NBC News Reports on The Family [Revised and Updated]
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 07:56:42 PM EST
NBC News had a segment on the secretive, elite influence network, The Family, featuring an interview with Jeff Sharlet, whose book by that title, will be published next month.

The segment also featured dramatic video of the elite fundamentalist "Family" leader Doug Coe preaching about the "covenant" that he says made Hitler among others, powerful -- commanding loyalty among his followers. The program transcript states:

Mr. DOUGLAS COE: (1989) 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.

[Andrea] MITCHELL: In his preaching, he repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, a commitment Coe compares to the blind devotion Hitler demanded, a rhetorical technique that draws sharp criticism.

Mr. COE: (1989) Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had, these nobodies from nowhere.

Jeff Sharlet and Kathryn Joyce reported in Mother Jones that Hillary Clinton has been involved in the group since the early 1990s; and NBC showed that Coe introduced 11 "businessmen" to her, according to her White House logs.  Access, and networking connections among the powerful is an important part of the modus operandi of The Family.

Sharlet and Joyce reported:

When Time put together a list of the nation's 25 most powerful evangelicals in 2005, the heading for Coe's entry was "The Stealth Persuader." "You know what I think of when I think of Doug Coe?" the Reverend Schenck (a Coe admirer) asked us. "I think literally of the guy in the smoky back room that you can't even see his face. He sits in the corner, and you see the cigar, and you see the flame, and you hear his voice—but you never see his face. He's that shadowy figure."

Coe has been an intimate of every president since Ford, but he rarely imposes on chief executives, who see him as a slightly mystical but apolitical figure. Rather, Coe uses his access to the Oval Office as currency with lesser leaders. "If Doug Coe can get you some face time with the President of the United States," one official told the author of a Princeton study of the National Prayer Breakfast last year, "then you will take his call and seek his friendship. That's power."

In their Mother Jones article, Sharlet and Joyce reported specifically on the involvement of Senator Clinton in the group, showing a more profound level of participation than unnamed people "close to" Sen. Clinton's claim to NBC (see transcript below) that she is not a "member" of the Family:
Clinton's God talk is more complicated--and more deeply rooted--than either fans or foes would have it, a revelation not just of her determination to out-Jesus the gop, but of the powerful religious strand in her own politics... Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat. Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan. The Fellowship isn't out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward. This is in line with the Christian right's long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term "cobelligerency" to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, "has a lot of history" to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.
Here are excerpts from the transcript of the NBC News segment:
MITCHELL: Jeff Sharlet lived among Coe's followers six years ago and came out troubled by their secrecy and rhetoric.

Mr. JEFF SHARLET: We were being taught the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao. And I'd say, `Aren't--isn't there a problem with that?' And they would even seem perplexed by the question. Hitler's genocide wasn't really an issue for them. It was the strength that he emulated.

MITCHELL: Now Sharlet's written about it in a soon-to-be-published book.

Mr. SHARLET: They're notoriously secretive. In fact, they jokingly call themselves the Christian Mafia.

MITCHELL: Asked about Coe's influence on Hillary Clinton, people close to her said "she does not consider him one of her leading spiritual advisers, has never contributed to his group, is not a member," and has never heard the sermons that we have cited. And they said he is not her minister. Coe declined an interview, but a close friend said he invokes Hitler to show the power of small groups for good and bad, and most of the time talks about Jesus. Supporters also point to his good works around the world. Still, critics question his influence and secrecy in a year when the candidates' religious beliefs are part of the political debate. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
NBC also reported that Barack Obama and John McCain (among others) have also attended Family "prayer groups" -- but made no effort to say how often, or how deeply they were involved, or how common a practice it is for U.S. Senators to accept such invitations.

Still, it was a ground-breaking news segment about an elite fundamentalist political network that has cultivated and manipulated the powerful for the better part of a century.

For more background, see Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats, by Jeff Sharlet, Harpers magazine.

I have read a lot about the Cultural Revolution. I have known survivors of it, including a roommate who became a close friend. I have read and heard of Red Guards committing truly appalling crimes, but what Doug Coe alleges I think is a stretch.

by nogodsnomasters on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 10:30:02 PM EST
(whether or not it is historically accurate) is an argument for blind loyalty to a political group, such as The Family, to the point of violence against one's own family.

by jhutson on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 12:01:25 PM EST

Senator Hillary Clinton tries to distance herself from Coe by saying that he "is not her minister." True: he is not anyone's minister -- he is not ordained. Yet he is the leader of a covert network of political influence that operates in part by recruiting elected officials into "cells" (his own term).

In her autobiography, Clinton calls Coe "a genuinely loving mentor and spiritual guide to many." She also says of him: "Doug became a source of strength and friendship." And she has written about participating in one of the "cells" that prayed for her during her time in the White House.

Though Clinton denies being "a member," she does not deny that she has ever been a member of one of Coe's "cells," and does not state when her participation in the cell ceased.

Though Clinton says now that Coe is not one of her "leading spiritual mentors," she has written about him as one of her spiritual mentors. The word "leading" in her recent denial therefore seems like a weasel word: he has mentored her spiritually, and Clinton does not say that he does not remain a spiritual mentor to any degree, only that he is not a "leading" one to her.

So why does Clinton refuse interview requests to speak on the record about her involvement with The Family and its secretive political leader, Doug Coe?

by jhutson on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 11:58:15 AM EST

about her involvement. NBC quotes unnamed persons close to Clinton denying membership.

We have yet to hear from Senator Clinton about any of this. That may be understandable, but is is a lot less than open and honest.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 12:09:47 PM EST

Thanks for confirmation on something I have strongly suspected re the Family/Fellowship--that they have been users of the coercive "discipling and shepherding" model (which is heavily prevalent in the Assemblies and Campus Crusade, and which ended up getting Maranatha in some rather serious trouble forcing a renaming).

If so, this makes Hillary Clinton's membership extremely troubling (even more so than it was anyways); depending on how long "The Fellowship" has been using the "cell church" model, this may also push the history of this particular coercive tactic back to the 30's (the earliest I can date it is to the 40's and originating in neopente churches in China in the pre-Communist era, though there are hints that cell-church models may have been used as early as the 1920s by the Assemblies in eastern Europe for purposes of steeplejacking Reformed Baptist congregations).

As to why this disturbs me, here's a post I've just done here on coercive tactics within dominionist "cell churches" that explains my distinct worries regarding this.

As for the discussion of the "total war" that Nazis did--I'm not entirely surprised by the use of that metaphor.  There's been persistent rumours (which I am hoping to either confirm or deny when Sharlet's book comes out and I get it) as to possible involvement of the original founders of the Family/Fellowship in Nazi-sympathiser groups in the 30s (there was, alas, a non-negligible amount of covert and overt Nazi support by the dominionist movement of the time, because the Nazis portrayed themselves as anti-Communist; even today, the Holocaust is seen as a kick-start for the re-establishment of Israel by many Christian Zionists).

by dogemperor on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 03:15:33 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (329 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (173 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (97 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (105 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (112 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (77 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (225 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (55 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (153 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (51 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (52 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (210 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (238 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (86 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (170 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (140 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (142 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (123 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (185 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (82 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (188 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (77 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (107 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (104 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.