David Kuo died Friday from brain cancer at the age of only 44. Before the publication of his memoir, Tempting Faith, Kuo was the deputy director of the office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under the Bush Administration, an experience that ultimately caused Kuo to distance himself from overtly politicized expressions of Christianity and inspired Kuo’s entreaty to Christians (especially his own tribe of more conservative evangelicals) to “fast” from politics.
Last night NPR’s Terry Gross replayed a segment of her “Fresh Air” interview with Kuo back in 2006. There Kuo makes a beautiful appeal to get to know the Jesus of Scripture who cares about the poor and lives compassionately invested in the lives of those around Him. To paraphrase Kuo, it is easy in our times to associate Jesus with family values and estate taxes, but that is not the Jesus of the Gospels. “Fasting” need not mean that the thing from which we are fasting is inherently bad. We can fast from good things, but with a view to realigning ourselves with what is central to Jesus’ teachings.
Kuo’s fast from politics resonates with some of my own previous reflections (which came independently of Kuo). Now, following Kuo’s untimely death, seems a poignant time to resurrect Kuo’s challenge. What, after all, might it look like for Christians at least for a period of years to divest themselves of politics and concentrate on loving “the poor” right in front of them? What might it look like for believers to exercise their freedom from political power plays that would seek rather cynically to make Christians pawns for various agendas? What might it look like for Christians to set their sights exclusively on following and imitating the Jesus of the Gospels rather than some gross, politically motivated caricature of Him?
I’m not sure, but it’s worth an honest try. Goodbye, David. I’ll miss you.