Remembering David Kuo

You may see a lot of well-deserved tributes to David Kuo, the former Bush faith-based programs champion (along with John DiIulio), who died yesterday at 44 after a long struggle with cancer. But this early one from his friend Joe Klein at Time is beautiful for recalling Kuo as a person and a believer, and situating him in his political context:

I met him about 17 years ago. He was an evangelical conservative in those daysand still was, in the truest sense, as his soul left his body, although political conservatism had taken itself to a place of cruelty that David couldnt really abide ...... We were friends, I think, instantaneously. He was the least self-righteous man of faith Id ever met. He was, in fact, a hoot. He loved oysters and Martinis. And we were fellow members of a long-suffering tribe: We were Mets fans. At one point, David and I decided to go down to spring trainingand golf school!together. At his insistence, we rented a red convertible. David loved life. He always reminded me that Jesuss first miracle was turning water into wine.Ahh, Jesus. He was the heart of the matter. We talked about Jesus a lot. We studied Matthew together. Davids favorite verse was Matthew 25: when you do this for the least of these, you do it for me. It was the verse at the heart of the faith-based social programs that David never tired of promoting. He never could get me to cross the divinity bridge I am a Jew, for chrissake. But Jesus was, too. He was the greatest of the Jewish prophets, a true egalitarian who taught: you dont need the priests to sacrifice animals for you or intervene on your behalf with God, you can have your own direct relationship with God through prayer and meditation, by helping others, by living simply and carefullythat is, a life full of care.(snip)I spent Easter Sunday with David in hospice. He couldnt talk and had difficulty swallowing. We held hands for seven hours. He could understand what I was saying and he would squeeze my hand in response to my recollections of our times togetherthe red convertible, the Bible study, the times he asked mea man old enough to be his fatherfor advice, the times, the many times, he gave me comfort and support and inspiration.

A Mets fan. That is sad. I know. And Kuo (and DiIulio) had more heartache with the faith-based programs. But if a man is known by his friends, Kuo was remarkable.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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