Saturday, May 15, 2004

Jesus Plus Nothing -- "The Family"


Jesus Plus Nothing

Originally from Harper's Magazine, March 2003. By Jeffrey Sharlet.

And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
—Matthew 10:36

This is how they pray: a dozen clear-eyed, smooth-skinned “brothers” gathered together in a huddle, arms crossing arms over shoulders like the weave of a cable, leaning in on one another and swaying like the long grass up the hill from the house they share. The house is a handsome, gray, two-story colonial that smells of new carpet and Pine-Sol and aftershave; the men who live there call it Ivanwald. At the end of a tree-lined cul-de-sac, quiet but for the buzz of lawn mowers and kids playing foxes-and-hounds in the park across the road, Ivanwald sits as one house among many, clustered together like mushrooms, all devoted, like these men, to the service of Jesus Christ. The men tend every tulip in the cul-de-sac, trim every magnolia, seal every driveway smooth and black as boot leather. And they pray, assembled at the dining table or on their lawn or in the hallway or in the bunk room or on the basketball court, each man's head bowed in humility and swollen with pride (secretly, he thinks) at being counted among such a fine corps for Christ, among men to whom he will open his heart and whom he will remember when he returns to the world not born-again but remade, no longer an individual but part of the Lord's revolution, his will transformed into a weapon for what the young men call “spiritual war.”

“Jeff, will you lead us in prayer?”

Surely, brother. It is April 2002, and I have lived with these men for weeks now, not as a Christian—a term they deride as too narrow for the world they are building in Christ's honor—but as a “believer.” I have shared the brothers' meals and their work and their games. I have been numbered among them and have been given a part in their ministry. I have wrestled with them and showered with them and listened to their stories: I know which man resents his father's fortune and which man succumbed to the flesh of a woman not once but twice and which man dances so well he is afraid of being taken for a fag. I know what it means to be a “brother,” which is to say that I know what it means to be a soldier in the army of God.

“Heavenly Father,” I begin. Then, “O Lord,” but I worry that this doesn't sound intimate enough. I settle on, “Dear Jesus.” “Dear Jesus, just, please, Jesus, let us fight for Your name.”

* * *

Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as “the Family.” The Family is, in its own words, an “invisible” association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as “members,” as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities.

The organization has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, the International Foundation. These groups are intended to draw attention away from the Family, and to prevent it from becoming, in the words of one of the Family's leaders, “a target for misunderstanding.” [1] The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can “meet Jesus man to man.”

More at link.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

....recalling the works and the thoughts of the late great terence mckenna (..and echoed also by philip k. dick in 'valis'..) -- we are standing at the edge of the threshold when the curtains come crashing down and we realise that all of this has been the ongoing cosmic april fool's joke:

that humanity has never escaped from the black iron prison: that humanity has never aspired to pierce the crashing curtains: that humanity remains afraid of the innate birthright of evolving beyond the mere suggestive talkings and prattlings placed forth by s0-called 'evolutionists' clinging like a forlorn infant to the dead mother body of darwin's misunderstood words ( darwin himself and those admirers of darwin...) --

because mckenna and philip k. dick and others saw the transcendental object at the end of history -- and as this object gathers steam and momentum and head way and final approach status -- to quote john lennon:

'...see how they run like pigs from a gun see how they fly: i'm crying....'

the curtains are falling: revealing the rather orgainc natures of reality while humanity whines and bitches and curls in their corners of perpetual denial that the gig has ended and download becomes inevitable:

that the current 'crisis of consciousness' has arrived from humanity's refusal to reliquish hold upon the fragile and brittle groundswells of 'logick' and embrace the true birth of further knowledge that will eradicate the useless and needless belief systems that have kept awareness and progress well caged and well tortured within the black iron prison----

..and while the symptoms un-folding announcing the inevitable arrival of the transcendental object at the end of history continues to 'shock and awe' the dumbfounded and the witless: perhaps the best questions to observes would be the rate of denial that becomes paramount and complicance towards these crimes against man and nature:

the mother approaches: the true g0ddess has returned and how sloth have we been to believe she had forgotten us all.....

12:23 AM  

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