“The Family” Conspiracy or Corruption?



Whether or not you believe in conspiracy theories, Netflix has put together a series that showcases the coming and goings of “The Family,”(also known as The Fellowship and the International Foundation) a secretive, religious sect that has had unfettered access to not only the most powerful in Congress, but to leaders all around the world.  Based on the series written by executive producer, Jeff Sharlet, the writer of such novels as C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy and The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, “The Family” is 5 episodes which take the viewer through recruitment of the youth, protection of their political proponents, and how they are affecting the today’s political landscapes all around the world. 

Now “The Family,” is not just some new, upstart organization.  Oh no, first started in 1935 by Abraham Vereide as more of a church for the elite.  Those who possessed some sort of power, be it as Congressman of Alabama or President of Uganda, were recruited in some manner.  Doug Coe, continued Vereide’s vision with the slight change of not putting a spotlight onto the organization but keeping their works under wraps which does give the appearance of what some would call “suspicious”. “The Family” appeals that there are no nefarious intentions in their operations and is only there to provide spiritual support through prayer meetings, support groups, and the like. 

Jeff Sharlet gives viewers a different interpretation, being that he had actually been recruited in his 20s to become a member and live at their estate in Arlington, VA called Ivanwald.  From his experience he allows viewers to see that having powerful friends and using Jesus as more of a prop to get a foot in the door of the influential, versus living according to his teachings, garnered the organization to continually increase it’s influence and have the ability to be in the ear of the decision makers.  In Jeff’s opinion, “The Family” is willing to forgive and forget the misdeeds of other if those others are “chosen” by God, no matter the offence.  One example given includes the protection of the ex-Senator of Nevada John Ensign whose continued extramarital affair with a staff member’s wife led him to bribe/placate the staff member into silence with a job as a lobbyist.  Although the staff member was met with jail time and the loss of any and all credibility due to ethics violations once this arrangement had come to light, John Ensign managed to not face any penalties other than having to resign from his position and fines (after the case had been reopened in 2013).  Sharlet gives the presumption that “The Family” acted as the safety net for Senator Ensign, as he was chosen by God to be in his position, while allowing all others caught in his wave of deceit to drown.

It is up to the viewer to determine for themselves if Netflix’s “The Family” is just a conspiracy documentary/dramatization made to sell the books of an ex-member whose interviews include many wronged by the very people he looks to bring out into the public eye…or, is it an expose into a political organization that has used religion as it’s stepping stool in order to place themselves next to the most powerful, be it presidents or dictators, as to sculpt the world how they see fit.  In my personal opinion, some imagery throughout this series seems to have an exaggeration placed within, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t do a great job at showing the public another hidden cog that turns the wheel of power in which “We the People” get no say.  I give “The Family” an 8 out of 10. – YoungYoda

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