C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

by Jeff Sharlet

Hardcover, 2010

Call number

322.109 SHA



Little, Brown and Company (2010), Edition: 1, 352 pages


In Jeff Sharlet's bestselling book, The Family, he wrote about the "C Street House," a Washington, D.C., Christian fellowship home shared by a number of conservative politicians. In the summer of 2009, the house became infamous as the center of sex scandals involving three of its residents: Senator John Ensign, Governor Mark Sanford, and Congressman Chip Pickering. Sharlet is the leading expert on "the Family," and his undercover research and investigative work answers some of the country's biggest questions: how political fundamentalism endures in America; why, despite the collapse of the old Christian Right, it is as big a threat to democracy as ever before; and where, in a time of political upheaval and culture wars, fundamentalist politicians really intend to lead the country.--Publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Judiex
The most important word in the title of this book, C STREET: THE FUNDAMENTALIST THREAT TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, is "threat." According to the leaders and members of The Family, the group that owns and uses the former convent on C Street as a headquarters, the most three most important things are faith, family, and country, in that order.
Near the end of the book, Jeff Sharlet has a picture of a placard worn by his wife at a demonstration outside the Republican convention in New York City in 2004. It shows a seated Jesus with his head leaning on one hand and saying, "That's not what I meant." It sums up what the author describes as how American leaders have taken control of our government and pushed their conservative, fundamentalist, evangelistic ideas into many facets of our lives and governments.
In foreign countries, congressmen, senators, and other government leaders have convinced the leaders of those countries to embrace Jesus (if not actually converting at least saying they believe in following what the Americans say are Jesus's principles). They have been very successful, excusing the murders of thousands of civilians, by promising financial aid to the dictators if they fall into line. No wonder many Muslims think the US is trying to convert them. It is.
One of the big issues is homosexuality. Until the US and its funds became involved, Uganda had been very successful in lowering the number of AIDs cases. With US influence, very stringent anti-homosexual laws, including punishment for people who did not turn in suspected homosexuals, managed to curtail the use of condoms and increase the spread of the disease.
In this country, they have inserted their interpretation of religion into many areas of our lives. They have severely limited the ability of women to utilize planned pregnancy services and have abortions. In 2010, a Utah law even allows a prosecutor to determine if a woman's miscarriage was deliberate. They have worked to disallow cities from gun control laws while allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons almost anywhere they want. The are against environmental laws and regulation of businesses. They pushed for laws to regulate freedom of speech and peaceful protests and their supporters on the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, unnamed donors, and individuals could buy elections.
In the military, the majority of chaplains are evangelistic fundamentalists and have harassed, or worse, service members with differing religious beliefs. Many of those with other beliefs left the service. Women who joined the movement resigned their positions because they came to believe they should stay at home and raise children.
In 2005, US military officers were caught appearing in uniform while proselyting. They were forbidden to do so, but the acts have now gone underground. Hundreds of US service personnel are converted on a regular basis. The Air Force Academy buses recruits to religious services. The superintendent had no idea what "the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause" of the Constitution, which he had pledged to uphold, even meant.
This book, a sequel to THE FAMILY, should be studied by everyone who believes in America and its Constitution and all of us be aware of the threat from within.
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LibraryThing member metamariposa
"C Street" is the sequel (of sorts) to the 2008 book "The Family." Jeff Sharlet's investigative journalism is top-notch, and I was horrified by the many instances of corrupt disregard for human life explained both in this book and its predecessor. Here, he chronicles involvement of The Family (a loosely connected fundamentalist group centered on gaining power and using the government to further their agenda at home and abroad) in many shameful affairs. The origin of this book is the public interest in the Family after three prominent members had highly publicized extramarital affairs, reaping charges of hypocrisy. Sharlet, however, portrays those affairs as the very least of their many offenses, and uses that as a jumping off to study other more public offenses. The chapter on Family involvement in the Uganda law criminalizing homosexuality as a capital offense made me ashamed to be an American and a Christian both. Another particularly horrifying chapter involved offenses agains religious freedom in the military. While this book is required reading for anyone interested in either politics or the legacy of Jesus and the Christian church, it also was done more effectively in the first book. If the two were published together, perhaps, the whole volume would be more complete and more coherent.… (more)
LibraryThing member Narboink
As someone who has been pretty diligent about reading Jeff Sharlet's work over the years, I was a little disappointed in this follow-up to "The Family." In it's defense, it is a follow-up and not the main course. Sharlet spends a considerable amount of time restating his previously published research, making this feel like a compilation of greatest hits instead of a new contribution. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and he acknowledges that some chapters are indeed revisited versions of old magazine articles... but the downside of this is that the content loses its luster (at least for those who keep abreast of the subject matter) as well as its value (for those of us who paid for it). To its credit, the writing is excellent and the thoughtfulness with which Sharlet approaches his work is often inspired. The section on Uganda greatly expands the reader's understanding of that country's anti-homosexual politics beyond the confines of conventional reporting.

The greatest strength of this book, unlike perhaps that of "The Family," is in the cogency of it's assessment of evangelical power. Sharlet repeatedly makes the case that the Christian Right in America is primarily a political force, bending it's theology to fit the aspirational demands of it's self-appointed ruling class. Even though Sharlet himself shies away from theological argument, it cannot, alas, be excised from this ruthless story about the acquisition of power.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
This follow-up to The Family (2009) is an equally disturbing look at the entrenchment of extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalism in Congress, the military, and corporate America. The so-called "Christianity" of The Family, however, is little more than American exceptionalism, imperialistic hubris, homophobia, and laissez faire capitalism dressed up in religious rhetoric.… (more)
LibraryThing member Devil_llama
Sharlet's follow up to The Family doesn't seem as hard-hitting in some ways, perhaps because it's slightly less personal, or maybe because it's a follow up, which makes it a bit less dramatic. In spite of that, the snappy writing style and the personal interviews with key people keep the story moving, and it certainly never fails to hit home. Many familiar names, names we see everyday on the news, stomp through the story like they own the earth - which appears to be what many of them feel. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how the likes of a Sarah Palin or a Rick Perry could possibly be taken seriously for the highest job in the nation, a role that has huge implications for the safety and prosperity of the entire global community. The only real sour note is struck at the end, when a personal vignette of an individual the author met at a protest, leaves a secularist cringing, especially with the approach the author (a secularist himself) takes to the incident. He presents an idea that, to many of us, is truly frightening to think about, and seems to be presenting it as a moderate position. That very anecdote puts a true period to his story, by demonstrating just how successful the Religious Right has been at mixing religion and government.… (more)




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