaker between American power and foreign dictators.

Jailhouse Bar Mitzvah

From the Department of News that continues to amuse. A bar mitzvah can never be too big-even when it’s in the big house. A Manhattan inmate held a swanky bar mitzvah for his son in the prison’s gym-a story which the New York Post first reported. More than 60 non-inmates attended the six-hour fete, complete with kosher catering and live music. The party planner appears to be the now-resigned prison chaplain, Rabbi Glanz, who has a record of making prison more accommodating for his chosen people.

Rubber, meet road

Obama’s White House office has been saying they’ll deal with the religious groups hiring issue when it comes up. Well, it’s come up. Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced yesterday that they’ve asked the Justice Department to review federal grants for 9 faith-based charities that discriminate in hiring — that is, they only hire members of their flock. “In providing these grants, the U.S. Department of Justice is unconstitutionally aiding religion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director. “There’s no reason why organizations that evangelize or that discriminate in hiring on religious grounds should ever receive a penny from the government, let alone millions of dollars.”