The New Christians

The New Christians

Spiritual / Religious Book of the Year

Steve Waldman asked each of the Bnet bloggers to nominate the best spiritual or religious book we’ve read this year.  He’ll post them all in the next week or so.

I confess that I’m ending the year having read much less than I had hoped to.  I plan on 2009 being different in that regard.  In fact, I’ve got a couple books to finish by in the next couple weeks, so maybe I won’t feel so bad about 2008.

IMHO, the finest religion book of 2008, far and away, is Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power


While researching another book, Sharlet found himself for a time at “The Cedars,” the training center for young men entering The Fellowship (a.k.a., The Family).  Known primarily for the National Prayer Breakfast and their secrecy, the Fellowship is a wildly influential group of power brokers in Washington D.C.  Sharlet infiltrated the group easily, and he writes compellingly about his time there.


However, Sharlet uses the Fellowship as the entree into an investigation of the long and convoluted relationship between fundamentalism and power in America.  The writing is breathtakingly good, and the truth he exposes is breathtakingly frightening.

In other words: Read It!

Comments read comments(7)
post a comment
Rick Bennett

posted December 22, 2008 at 9:00 am

I will compliment you on your pick for the year. However, I think you cheated. I think you read my blog posting last week in which I named The Family best book of the year and were unduly influenced by my rationale. Of course, Jeff will come to your blog and notice you loved the book.
Actually, I am glad you are promoting his book. It got very little press for some reason and no one knows about it. I only knew about it because I subscribe to the Revealer.
Good choice. Hope your Christmas is nice. You are in Kristi and my prayers.

report abuse

Rick Bennett

posted December 22, 2008 at 9:03 am

to anyone with no sense of humor or that takes things too seriously, I am giving Tony a hard time. I do not think he was unduly influenced by my blog.
Sorry for the extra comment, Tony. But, I felt a preemptive “I’m joking” is needed.

report abuse

Steve K.

posted December 22, 2008 at 11:33 am

That Rick Bennett is such a jerk. He doesn’t like Sojourners either.
OK j/k Rick, even though you bailed on the Emergent Southeast gathering, I still love you like you’re my crazy uncle 😉

report abuse

Tony Jones

posted December 22, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Although I cannot possibly keep up with your exhaustive end-of-the-year “Best Of” lists, I did see that The Family was pimped by you. And I thank you for including my book. I agree with you, it can be classified in the “memoir” category.

report abuse


posted December 22, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for the book rec, I remember reading about this in harpers a few years ago…disgusting and scary group.
Hey, anyway you can turn off the truncated posts in the RSS feed? I hate clicking to the site to read every post…

report abuse

jeremy bouma

posted December 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm

I remember when I did ministry in the government for some years,it was hard not to be confused with the ‘Christian Mafia’ as Cedars/Fellowship/etc… were know. While all of our stuff was very public (and actually was associated with ANOTHER heavy hitting religious-right leader…), Cedars/Fellowship/etc… was always very secretive and underground. Hence their nice little nickname!
Thanks for the recommendation, though after the read I may need therapy after being brought back into my former life in DC!

report abuse

David R. Guinnup

posted February 15, 2010 at 10:27 am

Read the Jeff Sharlett’s book (“The Family”) and found it very disturbing and thought provoking, but yet it ended my perception of the far religous-right and fundamentalist-right as merely fringe nuts. Must confess that I view myself as a religous liberal, however. It has spurred me to taker further action – better understand the tension of democratic and anti-democratic thought and theoplogy in America, and address the challenges posed by such anti-democratic (& in many ways anti-Christian) movements as the “Fellowship (Family)” and “Jesus + Nothing.” I agree the key is asking and addressing the correct questions.
Dave Guinnup
Member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark (Delaware)

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

My Blog Has Moved
Dear Readers, After a year with Beliefnet, I've decided to move to my own domain for my blogging.  It's been a fine year -- some things worked, other things didn't.  But in the end, I'll be a better blogger on my own.  My thanks to the ...

posted 12:13:57pm Nov. 13, 2009 | read full post »

The Most Important Cartoon of the Year
By Steve Breen, San Diego Tribune, October 18, 2009 ...

posted 8:51:22am Oct. 25, 2009 | read full post »

Social Media for Pastors
Following up on Christianity21, we at JoPa Productions are developing a series of boot camps for pastors who want to learn about and utilize social media tools like blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.  These are one-day, hands-on learning ...

posted 10:45:52am Oct. 22, 2009 | read full post »

Ending Christian Euphemisms: "Fundamentalist"
I've taken some heat in the comment section for using yesterday's post on "unbiblical" and a "higher view of scripture" as a thin foil for my own disregard of biblical standards. To the contrary, I was pointing to the use of the word unbiblical ...

posted 10:15:41am Oct. 21, 2009 | read full post »

Why You Should Get GENERATE
Last week at Christianity21, GENERATE Magazine debuted. With the tag line, "an artifact of the emergence conversation," it fit perfectly at the gathering. When I actually got around to reading it last weekend, I was truly surprised at how good ...

posted 3:14:37pm Oct. 20, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.