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About The Family

Book cover of The Family, by Jeff Sharlet
About Jeff Sharlet

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“Of all the important studies of the American right, The Family is undoubtedly the most eloquent. It is also quite possibly the most terrifying.”
–Thomas Frank, New York Times bestselling author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?

A journalist’s penetrating look at the untold story of Christian fundamentalism’s most elite organization, a self-described “invisible” network dedicated to a distortion of Christianity they call “Jesus plus nothing”— a religion of power for the powerful

They are the Family—fundamentalism’s avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the “new chosen,” congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a “leadership led by God,” to be won not by force but through what they call quiet diplomacy. Their headquarters is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have written from inside its walls.

The Family is about the other half of American fundamentalist power—not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an itinerant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the far right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who speak the language of establishment power, a “family” that thrives to this day. In public, they host the National Prayer Breakfast; in private they preach a gospel of “biblical capitalism,” military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao as model leaders, the Family’s current leader, Doug Coe, declares, “we work with power where we can, and build new power where we can’t.”

Sharlet’s discoveries dramatically challenge conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the waging of the Cold War, and the no-holds-barred economics of globalization. The question Sharlet believes we must as is not “What do fundamentalists want?” but “What have they already done?”

Part history, part investigative journalism The Family is a gripping account of how fundamentalism came to be interwoven with American power, a story that stretches from the religious revivals that have shaken this nation from its beginning to fundamentalism’s new frontiers. No other book about the Right has exposed the Family or revealed its far-reaching impact on democracy, and no future reckoning of American fundamentalism will be able to ignore it.