Spiritual / Religious Book of the Year

Steve Waldman asked each of the Bnet bloggers to nominate the best spiritual or religious book we’ve read this year.  He’ll post them all in the next week or so.

I confess that I’m ending the year having read much less than I had hoped to.  I plan on 2009 being different in that regard.  In fact, I’ve got a couple books to finish by in the next couple weeks, so maybe I won’t feel so bad about 2008.

IMHO, the finest religion book of 2008, far and away, is Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

While researching another book, Sharlet found himself for a time at “The Cedars,” the training center for young men entering The Fellowship (a.k.a., The Family).  Known primarily for the National Prayer Breakfast and their secrecy, the Fellowship is a wildly influential group of power brokers in Washington D.C.  Sharlet infiltrated the group easily, and he writes compellingly about his time there.

However, Sharlet uses the Fellowship as the entree into an investigation of the long and convoluted relationship between fundamentalism and power in America.  The writing is breathtakingly good, and the truth he exposes is breathtakingly frightening.

In other words: Read It!

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  • I will compliment you on your pick for the year. However, I think you cheated. I think you read my blog posting last week in which I named The Family best book of the year and were unduly influenced by my rationale. Of course, Jeff will come to your blog and notice you loved the book.
    Actually, I am glad you are promoting his book. It got very little press for some reason and no one knows about it. I only knew about it because I subscribe to the Revealer.
    Good choice. Hope your Christmas is nice. You are in Kristi and my prayers.

  • to anyone with no sense of humor or that takes things too seriously, I am giving Tony a hard time. I do not think he was unduly influenced by my blog.
    Sorry for the extra comment, Tony. But, I felt a preemptive “I’m joking” is needed.

  • That Rick Bennett is such a jerk. He doesn’t like Sojourners either.
    OK j/k Rick, even though you bailed on the Emergent Southeast gathering, I still love you like you’re my crazy uncle 😉

  • Rick,
    Although I cannot possibly keep up with your exhaustive end-of-the-year “Best Of” lists, I did see that The Family was pimped by you. And I thank you for including my book. I agree with you, it can be classified in the “memoir” category.

  • jim

    Thanks for the book rec, I remember reading about this in harpers a few years ago…disgusting and scary group.
    Hey, anyway you can turn off the truncated posts in the RSS feed? I hate clicking to the site to read every post…

  • I remember when I did ministry in the government for some years,it was hard not to be confused with the ‘Christian Mafia’ as Cedars/Fellowship/etc… were know. While all of our stuff was very public (and actually was associated with ANOTHER heavy hitting religious-right leader…), Cedars/Fellowship/etc… was always very secretive and underground. Hence their nice little nickname!
    Thanks for the recommendation, though after the read I may need therapy after being brought back into my former life in DC!

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