Mar 28, 2008

While everyone is concentrating on Obama's "crazy" pastor

I decided to do some digging into another candidate's odd religious links. I'm sorry, but hysteria bores me unless it is very funny, and all the Rev. Wright drama is showing is how out of touch white America is with black America, and how some conspiracy theories are pefectly acceptable for the media to believe in and accept, but others are not.

I think McCain's religious links are fairly well known, if contested in what they signify, so instead I decided to look into Hillary Clinton who, aside from her Bosnia sniper lies has kept a relatively low fuck-up profile of late.

And that's why I find so much of this interesting, because while it is being reported on the fringe news sites, it doesn't seem to have translated over into a general media concern. Not yet, at least.

I am talking, if you hadn't already guessed, of The Family, the strange religious group to which Hillary Clinton belongs. Very strange, given almost all of their members are part of the religious right, especially on Capitol Hill, where the sort of people who tend to belong to the Family (or Fellowship, they like to play fast and loose with names) include people like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, most famously known in the UK for denying evolution during one of the Republican Presidential nominee debates.

So yeah, we're not exactly talking Methodists here.

But there is much more to the Family than a prayer group for Christians in DC. Much, much more. As Mother Jones goes on to explain, The Family is built along:

sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.

Starting to feel a little worried?

You should be, because The Family not only says it wants to do these things, like so many groups of religious nutters, but it apparently has the means as well. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and in 2001 it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. But its power is not simply limited to waging peace. It also helped the US government forge relationships with Africa's brutal postcolonial dictators in the 60s, not to mention Brazil and Indonesia's anti-Communist military dictatorships.

As you've probably realized, at least during the Cold War, the aim would seem to be in building an anti-Communist coalition among the Third World, no matter the cost in money or lives. Suharto killed hundreds of thousands of supposed Communists, and I couldn't even begin to try and fathom how many were lost in Africa.

So...Christian and dedicated to anti-Communism, but with a decidedly Realist streak of cynicism when it comes to power politics. A question for the political science students: who does this sound like? If you said Reinhold Niebuhr, then give yourself a cookie. Niebuhr is considered among the pre-eminent early Realists. And just so happens that he is a favourite of one-time Goldwater gal Hillary Clinton, who learnt of his teachings under the leadership of Reverend Don Jones, shortly before she joined the Republican party.

I do this to illustrate that despite Clinton's apparent apathy towards religion except as a tool of power, there are links between her early life and the thinking of the Family, and that this should not just be dismissed by appeals to "triangulation" or cynical politicking.

You shouldn't make the mistake of thinking the Family is entirely part of the Religious Right either. They probably hate secular Democrats as much as any on the Religious Right do, but if someone is a Democrat and a Christian, they are more than willing to embrace them. Because their mission is a higher calling, they are here to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

One of the more well known members on Capitol Hill is David Coe. Here is a quote of a talk he was giving to, what he thought, was just a cell of Family members, but also included an undercover Harpers reporter:

You guys know about Genghis Khan?” he asked. “Genghis was a man with a vision. He conquered”—David stood on the couch under the map, tracing, with his hand, half the northern hemisphere—“nearly everything. He devastated nearly everything. His enemies? He beheaded them.” David swiped a finger across his throat. “Dop, dop, dop, dop.”

David explained that when Genghis entered a defeated city he would call in the local headman and have him stuffed into a crate. Over the crate would be spread a tablecloth, and on the tablecloth would be spread a wonderful meal. “And then, while the man suffocated, Genghis ate, and he didn't even hear the man's screams.” David still stood on the couch, a finger in the air. “Do you know what that means?” He was thinking of Christ's parable of the wineskins. “You can't pour new into old,” David said, returning to his chair. “We elect our leaders. Jesus elects his.”

Exactly. Chew on the implications of that for a while.

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