Netflix’s New Series Shows How One Religious Organization Infiltrated U.S. Politics08/09/2019
Netflix’s The Family dives into the mysterious group of the same name that, despite not being well-known outside of political circles, has wielded influence over the city of Washington D.C. for decades. While The Family, or Fellowship, as it’s also called, doesn’t advertise its inner-workings all that much, the public at large took notice of the organization once the group’s C Street Center in Washington, D.C. became an infamous detail in multiple politicians’ infidelity scandals. The C Street Center used to house members of America’s political elite, but not even the people behind The Family knows who lives in the C Street Center now.
At the end of Episode 2 of The Family, the documentary states that the building’s current occupants are unknown and that The Family denies any connection to the C Street Center. However, Jeff Sharlet, the author behind the book that inspired The Family, states in his book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat To American Democracy, that the Center was "created to express the movement’s peculiar approach to religion, politics, and power."
Sharlet even quotes a Family leader in saying that the role of C Street was to "assist [congressmen] in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs," which suits The Family’s tactics of influencing politics through a message of Christ.
The C Street Center went fairly unnoticed by society at large until the summer of 2009 when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign, and former Mississippi representative Chip Pickering, all of whom were tenants of the C Street Center, admitted to having adulterous affairs. At the time, the C Street Center housed numerous politicians from both the Republican and Democratic arms of Washington. The C Street Center was a crucial part of The Family’s web of influence, combined with their vast Arlington estate The Cedars that housed esteemed guests from outside of the city, as well as their yearly National Prayer Breakfast which bring important political figures from around the world together under their sponsorship.
As reported by The New Yorker, The Fellowship enjoyed the tax benefits of being registered as a church and passed the savings onto their tenants by charging about nine hundred dollars a month in rent in one of Washington’s most expensive neighborhoods. That latter detailed eventually raised the eyebrows of the Office of Congressional Ethics, who began investigating the residence. The Center’s tax-exempt status was revoked in 2009, and since then the nature of what happens at the C Street Center has become as elusive as the center’s dealings were prior to 2009.
While the identities of the current owner and tenants of C Street Center are unknown, the influence of The Family has not dwindled, as the continuing National Prayer Breakfast has been providing a major platform for President Trump and other politicians throughout the Trump presidency.
The C Street Center may no longer be an integral part of The Family’s dealings, but given the secretive nature of the organization, there’s really no way to know if the group has separated themselves from the C Street Center or if they’ve moved on to maintaining other properties to house new politicians who support their message.
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