Saturday, August 29, 2009

Travel Reading: "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" by Jeff Sharlet

Being in China, with its own news and its own spin, and then going back to the US and seeing the same spin, but in a different direction, one can get rather cynical.

But at least in the US you can readily find a book such as Jeff Sharlet's work on "The Family," which is readable, long (great for long flights from HK to SFO), and studded with footnotes, references, and so forth. The style of this book is restrained and sober; the only real quibble with the book is there is a bit of disjointedness between sections, that as a guy who writes mostly for business and technical applications I find, well, disjoint. Perhaps he's attempting a novelistic style of narrative, and perhaps getting to "business" about it might detract from the overall message.

The message written in this restrained and sober style is, however, quite shocking. It is nothing less than the fact that there has been a multifaceted attempt on the part of one particular cult to influence American domestic and foreign policy away from democratic rule and towards what can only be called despotism (and this cult is related to quite a few others, including but not limited to 12 Step Groups).

And a cult it is. Even some conservative Christians choke on their theology, which is basically an unslaked thirst for power hiding behind an amorphous Jesus.

This group is behind the National Prayer Breakfast, and recent (and historical) scandals "on C Street," . Mark Sanford the AWOL-for-an-Argentine-love-affair-but-it's-OK-because-God-loved-David South Carolina Governor hung with them.

But they are indisputably sinister aspects to them. The founder of the family was, for a time, a collaborator with the notorious Frank Buchman, who was the real spiritual father of 12 Step Groups, as well as an admirer of Hitler (no I am not making this up.) The founder of the Family, Abram Vereide, also infused his cult with a slavish subservience reminiscent of fascism, and, based on Sharlet's experience, those fascist tendencies persist to this day.

That such a group is so closely related to to so many at the levers of American power raises serious questions, including whether or not this group has been illegally lobbying at various times.

It is easy to criticize China for not having any Chinese versions of Jeff Sharlets.

But then again they don't have any quasi-secret cults trying to take over things. You kind of know who's running things in China.

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