More Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

I wasn’t intending to do any blogging today or this week, but I like to watch the video from the most recent Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break, and when I saw that she was covering The Family again, I knew I had to do a post.  You can see my previous post on the subject here.  You can watch the video clip I’m discussing here (I would embed it but MSNBC isn’t playing nice with WordPress).  All quotes from The Rachel Maddow Show taken from this transcript.

In the wake of the Sanford and Ensign sex scandals, the C Street house/Bible Study/group looms large, as does The Family, the organization behind it.

One of the more interesting bits was clips of sermons from the leader of The Family from original reporting by Andrea Mitchell.  In one of the clips, the leader of The Family, Douglas Coe, says:

DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY” LEADER: 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 ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a 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: 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.

So basically this guy sees a lot of parallels between following Jesus and being a member of the Red Guard or Nazi Party? I’m already terrified.

During the show, Rachel also interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine, who infiltrated The Family and lived at C Street before writing a book on The Family.  Here’s one of the things Sharlet said about The Family:

They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.

“Biblical Capitalism? Wonder how they’d square that with this vision of the early church, from the Book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:45-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Nevermind their downright unbiblical fetishization of capitalism, according to Sharlet, the group has been involved in shady dealings with brutal dictators:

SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.

It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.

The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.

Finally, Maddow asks Sharlet, if, since religion is a private matter in this country (ha! Yeah, the Values Voters and people who are convinced Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, as if that disqualified him from office, really believe in religion as a private matter.), if he believes the members of Congress who are affiliated with C Street and the Family should disclose their involvement in the group. Sharlet responds:

I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”

I bolded the parts above because, based on everything I know of Jesus, I feel quite confident in saying that the theology of this group is NOT “Christian.” It is extremist, it is unorthodox, and true Christians should point out groups like this and say, THEY DO NOT REPRESENT US, OUR GOSPEL, OR OUR GOD.

Personally, I do think these men, Sens. Ensign and Coburn and Gov. Sanford, should be asked some really hard questions about their involvement with this group, and whether or not they feel its views conform to biblical orthodoxy and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

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.