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Sat Aug 10, 2019, 01:49 PM

Prayer, Politics and Power: 'The Family' Reveals Our Insidious American Theocracy

From the Illuminati to the freemasons to QAnon, there’s no shortage of conspiracy theories trying to explain how power is accumulated and shared in Washington, D.C. But the wide-ranging network of politicians, world leaders, and men of faith that make up the Fellowship isn’t mere conspiracy theory: it’s 100 percent true. What’s more, some of its members are speaking on the record about it for the first time in the new five-part Netflix series The Family, directed by documentarian Jesse Moss.

The Fellowship, also known as the Family, is a highly secretive group of evangelical Christian men who meet for Bible study and prayer meetings; it’s best known for serving as the organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of diplomats and world leaders in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1935 by a man named Abraham Veride, the Fellowship initially arose from Vereide trying to arrange a meeting of business owners to crush laborers’ attempts at organizing. Over the course of the past 75 years, it has evolved into what some have referred to as a secret theocracy, or an underground movement of prominent Christian men who exert their influence not just in the United States, but abroad as well.

Moss was inspired to pitch the series to Jigsaw Productions, the production company helmed by documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, after reading The Family, a 2008 book on the Fellowship by author Jeff Sharlet. Moss says he “just about fell out of [his] chair” when he first learned about the Family’s influence: “I thought, here’s an organization that exists at the intersection of faith and politics, that occupies, unbeknownst to a lot of people, this significant portion of the public square,” he tells Rolling Stone.

Fellowship members operate under a veil of secrecy, which is by design; Fellowship head Douglas Coe, who died in 2017, believed that the group could best exert its influence that way. Its members include senators, diplomats, and religious leaders around the world: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Jim Inhofe, and Rep. Bart Stupak have been linked to the group, while Vice President Mike Pence and attorney general Jeff Sessions have also been referred to as “friends of the Family.” And it’s a testament to the persistence of the production team that a handful of Fellowship members, including former Congressman Zach Wamp, speak on the record for the first time about the organization in the series. Moss attributes their willingness to talk in part to the organization’s attempts to “adapt to the 21st century with a greater degree of transparency, though only time will tell if that’s true.” Sharlet, however, has a slightly different take: “They’re not opening the doors. They’re not becoming transparent. That simply hasn’t happened. But they do want to have their say.”

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/netflix-the-family-jesse-moss-secret-christian-cult-washington-dc-869396/

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