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Hillary's Spooky Religious Affiliations

The Atlantic's Josh Green has a useful primer on "The Fellowship," the shadowy Christian-political organization Hillary's been affiliated with over the years. Josh explains:

The group was formed in the 1930s to minister to political and business leaders throughout the world, modeling itself as a kind of Christian Trilateral Commission. Several members of Congress are affiliated with the group, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, too. To the extent The Fellowship is known beyond its members it is probably for founding the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Like Jeremiah Wright's Trinity Baptist Church, The Fellowship is run by its own mysterious and controversial figure, Douglas Coe, although temperamentally Coe is Wright's opposite. He eschews the spotlight and has never made a controversial public utterance that I'm aware of -- mainly because he rarely speaks publicly at all. (You won't find him on YouTube.) But like Wright, Coe has ministered to a Democratic frontrunner. He personally leads a private Senate prayer group that Clinton has been a part of.

In my piece, I chose to focus on the Senate prayer group, but others have written extensively about the strangeness and secrecy of The Fellowship. As this Los Angeles Times story and this exquisitely reported Harper's piece make clear, there is something deeply strange about the group. They certainly do not like press coverage, so in that regard Clinton's attraction might make sense. Reporters hoping to look into the group might want to think again. A few years ago, The Fellowship’s archives, which are held at Wheaton College, the evangelical school in Illinos, were reclassified as “restricted” and placed under lock and key.

The author of that Harper's piece is the fearless and fantastically talented Jeff Sharlet, who just came out with a book about The Fellowship (aka "The Family," which also happens to be his title). I can't recommend the piece or the book strongly enough.

Update: For what it's worth, I see that Jeff has actually weighed in on this topic with The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum. Here's how Kevin summarized Jeff's thoughts:

Although [Jeff] says that Hillary Clinton's connection with the Fellowship (aka the "Family") is fairly shallow, he also thinks it's quite wrong to characterize it as merely "a collection of Bible study groups." Hillary's association with the Fellowship is no scandal, he says, but it is fair to question her about whether she accepts Doug Coe's particular brand of elite-centered, post-millennial theology. 

--Noam Scheiber