May 25, 2009
The Wisdom Fund

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power -- Book Review

Preaching the Gospel of 'biblical capitalism,' military might, and American empire

by Enver Masud

Ivanwald, situated in a cul-de-sac at the end of 24th Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is the stronghold of a widespread "invisible" and powerful organization, working for "democracy" and "free markets," but in reality extending the American empire.

Founded by a Norwegian immigrant Abraham Vereide (known as Abram) - now led by Doug Coe, the network - organized much like Ivanwald into cells of five, and "populated by elite, politically ambitious fundamentalists," is the subject of Jeff Sharlett's book: "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."

The organization has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, the International Foundation. These groups are intended to draw attention away from the Family, and to prevent it from becoming, in the words of one of the Family's leaders, "a target for misunderstanding."

Established in 1935 to oppose FDR's New Deal and the spread of trade unions, the Family's network spans the world organizing weekly prayer meetings at which the rich and powerful meet to advance their agenda.

The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast - "attended by Pakistan's famously corrupt Benazir Bhutto." Its keynote is often delivered by an outsider. One such address was delivered by Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar.

Every president since Eisenhower has attended the National Prayer Breakfast Abram founded in 1953.

The Family, writes Sharlet, that hosts Prayer Breakfasts in public, in private preaches a gospel of "biblical capitalism," military might, and American empire.

The following, from Jeff Sharlett's book, is a glimpse of the Family's activities:

Marshall Green, American ambassador in Indonesia compiled for Indonesia's president Suharto a "shooting list": "the names of thousands of leftist political opponents, from leaders identified by the CIA to village-level activists, the kind of data only local observers - conservative missionaries, classically - could provide." . . . Green and his men followed the results of their gift closely, checking off names as Suharto's men killed or imprisoned them.

A document in the Family's archives titled "Important Dates in Indonesian History" notes that in March 1966, the Communist Party was banned and Campus Crusade arrived in April. Suharto wasn't a Christian, but he knew that where missionaries go, investors follow. He also wanted to use God - any God - to pacify the population. In 1967, Congressman Ben Reifel sent a memo to other Fellowship members in Congress noting that a special message from Suharto calling on Indonesians to "seek God, discover His laws, and obey them" was broadcast at the same time as a Fellowship prayer session in the Indonesian parliament for non-Christian politicians.

By 1969, the Fellowship claimed as its man in Jakarta Suharto's minister of social affairs, who presided over a group of more than fifty Muslims and Christians in parliament. Another Fellowship associate, Darius Marpaung - he'd later claim that God spoke through him when he told a massive rally that the time had come to "purge the communists," an event that helped spark the massacre - led a similar group in Indonesia's Christian community.

. . . in December 1975, when Portugal relinquished its claims to the tiny island nation of East Timor. It declared independence; nine days later Suharto's army invaded, on the pretext that its neighbor was communist. Two hundred thousand people - nearly a third of the island's population - were killed during the long occupation, to which the United States gave its blessing.

[Senator] Brownback said he'd met with King Abdullah about starting a fellowship group around the person of Jesus. . . . Abdullah let him know he'd made contact with the senator's man and agreed to "fellowship" with him on a regular basis.

The Iraqis come up often, particularly with regard to their conversion ... 900,000 bibles in the Arabic language [were] distributed by Christians in Iraq.

David Kuo . . . and a few others transformed the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives into the very Republican vote-getting machine its critics had accused it of being from the start.

In 2002, "roundtable" events with faith and community leaders, organized by the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, "contributed to nineteen out of twenty victories in targeted races."

The Family's members include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft, a leader in the Family, who maintained his prayer cell while presiding over the Department of Justice.

Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.).

The Family operates through dozens of affiliates. One such affiliate has a townhouse next door to the Capitol - the C Street Foundation at 133 C Street SE in Washington, DC. Numerous affiliates are headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Organizations led by evangelists Billy Graham, Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell, and others are affiliated with the Family.

It is estimated that 10 percent of the nation's children are educated at home and in fundamentalist academies via curricula and books prepared by the Family and its affiliates.

At the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2009, President Obama took the opportunity to announce the creation of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Representatives from some 120 countries were invited for the occasion.

Leon T. Hadar, "The 'Green Peril': Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat," Cato Institute, August 27, 1992

Graham Hancock, "Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business," Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (January 10, 1994)

Enver Masud, "Millions Spent Subverting 'Enemies,' Stifling Dissent," The Wisdom Fund, February 15, 2001

"CRUSADE," The Wisdom Fund, October 16, 2003

Amy Chua, "Free-Market Democracy: Our Most Dangerous Export," Guardian, February 28, 2004

"America: Freedom to Fascism," The Wisdom Fund, October 6, 2005

Rupert Cornwell, "Bush: God told me to invade Iraq,", October 7, 2005

DOCUMENTARY: John Pilger, "The War On Democracy,", 2007

Saul Landau, "Summer of Denial,", July 30, 2009

TRANSCRIPT: "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,", August 12, 2009

Dahr Jamail and Jason Coppola, "The Myth of 'America',", October 12, 2009

John Perkins, "Hoodwinked," Crown Business (November 10, 2009)

Anna Clark, "The Family: Secretive Christian Group of Conservative Lawmakers Building a 'God-Led' Government," AlterNet, October 12, 2010

Max Blumenthal, "The Great Islamophobic Crusade: Inside the bizarre cabal of secretive donors, demagogic bloggers, pseudo-scholars, European neo-fascists, violent Israeli settlers, and Republican presidential hopefuls behind the crusade,", December 20, 2010

[Khan, meanwhile, told me he was sought out by Doug Coe, head of The Family, the secretive fundamentalist group which, as Jeff Sharlet reported in his book The Family and C Street, facilitates prayer and meetings for the elite politicians and businessmen that group considers to be Jesus's "key men." Khan said he knew nothing of the group's scandals, and that Coe had sent him Bible verses from Isaiah and Peter I and prayed "that we would get through this." About Coe, Khan said, "he is a true man of faith, a true Christian. I say that as a devout Muslim, he's someone I have the highest amount of respect and love for." Coe, said Khan "is someone walking in the steps of Christ."--Sarah Posner, "Religious War Comes to CPAC,", February 14, 2011]

Steven Erlanger and Scott Shane, "Oslo Suspect Wrote of Fear of Islam and Plan for War," New York Times, July 23, 2011 -- Editor: Was Oslo suspect practicing what we preach?

Hrafnkell Haraldsson, "The Fundamentalist Christian Plan for America,", July 23, 2011

Jon Basil Utley, "Evangelicals, Ron Paul and War,", January 20, 2012

Joseph E Stiglitz, "The World's 99% Knows Capitalism Is Failing and Believes That Change Is Possible,", June 21, 2012

John Pilger, "Inside the Invisible Government; War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump,", October 28, 2016

[The United States, McKinley argued, could not possibly tyrannize faraway lands, as European powers did, because the tyrannical impulse is foreign to America'scharacter and tradition. He said that since the United States set its foreign policies with "unselfish purpose," its influence in the world could only be benevolent. The essential goodness of the American people, he argued, is the supreme and sole necessary justification of whatever the United States chooses to do in the world.--Stephen Kinzer, "The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire," Henry Holt and Co. (January 24, 2017) p.132]

[capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic activities on outside parties and on the environment.--Paul Craig Roberts, "The Looting Machine Called Capitalism,", April 26, 2017]

[Graham's message was principally one of fear: fear of a wrathful god; fear of temptation; fear of communists and socialists; fear of unions; fear of Catholics; fear of homosexuals; fear of racial integration and above all, fear of death. But as a balm for such fears, he promised listeners eternal life, which he said was readily claimed through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's savior..--Cecil Bothwell, "Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear,", February 21, 2018]

Owen Amos, "Inside the White House Bible Study group,", April 8, 2018

"Pompeo says God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran,", March 22, 2019

Lawrence Davidson, "God and U.S. Foreign Policy: an Analysis,", April 2, 2019


God Bless America: How the US is Obsessed with Religion, ENDEVR Documentary, January 23, 2022

back button