David Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of power, ultimately serving in the White House under George W. Bush in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Yet his experience was deeply troubling--he began to see how his Christian values were being corrupted by politics. Instead of following the teachings of Jesus, Kuo found himself helping to manipulate faith for political gain. The legislative process was used not to pass laws but to deepen purely symbolic fault lines. Despite lofty rhetoric from the president, there was no serious attempt to fund valuable faith-based charities. Worst of all was the prevailing attitude of contempt in the White House and throughout Washington toward Christian leaders. It is time, Kuo argues, for Christians to take a temporary step back from politics, to turn away from its seductions.--From publisher description.
I just finished tonight and I cannot recommend a book more highly than this one! This is a story of David Kuo's faith journey and the vast insights he has gained through working in politics. It is a book that points to Jesus and within the first chapter shares the Gospel.
I was amazed at how much life he has lived and the vast amount of experiences he's had. At times I was in awe of how many people notable people Mr. Kuo has worked with and for in the political realm.
I left the book and had a such disappointment with our President and his administration. All the Faith-based initiative talk from the administration was really only that-talk. Mr. Kuo points several times that we mustn’t trust President Bush simply because he is a fellow Christian-the fact of the matter is that he is also a politician who is political. President Bush is after all a human, like the rest of us, who sins and is in need of a Savior. As Christians we still can question him.
There is so much this book talks about and I simply can't give it to you in a nutshell and to try to write a summary would do this book a disservice. David Kuo is a vastly talented author, I've never read a non-fiction book of this caliber. I can see why so many have wanted him on their writing staff.
There was never a point where the book became lengthy or dull. Through reading Tempting Faith, I learned so much about politics and gained encouragement in my own personal faith journey. He brings the book to a solid conclusion and challenges Christians to do something different.
Before reading the book I knew that we couldn't put faith along party lines, Jesus certainly wouldn't be a Republican or a Democrat, but now, without a doubt I know it.
Several times David Kuo quotes from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, a fiction book where an older demon is teaching a younger demon in the ways to lead a man away from God. I want to share this quote with you because it gives you a glimpse of the subject matter of Tempting Faith. "Let him begin by treating patriotism . . . as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely a part of the 'cause,' in which Christianity is valued chiefly became of the excellent arguments it can produce . . . [O]nce he's made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursing."
I will certainly do a re-read of this book, probably several times down the road. This book is a must read, bump it to the top of your lists!
But then Kuo's girlfriend had an abortion (a joint decision, but one which haunted Kuo), the Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, and Kuo found that there was no space within the Democratic party for someone who opposed abortion rights. Kuo joined a Baptist church (whose congregation held it as self-evident that Christians should be Republicans), became a Republican himself, and continued to actively attempt to pursue his Christian obligations via politics, but now on the other side of the aisle. Eventually Kuo rose through Washington circles to become the number two person in Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, where he served for three years. Which is where Kuo discovered that even with Christians apparently winning the culture wars, even with an evangelical Christian as head of state and Republican control of Congress, Christians still weren't managing to use politics to serve Christian ideals. Instead, the machine of politics was using Christians. And worse, tempting them away from their spiritual ideals.
There's a lot that Kuo and I don't agree on. Kuo experienced the same visceral "can't everyone see he's evil?" recoil about Clinton that I experience about Bush; Kuo regards Bush with the same naked admiration that I feel for Obama. Kuo titles a chapter "The Last Acceptable Form of Bigotry" (referring to secularists opposing those who seek to wed Christianity and the state), which makes me laugh, and not in a good way.
...and yet I find myself nodding with wry recognition when he talks about how Christians are taken for granted by the Republican party, repeatedly bought off with a few meaningless symbols. I recognize that phenomenon well, albeit with respect to my experience as a lesbian in the Democratic party. Similarly, I recognize Kuo's frustration with how cheap and dirty your ideals become after putting them through the political machine (assuming you can get them through the machine at all), how small the victories are, and the nagging sense that what you finally ended up settling for is almost as much a betrayal as the original wrong you were fighting against.
It turns out Kuo and I agree on other things, too. Like, for instance, my confusion about whether the things that Christians seem to be fighting for in American politics have any relevance to the issues that Jesus seemed to think mattered -- it turns out Kuo is puzzled about that, too. And hey, he thinks political liberals do a decent job of actually showing up and doing the social work that needs doing! I think that, too! And irrespective of agreeing with Kuo or not, there's a bunch of stuff in this book that's just plain fun, like getting all the salacious gossip on what William Bennett and other prominent figures of the religious right were doing during the years that Kuo spent slipping sneaky evangelistic code-phrases into political speeches.
After three years with the Office for Faith-Based Initiatives, Kuo finally quit, taking time away from politics to ask himself what any of these petty political battles had to do with what he still understood to be core Christian concerns in the world, concerns such as helping the poor. Kuo is disturbed enough by the answers that he calls for Christians to take a two-year fast from politics, turning away from the temptations of power and re-devoting themselves to spiritual matters.
I'd definitely recommend this book to politically-active Christians (on either the political left or right), as well as to those who have found themselves politically opposed to the religious right and wish to better understand the reasonable center of that movement. And hey, also to anyone who takes a dirty thrill from insider gossip about Washington politics.
With this published corroboration by Kuo, who made the same accusation when he resigned from the same program in 2003, it appears that the leadership of our country has been "hijacked" (to use Kuo's term) by a cabal of religious hypocrites. The Christians are being fed to the lions, at their own expense inside the arena, while the lions outside the arena are gathering with impunity. In making this analogy, no disrespect to lions is intended.