They are "the Family" -- soldiers in the army of God, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power. Their base is a quiet, leafy estate along the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its walls. His experience with fundamentalist Christianity s elite corps launched him into a deeper examination of the movement s roots in American history, and its surprising allies past and present, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, dictators from Indonesia to El Salvador, and present-day politicians from both sides of the aisle. THE FAMILY dramatically revises conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the creation of the Cold War, the no-holds-barred economics ofglobalization, and the slow but steady destruction of the wall of separation between church and state .
Part history, part investigative journalism, THE FAMILY is an eye-opening, elegantly written examination of the spiritual awakenings that have convulsed this nation, making a powerful case that these awakenings -- from Jonathan Edwards belief that "We are sinners in the hands of an angry God" to today s alarming nexus of church and state -- are manifestations of an American mood that has been present since the beginning.
The author lived undercover with the Family at their house "Ivanwald" in Arlington, Virginia, and an article about his experience appeared as a feature article in Harper s (March 2003). His subsequent work on elite Christian fundamentalism has appeared regularly in Harper s and Rolling Stone.
An investigative journalist examines a Jesus-centered, fundamentalist network whose ambitions exceed "Al Qaeda's dream of a Sunni empire."It's hard to imagine a religious gathering more anodyne than the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Harper's and Rolling Stone contributing editor Sharlet (Journalism and Religious Studies/New York Univ. Center for Religion and Media; co-author: Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible, 2004), however, sees something sinister, a more than merely ceremonial moment marking the achievement of Abraham Vereide and his successor, Doug Coe, founders of a ministry specializing in the care and feeding of high government, industry and military officials, an elite fundamentalist corps known as "the Family." Sharlet traces the twin threads of the Family's origins in the evangelical teachings of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Grandison Finney and its commitment under Vereide and Coe to a painstaking, prayer-cell by prayer-cell conversion of the elite-prominent Americans such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, politicians from Melvin Laird to Sam Brownback-to its notion of a smiling, muscular, American Christ, enthusiastically capitalist, socially conservative and fiercely anti-communist. Unashamedly modeling their leadership training along lines favored by Hitler and Lenin, the Family has insinuated itself firmly into the ruling class, its theology better suited, Sharlet insists, to empire than to democracy. The author's discussion of the Family's beginning and growth and his lengthy disquisitions on other figures prominent in the evangelical movement-Frank Buchman, Billy Sunday, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Billy Graham, Charles Colson, James Dobson, Ted Haggard-alldemonstrate his acute understanding of the theocratic streak that has long run though American history. His firsthand, critical reporting on the Family's enclave in Arlington, Va., and on the evangelical boomtown of Colorado Springs testifies to his relentlessness and, yes, even courage. Finally, however, Sharlet fails to persuade us that this "guerilla force on the spiritual battlefield" poses any significant danger to the republic. Fine research and reporting diminished by overblown analysis. Agent: Kathleen Anderson/Anderson/Grinberg