As the world mourns the loss of The King of Pop, and I mourn The Knicks missing Steph Curry and passing on Ty Lawson, there is a nugget tangential to The Argentine Affair that aside from my hope that "taking an adventure trip" will become the go-to euphemism for cheating on your spouse, I find fascinating...wait, I mean hilariously horrifying.
I speak of course about the little noticed fact that playas John Ensign and Mark Sanford are both members of a shadowy cult of super-Christian elites who refer to themselves as "The Family." "The Family" is an all-male--though Hillary is reportedly associated--self-described "invisible" organization, whose members live together in dorms and houses subsidized by "The Fellowship." Check out this description, by Jeff Sharlet at Harper's who went undercover as a "brother" at one of The Family's dormitories, called "Ivanwald."
This is how they pray: a dozen clear-eyed, smooth-skinned “brothers” gathered together in a huddle, arms crossing arms over shoulders like the weave of a cable, leaning in on one another and swaying like the long grass up the hill from the house they share. The house is a handsome, gray, two-story colonial that smells of new carpet and Pine-Sol and aftershave; the men who live there call it Ivanwald. At the end of a tree-lined cul-de-sac, quiet but for the buzz of lawn mowers and kids playing foxes-and-hounds in the park across the road, Ivanwald sits as one house among many, clustered together like mushrooms, all devoted, like these men, to the service of Jesus Christ. The men tend every tulip in the cul-de-sac, trim every magnolia, seal every driveway smooth and black as boot leather.When they're not busy replacing humanity with alien pods, or whatever it is that they're building in there, their prayer-groups are used as networking opportunities positioned at the nexus of government and big business to exploit "their uber-masculine, uber-capitalist version of Christianity to serve political and profit-making goals, from union-busting here at home to imperialist adventures abroad." Oh yes, and:
Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries.The CEOs of Raytheon and Continental Oil are reported members. Hyper-fundamentalist Christians? Oil companies? Defense contractors? Consciousness-melding, behavior-altering alien parasites?...well maybe, but this has moved into the territory of cartoonish super-villainy...but wait it gets much worse, and funnier. How much worse? Well let's just say these self-proclaimed "believers" have some interesting role models, from Sharlet's account of one of their motivational meetings at Camp"Ivanwald":
It continues for a while with some more hilarious stuff about, "new world orders", ties to African dictators, and the importance of forming "cells" of "true believers", at this point we've crossed the threshold of, "this is a fucking joke, right?" but I think you know what's coming next:
He walked to the National Geographic map of the world mounted on the wall. “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.”
He reached over and squeezed the arm of a brother. “Isn't that great?” David said. “That's the way everything in life happens. If you're a person known to be around Jesus, you can go and do anything. And that's who you guys are. When you leave here, you're not only going to know the value of Jesus, you're going to know the people who rule the world. It's about vision. 'Get your vision straight, then relate.' Talk to the people who rule the world, and help them obey. Obey Him. If I obey Him myself, I help others do the same. You know why? Because I become a warning. We become a warning. We warn everybody that the future king is coming. Not just of this country or that, but of the world.” Then he pointed at the map, toward the Khan's vast, reclaimable empire...
In this interview, Sharlet explains that "The Family" views Mao, Stalin, and Hitler as men who "understood the New Testament better than anyone," and for once I agree, as they seem to understand and have fully embraced the fact that the Bible is a text-book for genocidal madmen--right down to gentle-Jesus himself if I might add--much more so than your bog-standard, milquetoast Christian fellowship or self-proclaimed "believers."
Doug didn't smile. “Yes,” he said. “Total unity. Two, or three, become one. Do you know,” he asked, “that there's another word for that?”
No one spoke.
“It's called a covenant. Two, or three, agree? They can do anything. A covenant is . . . powerful. Can you think of anyone who made a covenant with his friends?”
We all knew the answer to this, having heard his name invoked numerous times in this context. Andrew from Australia, sitting beside Doug, cleared his throat: “Hitler.”
“Yes,” Doug said. “Yes, Hitler made a covenant. The Mafia makes a covenant. It is such a very powerful thing. Two, or three, agree.” He took another bite from his plate, planted his fork on its tines. “Well, guys,” he said, “I gotta go.”
Isn't this so much more interesting than Mark Sanford's South American mistress? And isn't America's democratic system of government so much freer and better than Iran's?
SP: What are those sentimental notions of religion?
JS: Are you willing to submit to this Christ, are you willing to say that you're obeying Christ before you obey the will of the people, what The Family calls "the din of the vox popula." They don't like that.
SP: So you're listening to this imaginary Christ instead of representing your constituents, because the will of the people is just the riff-raff?
JS: It's actually a little worse than that. What you're doing is getting a collection of elites who are submitting to the authority of an American-led fundamentalist network, not following their conscience but following Christ as he reveals himself secretly to the elite.
(via Balloon Juice)
Update -- More gold...According to Sharlet's book, The Family was instrumental in the creation and production of 1958's The Blob.
Also, something called "small group sex confession" is an instrumental part of life in The Family:
Between Ensign and Sanford, I'm sure these group sex confessionals have been white hot as of late..."Jesus must know Mark, what color panties was she wearing? And what positions were utilized?" Of course, it's not like this ultra-secretive, power-obsessed, Hitler-admiring cult would ever use the deepest, darkest sexual secrets of its members against them. I'm sure all the "sharing" is done in the strictest confidence, and not at all clandestinely recorded.
Lindsay Beyerstein: Explicit sexual confession in small groups is a big deal in the Family, right?
Jeff Sharlet: Yes. I started paying attention when I visited Westmont College, a major recruiting base for the Family. Some of the professors are very concerned about the focus on small group sex confessions: Parents are spending $80,000 to send their kids to college, and they go off to become a driver for Doug Coe. Then they tell their parents that they sat in a circle and talked about masturbation. Of course, they don't do that sort of thing at the weekly prayer meeting in the Senate.
Sam Brownback told me, there are two functions of sexual confession: You confess, and they help you. You say, "My girlfriend and I almost held hands the other day." And they say "Don't do it, brother!" It's also a way of creating a bond in the group: If I have had gay thoughts and I tell the group, then they have something on me. And if you say you've cheated on your wife, they have something on you.
(via No More Mister Nice Blog)