God wants them to focus on helping the rich and powerful, instead of the poor and helpless.
“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.”*
“…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]
….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]
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.
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."
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.
"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."
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