Politicians with ties to mysterious Christian group having their troubles

I can remember back in 2003 reading an article in Harper’s magazine about a group of conservative movers & shakers in Washington, D.C., who lived together in some kind of Christian frat house.

I just went back and found the story about this place, known as Ivanwald, about which the religion writer Jeff Sharlet wrote:

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Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as “the Family.” The Family is, in its own words, an “invisible” association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as “members,” as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities.

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The article mentioned that the Family also had a “four-story, redbrick Washington town house, a former convent at 133 C Street S.E. complete with stained-glass windows.” The residents there were also brothers in Christ, “only more powerful.”

This town house is known as C Street.

I mention this now because several politicians who have recently fallen prey to sex scandals apparently had various ties to C Street.

A Washington Post story includes:

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It blends into the streetscape, tucked behind the Library of Congress, a few steps from the Cannon House Office Building, a few more steps to the Capitol. This is just the way its residents want it to be. Almost invisible.

But through one week’s events, this stately old pad — a pile of sturdy brick that once housed a convent — has become the very nexus of American scandal, a curious marker in the gallery of capital shame. Mark Sanford (that’s him), South Carolina’s disgraced Republican governor and a former congressman, looked here for answers — for support, for the word of God — as his marriage crumbled over his affair with an Argentine woman. John Ensign, the senator from Nevada who just seven days earlier also was forced to admit a career-shattering affair, lives there.

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Now an AP story begins like this:

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JACKSON, Miss. — The estranged wife of former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering claims in a lawsuit that the Mississippi Republican had an affair that ruined their marriage and derailed his political career.

Leisha Pickering seeks unspecified damages in the alienation of affection lawsuit she filed this week against Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd of Jackson. The Pickerings filed for divorce in June 2008, but the divorce is not complete.

The lawsuit says Chip Pickering and Creekmore Byrd dated in college, reconnected and began having an affair while Pickering was in Congress and living in a Christian building for lawmakers on C Street, near the U.S. Capitol.

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You have to expect David Letterman and Conan O’Brien to have some fun with this.

And wait until Bill Maher can get in front of a camera.

In Sharlet’s Harper’s story from way back when, he mentioned the group’s political guidelines, set forth in a document called “Thoughts and Principles of the Family.” Among the principles:

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21. We recognize the place and responsibility of national secular leaders in the work of advancing His kingdom.

23. To the world in general we will say that we are “in Christ” rather than “Christian”—“Christian” having become a political term in most of the world and in the United States a meaningless term.

24. We desire to see a leadership led by God—leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit.

You would think it’s impossible to regulate the reincarnation of living Buddhas

Anyone who reads Harper’s magazine knows that the first half of the magazine is usually filled with strange memos — real memoranda — from all sorts of institutions.

They often make for funny, quirky or outright bizarre reading.

Someone handed me a copy of the March 2008 issue, which includes this order from the Chinese government that appears to regulate the process by which Buddhists declare that a particular lama’s soul has been reincarnated in a young boy:

From “Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism,” an order issued last year by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs. Translated by the International Campaign for Tibet.

The China Buddhist Association will issue living-Buddha permits. When the reincarnated living Buddha has been installed, the management at his monastery shall submit a training plan to the local Buddhist Association, which shall report to the provincial people’s government for approval.

6a00d83451df0c69e200e54f4711008833-800wi.gifLiving Buddhas that have historically been recognized by drawing lots from the golden urn shall have their reincarnated soul-children recognized by drawing lots from the golden urn. Requests not to use the golden urn shall be reported by the provincial people’s government to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for approval.

Once a reincarnated living Buddha soul-child has been recognized, it shall be reported to the provincial people’s government for approval; those with a great impact shall be reported to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for approval; those with a particularly great impact shall be reported to the State Council for approval. When there is a debate over the size of a living Buddha’s impact, the China Buddhist Association shall officiate.

Reincarnated living Buddhas may not reestablish feudal privileges that have already been abolished.

Applicants to be reincarnated living Buddhas may not be reincarnated if the provincial people’s government does not allow reincarnations.