Just finished reading Peter J. Boyer's New Yorker article on the C Street house in DC, home at various times to various adulterous (and non-) Christian politicians. (Of course, most every group house has been home to adulterous and non-adulterous Christians, who are after all normal, fallible human beings.) I should first say that I admire Boyer tremendously as a writer and as a commenter on Christianity; his old memoir piece about his own Pentecostal family is a novella-length classic. And I should add a further, major caveat: I have not read Jeff Sharlet's book that broke tremendous new ground reporting on The Fellowship. I ought to have read it (not least because Jeff once generously got me an adjunct teaching gig at NYU, and because he is a very smart, intrepid reporter); I have three children under the age of four, and I am a slow reader, and that means there are a lot of things I should have read but haven't — although given how much Glee I have seen, I guess I have no excuses.. A final note: I have written on The Fellowship only once, in passing, here.
Given my lack of qualifications, let me say only this: I think people understate the social purposes of much religion. Let me put it this way: I am not shocked that so many of the members are men, and that women tend not to join groups like this, nor to get as lachrymose as men when talking about how important their prayer groups are. Women tend to have real friends, with whom they have genuine intimacy, and so do not need the rubric of prayer to open up. That is to say nothing else, positive or negative, about prayer and its worth, value, or efficacy. It is only to say that I am probably more inclined than Jeff to believe that a lot of C Streeters are really just looking for friends.
When you are done with those there evangelicals, and need some liberal Unitarians, read me here.