Progressive Calendar 06.24.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2008 15:48:24 -0700 (PDT)
               P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   06.24.08

1. Bennis/empire   6.24 5pm
2. GLBT            6.24 5:30pm
3. Green Water/f   6.24 6:30pm

4. Fundraising     6.25 9am
5. Bridge vigil    6.25 5pm
6. Cambodia/film   6.25 7pm

7. Jennifer Epps - Health advisory: invasion of the impeachophobes
8. Steve Perry   - Imperial Jesus: Jeff Sharlet on the other Christian right
9. ed            - Dibs  (haiku)

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Bennis/empire 6.24 5pm

Honorable St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts in St. Paul on Tuesdays at 5pm, after
DemocracyNow!, midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am.  All households
with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 6/24, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 6/25, 10am Phyllis Bennis.  Pt 2,
audience questions and response after "Challenging Empire" talk in St.
Paul.  April 24.


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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org>
Subject: GLBT 6.24 5:30pm

June 24: OutFront Minnesota. St. Paul Happy Hour. 5:30 PM at Camp Bar,
Saint Paul. Join staff from the St. Paul Department of Human Rights as
well as municipal and state elected officials from St. Paul in honor of
GLBT Pride Month.


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From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Green Green Water 6.24 6:30pm

Tuesday, June 24, we are thrilled to have award winning local
documentarian, Dawn Mikkelson present her award film, Green Green Water.
This is the story of Mikkelson's quest to find where her electricity comes
from.  Her journey takes her to Northern Manitoba to meet the Cree peoples
who are coping w/the environmental and cultural impact of so called "clean
energy" for energy exports to the U.S.  It's all about "POWER."

Several years ago when the salons were first starting I sent out a plea
for to get $100.00 to help Dawn make this film.  Anyone who gave that
amount would be in the credits at the end of the film.  We got the $100.00
and now we can see Mad Hatter Conversational Salons in the credits.

Dawn will also show a clip of "Red Tail" her new film about the Northwest
Airline Strike.

Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.


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From: Bonnie Watkins <bonnie [at] mnwomen.org>
Subject: Fundraise 6.25 9am

Register Today for "Fundraising in Tough Times"

Don't be a day late & a dollar short!
There are still some spaces left in this fantastic training session.  We
know many of your organizations are looking for tips & connections on
fundraising, so please let us know [mailto:Bonnie [at] mnwomen.org] if you're
coming. The training session is set for:

THIS WEDNESDAY, June 25
9AM - 11:30AM
The Minnesota Women's Building
550 Rice Street
St. Paul 55103

Cost is $15, payable at the door.  The agenda will include presentations
by expert funders and fundraisers, and time for networking.  Speakers
include Mala Thao of Washburn Center for Children, Aretha Green-Rupert of
the Girl Scouts of Minnesota & Wisconsin River Valleys, Jodi Williams of
Community Shares Minnesota, Amy Cram Helwich of the Women's Foundation of
Minnesota, Marilyn Bryant of the Consortium's Seneca Falls Council of
Advisors, and more.  They will address topics such as:  How do you decide
which group to donate to?  What is the best way to approach a major donor
for a contribution?  How can we get younger women engaged in philanthropy?

What are the priorities of foundations these days? Bharti Wahi has
organized wonderful resources for you and the coffee and tea pots will be
on - but we need to get a good count of attendees ASAP, so drop us a line
[mailto:Bonnie [at] mnwomen.org] or give us a jingle at 651/228-0338, will you?
Many thanks! Bonnie Watkins The Minnesota Women's Consortium


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From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Bridge vugil 6.25 5pm

Peace Bridge Vigil: Commemorate the Victims of Torture

Wednesday, June 25, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge,
Spanning the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul. June has
been designated by many peace activists internationally as Torture
Awareness Month and June 26 has been designated as the International Day
in Support of Victims of Torture. Locally, a special vigil focused on
Torture on the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge is scheduled on the eve
of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Some will be
wearing orange jumpsuits and everyone is encouraged to carry a sign
opposing the use of torture. Members of faith communities are encouraged
to bring their banners if they have one. FFI: Call WAMM, 612-827-5364.


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From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Cambodia/film 6.25 7pm

Wednesday, 6/25, 7 pm, free films "Cambodia Year Zero" and "Cambodia Year
One" illustrating Pol Pot's regime and later efforts at recovery, U of M
College of Law, 229 - 19th Ave S, Mpls.  http://chgs.umn.edu


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HEALTH ADVISORY: Invasion of the Impeachophobes
by Jennifer Epps
http://www.opednews.com
Headlined on 6/21/08:

IMPEACHOPHOBIA:

Malignant disease, fiercely contagious. Destroys congressional Democrats'
natural defenses against tyranny. Begins as a weakening of the spine. Soon
clear vision is lost, followed by coherent speech, rational thought, and,
eventually, all ability to stand up. The virulent Pelosi Pathogen seems to
be the root. WARNING: Impeachophobia can be extremely fatal for those
impacted by the patient's decision-making. The patient's illness may lead
to death of U.S. active-duty forces, Iraqis, Lebanese, Iranians, as well
as New Orleanians, Midwesterners, Chinese, and polar bears. Traditional
forms of treatment, which consist of appealing to the heart, have proven
completely ineffective. Some experimental remedies involve administering
shocks to the gluteus maximus, known in laymen's terms as "campaign
pocketbooks", but this approach requires broad public awareness and
support. Meanwhile, research into antidotes has uncovered a promising
substance, sanfranciscomide cindysheehanide, which tests show, if injected
directly into the 8th district of California, could eradicate the Pelosi
Pathogen at its source. However, the vaccine will not be ready until
November.

Epidemiology of the disease:

The first noticeable signs of the Pelosi Pathogen appeared in 2006, when
the original sufferer was heard to murmur "Impeachment is off the table."
Since this was akin to a police officer vowing "We do not arrest
criminals", or a bank manager declaring "Come on in, the safe is open", a
loss of oxygen supply to the brain may have been involved. After all,
medical detectives attest, at that time it was well known that the White
House had committed crimes against humanity, violations of the
constitution, betrayals of oaths of office, and acts of tyranny. Some
Republicans, such as Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. Chuck Hagel, even expected the
Dems to put impeachment on the table.

And the Dems have been repeatedly handed Republican critiques of
Bush/Cheney's conduct on a platter. Ronald Reagan's associate deputy
attorney general, Bruce Fein, came out many months ago in favor of
impeachment and even co-wrote a play on it, which ran in Nancy Pelosi's
district. John Dean, former counsel to Nixon, wrote back in 2004 that Bush
Admin. offences were Worse than Watergate. Paul O'Neill, Bush's former
Treasury Secretary, opposed Bush's failure to halt al-Qaeda funders,
objected to the White House's economic recklessness and its blackout on
Treasury's findings, and also exposed, in his 2004 book, Bush's
predetermination to attack Iraq despite its irrelevance to 9/11.
Counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke exposed the same predetermination
in his own memoir that year.

In 2006, the Homeland Security Dept. cut anti-terrorism funding by 40 %
for New York City because of a lack of "national monuments or icons".
Republican congressman John Sweeney charged that the Admin. had "declared
war on New York", and GOP colleague Peter King called for Secretary
Michael Chertoff's resignation. The same year, the all-GOP House Select
Committee on Katrina (boycotted by Dems for fear of whitewashing) issued a
report which called Katrina "a national failure, an abdication of the most
solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare," and which member
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) summarized as "very tough on the president,
... very tough on the Department...a blistering report." Though Dems won
both houses in Nov., Chertoff retained his post, and Bush was never
charged with any crime for his delays in releasing federal disaster
resources, or for pretending not to have been warned about the levees.

This year, after the story broke of the CIA's destruction of interrogation
tapes, former GOP governor Thomas Kean, Chair of the 9/11 Commission,
co-wrote a Jan. New York Times op-ed with his Democratic Vice-Chair Lee
Hamilton complaining that "no one in the administration ever told the
commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations".
Kean and Hamilton baldly concluded: "We call that obstruction." In Nixon's
era, obstruction of justice was considered impeachable. But the Pelosi
Pathogen seems to destroy former standards, like justice. On June 20th,
former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan testified to the House
Judiciary Committee that Cheney, Karl Rove, and others are withholding
information from the public on who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's
identity. Another case of obstruction. McClellan also accused the White
House of "packaging" intelligence and misleading the public on the war.
Deception to lead the country to war would seem to be the very crux of
what the Framers had in mind by "High Crimes"; but it doesn't seem that
way to Impeachophobes.

Prognosis:

Once infected, patients become increasingly listless, unable to lift their
arms to vote to stop funding a war 3/4 of the U.S. opposes. Nor can they
close Guantanamo. Nor can they say the four words: "No War on Iran". They
even lose the self-preserving ability to ensure that voting machines be
hacker-proof.

The infected become cavalier about whistleblowers' sacrifices. For
example, the decorated Major General Antonio Taguba, former Deputy
Commanding General, submitted a damning report on Abu Ghraib abuses in May
2004, and was subsequently reassigned to the Pentagon, then later
instructed to retire. Though this year it was established that Abu
Ghraib-type methods were approved by Bush and Cheney, and though Taguba's
preface to D.C.-based Physicians for Human Rights' new report affirms
"there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has
committed war crimes," yet the Impeachophobes leave Taguba hang out to
dry, and refuse to allow Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment against
either Bush or Cheney to be debated.

Meanwhile whistleblower Babak Pasdar, a computer security expert who
worked for a wireless giant, revealed this spring that the system he saw
allowed a third party to access all phone calls, emails, textings, and
website viewings of any client. Instead of following that up, the House
just gave telecoms retroactive immunity from lawsuits. Thereby
demonstrating a will to actively stand in the way of legal redress by
citizens stepping up to do the work Congress has shunned (defending the
4th Amendment). In this trampling on citizen attempts to bring to light
White House law-breaking, we see a marked progression from the disease's
passive phase to an active, malicious stage.

The Center for Disease Control should screen Invasion of the
Body-Snatchers (forget 2007's "Invasion") for clues to the spread of
contagion. Before Pelosi became Speaker, experienced Rep. John Conyers,
Jr. authored a resolution for an inquiry into grounds for Bush's
impeachment. A few dozen congresspersons co-sponsored. Conyers also
published "The Constitution in Crisis," a 302-page book of Admin.
violations with an unwavering sub-title: "The High Crimes of the Bush
Administration and a Blueprint for Impeachment". Yet when Conyers became
Judiciary Committee chair, suddenly he started talking about "other
priorities".

In Invasion of the Body-Snatchers (1978), a Chinese launderer desperately
asks Donald Sutherland for help because his wife seems "wrong", "not
right", "different". But a few scenes later, the man asserts creepily:
"She much better now". When people start talking about "other priorities",
or how Bush is just "an unpopular president who can't do much more
damage"...this may be a sign they've already succumbed to the disease.

Watch out for the pod people.


--------8 of 9--------

Imperial Jesus: 'Family" author Jeff Sharlet on the secret history of the
other Christian right
By Steve Perry
Minnesota Independent
June 21, 2008

Author Jeff Sharlet: They think of religion and power as working in
concentric rings."

Jeff Sharlet's The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of
American Power may be the best book anyone has written about the politics
of the Christian right. Certainly it's the most surprising, and therein
lies a catch: The Family is not about the "Christian right" we know, the
popular fundamentalist evangelicalism of TV preachers and retail
bloc-voting and abortion clinic standoffs. Its subject is an elite
fundamentalist organization almost no one had heard of before Sharlet's
book, a quiet network of powerful people - "key men," in the group's
phrase - at home and abroad built in the name of a strong-man Jesus who
cares much more for power than piety, and prefers foreign affairs to
domestic politicking.

In Born Again, his post-prison memoir, the old Nixon hand and Watergate
convict Chuck Colson called the Family "a veritable underground of
Christ's men all through government." To this day, the only public
estimate of the Family's size is the one Colson offered in that 1979 book:
20,000 or so worldwide. Today the group's Washington insider membership
(or the portion of it that's publicly known) includes Colson, James A.
Baker, John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Sen.  Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Sen. Chuck
Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), Sen. Bill Nelson
(D-Florida), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Rep. Joe Pitts
(R-Pennsylvania), and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina). And their
bipartisan list of "friends" includes Hillary Clinton, who has helped the
Family pass several pieces of legislation, including the bill that made it
legal for pharmacists to decline to fill birth-control pill prescriptions
on moral grounds.

Sharlet caught on to the Family by accident in 2002 while staying at a
boarding house/religious training center that turned out to be run by the
group, whose only public profile is as sponsor of the annual National
Prayer Breakfast. The trail Sharlet uncovered starts in the 1930s in
Seattle. A Norwegian immigrant named Abram Vereide built a ministry there
premised on giving succor to the region's most powerful business leaders,
and along the way helped them coordinate their efforts to fight the rising
labor militancy of the day. By the 1940s Vereide had begun forging
connections with national corporate titans and powerful members of
Congress, and the organization's interest turned mainly to foreign
affairs, where it has remained ever since. (Though there are occasional
forays into domestic politics: in the late 1960s, for instance, when
Minnesota Rep. Al Quie led a Family-sanctioned attack on federal aid to
public schools; and more recently, when Family insiders laid the
conceptual foundation for George W. Bush's "faith-based" social programs.)

The Family's main role in practical politics, as Sharlet demonstrates in
considerable detail, has been to foster ties between the US and tyrants
abroad. Christ's men in government, it turns out, are not really
interested in the complexities of theology. According to the Family's
calculus, to love Jesus is to love worldly power, for there is no
authority but of God (Romans 13) and hence the powerful of the Earth are
God's anointed ones. Through the decades the Family has reached across the
waters to join hands with some of the world's most repressive regimes:
Suharto in Indonesia, Park in South Korea, Medici in Brazil, Duvalier in
Haiti, Selassie in Ethiopia, Siad Barre in Somalia. In the view of Doug
Coe, the group's current leader, the 20th century figures who best
exemplified a New Testament approach to power were Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

Last week I spoke to Sharlet about the roots and reach of the Family in an
hour-long phone conversation that ranged from post-millennialist theology
to the Family's romance with fascism and ended on a note of caution for
those who think the end of the Bush era means the end of the Christian
right as a political force.

Minnesota Independent: The Family originated in Seattle-area anti-labor
battles through the vision of a man named Abram Vereide whose theology was
summed up in something he called The Idea. What was The Idea?

Jeff Sharlet: The Idea was that Christianity had gotten it wrong for 2,000
years. For 2,000 years, the best Christianity had focused on the poor, the
suffering, the down and out. And one night in April 1935, Abram had what
he believed was a revelation from God that told him that God wanted things
reversed, that instead of helping the down and out, his ministry should be
for the up and out. In other words, he should be taking care of the
already powerful. That God had chosen the powerful, whether they were
corporate leaders or political leaders, as his anointed. And that through
them, good things will flow down to the people. What it amounted to was
trickle-down fundamentalism.

MnIndy: The subtitle of the book refers to the "secret fundamentalism at
the heart of American power," and you demonstrate in detail the lengths to
which they go to avoid publicity. Tell me about the scale of the Family.
You write that there are about 350 core members and some 20,000 friends
and fellow travelers. How much of the core membership is in the ranks of
the US government, or near it?

Sharlet: It was actually Chuck Colson, the Watergate felon, who put the
membership at around 20,000. They're not interested in converting the
masses. This is not a religion of big rallies. They're interested only in
elites. So 20,000 may sound big, but it's actually small when we're
talking on a worldwide scale. And within that, the 350 actually refers to
full-time associates. These are not actually people who are in government,
but who are in ministry to people in government. This man Dick Foth, for
instance, is a full-time associate. When John Ashcroft went to Washington,
Foth, who was president of a Christian college, gave up his job and moved
to Washington to, as he put it, "be a friend to John." That's his whole
job. He's going to be a friend to John Ashcroft. In other words, he's
going to be ministering to John Ashcroft and those around him, and being
their liaison to the Family. So Ashcroft is one of those 20,000 members of
the Family, and Foth is one of the 350 full-time associates.

In terms of the US government, that core idea they have is very important.
They think of religion and power as working in concentric rings. As they
interpret the Bible, and it's an unorthodox interpretation, Jesus had one
set of teachings for James and Peter, another set for the rest of the
twelve, and another set for so on and so on, out to the masses. There's an
inner circle, and that's gathered around the first brother, Doug Coe, and
around the person of Jesus. There are congressmen at that level.
Representative Joe Pitts is a core member. Sam Brownback is becoming a
core member. Former attorney general Ed Meese, who's still very much a
mover and shaker in Washington - perhaps more so than when he was attorney
general - is a core member.

Then you get down to the next ring of influence and power, and there
you're talking about people like Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Chuck
Grassley, conservative Republicans from Oklahoma and Iowa respectively.
Both these guys are pretty involved and have been involved for a long
time. You go another circle out, and you get into folks like Senator Mark
Pryor, the conservative Democrat from Arkansas. Mark Pryor is probably not
in the position of hearing that extreme rhetoric that talks about Hitler.
But he is in a position to be influenced by them. I think Pryor said in an
interview once that he had come to realize that the separation of church
and state - he won't go quite as far as the Christian right and say it's a
total myth - he said the separation of church and state exists but that
it's been terribly exaggerated by secularists. And this at a point when
the separation of church and state is probably weaker than it's ever been.
He thinks it's far too exaggerated.

And from that level it's onward and outward to the outer circles.

MnIndy: I was struck in reading the book by how threadbare the Family
seems doctrinally and philosophically. It all seems rooted in Romans 13 in
one sense, in reverence for worldly authority. And particularly virulent
strains of authority at that. You document their relations with tyrants in
Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, Haiti, Ethiopia, Somalia. Why the
attraction to totalitarianism and fascism, do you think?

Sharlet: In some ways, they are the updates on the idea that we were
speaking of at the beginning. You've got to remember these guys start out
in the 1930s, at a time in world history and American history when a lot
of people thought democracy had run its course. There were a number of US
congressmen who - we forget that before World War II, it was a legitimate
thing to take to the floor of Congress and talk about the pioneering
methods of Mr. Hitler. Many congressmen did. A lot of them thought
democracy was basically done. Fascism and communism were very powerful
then.

This is a really key distinction: Abram didn't want to be a fascist.  He
had a lot of friends who did, but he didn't. So he comes up with this
version of totalitarian Christianity as his alternative, his third way.
What Abram called the "din of the vox populi" was something you wanted to
avoid. So he comes up with this idea that God is going to work through
strong men, essentially. One of the first guys he really admired was James
A. Farrell of US Steel. He was also enamored with Henry Ford, though he
believed that Ford was not sufficiently dedicated to their vision of
power, which is a scary thought since Ford was pretty much an open admirer
of Hitler.

That translates, when you get into the Cold War, into a reverence for
strong men like Suharto in Indonesia and Selassie in Ethiopia. When they
read the New Testament, and they read the story of Jesus, they're looking
for a manly Christ. They come out of this whole idea of muscular
Christianity, the idea that the church is feminine and that's why
businessmen don't want to be a part of it. So they go looking for this
really macho, strong-guy Christ who makes hard decisions without being
sentimental. A tough guy. And when they look around the world, they see
that best reflected in dictators.

As Doug Coe, the current leader, says, the three leaders who understood
the methods in the New Testament better than anyone else in the 20th
century were Hitler, Stalin and Mao. They don't admire the men, because
they took the methods of the New Testament and put them to evil ends, but
they did understand the methods of authority and the reverence for power.
They don't like the kind of power where I have to come with a club and
say, Steve, give me your lunch money or else. They want you to so revere
power that you're asking to give the bullies your lunch money. They see
that ideology reflected in these strong men. And it's interesting when you
bring it back home to the United States, because for all their reverence
for strong men, they're not quite ready to go down that road in America,
because they enjoy the benefits of the pluralist democracy that they
despise.

MnIndy: You write that they have emphasized international affairs in their
initiatives through the years. Why is that, do you think? Is it an
expression of the missionary impulse, or is it what you just mentioned
about not wanting to eat what they're serving?

Sharlet: You know from the book that in the beginning they weren't
interested in international affairs. They were talking about organized
labor in the Northwest and then around the country. Their expansion into
foreign affairs - and you know, one of the main arguments of the book is
that I think a lot of us progressives when we look at the Christian right,
we know that they care about abortion and gay rights and things like this
and we says we're going to fight them on these fronts. We tend to overlook
the fact that they're very invested in foreign affairs, and the Family
tells us that they have been for a long time.

And that's a function of a couple of different things. First of all, if
you want to get into the wonky theology, it has to do with post-
millennial versus pre-millennial. What pre-millennial means is that you
believe in the Rapture. If you believe in the Rapture, you believe that
Christ is coming back any day. Maybe tomorrow. And once he's back, he's
going to rule for a thousand years. If you're post-millennial, you think
that Christ's not going to come back until you've established a worldwide
Christianized government for a thousand years. A thousand-year Reich of
fundamentalist Christianity.

The Family is in that theological camp. It's important to recognize that
camp wasn't always right-wing. The abolitionists in the 19th century were
mostly post-millennialists. That's what drove them to fight slavery,
because Christ can't come back to this world; he can't come back to a
world with slavery. We've got to get rid of slavery if we want Christ to
come back. So it can lead to good impulses, or in the Family's case, very
authoritarian impulses.

So that's part of it. I think part of it has to do with the fact these
guys are elites, and they're always interested in elite power.  They're
insiders, not outsiders. And of course the real concern of elite power
tends to be foreign affairs. The great game. The big world. So that's
where they define status, and that's what they were drawn to. And then
there's that other element you mentioned, the missionary impulse. I think
that's really important.

There's only so much you can put in a book, but one of the things you see
at the end of the Jonathan Edwards chapter is that Jonathan Edwards, the
author of the first Great Awakening, has this great religious revival, and
then it kind of collapses. So what does he do at the end of his days? He
goes out west - and west in those days was Stockridge, Massachusetts. And
he starts working on converting native Americans. And the thinking was
that, you know, the people in Boston think they're very sophisticated, and
they're not going to have any kind of revival of religion. They're not
going to listen. But if I can surround them, if I can turn these savages
into Christians, one day Boston's going to wake up and they're going to
realize, hey, wait a minute. If those savages are Christians, then they're
going to be morally ashamed.

That's been the logic of missionary Christianity for much longer than the
Family has been around. Look, you can go and concentrate on these
countries that nobody's paying attention to, then one, we can have
tremendous influence. The Family is just one organization among many,
right? But if they can get a senator like James Inhofe to go to middle
African countries, then to you and me, somebody like Inhofe is a
troublesome senator. But to a small African country, he's the most
powerful person who's ever set foot on their territory. He is the
highest-ranking American official. He is the agent of empire. And they
listen. And Inhofe goes and they say we're ready and we want to talk about
trade and we want to talk about issues, and Inhofe says, no, no, no, I
don't want to talk about any of that, I just want to talk about Jesus.
Inhofe can tell you, and he will, that that's just his personal thing.
He's not setting it as American policy.

But of course that's absurd. The country is going to interpret the words
of the most powerful person they've ever seen from America to mean that
America wants them to talk about Jesus. So they recognize they can have
this tremendous influence and win over these little countries. And then,
one of these days, we're going to wake up and realize, you know what?
It's true that America's a fundamentalist Christian country, and it's
surrounded by all these other fundamentalist Christian countries all
around the world.

And if you look at the work of historians and sociologists, you notice
[the spread of fundamentalist Christianity] is exactly what's happening,
and it's having a rippling effect. If you look at older denominations like
the Episcopal Church, which is actually quite a progressive church, it's
in real danger now because it's being challenged all over the world by
this militant right-wing fundamentalism that's very anti-gay. And they are
challenging the American Episcopal Church. And that was a big part of what
the conservatives understood: We can go and recruit allies in these
countries that no one is paying attention to, and ultimately we'll have
the numbers on our side.

MnIndy: You use a trickle-down metaphor to describe the way Abram Vereide
thought his religion would work. I was struck by how consonant it is with
a lot of what you see now in more popular fundamentalism in the last
decade or two. There's something very much like this power-Jesus that
Vereide envisioned. You see churches all over the place extolling a Jesus
who is about power, connections, success. You also see him in a lot of
Christian self-help rhetoric, and the wealth-gospel fad of a few years
ago. Did Vereide's Jesus trickle down, or did popular fundamentalism
arrive at something similar by a different path?

Sharlet: I look at it as a convergence. Some of it's coming down from the
elite fundamentalism and some of it's coming from other sources.  In the
book I write about Bruce Barton, one of the founders of modern
advertising. In 1925 he wrote a mega-bestseller called The Man Nobody
Knows. And it's really an early example of the Christian self-help books
you mentioned. If you look at guys like Rick Warren or Joel Osteen,
there's a real element of that there as well. Hey, let's make Christianity
not about helping the poor and the weak. Let's make Christianity about
helping you. Let's make Christianity about getting rich.

And a lot of that does come down, I think, from the Family. The Family
really arose as a response to a very important movement every progressive
should know about called the Social Gospel. This was sort of a radical
left idea. There's a lot of dimensions we could argue about and that not
every liberal would agree with, but it was a real progressive force. The
Family represented a reaction that was driven by the desire to get people
to stop talking about radical challenges to capitalism and this sort of
stuff.

And that impulse moved into the mainstream through the influence of guys
like Frank Buchman, and then later through the National Prayer Breakfast.
It created a civil religion that redefined religion not as helping the
poor and suffering or standing by them in solidarity, but rather about
leveraging the power of the state. The National Prayer Breakfast is about
talking about America as power, not America as a place where we all live
together.

Those ideas are fairly abstract, and they're fairly distant from the
experiences that most Christians have in their churches. But you see those
ideas start trickling in [to mainstream fundamentalism]. I try to draw
this out in the book in the chapter on Ted Haggard and his mega-church in
Colorado Springs. There you see that the most important issue to him is
free-market economics. That's not something that churches talked about 30
years ago. That's really come from the top down.

At the same time, you talk about the prosperity gospel, and that comes
from a different place. That's a right-wing version of populism - the idea
that if you send your $10 to Pastor Rod Parsley, you'll get $100 back
somehow from God. That's obviously a religion that's not for rich people.
It's for poor people. You don't bite that worm unless you have no other
options. That's an exploitation of debt, and it comes from a different
place, a popular fundamentalism. What we have right now is a convergence
of that right-wing populism and right- wing elitism coming together in not
just the Family, but Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, the self-help talk. The
idea of a church that is not about speaking truth to power but about
gaining power for yourself.

MnIndy: Before I read the book, I assumed that the Bush administration
would be an integral part of the story. But it really isn't. Have the Bush
crew and the Family reinforced each other to an important extent, or is
the Bush administration more an exploitation of that popular
fundamentalism?

Sharlet: I think they've reinforced one another. I think the Family enjoys
a pride of place in the Bush administration. Certainly there was John
Ashcroft in the first term, there was the whole faith-based initiatives
idea. They were one of many influences on the Iraq War.  You have to
remember that we think mainly in terms of the democratic vision of
America, but there is also the empire vision. The empire vision is made up
of all sorts of little moving parts that seem to come together in a
seamless machine. The empire vision of America rides on this wave of
seeming inevitability. But it has a lot of moving parts, so I never want
to claim for the Family that they're at the head of this. They're just one
of many moving parts. We can also talk about the Rand Corporation, the
neo-cons, AIPAC. The Family is just one of them - an important one, and
one that hasn't been looked at.

But the key to understanding [their relationship to] the Bush
administration: there's this scene in the book where David Coe comes
around to give them this lesson about Genghis Khan, about how he was a
spiritual conqueror. He was raising all that in the context not of
dismissing Bush, but of warning everybody not to get too excited about
Bush. The point was that he's not the Messiah we've been waiting for;
he's a politician.

Now, I have to say that I've interviewed a lot of Christian right figures,
not just the Family people. That's what they all say. The fantasy of a
perfect identification between Bush and the Christian right was a na´ve
projection of the left. A lot of us wanted to fool ourselves - I was there
too - we all wanted to fool ourselves into thinking that this is a
Christian fascist machine. The reason we wanted to fool ourselves is that
that made us think we knew right where to hit back. It'll be as easy as
kaboom, one two three, and then we're back to democracy.

It's not that simple. One, because the Christian right has been around a
lot longer than Bush has, and they're pretty savvy about politics. They
know they're going to be around after Bush is gone. So yeah, they put some
eggs in that basket, but they sure didn't put them all there. That's why
the Bush administration doesn't play such a big part in my book. Partly
because, you know, there's a lot of history here. And also because I
wanted to take a deeper look. I want the progressives who read my book to
think with a little more sense of history. I want us all to go a little
bit deeper.

I'm not the only one out there saying, look, Bush-hatred has blinded us to
the deeper problems. He's not the only right-winger in America.  And you
know what? The right-wingers of America are not limited to the Republican
party. There are Democrats among them too.

MnIndy: That leads us to Hillary Clinton, who is certainly the most
curious figure in your book. And while you make clear that she is not of
the elect in terms of the inner circles of the Family, she has been a good
friend to them at times, including the sponsorship of legislation that's
had some horrid impact abroad. How do you peg her religious outlook? It
seems to me she is clearly the most religious major candidate we've seen
in a while.

Sharlet: Yeah. She really is. You know, I've written about Hillary twice,
first in Mother Jones with my colleague Kathryn Joyce, one of the major
observers of conservative religion. I also wrote about her and the other
two candidates and their problem pastors for the New Republic. It's called
"Family Ties," and it's partly an adaptation from the book, but I get into
a little more about Hillary.  "Conservative" or "liberal," these terms are
not as useful in her case as establishmentarian. My colleague Kathryn and
I spent a long time reading everything Hillary had ever written and going
back talking to folks from her childhood.

And we went into this without any certainty about what we would find.  I
think we probably started assuming she would be more liberal. One of the
most shocking moments for me, because I know American religious history,
was when we discovered in an interview with a little Methodist newsletter
back in the '90s that Hillary said, oh yeah, we've got to break with the
social gospel. Her church, the Methodist Church, was always very strong on
the social gospel, a great progressive church. She comes from the
conservative wing of it, and rather than the social gospel, she wants
evangelicalism. What that comes down to is that Hillary thinks the
salvation of an individual soul is more important than the systemic
address of injustice. The notion of the individual is what our liberty is
based on, but then there are those who take it so much further that they
are willing to forget about the power of community.

That doesn't seem to make sense with Hillary, because she's a
communitarian, right? She does think in social terms. But she doesn't
think of community in terms of grassroots, as a bottom-up thing. I think
she's made it very clear she thinks in top-down terms. She's nothing if
not a technocrat. She knows better than us. She can tell us what we need,
right? When you go back and look at her religious life, you see that a lot
of that is rooted in her religious life. To her, it's very important. I
think one of the great frustrations of Hillary Clinton is that people
don't see she's not as liberal as she's thought to be, and they don't see
that she's really a very religious person.

For a long time no one believed her. I think everyone believes her now,
but as recently as 2007 when Katherine and I wrote about her religiosity
for Harper's Magazine, the most common response from both Hillary
supporters and Obama supporters was, oh, give me a break.  Everybody knows
she's just faking it to try to trick Christians. It was a contemptuous
response. And it's not true. Her religiosity is deep-seated. In the book I
call it a Burkean conservatism, after Edmund Burke, the great 18th-19th
century conservative. That's where she has drawn from. She's also drawn
from late Neibuhr. And he was a great liberal, right? No, not in the late
stages he wasn't. He spent the end of his life renouncing much of his
earlier liberalism. One of his last big issues was being pro-nuclear
weapons. He wanted a muscular American power near the end of his life.

MnIndy: You write that in 1966, Doug Coe made a conscious decision to take
the Family underground, and make them even more discreet than they had
ever been. You cast that as mainly an ethical/doctrinal decision. But did
practical factors like the looming Warren Court play in their decision
too?

Sharlet: That's a good observation, although I should say that Warren was
an early guest at the National Prayer Breakfast, back in his more
conservative days. Warren was originally a very conservative Republican.
But yeah, there was a pragmatic note to it, and I think it's really very
much a response to the popular uprisings of the 1960s. Until then, the
Family wasn't terribly secretive, but there was really no scrutiny. They
didn't have to worry about it, because the press really didn't mount many
challenges to elite power. And that was of benefit to both parties.
Everybody knew about JFK's women, for instance. They just didn't talk
about it.

But in the 1960s there was this great upsurge of demand for
accountability. That's trouble for the Family. This is a group that
defines itself in terms of working above the din of the vox populi.  That
was very much a part of what they were running away from. It's no
coincidence that around this time they moved their operations out of
Washington DC and into the all-white suburb of Arlington. They became part
of the white flight from Washington, drawing away from people who looked
different from them, drawing away from urban spaces and embracing the
worst vision of the suburbs.

MnIndy: They can't be happy with you at this point. I found it curious
they ever opened their archive to you, but they also closed it after a
time. What sort of feedback have you gotten directly or indirectly since
the book came out?

Sharlet: When the book came out, nothing. My first reading was down in
Georgetown in Washington, DC. It's in the Family's neighborhood, and a
number of people came from the neighborhood association. They were
distressed with them because they really are bullies down to the level of
the playground, literally. So this neighborhood group is fighting them
very vigorously, but that's really the only democratic challenge they've
ever gotten. The American media isn't interested.  They don't want to hear
about it. And frankly I have to say, the left blogosphere is a terrible
disappointment. We can't deal with this when we have more theories to spin
about how evil George W. Bush is.  Enough. Let's move on to some real
strategy, okay?


--------9 of 9--------

 Capitalism
 has dibs on what is. We have
 dibs on what isn't.


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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