In the wake of the Sanford “crying in Argentina” affair and Sen. John Ensign’s ongoing saga of sex with a subordinate and payoffs and other favors to the subordinate’s family, much is being made about the secretive C-Street house/Bible study/organization that Sanford, John Ensign, and Sen. Ted Coburn (a major player in the Ensign scandal) belonged to. C-Street supposedly provides accountability, counseling, and Bible studies to powerful men in politics. Of course their credibility is somewhat in question now that it turns out that so many of their members have had such public moral failings, and as Jon said to me last night, “Maybe they need to re-think their mission.”
But what if it turns out that keeping flawed powerful men in power is exactly their mission? Not to help these men lead moral lives, but to help these men wield power? That’s the distinct impression I got watching last night’s Rachel Maddow show. You can see the clip I’m going to discuss here. All quotes are taken from the transcript.
On her show last night, Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s magazine, who has written a book on “The Family,” the “Christian” (you’ll understand those quotes in a second) organization behind C-Street, the house/Bible Study group which connects Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, and Mark Sanford. From what Sharlet said of the organization, I’m terrified AND outraged. Sharlet first hand heard the leader of C-Street describing their goals and objectives:
He said it‘s sort of a totalitarian idea of Christianity and he gave his examples of men who he believed, understood the way power should wielded. He actually gave his examples, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.
Maddow summarized the ideas of The Family thusly:
Its role is promoting American power worldwide, unfettered capitalism, no unions, no programs to help poor people—all with this idea that godly, powerful rich men should get at many resources as possible personally and they should just privately help everyone else. That was the impression that I was left with. Was I close?
SHARLET: That‘s dead on the money.
HOW THESE PEOPLE CAN GET THIS FROM JESUS, I HAVE NO IDEA. THIS IS NOT THE JESUS I KNOW AND LOVE, THAT’S FOR SURE. And this “theology” goes back 70 years to the founder of The Family who
believed God came to him one night in April of 1935 and said, what Christianity should really be about is building more power for the already powerful and that these powerful men who are chosen by God can then—if they want to dispense blessings to the rest of us, through a kind of trickle down fundamentalism.
I know I’m quoting a lot here, but really, this is ghastly stuff and you have to read it. Sharlet says he was living with The Family when
one of the leaders in the Family was explaining why King David was important. And he says, it‘s not because he was good man, it‘s because he‘s a bad man. You know, seduced another man‘s wife. He actually had the husband murdered.
And he wants to explain why this was a model—and he says to one of the men in the group, he says, “Suppose I heard you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” And this guy, being a human being, says, “You would think I was a monster.” Well, the leader of the Family says, “No, not at all, because you‘re chosen. You‘re chosen by God for leadership, and so the normal rules don‘t apply.”
I’d say this certainly makes clear why it seems only Democrats resign when caught in affairs. And perhaps even why these men are not ashamed by their hypocrisy: these are “family values” guys. Guys who flaunt their status as Promise Keepers, who called for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, who think that homosexuals are the moral problem of our society, and yet, when they engage in the very activities they condemn in others, they think they are above the consequences. They think they don’t have to resign. Because they think they are “chosen.”
This goes against everything I know and love about the gospel. The idea that Jesus came to save the least and the lost. The idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God, both equally culpable for our sins, and equally bestowed with crazy abounding grace. The idea that one of the worst things you can possibly be is a Pharisee– one who loudly proclaims his righteousness, without having the heart-condition to back it up. These men make me SICK, not just because of their actions, but because of the damage their witness does to the real, true gospel.