Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

David Kuo

David Kuo recently died at the age of 44 from brain cancer. There's more in obituaries from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Americans United. He was the deputy director of the "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives" under President Bush, but became disillusioned with the administration because he felt that Karl Rove and others were cynically using conservative Christians they didn't really respect. He eventually quit, wrote a book about his experiences, Tempting Faith, and was attacked by the Bush administration for it. (He discussed this in a brief online chat in 2006.)

I had several political differences with David Kuo. The biggest was over the very existence and actual practices of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, and the moral and constitutional issues it raises. As the ACLU points out, the Office's actual conduct has meant that "the government provides federal funds to religious organizations that engage in religious discrimination and do not separate their religious content from their social service work." (See the ACLU and Americans United for more.) He was also anti-choice.

However, I respected that Kuo, unlike many conservative, self-described Christians, talked about helping the poor and actually sought to do just that. Apparently, he was quite sincere about it, and was dismayed that more of his fellows weren't. Here's an exchange from the discussion linked above:

Washington, D.C.: Based on your experience, should religious social conservatives look elsewhere other than politics to pursue their convictions?

David Kuo: I think that for a season that is what they should do. In the book I advocate a "fast" for Christians from politics. Let me begin by saying that I believe Christians should obviously vote and Christian political leaders should stay in office and such things. But for the grassroots, those people out there who have been lead into thinking that just giving a bit more time and a bit more money to this politician or that one, they should take a step back and so should the whole Christian political industry. Instead of spending hundreds of millions on politics, spend that money on the poor for a season. There is much more to this and it can be found in the book and another snippet at www.beliefnet.com where there is a feature on the book and I am also starting a blog called J-walking - www.beliefnet.com/blogs/jwalking.

One of his last public messages was a request before going into surgery, and it generated many photos:

Favor? Do something outrageous today – give way more than reasonable to a homeless person, take the family out for an ice cream dinner ... and serve only ice cream. Call someone you hurt and ask forgiveness, call someone who hurt you and give forgiveness ... And send me a pic.

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