Yet Another "Sleeper Cell"
Jeff Sharlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 09, 2007 at 07:22:27 PM EST
There's much concern that the Bush administration has been allowing the infiltration of federal government by Christian fundamentalist "sleeper cells," political appointees whose first loyalty is not to the Constitution, but a reductionist understanding of the Bible. It's true, of course, and here's another one...
In my latest Rolling Stone story, "Teenage Holy War" (only the first quarter of it's online, here; the rest is in the issue on the stands now) I wrote of one such character, Rebecca Contreras, whom I saw "lecture" at the east Texas Honor Academy of Ron Luce, a fundamentalist youth leader:
The week I'm at the Academy, the guest speaker is Rebecca Contreras, a pretty 35-year-old professional evangelist in blue jeans who was a former Special Assistant to the President in Bush II's first term, responsible for 1,200 presidential appointments.  She tells us about one of her first days in Washington. "The vice president is sitting there, and the president is sitting in his chair," she said. "There I was, little Latina Rebecca from the inner city." Contreras had not gone to college. She felt overwhelmed by all the advanced degrees in the room -- Cheney, with his almost-Ph.D (he's a drop-out), Bush, with his Harvard MBA. "The Devil began to say, `Look at you, you don't belong here. You're not credentialed.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, `Put you're eyes on me!'" Contreras raises her finger in imitation of God. " `I CREDENTIALED YOU! I HAVE PLACED YOU HERE!' " The moral of the story, she says, is that obedience to God matters more than education. Contreras speaks of "generational curses" for those who do not obey -- the idea that one must pay for the sins of one's fathers, after all, a notion rejected even by most fundamentalists -- and then she closes her eyes and begins swaying as she prays in a strong alto sing-song for the Battlecry interns, many of whom will go no further in their education than this hall, many of whom have risen to their feet during her story and some who have fallen to their knees. "I pray Father-God that these young people, that they would impact. That--Father-God--some would even--Father-God--become missionaries and pastors, some of them would become, oh Father-God, senators! And congressmen! I thank You, Father-God!" The boy next to me, a towering slab of earnestness with sheepdog bangs, shakes with tears as the class comes to a close.

The sad fact is that such "sleeper cells" aren't an invention of the Bush administration. In the 1970s, as the modern Christian Right took form, conservative evangelical activists realized that to win power they needed not just to elect leaders, but to get their people into the overlooked civil service jobs that are crucial to the way the country is actually run. For instance, in 2003 I wrote about a group called The Family, or The Fellowship, in Harper's; one of my neighbors when I lived in The Family's neighborhood compound was LeRoy Rooker, a mid-level Department of Education lifer (Director of the Dep. of Ed.'s Family Compliance Policy office) responsible, last time I checked, for policy related to student confidentiality and public schools. One of the men I lived with, Gannon Sims, has since gone on to work as a spokesman for a State Department office dedicated to fighting human trafficking. Nothing wrong with that, but it's worth considering that Gannon, when I knew him, was being trained in an organization that believed the only legitimate source of policy was Jesus as he reveals himself to a "new chosen."

I ran into Rooker again, while researching my book, Jesus Plus Nothing: How American Fundamentalism's Power Elites Shaped the Faith of a Nation and the Politics of an Empire (forthcoming in fall from HarperCollins; plug), in documents from the Ronald Reagan Library in California. There's my neighbor Rooker in a circle of correspondence that included fundamentalist leader Gary Bauer, then a Reagan education official; Ed Meese, Reagan's attorney general; and  another "sleeper cell," J. Douglas Holladay, who became a special Reagan emissary to apartheid South Africa. Rooker, Meese, and Holladay were members of The Family, committed to its ultra-Calvinist conception of government, and convinced that the best way for evangelical conservatives to bring about "Government by God" was to be "invisible" in the plain old government of the people. Invisible doesn't mean not present -- it means you do your job, you rise through the ranks, and you work for your theocratic vision over the long term.

There are many, many great evangelicals working in government, almost all of them clear about the constitution and every bit as dedicated to their jobs as their counterparts of other faiths and no faith. And, for the record, there's nothing illegal about getting yourself a government job because you believe government should be led by God, so long as you perform your job competently. But from a democratic perspective -- small d democratic, that is -- there's a real problem with men and women dedicated   not to democracy but to a sort of voluntary theocracy, especially when they work toward that end without regard for competence or rule of law (Goodling, Contreras above). And those of us opposed to the fundamentalist attempt to pack the bureaucracy have to recognize that this problem has been with us for decades.

What's the solution? I can hardly believe I'm writing this, but I think it's bloggers. I'm glad the mainstream media is picking up on Goodling and the Regent connection now, but there should have been reporters looking at these lower level appointments a long time ago. How did Contreras get her job? How did J. Douglas Holladay, a guy who continued to report to the leadership of The Family even as he steered U.S. foreign policy, escape notice? What was Goodling doing evaluating lawyers with far superior credentials? With newsrooms shrinking and newsmagazines sensationalizing, those kinds of stories are going to keep being ignored.

Don't blame the reporters -- blame us. It's the public hunger for ongoing soap opera scandals -- Plamegate, the prosecutors -- that drives the press to ignore the smaller workings of government. But don't just blame us -- do something about. Pick a federal bureaucracy and start learning about. See who's working there. See where else they work. Look past the big names. It doesn't take big media to bring down an unqualified or crooked official. Joe Feuerherd, of the National Catholic Reporter, forced the resignation of ultra-right Bush Catholic liaison Deal Hudson; Ayelish McGarvey, a young journalist with hardly any clips to her name, brought down Bush's FDA thug Dr. David Hager; journalist and blogger Cynthia Cooper exposed Health and Human Services Secretary Wade Horn as a fundamentalist flunky with shady ethics, leading to his resignation. Who'll reel in the next one? Could be you.  

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)




Display:
Great overview and call to action.

One point I wonder about, though: are Contreras's ideas of "generational curses" really so far off the wall? I thought it was fairly standard in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, and even among other Christians who avoid speaking in tongues one might find a sense of demonic power that would accommodate such a belief. In fact, even the very mainline SPCK has published a book on the subject.

And as you yourself have done so much to show, conservative evangelicals sometimes downplay charismatic aspects of their faith for the wider public - Ted Haggard's famous "Don't be weird" memo.


by Richard Bartholomew on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 03:30:26 PM EST


I have just received an email from an activist website that deals with a lot of political coverup and sometimes inflammatory material. It seems that lately AOL has been blocking emails to that site - I wonder if this is tied in with government since this site frequently brings out news that is not printed in the regular papers and would often be embarrassing for them.  Is AOL tied in with the Religious right?

http://www.wanttoknow.info/070409aolblockingupdate

by Concerned on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 11:24:19 PM EST


http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2004/10/chief-executive-officer-of- time-warner.html

LEADER, LENNERT J. MR.
7/28/2003 $2,000.00
OAKTON, VA 22124
A.O.L. INC./INVESTOR -[Contribution]
BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC.

NELSON, LISA B MRS.
3/17/2004 $1,000.00
MC LEAN, VA 22101
A.O.L. TIME WARNER/GOVERNMENT RELAT -[Contribution]
BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC.

Nelson, Lisa B. Mrs.
6/17/2003 $1,000.00
Mc Lean, VA 22101
A.O.L. Time Warner/Government Relat -[Contribution]
BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC.


by Concerned on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 11:52:52 PM EST



WWW Talk To Action


Two Years Ago Today, the 'Least Credible History Book in Print' was Published
This post is an updated version of my post from this same date last year, which, not surprisingly, was titled "One Year Ago Today,......
By Chris Rodda (1 comment)
Geocentrist Creationists Seek To Become The Center Of Attention
There are days when fundamentalist zealots do something so off the wall that I don't know whether to laugh or cry, so I do......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
A Full Quiver of Bad Advice
Mike Huckabee mailed out an open invitation to all Texas pastors inviting them to attend the Texas Renewal Project.  The first 1,000 to respond......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Opus Dei Priest's Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy
Fr. C.J. ("John") McCloskey is in many ways the  American face of the secretive Catholic organization, Opus Dei.  He is a former Wall Streeter,......
By Frank Cocozzelli (10 comments)
Don't Be April Fooled by Far-Right Activists Dressed Up as Democratic Candidates
This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post. It expands and updates previous posts about the Neo-Confederate theocrats Michael Peroutka and Pastor David Whitney. Maryland......
By jhutson (0 comments)
Dangerous Defiance: Md. Official Ignores Court Ruling On Sectarian Prayer
I'm not a lawyer, but let me give you a little free legal advice anyway: It's never a good idea to defy a federal......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors'
Austin Ruse doesn't understand why people were so upset when he said on a national radio program that university leaders "should all be taken......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Justice For All: The Supreme Court And The Role Of The Justices' Religious Beliefs
Today's Washington Post has an interesting story about how the personal religious beliefs of members of the Supreme Court might affect their decisions.The question......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
RINO Says His Dino Proves Noah's Flood -- Wha Wha What?
Michael Peroutka, the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party in 2004 and co-founder of the theocratic Institute on the Constitution, made news recently when......
By jhutson (0 comments)
A Talk to Action Anthology on Neo-Confederacy, Nullification and Secession (Updated)
Over the past year, a number of posts have addressed the growing Neo-Confederate movement, the advocacy of nullification of federal laws, and even the......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Franklin Graham Slams Obama and Supports Putin in Battle Over Gay Rights
With a column vigorously supporting Vladimir Putin's anti-gay crusade in Russia, Evangelist Franklin Graham finds himself edging closer to inheriting the mantle of Fred......
By Bill Berkowitz (3 comments)
Neo-Confederate Democrats: Oxymorons?
“Many of you may be thinking that I have lost my mind,” Republican Del. Don Dwyer wrote in a March 2013 email and Facebook......
By jhutson (2 comments)
The Catholic Right Star & the Porn Star -- UPDATED
A Duke University freshman best known by her stage name Belle Knox has been much in the news. She was even interviewed by Piers......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Baptists and Bullets in Texas Politics
One thing regional Baptist GOP candidates share in common is a deep affection for gun rights.  The endorsements of pro-gun positions takes precedence over......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
The Battling Noahs & The Titanic Film Comeback of Noah & His Ark
Who would have imagined that in 2014, Noah, yes the Noah of the Biblical story of Noah and his Ark, would be garnering so......
By Bill Berkowitz (1 comment)

America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (1 comment)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (0 comments)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)
Jerry Falwell's Fundamentalist Liberty University Still Getting Hundreds of Millions in Federal Aid
In 2010, Liberty University got more federal funding than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In a 2011 Talk To Action story, contributor Bill Berkowitz covered the new trend in which right-wing evangelical colleges and......
Bruce Wilson (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.