“They exploited in us what is great about us”

I’ve been getting a lot of reader mail since my book, The Family, hit the bestseller lists this summer. Most of it is simple, some of it is thoughtful, and a few missives have been menacing. But my favorite responses, by far, are those like this one, which just came in tonight via Killing the Buddha:

I became embedded in the Fellowship when I accepted an internship through their National Student Leadership program in the summer of XXXX. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for Jeff’s article in Harper’s which was my first alarm, beyond what I had already sensed, myself. Some of my favorite friends continued to go deep in, as I peeled back, questioning the fund raising, lack of transparency, and out and out sexism of the organization’s leadership. One of my friends is now headed for a Family arranged marriage, and that could have been me had I stayed. They exploited in us what is great about us; our youth, our idealism, and our hope for the world at large. They borrow the integrity and good name of others to mask some shady dealings – thank you for calling it what it is. I hope it causes more people to examine why they allow the Fellowship to use them as the top of the filter.

Thank you much.

(If this is something you want to publish, I just ask that you don’t use my name or the year I was involved. I am trying to keep some of my connections with former friends open, in the hopes that those who want to wake up have someone who understands what they are going through. As much as I’d prefer to scream it from the rooftops, I’m not ready for that. Thank you.)

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).