Jewish Journal


July 11, 2008

Behind the scenes of American fundamentalism



Man, I have really been getting everything I can out of that interview with religion journalist Jeff Sharlet. As promised Thursday, my Q&A with Sharlet about his new book “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power” appears in today’s Jewish Journal. Here are a pair of questions from the interview:

JJ: The Family is bipartisan, right?
JS: They are the oldest and, over time, most powerful Christian-right organization in America, and they have achieved that august age by not allying themselves too closely with any one faction. The Family recognizes they are interested not in doctrinal purity but in power. As Doug Coe, the leader, says, ‘We work with power where we can, build new power where we can’t.’

JJ: The Mafia, Mao, Lenin, Hitler—all these guys are role models, not for what they did but how they did it. How does The Family marry faith with fascism?
JS: Back in the 1930s, a lot of people, not just fascists, thought democracy had run its course and couldn’t compete with fascism and communism, and that a third way was necessary. Some conservative Christians decided that Christianity was the third way. And what they admired about fascism was that fascism operates on this veneer of total and absolute unity. I don’t think they [The Family] are fascist, but they love the fascist myth of absolute unity, and they think that the unity is best achieved through strong men.

Scary stuff. An excerpt from the book, which shows how Sharlet, a Jew, was invited into this elitist Christian organization, is after the jump.

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