Who is the family will be available soon

my current guest in a new book is

shining a spotlight on a group that

considers itself the Christian mafia

joining me now to talk more about this

topic is Jeff Sharlet

author of the family the secret

fundamentalism at the heart of American

power mister Charlotte is also a

contributing editor to Harper's and

Rolling Stone magazine thank you for

joining me glad to be here I understand

that you went undercover this was a long

investigation into the religious power

that has been manifested here in the

United States and that has been used

geopolitically what did you uncover well

it's the oldest and arguably most

influential most powerful religious

right organization in the United States

and it's different you know people

around the world are familiar a little

bit with the idea of the American

Christian Right they think of you know a

guy thumping his Bible and pounding his

pulpit and and and talking about

Hellfire is a very different group goes

back to the 1930s they don't seek

publicity they like to refer to

themselves a Christian mafia the leader

says the more invisible you can make

your organization the more influence it

will have and what's even stranger is

the nature of that influence there began

with the idea of something they call

biblical capitalism the idea that

capitalism and I sort of deregulated

laissez-faire you know free-market

fundamentalism is something that they

find in the Bible and at the same time

an expansionist idea of American power

which leads them to a very active role

in foreign affairs who is a part of the


is it US lawmakers is it religious

leaders is it businessmen who who is

part of the family its elites it is all

the above what witcha many of lawmakers

military leaders foreign leaders the

group began with the idea the founder of

the group believes that that God gave

him a new revelation that God says

Christian has been getting it wrong for

2,000 years

focusing on the poor the weak does the

suffering the the down-and-out he says

God wants him to be a missionary too and

for the powerful

those who are in power and the God will

work for those people so that led them

to cultivate leaders and today some of

the members include a lot of us

congressmen it's a long long list and at

the same time business leaders who are

supporting the group financially and

then reaching out overseas and

cultivating foreign leaders really quite

a global reach at this point one US

government official a little bit

frustrated with the group says that it's

operating as a shadow state Department a

state department without accountability

through your research and your

investigation it's been uncovered that

the family has been directly connected

to Uganda's new legislation that

essentially authorizes executing gay

people uganda is has long been a sort of

American proxy in the region and that

relationship began really through the

family going all the way back to 1986

when the current dictator came into

power and family leaders and family

associates including Senator Chuck

Grassley we're sort of influencing him

away from what they feared would be

Soviet influence they wanted him over

into the Americans fear of power they

started giving money and during that

time he began shifting rightward

cracking down on the press imprisoning

political opponents and and opening his

nation up to more and more of this

american-style Christian Right influence

we exported our version of culture war

to Uganda and it it flourished there and

in some ways become kind of a

Frankenstein's monster you know yeah

it's important understand the Americans

involved with this don't want to see gay

people executed but what they've done is

they've empowered a group of Ugandan

politicians who are members of the

family who are the dictator most

seventies referred to as their key man

for Africa and these guys have taken

these American ideas of culture war and

and and taking these ideas about

homosexuality as a

as a main issue and and gone to this

extreme end of proposing a bill that

would death penalty for active

homosexuality life imprisonment for

other sort of if you're even close to it

you can even go to prison if you have a

friend or relative who is who is gay and

you don't report them you can go to

prison for four years the good news is

an under-pressure and just the last

couple weeks has been international

pressure they've dropped the death

penalty from the bill but we're still

talking about putting people in prison

for decades for the simple act of the

simple fact of being gay why would

American officials American leaders the

elite in America want to do this to

understand a lot of the Christian Right

in America there's a lot of policies

they want to do anti-gay laws laws about

abortion and laws about economics -

people forget that the Christian Right

has economic ideas some of them they can

have influence within the United States

but this is a big country there's a you

know there's a it's hard to win one side

of the culture war there you go to a

small country like Uganda or or Somalia

or or Central America a few US senators

can happen outsized influence there and

they can use those countries as guinea

pigs for the ideas for their religious

right ideas they can put into practice

the very laws that they can't get past

here yet but the idea and they're very

clear about this is if you build this

they would call it a revival in Central

Asia in and and and in Africa and and

even in Europe if you can build this

around the American Empire one day we

look up and we say hey the rest of the

world has all decided that this is the

way things should be and you sort of

work from outside in it's it's the same

model the Christian Right practiced as

they as they grew to power in the United

States in the late 1970s caught

everybody by surprise who are these guys

what they had done was they didn't stop

by immediately running a candidate for

president or something like that they

looked at small offices no one cared

about local school boards City Council's

you know the kind of races that nobody

shows up to vote for you put a candidate

there you can really start to build a

system and before anybody knew it they

had this incredible electoral machine

that they had built by paying attention

to the grassroots and they all defend

their actions by saying that it's God's

calling an example senator brownback sam

Brownback's a very right-wing american

senator gave me an example of a piece of

legislation he had teamed up with

another family member congressman named

Joe Pitts called the Silk Road Act

they've been trying to get this across

that would funnel us money u.s. foreign

aid to the Central Asian Republics and

he says this is a he says God put this

calling on my heart you get together in

a prayer cell they don't actually read

the Bible that much that's what's sort

of interesting about it she get together

group of congressmen very powerful guys

and no one ever says I'm chosen by God

no one ever says God told me to do this

it's sort of self-interest by proxy

everyone gets to be humble someone says

you know Sam said I'm Brownback I think

I have a message from Jesus I think

Jesus has put on my heart that you

should go and pursue this project in

Central Asian Republics and if that

happens to benefit your your biggest

financial backer as it does well that's

just more evidence that this is God's

plan if this helps you if you get rich

doing this

God has obviously blessed this thing you

mentioned Brownback he

is a senator from Kansas and he is

working hard to expand America's

influence in Central Asia can you tell

me what exactly he's trying to do the

idea is that if we can really beef up

American dollars in these countries for

these regimes we can combat radical


well that's questionable given that

radical Islam is particularly upset with

American influence in those countries

it becomes more questionable when you

see the whole strategy says and that's

going to it's going to do three things

it's going to combat radical Islam it's

going to open up these countries to

American investment like that perhaps of

coke industries energy giant that is his

chief financial backer and where

American dollars go the American gospel

follows that they believe that that

capitalism and their version of

Christianity are so linked that if you

start doing business American style

pretty soon you'll start believing God

American style and I think the dream for

someone like Sam Brownback or

congressman Pitts is a great conversion

of those Muslim nations so that's how

they're going to convert that's their

idea for combating radical Islam convert

them how powerful is the family

domestically in the United States and

what kind of influence have they had

congressman after congressman said these

guys are the most influential what

sometimes difficult for people to

understand is how they exercise that

influence they don't tell you how to

vote they don't propose legislation they

build these relationships out of which

action grows an initiative that's been

in the news here in the United States a

law and I think it's relevant

internationally because it does affect

our foreign policy is something called

the stupak-pitts amendment this is an

anti-abortion amendment that would

radically rollback abortion rights in

the United States and it's proposed by a

Democratic congressman named Bart Stupak

from Michigan lives in a house owned by

the family

subsidized rent has been living there

for years as a leader in the family he

teamed up with this another Congressman

Joe piss and and they've been pushing

this agenda

it's almost derailed healthcare it's

been it's been the major obstacle to the

health care reform the United States

needs so desperately Joe Pitts and

Stupak as well years before they came up

with this idea for American politics

they were trying the same things

overseas we get United States gives so

much money to the developing world and

what they do is that they sort of

quietly use that money as a bludgeon to

try and force those countries to change

their policies and on abortion this

project I think that we're seeing now

with abortion here began in Uganda in

2002 2003 and now they're bringing that

policy home and so again and again you

see those examples if I can say this

it's important to note too we're

speaking mostly about the troubling

things that they do and I think that's

the news they do do good good works they

sponsor orphanages they do charity

around the world they do try and build

what they call bridges of reconciliation

they're all always an interior ulterior

motive there though isn't an area where

they want to grow influence you know the

leader of the group says he says we work

with power where we can build new power

where we can't Jeff Sharlet thank you so

much for seeing time to speak with me

that's all the time we have for now

thank you


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