All in The Family

There is a story behind the opening song, but it is not what appears on the surface. For more, read on…

The song is a nostalgic lament, really, for the era in the United States of Hoover (the President, not the vacuum cleaner) and the LaSalle, a spin-off of the GM Cadillac division. The latter was a GM luxury car marketed as a separate luxury brand. President Hoover was recently marketed as the man who championed conservatism and opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal, labelling his tenure as, “An extraordinary life in extraordinary times.” Yes, those were the days – of the end of the Roaring ‘20s, the Great Depression, and the reining in of the banks and speculators. The latter theme is set to be resumed, which will feature later in this post.

The opening song also spoke to today’s current version of ‘conservatism’ in America and which is growing in Europe – a time when “we knew who we were then, girls were girls and men were men” (a woman’s place is in the home and so on), decrying the calls by progressives for the supposed return of ‘the welfare state’ – a time when ‘everybody pulled his weight’, that is, stood alone in the face of corporations and toed the line. History may not repeat exactly, but we hear it rhymes.

However, something else ran concurrently with post-Hooverism (yet another epic fail), after Hoover’s administration, one that would seek to recapture the days of the Roaring 20s, when there were few rights for workers and financiers and speculators ran amok. And it all started with one man calling together a small group of local business and civic leaders at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington one fine Thursday morning in April of 1935 – the first prayer breakfast of that type, put on by a Norwegian immigrant, one Abraham Vereide, a Christian mystic and quiet evangelist.

There is a book about Vereide, and he became one of the instrumental figures in keeping the conservative, anti-socialist, anti-labor movement alive in America – and he did so at the same time in the name of religion, seeing what he was doing as a divine mission, as a service to humanity. He was one of the most influential, if unknown, people in the American evangelical movement last century. The ritual of the prayer breakfast also became integral to the rise of the ‘Moral Majority’, the ‘Religious Right’ and the merging of evangelical Christianity with the affairs of state. His chart is below (bigger):

Vereide had a rather interesting set of factors in his chart. We do not have a birth time for him, except it was stated in the book about him his birth ‘was announced on a bright October morning’ that he had been born, noting the announcement was in the morning of the 7th of that month, not the actual birth. So we use the noon chart, ignoring the houses and the lunar position, although the Moon would be in Aquarius, regardless, if he was born on the 7th and not in the night before midnight. To start, we note the Sun/Jupiter/Uranus stellium in Libra, giving him ample magnetism and extraordinary luck. The Aquarius Moon with that combination made him quite lofty in his ideals.

But with the Libra Sun, Vereide saw himself as a medium – a middleman/go-between – between the people he met and God. He was a man on a mission and saw himself as being ‘chosen by God’, having had an experience early in life where a voice told him he had been chosen. (All references to Vereide’s life are taken from the linked book about him.)

Vereide’s belief he had been chosen was described as follows, following an episode as a child where he and some other boys had been rather mischievous with some apples and rocks:

“I had closed the gate behind me…when this hunger for Mother [who he had recently lost] and for release from the tempest that raged within, and for deliverance from guilt and passion, took hold of me. I hurried into the thicket of elder trees near the brook in a secluded spot, where I threw myself on the ground to cry my heart out and pray. I had a hunch that God was yonder, but I knew so little about Him, or what He had accomplished on our behalf by sending His Son into the world to give His life a ransom for us; but I did know that I was a naughty boy and that I wanted to be good. As I prayed, I had a vivid consciousness of a Divine Presence and into my mind flashed a statement that I later discovered was from Isaiah 43:1: Tear not, for I have redeemed thee and called thee by name, thou art mine.’”

Call his experience a true divine intervention or a psychotic episode, as you like. He was 8 years old. At the time directed Neptune was aspecting his natal Mercury and Saturn, showing the depression that beset him and his longing to be ‘home’ – i.e. close to God. Directed Neptune was also square his nodal axis, giving the direction the following structure: Nep=Mer/Sat/Node, the base combination representing, “The desire to have philosophical discussions with other people, the stage of making plans, a short journey in company.” (Node=Mer/Sat)

Apparently the boy had a violent temper. The Sun was semisquare Mars natally and opposite Pluto, indeed a combination for a violent temper. Mars was in Sagittarius, an evangelical position, and Mars was also opposite Neptune. Mars either square or opposite Neptune natally or by solar arcs of octal aspects is extremely magnetic, giving control over hearts and minds and is often found in the charts of religious leaders. It is also sometimes found in the charts of military leaders. Vereide had all the makings of a ‘warrior for Christ’. And he took on the task with gusto.

But there is another consideration with the Mars/Neptune aspect – it is integral to the national chart of the United States, coloring the nation’s rhetoric and idealism since its founding. It is the aspect of a crusader for a cause, and the rhetoric out of Washington is exemplary of it – the idea of the nation as being ‘indispensable’, as the best and brightest hope for ‘freedom and democracy’ in the world, as being an example for the world to follow, the ‘shining City on the Hill, and so on.

The Mars/Neptune aspect represents, in its worst expression, using an ideal, person or deity as an excuse to commit all sorts of criminal acts. In that respect, it is the idea of, “You are either with me or against me!” Great good and the worst kinds of evil can be the result of having this aspect in a chart. When it comes to Vereide, he used it for what he thought was the greater good, having no overt interest in self-promotion.

But there is one more important factor to consider with Vereide before we move on from his chart. Mars also forms the midpoint, Mars=Nep/Plu: “…the misfortune to be used as a tool for other people’s interests, a lack of resistance and stamina. – The tendency to succumb to external powers, being utilized as a medium.” This midpoint is central to Vereide’s chart and understanding his mission in life, as will be outlined. The prayer breakfasts he started originally had religious intent, to his mind, but they were ultimately co-opted for other purposes.

Having been born in Norway, Vereide found his way to the US at age 18 and settled eventually in Seattle at age 30, where he worked as a pastor and social worker, which he did from then to the Depression years. He, with a group of other men, went on to form Goodwill Industries of Seattle. It was during those Depression years his work took on nationwide and then international scope. It was there that his work also took on another role – a darker side.

Vereide is lauded in the evangelical community as a great Christian leader. And in fact he did do a grand service to the poor and the troubled in the years leading to 1935. But with the onset of the Great Depression the labor movement in the US took on a powerful role in pushing for the New Deal of Roosevelt, which was passed in 1933. The next year Vereide’s true ministry began to solidify in his mind, having had another epiphany, and always quoting the Bible:

“For this end was I born, for this cause came I into the world” [from the Bible] – a specialist for a specialized ministry [in Vereide’s mind]. Concern for the “down and out” is fairly common. Their need is obvious. Concern for the “up and out” is more rare. It takes a more discerning eye to see their need, and a rare combination of compassion, boldness and right approach to meet it. True leadership demands true men. True men are God’s men. God’s men have come to the cross of Christ, having discovered themselves to be untrue men, and have begun a new life of which the motivating center is God in them, and not themselves. This was Abram’s apostleship. A leadership led by God.

Men must first have God’s salvation for their own needs, and then be God’s representatives to walk in His ways and act by His spirit. The greater the sphere of influence in government or industry, the more responsible they are to make it plain by their personal living, by their conduct of affairs, and by their verbal witness, that Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord is the only answer to the human problem, and that He must be given in our era and in our tangled affairs all the lordship we His servants can give Him, while we wait for the final consummation of “a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” at His coming.”

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, especially if one follows the goings-on of the US Congress and televangelists. The highlighted text is important to understanding what comes next, and to see how Vereide was used by people in power and of influence to further their own ends. From 1934 onwards Vereide focused less and less on the poor and more and more on people of influence and power, which led to an event in 1935 – with directed Neptune aspecting his Mars and Jupiter, the Mars/Neptune hard aspect being amplified by a square to Jupiter – that would lead to where the so-called religious right sits in the halls of power in the US today. And this goes across party lines. ‘God’s work is non-partisan’, shall we say? Understanding those solar arcs is central to what happened with his ministry.

The scene was Seattle, on a Thursday morning later in April 1935 at 7:45 am, at the Olympic Hotel. Vereide had gathered a group of 19 executives of the city to sit together, discuss the Bible and simply pray. This was the first of Vereide’s executive prayer breakfasts, which would go on to become the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB), held the first Thursday of February every year in Washington. The group that eventually formed also became known as ‘The Fellowship’. But here is the important point: The group was formed with the purpose of pushing back against the New Deal – a new deal for the down and out, which Vereide had been helping up until then. We’ll come back to that. But since we don’t know the exact Thursday in April of 1935 when that first breakfast was held, we have a proposed chart for the event, below (bigger):

The one thing to note especially is the position of Uranus in the chart. Since we do not know the exact date, to speculate further is really pointless. But the position of Uranus would be the same regardless, because we are at the same sign position for Uranus today, with many of the same problems that existed in America then present yet again in today’s America.

Uranus in Taurus typically brings upsets in the world order, especially the financial world order. Uranus touched into its current transit through Taurus in May of 2018, during Trump’s tenure in office. That was the month Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA and reimposed withering sanctions on Iran. In March of that year Putin announced the raft of new weapons in Russia’s arsenal, adding that Russia was adequately protected militarily from that point onward. From 2018, international relations began to quickly consolidate into the multipolar world order, including de-dollarization and bypassing of Western sanctions. Then the pandemic hit, the US Stock Exchange bubble roared to new ethereal heights and the economies of the West began to shudder, along with supply chain shocks, inflation and so on.

The huge stock market bubble of the 1920s led to the Black Friday crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, leading then to the rise of labor unions and demands for social programs. That was fertile ground for the mission Vereide had chosen for himself. That first prayer breakfast in Seattle was born out of concerns Vereide had for the labor movement, which he saw as corrupt and Satanic. There are echoes of his opinion today, with evangelical conservatives seeing any sort of social program and the raising of taxes to support infrastructure and social programs as ‘communism’ – touted as one of the great evils facing the US today.

Just what were Vereide’s views on capital and labor, then? We have the following straight from the horse’s mouth:

“I have given myself unstintingly for the development in our nation of an appreciation for the protection of our form of government and private enterprise. Furthermore…any program to protect capitalism at home had to protect capitalism everywhere. Our own economy will crack without the right relationship to [the] world economy, and that whole structure is built on moral foundations.”

Emphases added. ‘Moral foundations’…well, we might question those foundations, because as it stands now the very foundations of capitalism are cracking and the wider world is starting to turn away from American-style capitalism toward mixed economies. And the members of Congress and presidents who regularly attend prayer meetings are the very ones who vote against social programs like the New Deal, and instead vote to pass $786 billion defense spending bills while Americans find it increasingly difficult the make ends meet. This is private enterprise at work.

It is worth noting here that the Founding Fathers of the US by and large were influence by European Enlightenment principles and envisioned a nation free of theocracy. Hence, we have the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution. But the Fathers also believed in ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ (from the Declaration of Independence), which can be interpreted as living a life of privilege, laissez faire economics and the pursuit of profits. This is the reactionary interpretation of of the Declaration, and one to which Vereide pandered.

There is a lot we could say regarding the preceding points, but we will address those concerns elsewhere. The quote preceding was taken from a book about religion and corporate power in the US and how corporations have seized upon the power of religion to advance their goals. (see link)  The point here is the philosophy that stands behind these prayer breakfasts and their origins, which are largely deeply conservative if not reactionary and which go across party lines.

Prayer meetings in the halls of US power are bipartisan. Some readers may suppose it is primarily a Republican phenomenon, and it is majority Republican. But the likes of Hillary Clinton attend these meetings, too, touting moral imperatives like the ‘responsibility to protect’ that was used to destroy Libya. Actually, the reason for destroying Libya was because it posed a threat to capitalism in Africa (re: Vereide), which the US would no longer be able to control. It had nothing to do with protecting civilians in Libya. But that is another story.

If Vereide were alive today, though, he would fit right in with the Washington establishment’s stances on China, Russia, Iran and so forth – any nation that stands against and presents a different model to American capitalism. Vereide was instrumental in bringing religion into close relation with US government and business. But it is worth noting that his most powerful advocates were the heads of major and giant corporations, and these are the interests who are the big donors to Congressional and Presidential elections. Religion has been used as a vehicle to promote business interests over those of labor ever since that first prayer meeting in 1935, and it has gone international.

Vereide’s first breakfasts included among its members the man who would eventually become the governor of Washington state, one Arthur B. Langlei, who was once described as a puritanical teetotaler and enemy of the labor movement. It was under his governor-ship that the labor movement was crushed in Washington state (See Netflix doco “The Family” 4th episode also).

The first National Prayer Breakfast was held in 1953, with Vereide and his people in Washington inviting Eisenhower to attend. Ike was at first hesitant, but it was the height of the Cold War and Eisenhower saw it as a life and death struggle between the Soviets (communism) and the US (capitalism), though it was touted as the struggle between the Christians (Americans, or democracies) against the atheists (China and Russia).

Ike’s first instinct was to refuse the invitation to the prayer breakfast, even though he saw his presidency as a sort of crusade, seeing the NPB as an intrusion of the Church into affairs of state and unconstitutional. He eventually relented. I call this one of Eisenhower’s big mistakes, largely because of the legacy it has left, which was the cementing of the power of the military-industrial complex in American politics and international relations.

Every US president since Ike has attended these annual prayer breakfasts at least once in their terms in office. God and religion were weaponized in the fight in the Cold War, and it did mobilize a very significant sector of the Washington establishment. It also mobilized less desirable forces. What exactly does the NPB represent and how does it function, then?

In the early days, invitations to the NPB were extended by the ICL (International Christian Leadership, another manifestation of The Fellowship) to what they called ‘key men’ – men in key positions of power and influence. You had to be chosen, the intent being that through the experience one would come to realize that indeed one had been chosen, as in by God. Women weren’t much considered as being powerful in those days, hence the term ‘key men’.

But the NPB is not a single event. It has grown into about a week-long event, with private meeting rooms where leaders (and one has to be a leader in some field to be chosen) from all over the world would get together and form ‘relationships’. Those happened in private rooms away from the main event. That some of those relationships turn out to be less than savory, shall we say, is a moot point. The point is, one is ‘chosen to do God’s work’, as in saving capitalism. It matters little about the moral character of the person, as it turns out.

Actually, as it stands now, the NPB has turned into an influence peddling gathering, where people in power organize to stay in power. In short, it is a giant lobbying-fest. Help for the poor and needy? – well, we see how that is going with the COVID pandemic. In fact, the NPB conforms more to Vereide’s original intent of pushing back against programs like the New Deal than actually helping the needy. It more closely resembles an ‘American Davos’ than a religious function. The members of the US Congress who dole out the invitations are mostly neoliberal these days, the type of economics that favors the wealthy and which advocates laissez faire economics (a.k.a. globalization and free markets).

And if Vereide were alive today, he would be numbered among those evangelicals preaching Christian fundamentalist prosperity theology, which very much favors neoliberal practice, a.k.a. financial capitalism. The Family adheres to a warped sense of the teachings of Jesus, edging to the more martial side of Christianity and ignoring the moral failings of individuals – so long as they are in positions of power and ‘doing God’s work’.

The preceding is an interpretation, for instance, that ignores the story of Jesus’ interaction with and advice to the rich young man (Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30) – to honor his father and his mother, not lie, cheat or steal (obey the 10 Commandments), to sell all he had and give the proceeds to the poor and only then follow Jesus. Instead, we see evangelical political leaders like Mike “We lie, we cheat, we steal” Pompeo. It is ‘cherry-picked’ Christian teaching to suit political and personal agendas. True Christianity is about service to the needy and treating others as we would like to be treated. It is not about building power and wealth in the present life.

Vereide died in 1969. His successor was a man called “the most powerful man in Washington you never heard of” – Doug Coe. Coe had worked alongside Vereide for several years and was groomed for the job. He was said to be a man who would listen more than he would talk, which made his impact that much more noted. He moved quickly up the ranks of Vereide’s group, by that time known as ‘The Fellowship’. The group name had gone through many mutations.

Coe was a man who wanted to stay behind the scenes, unnoticed. He did not want his name nor his family mentioned. To his mind, anything that smacked of personal aggrandisement got in the way of ‘the work’. His primary mode of working was one-on-one, going to people’s homes and spending time speaking with them. It was this quiet evangelism that gave Coe his influence. He also said the greatest power was in the small groups that met, whether at the NPB or at other times. It also gave rise to suspicions about secret motives behind what he and The Fellowship were all about. Coe’s chart is below (bigger):

We don’t have a birth time for Coe, either. But he was another Libran – an ‘ambassador for Jesus’ – with Moon in Capricorn. It is a combination that gives an unusual ability to manage people, giving tact mixed with a strong sense of purpose. With the natal sextile between Sun and Neptune he had a strong sense of people and motives along with a good dose of quiet magnetism. That was Coe on the surface.

The ‘inner Coe’ – the man no one saw in public, knew what he wanted and how to go about getting it. This was the Capricorn Moon opposite Pluto – “a person torn between a fanatical striving for the attainment of desired objectives and a soft-hearted sentimentality.” There were strong emotions hiding behind the smooth veneer. It is an uncompromising combination. Add to this his natal Mars/Uranus square and you have a person with extreme independence on the one hand and on another, a man like Vereide who would have had a bad temper in youth and much to learn in controlling his emotions. He was described as being “warm and charismatic with a dominating personality.”

If you want to know what he was like there is a series of short videos, here, here and here. To more sensitive types they would be confronting. Coe’s philosophy ran along the lines of five points, which he describes in the videos – Jesus before all else – others, self, possessions, and to be a disciple of Jesus, ‘a man of the Word’. And above all those, there is ‘covenant’, which is absolute commitment to Jesus, even unto death. He described the commitment in terms of what we believe happened with the Nazis, the Black Shirts, the Red Guard, Stalin, etc. – despotism in other words. We see the Mars/Uranus and Moon/Pluto in his sermon to The Navigators in the linked videos.

It was Coe’s influence that shaped what came to be known as ‘The Family’. In the Netflix doco, The Family, a booklet was displayed given to members at Ivanwald called “Jesus”, which was a compilation of the teachings of Jesus, among some of their own interpretations. Their interpretation of what Jesus intended, though, as mentioned above, has come under criticism from some evangelical leaders, as being outside of moral authority and misplaced, to put it mildly.

Coe was employed by Vereide in 1958 as an associate and served as an aide-de-camp to Vereide. Vereide had Coe mentored by Billy Graham, who was young in those days. This was when the NPB was first taking off. About the same time Coe was involved in the founding of the C Street Center, which became the focus of several high-profile sex scandals involving conservative Republicans (there are actually moderate Republicans) in the early years of this century. But Coe’s influence over the organization began to depart from the vision Vereide had, and it became more secretive.

In 1969, when Doug Coe took the reins of power over The Fellowship, he pulled a veil of secrecy over it. He said there was to be no membership, no dues or fees and no seeking for publicity. The organization went through several name changes, from the International Christian Leadership, to The Fellowship, and when Coe took over, just, ‘The Family’, as in the family of Jesus – hence, the title of this post.

Previous to Coe, people were invited to the NPB by The Fellowship. When Coe took over, people were invited to the NPB by members of Congress. From that point onward it became political rather than religious. Coe was not a Christian mystic like Vereide. A certain purity, if misdirected motive, was missing with Coe. The vision for the organization died with the man, Vereide.

And the year 1969 is important to note, too, because what arose out of the ‘60s counterculture was a more reactionary strain of American politics, horrified by the license of the counterculture, ‘sex and drugs and rock-and-roll’ and the growing peace movement. The peace movement was especially troublesome for the military-industrial complex. ‘Order’ had to be restored, along with ‘good Christian and family values’. Law and order became a favorite rallying cry among conservative politicians.

Coe’s aim through the Family was to evangelize the powerful and thereby the world. People went to the NPB thinking they were going to a religious meeting, but quickly realized it was more and that the lines between church and state were becoming more and more blurred. There are people in positions of great power who adhere to the idea of the prayer breakfasts and the original intent behind them. It is one of the reasons why progressive policies consistently fail to get a voice in Congress and why the rhetoric out of Washington is so anti-China/Russia/…and so on. But there is more:

The Family…is responsible for founding the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a supposedly ecumenical – but implicitly Christian – event attended by the president, members of Congress and dignitaries from around the world. These foreign delegations are often led by top defense personnel, who use it as an opportunity to lobby the most influential people in Washington – and who repay the Family with access to their governments.

This type of group-think came to its apex during the Trump years. It is very strong and is not going away any time soon. Trump seized on the ideology to firm his voter base. It also appealed to many of his peers. It also appeals to any leader who wants an inside track to influential US politicians – leaders with less than religious or altruistic intentions. Yet, the voices of labor and the down-and-out are rising once again, despite being labelled as ‘radical leftists’, as we saw with the last transit of Uranus through Taurus.

What is the point of all the preceding, then? None of this is to suggest the NPB and The Family go to form a core group that is the hidden, guiding hand of the US government. It does, however, point to the fact that very powerful people in positions of influence in government – elected and unelected – ascribe to Vereide’s original intention with his prayer breakfasts, which was an attempt to push back against programs like the New Deal and an attempt to keep in place corporate power over labor.

The movement spawned by Vereide’s Fellowship has also seriously blurred the line between church and state and puts a big obstacle in the way of progressive politics of the likes of Bernie Sanders. It is an elitist mind-set that has caused an awful lot of damage, rather than an organization. But the core, The Family, basically, is a theo-political-corporate sect.

We just saw the operation of The Family’s mind-set in the type of bipartisan opposition to Biden’s BBB Plan and how any progressive agenda within it was side-lined in favour of Wall Street and corporate interests. As it stands, reactionary politics is alive and well in the US and strongly supports the neoliberal agenda throughout the world. Until the public rises to challenge this reactionary form of politics and throw the money-changers out of Congress, the tendency of all economic legislation and foreign policy across the West will remain all in the The Family’s kind of thinking. I doubt Jesus would approve.

Further reading:

Featured pic from Birmingham Christian Family

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