Meet the Senators in the Creepy Right-Wing Cult Trying to Defeat Health Care Reform
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Years ago, the late Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg explained the appeal of the religious right: "They are putting on the magic act of family values," he told me, "while the pickpocket in league with them goes through the crowd and steals their wallets."
That pickpocket is The Family. And even worse than stealing the wallets of the faithful, it has stolen their Jesus, rendering him into a figure who can only be deemed a blasphemous conception of the man whom Christians believe to be the son of God.
In the Beginning, There Was the Great Depression
From its inception in the 1930s, The Family -- then known as The Fellowship, as it is sometimes still called -- had at its root a pronounced hostility toward communism and socialism, and an affinity with fascism.
Created in the depths of the Great Depression, The Fellowship evolved as a bulwark against the populist rage that demanded its due after the barons of Wall Street and the captains of industry had crushed the economy in a spiral of greed.
The collapse of systems, be they economic, governmental or even religious, offer the potential for a completely new order to arise from the rubble. And that is precisely what the business leaders of the 1930s saw gathering around them as the government became a major employer, and labor organized, organized, organized.
Fellowship founder Abraham Vereide regarded the Great Depression as God's retribution for human disobedience and set out to gather powerful business leaders around him. He gathered them to pray, to testify before each other. Through these prayer meetings, he facilitated the means by which they would organize themselves against the encroaching rabble.
Vereide admired the efficiency of dictatorships, seeing them as ideal means for maintaining what he deemed to be a God-ordained social order -- one that left the resources of the world concentrated in the hands of those at the top. Vereide's followers were party to brutal crackdowns on labor unions, and they took on the task of dismantling the New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which they eventually accomplished.
After World War II, Vereide set up prayer cells in Germany among former Nazis, even intervening on the behalf of several with U.S. officials.
Vereide's successor, Doug Coe, today displays a certain obsession with Adolf Hitler and other of history's great villains, including the communists Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. What he admires is the manner in which they organized their movements.
"Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men," Coe told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1989. "Think of the immense power these three men had, these nobodies from nowhere." He recounts with awe the nobodies' success with their improbable plan of killing 6 1/2 million "Polish people" (a figure, Sharlet reminds us, that includes 3 million Polish Jews, to which I'll add more than 100,000 Polish gypsies).
Coe offered this observation as an illustration of the workings of one of his favorite verses of scripture, Matthew 18:20: "When two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Coe is not saying that Hitler & Co. were gathered in the name of Jesus, but he is interpreting Scripture through the prism of power politics of a most murderous kind.
Today, the nation stands on the precipice of another economic disaster, having elected a charismatic leader to pull it back from the brink, just as it did in 1932 with the election of Roosevelt, to whom The Family's earliest incarnation coalesced in opposition.