The Family

By Jeff Sharlet

The Revealer is on summer hiatus, but I'm currently blogging at, an online literary magazine about religion I created with novelist Peter Manseau back in 2000. Read more about that here. has just published a new book of which I'm co-editor, Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. I hope you'll check it out. But I'm guessing Revealer traffic today will be driven by NPR's "Fresh Air," on which I discuss my book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and the Family's connections to Senator John Ensign's and Governor Mark Sanford's public confessions of adultery.

The Family is just out in paperback this month. Here are some of the responses to its hardcover publication last year:

“One of the most important accounts of the intersection of fundamentalist religions and politics in recent memory... Sharlet combines his experiences going undercover at The Family’s Arlington, Virginia, compound, skillful interviews with insiders and allies, and exhaustive historical research to produce this riveting account that transcends the recurring question of whether the religious right is dead.” ” — American Prospect

“Just when we thought the Christian right was crumbling, Jeff Sharlet delivers a rude shock: One of its most powerful and cult-like core groups, the ‘Family,’ has been thriving. . . . Sharlet’s book is one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes you’ll ever read—just don’t read it alone at night!” — Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed

“Jeff Sharlet [is] a confessed non-evangelical whom top evangelical organizations might be wise to hire—and quick—as a consultant. As an outsider, Sharlet sees what a lot of us insiders need to see.” —Brian Mclaren, one of Time’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals”

“An engaging writer with a keen eye… the author discovered a right-leaning political ideology informed by deference to capitalism, a weakness for foreign dictators and a fascination with the leadership techniques of Adolf Hitler.”—The Washington Post

"The finest religion book of 2008, far and away." -- Tony Jones, author of The New Christians, on

“It’s not possible to comprehend the entanglement of religion and politics in our country without reading The Family . . . Sharlet has done us all a favor.”—Kansas City Star

“This is a gripping, utterly original narrative about an influential evangelical elite that few Americans even know exists. Jeff Sharlet’s fine reporting unveils a group whose history stretches from the corporate foes of the New Deal to the congressional lawmakers who gather each year at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Christian Right will never look the same again.” — Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: the Life of William Jennings Bryan and The Populist Persuasion: An American History

”Passionate, principled, and powerful.”—Bookforum

May be the best book anyone has written about the politics of the Christian right.” – Minnesota Independent

“Simply outstanding.” – Chattanooga Times Free Press

“Deeply researched yet fast paced, moving easily from first person to third person and incident to overview, The Family is an exceptional piece of bookcraft…. Sharlet proffers one shred of hope—‘believers and unbelievers alike, all of us who love our neighbors more than we love power or empire or even the solace of certainty.’ Secular humanists can scoff if they like, but I’m here to testify that Sharlet is both more intelligent and better informed than most of them. If he believes that ‘believers and unbelievers alike’ fall into this sainted host, I believe him.” – Robert Christgau,

“One of the most important books on American religion and politics to appear this year…. this is a subject that demanded unconventional reporting…. and historical legwork. To his credit, Sharlet ably accomplishes both, demonstrating both thorough research skills and elegant—at times, outright beautiful—prose.” – Chris Martin,

“Sharlet’s storytelling is elegant, and his evocation of the mood of theologian John Edwards’s work is one of the most compelling this reviewer has ever read. Further, his analysis of what such seemingly mundane details as the wording of prayers reveal about the mindset of his subjects is perceptive. Sharlet has unearthed an occurrence that is all the more startling for its being hidden in plain view. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal (starred review)

"Jeff Sharlet’s prodigiously researched text reminds us of conservatism’s abiding power. The book does for conservative Christianity what Greil Marcus did for punk in Lipstick Traces (1989): it establishes connections between disparate phenomena, thereby enabling fresh thinking about religious conservatism.... Sharlet touches on some of the “spectacles” that attract bloggers, but he contextualizes and analyzes them much more perceptively than is customary. Though one would like to see further explication of important categories like gender, this work contributes vividly to our understanding of Christian conservatism. While the tone is different from that of an average monograph, this work is original in its conception and articulation and is a fine contribution to the literature." --Jason C. Bivins, Journal of American History

“I was once an insider’s insider within fundamentalism. Unequivocally: Sharlet knows what he’s talking about. He writes: ‘Our refusal to recognize the theocratic strand running throughout American history is as self-deceiving as fundamentalism’s insistence that the United States was created a Christian nation.’ Those who want to be un-deceived (and wildly entertained) must read this disturbing tour de force.” — Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back


0homefly.gif (8947 bytes)