Browsing the Magazine Rack

A mega-ditto to Tim on his comments on the New Republic's Stanley Kauffman, below. If only their mostly-spiffy (insides great, cover vaguely like a controlled-circulation throwaway) redesign had managed to clean up that particularly cluttered and stinky corner of the magazine.

I tend to be made uncomfortable by redesigns in familiar magazines (and then a few months later forget what it used to look like, of course). So it's good that editor Peter Beinart is staying the course that makes the New Rep what it is, standing up reliably for such inevitabilities as death (yay, war on Iraq!) and taxes (boo, any tax cut anywhere!) and casting a jaundiced eye on uppity black people (the Al Sharpton takedown recently is part of a long tradition of New Republic assaults on prominent black Americans, which is not of course to say anything about whether those assaults are deserved in any specific case).

Elsewhere in the magazine world this month, Harper's hits us with a strangely under-commented-on expose of what appears by their telling to be a genuine conspiracy of neo-Nazis at the highest echelons of American politics. The March issue has "Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America's Secret Theocrats," a long, fascinating, sneaky "I pretended to be one of them" inside look at the sinister "Family," a gaggle of white men who look up to Jesus and apparently Hitler as well, including Senators Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) among many other politicians. They used to call themselves such names as the National Committee for Christian Leadership and the National Fellowship Council, so you know there's something fishy going on here.

In that clever, highly deniable Harper's style (see here for a previous intrepid attempt on my part to get to the bottom of what a Harper's story was trying to really say) author Jeffrey Sharlet never outright calls the group a bunch of Nazis, but takes care to point out twice--the second time with a quite bludgeoning effect--that Family leaders use Hitler as a positive example of men who built their kingdoms on a "covenant" the likes of which Family members are meant to emulate. The story ends with some of that old-time Harper's subtlely--instead of wrapping up with a message, a call to arms, or even a screech of fear that these sports-playing, Hitler-referencing Christ maniacs are on the verge of ruling the world, it peters out with a--ominous in its chilling banality--little account of playing flashlight tag with some innocent kids caught in the family web. Any fan of Harper's highly imitable style will not want to miss this one. I can't resist an extended quote. This is the last few sentences of the story. With Harper's, by God, you will know you are dealing with a WRITER: "A figure approached and I sprang up and ran, down the sidewalk, and up through a garden, over a wall that my pursuer, a small boy, had trouble climbing. But once he was over he kept charging, and just as I was about to vanish into the trees his flashlight caught mne. "Jeff I see you you're It!" the boy cried. I stopped and turned, and he kept the beam on me. Blinded, I could hear only the slap of his sneakers as he ran across the driveway toward me. "Okay, dude," he whispered, and turned off the flashlight. I recognized him as little Stevie, whose drawing of a machine gun we had posted in our bunk room. He handed the flashlight to me, spun around, started to run, then stopped and looked over his shoulders. "You're It now," he whispered, and disappeared into the dark."

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  • Omnibus Bill||

    Sounds to me like the folks at Harpers have been drinking whatever it is that Dale Gribble drinks... Jesus freak Hitler fans?

    Next thing, we'll find out that the country's actually being run by a fiendish alliance between the Knights Templar, the Masons and the Int'l Zionist Conspiracy. Oh gosh, the LaRouchies are probably running around thinking they've finally got some of there boys into the Senate...

  • ||

    "the Knights Templar, the Masons and the Int'l Zionist Conspiracy. Oh gosh, the LaRouchies..."

    Don't forget the Bilderbergers and the shape-shifting reptiles.

  • ||

    If there are Hitler worshipers in the GOP why arn't these leftists exposed for who they are...

  • Charles||

    Yeah. Nazis could never take over the United States. They would never be able to democratically pass legislation which makes it possible for enemies of the state to be indefinately detained, or regular citizens surveilled secretly. The entire idea is preposterous.

  • ||

    RED menace. YELLOW hordes.

  • Mark S.||

    You forgot the Greys and the Servents of Cthulhu! They have to involved in this somehow:

    http://www.sjgames.com/illuminati/

  • Madog||

    Don't worry, a secret cabal of Erisians/Discordians has secretly undermined all the Illuminati's plans....

  • ||

    You guys are leaving out the Trilateralists and the CFR.

  • Gary Gunnels||

    What about the "yellow menace?"

  • Raja||

    Having been involved in the Christian right growing up (although a far different group) the account seems quite plausible to me. However, I didn't read into it that the Hitler references were meant to indicate that they venerate Hitler -only that they appreciate that his methods are efficacious.

  • ||

    It's time to call the Republicans and their evangelist Christian running dogs what they are: fascist imperialists. Not anti-Semitic fascism like Nazis, mind you, but fascists nonetheless. Open your eyes, people.

  • ||

    Toucan Sam is right. Any sane person ought to be scared witless by these lunatics-- and they're in power. Kristoff in yesterday's NY Times reported taht most Americans consider themselves born again and only a minority believe in evolution (this includes the president ofthe US)

  • Brent||

    It is disturbing that thoughtful people like the ones reading this website would buy in to alarmist propaganda. Sharlet's article was distorting of the truth, to say the least, and there is no doubt that his own deep angst concerning the religious, or anyone espousing to know something he does not, played a major role in his scripting of the article (see his website KillingtheBuddha.com). His iconoclasm propels the article into an abyss of dishonest innuendo. Clearly, these people do not believe Hitler's accomplishments were good in any way (I know many of them), the same goes for their opinion of the mafia. To say they are neo-nazis is a statement of complete ignorance, ditto for Sharlet's analysis that they desire political power foremost (or at all for that matter). That is not the aim of this "group". It seeks reconciliation, aid for the poor and hungry, freedom for the oppressed, and love for neighbors and sees one way to do this is by meeting and building relationships with people around the world who are in positions of power. They hope to turn the hearts and minds of politicians to these issues, and this is evident in everything they do. A lack of publicly visible action makes them extremely open to misunderstanding. Sharlet saw what he wanted to see, what he had hoped to see going in, no doubt. Every one of his discriptions is a caricature (leprechaun, 2/3 hair, 1/3 smile, chin like a plow), setting up Sharlet's cartoonish fantasy in which he is the sole proprietor of truth. "No realism, only my perception, my literary wit (isn't it keen?), my judgement," he says. Meanwhile, Jeff, they will continue to work tirelessly for those forgotten by the west while you sit at your self-righteously non-coporate coffee house, drinking your latte and calling everyone names ("look at those Christian fascists opening a soup lunch, who do they think they are?").

  • ||

    I thought Mr. Sharlet's article was brilliant. It certainly explains the mystery behind the actions of our current administration. Read history. This is about as plausible a cause for their "insanities" as anything I have ever read. Besides, self-justification is what propels men's evil actions.

  • ||

    Brent, you've got to be kidding. What a load of you-know-what you're peddling. You're one of them, aren't you -- the Christian pod people -- who has every interest in muddling, obfuscation, and spreading disinformation. A Brave New World, indeed.

  • ||

    If an argument is to be taken seriously, then its premises must be accurate. That is to say, they cannot be fabrications.

    Secondly, the premises must logically lead to, and support, the conclusion (argument) reached.

    On that every fractal of the political spectrum can agree.

    Having been the individual that introduced Jeff Sharlet to Ivanwald I know, with a certainty that few ever will, how 1) fabricated were his premises
    and 2) illogical the conclusions he reached, even with the 'facts' conveniently molded to his liking.

    Let's just begin with that which is verifiable by third party, documented sources. He states, 'A banker acquaintance introduced him'. Sounds powerful. Hint of conspiratorialism, in the context of the other claims. 'The money behind the cult' or some such innuendo for the careful reader.

    In reality it can be documented that I am indeed the one person that introduced him to Ivanwald. It can also be documented that I was a laid off software worker, unable to find employement for almost a year, by the time I introduced Jeff to the house. At one point I had once worked for a mortgage company.

    Are we starting to get a notion for how this article was knitted? Put the oddest part of every thread next to the most insinuating strand of the next, and you get the language of the paranoid. That which seeks a conspiracy behind the other camps walls. In this case, 'Brave New World' as one commentator put it. Ironic as Huxley (wasnt it?) emphasizes the secular, godless nature of that society. Even the battle cries of some in the paranoid camp fold upon themselves at some point in examination.

    The further errors could be enumerated ad infinitum but I'm guessing that's enough out of me.

    I sympathize with those who see a sinister plot behind any fraternization between religious establishment figures and elected officials. And many a Right Winger best remember that the founders wanted to protect the sanctity of the nation's spiritual institutions, as much as safeguard the Republic from factional in-fighting, in 'government shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof.'

  • ||

    Reading this article and "Wonder-Working Power" on the hard right takeover of the Southern Baptist church (http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=15667) make me appreciate more the efforts of Americans United. As it seems Billy Graham is key somewhere in both of these organizations and his son is primed to evangelize Iraq as a prelude to whatever country is next on our hit parade... it does seem there's a concerted covert effort to turn our democracy, and indeed the world into a fascist theocracy or theocratic fascism. When religion and politics mix, people are burned at the stake.

    And while "the family" may not be actual 'neo-nazis'...isn't it fact that while not a card carrying nazi, Prescott Bush, 43's grandfather, was working with Hitler and the nazis, making money to finance their war, and until forced to stop by US Government seizure of his assets the mid-40s??? Hmmmmm.

  • Thersites||

    Mark, can you provide any "third party documentation" for your claims other than, well, yourself?

  • ||

    I'm a Harper's subscriber who read the article some weeks ago, and I'll grant that its tone *seemed* to promise much more skullduggery than was revealed in the end. Indeed, I didn't find their admiration for Nazis' focus and efficiency terribly surprising, even considering the belief among religious neocons' in the Biblical imperative of Jewish control of Jerusalem.

    Not surprising, because these ideologues and their followers *are* fascists, albeit a very warm, familiar, American brand of fascist. (What, you think they'd strut about in jackboots and swastikas?! That would be un-American!) And what are fascists but shallow, chauvinistic, xenophobic control freaks whose claim to authority is underpinned by love for God, Mother, and Country--and a ruthless devotion to rooting out all who might oppose them? It is no more difficult for them to forgive Nazis the Holocaust than it is to forgive George W. Bush his boozing, protracted "youth." Fascists keep their eyes on the prize.

    Perhaps the piece isn't surprising, scandalous, or revelatory enough to prop up the allegations its tone arguably suggests, or even merit publishing (as seems to be Mr. Doherty's point). Perhaps it was merely a lightweight, self-aggrandizing prank on the part of its author.

    Nonetheless, I found it disturbing enough to see the sort of simplistic, Sunday-school "philosophy" being espoused by what no one seems to deny is a broadly influential group. (Apparently, there are at least six congressmen in their hip pocket. What a show MTV could do on their luxury townhouse!) The men of Ivanwald don't have to proudly come out and call themselves Brownshirts to be a troubling group of fellows.

  • ||

    I am also a long time Harpers subscriber, and a former right wing christian fanatic. Southern Baptists brainwashed me in my youth at a wacko boarding school in Kentucky. Had I continued on that path of hate and fear (they call it love), I may very well have ended up at Ivanwald. But, I saw the light after five years.

    I read the piece. Phil's remarks are excellent. Not the best writing, but the subject matter was indeed fascinating. It reminded me of reading Pat Robertson's _New World Order_ years ago as a believer.

    People who are in sync with the Fellowship, albeit not formally, are all over the US (southern baptists, conservative catholics, charismatic christians, full gospel folks, holy rollers, jews for jesus, assemblies of god, pentecostals - they're everywhere). They are true believers (as Eric Hoffer called them - and in this regard, they are not very different from other religious fundamentalists). They are insane. Delusional. I should know. I was one of them. For them, mass killing is an unfortunate but necessary consequence of human evil, but it's all in god's plan - so it's okay. As Phil said, their eyes are on the prize. It's no surprise that some of them are enamored of Hitler. He communicated fear. And that is the only thing they have going for them.

    Fear is a powerful motivator. I'm afraid of them because I know that they have little regard for human suffering and killing (Brent's comments about soup kitchens notwithstanding - even Mother Theresa forbade her AIDS ravaged patients any painkillers - telling them that suffering brings them closer to Jesus - see Hitchens' _The Missionary Position_). They respect power and control, undergirded by a bizarre - yet popular - (and sadomasochistic) belief that human forgiveness, redemption, enlightenment, atonement, salvation are all predicated on violence. Just ask them. "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." Death is a necessary condition of forgiveness in their scheme. This is why I fear them. An unseen netherworld (comprised of angels and demons and souls) is more real to them than flesh and blood. They want to save souls, not lives. Of course, their theology (original sin and other teachings of self-hatred) destroys souls as well as lives.

    They fear me because they think anyone who is not with them (and thus, with God) is against them
    (and thus, with Satan). They rarely come right out and say it, but they really do believe that if you don't believe as they do, you are demon possessed. I don't think they are possessed. I think they are insane. When will Congress start funding detox centers for those who have been brainwashed by these fascists?

    Many of them, no doubt, are well-intentioned. They are sincere... sincerely insane. The "leader of the free world" is among them.

    Believers like Brent can say what they will - there will always be tokens like Mother Theresa to act as PR people to funnel money into their coffers - talk of concern for the poor, et al. And some of them will occassionally give a few crumbs to the poor, along with a "believe as i do or burn in hell forever" talk or tract.

    We need more exposes of these wackos.

    Jesus addiction is worse than heroin addiction. John Ashcroft is a prime example. Heroin addicts don't generally commit acts of genocide and fascism in the name of God. But it's been a hallmark of Christians for centuries. And so they continue, as the Fellowship and other groups...

  • bing||

    "gott mit uns" indeed.

  • dcb||

    Religious Group Help Lawmakers With Rent
    By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON - Six members of Congress live in a $1.1 million Capitol Hill town house that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show.


    The lawmakers, all Christians, pay low rent to live in the stately red brick, three-story house on C Street, two blocks from the Capitol. It is maintained by a group alternately known as the "Fellowship" and the "Foundation" and brings together world leaders and elected officials through religion.

    The Fellowship hosts receptions, luncheons and prayer meetings on the first two floors of the house, which is registered with the Internal Revenue Service (news - web sites) as a church.

    The six lawmakers � Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. � live in private rooms upstairs.

    Rent is $600 a month, DeMint said.

    "Our goal is singular � and that is to hope that we can assist them in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs," said Richard Carver, a member of the Fellowship's board of directors who served as an assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration.

    The house, valued at $1.1 million, is owned by the C Street Center, a sister organization of the Fellowship. It received more than $145,000 in Fellowship grants between 1997 and 2000, according to IRS records � including $96,400 in 1998 for reducing debt.

    Its tenants dine together once a week to discuss religion in their daily lives.

    "We do have a Bible study," said DeMint, a Presbyterian who asked to move into the house less than a year ago when there was a vacancy. "Somebody'll share a verse or a thought, but mostly it's more of an accountability group to talk about things that are going on in our lives, and how we're dealing with them."

    Few in the Fellowship are willing to talk about its mission.

    It organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, members of Congress and dignitaries from around the world. The group leaves its name off the program, even though it spent $924,373 to host the event in 2001, bringing in $606,292 in proceeds, according to the most recent available IRS records, and pays travel expenses for foreign officials to attend.

    Doyle, a Catholic from Pittsburgh who moved to C Street about six years ago, got involved with the Fellowship when he began attending weekly prayer breakfasts in the Capitol as a freshman lawmaker in 1995.

    Since then, Doyle has helped organize Fellowship-sponsored youth leadership seminars. He was president of the House Prayer Breakfast in 2000.

    "My living arrangements are totally appropriate and within the House rules," said Doyle. "There's no direct correlation between the tenants and the Foundation � there are tenants who have absolutely zero involvement, and some do. And there's no benefit to live there, other than the fact that it's convenient."

    Other than Doyle and DeMint, current and former lawmakers who have lived in the C Street house refused to comment. "We feel like it's nobody's business but our own," said former Rep. Steve Largent (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla., who lived there before leaving Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor in his home state last year.

    That secrecy is unsettling to the Rev. Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister who heads watchdog group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

    "What concerns people is when you mix religion, political power, and secrecy," Lynn said. "Members of official Washington should always be open and direct about the groups they choose to join, just to dispel any concerns that there's an inappropriate or unconscious agenda in these groups."



    Lawmakers living under religion's roof is not necessarily problematic, Lynn said, "as long as there are no sweetheart deals that are being made that could trade low rent for access."

    The C Street house is not the only religious-run organization that rents to lawmakers.

    The United Methodist Church, for example, leases living quarters to lawmakers at its headquarters at 110 Maryland Avenue in northeast Washington, directly across the street from the Supreme Court and the Capitol. Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment starts at $960.

    "We consider it part of our mission in the ministry to provide housing for members of Congress," said Jim Winkler, a lobbyist for the church. "There's opportunities for you to talk to them. But we don't approach them and ask for their support for anything."

    While the Fellowship wants leaders to use Christ's teachings in their daily work, Carver said the group does not seek to improperly influence its C Street tenants.

    "We have no issue in legislation before the Congress, and nor would we," Carver said. "And the idea that we would have any quid-pro-quo is really impossible because there's no quid that we're asking for."

    Other than the weekly Bible study dinner, DeMint does not feel like he lives in a religious atmosphere, and said he knows very little about the Fellowship.

    "We have a lot of discussions and things like that, but if they want to have influence, they're sure not getting their money's worth," he said.

  • marty||

    Sharlet's agenda plainly shaped his perceptions of Ivanwald. I ended up there at the end of a crosscountry hitch-hiking jaunt, 20 years old and a new "believer" excited about Jesus but ignorant of institutional Christianity. And although I felt somewhat ostracized on account of my relative rusticity in such a milieu, I'm still grateful that I was able to be there for a few short weeks to absorb some of the group's unusual reflections on the gospel.

    I was familiar with some of the scenarios Sharlet described, even recognized some of the Coes' anecdotes. However, none of it struck me as particularly sinister at the time; the juxtaposition of Sharlet's dark insinuations with my own (positive) experience of the place was actually humorous.

    The principal message of the folks at Ivanwald and their friends is that true revolution occurs on the basis of human relationships. This insight is best illustrated by the legacy of Christ's disciples, who had nothing more to go on (from a materialistic viewpoint) than their friendships and modest backgrounds, and yet who began a movement that is now two millenia old and yet displays a forceful vitality. The essential fact of Jesus' short ministry was that he gathered a group of other humans around him and that they lived, worked, and played together. They were all friends. For a variety of reasons, I think this is a valuable message.

  • Jeff Sharlet||

    Jeff Sharlet, the author of the article under discussion, here -- this is probably a dead thread at this point, but I just came across it and thought I'd jump in to clear up a peculiar misunderstanding -- any discussion of whether I was right to call The Family "nazis" or "fascists" or a "conspiracy" is moot, since in the article I never called them any of that. In every interview I've done about it, I've gone out of my way to emphasize A) they are not a conspiracy. B) they are not Nazis, and their frequent Hitler references are along the lines of admiring his organization, not his beliefs C) if the term "fascism" is to be used at all, it should be done with an understanding that fascism is a real political ideology, and that while the Family has always been close to many traditional fascists, it has also been close to leftists as well.

    I'm not trying to whitewash my own story -- whether through naivete or through cynicism, the Family has helped a great many foreign dictators win U.S. favor -- but I think it's important to see most political stories as more complicated than "good guys and bad guys." Most movements contain both.

    And in response to Mark, who suggests that since I misidentified him as a banker in an interview, my whole article is illogical -- apologies. I fully confess to very little knowledge about mortgages and such, and I thought you were a banker. I didn't mean anything bad by it. Some of my best friends are bankers.

    To the people ranting about lattes and non-corporate coffee houses -- I've never had a latte in my life. But you nailed me on Starbucks -- I think they're lousy, overpriced joints. I get my coffee at the deli. 75 cents. Hope this fact doesn't disqualify me from commenting on conservative politics and religion.

  • Jeff Sharlet||

    Jeff Sharlet, the author of the article under discussion, here -- this is probably a dead thread at this point, but I just came across it and thought I'd jump in to clear up a peculiar misunderstanding -- any discussion of whether I was right to call The Family "nazis" or "fascists" or a "conspiracy" is moot, since in the article I never called them any of that. In every interview I've done about it, I've gone out of my way to emphasize A) they are not a conspiracy. B) they are not Nazis, and their frequent Hitler references are along the lines of admiring his organization, not his beliefs C) if the term "fascism" is to be used at all, it should be done with an understanding that fascism is a real political ideology, and that while the Family has always been close to many traditional fascists, it has also been close to leftists as well.

    I'm not trying to whitewash my own story -- whether through naivete or through cynicism, the Family has helped a great many foreign dictators win U.S. favor -- but I think it's important to see most political stories as more complicated than "good guys and bad guys." Most movements contain both.

    And in response to Mark, who suggests that since I misidentified him as a banker in an interview, my whole article is illogical -- apologies. I fully confess to very little knowledge about mortgages and such, and I thought you were a banker. I didn't mean anything bad by it. Some of my best friends are bankers.

    To the people ranting about lattes and non-corporate coffee houses -- I've never had a latte in my life. But you nailed me on Starbucks -- I think they're lousy, overpriced joints. I get my coffee at the deli. 75 cents. Hope this fact doesn't disqualify me from commenting on conservative politics and religion.

  • ||

    Jeff, since you've addressed me by name, I'll respond. (Careful with the 'whitewash' freudian slippage: it might refer to tomes with tired old corpses inside. To Kill the Buddha is to insist that the answer to the deist equation is negative--and proofs of a negative are mathematically impossible. C'mon, even the greatest iconclast of them all, Trudeau's Doonesbury, says nihilism is dead, and has the Pastor delivering the gospel message in the panes!)

    You'll note that in our initial conversations I told you that you'd only get out your own pre-conceptions if you went in to do an expose'.

    You did so anyway and fashioned the dagger that you drove into the backs of those who knew of your intentions, but were willing to take the risk to be able to reach you.

    OK, so that's a little melodramatic. The only thing I have to say to you is what B___ and I agreed upon in a conversation shortly after the Harper's piece hit the stands: We do not look at the this celebration-of-libel-suuported-by-unconfirmed-sources as pejorative matter.

    We do know that God still wants to accomplish in your life, and this will merely be a step toward that eventuality. And after even the most unsupported insinuations in the piece have been canonized by the Left as dogma, and the consequences fall on men and women trying to alleviate a little of the world's suffering, even then, if it helps God to get through to you in any degree, it was worth it.
    You betrayed me using a family member of mine and lied to my face. So, I'll respond as I was taught at Ivanwald: You can call on me anytime you're in need. I would be dead now but for Ivanwald, drink in my hand, spoon up my nose. At some point, it may turn out to be the beginning of your Enlightenment as well.

    As the Talmud declares: 'He who saves one person,/ It is as if he has saved the entire world.' Shalom.

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