Ensign’s “Christian Mafia”

More news from the Senator John Ensign / Family scandal: Turns out Ensign, lacking the fortitude to fire his mistress/employee, had the Family do it for him. The Family likes to call themselves “the Christian Mafia”; in this case, they acted like Sen. Ensign’s consigliere.

Read an excerpt from my book, The Family, in Mother Jones. Better yet, read the book.

A question or a tip? jeff dot sharlet at gmail dot com.

I’ve been discussing the Ensign and Sanford affairs and the bigger story of the Family on numerous programs, including NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Air America’s “Thom Hartmann Show,” and, the last two nights, MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.” I’d been scheduled on Maddow’s show when the scandal first broke; then Michael Jackson died and I got bumped. At the time, I thought, just as well. I don’t really care who Ensign or Sanford sleep with. Then, Sanford introduced Family theology into the story with his King David analogy. And new revelations emerged of money changing hands in the L’Affaire Ensign, and doing so in what may be the Family’s “man-to-man” financial method — that is, off the books, possibly illegally.

Which is why I was glad Maddow gave me a second chance, Thursday night, and then a third, Friday. Maddow believes, rightly, I think, that the Ensign scandal may yet prove the bigger of the two — that it might bring down two powerful Republican senators, Ensign and his Family brother, Coburn. If that happens, the role of the Family — in the affair, and, more importantly, American politics — may finally get the full media scrutiny it deserves.

Family too creepy for vacation reading? Killing the Buddha has the perfect antidote: our new anthology, Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith, published just this month by Beacon Press. The Huffington Post‘s Frank Schaeffer: “Believer, Beware is laugh out loud funny, touching, irreverent and yet, in deeper ways, pays religion the ultimate compliment: it’s worthy of scrutiny, debate, hate, love and loathing and measuring up on a very personal scale of intimate first hand experience.”

Which maybe isn’t so different from The Family, after all.

Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).