Reviews of The Family

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


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“Utterly original.”

“Brilliantly reported.”

“Wildly entertaining.”

The Family is the new “must-read” “tour de force” from Jeff Sharlet, the writer whom Ann Coulter calls one of the stupidest journalists in America. You decide!

“Deeply researched yet fast paced, moving easily from first person to third person and incident to overview, The Family is an exceptional piece of bookcraft…. Sharlet proffers one shred of hope—‘believers and unbelievers alike, all of us who love our neighbors more than we love power or empire or even the solace of certainty.’ Secular humanists can scoff if they like, but I’m here to testify that Sharlet is both more intelligent and better informed than most of them. If he believes that ‘believers and unbelievers alike’ fall into this sainted host, I believe him.” – Robert Christgau,

“One of the year’s best and most important books about religion and politics. Sharlet’s in-depth investigation of an elite group working at the intersection of traditional Christianity and free market capitalism suggests that the religious right is just a sideshow. Few writers can pull off investigative journalism, historical research, and elegant storytelling. Sharlet does all this with a story that a lot of people don’t want to hear and others won’t believe.” – Diane Winston, Trans/Missions

“Jeff Sharlet’s prodigiously researched text reminds us of conservatism’s abiding power. The book does for conservative Christianity what Greil Marcus did for punk in Lipstick Traces (1989): it establishes connections between disparate phenomena, thereby enabling fresh thinking about religious conservatism…. Sharlet touches on some of the ’spectacles’ that attract bloggers, but he contextualizes and analyzes them much more perceptively than is customary….. While the tone is different from that of an average monograph, this work is original in its conception and articulation and is a fine contribution to the literature.” –Jason C. Bivins, Journal of American History

“One of the most important accounts of the intersection of fundamentalist religions and politics in recent memory…. Sharlet combines his experiences going undercover at The Family’s Arlington, Virginia, compound, skillful interviews with insiders and allies, and exhaustive historical research to produce this riveting account that transcends the recurring question of whether the religious right is dead.” — Sarah Posner, American Prospect

“May be the best book anyone has written about the politics of the Christian right.” – Steve Perry, Minnesota Independent

“Simply outstanding.” Chattanooga Times Free Press

“The author of that Harper’s piece is the fearless and fantastically talented Jeff Sharlet, who just came out with a book about The Fellowship (aka ‘The Family,’ which also happens to be his title). I can’t recommend the piece or the book strongly enough.” – Noam Scheiber, The New

“It’s not possible to comprehend the entanglement of religion and politics in our country without reading The Family . . . Sharlet has done us all a favor.” Kansas City Star

“Passionate, principled, and powerful.” Bookforum

“Just when we thought the Christian Right was crumbling, Jeff Sharlet delivers a rude shock: One of its most powerful and cult-like core groups, the ‘Family,’ has been thriving. Sharlet’s book is one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes you’ll ever read–just don’t read it alone at night!”
Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch

“Of all the important studies of the American right, The Family is undoubtedly the most eloquent. It is also quite possibly the most terrifying. This story of a secretive and unmerciful church of “key men” goes way beyond Jesus Christ, CEO—it’s Jesus Christ, lobbyist; Jesus Christ, strikebreaker; and maybe even Jesus Christ, fuhrer.”
Thomas Frank, New York Times bestselling author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?

“Forget what you think you know about the Christian Right; Jeff Sharlet has uncovered a frightening strain of hidden fundamentalism that forces us to revise our understanding of religion and politics in modern America. A brilliant marriage of investigative journalism and history, an unsettling story of how this small but powerful group shaped the faith of the nation in the 20th century and drives the politics of empire in the 21st. Anyone interested in circles of power will love this book.”
Debby Applegate, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biography for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

“Jeff Sharlet has an incredibly rare double talent: the instincts of an investigative reporter coupled with the soul of a historian. He has managed to infiltrate the most influential and secretive fundamentalist network in America, and ground his reporting in the most astute and original explanation of fundamentalism I’ve ever read… Indispensible.”
Hanna Rosin, former religion reporter for the Washington Post and author of God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save the Nation

“A gripping, utterly original narrative about an influential evangelical elite that few Americans even know exists. Jeff Sharlet’s fine reporting unveils a group whose history stretches from the corporate foes of the New Deal to the congressional lawmakers who gather each year at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Christian Right will never look the same again.”
Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: the Life of William Jennings Bryan

“Un-American theocrats can only fool patriotic American democrats when there aren’t critics like Jeff Sharlet around — careful scholars and soulful writers who understand both the majesty of faith and the evil of its abuses. A remarkable accomplishment in the annals of writing about religion.”
Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

“The organization of influence these men constitute may remind readers of a Rotary Club—but it is a Rotary Club equipped with nuclear weapons. When the Family’s members say ‘Let us pray,’ they are not just making a suggestion.”
Michael Lesy, author of Wisconsin Death Trip

“Jeff Sharlet is one of the very best writers covering the politics of religion. Brilliantly reported and filled with wonderful anecdotes, The Family tells the story of an influential group that you haven’t previously heard of, and need to know about.”
Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper’s and author of The Radioactive Boy Scout

“I was once an insider’s insider within fundamentalism. Unequivocally: Sharlet knows what he’s talking about. He writes: ‘Our refusal to recognize the theocratic strand running throughout American history is as self-deceiving as fundamentalism’s insistence that the United States was created a Christian nation.’ Those who want to be un-deceived (and wildly entertained) must read this disturbing tour de force.”
Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back

The Family offers the reader an astounding entrée to a fascinating Christian network unknown to most Americans. Jeff Sharlet has managed to peel back the curtain and reveal an elusive organization that wields an unsettling amount influence over our country’s lawmakers as well as business and political leaders worldwide. The Family is a must-read for any American who wants to know who is actually pulling the strings at the highest levels of power.“
Heidi Ewing, co-director of Jesus Camp

“One of those rare books that changes how one looks at the whole world, providing a profound corrective to a range of well-established misconceptions… Staggering.”
Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform

The Family is a gripping, well written and finely researched account of one of the nation’s most bizarre and influential secret Christian societies. Jeff Sharlet illustrates through his detailed reporting the twisted, totalitarian pathology of the movement, its origins, what it seeks, how it works and the looming threat it poses to our democratic state.”
Chris Hedges, New York Times bestselling author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America and War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

“Jeff Sharlet provides a fascinating account of how part of American Christianity has gone off on a dangerous tangent. It should worry everyone–maybe especially those of us who understand the Gospels to be a call to help the powerless, not prop up the powerful. In the last few years evangelicals have begun to reconsider their automatic support for the status quo; The Family will help accelerate that important renewal.”
Bill McKibbin, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

“This book deserves to be read by every and any journalist. It’s a primer for what reporting can and should be. Sharlet weaves first hand reportage with historical research and archival work. He connects dots, sees the big picture, and finds the telling detail. He is neither balanced nor objective, but a mainstream media whose guiding principle is not to offend can overrate those qualities. Hewing to an older journalistic tradition of speaking truth to power, Sharlet is not afraid to be offensive. His compelling story seeks to upset and unsettle in the best tradition of muckraking reporters.”
Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and author of Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army