Inside the C Street house of The Family, a frat-like Christian sect that seeks to place worshipers into politics. Disturbingly, one of their beliefs is that if you believe in Jesus--which they claim to do--you are then *like* Jesus and perfect and can do no wrong. This may be why so many of the politicians involved with C Street get caught up in adultery scandals and ethics violations.
Inside C Street, Washington’s frat house for Jesus : The New Yorker
The Fellowship avoids publicity for its activities. Heath Shuler, a two-term Democratic representative from North Carolina who lives in the house on C Street and has attended a weekly prayer session sponsored by the Fellowship since he arrived in Washington, recently said, “I’ve been here the whole time, and there’s talk about what the Fellowship is, but I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about. I honestly don’t know what it is.” Tom Coburn acknowledges that influence and secrecy, two of the chief attributes of the Fellowship, make a provocative combination. “Everybody in this town, and probably in the media world, says, Well, if you’re not out front, then you obviously have something to hide,” Coburn says. One view of the Fellowship, with some popularity on the secular left, is of a sort of theocratic Blackwater, advancing a conservative agenda in the councils of power throughout the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a friend of the Fellowship, might dispute that view—if she spoke about the group, which she does not.
The Fellowship’s participants (there is no official membership) describe themselves simply as followers of Jesus, an informal network of friends seeking harmony by modelling their lives after his. They are assertively nondoctrinal (eschewing even the term “Christian”) and nonecclesiastical (denominations tend to be divisive), and although the core figures are evangelicals, they do not believe in proselytizing. I have spoken to Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews who consider themselves part of this network. The group rejects anything resembling a formal structure—there is no titled executive team, and even the name “Fellowship” is unofficial, an informal convenience. The business cards of those leaders who carry them list the individual’s name at the top and addresses and telephone numbers at the bottom, with a blank space in between, where the name of the entity might go. A formal foundation does exist—a 501(c)(3) called the International Foundation, which oversees three hundred or so ministries associated with the Fellowship, and has a board of directors that approves a budget for the ministries (in the fifteen-million-dollar range) and the salaries of the parent entity’s relatively few employees. The Fellowship’s affiliated ministries vary widely in their missions, from operating a secondary school in Uganda to funding a program for inner-city youths in Washington, D.C. The core mission of the Fellowship, however, is interpersonal ministry to the powerful, meant “to turn their hearts to the poor.”
For the past forty years, this mission has been largely driven by one man, a layman from Oregon named Doug Coe. Coe insists that he is not the leader of anything. He sat in on the weekly House and Senate prayer groups for fifty years, speaking only once in all that time. Coe generally avoids interviews and photographers; a few years ago, when Time named him one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals, he tried to persuade the writer not to include him on the list, and, failing that, declined to provide a photograph of himself. His admirers describe him in terms that suggest a near-mystical visionary, with a powerful personal magnetism. “Almost everyone, from the moment they meet Doug Coe, they see he’s somebody special,” Don Bonker, a former Democratic congressman from Washington and a longtime associate of Coe’s, says. In Hillary Clinton’s memoir, “Living History,” she wrote that Coe was “a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship to God.”