September 21, 2007
King Abdallah of Jordan, member of a Bible study group?
I was reading Mother Jones' article about Hillary Clinton's religiosity, surprising in itself when it described how Hillary had been part of the conservative and elitist Bible study group called the "Fellowship" - also known, in an odd mafia-like way, as the "Family". It's not only mere vote-catching for this Democratic candidate formerly known as liberal - asked how her Christian faith had gotten through the Lewinsky-affair, she replied that she had "people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me."
My astonishment was not to end there.
Reading a bit further on, I bumped into this:
Clinton declined our requests for an interview about her faith, but in Living History, she describes her first encounter with Fellowship leader Doug Coe at a 1993 lunch with her prayer cell at the Cedars, the Fellowship's majestic estate on the Potomac. Coe, she writes, "is a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."
The Fellowship's ideas are essentially a blend of Calvinism and Norman Vincent Peale, the 1960s preacher of positive thinking. It's a cheery faith in the "elect" chosen by a single voter—God—and a devotion to Romans 13:1: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers....The powers that be are ordained of God." Or, as Coe has put it, "we work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."
When Time put together a list of the nation's 25 most powerful evangelicals in 2005, the heading for Coe's entry was "The Stealth Persuader." "You know what I think of when I think of Doug Coe?" the Reverend Schenck (a Coe admirer) asked us. "I think literally of the guy in the smoky back room that you can't even see his face. He sits in the corner, and you see the cigar, and you see the flame, and you hear his voice—but you never see his face. He's that shadowy figure."
Coe has been an intimate of every president since Ford, but he rarely imposes on chief executives, who see him as a slightly mystical but apolitical figure. Rather, Coe uses his access to the Oval Office as currency with lesser leaders. "If Doug Coe can get you some face time with the President of the United States," one official told the author of a Princeton study of the National Prayer Breakfast last year, "then you will take his call and seek his friendship. That's power."
"If you're going to do religion in public life," concurs Schenck, a Jewish convert to fundamentalist Christianity who's retained his sense of irony, Coe's friendship is a kind of "kosher...seal of approval."
Coe's friends include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Reaganite Edwin Meese III, and ultraconservative Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). Under Coe's guidance, Meese has hosted weekly prayer breakfasts for politicians, businesspeople, and diplomats, and Pitts rose from obscurity to head the House Values Action Team, an off-the-record network of religious right groups and members of Congress created by Tom DeLay. The corresponding Senate Values Action Team is guided by another Coe protégé, Brownback, who also claims to have recruited King Abdullah of Jordan into a regular study of Jesus' teachings.
Interesting. The monarch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, whose claim to power and legitimacy initially came from being a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, is allegedly taking part in an Evangelical Bible study group devoted to the service of Jesus Christ. I will not ask how this squares with article 28.e) of the Jordan constitution ("No person shall ascend the Throne unless he is a Moslem, mentally sound and born by a legitimate wife and of Moslem parents."), nor will I delve into the apparent incongruency with his characterisation as a Christian-bashing, modern time Antichrist or Playstation fanatic. I just wonder: how will this add to his street cred in Zarqa - considering the invaluable contribution already made by Queen Rania?
Maybe I'm overly pessimistic - after all, I haven't seen a social or political problem that a few co-ed university dormitories couldn't solve...
Posted by Ibn Kafka at September 21, 2007 05:42 PM
Filed Under: Levant
TrackBack URL for this entry:
It only boils down to -- America is a relatively religious nation even at the higher level. And, assuming the truth of the asserton on the latest Hashemite Honcho, King Abdullah is studying Jesus' teachings, that hardly makes him a non-Moslem. The Encyclopedia of Islam discusses the Christian Gospels in depth.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 21, 2007 07:16 PM
Nice try. If he studied the Bible at Leyden or the Sorbonne, that would be one thing. Studying it with "a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ", and "Cells like these, Nelson added, exist in "parliaments all over the world," with all welcome so long as they submit to "the person of Jesus" as the source of their power", that's another kettle of fish altogether. Hardly ecumenical stuff.
Mind you, I couldn't care less if he turned evangelical, but I'm not sure the majority his subjects are as admirably open-minded and tolerant as I am ;-)
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at September 21, 2007 08:40 PM
The guy doesn't claim Abdullah joined his little prayer group sessions. It says he studied the teachings of Jesus regularly at the Svengali-esh reverend's request. (Abdullah probably humored him by subscribing to his email.)
"so long as they submit to 'the person of Jesus' as the source of their power..."
Pretty much standard Christianity, not just evangelical. All kinds of esoteric things float peoples' boats, including government officials.
Alot of strung together scare-stories about evangelical Christians (who do indeed have dangerous political agendas, as do secular socialists or drug warriors, but are no more monolithic). Somehow the article seemed like an alternate universe LGF assembling of scare quotes about the coming Christofascist effort to turn us into dhimmis and force our women not to have abortions.
Lefties get a little too weirded out by people who believe in religion. Like reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, only with Jesus-thumpers plotting world domination.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 21, 2007 09:28 PM
Matthew, have you read the Harper's article about these guys? They're genuinely creepy.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at September 21, 2007 10:58 PM
That said, I suspect Matthew is correct. It's also a well-known habit of Evangelicals to up their convert head count by taking credit for conversions of at-best-dubious sincerity.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at September 21, 2007 11:01 PM
I was reading the Harper's piece and it sounded like the usual hyper-reaction to people to sway when they pray, etc.
On conversion stories, I do remember in the leadup to the Iraq war hearing of a rumor of a relative of Saddam who got Jesus. The usual story of a convert who changes history. Heard almost the same thing from a preacher who said he personally met the horrible Burma junta guy and prophesied his coming to power. Yada yada yada.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 22, 2007 12:25 AM
Leaving aside facticity of the "bible study" (perhaps the Tubby Playstation Boy humoured the freakish American evangelicals once or twice), this is not good PR for the Hashemite king.
Terrible story for him overall regardless.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 22, 2007 09:00 AM
matthew: I wasn't discussing whether submitting to Jesus was normal in Christian dogma, but only how King Abdullah of Jordan can square his taking part in an evangelical Bible study group with his role as a (muslim) monarch of a muslim country not renowned for its liberalism in religious matters.
As for the evangelical network exposed in those articles, well if this is common fare in US politics, good for you. I know that a Moroccan politician speaking even metaphorically about his "prayer warriors" would certainly cause concern, and not only with the francophone élite. The interesting thing in my view is the proximity vetween Hillary Clinton and Republican conservatives, which sheds some light on her increasing conservatism - Republican lite...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at September 22, 2007 09:19 AM
King A probably attended one or two sessions or took handouts and said he'd read them, to be diplomatic. I'd take claims of conversion with a sackful of salt - it was probably a boast or exaggeration that got repeated a lot. Brownback is probably going to have to retract pretty soon.
Posted by: SP at September 22, 2007 09:21 AM
"this is not good PR for the Hashemite king."
Do he and his missus really care about about how they are viewed by the Bedu masses back in Transjordan? I've always got the impression that so long as the Oprah audience is on side, that's them covered.
BTW must say I'm shocked - shocked - that Rania's inane website actually has an Arabic version. For those not bothered to click, here's a typical gem:
" Communities…all of us live, work and relate in a series of communities. Whether in our hometowns, our nations, or interacting within the global community, the linkages we make shape us, educate us, and nurture us."
Now, THAT'S profound.
Posted by: Sideshow Murph at September 22, 2007 10:04 AM
Well, yes, I think the Hashemite clan does care to an extent about their street cred. Tubby Boy maybe not as much as he should, but the clique, to an extent.
As to the Clinton wife and her conservatism, or not... Well our fine Left Kafka I think gets the problem wrong. I would opine the American voter should be concerned about her sheer insincerity (I don't read her as genuinely pragmatic as her husband, but insincere and grasping). An honest Liberal (libertarianism) of the Right would be far preferable I should think. Indeed, a genuinely pragmatic social democrat of the Left would be.
However, the American electorate seems to be of late incapable of selection - or perhaps bad choices have presented.
BTW, it has been my impression that those American missionaries blundering around frequently are unable in their own minds distinguish being humoured from actual interest, or fully grasp the actual meaning of Muslims tellig them they fully honour Jesus.... Silly provincials have rather limited grasp of other mental maps.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 22, 2007 03:45 PM
Allegations = what-f***ing-ever
Since when do we take allegations by spurious sources as the basis for our debates here?
So some evangelist "claims to have recruited King Abdullah of Jordan into a regular study of Jesus' teachings." Yes, and I also have a few hidden Syrio-Iraqi-NK-Iranian WMDs to sell ...
Posted by: MSK at September 24, 2007 02:42 AM
Sorry, MSK, but when I read that a US Senator claims to have recruited King Abdallah to an evangelical Bible study group, I pay attention.
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at September 24, 2007 06:10 AM
"recruited into a regular study of Jesus' teachings" is not membership in an evangelical study group, if even true at all, and certainly doesn't make one an evangelical, or a Christian of any stripe. True, the hypersensitive among the umma's faithful might find it scandalous to be so influenced or cooperative, but it sounds like, if even remotely true, someone was humoring them by simply promising to read their biweekly tracts, and they claimed a victory.
"Prayer warrior" is a common expression among modern evangelicals and has infinitely less military literalism than crusade or jihad.
Posted by: matthew hogan at September 24, 2007 07:19 PM
Well, yes, I suppose that's how Amman would frame things. I haven't seen any reaction to that article yet. If anyone here is hooked into Jordan news, keep me posted...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at September 24, 2007 07:38 PM