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Criminalizing Homosexuality in Uganda.
December 2, 2009 1:33 AM   Subscribe

The Ugandan government is considering a law that would criminalize homosexuality, advocacy for gay rights, or even failing to report homosexuals to the govenment. And death for HIV+ gays. And who is behind this? An American group with purported ties to the administration called the Family.


via
posted by idiopath (113 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Focus on the Family
posted by MattMangels at 1:34 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


This bill would also make buying someone of the same sex a beer before having sex with them punishable by death, and the penalty for failing to report a homosexual to the government within 24 hours of arriving at that knowledge would be a three year sentence. The penalty for gay rights advocacy (including, for example, saying that gays should have the right to marry) would be life in prison.
posted by idiopath at 1:43 AM on December 2, 2009


this makes a lot of sense. oh wait, nope, it doesn't at all.
posted by dearsina at 1:54 AM on December 2, 2009


Jeff Sharlet on TRMS Monday night. Tying the Ugandan leadership to the Family.
posted by netbros at 1:56 AM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


HIV+ thing is curious. You'd think that if you really hated these people so much, nuking HIV+ in their population would actually be contrary to your goals. It'd make more logical sense for them to terminate HIV+ straight people, as they're the ones that'd conceivably actually be dangerous to them.
posted by floam at 2:02 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


both of my state's senators, inhofe and coburn, are in deep with the family. they would favor that legislation over here. sad, but also totally true.
posted by nadawi at 2:05 AM on December 2, 2009


This is EXACTLY what Jesus was on about.
posted by nudar at 2:05 AM on December 2, 2009 [29 favorites]


Rick Warren refuses to "oppose" the law, claiming that as a preacher, it's not his place to tell countries what laws they should enact. Of course it didn't stop him from endorsing and fighting for prop 8.
posted by delmoi at 2:07 AM on December 2, 2009 [77 favorites]


HIV+ thing is curious. You'd think that if you really hated these people so much, nuking HIV+ in their population would actually be contrary to your goals.

I think their justification would be that HIV+ plus gay men might infect bisexual men, or be bisexual themselves.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 AM on December 2, 2009


Correcting my post slightly: homosexuality is already punishable by law in Uganda, this legislation is seeking to expand the range of punishable crimes and to increase the potential punishments.
posted by idiopath at 2:11 AM on December 2, 2009


Good post. It seems to me that this paragraph by Jeff Sharlet at the bottom of the talk2action link is key

He's [Museveni, Uganda's President] come out just this - just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he's been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.

In other words this is to do with Africa as a battleground between the American right and the European liberal models
posted by criticalbill at 2:12 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Far Right nutjobs of all kind LOVE the free market- Except when it doesn't work for them. And they LOVE peace and kindness and tolerance- Except when they hate and fear something.

I don't get it. I also hate that these loonies are running around sullying the good word. The Good Book is just a book gentlemen, but the word of God is plain as day: Don't be a jerkoff. It's hard work, but that's your job above all of else. Especially when you don't like someone.

LE SIGH.
posted by GilloD at 2:56 AM on December 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


The Google ads on this post are terrific.
posted by doublehappy at 3:11 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is not exactly the greatest use of our diplomatic powers.

On the scale of states, there is something of an exchange between aid and policy -- the donor offers aid, the recipient implements policy. Generally, policy changes are economic in nature -- open this market, institute that transparency rule, grant lucrative contracts to this particular entity. And so on.

Right or wrong, it's sort of how the world works.

The problem is that, in this case, these diplomatic powers are being used to drive social policy. This is a really bad idea. Not just, it's a really immoral and repugnant idea (obviously it is) but a group of Americans saying a group of Ugandans must die is dangerous. Really dangerous. Families have a way of avenging dead relatives in a way that they just don't avenge lost jobs. And even if the killing is done by "your government", the idea that foreigners pushed that policy is noxious.

Now, you might argue that there's a long history of using diplomacy to effect social change. This is true in two categories: Democracy, and Civil Rights. Note that both have the effect of strengthening the weak at the expense of the strong. A sufficiently cynical observer might say this has positive effects for foreign powers. A more idealistic observer might say a democratic society with strong civil rights is more stable for long term investment. Whatever your interpretation, neither of these social changes is a direct declaration of war (literally, with censorship and dead bodies).

You might also argue that I'm overstating the American involvement. In this case, the burden of proof is a little different. Even if the interactions are limited to "Heh, if we massacre all these gays, you're cool right? I mean, you won't go all genocide on us will you?" and we reply "Yeah, screw 'em", that's still enough. "Well, technically, we just didn't object" doesn't work. Dead bodies screw with the burden of proof something fierce.

Bottom line, I struggle to see how this turn of events is at all in the national interest of the United States. Even if the people involved Hate The Gay, there's a real "bad for business" vibe all over this one.
posted by effugas at 3:28 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think their justification would be that

Don't try to explain them - you can only fail.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:36 AM on December 2, 2009


Hey, "the Family":

FUCK OFF BACK TO YOUR CAVES, YOU FESTERING BOILS ON HUMANITY'S ASS

Jesus. If this was the law stateside, I guess we'd quickly have a lot of funerals for evangelical priests and republican lawmakers, no kidding.
posted by maxwelton at 3:49 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The author of the book on The Family also gave an interview on NPR explaining the Uganda connection.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:52 AM on December 2, 2009


Choose life.
posted by caddis at 3:53 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sharlet shows how The Family’s highly elastic fundamentalist theology boils down to one idea, which members describe as “Jesus plus nothing.” Which is to say that the person of Jesus is all that matters. Not coincidentally, the leader of The Family, Doug Coe, is said to have the closest relationship to Jesus of all of its members, whose respective closeness to Jesus may be measured in concentric circles of closeness to Coe.

Wow. If they have successfully cross-bred fundamentalist Christianity with Scientology in their DC and African laboratories, we could have a full-scale crazydemic on our hands.
posted by rokusan at 3:59 AM on December 2, 2009 [25 favorites]


Also, I totally just ordered Sharlet's book from Amazon. Well done, Blue Team!
posted by rokusan at 4:06 AM on December 2, 2009


Utterly hateful. To what extent is the existing law applied?
posted by woodway at 4:42 AM on December 2, 2009


More on Rick Warren's cop-out here.

And this is the guy who gave the invocation at our President's inauguration.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:42 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


So Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe they're more conservative, they're going to say Billy Graham. And Coe likes to give in answer: Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. [...] When I was at the C Street house, I sat in on a session between Doug Coe and Congressman Tiahrt of Kansas. And Coe was encouraging Tiahrt to understand the message of Jesus by thinking about the model of power exemplified by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. There are so many examples of this, and I give several because I don't want people to think that I'm cherrypicking one bad choice of words.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:43 AM on December 2, 2009


And who is behind this? An American group with purported ties to the administration called the Family.

This is why I hate reading news on the Internet.

“The Family” is a organization founded in the US, and supports an international network of fundamentalist Christian political leaders. The author of this bill, David Bahati, is a prominent Ugandan member of The Family, and Family money has apparently found its way into Ugandan politics. Finally, Hillary Clinton reportedly attends prayer groups organized by the Family. (All of that is from Wikipedia and the post’s links.)

Is that the same thing as saying “an American group with purported ties to the administration” is “behind this”? I really don’t think so.

This is a horrible development for Ugandans, and I’m not particularly pleased that our Secretary of State attends anything this group puts together. But those issues are worthy of concern even without the innuendo in the post.
posted by Garak at 4:44 AM on December 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


This makes me sick to my stomach. Some of "The Family" are apparently in our Senate.
posted by kalessin at 4:53 AM on December 2, 2009


Is that the same thing as saying “an American group with purported ties to the administration” is “behind this”?

yeah
posted by fleetmouse at 5:08 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Garak, go listen to the NPR piece linked by lucia-_is_dead. IIRC, Sharlet argues that several Senators who were also members of the Family have actively cultivated players in Ugandan politics for years. The author of the proposed law mentioned in the post is one of them; he has been on their radar for years. That's more than "being a prominent member" of the Family, or "money finding its way" into Ugandan politics. Money + political help + advice from Family members in the U.S. Senate? Yes, I'd argue that saying that the Family is "behind this" is a fair statement.

"Tied to the Administration" via Hillary Clinton may be stretching a point.

But this particular rabbit hole is deeper than you think. The Family thrives on invisibility. Listen to Sharlet's interview with Terry Gross and then tell me whether you think "innuendo" is a poor choice of words.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:12 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is my surprised face. Previous posts with articles by investigative journalist Jeff Sharlet including this 2003 Harper's Article "Undercover among America's secret theocrats".
posted by adamvasco at 5:12 AM on December 2, 2009


The author of this bill, David Bahati, is a prominent Ugandan member of The Family, and Family money has apparently found its way into Ugandan politics.

So you are saying the Family is behind this?

Hillary Clinton reportedly attends prayer groups organized by the Family.

So you are saying the Family has ties to the administration?

Is that the same thing as saying “an American group with purported ties to the administration” is “behind this”?

Seems to be.
posted by DU at 5:12 AM on December 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


BTW, Maddow has had a number of pieces on how much the Family controls in gov't. Many conservative Democrats, you know the ones? opposed to HCR?, are members. I thought there had been some disturbing revelations on their involvement in the military too, but I might be thinking of another secretive, unconstitutional, theocratic movement.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on December 2, 2009


This is...just bizarre (aside from also being hateful, draconian, unbelievably cruel and everything else that you can probably take as read at this point). Uganda's generally been on the "definitely not good but at least not ridiculous" end of the "tolerance of homosexuality" scale - while I was there it just wasn't generally talked about, although I wasn't aware it was punishable by imprisonment.

People are generally pretty reserved with their romantic expression over there anyway, to the point that many things we'd deem a public display of affection in the West just aren't seen like that there. To give you an example, it's entirely normal to see men holding hands, because that's just what you do when walking along with a friend. So homosexuality isn't seen by many people as a "terrible threat to our way of life" because they just don't see it very much.

So, yeah, to go from that to what can only be described as "almost cartoonishly evil" - seriously, it's the kind of policy you'd expect to be declaimed from a dark mountain by a cackling overlord - is very, very weird.
posted by ZsigE at 5:17 AM on December 2, 2009


I cut this out of the front page of The Sun while I was in Uganda in 2004: Top Cop Warns Homos
posted by gman at 5:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


my cat is sleeping in the sun
my cat is sleeping in the sun
my cat is sleeping in the sun
my cat is sleeping in the sun
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:40 AM on December 2, 2009


The Family's a bizarre cult: the group's founder claims Jesus spoke to him and told him that the Christian church has been getting it wrong for two thousand years, and God wants them to focus on helping the rich and powerful, instead of the poor and helpless. The scary thing is how many members of Congress it seems to have its fingers in.

From the Senate:

Sam Brownback
James Inhofe
Jim DeMint
Chuck Grassley
Richard Lugar
John Ensign
Tom Coburn
Mark Pryor
Bill Nelson
John Thune
Mike Enzi

From the House:

Joe Pitts
Todd Tiahrt
Frank Wolf
Zach Wamp
Mike McIntyre
Bart Stupak
Michael F. Doyle
Heath Shuler
Jerry Moran

Add to that Mark Sanford, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Strom Thurmond, John Ashcroft, Dan Quayle, Robert McFarlane, Ed Meese, Chuck Colson, and two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, plus a bunch of other Washington power players. It's like something out of a crappy airport novel, only it's real.
posted by EarBucket at 5:43 AM on December 2, 2009 [34 favorites]


Is that the same thing as saying “an American group with purported ties to the administration” is “behind this”?

Pretty much, yes. Next question?
posted by rokusan at 5:43 AM on December 2, 2009


I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret.

Let's do some googling....

Looking at the, The Family's 990s, where they're moving their money - into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, 'invisible family binding together world leaders,' and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads - graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO's through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media - which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Cornerstone Development has a web page. Participants have blogged their experiences. They run a ranch. In an interview, the director of Cornerstone said that the organisation opposes the death penalty and had "zero input on that bill". Cornerstone has its annual report online.

On a quick glance, it appears that Youth Corps provides an education for homeless children, and the alumni association is comprised of those alumni who work in the schools.

I'm not currently living in the US, and it looks like the Ugandan laws are horrible, but I sometimes don't know when I'm looking at legitimate analysis or the paranoid style in American politics. Can someone help me here?
posted by honest knave at 5:45 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


> "God wants them to focus on helping the rich and powerful, instead of the poor and helpless."

I can see how this would be a highly attractive message to politicians everywhere.
posted by chavenet at 5:55 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


God wants them to focus on helping the rich and powerful, instead of the poor and helpless.

Given this definition, your list of Congresspersons in the cult seems strangely short.
posted by DU at 5:57 AM on December 2, 2009


So let me make sure I get the "connected to the administration" pathway correct here:

1. David Bahati has been pushing hard for it in Uganda
2. David Bahati has been involved with the Ugandan branch of the group called "the Family" which in the US is mostly made up of right wing big wigs including some Members of Congress.
3. In the 1980's, during the cold war, the Family used conservative religion to lure the budding dictator away from the Soviets, it mostly worked. Some of the guys that did so are still in the dictator's inner circle.
4. Hillary Clinton has at least met with the Family on several occasions.
5. Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of State by Barak Hussein Obama II (a part African).

Therefore: Obama is a secret right wing homophobe.

If you think Hillary or Obama have a right-wing religious agenda you might watch this.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:02 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pollomacho, would you prefer "Not even the Democrats are immune to the Family, as many prominent Administration personnel are members."

I mean, the right-wing religious crazies are the default state; we all expect that. The news here is that it's not so neatly compartmentalized, and shouldn't be treated as an exclusively right-wing tentacle.

I don't think either Clinton or Obama are right wing homophobes, and I doubt that's what idiopath was suggesting with the post. I'm pretty sure those two are good politicians, though, so if they take a group seriously, it suggests something to me about the power that group may actually have. Enough to raise my interest, at the very least.

I mean, what is "power" in politics other than influence, anyway?
posted by rokusan at 6:16 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


God wants them to focus on helping the rich and powerful, instead of the poor and helpless.

As Jesus said, "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. Fuck you, got mine."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:24 AM on December 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


This is the kind of Family that, when I was a kid, you'd joke their name would be prepended by 'Manson'.
posted by mephron at 6:27 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is my surprised facface. Previous posts with articles by investigative journalist Jeff Sharlet including this 2003 Harper's Article "Undercover among America's secret theocrats".

I recommend reading the previous threads, as they contain alot of interesting links and discussion.
posted by ericb at 6:30 AM on December 2, 2009


Everyone knows that fear and stigma are the best defenses against a public health threat.
posted by rtha at 6:30 AM on December 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nobody is claiming Obama is directly associated to the Family - no need for straw men, Pollomacho. Hillary definitely is, though. And the list above indicates plenty of gov't is. relevant passage:

Prepublication publicity about Sharlet’s book has focused on the peculiar role of Senator Hillary Clinton in the group. But true to the Family's culture of secrecy, she has yet to explain her involvement, the current political fashion of discussing one’s faith journey, notwithstanding. Sharlet reports that she is not a “member,” but is a longtime participant in a Family-sponsored prayer cell, with the wives of other leaders such as Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State, James. Sharlet names other “associates,” including former Republican Senators Don Nickels of Oklahoma and Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina.
posted by mek at 6:31 AM on December 2, 2009


many prominent Administration personnel are members

Do you have proof of membership or just proof that they have met with the Family? They probably met with Robert Byrd a time or two, probably even in some super secret back room of a facility that screens people from entering its grounds, does that mean the adminstration has "ties to" Klan lynchings in the 1960s?

Oh my god! It all makes sense, clearly the Klan and the Family are conspiring to hide a terrible secret, that Jesus's blood relatives are alive and well in France!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:36 AM on December 2, 2009


Why is it that the crowd that freak out over the Illuminati and Free Masons don't freak out over the Family? Is it because they actually like the policy that the Family pushes on everyone else? Is it because the Family is Christian, and thus it isn't a minority power (IE the Jews, liberal elites, reptiles, etc) controlling the world in their view?

At the very least, what will it take to get Lady Gaga to start working in their symbols into her wardrobe? We've got to spread awareness somehow.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:38 AM on December 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


And now, a few words from Jeff Sharlett, the person accusing David Bahati of being a member of the Family, and of others in the Family in the US of supporting this policy...

"Now that doesn't make (Hillary Clinton) a member, a stealth fundamentalist, or something like that... they would never ask her to do their bidding."


Sharlett then goes on to link The Family to ex-Nazis, Papa Doc Duvalier, central Asian dictatorships, etc.

I do not like the idea of The Family having influence in the government. However, it's really, really easy to follow nebulous connections and build up a "sinister conspiracy" of guilt-by-association.

Arguably, the same things that Sharlett said about Hillary Clinton can be said about David Bahati. All we know from Sharlett's statements is that "he works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program".

Work, prayers, and scholarships! Hillary does that too! But she's above direct reproach, because it simply would be irresponsible and damaging for Mr. Sharlett to attack her except under the veil of guilt-by-association.

I absolutely do not agree with The Family, but still... there is real danger in conflating individual acts of bigotry and religious intolerance with a shadow organization in charge of a worldwide conspiracy. Can anyone please point out to me how Sharlett's means of drawing conclusions differ noticeably from, say, McCarthyism?!
posted by markkraft at 6:53 AM on December 2, 2009


they come up with this idea of a third way, that they later start calling totalitarianism for Christ

Somewhere, Kurt Vonnegut is laughing...and crying.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:56 AM on December 2, 2009


BTW --
“For more than 50 years, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a Washington institution. Every president has attended the breakfast since Eisenhower, elbow-to-elbow with Democrats and Republicans alike.”* The event is sponsored by “The Family.”*
posted by ericb at 7:04 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


'The Family' is also called 'The Fellowship.'

Here are Records of the Fellowship Foundation at the Billy Graham Center.
posted by ericb at 7:06 AM on December 2, 2009


I have absolute proof that there IS an organization that controls the US government. Its members include the leadership of all three branches of government, Governors of several states, big business leaders, religious leaders, Klansmen, black liberationists, Radical Leftisits, Righty tightys, Christian Fundamentalists, Jews, Communists, marijuana activists, gays, anti-gays, peaceniks, war mongers, and just about any other group you can think of that might in some way be considered contraversial by someone. The group has supported the enslavement of Africans, actively conspired to bring down the Federal government, provided material support to communists, and has attempted on numerous occasions to take over the government through shadowy, back room conspiracy. For now, it seems they have succeeded. Those bastards!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:18 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Holy misunderstood teachings of Jesus, imagine the breathless hysteria if there was a secretive, well-connected Washington leftist group dedicated to spreading reproductive rights around the world? We'd be well past torches and pitchforks time. Even the name is creepy -- "The Family?" seriously??

That said, markkraft is right; just because this Bahati guy is a member doesn't mean the American side of The Family supported this despicable policy. When asked directly "What does the Family have to do with this legislation?" in the Terry Gross interview, Sharlett keeps falling back to pointing out that the sponsors of the bill are members. That's not enough to say "world-wide gay-murdering conspiracy." Frankly, I think that being secretive, the Family is probably dismayed by all the negative publicity.

Of course now is the time for them to show their Christian principles and condemn the hateful, murderous bill. I'm not holding my breath.

The scary thing is how many members of Congress it seems to have its fingers in.

They'd go to jail for that in Uganda now, right?

(sorry. so very sorry.)
posted by ScotchRox at 7:21 AM on December 2, 2009


Political ties to a secretive religious group
“…the one constant presence at the National Prayer Breakfast has been Douglas Coe. Although he’s not an ordained minister, the 79-year-old Coe is the most important religious leader you've never seen or heard.

But Doug Coe is well known to scores of senators in both parties--and many faiths--including Sam Brownback, Mike Enzi, Mark Pryor and Bill Nelson. They go to small weekly Senate prayer groups that Coe attends. Participants tell NBC News that so have senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which those campaigns confirm.

Senator Clinton’s participation is surprising to observers who have investigated Coe’s group, called The Fellowship Foundation, which critics have described as a secretive organization populated mostly by conservative Republicans. ‘I think in part through her involvement with the Fellowship’s prayer group she was able to meet with some of these Republican senators and get to know them on a one-on-one basis,’ said Joshua Green, a Senior Editor at The Atlantic magazine.

In her autobiography, ‘Living History,’ Senator Clinton describes Coe as ‘a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God.’ She writes that ‘Doug became a source of strength and friendship’ during her often-troubled White House years.

Their relationship began in February 1993 with a prayer lunch at The Cedars, the Fellowship’s Virginia estate on the Potomac River. NBC News reviewed the First Lady’s official daily calendar, recently made public by the National Archives, and found other gatherings including a ‘Private Meeting’ with Coe in her West Wing office on December 19, 1997, and a ‘Meet & Greet with Business Leaders’ on Feb. 4, 1998. ‘Doug Coe introduces business leaders to the First Lady,’ the calendar states.

So who is Doug Coe? He shuns almost all interview requests, including ours. But in hours of audiotape and videotape recordings obtained exclusively by NBC News, he frequently preaches the gospel of Jesus to followers and supporters. In one videotaped sermon from 1989, Coe provides this account of the atrocities committed under Chairman Mao in Communist China: ‘I've seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard…they would bring in this young man’s mother…he would take an axe and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of father, mother, brother sister and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That's what Jesus said.’

In his preaching, Coe repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It’s a commitment Coe compares to the blind devotion that Adolph Hitler demanded from his followers -- a rhetorical technique that now is drawing sharp criticism.

‘Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had, these nobodies from nowhere,’ Coe said.

Later in the sermon, Coe said: ‘Jesus said, ‘You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.' Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.’

Coe also quoted Jesus and said: ‘One of the things [Jesus] said is 'If any man comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can't be a disciple.’ So I don't care what other qualifications you have, if you don't do that you can't be a disciple of Christ.’”

The sermons are little surprise to writer Jeff Sharlet. He lived among Coe's followers six years ago, and came out troubled by their secrecy and rhetoric.

‘We were being taught the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao. And I would say, ‘Isn’t there a problem with that?’ And they seemed perplexed by the question. Hitler’s genocide wasn’t really an issue for them. It was the strength that he emulated,’ said Sharlet, who is a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone and is an Associate Research Scholar at the NYU Center for Religion and Media in New York.

Sharlet has now written about The Fellowship, also known to insiders as The Family, in a soon-to-be published book called ‘The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.’

‘They’re notoriously secretive,’ Sharlet said. ‘In fact, they jokingly call themselves the Christian Mafia. Which becomes less of a joke when you realize that they really are dedicated to being what they call an invisible organization.’

Federal tax records for Coe's non-profit group shows it funds charitable programs around the world -- but that it is also a family business.

The 990 tax forms for 2005, the last tax year available, show that both of Coe’s sons were on the payroll, at $110,000 a year each. The organization also paid his wife, his daughter and his daughters-in-law.”[more]
posted by ericb at 7:23 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is why I LOVE reading news on the internet. Shine a big ol' floodlight on the whole thing, and hold everyone accountable for the things they say and do, forever.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend from India, during one of the darker points of the Bush administration. It went something like this:

Me: "Mr. Sushil, I'm so embarrassed and miserable about the United States...tell me, is it like this in other places? Is there anywhere I can go?"

Mr. Sushil: (folds newspaper and sets it down between us) "Mr. Bruce, it's all bullshit."

That was the only time I've heard him cuss in fifteen years.
posted by chronkite at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Can anyone please point out to me how Sharlett's means of drawing conclusions differ noticeably from, say, McCarthyism?!

He's not drawing conclusions. If you read his book, you'll find that he was actually in the Family for a period of several months. That whole bit about the Family admiring Hitler? Sharlett heard that directly from the lips of Doug Coe, the current leader of the Family.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:26 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you read his book, you'll find that he was actually in the Family for a period of several months...

As above: "The sermons are little surprise to writer Jeff Sharlet. He lived among Coe's followers six years ago, and came out troubled by their secrecy and rhetoric."

And more details:
….In 2002, writer Jeff Sharlet joined the Family's home for young men, foreswearing sex, drugs, and alcohol, and participating in endless discussions of Jesus and power. He wasn't undercover; he used his own name and admitted to being a writer. But he wasn't completely out of danger either. When he went outdoors one night to make a cell phone call, he was followed. He still gets calls from Family associates asking him to meet them in diners -- alone.

The Family's most visible activity is its blandly innocuous National Prayer Breakfast, held every February in Washington. But almost all its real work goes on behind the scenes -- knitting together international networks of rightwing leaders, most of them ostensibly Christian. In the 1940s, The Family reached out to former and not-so-former Nazis, and its fascination with that exemplary leader, Adolph Hitler, has continued, along with ties to a whole bestiary of murderous thugs. As Sharlet reported in Harper's in 2003:
During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand ‘Communists’ killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise.
At the heart of the Family's American branch is a collection of powerful rightwing politicos, who include, or have included, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, James Inhofe, and Rick Santorum. They get to use the Family's spacious estate on the Potomac, the Cedars, which is maintained by young men in Family group homes and where meals are served by the Family's young women's group. And, at the Family's frequent prayer gatherings, they get powerful jolts of spiritual refreshment, tailored to the already-powerful.” [more]
posted by ericb at 7:35 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


One bright spot: Uganda is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Fiji got suspended for its coup, and Canada and Britain are already calling this bill "unacceptable." There is probably way too much money at stake for Uganda to pass this, if the Commonwealth pressures them adequately.

Greed might trump Hate. Hooray.
posted by ScotchRox at 7:42 AM on December 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Even if the bill doesn't get passed, we've once again demonstrated that, to push an agenda in America, we're quite happy to manipulate foreign governments, push international (if not global) discord, and see people die, all so a religious extremist group with deep hooks into our own government can turn to their constituency and say "we're keeping the faith."
posted by FormlessOne at 8:15 AM on December 2, 2009


While I haven't read Sharlet's book (yet) I've read a couple of his articles about the same topic. The impression I've gotten is that the problem is that the Family have made themselves into THE go-to religious group for members of the government. Since it's pretty much impossible to get elected without making all sorts of public avowals of one's Christian beliefs, all these congressmen and others need to get themselves seen somewhere establishing their Christian bona-fides. Which could be a fairly harmless thing except that the people they turn to for that are "The Family" who clearly at their deepest core are not preaching the same Jesus that most of the public are thinking of.

The now infamous "C Street House" where several Congressmen have been living? Owned by the Family. They weren't paying taxes on it for years, claiming it was a site of "missionary work." (aka, a church.) With all the recent headlines as so many of the residents there have been caught in extra-marital affairs and whatnot, the DC government finally looked into it and removed the tax exemption on the property.
posted by dnash at 8:29 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The now infamous "C Street House" where several Congressmen have been living? Owned by the Family.

I thought it was registered to Youth With A Mission and was being used by The Family.

Ah, yes.
The house, which is assessed at $1.84 million, is registered to a little-known organization called Youth With a Mission of Washington DC. Carver, who said his Fellowship group is affiliated with the house, said that he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington DC and that he did not have a phone number for it. Later, he said, he spoke with someone who "at one time was involved with the house" and had "heard secondhand" that the organization that runs the house is "subscribing to the no-comment."
posted by hippybear at 8:35 AM on December 2, 2009


Damn And I thought all that posturing by Hillary about being a "Christian" during the elections was just to sound like she was down with the churches, like Obama.
Little did I know she was into some insane hate cult that shares the same name with Manson's crew.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:50 AM on December 2, 2009


I REALLY want to see someone like Jonathan Demme make a political conspiracy thriller about "The Family".
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2009


I REALLY want to see someone like Jonathan Demme make a political conspiracy thriller about "The Family".

Why a thriller? Why not a good old fashioned, high quality, deeply informative documentary? Heck, get Ken Burns to do it, run it on PBS every night for a week, 5 hours of exposé about this organization and its history and belief sets and what its plans are for the country and the globe.

Gads! I just started reading Sharlet's book. 30 pages in, and it's pretty mindblowing.
posted by hippybear at 9:28 AM on December 2, 2009


I'm not sure why people think the Family's insistence that Jesus wants to help the rich and powerful is so out of line. The old testament makes it pretty clear that if you're on the right team, genocide and looting god's plan for you.

Given that Jesus is god-in-the-flesh, and infallible, it is possible that the new testment, in which god appears to suddenly change his mind and portrays Jesus as something of a pussy, was added by Satan's minions.
posted by klanawa at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


*are god's plan for you.
posted by klanawa at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2009


Goddam, I've felt sick to my stomach ever since hearing about this. And I haven't even begun to process "The Family" part of it. Growing up a gay kid in the bible belt was hard enough. I try to imagine growing up gay in a place with such laws, and my mind just reels. I can't imagine I would have made it much further than early adolescence before attempting suicide and/or going completely batshit insane.

There's an unabashed sadism to these laws that has a genocidal air, something they share with the current Iraqi pogrom against gays. They're obviously intended to cause intense suffering and utter demoralization/dehumanization. This is terrifying stuff.
posted by treepour at 9:40 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously there are no ties to the "administration." Usually when these words are used, it means ties to the President. Your statements give that impression. There is no evidence at all that Obama has any relationship with these fools at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 AM on December 2, 2009


At the risk of opening this argument up again:

Few people seriously argue that the current administration is in the pocket of evangelicals like Warren and The Family. Instead the argument is that the attempt to play nice with both evangelicals and gay rights groups creates a conflict of interest that influences policy. So we have really interesting contradictions like getting the Matthew Shepherd act into law, while defying court orders to file domestic partnership paperwork.

The influence of The Family doesn't have to rise to the level of a conspiracy that includes the President. All it needs is enough influence to make the administration gun-shy regarding certain key fights that could then be drowned in litigation, politics, and procedure.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course now is the time for them to show their Christian principles and condemn the hateful, murderous bill.

...except for the fact that the Family's brand of Christianity has precisely fuck all to do with the pacifistic and humanistic teachings we ascribe to Jesus Christ. As mentioned upthread, Coe openly admires Hitler, Stalin and Mao for their 'leadership skills.'

Its tempting to think that Christians can be persuaded by appeals to Jesus' pacifistic or humanistic teachings. But it's increasingly ineffective with regard to American Christianity, especially in its more extreme forms. American Jesus doesn't shelter the poor and the meek, he kicks ass and takes names.

there is real danger in conflating individual acts of bigotry and religious intolerance with a shadow organization in charge of a worldwide conspiracy. Can anyone please point out to me how Sharlett's means of drawing conclusions differ noticeably from, say, McCarthyism?!


Read Sharlet's book. This is a distinctly American Jesus they're worshiping. A muscular, gun-toting, wrathful savior. Characterizing the acts of Family members as a few unrelated acts of intolerance is simply factually wrong. It may make you feel better to dismiss critiques of the Family as lefty neoMcCarthyism. They'll keep doing their thing whether you believe it or not.
posted by Monsters at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


David Bahati recently attended a meeting held by Fred Hartley, president of College of Prayer international. One of Bahati's most avid supporters is Martin Ssempa who also has several connections with US based Christian Fundamentalists.
posted by adamvasco at 10:33 AM on December 2, 2009


a) Sane Christians need to be pushed to intervene in this. Godless liberals will not be listened to.

b) If the Family has broken lobbying laws or any other laws, they need to be tried.
posted by Anything at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2009


except for the fact that the Family's brand of Christianity has precisely fuck all to do with the pacifistic and humanistic teachings we ascribe to Jesus Christ.

Yeah. That was my point. Just to be clear: fuck the religious right and their lack of understanding of the principles of their own religion. Of course what you term "Ass-kicking American Jesus" is hardly a new phenomenon. See: Crusades.

I'd hesitate before painting all "Christians" with the brush of the American, political religious right though. Maybe you didn't mean to. But a lot of 'em actually do "walk the walk," as it were, and atheistic liberal me respects that entirely.

I'll also add that, while I think the Family are a bunch of bigoted half-wits who haven't even read their so-called "Good Book," and their influence and power disgusts me, this does not mean that the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda is something that this organization created or had anything to do with.

We can condemn this fucked-up law without resorting to unproven, breathless international conspiracies. In fact, I think our arguments are stronger if we don't.
posted by ScotchRox at 10:49 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why not a good old fashioned, high quality, deeply informative documentary? Heck, get Ken Burns to do it...

Hippy, please. Errol Morris.
posted by rokusan at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2009


It doesn't matter if the connection is only tenuous, applying the death penalty for homosexuality is so extreme that the administration must strongly condemn the action, and the secretary of state's tenuous association will rule her out of the democratic presidential nomination in future. So, if the law passes, the administration must withdraw all foreign aid from Uganda, period.

In any case, I'd say gay activists have found a new raison de etre, get the republicans backing these fuckers out of office. Yes, Oklahoma is an extremely red state, but you might get positive response from a PAC running campaign ads saying Inhofe or Coburn support the death penally for gays in Uganda.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2009


ScotchRox: actually, even just the first 50 pages or so of Sharlet's book make it pretty clear, the Family has had its fingers in Ugandan politics for a couple of decades, at least. It is difficult to say how directly the Family may have influenced, say, the wording of the law or whatever, but I heartily suggest you actually read some of what Sharlet has to say about the connections between Ugandan politics, the players in that country, their ties to the US, who they are tied to in the US, and whether those people are participants in the Family before you dismiss the charges out of hand. Even in this book which was written (likely) before this law from the FPP was drafted, it is very clear that Ugandan politics has been one of the hacky sacks for the Family to play with for a long time.
posted by hippybear at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2009


Why not a good old fashioned, high quality, deeply informative documentary? Heck, get Ken Burns to do it...

Hippy, please. Errol Morris.


Sure, that works. Do you have his phone number? I seem to have misplaced my rolodex...
posted by hippybear at 10:59 AM on December 2, 2009


Wow. If they have successfully cross-bred fundamentalist Christianity with Scientology in their DC and African laboratories, we could have a full-scale crazydemic on our hands.

To borrow from that old line about Washington and Hollywood:

The Family is a Scientology for ugly people.
posted by Anything at 11:03 AM on December 2, 2009


If the Family has broken lobbying laws or any other laws, they need to be tried.

Tried? Removal of tax exempt status is accomplished in an administrative procedure, a trial would occur only if they appealed by taking the IRS to court if you could prove some sort of financial violation. Otherwise, what lobbying laws would you be speaking of? Private citizens, even ultra-conservative Congressmen, are permitted to join or meet with or pray with any religious group they see fit. Those religious groups can even attempt to impose dogmatic rules on their membership, so I'm not sure what would be the undue influence you would be proving here. I'm not sure barring one religious group from preaching what it sees fit or barring political leaders from joining a group simply because their dogma conflicts with our viewpoint is the right way to go.

But even after poring over all that has been claimed here, I still don't see the direct connection that is inferred. Clinton participated in closed-door prayer meetings with the group, yeah, so what? The funding for the group's global mission all comes from the US, yeah, and?

Let's look at another example of an organization that counts in its membership a sizeable chunk of Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries, Congress Members, Generals, etc. from both sides of the aisle. 40% of Ugandans happen to subscribe to the group as well. In Uganda the group professes a distinct anti-gay agenda. A huge percentage of the group's funding comes from the US. Often times the US organization has been accused of being a haven for republicans. Leaders of the group often meet both publicly and in private, sometimes even in bible studies and prayer meetings! Obama himself even gave one of the group's leaders a platform to voice his exclusively Christian dogma during his Inaugural ceremonies! Despite all that the US branch and the Ugandan branch of the very same organization are completely at odds. I'm speaking of course about the Anglican Communion.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2009


Regarding the "ties to the administration" allegation: the Family has a clearly established role in influencing Ugandan politics. Anyone on "our side" who has been associated, however tentatively with this group has two options to retain any respect I may have had for them right now:

1) tell the Family to cut this shit out
2) publicly distance themselves from the Family, and denounce their goal and their tactics

Regardless of which path they take, our country should be joining Canada and England in loudly denouncing this legislation.
posted by idiopath at 11:16 AM on December 2, 2009


Prepublication publicity about Sharlet’s book has focused on the peculiar role of Senator Hillary Clinton in the group. But true to the Family's culture of secrecy, she has yet to explain her involvement

I don't know how serious the Family's danger is, but this sentence is Glenn Beck-type bullshit.
posted by msalt at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2009


Damn And I thought all that posturing by Hillary about being a "Christian" during the elections was just to sound like she was down with the churches, like Obama.
Little did I know she was into some insane hate cult that shares the same name with Manson's crew.


I believe this is the classic Faustian bargain. She's not officially a member, but she recognized where the power existed, so she didn't want to be excluded.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:27 AM on December 2, 2009


I'm not sure barring one religious group from preaching what it sees fit or barring political leaders from joining a group simply because their dogma conflicts with our viewpoint is the right way to go.

I think the problem is really that this group represents a form of Christianity which is so far removed from mainstream Christianity in the US that most people would not want them to have a major influence. Plus, tax-exempt religious groups are not supposed to be involved in lobbying.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:42 AM on December 2, 2009


This is a long quote, so I will make it tiny text. This is the main passage from Sharlet's book about Hillary Clinton's involvement with the Family. I apologize for the length, but there's enough questioning about her role and how Sharlet portrays it that it seems apropos to post this:

Hillary

Hillary may well be God’s beautiful child, but she’s not a member of
Coe’s Family. Rather, I’d been told at Ivanwald, she’s a “friend,” less
elect then a member, but more chosen than the rest of us. A fellow
traveler but not a sister. Her goals are not their goals; but when on
occasion they coincide, Hillary and the Family can work together.
Such collaborations, as much as the endeavors of true believers such
as Brownback, are a measure of the mainstreaming of American fun-
damentalism. The theology of Jesus plus nothing is totalitarian in
scope, but diplomatic in practice. It doesn’t conquer; it “infects,” as
Abram used to preach. Within the body politic, it doesn’t confront
ideas, it coexists with them, its cells multiplying by absorbing ene-
mies rather than destroying them. It’s not cancerous, it’s loving. In
place of conflict, love. In place of debate, love. In place of tolerance,
love. In place of democracy, loudmouthed, simmering mad and crazy
hopeful democracy—love, all- encompassing.

In her memoir Living History, Hillary describes her first encounter
with the Family. It was at a lunch organized on her behalf in February
1993 at the Cedars, “an estate on the Potomac that serves as the
headquarters for the National Prayer Breakfast and the prayer groups
it has spawned around the world. Doug Coe, the longtime National
Prayer Breakfast organiz er, is a unique presence in Washington: a
genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of
party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with
God.”2 Or with the kind of politically useful friends one might not
make otherwise. For the eight years she lived in the White House,
Clinton met regularly with a gathering of political ladies who lunch:
wives of powerful men from both parties, women who put aside po-
litical differences to seek—for themselves, for their husbands’
careers—an even greater power. Among Clinton’s prayer partners
were Susan Baker, the wife of Bush consigliere James and a board
member of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family; Joanne Kemp, the
wife of conservative icon Jack, responsible for introducing the politi-
cal theology of fundamentalist guru Francis Schaeffer to Washing-
ton; Eileen Bakke, an activist for charter schools based on “character”
and the wife of Dennis Bakke, then the CEO of AES, one of the
world’s largest power companies; and Grace Nelson, the wife of
Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat. The women
sent her daily scripture verses to study, and Baker, the wife of one of
the Republican Party’s most cutthroat strategists, provided Hillary
with spiritual counsel during “political storms.”

Hillary’s Godtalk is more sincere than it sounds, grounded in the
influence of a Methodist minister named Don Jones whom she met
when he was a twenty-eight-year-old youth pastor in Park Ridge, Il-
linois. Jones continues to counsel Hillary to this day. He calls the
theological worldview behind her politics a third way, a reaction
against both old-fashioned separatist fundamentalism and the New
Deal’s labor-based liberalism. He describes the theology he taught as
in the tradition of “Burkean conservatism,” after the
eighteenth-century reactionary philos opher’s belief that change should be slow
and come without the sort of “social leveling” that offends class hier-
archy. Elites rule because they rule; tradition is its own justification,
a tautology of power neither left nor right but circular.

Under Jones’s mentorship, Clinton learned about theologians
such as Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Liberals may consider
Niebuhr their own, but the Niebuhr whom Hillary Rodham studied
with Jones and later at Wellesley College was a Cold Warrior, dis-
missive of the progressive politics of his earlier writing. “He’d thought
that once we were unionized, the kingdom of God would be ushered
in,” Jones says, explaining Niebuhr as he and Hillary came to see
him. “But the effect of those two world wars and the violence that
they produced shook [his] faith in liberal theology.” The late Niebuhr
replaced his devotion to messianic unionism with a darker view of
humanity and replaced his emphasis on domestic social justice with a
global realpolitik, easily hijacked by liberal hawks in rhetorical need
of a justification for aggressive American power.

Tillich also enjoys a following among conservative Christian in-
tellectuals for arguments on behalf of revising the once-radical Social
Gospel to favor individual redemption, the heart of conservative
evangelicalism. Hillary once said she regretted that her denomina-
tion, the Methodists, had focused too much on Social Gospel
concerns—that is, the rights of the poor—“to the exclusion of per-
sonal faith and growth.” Abram, once a Methodist himself, had made
the very same observation a half century before. The spirit, conser-
vative Christians believe, matters more than the flesh, and the salva-
tion of the former should be a higher priority than that of the latter.
In worldly terms, religious freedom trumps political freedom, moral
values matter more than food on the table, and if might doesn’t make
right, it sure makes right, or wrong, easier. Taken together, Niebuhr
and Tillich as Hillary encountered them represent the most reaction-
ary elements of her “worldview”: a militantly aggressive approach to
foreign affairs and a domestic policy of narrow horizons. Under the
spiritual tutelage of the Family, Hillary moved further rightward,
drifting from traditional liberalism toward the kind of privatized so-
cial welfare the Family has favored ever since Abram reacted in hor-
ror to the New Deal.

The Reverend Rob Schenck’s favorite example? Clinton’s collab-
oration with Brownback on anti–sex trafficking legislation con-
demned by the very activists it should have helped. Brownback and
Chuck Colson, one of the leading thinkers behind the law, were
more interested in extracting pledges of purity than in helping the
already fallen. That resulted in the de-funding of longtime federal
partners that, for instance, provide health care for prostitutes, and
increased funding for faith- based groups that simply preach Christ
and abstinence to foreign sex slaves. And it’s not just those who are
trapped in involuntary sex work who are ill served by the switch;
epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, notoriously resistant to
sermonizing, ripple out into the general population. It’s bad law for
everyone. But Clinton was willing to lend her name, and her funda-
mentalist friends noticed. “I welcome that,” says Colson.

Hillary fights side- by- side with Brownback and others for legisla-
tion dedicated less to overturning the wall between church and state
than to tunneling beneath it. Practically speaking, such work ap-
peased evangelical elites without drawing the notice of liberals who
thought Hillary stood for separation, but such tunnels genuinely un-
dermine the foundations.

For instance, a law she backed to ensure “religious freedom” in
the workplace that so distorts the meaning of the words that it makes
even Republicans such as Senator Arlen Specter uneasy about its en-
croachments on First Amendment freedoms. It’s a sort of Bartleby
option for those “who prefer not to”: pharmacists who refuse to fill
birth-control prescriptions, nurses who refuse to treat gay or lesbian
patients, police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics. And
then there was the passage, during Bill’s presidency, of the Interna-
tional Religious Freedom Act, a move supported by Hillary. Like the
workplace bill, it seemed sensible. Who’s opposed to religious free-
dom? But in reality it shifted the monitoring of religion in other
countries from the State Department to an independent, evangelical-
dominated agency that drew much of its leadership from the Chris-
tian Legal Society, creating a platform for U.S. evangelicals to use
religious freedom ratings as leverage for a sort of shadow foreign
policy. Hillary’s stance toward Iran, more hawkish than that of many
Republicans, is just one example of a position long held by elite fun-
damentalists mainstreamed through the work of an ostensibly liberal
ally.

Liberals, says Clinton’s prayer partner Grace Nelson, are wel-
come in the Family as long as they submit to “the person of Jesus.”
Jesus, not ideology, “is what gives us power.” But the Jesus preached
by the Family is ideology personified. For all of the Family’s talk of
Jesus as a person, he remains oddly abstract in the teachings they
derive from him, a mix of “free market” economics, aggressive
American internationalism, and “leadership” as a fetishized term for
power, a good in itself regardless of its ends. By eschewing the poli-
tics of the moment—party loyalties and culture wars—Family cells
cultivate an ethos of elite unity that allows long-term political trans-
formation, whereby political rivals aren’t flipped but won over grad-
ually through fellowship with former enemies, as in the case of
former Representative Tony Hall.

Hall, one of the few Democrats appointed by Bush in his first
term (he was made ambassador to the UN for hunger issues, a posi-
tion he used to push the Monsanto corporation’s genetically modified
crops onto African nations) was brought into the Family in the 1980s
by Jerry Regier, an ultra-right Reagan administration offi cial in the
Department of Health and Human Services who went on to work
with James Dobson. Upon his conversion, Hall abandoned his liberal
social views and became a vocal opponent of abortion and, eventu-
ally, same- sex marriage. He also championed a bill establishing a
National Day of Prayer with an event at the White House organized
by Dobson’s wife, Shirley. But he didn’t switch parties, and the Fam-
ily would never ask him to. Hall isn’t a Republican; he’s a Democrat
who called on his fellow party members to follow President Bush’s
example by injecting more religion into their rhetoric. Hillary did
just that in 2007, boasting of the “prayer warriors” who carried her
through Bill’s infidelities, a bit of spiritual warfare jargon instantly
recognizable to evangelicals who worried about her feminism.

The Family wants to “transcend” left and right with a faith that
consumes politics, replacing fundamental differences with the unity
to be found in submission to religious authority. Conservatives sit
pretty in prayer and wait for liberals looking for “common ground”
to come to them in search of compromise. Hillary, Rob Schenck
noted, became a regular visitor to the Family’s C Street House in
2005. “She needs that nucleus of energy that the Coe camp produces.”
That summer, she appeared as part of a threesome that shocked old
school fundamentalists: Bill, Hillary, and Billy, live in New York for
Graham’s last crusade. Before tens of thousands, the patriarch of
Christian conservatism said Bill “ought to let his wife run the coun-
try.” Bonhomie and cheap blessing, maybe, but it was the kind of en-
dorsement that Bill never won, despite Graham’s custom of speaking
sweet nothings to power.

posted by hippybear at 11:44 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I am as lefty atheist as they come, and I know my way around logical fallacies, but nevertheless, I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Family" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Family. Honestly, nothing that's being claimed comes as much of a surprise anyway, but I would really feel better about this if wasn't getting the same vibe off of it that I used to get reading articles in Fortean Times.
posted by Legomancer at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2009


Okay, I am as lefty atheist as they come, and I know my way around logical fallacies, but nevertheless, I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Family" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Family.

I've been looking into this since his book was published six years ago. There's a lot of information available. Like he said, they're secretive but not secret.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:55 AM on December 2, 2009


Okay, I am as lefty atheist as they come, and I know my way around logical fallacies, but nevertheless, I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Family" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Family. Honestly, nothing that's being claimed comes as much of a surprise anyway, but I would really feel better about this if wasn't getting the same vibe off of it that I used to get reading articles in Fortean Times.

Wikipedia:
Jeff Sharlet (born 1972) is an American journalist and author best known for writing about religious subcultures in the United States. He is a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone. His work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Mother Jones, New York, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia Journalism Review, Oxford American, New Statesman, Forward, Nerve, and The Baffler.

Sharlet is the co-creator of two online journals, Killing the Buddha, a literary magazine about religion, and The Revealer, a review of religion and media published by the New York University Center for Religion and Media.
It's hard for me to think of this guy as a crackpot. He seems to have a reputation to take care of. And if his story is true, it's not surprising there aren't many people spilling their guts. I would like to read in more detail, though, about how exactly he got access to these people.
posted by Anything at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2009


I would like to read in more detail, though, about how exactly he got access to these people.

Get his book. Seriously. I just started it today, after a few months of seeing him speak on Rachel Maddow's show... and I'm a bit stunned by it all. If you don't want to give into the marketing, check out your local library. There are also electronic versions available, if you are willing to look in the underground for a copy. Not that I advocate doing that kind of thing...
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2009


I would like to read in more detail, though, about how exactly he got access to these people.

"I had been recommended for membership by a banker acquaintance, a recent Ivanwald alumnus, who had mistaken my interest in Jesus for belief. "
posted by Monsters at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2009


I would like to read in more detail, though, about how exactly he got access to these people.
If you read some of the links you would find out that Sharlet lived with "The Family" in 2002 in their house in Washington.
posted by adamvasco at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2009


I've been looking into this since his book was published six years ago.

Huh, Jeff Sharlet's book 'The Family' was just published last May. Are you thinking of any of his other books, or most likely one of his articles.

Here are some reviews of 'The Family.'

Sharet's official bio.
posted by ericb at 12:20 PM on December 2, 2009


Read an excerpt from 'The Family.'
posted by ericb at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2009


And ... from the excerpt:
"Zeke recommended me to Ivanwald, and because I was curious and had recently quit a job to write a book about American religious communities, I decided to join for a while. I had no thought of investigative reporting; rather, my interest was personal. By the time I got there, I’d lived for short spells with 'Cowboy Christians' in Texas, and with 'Baba lovers,' America’s most benign cultists, in South Carolina, and in Kansas with hundreds of naked pagans. I thought Ivanwald would simply be one more bead on my agnostic rosary. I thought of the transformation Ivanwald had worked on Zeke, and I imagined it as a sort of spiritual spa where angry young men smoothed out their anxieties with new-agey masculine bonding. I thought it would be silly but relaxing. I didn’t imagine that what I’d find there would lead me into the heart of American fundamentalism, that a spell among Zeke’s Believers would propel me into dusty archives and the halls of power for the next several years. I had never thought of myself as a religious seeker, but at Ivanwald I became one. Since then, I’ve been searching, not for salvation, but for the meaning behind the words, the hints of power, that I found there."
posted by ericb at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even in the off chance that the Family is an innocuous organization - the fact that our government officials have these kinds of ties, through the Family, with the Ugandan administration gives them the opportunity and I would say the obligation to exert some influence here.
posted by idiopath at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2009


Uganda has bigger problems - like the Lord's Resistance Army. See the great book appropriately title Kill Your Family First: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army.
posted by stbalbach at 12:40 PM on December 2, 2009


Wow, thanks for posting hippybear. I read through that whole thing and I still fail to see why I should be afraid. In fact it makes the author seem a bit like a kook to me, pandering to the anti-religious knee-jerk reaction. He sort of skips off the surface implying Hillary's affiliation with some sort of ultra-fundamentalist agenda.

Oh, my GOD they read Tillich and Hillary read Tillich! And Tillich is also read and (mis)quoted by ultra conservatives!

He goes on to try and tie her to Billy Graham, an evangelical, yes, but he was not Jerry Fallwell. Graham stated publicly that he felt that homosexual behavior was sinful, but not any more sinful than fornication or adultary, in his words "not that big." He said "God loves homosexuals as much as anyone else" and "God loves all people whatever their ethnic or political background or their social orientation." He stated publicly that homosexuality was a in-born, genetic, natural trait, created, like everything else in his view, by God. That does not sound, to me anyway, like the words of a hatemongering bigot with an anti-gay agenda, perhaps that is why Graham was denounced early on by the extreme-right, the same people Sharlet implies he influenced.

But Sharlet pushes enough buttons, without fleshing any of them out (because to do so would ruin the implications) to paint Bill and Hillary as somehow part of a shadowy cult of obedience to a fundamentalist God.

Even in the off chance that the Family is an innocuous organization - the fact that our government officials have these kinds of ties, through the Family, with the Ugandan administration gives them the opportunity and I would say the obligation to exert some influence here.

I don't think anyone is implying this is a two-way street of influence.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2009


Pollomacho: please understand, that passage appears on page 270-something through a few pages later of a 475 page book. Exactly what threads he's drawing together are difficult to summarize, but I do suggest you find a copy of the book somehow and read it for yourself. To accuse Sharlet of pushing buttons which are not fleshed out based on reading fewer than 5 pages out of a nearly 500 page book is perhaps a blind man encountering an elephant.

I don't think that Hillary is really the one to worry about as far as involvement in the Family and influence in the power structure. But as someone who truly values separation between church and state, and who finds backroom religious attempts at influence creepy to begin with, this book is pretty well fleshed-out as far as going deep into the history of its evolution (all the way back to its influences in Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening, and starting with its actual evolution as a merging of business (read: anti-union) plus Jesus movement in the early days of the 20th Century. I'm not done reading the book yet, but I'm surprised at the depth of the text. I had been expecting a "this is what I lived through" screed, but it's a lot more than that.
posted by hippybear at 1:09 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hrm. That second paragraph above doesn't appear to be in English. I hope its meaning is clear without requiring a complete rewrite.
posted by hippybear at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2009


Okay, I am as lefty atheist as they come, and I know my way around logical fallacies, but nevertheless, I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Family" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Family. Honestly, nothing that's being claimed comes as much of a surprise anyway, but I would really feel better about this if wasn't getting the same vibe off of it that I used to get reading articles in Fortean Times.

"Okay, I am as pro-health and safety as they come, and I know my way around logical fallacies, but nevertheless, I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Jungle" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Jungle. Honestly, nothing that's being claimed comes as much of a surprise anyway, but I would really feel better about this if wasn't getting the same vibe off of it that I used to get reading articles in Fortean Times."

Clearly any single person who does investigative reporting has an agenda to push, and therefore lies. There's no way something I don't want to believe could actually be real and based on genuine experience and research.
posted by Caduceus at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is difficult to say how directly the Family may have influenced, say, the wording of the law or whatever

And that's pretty much my whole point. This post says they're "behind it," not that "Family-associated Ugandan politicians are behind it." Maybe I'm being pedantic, but that's a big difference in my book. Especially when the "wording of the law" is "Death to Homosexuals."

The bigger the allegations, the higher the burden of proof. And the best Sharlet can do in the linked article is to say that the sponsors are members; no evidence whatsoever the US wackos had anything to do with it.

Now, if you want to argue that not condemning it is tacitly condoning it, I'm certainly on board. Truly sickening that some people in this country, in this century will look at something like this and say "hmm... this goes a little too far" instead of "this is medieval nonsense."

Anyway, I don't think this will fly, not if Uganda wants to do business with the Commonwealth anymore.
posted by ScotchRox at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2009


My comment above is, of course, something of a logical fallacy itself, but dismissing stuff you could confirm yourself, with enough research, because this one guy has devoted a significant amount of time to doing that research for you and you don't like the "vibe" you get from him is awfully reminiscent of vaccine deniers and similar people who like to ignore facts because the facts are being presented by "scientific elites," as if have specialized knowledge and using the scientific method to investigate the truth is someone a bad thing.
posted by Caduceus at 1:29 PM on December 2, 2009


The fact that Rick Warren won't condemn this law leads me to believe that he'd support it in the U.S. if he thought he could get away with it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:31 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Hippybear, I was under the impression that you had posted a chapter about Hillary. Makes more sense if he's skimming if you were actually the one skimming!

I'm a little wary of the fact that all the information we get about "The Jungle" comes from one guy whose occupation seems to be talking (and selling a book) about The Jungle

Whoa now, wait a minute, the Jungle was about an observable, clear case of conditions. The book about the Family is based on suppositions made from what one man gathered and experienced (albeit exhaustive according to Hippybear) in a part of an extremely closed and elusive group. You can't simply walk into the Cedars and find out, "oh, yeah, we hate gays and we're trying to take over the world" whereas Sinclair or anyone else simply had to go to a meat plant to observe all that was necessary.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2009


Whoa now, wait a minute, the Jungle was about an observable, clear case of conditions. The book about the Family is based on suppositions made from what one man gathered and experienced (albeit exhaustive according to Hippybear) in a part of an extremely closed and elusive group. You can't simply walk into the Cedars and find out, "oh, yeah, we hate gays and we're trying to take over the world" whereas Sinclair or anyone else simply had to go to a meat plant to observe all that was necessary.

Yeah, even without the book, based on just the evidence that is in the public record--namely, looking at the sort of people, particularly politicians, who interact with the Family, and then looking at the sort of policies they push--it's hard not to reach a lot of the same sorts of conclusions. The book just happens to have already done a lot of that research, and adds some actual personal experience. You're right, it's not a one-to-one comparison and it was somewhat disingenuous, which is why I made the second comment clarifying my point when I realized that.
posted by Caduceus at 1:41 PM on December 2, 2009


Sorry, Hippybear, I was under the impression that you had posted a chapter about Hillary. Makes more sense if he's skimming if you were actually the one skimming!

What I posted is the section entitled "Hillary" which is about 5 pages long. It's not a chapter, it's not all the references to H.C. listed in the index, even. But it seemed like a reasonable summary of what he has discovered about Secretary Clinton's involvement with this group. It is a contiguous section of the book, but many of the references to other people and their actual involvement with the Family are outlined elsewhere, and I'm sure that context is missing from that passage as it stands.

Sorry for the confusion!
posted by hippybear at 1:49 PM on December 2, 2009


Are you thinking of any of his other books, or most likely one of his articles.

Yes, I was thinking of the original article he wrote.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:33 PM on December 2, 2009


Rachel Maddow Show segment from 12-02 about the bill and American influence in inspiring it.
posted by hippybear at 10:12 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


In 2008 Daily Kos asked : Just *what* is "The Family" so desperate to hide?
posted by adamvasco at 1:26 AM on December 3, 2009


An article re The Family that was recently published by the conservative Christian magazine, World:

All In The Family
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:01 AM on December 3, 2009


An article re The Family that was recently published by the conservative Christian magazine, World:

All In The Family


Ack, locked behind a paywall.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2009


Sweden cutting aid to Uganda over ‘apalling’ Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
posted by ericb at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry hippybear - I don't subscribe, but I thought I would link to that little article at least (since it discusses their obscure accounting practices).
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:37 PM on December 3, 2009


Rachel Maddow continues her coverage about the bill and Americans involved with it. (12-03)
posted by hippybear at 8:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


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