Much has been written in recent days about the C Street House, a Washington bunkhouse for born-again Christian congressmen. (A halfway house for philanderers is more like it. Ensign, Pickering and Sanford were among the residents.)
It's an offshoot of the Family, which sponsors a natioal prayer breakfast and much more far-reaching endeavors. It's described today in Salon by Jeff Sharlet, who wrote a book about the group.
The Family likes to call itself a "Christian Mafia," but it began 74 years ago as an anti-New Deal coalition of businessmen convinced that organized labor was under the sway of Satan. The Great Depression, they believed, was a punishment from God for what they viewed as FDR's socialism. The Family's goal was the "consecration" of America to God, first through the repeal of New Deal reforms, then through the aggressive expansion of American power during the Cold War. They called this a "Worldwide Spiritual Offensive," but in Washington, it amounted to the nation's first fundamentalist lobby.
It's interesting on its own. But here comes the Arkansas angle, in the Family's membership list:
Today's roll call is just as impressive: Men under the Family's religio-political counsel include, in addition to Ensign, Coburn and Pickering, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C.; James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Thune, R-S.D., and recent senators and high officials such as John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Pete Domenici and Don Nickles. Over in the House there's Joe Pitts, R-Penn., Frank Wolf, R-Va., Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and John R. Carter, R-Texas. Historically, the Family has been strongly Republican, but it includes Democrats, too. There's Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, for instance, a vocal defender of putting the Ten Commandments in public places, and Sen. Mark Pryor, the pro-war Arkansas Democrat responsible for scuttling Obama's labor agenda. Sen. Pryor explained to me the meaning of bipartisanship he'd learned through the Family: "Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." And by Jesus, the Family means the Family.
PS -- Hillary Clinton fell in with this group once upon a time.
UPDATE: Pryor's spokesman Michael Teague disputes any characterization of Pryor as a member of the Family (though the record is clear that he has co-chaired the Family-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast.) Says Teague:
Unless you’ve forgotten when you ran a profile piece on Sen. Pryor last August, this issue was addressed and put to rest (August 7, 2008, page 11). As I said then, Jeff Sharlet and those who believe his stories also read The DaVinci Code and believe it’s true. For the record, Senator Pryor is not a member of this group. Additionally, we have no record of Sen. Pryor ever being interviewed by Jeff Sharlett. Lastly, as I said before Jeff Sharlet is a nut job.
UPDATE: Sharlet responds angrily in a telephone message that he has indeed talked to Pryor. He said it was an interview about evangelicals in politics for the Rolling Stone and anybody who says otherwise is a liar.