Book Excerpt: David Kuo's 'Tempting Faith'

Jeff let us ask questions about anything. Nothing was off-limits. During one entire meeting, for instance, he let me present my case that Michael Jackson might actually be the Archangel Michael in human form. An article in People seriously speculated about his potential divinity. I could see it. It was 1985 and Jackson, still black and odd only insofar as he hung out with Elizabeth Taylor and a chimpanzee named Bubbles, reigned over the pop music world. I thought my case was sound -- Michael sang well, his dancing was otherworldly, he seemed to possess an untainted innocence, and children were drawn to him. I didn't convince anyone. No one even laughed. I still suspect Jeff prepped them. One night, in the summer between my junior and senior years, I got a call from Christian. He was normally a quiet kid who didn't laugh much, but that night he was giddy. "I prayed for Jesus to enter my heart and I feel different, changed, alive." I was happy for him. For the first time, I could also basically understand why someone would want to do that. God existed before there was time and existed outside of the universe that he had created. He was the playwright. But we were the actors, who tried to live out a different life from the one he had desired. Our script was about us. That is why Jesus came -- to pay the price we could not pay to get us back on God's script. Jesus was the unknowable and unreachable God in knowable human form. He wasn't just a great man or a great prophet. He was God. Yet, somehow, he was man. To know Jesus meant to know the true nature of God. Jesus had all the answers. And he had taken every wrong thing I had ever done and would ever do onto himself, dying on a cross only to live again three days later. Who wouldn't want to tap into that kind of power? I told Christian I was thrilled for his new life. But I ended the call quickly. Christian had Jesus. I had tickets to go see Tina Turner with my girlfriend.

We dove into the soulful exuberance of that blond wig?wearing leggy Buddhist. Driving home I was feeling very mature. I had the mobility of wheels, instant access to New York City, a cute girlfriend, and only life in front of me. Though it was August in New York, the air had cooled after a night of intense thunderstorms. Leaves and small branches were strewn across the parkway as we drove north to our homes. Even more evidence of the storms was visible when I dropped off my girlfriend. There were so many leaves on her front lawn that night that, in the darkness, it looked like fall. I drove around town, past my elementary, middle, and high schools, reveling in the night, windows down, sweet air, loud music. It was good. I got home, opened the windows in my room, and went to sleep. At seven in the morning the phone rang. It was Jeff.

"David, Christian was killed in a car crash last night. He was driving and the car must have hydroplaned. He went head-on into a tree and was killed instantly." It happened on a road I had driven the night before.

I didn't say another word for quite a while. Jeff said some stuff but I didn't hear any of it. How could my laughing friend Christian, who had just accepted Jesus, be dead? Death only happened on TV or to old people. How could he be gone? We had conversations to complete. I needed to know about his Jesus experience.

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