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.
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.
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.