Category: Church news

A Critique of the Film “Divided”

I recently was asked by a church publication in Taiwan to respond to the controversial film, Divided.  Here is my response. I would be interested in yours.  If you haven’t seen the film, here’s the link to the film’s website.

A Pastor Looks At the Film “Divided”

The recent film, Divided, has attracted national media attention for its critique of age-based church ministries, targeting youth ministry in particular.  But despite the film’s message that families should be more involved in faith development in their own children, the film makes questionable connections in its attempt to discredit any and all age-based church ministry, including Sunday School.

Despite its message that family is the basic unit of faith development, the film’s weaknesses overshadow its main point.  Apparently it isn’t enough to suggest that age-based ministries might not be effective.  The filmmakers not only attempt to discredit youth ministry, Sunday School, and other forms of age-based ministry, but they seek to demonize them as well.  By linking Plato, Rousseau, and Robert Raikes, the founder of Sunday School, into a “pagan” conspiracy to rip children from their parents’ influence, the film fails in intellectual and historic honesty.

Demonizing those who differ with us has become standard practice in politics in the United States, and now apparently it is standard practice in discussions about church ministry as well. The film seeks to equate age-based ministry with public education, the welfare state, and other public institutions that have fallen out of favor politically in the United States.

The film also speaks of “the church” as though the only expression of the church was in the United States of America.  And, despite the appearance of two African-American pastors as interviewees, the film seems to direct its critique of church ministry toward white, middle-class American church congregations.

Completely lacking in the film is acknowledgement that the church of Jesus Christ is a multi-faceted, multi-cultural body that finds unique expression within the cultural contexts in which it exists.

While there is no doubt that church attendance in the United States has been declining, the film Divided does not provide an answer to that decline.  Credible church historians and academics see multiple reasons for the decline in U.S. church attendance, and none have suggested that age-based programs are the reason.

The film and its producers could have done the church in the U. S. a great service.  Instead, they have produced a film that supports one questionable perspective on church life in white middle-class America, which will be largely irrelevant to other expressions of church in other nations and cultures.

Join BCL’s Small Church Webinar, May 6

Tim Avery of Christianity Today’s BuildingChurchLeaders.com has asked me to co-host a small church webinar with Brandon O’Brien.  The Strengths of the Small Church will air on May 6, 2010, from 11 am to 12 noon. It’s free and you can register here.

Brandon O’Brien, associate editor at Leadership Journal, and author of The Strategically Small Church, is the main guru for this webinar.  O’Brien’s book looks at the inherent advantages of small size in doing ministry.  He cites some amazing examples of churches that stayed small or got small by breaking into small congregations, so they could do ministry more effectively.  Here’s a video promo clip I sent Tim to promote the webinar.  Join us on May 6 at 11 am — it’s going to be fun and informative!

Religion News Service Features Quote

The Religion News Service (RNS) picked up a quote from my article on the arrest of 10 Southern Baptist church members in Haiti.  The article first appeared here, and then at EthicsDaily.com.

Small Church Issues Covered At SmallChurchPROF.com

SmallChurchPROF.com links to the best news, ideas, insights, and information relevant to small church ministry.  The site features articles in eight categories of interest to small church leaders and members:

  1. Featured. These articles are the latest of the web’s ever-changing content that have application to small churches.  Links to events, people, and issues that are making news or creating conversations are featured here each day.   A recent feature, “What comes after contemporary worship?”, focused on a small church that was re-establishing traditional worship after 15 years.
  2. Small Church News. Small churches and their people make the news, too.  This section curates the best of small church newsmakers and recently featured an article about the CIA shooting down a missionary airplane 9 years ago, killing a young mother and her infant in the process.  “When Mission Trips Go Bad” focused on the plight of 10 Baptists who went to Haiti and were arrested trying to transport Haitian children across the border.
  3. Outreach. A recent article told the story of a Nashville, TN church that uses mixed martial arts to reach young men.  The story ran in the New York Times, so small churches can have a national influence in the mainstream media.  The Outreach section often showcases successful outreach ideas or concepts, such as the post, “How Can We Get Some Young Folks in Our Church” written by Jeremy Troxler of Duke Divinity School’s Thriving Rural Communities program.
  4. Discipleship. This section links to articles that either reflect issues of interest to those seeking to follow Christ as disciples, or specific instances of discipleship in action.  When the Archbishop of Canterbury challenged Wall Street’s greed and materialism, that’s of interest to those seeking to follow Christ’s teaching that you cannot serve God and money.
  5. Leadership. The Leadership category finds the most helpful and insightful web articles about leadership development, characteristics, and examples available.  Some articles come from the business world, others from the non-profit world, or a valuable leadership resource.  All of the links in the Leadership section provide insight into being an effective leader in the 21st century.    Seth Godin’s “Who Will Save Us?” was a recent post revealing the struggles of leaders to adapt to our changing times.
  6. Service. Service tells the stories of churches working to make this world a better place.  A recent link from the local Nashville, TN paper, The Tennessean, revealed that the traditionally isolated Churches of Christ in middle Tennessee were cooperating with other denominations on community ministry projects.
  7. Worship. Featuring creative worship ideas, sermons, and other links pertinent to small church worship, I recently linked to a story about “Dinner Church.” Dinner Church is the nickname a new church start, St. Lydia’s in New York, gives to its combination of dinner and worship, patterned after Jesus habit of breaking bread with the disciples.
  8. Technology. Finally, the most current technology developments, such as the rise of mobile smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, sound systems, video, and even Apple’s iPad, get recognized in this section.

You can bookmark the entire site, SmallChurchPROF.com, or subscribe to each category in a separate feed if your interest runs only to one or two areas.  Simply click on “More SCP Links from Publish2” at the end of each category for access to the RSS feed.

Or you can subscribe to all the articles I link to in both SmallChurchPROF.com and NewChurchReport.com by pasting this link into your feed reader:  http://www.publish2.com/journalists/chuck-warnock/links.rss

I hope you find both SmallChurchPROF.com and NewChurchReport.com helpful to you as a pastor or church leader. I edit both sites, and select all the articles that are featured.  I choose articles to link to that are relevant, interesting, helpful, and challenging, even if I don’t always agree with their point of view.  If you want to suggest an article for either site, please email me at chuckwarnock [at] gmail [dot] com with the link.  The system I use requires that the article be available on the web at a linkable URL.

You can also find me on Facebook, where all the articles I select are also posted.  Or on Twitter where the same thing happens.

Thanks for visiting SmallChurchPROF.com!

When Mission Trips Go Bad

Logan Abassi / The United Nations
Boy receiving treatment after Haiti earthquake. Logan Abassi / The United Nations

The arrest of 10 Southern Baptist church members on a self-styled rescue mission in Haiti provides churches with a sobering reminder — even if your motives are pure, you must know and follow the laws of the country you are in.

Members of the Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho are still being held in two small concrete rooms in the judicial police headquarters building. According to USA Today, their lawyer says they are being treated poorly, and have not been charged with a specific crime yet.

Identical messages on both church websites state —

A ten member church team traveled to Haiti to help rescue children from one or more orphanages that had been devastated in the earthquake on January 12. The children were being taken to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where they could be cared for and have their medical and emotional needs attended to. Our team was falsely arrested today and we are doing everything we can from this end to clear up the misunderstanding that has occurred in Port au Prince.

I checked the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board website for an official denominational response, but could not find one.  Baptist Press does have an extensive article with details not reported in the secular media.  For example, the team and children were turned back at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and informed that they needed “one more piece of paperwork” according to the BP article.  Upon their return to Port-au-Prince, they were detained as child-traffickers.

A statement on the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, the state-level denominational organization, praises the team for their intentions, but then offers this cautionary note —

The Idaho Mission Team in Haiti went on a mission trip that was not a mission trip organized by the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. As a state convention we encourage churches and mission teams to work through the state convention, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and Global Baptist Response when dealing with a disaster in North America and other nations.

Although these churches had conducted mission trips before, the trip to Haiti was their first in disaster relief.

I have travelled internationally to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mexico and found much of the bureaucracy redundant, and at times infuriating.  But, in each instance I had to comply with the requirements of each government for visas, passports, and information regarding how long I intended to stay, where I was going to stay, why I was making the trip, and who my US employer was.  American know-how and ingenuity is not rewarded in many countries, especially if it appears that Americans are attempting to circumvent the laws of the host country.

The exciting possibility of international missions involvement and of making a real, hands-on difference cannot overshadow the need for careful adherence to all the laws and customs of the country visited.  Good intentions can be misconstrued, as is the case here.  And while stories of Bible smuggling and dramatic rescues make great books, the reality of violating local laws presents a lesson in international precaution.

What do you think?  Has your church ever skirted the law while trying to do good?  Or has your church ever been frustrated in its attempts to minister because of local laws, either in another country or your own?  While there are lessons to be learned from their experience, our immediate concern is for the safe release of these who meant to do good, but were caught up in the chaos and uncertainty of the situation in Haiti.

I’m at The Cove this week

photo1I’m back at The Cove this week leading conferences for the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.  Yesterday we covered “Keys to Thriving in the Smaller Church.”  About 150 pastors, spouses, and church leaders attended the back-t0-back sessions and offered great stories from their own small churches.

Today I’m leading a second session on “Using Social Media in Outreach” at 11:45 am.  The first one went well yesterday, and all the techie stuff worked, unlike last May when we had “technical difficulties beyond our control.”

This afternoon, I’ll wrap-up with two more back-to-back sessions on “Outreach Ideas to Help Your Church Change Your Community.”  I’ll tell the story of what our church has been doing, plus the stories of other smaller congregations that are doing some amazing things in ministry. Later this week I’ll post the powerpoints to both the church seminars.

The Cove nestles into the unspoiled vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC.  The Billy Graham School of Evangelism offers pastors and church leaders inspiration, information, and lots of free resources.  If you haven’t been, check out the Schools for next year.  You’ll be glad you came!

Free article, journal, video, and book

In the gift economy, information wants to be free.  So, here are the latest freebies I’ve run across that are both free and excellent.

The new Neue Quarterly will be out soon, and my article “Remembering Why You Said Yes” is in this issue.  You can read my article for free, compliments of the folks at Neue by clicking here.  The entire quarterly, all 200+ pages of it are free, here.

Scott Linklater sent me a link to a free video, What is Simple Church? The vid provides great interviews with simple church pastors who are doing amazing things on very little money.  These churches are a model for the church of the future, and you ought ot watch this, then share it.  And, it’s free!

And, if you missed it, Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, is well….free!  Click Google’s Books blog for all the ways you can get Free for free.  Chris Anderson wrote The Long Tail, and is an editor with Wired magazine.

I’ve written about this before here, and Free supports my point that you ought to make as much stuff free as possible, and that it pays off in the long run.  Besides, shouldn’t we as followers of Christ be giving away the insights God gave us that will help others?  I think so, and Chris Anderson’s book proves it. He’s given away 100,000 free digital copies, and this week the book premiered at number 12 on the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller list.  Free works!

Enjoy the free stuff!

Interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: Part 3

jeff_sharlet3Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor of Rolling Stone, is author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart of American Power.  His book about the group best-known for sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast has gained renewed interest since its hardback publication in 2008.

With two of its members confessing to marital infidelity — Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford — interest in the Family and its multiple mansions in Washington, D. C. and abroad is at a new height.  Most recently, Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, commenting on the scandal of his Family housemate John Ensign, refused to discuss his housemates or their living arrangements in the Family’s house on C Street in D. C..

This is the 3rd and final installment in my 3-part interview with Sharlet.  Part 1 and Part 2 round out the interview.

Chuck Warnock:  A) Do you believe the influence of the Family is increasing or decreasing?  B) How do you view President Obama’s remarks at the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast where he mentions the history of the national prayer breakfast beginning in Seattle?  C) Do you know if your book has had any influence on how the Obama administration relates to Doug Coe, or any of the other organizations or leaders of the religious right?

Jeff Sharlet:  A) I don’t know; B) with dismay; politics and opinions aside, that was just shoddy history; C) I don’t know about the Obama administration, but at least one religious right organization bought bulk copies of the book for distribution to its supporters with the caveat that while I’m not a Christian, they think the story I tell is an important one. This group happens to have a lot of first-hand experience with the Family, so they’re in a good position to know.

CW:  Finally, many of the evangelical leaders you mention are now either dead, or moving off the public stage due to age.  What is your opinion of how a younger generation views the blending of religious devotion and political power that you write about in The Family?  Will the Family survive another 75 years, or is it a vestige a fading era?

JS:  That’s the question of the new millennium, isn’t it? The Family may, indeed, be fading — I don’t think they have anyone of Coe’s charisma or leadership talent to succeed him. The current day-to-day leaders, Dick Foth and Richard Carver, are uninspiring. David Coe, Doug’s son, is, in the words of one Family insider, kind of like the Joaquin Phoenix character in Gladiator. But I think the ideas of the Family will prosper. Indeed, I think they’re well-suited to the moment — ostensibly bi-partisan, diplomatic in tone if not in substance, relentlessly amiable, even in the cause of murderous regimes. Reminds me of Rick Warren — not a Family man, but heir to a certain style of politicized religion, much more the descendent of Abraham Vereide, Family founder, than of Jerry Falwell. I’m heartened by the expanded vision of a lot of young Christian conservatives, thinking more seriously about global poverty than had previous generations; but I’m disheartened by their responses, naive at best and dangerous at worst, as in their support for authoritarian governments in Rwanda and Uganda.

Beyond that, I can’t say. You’re a pastor — you tell me.

_____________________

Read my review of The Family at Amicus Dei.  A YouTube video of NBC’s reporting on the Family features footage of Doug Coe, then leader of the Family, referring to Hitler and Mao as role models of leadership and commitment.  It is very disturbing.

Note: I purchased my copy of The Family and received no inducement to read and review the book, or to interview Jeff Sharlet.  I believe Sharlet makes a compelling case for more transparency in religious life, especially as it intersects the public square.  Whether you agree or disagree with Sharlet, he has produced a comprehensive book on a previously almost-secret organization that bears reading as a cautionary tale about the seduction of power.

Interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: Part 2

imagesThis is Part 2 of my interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. This week, The Family is  #5  in Amazon.com’s sales rankings.  If you’d like to catch up, Part 1 of the interview is here.  My review of The Family is at my blog, Amicus Dei.

The Family tells the story of a secretive quasi-evangelical organization, founded in the late 1930s, which has insinuated itself into the halls of power in Washington and other countries around the world.  In the U. S., the Family is the behind-the-scenes sponsor of the National Prayer Breakfast each February in Washington, D. C..

The Family organization operates several residences, one of them “the house at C Street,” where several United States senators and congressmen live when in Washington, D. C..  Two Family members have recently been in the news for marital infidelity — Senator John Ensign of Arizona, and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Sharlet says The Family “is a story about two great spheres of belief, religion and politics, and the ways in which they are bound together by the mythologies of America.” — The Family, p.2

Interview with Jeff Sharlet, part 2:

CW:  You report that Doug Coe and others in the Family make repeated references to Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and other totalitarian leaders as examples of the kind of effective leadership the Family aspires to.  Did this strike you as odd, and how do you account for the use of these ruthless dictators as role models for the Family?

JS:  Um, yes. And I said as much when I was spending time with them, then again during interviews with Family associates such as Senator Sam Brownback, Representative Frank Wolf, and former Bush White House special aide Doug Kuo. Kuo, whom I like a great deal, insists that Coe uses these killers simply as metaphors. To which the only response I can think of is, You can’t think of a better metaphor for Jesus than Hitler? I make clear in the book that Coe is not a neo-Nazi. Indeed, he cites fascists and communists and even Osama bin Laden. It’s not their ideology he admires, it’s their methods. The Family fetishizes strength. Or, as Coe put it in an interview with my colleague Tor Gjerstadt of the Norwegian Dagbladet (a large daily there), power.

CW:  Your book, The Family, weaves a tale of religious intrigue based on political power that sounds like the latest, far-fetched conspiracy theory.  How do you answer the critics who say that you see conspiracies where none exist?

JS:  First, by pointing out that I don’t see conspiracies. I don’t think the Family is a conspiracy. I’m not sure how I could have made my view any clearer than this, on page 7 of my introduction: “This so-called underground [their word, not mine] is not a conspiracy.”If that’s too vague, there’s always this, later in the book, referring to founder Abram Vereide: “Abram’s upper-crust faith was not a conspiracy.” And this, in response to current leader Doug Coe’s documented decision to “submerge” — his word, not mine — the profile of the organization: “The decision was not so much conspiratorial, as it seemed to those among Abram’s old-timers who responded with confusion, as ascetic, a humbling of powers.”

Is The Family secretive? Yes, by its own declaration. Does that make it a conspiracy? Not in any court of law I know. Rather, as I argue in the book, the Family represents a strand of religious activism that has clearly been influential among some of America’s most powerful Christians and yet which to date has never been subject to any kind of in-depth study. That’s a more modest claim than the critics’  tin-foil caricature, yes, but one that I think would withstand scrutiny if they bothered to review my book rather than their own assumptions about my political views.

CW:  What, in your opinion, are the most objectionable beliefs or practices of the Family?  On what do you base your evaluation of these beliefs and practices?  In other words, what is your particular background or experience that qualifies you to write a book like The Family?

JS:  Beliefs are a matter of conscience; but practices, especially those of the powerful, can be a matter of public concern. The Family has facilitated support for dictators such as Ferdinand Marcos, Suharto, Siad Barre, General Park, and even a Central American death squad leader convicted of torture in the U.S. This, to me, is objectionable, as it is to many Family members who learn about it. I’m inspired by the example, for instance, of the Rev. Ben Daniel, deeply involved as a young man. But he quit when he learned that the Family leaders he’d looked up to were using their access to the powerful to represent the interests of the most murderous elements from countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador. Or there’s Cliff Gosney, a longtime participant, a deeply Christian man, who quit when he realized that the Family was using him and the foreign leader for whom he was the Family’s point man, South Africa’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi, for political gain rather than spiritual development. I’m concerned, too, by the practice of secrecy. “The more invisible you can make your organization,” Doug Coe has preached, “the more influence it will have.” He cites the mafia as a good example, and Family members like to refer to their movement as the “Christian mafia.” That’s just not a good model in a democracy like ours. I have the highest respect for citizens of all beliefs who make their arguments openly in the public square, fundamentalists included. I’ve been heartened by the support the book has received from self-professed fundamentalists who are as bothered by these anti-democratic practices as I am. We may not agree on much, these fundamentalists and me, but we agree that democracy depends on us engaging in our arguments in good faith, with plenty of sunlight.

As for my background, I’m not sure what you mean. You want my professional credentials? Or are you asking me for my religious beliefs? If it’s the former, I think they qualify me: I’ve been a working journalist for sixteen years, have written for a large number of mainstream national publications, have focused on religion for about 14 years, have taught graduate level religious studies at New York University and lectured at colleges, universities, and churches around the country, have been positively reviewed by both conservative and liberal critics, have won prizes and been a finalist for prizes, etc., etc. I’m proud of the fact that Ann Coulter wrote that I’m one of the stupidest journalists in America, and even prouder of the fact that she did so based on her own clumsy misreading of scripture.

But if it’s the latter — my beliefs — my first answer is, What does it matter? The facts are the facts. And then my second answer is contained within the last pages of the book, in which I write openly of my own beliefs, particularly my commitment to the Book of Exodus as inspiration for thinking about the role of faith in public life. I’m not a Christian, though half my family is. But I’ve written for Christian publications and published many Christian writers. I’ve been engaged in that conversation for a long time. I think it’s one of the most important conversations in America.

All of the above is a long-winded way of saying I’m a citizen.

__________

Part 3 of my interview with Jeff Sharlet will appear on Thursday, July 16.  In Part 3, Sharlet comments on the continuing influence of the Family, and his thoughts on the future of the Family and evangelicalism.

Interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: Part 1

This is part 1 of my exclusive interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family.  Parts 2 and 3 will be posted Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: Part 1
by Chuck Warnock

jeff_sharlet_sqJeff Sharlet is author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart of American Power, number five on Amazon’s bestseller list this week. The Family tells the story of a secretive quasi-evangelical organization, founded in the late 1930s, which has insinuated itself into the halls of power in Washington and other countries around the world.

The Family operates several residences, one of them “the house at C Street,” where several United States senators and congressmen live when in Washington, D. C..  Two Family members have recently been in the news for marital infidelity — Senator John Ensign of Arizona, and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

In 2002, Sharlet lived at one of the Family’s many centers, Ivanwald, giving him an insider’s perspective to an organization that remains an enigma in evangelical life.  But the story of the Family is also one of intrigue, international power politics, and a self-styled religion described by its practitioners as “Jesus plus nothing.” In short, The Family is one of the most fascinating and disturbing books I have ever read.

After reading The Family, I contacted Jeff Sharlet who agreed to a blog interview.  I submitted the following questions.  Both my questions and his answers are unedited.  For my review of The Family, visit my blog AmicusDei.com.

About the Author: “Jeff Sharlet is a contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone, and a visiting research scholar at New York University’s Center for Religion and Media, where he has taught journalism and religious studies.  He is co-author, with Peter Manseau, of Killing the Buddha, and the editor of TheRevealer.org.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York.” — from About the Author, The Family.

Here is Part 1 of my interview with the author of The Family, Jeff Sharlet:

CW:  At 454 pages, including notes and index, The Family covers evangelical fundamentalism from the period of Jonathan Edwards in the 1700s to the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives in the George W. Bush White House, all centered around a group called the Family, which is best known for leading the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. each February.  How long did it take you to research and write The Family?

JS:  Five years of direct work, but I’ve been writing about religion, history, and politics for much longer than that. I stumbled into the Family in 2002, with no particular intentions and completely unaware of its political identity. When I left, I thought there might be more of a story, so I traveled to their archives at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. What I found there both shocked and intrigued. I ended up writing an article for Harper’s, and then a book proposal, largely so that I could afford to go back to the archives and keep digging.

CW:  You state on several occasions that you used primary sources, particularly archives left by the Family organization in the Billy Graham Center archives at Wheaton College.  Did you have difficulty in persuading the Wheaton librarians to give you access to the Family archives, and are those archives still open to researchers today?

JS:  No. It’s a first-rate professional, scholarly archive, and absolutely essential to any serious research on American evangelicalism. But it was a strange experience living, basically, on the campus of Wheaton, the “evangelical Harvard,” for six months. One day I was taking a break and a student came up to me and asked me if I’d heard the Good News about Jesus. I thought the kid deserved a gold star, so to speak — he’d id’d the only Jew on campus. Turned out he was majoring in missiology.

As for the archives, the historical papers are still open, but the more contemporary stuff is closed, restricted following my Harper’s story, a major investigative piece for the LA Times, and research by some foreign journalists.

CW:  Some accuse you of having a particular “axe to grind” with this book.  How would you respond to that accusation?

JS:  Absolutely. I’m for open, transparent democracy. I’m for an accountable church. I’m for Christians who really try to preach Christ’s message of mercy and love, not a theology of more power for the already powerful. I try to make these positions clear in the book. A good book isn’t a data dump, it’s an argument and a story. I hope my book is both.

CW:  In The Family, you name just about every major evangelical organization and leader: the late Dawson Trotman of the Navigators, the late Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, Chaplain of the U. S. Senate the late Richard Halverson, Billy Graham, Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, the late Jerry Falwell, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Young Life, and of course, Doug Coe and the National Prayer Breakfast, plus many others.  Are all these groups and leaders tied to the Family, or is this guilt by association because all are leaders of evangelical organizations?

JS:  No, they’re not all tied to the Family, and I don’t say that they are, so this is hardly guilt by association. Trotman was the mentor of Coe — that’s why he’s in the story. Bright did have a lot of dealings with the Family, and his papers are intermingled with the Family’s — that makes him part of the story. Halverson was a longtime formal leader of the Family — there are literally thousands of Halverson’s personal documents in the archive. Billy Graham writes of his modest connection in his memoir. Chuck Colson boasts, in his memoir, of joining the Family’s “veritable underground of Christ’s men” in Washington. Falwell has no connection that I know of, and I don’t claim one. Nor does Dobson. Young Life’s finances were for a long time all tangled up with the Family’s. I’m pretty tired of the “guilt by association” charge. The people who make it rarely present any evidence. I do.

(Tomorrow in Part 2, Sharlet comments on the Family’s use of Adolf Hitler as a role model for leadership, and answers critics’ charges that he sees a religious-right conspiracy where none exists.)