A few weeks after September 11th, 2001, with the nation reeling from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., about 400 or so of the country's leading Christian conservative investors convened at the luxury Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. They were there for the 17th annual meeting of the Gathering, a four-day, invitation-only philanthropic and networking event for the Christian donor class, whose members often describe themselves, simply, as "believers." The perks awaiting them in their off hours included a 27-hole golf course, nine crystalline swimming pools and a luxury spa. At dusk, the ruddy hues of the desert rippled across the stone patios where, warmed by fire pits, some of the most important funders of Christian charity, and the Christian right, sipped cocktails and talked about expanding the Kingdom of God.
Among the evangelical super-rich at the Gathering that weekend were Donald Trump's recently appointed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, and her husband, Richard "Dick" DeVos Jr., scion of the multilevel marketing behemoth Amway. The DeVoses are conservative Christian royalty with deep roots in Republican politics, and Betsy, a skilled political operator, had just finished a stint as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. During a talk one evening in the Phoenician's elegant grand ballroom, DeVos mentioned her latest project: recruiting Christians to run for the state legislature. "It is critically important that we have believers involved in public life," she said.