Jesse Moss and Jeff Sharlet on “The Family”

A new series called “The Family” sheds light on the deep ties between religion and politics through an intensely secretive and influential organization. The show’s director, Jesse Moss, and the author who wrote the book that first exposed the group, Jeff Sharlet, join the program to discuss.

Read Transcript EXPAND

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So, give us just a synopsis of their core belief.

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”: The family is the oldest, the most influential and most secretive Christian conservative organization in Washington bound by this idea that the real message of Christ is not so much love as strength. The longtime leader, Doug Coe, would compare Christ, he’d say, not with a metaphor of the lion or the lamb, but he’d say, “”Look at the strong men of history,” and I’m quoting him, “Hitler, Lennon, May,” he said, “that’s the kind of strength we see in Christ.” So, when they reach out to political leaders, many of whom are not nearly as terrifying as that, what they’re looking for is the strength to pursue what they describe as a worldwide family of about 200 leaders who are bound together in, again, their words, in this invisible network under these amorphous principles of Jesus.

AMANPOUR: For the leadership of an organization, that is a Christian organization, to point to such heinous monsters of history like Hitler and Starlin, the like. What do they mean? How can these people be chosen as the vessels of God?

SHARLET: To emphasize this idea that it is not — it’s not for them to decide who is good, who is pious, but rather they look at power as it is in the world. The organization began as a far-right semi-fascist organization in the 1930s. They are no longer fascist. And with this vision that the founder had that Christianity had been getting it wrong for 2,000 years, by focusing on the poor, the suffering, the down and out. The founder believed that God spoke to him personally and said, “I want you to serve the up and out,” the powerful, those whom he called keymen to bring more power to the powerful who will, in turn, in their understanding, bring about the kingdom of God. It’s not a Christianity that is recognizable to most people of faith.

AMANPOUR: Jesse, how did you and why did you think that this was worthy of this kind of attention at this time? Obviously, it’s based on the amazing book, this inside job, if you like, by Jeff. But why, for you, as a filmmaker, this subject at this time?

JESSE MOSS, DIRECTOR, “THE FAMILY”: Sure. A couple of reasons. One was I wasn’t familiar with the book. It had come out 10 years ago but it had escaped my attention. And when I read it, I nearly fell off my chair. I mean, here was this very secretive and very powerful organization that I knew nothing about. And now, 10 years later, I had a big question, which was are they still relevant? Are they still powerful? Also, I think, like many people, I had this question about the religious rights accommodation of Donald Trump, like how could that be explained? Then I thought in the story that Jeff laid out, if we could find a way to tell it as a documentary might be the answer to that question

About This Episode EXPAND

Karen Bass and Christiane Amanpour discuss divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that persist in the United States. Jesse Moss and Jeff Sharlet join the program to speak about the new series, “The Family.” Nanfu Wang, co-director and producer of “One Child Nation,” sits down with Hari Sreenivasan to explain how the award-winning new film exposes the devastating cost of China’s one-child policy.