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Meet the Senators in the Creepy Right-Wing Cult Trying to Defeat Health Care Reform

The Family has spent decades consolidating power within the GOP and may have come to dominate the party even among those who do not belong to the cult.

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Like Roosevelt, Obama seeks the way out of the economic abyss through government programs, and today's Family has revived its historic role.  At their dynamic essence, the same two forces stand in opposition as they did in the 1930s: A brilliant communicator who has captured the populist imagination with government solutions to current woes, and an ever-consolidating corporate cabal determined to stop him.

Followers of Jesus

At the 9-12 Tea Party march on Washington, signs carried by protesters equated Obama with Hitler, his "czars" with the S.S., health care reform with fascism. The Tea Partiers likely never heard of Doug Coe or The Family, yet the cult's pet themes and fears seem to provide a sort of connective tissue for that otherwise-inchoate movement: Hitler, socialism, government regulation.

What the Tea Partiers fear most, it seems, is the power of a personality -- Obama's -- whose worldview stands in opposition to theirs. And if there's anything the leaders of the right understand, it's the power of personality.

And so, within The Family, they have made Jesus into a sort of uber-personality, but an enigmatic one at that.

Sharlet refers to The Family's theology as one of "elite fundamentalism," but that's not quite right. Fundamentalism refers to a literal reading of the Bible. Little in The Family's ideology seems rooted, either literally or figuratively, in the Gospels, or much in the Bible at all.

The Jesus of The Family is a Jesus unmoored from his own teachings; a blank slate of a Jesus who demands nothing but acceptance of the power structure of the world as it currently exists in exchange for his blessing. And since this Jesus is offered mostly to men of high rank, that's not so hard a bargain.

It's an idea that Coe, as Sharlet reports, calls " Jesus plus nothing." As the man who invited Sharlet into The Family explained, "We're not even Christian. We just follow Jesus."

Followers of Jesus, followers of Christ: key phrases in the key man's code. But who is this Jesus? He seems to be at once a personal guide, yet unknowable -- except as someone, something, who must be served.

There appear to be only two decipherable things about the God of The Family: his unyielding disdain for government regulation of any kind and his demand for obedience to that notion.

The Family's notion of free-market capitalism renders Adam Smith's invisible hand as the one extended in Michelangelo's iconic fresco, giving the spark of life to the original Adam; any attempt to regulate a market means you're messing with God. This doctrine is known, in The Family's language, as "Biblical capitalism." 

And so government services, by this doctrine, are against God's will; they interfere with God's markets, skewing values and disturbing the natural order of things, just as a public health-insurance plan would do to the current insurance industry. Having been exempt from anti-trust law since 1946, the health-insurance business must be as close to godly perfection as one can get, in the minds of The Family's key men.

And what of the poor and suffering, the health care-related defaults on mortgages that claim 60 percent of all home foreclosures? What of those who have no health insurance? They are simply not among the anointed. Or worse, according to a report commissioned by The Family, Sharlet reports, the cause of their poverty, the cause of all poverty, is "disobedience." 

(In the 1950s, Family founder Vereide celebrated as a "prophet" a German nationalist  who taught, according to Sharlet, that the demand for government services stemmed from "a failure to trust that God would provide.")