A Family Timeline: The Strong Shall Inherit the Earth

Washington's most influential, and most secretive, religious organization, specializes in recruiting the powerful—whether members of Congress or foreign despots.

| Mon Sep. 27, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

1935

Seattle preacher Abraham Vereide experiences a revelation: Christianity is about helping the strong, not the weak. He sets out to organize an anti-New Deal coalition of Christian businessmen.

1940

Success! Despite accusations of fascist sympathies, one of Vereide's men, Arthur B. Langlie, is elected governor of Washington.

Arthur B. Langlie

1942

Having established prayer groups of politicians and businessmen across the country, Vereide moves his operation to Washington, DC. Howard Coonley, ultraright president of the National Association of Manufacturers, invites several dozen congressmen to Vereide's Capitol Hill debut.

1946

State Department sends Vereide on a mission to scour Allied prisons for Nazi war criminals willing to switch allegiance from the Führer to Our Father.

1953

Eisenhower reluctantly agrees to come to first National Prayer Breakfast, envisioned by Vereide as annual ritual to consecrate the nation's political leadership for Jesus. Attended by every president since, the breakfast will become the movement's most potent recruiting tool, with foreign leaders invited for face time with US politicians and businessmen. Oil and defense especially well represented.

Abraham Vereide

1959

Senator Frank Carlson (R-Kan.), a leader of the movement Vereide has incorporated under the umbrella of International Christian Leadership, takes a delegation of US businessmen to Haiti to meet a promising young leader. With their support, he'll become dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

Papa Doc Duvalier

1965

CIA-supported General Suharto takes power in Indonesia through what the spy agency will later admit is "one of the worst mass murders in the 20th century." Vereide and his understudy, Douglas Coe, consider it a "spiritual revolution" and organize junkets for congressmen and oilmen who will become Suharto's champions in Washington.

General Suharto

1969

Vereide "promoted" to heaven. Coe assumes leadership and takes Vereide's publicity-shy approach to new extremes, "submerging" the organization and instructing congressmen not to speak of what he begins calling "the Family."

Douglas Coe

1973

Coe introduces Watergate hatchet man Chuck Colson to what Colson will describe as a "veritable underground of Christ's men all through government"—men who'll vouch for Colson's early release from prison a year later and back him as he begins building his own conservative Christian ministry.

1983

The Family embraces Somali dictator Siad Barre—a self-described "Koranic Marxist" who is looking for a new patron after being dumped by the Soviets—and will organize prayer meetings for him with a defense contractor, two successive chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

1986

In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni takes power at the head of a guerrilla army following a massive civil war. The Family pledges support for the new government, calling for prayer and foreign aid to ensure that "the most Christian country in Africa not take the wrong ideological direction."

1994

As a speaker at National Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa declares abortion "the greatest destroyer of peace today."

1995

Thanks to the 1994 GOP landslide, the Family's townhouse on C Street fills up with a bumper crop of fresh-faced conservatives; house becomes the place to be for policy discussions and game-night parties.

1998

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) begins his career as the Family's most active congressional missionary, promoting the "political philosophy of Jesus" to Africa's oil-rich strongmen.

Jim Inhofe

2003

I publish the first inside report on Coe's movement, in Harper's, based on a month spent living with the organization. The investigation will grow into two books, The Family (2008) and C Street (2010).

June 16, 2009

C Streeter John Ensign, fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate and a presidential hopeful, confesses to an affair with the wife of his best friend, senior aide, and fellow Family member. It soon emerges that C Street helped him cover it up, even allegedly orchestrating payments to the cuckolded friend's family.

John Ensign

June 24, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford calls a press conference to reveal longstanding "impossible love" for Argentine mistress; says C Street is helping him save his marriage. Sanford's wife, Jenny, will later reveal that husband's C Street brothers counseled her not to express anger or withhold sex.

Mark Sanford

October 14, 2009

Ugandan legislator David Bahati, a Family leader in the Ugandan Parliament, introduces Anti-Homosexuality Bill (PDF), which he describes as the direct fruit of his involvement in the Family. It dramatically expands punishment for homosexuality (already illegal in Uganda) and calls for the death penalty for "serial offenders" and imprisonment for failing to report gays to authorities.

David Bahati

February 4, 2010

National Prayer Breakfast faces protests from gay-rights activists and Christians outraged by the Uganda bill. Family has already persuaded Bahati, a prayer breakfast regular, not to attend. Obama denounces the Ugandan bill from the podium.

September 6, 2010

After decades of not acknowledging its own existence, the Family announces it will soon launch a website.

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