Fear or Disinterest? The powers that be…
Ever Hear of “The Family”? Get Ready…
Fear or disinterest? The powers that be don’t care why we don’t discuss how our oppressions work together to isolate us while sustaining their power and positions, so long as we don’t turn our attentions to them and their puppetry. Why should you get mixed up in the issue of health care for gay partners when you’re straight? What does the unemployment rate of Puerto Ricans have to do with a white family living in the suburbs? Why bother thinking about the glass ceiling women and minorities hit when your job is going along just fine? Oil interests overseas – what’s that got to do with me? Bashing Muslim Americans — I’m not doing it; not my problem. And so on. We’re all just trying to survive, right? Take care of our own?
The powers that be hope that our world view will stay just as it is: concerned with number one: me, myself and I. They want us to fear talking about others’ experiences because, well, it’s not our business and it feels taboo to inquire. What if we say something that reveals our ignorance? Best just to leave well enough alone. And when some groups call attention to themselves, then they step in and either distract with another “more important” issue, or they set out to make us afraid that if everyone has equal opportunities and protections then *ours* will somehow be stripped away. We can’t all actually be free and have a portion of the resources at the same time when most freedoms and resources are in the hands of those at the top; they want us to struggle and fight *each other* so that we don’t notice the incredible imbalance in this country and on this planet. Viriginia Woolf once wondered (and feared) why the servants didn’t simply rise up and take back their share; she feared her servants and thus did not treat them very well accordingly.
So when we don’t talk, such organizations as “The Family” and the Mormon Church step up! Unlike us, they don’t fear talking about race, sexual orientation, class, and religion, and because they don’t, they get to control the discussion, set the tone which is usually one of fear, and tell us how morality and the world *really* is, to the point that we agree to remove people’s civil rights and even bomb other countries. Don’t for one second think that George Bush acted alone. The need to take control back in Iraq was very much about a few wealthy elites having their way.
Lest you think that the “powers that be” are just a figment of my imagination and aren’t as organized and mean spirited as I’m claiming, I’m asking you to reconsider and read on. They’re much more calculated and concerned with your well being than you can ever imagine. They hope that we continue to be pitted against one another, that we see each other as different and distant, unalike. They enjoy terms like “alien,” “immigrant,” “pro-marriage,” “the ______ agenda” (as though they don’t have an agenda), and whatever other polarizing negativity you can fit in here.
I thought I’d share a few of the juicier excerpts from an interview Terry Gross conducted with Jeff Sharlitt, who has investigated a long-standing “secret” organization of elites (no, not The Masons) called, “The Family.” I’ve selected just a few of the more revealing bits to give a brief overview on just how deliberate these men are when it comes to working together collaboratively to maintain their interests and control at great cost to all of us. As Sharlitt puts it, “…they “fetishize” power, intentionally so without concern for anyone else but themselves, all in the name of God and morality — at least, as they define them:
TERRY GROSS: So The Family is into the cultivation of powerful people. They call them key men. What is key men?
Mr. SHARLET: A key man is someone that they identify as chosen for his position of power or affluence by God. And they like to emphasize that the leaders that they work with are not so much elected to their positions or work their way up the corporate ladder, as they are selected by God, used as tools….
Mr. SHARLET: Well, they began with the issue of economics. I mean, they began as a union-busting organization. That was their first and strongest mission, and for a long time they saw their two goals as economic and in foreign affairs. …
So you see Democrats like Representative Mike McIntyre, a very conservative Democrat from North Carolina; Representative Heath Shuler, also from North Carolina; Representative Bart Stupak; Senator Mark Pryor, who is pro-war, anti-labor, anti-gay and a creationist, but he is a Democrat. And he’s a guy who explained to me a couple years ago that through The Family, he had learned that the meaning of bipartisanship was that, quote, Jesus didn’t come to take sides; he came to take over. …
Pitts is what The Family calls a core member. They have a very unusual theology in the sense that they think that Christ had one message for an inner circle and then a kind of different message for a sort of slightly more outer circle. And then the rest of us, Christ told us little stories because, frankly, we couldn’t handle the truth. And the core members are those they think are getting the real deal. Pitts is part of that core of The Family that has been steering it and setting its agenda, if you want to put it like that, for many years….
GROSS: Let’s talk about The Family’s connection to Uganda, where there’s a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison…
Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it’s important that you said it, yeah, it hasn’t gone into law. It hasn’t gone into effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it’s very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa….
And that may be true. He’s certainly traveled there extensively. He says he likes to accuse the State Department of ignoring Africa so he becomes our point man with guys like Museveni and Uganda, this nation he says he’s adopted. As we give foreign aid to Uganda, these are the people who are in a position to steer that money. And as Museveni comes over, and as he does and spends time at The Family’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a place called The Cedars, and sits down for counsel with Doug Coe, that’s where those relationships occur…
It’s never going to be the hard sell, where they’re going to, you know, twist Museveni’s arm behind his back and say do this. As The Family themselves describes it, you create a prayer cell, or what they call – and this again, this is their language from their documents – an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that’s the nature of their relationship with Museveni.
GROSS: What’s your concern here? If members of Congress or senators are traveling, funded by The Family, to go abroad and promote issues of concern to The Family, is there anything wrong with that?
Mr. SHARLET: Yeah. There’s something wrong with it. A lot of that kind of travel is illegal under the 2007 Open Government Act, which was passed in response to the Abramoff scandal, especially when you look at some of these trips that would be sponsored by one nonprofit entity under The Family’s umbrella, but taken at the behest of another organization like Christian Embassy, another sort of Christian right ministry in Washington for elites.
It makes it very hard for foreign officials to know where these politicians are coming from, for American taxpayers to hold these guys accountable. And what it amounts to in its worst-case scenario is a kind of freelance diplomacy. So that’s what’s wrong with it.
It’s – I mean when you take your personal religious convictions or political convictions, even, and claim to represent the United States, but, in fact, are representing an organization like The Family as Senator Coburn was in Lebanon, as Senator Ensign has in Jordan and Israel, as Senator Inhofe has in Uganda, you are steering foreign policy away from democratic accountability.
GROSS: So is – when a congressman took a trip sponsored, paid for by The Family, is it any different than a congressman taking a trip sponsored by a corporation or any other private group?
Mr. SHARLET: Yeah, it really is, because a corporation or most private groups, whether they be left or right, they don’t deny that they exist. The Family claims that there’s no organization at all. The leader of the group, Doug Coe, says in a sermon that’s now been posted online, fortunately, so you can hear it, says the more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence it will have….
And some of the, really the core rhetoric of The Family is this idea that most of us misread the New Testament, that Christ’s message – the bottom line of Christ’s message wasn’t really about love or mercy or justice or forgiveness. It was about power. So Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe they’re more conservative, they’re going to say Billy Graham. And Coe likes to give in answer: Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. And he will say – he’s quick to say these are evil men, but they understood power. And that message recurs again, and again, and again in The Family….
Now, he is not a neo-Nazi. What he is doing there is he’s fetishizing strength. He is not looking to democracy, but this model of absolute strength, and that leads The Family into relationships with men like Museveni in Uganda. Before him, their key man for Africa was a guy named Siad Barre of Somalia, for whom Chuck Grassley became a kind of defacto lobbyist as the United States pumped up his military, which he then used to absolutely destroy his country to such an effect that Somalia has never recovered and today is a haven for al-Qaida, for terrorism, for piracy. It’s a lawless nation. The Family says that’s part of God’s plan.
CONTINUED — FULL INTERVIEW (CLICK HERE)
* Rachel Maddow: GOP Sex Scandal Exposes The Family
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AMY KING View All →
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
it’s hard to tell if your fears are genuine or if this is, in postmodernist fashion, a parody of the effect the big “powers that be” have on the individual or collective psyche. Or perhaps even a political call-to-arms for those who’ve been marginalized to the sidelines (gays, African-Americans, women).
It’s hard to tell the medium from the message here; the dry disinterested critic from activist; restorer of social and political normalcy (whatever that is) or anarchist.
Are you contesting or longing for a return to some form of responsible representation?
I personally hope you don’t come down dogmatically on the side of any one agenda and rather leave the issue of “fear and disinterest” as the delicious either-or it’ll always be.
Great post. Sharlet’s book is insightfully frightening. I highly recommend it.
Conrad, I’m hoping to inspire something a little more radical…
Christopher, Thanks for the rec – I’m going to get it!
Good for you, Amy. Sunlight cleanses…