Need to be going to sleep, but just finished doing a small segment on “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Like most of these interviews, I was piped in via satellite, so I wasn’t actually in the studio. But I was struck by this:
At some point, in response to a question, I said that yes, Jesus actually does love everyone and that includes Democrats and liberals and homosexuals. The audience just erupted in applause. Here is the simple takeaway–people love Jesus, they just disapprove of his self-appointed PR people who portray him as political and narrow and angry.
Maybe Jesus came to set us free so that sometimes we could turn around and set him free of the narrow portraits people paint of him.
I got back home tonight and went to what I thought was just a small book signing in DC. It was–with the exception that C-SPAN was filming it. It was fun to have a stage to myself and be able to read from parts of the book so important to me–the extraordinary encounter with Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady, for instance. It was also fun to answer questions from readers. As things progressed, I noticed a man walk in wearing a union t-shirt and a big “Teamsters” hat. He listened and leaned against one of the book aisles and raised his hand for a question. He wandered around for a bit but ended up asking, “Weren’t you fired from the White House?”
It was as if he asked me whether I was actually a cross-dressing Swedish bodybuilder (I’m not). I said no and he asked me if I was sure. I don’t think I could be more sure. I left because I’d lost heart for my job and needed out–besides, what White House would try to fire a guy who had just returned from having a brain tumor?
Let’s talk about this issue a bit more thoroughly. As I recount in the book, after returning from the car crash, the 9 1/2 hours of brain surgery, and the weeks of recovery, I was far less tolerant of the compassion charade we were perpetuating. The Oval Office account with Karl and the president (that no one has refuted), where the latter is comfortable telling an assembled group of African-American pastors a half-truth (at best), was a tipping point. Another tipping point was a program we were to launch on behalf of prisoners reentering society. The amount of money the White House wanted to propose (let alone what they would fight with Congress to actually get) would have spent about as much on each reentering prisoner as a kid spends on a Happy Meal. Jim Towey and I fought and didn’t get along–I recount that briefly but clearly in the book. But no one in the White House ever tried to fire me, and indeed, Towey’s boss, John Bridgeland, assured me in the fall of 2003 that I was wanted at the White House as long as I wanted to stay.
Let me quote from a few of the letters I received when I left. Karl Rove: I served “with grace and focus and terrific integrity.” WH Chief of Staff Andy Card: “Thank you for your great service…. It has been a joy to work with you in The White House.”
It was from Jim Towey that I got the most over the top letter: “The events of April [the crash, diagnosis, and surgery]… reminded me of the life of another 35-year-old man who was in full stride professionally when a health catastrophe engulfed him. He was told he had 3 (sic.) weeks to live, and his only hope was extreme radiation. He learned this sad news in late December and wrote to a friend as he headed to the hospital that he was off ‘to meet the New Year and to die.’ Well, he didn’t die, or we wouldn’t have otherwise known who Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn is….”
Later today, I will reprint a copy of my resignation letter in full so people can see the totality of what I said, and also what I purposefully did not say.
Let me get back to my “Teamster” for a moment. When I challenged the guy to tell me who told him I was fired, he said it was a “source.” Odd, I thought, but oh well. The rest of the conversation was great and I’m thrilled I did it–you can watch it on C-SPAN this weekend.
After all was said and done, “Bob” with the big “Teamsters” hat and I talked. He said he had been told about my “firing” by VP Cheney’s Chief of Staff. I’m thinking that maybe that Teamster’s hat was a not very good disguise! After all, the White House is known for many things–hanging with Teamsters isn’t one of them.
Not that every good, smart and spiritually significant thing can be found among Beliefnet-associated people, but here is yet another example of Beliefnet’s great taste:
Columnist Amy Sullivan, who also does stuff for other lesser outlets like “The New Republic,” posts this about the reaction to my book. Amy, often found on Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog, gets it right.
In a slightly different spirit, I stumbled across this from conservative commentator Michael Medved. This is actually a tempered version of the one he had up before I talked to him and appeared on his show.
Now for the most interesting revelation of the day–courtesy of my wife. Someone I used to go to church with (he and his wife moved back to Texas) issued a press release accusing me of being Judas. My wife pointed out that she was irate when she saw this for all sorts of different reasons–including her love for her husband. (I love that about her!) But the more she thought, the more she figured that it underscored my point about Christian political seduction–if he was accusing me of being (literally) Judas, that would then make President Bush Jesus. (He’s not.)
And now we turn to video. It turns out that at least one conservative commentator agrees with me!
Finally, my only Christian media appearance was on a show that played a clip indicating that Pat Robertson also agrees me. So, at least I’ve got Dr. Robertson on my side.
So that is a bit of the media roundup.
Now there is the spiritual–thank you for the insights and suggestions. Thank you for your prayers and for the advice to put things in perspective, remembering that God is God.
So to Annie and Annette and Richard and Tom and Paul and everyone else, thank you. Thank you, too. to people like Bubba for bringing up important points–you are right in so many ways. If I am to speak as Jesus’ follower, I must do so with love all the time and in every way.