Book Review: The Family

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By Grant Steves

Cover of The Family, featuring a tiny icon of the U.S. Capitol.

The Family, Jeff Sharlet, Harper Collins Publishing, 2008, 454 pages

Complacency is a luxury given to the comfortable. To paraphrase M. Niemöller, ‘First they came for the gays, and I didn’t speak up, because I was not gay. Then they came for the Humanists, and I didn’t speak up, because I was an atheist. Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up for me.’ The luxury of complacency toward the political forces in our country may result in the loss of comfort for those not allied with powerful.

The Family is an account of a powerful political force in our society. The documents of their existence, the public exposure of their members, and the very real extent of their power is well known now. Doug Coe, one of the leaders of the group, has said that being invisible and secret was their source of power and influence.  

The Senators who are presently known to be members are Grassley of Iowa, Inhofe of Oklahoma, Coburn of Oklahoma, Thune of South Dakota, Enzi of Wyoming, Ensign of Nevada, Nelson of Florida, Pryor of Arkansas, Brownback of Kansas, and DeMint of South Carolina.  They benefit in various ways from membership.  

Some of them stay in a residence on C Street for $600.00 a month. This provides them with a comfortable living circumstance and a close religious relationship with other members. In turn they are used by the Family to promote their agenda.  Millions of dollars were appropriated by these senators for the building of mega-church-chapels on military bases. Senator Ensign traveled on the Family expense account to Asia and the Middle East. Senator Coburn traveled to Beirut to promote the Family’s interests in developing Lebanese prayer groups. These various trips are not to promote American political interests but to promote the “Jesus plus nothing” philosophy of the Family.  

Their focus is on “Reclaiming Seven Mountains of Culture.” These seven areas were declared essential for power over the minds of humanity. The theologian, Francis Shaeffer helped to draft this position. They are determined to reclaim the Mountains of 1) Government, 2) Education, 3) Media, 4) Arts and entertainment, 5) Religion, 6) Family, and 7) Business.  

More important is the foundation of this organization. They embrace the theological teachings of Rousas Rushdoony. Sometimes they are referred to as Dominionists. This is based on the biblical reference to Genesis 1:28 (King James Version) that says man is to have dominion over every living thing. This is an organization that is motivated by power and religion. Their concern is control and not democratic humanistic values. Taking the word of Paul in Romans 13:1, they believe even the bloodiest dictators, Suharto of Indonesia, Said Barre of Somalia, or Museveni of Uganda are anointed by their god as worldly authorities to whom we must be in subjection.

The Family would cooperate with these dictators to expand the power of the Christian religion. They view themselves as the ‘Chosen’, anointed elite that has replaced the Jews in their god’s esteem. This arrogant belief of being chosen gives them the permission to do whatever they want. Their hypocrisy is excused because of their ‘Chosen’ status.  

The Family explores the power and influence of this group and the people who founded the group. It exposes the thinking of its leadership, e.g., Doug Coe advises members: “I’ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard.  They would bring in this young man’s mother.  He would take an ax and cut her head off.  They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That’s what Jesus said.” This blind dedication is motivated by faith in a power structure that is derived from a Ouija Board interpretation of the bible.  

The importance for atheists and all nonbelievers is to be aware of the political vicissitudes in our society. We may be neutral and wait for them to come for us, or we may engage in the political system to keep people free of groups like the Family.  

It is my strongly held belief that we must engage. We realize that life is not a rehearsal for a heavenly performance, but it is a reality of now. We now have the opportunity to stand up and help expose groups that would abuse power.  

We have the responsibility to be informed, to inform, and to participate actively in our political system. Our participation is not coerced for fear of punishment in some hereafter but is encouraged because of the ethical consequence of not acting.   

Categories: Reviews

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