C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

After Anders Brevik murdered scores of mostly youth in Norway, American pundits were quick to deny he was a Christian fundamentalist. He wrote a 1500 page manifesto outlining a Christian crusade but that couldn’t shake the selective amnesia (You would swear some on the right practice it as a religion to get closer to Reagan) of right wing pundits who attribute all terrorism to Islam.

This hypocrisy underlies the grip Christian fundamentalism has on authority in the United States. Jeff Sharlet’s “C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy” delves into The Family, a secretive fundamentalist group that exerts its influence throughout American politics and international affairs.

They preach a belief in Jesus, but not the one you’d recognize from the Bible. The Family’s Jesus says God has chosen who should be in power and how these “divine” authorities get to serve the poor.

Not surprisingly, their solutions revolve around free market capitalism, often benefiting the “chosen” more than those they’re supposed to help.

Members include powerful politicians and lobbyists and they’ve railed against government spending, asking what “Jesus” would say about building roads or public education. With the current crusade by Tea Partiers to destroy government, it’s not hard to see these principles in live action.

According to Sharlet, the consequences of The Family’s influence are even more frightening overseas. Members believe it’s better to build friendships with dictators rather than hold them accountable for crimes against humanity. Many times, this has been directly beneficial to members’ business interests.

They have sent many missionaries to Uganda and used the country as a “laboratory” for their homophobic beliefs. The Ugandan government passed measures that made being homosexual a crime that could be punished by death in some instances. While Family members have not said they believe in killing homosexuals, they’ve stood by the Ugandan government based on principle.

This religious inspired slaughter has also seeped its way into our military, according to Sharlet. Although the US military is supposed to be secular by law, a sizable chunk of soldiers are part of Officers’ Christian Fellowship and have openly advocated their fighting in the name of Jesus. Many of these soldiers have been promoted despite this apparent conflict of interest. Even former General David Petraeus, who now heads the CIA, endorsed “Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel”.

Thus, it’s not surprising that Sharlet could detail incidents where secular soldiers were accosted by their fellow soldiers to the point where they had to discharge or advocates for religious freedom in the military had their families threatened. One story in particular that stands out is when a soldier painted “Jesus Killed Muhammad” on a vehicle and led his fellows in chanting the offensive phrase while mowing down innocent Iraqis.

While Sharlet covers plenty of ground from US politics to missionary adventures overseas, this book is only one piece of the puzzle in unearthing the religious right’s reach. Crimes in the Catholic Church have gotten some press but massive mortgage fraud amongst Mormon hierarchy has mostly been kept out of the public eye.

Many of these institutions are purposefully secretive but their escapades in power and influence need to be exposed for all. The people that abuse their hierarchical positions don’t just hold down outsiders. They often con their own followers.

When you see a pundit denying the ties to Christianity of a Brevik or ignoring these stories of fundamentalist corruption, chances are they aren’t that stupid. They’re just in on a joke you wouldn’t find too funny.

Follow me on Twitter: @shaft19

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