Yesterday evening I had the chance to interview Jeff Sharlet, author of "The Family" about Kansas politicians: Congressman Todd Tiahrt, Senator Sam Brownack, and Rep. Jerry Moran and their connections to C Street. He had some tough words for Rep. Tiahrt whom he outed as a member of the religious cult on "The Rachel Maddow" show earlier this week.
Jeff Sharlet is a journalist who has been writing about religion for about 15 years and is a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone. He spent the last 5 years as a research scholar at the New York Research Center for Religion and Media.
In our interview I asked Jeff about how he was able to uncover this secret conservative cult. Jeff was invited into the cult as everyone else is, though he did not personally live in the C Street house he did stay at one very simular and visited the C Street house. He was able to share with me information about the organization that goes much farther than one house in Washington.
"The C Street house is one of many, not even the main one. The main one is gorgeous mansion over looking the Potomac river with a waterfall carved into the lawn called "The Cedar" in Arlington, Virginia. Around "The Cedar" there are about twenty properties associated with "The Family" one of which is this house called "Ivanwald" where at any given time maybe a dozen to eighteen men will live. These men are "being groomed for leadership" they tend to be in their early twenties when I was there I was around thirty I was pushing the outer age limit. If you stick around long enough you might get a mentor for a congressman, you have weekly sessions with politicians and business leaders and so on. In that capacity actually living at "Ivanwald" for a little less than a month I visited the "C Street" house a couple of times. The way I got into all of this was I was invited, thats the only way you get it. I write a lot about religion, a friend of my was afraid her brother had joined a cult and asked if I would talk to him. He said "no, no really it's not a cult you've got to come see this for yourself" He invited me. I think they we're really interested in having me as a member even though I'm not really an "elite", partly because I had been invited, partly because I'm a journalist so to say an influencer, and I think the we're pretty clear that part of what interested them was the fact that my father's Jewish, so they like the idea of Jews bowing before Christ. So they brought me into "The Family" and made me a member"
When I asked Jeff about Congressman Tiahrt's involvement he told me the story about his first time visiting the "C Street" home and seeing Rep. Tiahrt speaking with "The Family" leader Doug Coe as told in his book. Jeff laughed as he told us how he "brought them (Doug Coe, and Rep. Tiahrt) hot coco" as the spoke.
Tiahrt was a short shot glass of a man, two parts flawless hair and one part teeth. He wanted to know the best way “for the Christian to win the race with the Muslim.” The Muslim, he said, has too many babies, while Americans kill too many of theirs.
Doug agreed this could be a problem. But he was more concerned that the focus on labels like “Christian” might get in the way of the congressman's prayers. Religion distracts people from Jesus, Doug said, and allows them to isolate Christ's will from their work in the world.
“People separate it out,” he warned Tiahrt. “'Oh, okay, I got religion, that's private.' As if Jesus doesn't know anything about building highways, or Social Security. We gotta take Jesus out of the religious wrapping.”
“All right, how do we do that?” Tiahrt asked.
“A covenant,” Doug answered. The congressman half-smiled, as if caught between confessing his ignorance and pretending he knew what Doug was talking about. “Like the Mafia,” Doug clarified. “Look at the strength of their bonds.” He made a fist and held it before Tiahrt's face. Tiahrt nodded, squinting. “See, for them it's honor,” Doug said. “For us, it's Jesus.”
Coe listed other men who had changed the world through the strength of the covenants they had forged with their “brothers”: “Look at Hitler,” he said. “Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Bin Laden.” The Family, of course, possessed a weapon those leaders lacked: the “total Jesus” of a brotherhood in Christ.
“That's what you get with a covenant,” said Coe. “Jesus plus nothing.”
Rep. Tiahrt denied any involvement with the "The Family" in Saturday's Kansas City Star:
Tiahrt would not respond to questions, but said in a statement he has “never lived at the C Street House, nor have I participated in any regular Bible studies or so-called counseling sessions there.”
Jeff Sharlet, as detailed in Sarah Burris' post from last week on the Everyday Citizen, begged to differ telling an intimate, and disturbing story about a "counseling session" between "The Family" leader Doug Coe and a younger Rep. Todd Tiahrt as told above.
Yesterday a special aired in Wichita called "The Christian Mafia" where Rep. Tiahrt was once again found denying any involvement with the Family and also attacked Jeff Sharlet.
"In a Statement he (Tiahrt) calls Sharlet an unscrupulous author, and says "to be clear I have never lived at the C Street house nor have I participated in any regular bible studies or so-called counseling sessions there."
In my interview with Jeff yesterday one of the many things that we covered was Tiahrt's denial of any involvement with "The Family" Jeff had much to say about Tiahrt.
"At the very best, the very best, you can say about this is it is disingenuous, here we have a documented encounter and he (Tiahrt) needs to address that. If he wants to say you know what I went to this one session and it was so crazy this guy comparing Jesus to Hitler, then I would welcome him. Instead he claims to have no connections when it is clear that he has had a connection. More over he has an interesting connection, as I know from my review of 600 boxes of "The Family" documents, they believe in a concentric theology. What this means is Christ has one message for the masses, but the masses can't handle the truth. Then there's an inner-circle and they get a different message, and then there's an even more inner-circle and they get the real truth, and that's how Christ operates the World today, he reveals a different set of truths for the masses and the elites. It's anti-Democratic and anti-Christian but that's their approach to things. The Rhetoric about a "Totalitarian of Christ" thats inner-circle stuff. Whether they decided Todd Tiahrt was such a strong figure that they wanted to jump start him into the core teachings of the group or whether he had more of relationship with them, he's got to defend that. He definitely had a connection with them and he ought to explain what it was."
With accusations of Rep. Jerry Moran and documented cases of Congressman Todd Tiahrt being involved I asked Jeff what he thought about the race for fellow Family member Sen. Brownback's U.S. Senate between the two, and whether the family would prefer one over the other or run two Family members against each other.
"I can't tell you much about Jerry Moran, this is just one of the scoops that has come out during this whole "C Street" scandal. The only people I identify as being involved I have personally witnessed, been told personally by them or documented from "The Families" own records. I've never said Moran before this, because I didn't have this information but it is research that now needs to be done... This (two family members running against each other) happens all the time actually. That is one of the ways "The Family" survives, they don't endorse candidates they try to have as much access and influence as they can. Doug Coe, the leader of the group, says the work with power where they can and build new power where they can not. Based on a lot of research on the group, Jerry Moran is more their type of candidate, their problem with Tiahrt is the guy is a buffoon. They are looking for polished people."
It appears that "The Family" is bigger than just the "C Street" scandal, what was once seen as a place of religious gathering has turned out to be a place of back room dealings and secrets. This is the time for us to demand answer from our Local, State and National politicians as to what their involvement in "The Family" is and how far this really goes.
Look for more information from my interview with Jeff Sharlet through the week.