October 20, 2006

I Like David Kuo

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:44 am

I like David Kuo.

There, I’ve said it.

I like David Kuo. I haven’t read his book, yet, and have only seen his interviews on 60 Minutes and CNN’s morning show and read his interview on Salon, so I don’t really know him. I’m sure there are many theological and political points upon which we differ. But still…

I like David Kuo. Apparently, that puts me on Amy Sullivan’s side in her big dust-up with Pastor Dan. The short version is that Pastor Dan made some pretty pointed critiques of Kuo and his book, which Amy took as further evidence that liberals are allergic to evangelicals, which Pastor Dan refutes. However, I am adamantly not entering this fray, except to say that I like The New Republic inspite of Marty Peretz, that I think everyone has gotten way too worked up over Lieberman-as-litmus-test, and that Amy Sullivan isn’t the only one with a schtick.

Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction

The reason I like Kuo is that, first, he seems truly sincere, unlike Towey, the Bush Administration’s designated hit man. Kuo seems sincere in a truly refreshing, entirely transparent, way that is seldom seen in the age of 24 hour cable news. The man seems incapable of artifice, which I’m sure is why the “naive” charge has legs, but it is also why I’m thinking I like naive in this political season.

Of course George Bush sounds sincere when he says that we are winning the war in Iraq or any of the other inanities he is wont to say. But if Bush is sincere, he isn’t serious. Bush may have believed what he said about compassionate conservatism during the 2000 election, but if he were also serious about compassionate conservatism, he wouldn’t have had to ask “have we done compassion?” He would have already known.

It seems to me that Kuo is both sincere and serious about helping the poor and sick. Given that, he is a natural ally for Christian progressives. After all, I am not a Christian Democrat, but a Christian progressive, and I’m happy to support anyone willing to work to alleviate suffering in the world. It’s only if we begin to identify more with the Democratic party or a specific policy agenda than with our Christian calling that Kuo becomes suspect.

Pastor Dan, along with E.J. Dionne, doesn’t like Kuo’s call for a season of political fasting for evangelicals. But if I’m reading Kuo right, I think he’s got a valid point. I don’t hear him saying that evangelicals should isolate themselves from society and shun their civic duties. After all, he says evangelicals should vote. I think he’s calling on evangelicals to give up their quest for political power. Dobson, Perkins and the rest aren’t just after civic engagement, they’re after raw, unadulterated political power, and that has led them to compromise their Christianity. Kuo is right to call on the Christian right to refocus away from power and back on ministry.

But there is one more aspect to Kuo that I like — his humility. In his book Faith and Politics, Senator (and Episcopalian priest) Danforth spends an entire chapter extolling the virtue of a Christian humility that reflects our profound lack of certainty regarding God’s will. We see through a glass darkly, and to pretend otherwise is to usurp God’s role. A lack of humility is perhaps the defining characteristic of much of the Christian right, as well as the Bush Administration. Kuo seems to wear his humility on his sleeve, and I like that.

There are lessons here for us on the embryonic Christian left. We need to speak truth to power, Republican or Democrat, instead of trying to accumulate power ourselves. Of course the Democrats currently represent our best hope for achieving our goals, but that may not always be so, and we risk losing our way if we forget that. We need to keep hold of not only the sincerity of our beliefs, but also our humility. And we need to be open to working with those, like Kuo, Danforth, Cizik and others, that don’t share all of our theological or political beliefs. This isn’t about being victorious on the political battlefield, but responding to Jesus’ call to “follow me”.

Update: Kuo appeared on the Colbert Report, and comes off very Wallis-like (which is a good thing, imo.)


  1. Yep. I think I like David Kuo too. I also like you.
    I find myself looking forward to reading your insights. Thanks
    for the posts.

    Comment by rc — October 20, 2006 @ 9:06 am

  2. These are some thoughts I’ve been dealing with lately myself. I agree with you that pride is driving religious politics far to much in this country, and I think that if the right could warn the left about one of the major pitfalls, it would say that when you’re right you’re right, and when you’re wrong your wrong. The key to humility is knowing the difference and acting on it.

    Comment by Elmo — October 20, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  3. Thanks rc.

    Comment by Bob — October 23, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

  4. DK is a breath of fresh air. It confirms what I thought of Bush eversince the Florida r recount in 2001. If you are truly Christian as you say, you wouldnt do what Bush did in seeking the Presidency during the Florida recount. I gauged his response than using that of another aspirant for political power from the Old Testament, King David. Three times David had the chance to kill Saul and become King but he didnt. He chose the hard path, the path that allowed God to make that decision. He chose to continue being a fugitive, an outcast from law because he would not kill to become King. Bush failed miserably by that standard. DK confirmed what I instinctively felt about his Christian facade. It was a mirage.

    Comment by Jack Ryan — October 28, 2006 @ 7:46 am

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