The Family and the Tea Party

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The Family–the secretive Jesus-centric cult that runs the National Prayer Breakfast and solicits the engagement of Washington and world’s high and mighty–is creeping back into the news. The New Yorker‘s Peter J. Boyer has delivered himself of an extended report, while another book on the subject from the redoubtable Jeff Sharlet waits in the wings. I’m not an uncritical admirer of Sharlet’s 2008 The Family, which makes this eccentric enterprise into the hidden key to American conservative religion. The new book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, promises more of the same.

Boyer, characteristically, lets you know where the warts are while suggesting that they aren’t anything very serious to worry about. Sure, the Family welcomes evildoers–who else is religion for? The Sharlet view is acknowledged, but waved away. But as usual with Boyer, there’s just enough new reporting to give you something to chew on.

I’m chewing on Jim DeMint, the Tea Party’s most important paladin in the U.S. Senate, who lives in the C Street house when he’s in Washington. He vigorously supported Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, and in the wake of her victory Tuesday, has earned himself more obloquy than ever from the GOP establishment. “It
speaks volumes that in Jim DeMint’s world, the ‘principles of freedom’
are more important than a candidate who pays their taxes, is honest with
voters and who isn’t a complete fraud,” a “senior GOP aide” sputtered in Politico yesterday. What would Jesus say to that?