Friday, December 11, 2009

Jeff Sharlet, The Family, 2008

Jeff Sharlet, The Family blog entry

From the bookjacket:

They are the Family—fundamentalism’s avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen, congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a “leadership led by God,” to be won not by force but through “quiet diplomacy.” Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have written from inside its walls.

The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the Far Right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a “family” that thrives to this day. In public, they host prayer breakfasts; in private they preach a gospel of “biblical capitalism,” military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao, the Family's leader declares, "We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

Sharlet’s discoveries dramatically challenge conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the waging of the Cold War, and the no-holds-barred economics of globalization. The question Sharlet believes we must ask is not “What do fundamentalists want?” but “What have they already done?”



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