More on Doug Coe’s ‘Family’ – John Baldacci, Hillary Clinton et al
A little more on Doug Coe’s ‘Family’ is surfacing in the media. Lance Tarply, writing in an article in the Portland Phoenix, describes Maine Governor John Baldacci’s connections with the group – the Maine Governor lived in the Family’s row house on Capitol Hill when he was a Congressman. He writes:
Revelations about the Family/fellowship began emerging last fall with a story by investigative reporter Lisa Getter in the Los Angeles Times. She describes an organization that, while “in the shadows,” has had “extraordinary [political] access and significant influence on foreign affairs for the last 50 years.”
Its accomplishments range from financing an anticommunism film used by the Pentagon in the Cold War to, in recent years, bringing together the warring leaders of the Congo and Rwanda in the first of a string of meetings that led to a peace treaty. The Fellowship (Getter’s preferred label for the group) also has brought several notorious, right-wing Latin American generals to Washington for prayer meetings — men connected to the torture of civilians and CIA-linked death squads.
Getter quotes the group’s long-time leader, Doug Coe, 73, as saying that its mission is to establish a “family of friends” around the world by spreading the word of Jesus to powerful people: “The people that are involved in this association . . . are the worst and the best. Some are total despots. Some are totally religious. You can find what you want to find.”
Members, who carry no cards and are very loosely defined, are required to keep quiet about their activities. But publicly available documents reveal that the Fellowship Foundation — a central legal entity, but far from the only one involved with the group — has an $11-million-a-year budget and a board of directors including Grace Nelson, wife of Florida’s Democratic US Senator Bill Nelson. Its president is Richard Carver, Air Force assistant secretary under President Reagan. Its rich backers include Jerome Lewis, a Denver oilman; Republican contributor Michael Timmis; and Paul Temple, a Maryland investor. Among members, Getter writes, are congressmen who are in charge of the State Department and foreign-aid budgets.
“It’s an incredibly secretive, powerful group that has entree all around the world,” Getter said in an interview about her article. “It has tentacles everywhere.”
The members of Congress who live at C Street, Sharlet writes, are “brothers in Christ just like us, only more powerful. We scrubbed their toilets, hoovered their carpets, polished their silver.” In the interview, he described C Street as a place for “centering your decision-making on Christ.”
Sharlet, in both interview and Harper’s article, sees the Family as a scary institution — not exactly conspiratorial, he said, but behind-the-scenes activists whose work is troubling. Among his observations:
• “The most important thing for them is power,” and the ultimate goal of the Family is “a government built by God.”
• “Doug Coe is one of the most important people on the planet.”
• Coe — whom he described as “frighteningly charismatic” — and his son David Coe, the Family’s heir apparent, refer to the Mafia and Hitler as role models in the acquisition of power, although, in the Family’s case, power is gathered to spread the word of Jesus. “You guys are here to learn how to rule the world,” he quotes David Coe telling the residents at the house — called Ivanwald — where he lived with the other male apprentices/servants.
• The group, although bipartisan, is deeply conservative. While somewhat opposed to institutionalized Christianity, “they have a deep affection for the military” and see themselves as waging “spiritual war.” In his instruction by the Family, he heard about “biblical capitalism” — laissez-faire capitalism. Among those involved, he writes, are many prominent corporate executives as well as John Ashcroft, the attorney general, and Charles Colson, the Nixon aide convicted in the Watergate scandal who became an evangelist.
• In the Family’s prayer groups, or cells, a central idea, Sharlet said, is to cede your life to the authority of the group. Yet membership makes you part of “a chosen, and if you’re in leadership, God has chosen you.” He believed this kind of thinking “starts shifting you rightward.”
Meanwhile, I ran across this interview with the New York Times, where Hillary Clinton gave some insight into her relationship with the Family.
Senator Clinton: There were many people, both people who I had known a long time and people who I had not known, but came seeking me out and offered their personal support. I got a lot of recommendations about scripture verses to read and about other spiritual readings. I’ve written about this and talked about it a lot, but the parable of the prodigal son as conveyed by Henri Nouwen, made a huge impact on me. The discipline of gratitude was — you just read along sometimes looking for sustenance and support and something jumps out at you and it just really resonated with my beliefs and my sense of what we are called to do. Forgiveness and gratitude are features that I associate with Christ. That to me is part of how one lives as best one can following the example of Christ.
Q: This women’s group that you’ve talked about in the past – they prayed for you, you met with them a few times. I don’t know that much about the group, like how often you guys met, was it really like these small groups that they have in churches in terms of that level of interaction? I also understand that you were a little apprehensive about meeting with them initially and I wondered if you could talk to me about why that was and how that was overcome.
Senator Clinton: As I recall, I was invited to meet with them by a good friend of mine, Linda Lader. I had met a few of the women, but I didn’t know most of the women, and I also was asked to visit with them by Doug Coe, who was and still is, the director of the National Prayer Breakfast and the National Prayer outreach and it was over at their headquarters in Virginia which is kind of a retreat center. And, they invited Tipper and I to come to lunch and I really did it mostly for Linda and Doug who asked me to.
Q: Because you were a little bit wary?
Senator Clinton: Well, you know, I didn’t know. I had friends who prayed for me, I prayed for myself, I prayed for other people, I felt like I was sustained by prayer. Since Bill had decided to run for president I had countless people saying they were praying for us and then once he became president there was a real outpouring of people. But I went, and I’m really glad I did.
It was a wonderful group of women in a bipartisan gathering who really thought that the mean-spiritedness and the negativity that had come to mark so much of our political life was very much counter to their beliefs and so they wanted to lift up Tipper and me and did so at this lunch. And, then they wanted to continue to pray for me. So I met with them periodically, I wouldn’t say regularly, but when our schedules could work out I had them to the White House. Holly Leachman became sort of the real contact person for me in the group and became a friend. It was fascinating because a lot of them were deeply involved in the national prayer group, and I was very touched by their desire to choose me to pray for. And it was a way for me to let go and let them do it and for them to reach out and do it. What was fascinating is that over time a lot of the people who had been part of the most critical and negative attacks on me began to seek me out. The first person who did that was David Kuo. Doug Coe had asked me to come to speak to a dinner that was held the night before the prayer breakfast and most of the people in there were people who were very unsure of how I was or what I stood for but Doug was always very supportive of me. He had me speak at one of the national prayer lunches, he arranged for me to meet Mother Theresa after one of the national prayer breakfasts. And, David came up and asked for my forgiveness, and several other people have done the same.
Q: Was that difficult?
Senator Clinton: It was surprising when it first happened, but it was very moving to me. I was sort of startled because it was in a public place. I was shaking hands and he gave me a long history about who he had worked for and what he had done to attack me and impugn my motives and my character and everything, and I said, of course I forgive you. When I got to the Senate, Sam Brownback sought me out. I wouldn’t have talked about it except that he talked about it, and it was very touching to me. He actually came to see me and said now that we actually know each other, because we had never met before, he said, I really came to ask for your forgiveness. I think that a prayer network often can move us to do things that we might not otherwise do.