Evangelical control of Washington DC was a story I wrote over two years ago, but its relevance has not diminished with time. The design and nature of the secretive organization that is at the center of this story means its influence can only grow, and that is frightening.
The group, internally known as The Family, has courted political leaders in the United States and built an international network since its foundation in the 1930’s. The goal of The Family is to have evangelical religious control over politics, in the name of Jesus Christ. The fact that such a goal totally undermines the U.S. Constitution, let alone the concept of separation of church and state, apparently is ignored by the “upstanding” U.S. citizens who belong to The Family.
It is interesting to note here that the U.S. Constitution is one of the few constitutions in the world that does not specifically mandate the separation of church and state, although most people believe that it does. Further, almost every secular leader in history has tried to establish this separation out of fear that religion could easily become more powerful than the state. Religion has the significant advantage of “Faith” in the ages-long game between secular power and religious power.
Since 1953, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a fixture in American politics. That event has boasted attendance by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. It occurs on the first Thursday of every February. It is hyped as an opportunity for the political elite of Washington, D.C., and visiting international dignitaries, to put aside partisan differences and reflect on a higher purpose. In reality, while purportedly hosted by members of Congress, it is actually organized and run by an evangelical Christian organization called The Fellowship Foundation, or The Family. The group operates with its own higher purpose, which is to quietly build its influence on global politics “in the name of Jesus.”
“The Fellowship isn’t about faith and it spreads very little. It’s about power,” said Jeff Sharlet, who has written two books on the group. Its intent, he says, is to draw ‘key men’ into small prayer cells to meet Jesus, man to man.
Abraham Vereide started the first chapter of the Fellowship in Seattle in 1935 when he hosted 19 business leaders with the aim of crushing organized labor. The Prayer Breakfast was developed as a discreet Christian recruiting platform under long-time leader Doug Coe, who was considered one of the most powerful influencers in Washington before his death in 2017.
Unlike most traditional evangelical Christian groups, which prioritize mobilizing as large a base as possible, The Family strategically keeps its membership purposely exclusive. Doug Coe very intentionally took the group underground. He recognized that they could do their best work anonymously. Sharlet estimates the number of dedicated organizers who handle recruitment for the organisation at just 350. Those organizers, however, have built a network of prayer cells that the late Christian Right leader Chuck Colson pegged at 20,000-strong, calling it, “a veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government.”
“The Fellowship believes God uses who He wants, and that power itself is an indicator of who He has chosen — it’s a theology of more power for the powerful,” Sharlet explained.
The reach of the Fellowship has extended well beyond the confines of Washington. Politicians and businessmen affiliated with the group have met to pray and parlay with the likes of the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, Indonesian despot Suharto and Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier. More recently, Family members have been tracked on international trips made by politicians tied to the group to proselytize Christian policy, such as Rep. Robert Aderholt’s on-the-ground campaigning for a strict anti-LGBTQ law in Romania.
Everyone in The Family has an agenda, and a role in the group’s goal. Not everyone is welcome, only the significant.
It is an insidious movement, designed to undermine U.S. democracy, and impose an evangelical ruling class in the name of Jesus.
Netflicks has produced a five-part series on The Family, although I imagine the group will do everything in its power to suppress its distribution.
Be aware. The threats to U.S. democracy do not only come from Russia, China and the lunatic followers of Donald Trump, they also come from groups who appear to be upstanding U.S. citizens, and they walk among us. Evangelical control of Washington DC is not fiction, it’s a frightening and dangerous reality.