email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Falling KnifeA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Tragic Kind of WonderfulA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesADHD NationAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaBad BoyBad RatsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeauty QueensBed of RosesBefore I DieBefore I FallBefore the FrostBig BrotherBiteBlack Elk SpeaksBlameBleed for MeBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBody SurfingBog ChildBoneMan's DaughtersBoomsdayBorder CrossingBorn Standing UpBoys Are DogsBoys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They Can Look Up Your Skirt)Brava, ValentineBreak Through PainBreathingBridge of SighsBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBrutalBy BloodC StreetCalm Beneath the WavesCanadaCellCemetery DanceChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeCheeverCinnamon KissCleopatraClose Your EyesCompulsionCross CountryCyborgasmDakotaDancing at the Shame PromDarkest FearDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDead EvenDead Little Mean GirlDear Zoe,Death Without TenureDeceptionDefending JacobDefine NormalDeliriumDevil in the DetailsDiscovering Pig MagicDisturbing GroundDivergentDivine JusticeDivisaderoDoing ItDown the Rabbit HoleDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDriftlessEven Dogs in the WildEvery Exquisite ThingEvery Little Thing in the WorldEye ContactFaith, Hope, and Ivy JuneFaking NormalFalling ManFamily FirstFans of the Impossible LifeFear of the DarkFellsideField of BloodFile Under: 13 Suspicious IncidentsFiregirlForest of the PygmiesFortunate SonFraudFreak the MightyFree RefillsFull Steam Ahead!Furiously HappyGenerosityGenomeGetting a Good Night's SleepGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGiftedGirl in TranslationGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoing BovineGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGraysonHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHarmlessHe's Just Not That Into YouHealthy AgingHeartbeatHeftHigh HeatHolidays on IceHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow Full Is Your Bucket?How Successful People ThinkHow to Build a HouseHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow to Set a Fire and WhyHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurt Go HappyHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI Am Not Joey PigzaI Can See YouI Drink for a ReasonI Feel Bad About My NeckI'd Know You AnywhereI'm Traveling AloneIdiot AmericaIf a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodIf I StayIf You StayImagine Me GoneIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestInheritanceInnocentInside the O'BriensInvincibleInvisibleIt Takes OneJennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, ElizabethJust LifeKiss of Broken GlassKissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)Leaping BeautyLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife InterruptedLife of PiLife StrategiesLisey's StoryLitLittle Black LiesLittle ScarletLive For Your Listening PleasureLiving Your DreamLong Shadow of Small GhostsLooking for BobowiczLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove Times ThreeLove, AubreyLowboyMadappleMade for LoveMade For YouMagical ThinkingMagnificenceMaliceMan in the WoodsMeditation in a New York MinuteMeetings with a Remarkable ManMiddlesexMind MappingMindfulness for BeginnersMirrorMaskMischlingMissing PresumedMolly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismMommies Who DrinkMunich AirportMy AbandonmentMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Name Is RedMy One Hundred AdventuresMy Sister's KeeperName All the AnimalsNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNever Let Me GoNew York 2140Night FilmNina: AdolescenceNinety DaysNone of the AboveNothingNurtureShockObjects of My AffectionOdd Child OutOlive's OceanOn Chesil BeachOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOutliersPaint It BlackPanicParadise LodgeParanoiaPeace Is Every BreathPeople Who Eat DarknessPharmakonPictures of Hollis WoodsPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with FirePlease Stop Laughing at UsPositivityPresumed InnocentPretty Girl-13Prisoner of Night and FogPuddlejumpersPunkzillaRacing the DevilReady for AnythingRebuttalRequiemRescueRevolutionary RoadRoomRun for Your LifeSay You're SorryScatSchool of FearSeason to TasteSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSee How SmallSeeds of HopeSex and SpiritSide Effects May VarySilencedSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSix Impossible ThingsSkelligSleeping BeautySnowSo Brave, Young and HandsomeSolitaireSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful to YouSourlandSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkStill MissingStory of a GirlStress ReliefSupreme CourtshipSurviving OpheliaSwimming to ElbaSworn to SilenceSycamoreSymptoms of Being HumanTeaseTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTen Minutes to RelaxTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe DrifterThe Abortionist's DaughterThe AccidentalThe Accidental BillionairesThe AdultsThe Almost MoonThe Anatomy of HopeThe ArrangementThe Art of ChoosingThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Average American MarriageThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe Beat Goes OnThe Best AwfulThe Big LoveThe Boat RockerThe Book of JoeThe Book of LiesThe Book of the DeadThe Boy Who DaredThe Boyfriend ListThe Brass VerdictThe Breakout PrincipleThe Burden of ProofThe Case for GodThe Case of the Case of Mistaken IdentityThe Cemetery BoysThe ChemistThe Chosen OneThe ClosersThe Consciousness PlagueThe Conspiracy ClubThe Cuckoo's CallingThe Day I Ate Whatever I WantedThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of Bunny MunroThe Devotion of Suspect XThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Diviner's TaleThe DollmakerThe Dressmaker of Khair KhanaThe Dynamite RoomThe Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe EndThe End of Our StoryThe Erotic EdgeThe Essential KamasutraThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe Forgotten GirlsThe Fortunate OnesThe Geography of You and MeThe Gift of an Ordinary DayThe Gingerbread GirlThe Girl in 6EThe Girl in the GardenThe Girl on Mill StreetThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestThe Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Grief of OthersThe Grim GrottoThe Guise of AnotherThe Guy Not TakenThe Heart of YogaThe Hearts of MenThe Heretic's DaughterThe Ice QueenThe Ice TwinsThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe InseparablesThe InterestingsThe Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Kings of LondonThe Language God TalksThe Language of SecretsThe Language Of YogaThe Last ChildThe Last MileThe Last Time We Say GoodbyeThe Male BrainThe Man from BeijingThe Man in My BasementThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Map of True PlacesThe Marriage PlotThe Memory Book The Mermaids SingingThe Ministry of Special CasesThe MuralistThe Museum of InnocenceThe Mystery of the Third LucretiaThe Myth of LazinessThe NarrowsThe Necessary Death of Lewis WinterThe New YorkersThe NewleywedsThe NixThe NursesThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Other Side of the StoryThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler PlaceThe Particular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe PastThe Penultimate PerilThe PostcardThe Pregnant WidowThe Promise of a LieThe PyramidThe Qi Healing KitThe ReaderThe Republican BrainThe Rule of FourThe Rules of SurvivalThe Savage CityThe ScarecrowThe Second GirlThe Secret Life of BeesThe Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret ScriptureThe Secret SpeechThe Secret Wisdom of the EarthThe ShallowsThe SharkThe Shock of the FallThe Silent BoyThe SisterThe Sound of Broken GlassThe SpindlersThe Story HourThe Story of Beautiful GirlThe Sudden Arrival of ViolenceThe Survivors ClubThe Sweet Relief of Missing ChildrenThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Tail of Emily WindsnapThe Tenth JusticeThe Thing About JellyfishThe Third AngelThe TouristThe Treasure Map of BoysThe Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe UnquietThe Unseen WorldThe VegetarianThe View from SaturdayThe WaveThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's BagThe Weight of the NationThe Whole TruthThe WilloughbysThe Witch's BoyThe Wolves of AndoverThe Words We Live ByThe Wrong Side of GoodbyeThe Year of the FloodThe Year That FollowsThe Yin Yoga KitThirteen Reasons WhyThis Beautiful LifeThis Body of DeathThis Book Is Not Good For YouThis Full HouseThis Is HowThose GirlsThose Who Wish Me DeadTony & SusanToo Much HappinessTooth and NailTouchTransformation TriburbiaTrue BelieverTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTwinmakerTwistedTwo Can PlayTwo Little Girls in BlueUnaccustomed EarthUnder Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder the HarrowUnder the InfluenceUnder WildwoodUniversal HarvesterUnlessUnthinkingUp in the AirVery ValentineVisits from The Drowned GirlVoid MoonWaiting for SunriseWalkingWarWatching the DarkWe Are OkayWhat the Dog SawWhen We Were AnimalsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Reach MeWhere She WentWherever You Go, There You AreWhite HotWild AwakeWild ChildWildwoodWill They Ever Trust Us Again?Wolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYoga SanctuaryYou Know Me WellYou Look Different in Real LifeYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know Me
In late June 2009 Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford held a press conference explaining his week-long absence from the Palmetto State. He claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail. But his staff could not reach Governor Sanford. He would not answer his cell phone when his wife and four young sons called. Instead of clearing his mind during a rendezvous with nature, Gov. Sanford was spending time with an Argentine mistress. While "hiking the Appalachian Trail" became a staple of late-night comedy, the audiobook C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, explores the personal failings of self-proclaimed Christian politicians. More importantly, the book by Jeff Sharlet explores a Christian group called The Family and its influence over telecommunications policy, Ugandan domestic policy and even the American military.
According to Sharlet, The Family relies on a perverse reading of Holy Scripture-"the Bible's pretty words presented without the rough ones that give them depth… By ignoring the apparent contradictions of scripture, fundamentalism ignores its questions reducing its complexity to implicit equations." The involved reader will need to open a Bible to Galatians 5:22, Leviticus 18:22, Psalms 129 and others to test Sharlet's hypotheses.
The Biblical basis for The Family occurs in Acts 9:15: "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.'" The best way to help the weak is to help the strong. Even in American democracy, elected leaders are chosen more by God than the voters at the ballot box. The foreign policy implications of Acts 9:15 caused The Family to support brutal regimes in Haiti, Indonesia and Somalia.
Giving a clue of how The Family views Christianity, Sharlet recounts his meetings with Doug Coe, the "first brother" since 1969. Coe often claimed that Jesus was not a sissy and mentored the C Street denizens to use the models of "Hitler, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and bin Laden" as models with which to understand the "total Jesus." Shockingly, the tactics of atheists, Communists, terrorists and genocidal maniacs are to be emulated, not reviled.
The case of former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS) highlights the intersection of the conservative economic policies and the questionable moral values of C Street. As a staffer for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Pickering was a force behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which increased the number of radio stations a company could own from fourteen to forty. Hence, radio behemoth Clear Channel was formed. Concentrating media power in the hands of the few fulfilled the desire to emulate the literary hero of C Street, conservative author Ayn Rand. Paradoxically, Rand was an atheist. Like selectively reading Bible verses, The Family picks only the desired beliefs of their heroes.
An ugly divorce from Rep. Pickering's first wife Leisha to reunite with his college sweetheart, Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, prevented Rep. Pickering from being appointed to the seat of his former boss, a retiring Sen. Lott. While Leisha did traditional charity work by founding HANDS (Helping Americans in Need of Disaster Support) after hurricanes decimated the South, Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd cashed a big check working for telecom giant Bell South. The Pickering-Byrd affair occurred with the knowledge of the C Street brothers, a merger of love and lobbying.
The Family's influence on the poor African nation of Uganda seems meddling, unnecessary and tragic. Sharlet befriends a member of the Ugandan Parliament, David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which prescribes the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality. The story of a young gay man named Blessed puts a human face on the perils of extreme anti-gay laws.
No other American institution would seem more secular to the outsider than the United States military, In 2005, Air Force Academy Commandant John Weida made national news for improperly promoting his evangelical beliefs. With no further stories, most thought Weida was a lone offender. Sharlet explores how The Family's views are pervasive across the military. From hanging an inciting "Jesus Killed Muhammad" sign in an Iraqi war zone to counseling female Air Force Academy cadets to forgo coveted pilot seats to pursue "God's purpose" of bearing children and being someone's wife, conservative Christians have an inordinate influence in the military.
Narrator Jeremy Gaskin expertly provides a tone that accentuates the snarky sanctimony Sharlet has for The Family. At times, I wondered whether the power of a phrase derived from Sharlet making words dance or Gaskin's delivery. However, C Street does not work as an audiobook. Although my grasp of international relations has earned me the pub quiz moniker "CIA World Factbook", I often asked myself, "Which brutal dictator (or Ugandan political elite) is Sharlet referencing?" The chapters on the titillating affairs were easy to follow, but when discussing major players in The Family, I needed a scorecard. I became so frustrated with trying to rewind the compact disc I gave up and read a hard copy while listening.
Although Sharlet references The Family, his prequel to C Street often enough to make the reader feel he missed something, the book perfectly stands alone. After Sharlet engages in transparent schadenfreude over the marital missteps of Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), the book powerfully explains how the affairs of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS) flouted personal and political ethics while deleteriously effecting public policy. The power of "The Family" over military and foreign affairs is simultaneously enlightening and shocking. Perhaps, the best compliment the reviewer can give C Street is I plan on reading The Family prequel, but certainly not listening to the audiobook.
© 2011 Justin Tillinghast
Justin Tillinghast holds degrees in economics and political science from Bucknell University. After spending fifteen years in Washington, DC working as a Congressional Aide and stand-up comedian, he works for the Census Bureau in Horseheads, New York.