Across the blogosphere there are no shortage of accounts of "occult" secret societies infiltrating the American political spectrum in a bid to destroy Christianity and control the world. Certainly this blog has considered more than its far share of secretive orders over the years and this has required a great deal of research on the part of this writer. As this research has become more in depth over the years I have learned that, if nothing else, while there likely are secretive orders that influence international affairs, they are far stranger than the typical Alex Jones bot can scarcely imagine.
Case in point is the bizarre Christian sect known sometimes as "The Family" or "The Fellowship." It has existed since the 1930s, has steadily accumulated political influence for decades as well as cultivating a very close relationship with the US national security apparatus and has been involved in a host of intrigues. And yet it is rarely if ever mentioned by conspiracy theorists despite ample documentation of its extensive influence on the American political landscape. He's an overview of the outfit's more recent activities:
"The group is best known for hosting the National Prayer Breakfast each February with the President of the United States. Also known as the 'Family,' the group includes Republican U.S. Senator Don Nickles (OK), Charles Grassly (IA), Pete Domenici (NM), John Ensign (NV), James Inhofe (OK) --a sponsor of the Constitution Restoration Act --and Conrad Burns (MT). The 'invisible' brotherhood also includes Democratic Senator Bill Nelson (FL).
"The House is represented by Republicans Jim DeMint (SC), Frank Wolf (VA), Joseph Pitts (PA), and Zach Wamp (TN), as well as a lone Democrat, Bart Stupak.
"Anthony Lappe, a former mainstream journalist who later became a founder and editor of Guerrilla News Network (www.gnn.tv), has written, 'The Fellowship is one of the most secretive, most powerful religious organizations in the country. Its connections reach to the highest levels of the U.S. government and include ties to the CIA and numerous current and past dictators around the world.' In the spirit of Straussian Neocon secrecy, its members, according to Lappe, have 'denied owing any allegiance to the group, and several professed ignorance of even the most basic facts about the organization.'
"Jeffrey Sharlet, editor of another courageous and important alternative journalism Web site, Killing the Buddha (www.killingthebuddha.com) and co-author of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (The Free Press, 2004), infiltrated the Fellowship's Arlington, Virginia, mansion, dubbed Ivanwald, then published an eye-opening article in Harper's magazine in March 2003.
"'I have lived with these men,' wrote Sharlet, a half-Jewish New Yorker, '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.' These powerful 'believers'... populate an 'invisible' association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men.'
"To foster the interests of God on earth, Sharlet reported, '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.'
"In a December 8, 2003, story in the Washington Post, headlined 'Northern Virginia Neighbors Up in Arms Over Secretive Enclave,' reporter Annie Gowen noted, 'In its mission to create global harmony, the Fellowship has for decades quietly brought together third world leaders, disgraced captains of industry, members of Congress, and ambassadors.' Among the Fellowship's famous guests, the Post revealed, have been Palestinian leaders and terrorist Yasser Arafat. In his Harper's article, Sharlet reported that other notable colleagues in Christ have included 'Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva... [Indonesian dictator] General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators)... Salvadoran General Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands... and Honduran General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and the death squads before his demise.'
"The Family's financial backers include, among others, Tom Phillips, former CEO of Big Three arms manufacturer Raytheon. Even more troubling, however, is the 'Christian' worldview that the Family forges behind closed doors.
"'The Family's leaders,' Sharlet established from his three-week infiltration, 'consider democracy a manifestation of ungodly pride and "throwaway religion" in favor of the truths of the Family. Declaring God's covenant with the Jews broken, the group's core members call themselves "the new chosen."'
"In a Guerrilla News Network interview with Lappe, Sharlet went even further than what he reported in Harper's. 'The goal [of the Family] is an "invisible" world organization led by Christ,' he said. 'The core issue is capitalism and power.' Sharlet left no doubt about the clear message he received at Ivanwald: 'You guys are here to learn to rule the world.'"
(Fixing America, John Buchanan, pgs. 69-70)
This series will of course be greatly indebted to the above-mentioned Jeff Sharlet, a contributing editor to Harper's and Rolling Stone, who's 2008 work The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power is the only in depth examination of this secretive organization yet published. In fact, prior to Sharlet's efforts to shed light on the history of the organization, it was rarely mentioned at all by researchers, even those such as Sara Diamond who specialize in chronicling the modern American Christian fundamentalist movement. And of course one can forget about "alternative" media icons such as Alex Jones seriously investigating the group.
As for the latter, this is hardly surprising. One of the early backers for the Family was the William Volker Fund, an NPO that played an enormous role in shaping the modern day libertarian and Christian fundamentalist movements.
"... That fall, the president of the ultraright William Volker Fund chipped in $500 from his own pocket. The Volker Fund had helped Friedrich von Hayek, until then an obscure Austrian economist, become a national celebrity in American by subsidizing editions of his Road to Serfdom. First published in the United States by the University of Chicago Press, the book appeared in shortened versions produced by Reader's Digest and Look magazine, which illustrated Hayek's argument that any attempt at 'central planning' (including FDR-style government regulation of big business) would send society down a 'road to serfdom' --and mass murder along the lines of Hitler and Stalin --from which there was no return. Hayek's economic ideas were considerably more complex that the uses to which they were put, but as understood by the American public... they seemed to lend a scientific imprimatur to the Manichean worldview of the country's most rabid red hunters. A decade later, the Volker Fund would hire Rousas John Rushdoony, a theologian who was to the far right of fundamentalism what Hayek was to economic conservatism; it was Rushdoony who helped marry the two with extensive writings on theonomy, a jargon term for what Abram's descendants would come to call biblical capitalism."
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs, 190-191)
In addition to Hayek, the Volker Fund also subsidized Ludwig von Mises, Aaron Director and other stalwarts of the so-called "Austrian" school of economics in addition to the Family and Rushdoony, two of the chief ideological architects of the "prosperity theology" movement that has become ever popular in fundamentalist circles in recent years. The Fund eventually collapsed in the early 1960s after controversy erupted around Rushdoony and David Leslie Hoggan, an open supporter of Nazism and Adolf Hitler. Such were the circles the Family travelled in during the early days.
So, now that we've considered an overview of the Family, let us move along to the ideology bequeathed to the organization by its founder, Norwegian immigrant Abraham (Abram) Vereide. Vereide was a Methodist clergyman who claimed to have had a religious experience of some significance in 1935 that would serve as the cornerstone of the Family's ideological underpinnings.
"Abram prayed like this for years, and the years grew darker, the poor poorer, the world more broken, until one day in April of 1935 he received not just instructions for the day before him but a vision for the decades; God's hand moving His people in an entirely new direction. The revelation God gave him was simple: To the big man went strength, to the little men went need. Only the big man was capable of mending the world. But who would help the big man? Who would console him when he, as Abram did sometimes, wept in the early morning? That the big men of society wept Abram never doubted. He thought that powerful people, so clearly blessed by God, must surely possess equally great reserves of compassion and love that they wished to shower down on the weak, if only someone would show them how.
"Abram would show them how. This was his vision. His life thus far --in 1935, he was forty-nine, his once-dark brow gray like a North Pacific breaker --had followed an arc, he believed, but it had taken him a long time to see it. His ministry, he now realized, was not 'among those who have had the bottom knocked out of life, its derelicts, its failures,' as a friend would write years later, 'but, ultimately, among those even more in need, who live dangerously in high places.'
"For nearly 2,000 years, Abram concluded, Christianity --that is, the religion, the rituals, the stuff of men with their weak, sinful minds --had bent all its energies toward the poor, the sick, the starving. The 'down and out.' Christianity gave them fishes when it could and hope when it had nothing else to offer. But what good had it done? What been accomplished between Calvary and 1935?
"Just look at Seattle, Abram's adopted hometown: nearly half the city was on relief, and the other half was dark-eyed, eyeing the blessings of the 'top men' with envy, which is a blight on a man's soul. A rich man may have little hope of getting into heaven, but an envious man could turn to violence and lose all hope for this world or the next. Abram had to help such creatures, the derelicts, the failures. How? By helping those who could help them --the high and the mighty --that they might describe the Lord's blessings to the little men, whose envy would be soothed, violence averted, disorder controlled.
"Thereafter, Abram would spend his days arranging the spiritual affairs of the wealthy. It would be another decade --ten years spent cultivating not just Seattle's big men but those of the nation --before Abram would coin a phrase for his vision: the 'new world order...'"
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 89-90)
It probably goes without saying, but the circumstances surrounding the alleged vision Verdie had in April of 1935 are quite curious. Here are a few more details provided by Sharlet concerning it as well as how the "Idea" was put into action:
"That April, Abram had been having bad dreams of his own, unpleasant ones. Subversives stalked his sleep, hammers and sickles danced like sugar plum fairies, a Soviet agent 'of Swedish nationality' assigned to Seattle... roared his nightmare defiance of that which was godly. One night Abram could sleep no longer. He sat up in bed and resolved to wait for God. At 1:30 a.m., He appeared: a blinding light and a voice. Abram listened and took notes. 'The plan had been unfolded and the green light given.'
"A few hours later, Abram dressed and put on his coat and hurried to downtown Seattle for the morning rush, where he waited for God to bring him the means to put his plan into action. On a busy street corner, a local developer of means hailed him. 'Hey, Vereide, glad to see you!'
"The developer, a former major named Walter Douglas who still preferred to be addressed by his military title, cut straight to the matter on both men's minds: 'Where is this country going to, anyway?'
"'You ought to know,' said Abram.
"Indeed, the major did: 'The bow-wows,' he harrumphed, 'and worse of it is you fellows aren't doing anything about it.'
"'What do you mean?'
"'Well,' growled Douglas, 'here you have your churches and services and merry-go-round of activities, but as far as any actual impact and strategy for turning the tide is concerned, you're not making a dent.'
"Abram could not have agreed more. While San Francisco had boiled, Abram had developed the prototype of the Idea, preaching a manly Christ to a group of business executives who had no time for hymnals and sob sisters and soup kitchens and the Jesus of long eyelashes beloved by old ladies. Jesus, for such men, 'must be disentangled from church organization,' Abram had discovered. In the 1930s, the meaning of that was plain: a rejection of the 'Social Gospel' of good works for the poor in favor of an unhindered Christ defined by his muscles, a laissez-faire Jesus proclaimed not by spindly necked clergymen bleating from seminary, but by men like Major Douglas, officers who commanded troops who brought order to cities.
"'You ought to get after fellows like me,' Douglas told Abram. He was standing in just the right spot for chest puffing --behind him towered the city's Douglas Building.
"These were the words Abram had been waiting for, in the place, he was certain, to which God had guided him. He revealed the plan God had given him just hours earlier that morning: the Idea. He kept secret the bright light, the voice, the automatic writing in the dark hours. Men like Major Douglas, men of affairs would not understand. But Major Douglas got the Idea.
"'We are where we are,' Abram said --on the brink of anarchy, both men thought --'because of what we are.' By that he meant sinful, only his concept of sin was not so much concerned with immorality as with 'duty.' 'Top men' had a responsibility to do for God what lesser men couldn't. Their failure to take on this burden had led the nation to its terrible position. 'Obedience,' concluded Abram, is 'the way to power.' God wanted his chosen to rule --to 'serve,' as Abram liked to say. Were men such as Major Douglas ready to report for duty?
"Douglas stared at the silver-haired preacher. A 'piercing gaze,' Abram recalled. 'Vereide,' he said, 'if you will settle down in this city and do a job like that, I will back you.'
"Abram demanded specifics. Douglas delivered: a suite of offices in the building behind Abram and a check to get him started.
"'That's tangible,' said Abram.
"Then they set off together to see William St. Clair, one of the wealthiest men in Seattle. There's a whiff of The Wizard of Oz in Abram's later retelling of this story, the major and the minister popping lightbulbs over their fedoras on the Seattle street corner and rushing on to the man who would bring it all together, but that is, apparently, what happened: St. Clair, president of Frederick Nelson, the biggest department store in the Northwest, cleared his office and insisted the two men sit. 'We told him the story,' Abram remembered. 'And he, too, looked searchingly at me and remarked, "That's constructive."'
"St. Clair made a list of nineteen businessmen and invited them to breakfast at one of the city's finest hotels. St. Clair certainly didn't choose on the basis of Christian morality. Of the nineteen, only one was a churchgoer, and he pointed out at the first meeting that the other men there knew him mainly as a creature of cocktail lounges and poker tables. Among the nineteen sat a lumber baron, a gas executive, a railroad executive, a hardware magnet, a candy impresario, and two future majors of Seattle. 'Management and labor got together,' Abram would later claim, but there were no union representatives at the meeting, where nineteen businessmen plus Abram agreed to use the 'Bible as blueprint' with which to take back first the city, then the state, and perhaps the nation from the grip of godless organized labor."
(The Family, Jeff Sharlet, pgs. 109-111)
So, to recap: Vereide claimed to have received a vision from God and then, as he was walking along the street the next day, he encountered a man of means who also happened to be a "former" military officer who was still addressed as "Major" by his associates. After hearing of parts of Vereide's vision, he agrees to set up the minister with a group of wealthy Seattle businessmen who would back his calling.
Indeed, there is a more than a little suspect about the origins of the Family. In the next installment we shall consider some of the curious happenings in Washington state around the time the Fellowship came into being. Stay tuned.