Religious Ideology Stumps ‘Conventional Reporters’

Interviewed for the online magazine Guernica (10/08), religion journalist Jeff Sharlet remembers what John McCain “spiritual adviser” John “Hagee got in trouble for”– “saying that Hitler was just doing what God wanted”–but says what Doug Coe,” as “the Family’s unofficial leader,” has said is much more monstrous.” While writing The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Sharlet found a

government source tell[ing] us: “The Family totally circumvents the State Department and the usual vetting. If Doug Coe can get you some face time with the president of the United States, then you will take his call and seek his friendship. That’s power.” But itâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s not power operating in the usual sense. When I talk to conventional reporters, they…say, how many votes does The Family control? Well, it doesnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t control any votes. It would never tell anybody how to vote…. They usually try to have a hand in both sides. Itâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s something that Americans are really uncomfortable with: It’s ideological influence. It has consequences; they are shaping the terms of the debate, and I think that in the long term that becomes a lot more powerful.

Addressing why so few are familiar with this powerful element in U.S. politics, Sharlet says that “the lack of media attention is a deference to establishment power in American life. [Former Barack Obama pastor] Jeremiah Wright is an outsider,” but “Doug Coe? Everybodyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s met him. When you talk to him, he doesnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t seem that crazy, he doesnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t come up to you and say, hey, let me tell you about Hitler.”