Earlier this year there was a bit of buzz related to Netflix’s new show, The Family. I took note of the fact that it would air later this year, but otherwise, left it alone. That is until a few weeks ago. One Saturday morning I noticed that someone in my social media feed had posted about the show. By that Sunday, I’d begun to check it out.
Thus far I’ve seen The Family once and if I have time I might watch it again. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers, but I would like to talk about what I saw.
Hence, on that note, how can I best describe it?
As the content unfolded onscreen I was…Surprised–but not completely. Just thinking about the way American politics has evolved over the years, it’s been hard not to believe that behind the scenes, something horrible has been going on all along. And I can honestly tell you that if you’ve had any fears about religious corruption, The Family will confirm them. Although it isn’t in the horror genre, its content gave me the creeps. Overall, though, I was mostly disgusted.
The Family is a docuseries that recounts the evolution of a bipartisan religious organization–referred to as The Family–which has been tied to the government’s top leaders in Washington, DC. Based on a pair of books by Jeff Sharlet, the first episode begins by telling its story through the eyes of the author. In his younger days in Washington, Sharlet was first introduced to The Family via his time at Ivanwald–a household that serves, essentially, as a Christian fraternity.
Throughout the series several snippets of dialogue reveal the sinister nature of a movement with seemingly innocent roots. In one scene, James Cromwell, as religious leader David Coe, speaks to a group of young men. He asks them a simple enough question.
“Can you think of anyone who made a covenant with his friends?”
In response, young Mr. Sharlet gave what I thought was the most obvious answer to this question. “Jesus.” However, Mr. Coe had another person in mind.
At this point I should note that when Coe replied, I initially thought the screenwriter was using a bit of artistic license. After all, some of The Family’s segments were dramatized. I honestly wanted to believe that Movie Coe didn’t actually use Real Life Coe’s words. And I might have, if not for the fact that The FamIly includes actual footage of David Coe standing in a pulpit. As he speaks to his audience about how to influence others, he shares his thoughts.
“Hitler. Hitler made a covenant. The Mafia made a covenant. Look at the strength of the bonds.”
“HITLER made a covenant”?! Watching that footage, I don’t think I’ve ever given my computer a more horrified stare.
Truly, I was stunned.
Imagine. You have Jesus Christ HIMSELF, as the head of your religion. Yet when you want your followers to have an example of someone who successfully made and kept a promise to others, you choose HITLER?!
That bit of dialogue haunted me. It also called to mind a greater problem within mainstream religion. Time and again, certain Christian leaders try to put up a good front. Yet ultimately, they demonstrate that they don’t have genuine confidence in their faith. This tends to be revealed in challenging situations: Rather than standing by their principles, in a quest to relate to the world, some pastors rush to support evil in all of its forms.
For some reason or another, some would rather choose fame over discernment and authenticity.
But I digress.
I already thought something was off with Big Box Christianity and its connection to the American government. In the end, The Family only confirmed my suspicions.
Before I go, let me offer you a warning: If you’re going to view this show, you might want to mentally prepare yourself. Especially if you have any previous experience with religious fundamentalism. The Family wasn’t easy to watch. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did.