It all started at a young age. Every day before school his mother would pick him up, place him on the table, cup his face in her hands, and tell him he was the most beautiful boy in the world. He would accomplish big things. If he had any doubts in the beginning they had long left him by the time he went to college. He had charisma. He played in a band while in college.
He went to business school and impregnated his girlfriend and now had to think of what to do next. He decided to take up the career of his grandfather. He would become a minister. The combination of business minded, spiritual personage with a rock and roll mentality would work wonders for him.
He decided to incorporate the spiritual work of dealing with the least of these all the while keeping his rock and roll and later beach bum attitude. Most would, at first, be caught in what was the whirlwind of his life. He became the rebel rock star CEO of homelessness. He grew his agency from a small shelter to a big non-profit. People said it was good he worked with the poor because otherwise he would have been a self-indulgent CEO or politician. Working with the homeless allowed some of the rock star life to create good. He ran his non-profit agency as a business; he would later brag that he ran a multi-million dollar corporation. Which was sort of true. He prided himself in being the minister of big things.
As part of his rebelliousness he prided himself on being a redneck. He chewed tobacco, loved football, and listened to and played of course rock and roll. His was the lifestyle to have even if he had to use and run over people to have it. The combination of charisma, spiritual leader, and redneck (badboy) was intoxicating. His organizations flourished until he could no longer hold people’s confidence. His way or the highway grew old. His glory first tinged with the humble nod of “I am only serving the homeless” would eventually be viewed with jaundiced eyes.
But he could tell poignant stories, with seemingly deep meanings, about different poor folks he met along the way. And his sermons were always shocking as he purposefully had one cuss word strategically placed in them. This would often cause people to renew their allegiance to him. But a review of his stories would reveal he was always the hero, with the homeless being noble too. Nine biographical books and not once did he make a mistake.
In his first job he created quite a sensation, grabbing the Southern Baptists by the tail and creating ministries for the poor and homeless seemingly out of nothing. He became the youngest keynote speaker ever at the Southern Baptist Convention. He was moving on up to bigger and better things. He had young seminary groupies. I once was impressed with his charisma. When in a room full of his groupies, we were having a lively debate. I had him on the run and shrewdly mentioned Dorothy Day and her teachings to buttress my point. She was someone whose teachings were revered by everyone in the room. He paused and then said that may be true but she is dead. Everyone oohed and ahhed at his wisdom and how he had won the argument. It was then that I knew what true charisma was like.
He lived as a rock star and beach bum. His wife, and the mother of two of his children, caught him running naked around a couch with a married member of his flock. But he excused himself with the reasoning “I am passionate and working with the homeless had been very stressful.” His followers as cultists surrounded him. Yet the people he had deliberately antagonized at his job now had the goods to let him go, so he resigned.
At first I thought this was a tragedy. But I worked at the church where he was minister. I took over the homeless ministry of which he had been in charge and found that the twenty-odd churches he had worked with, had not seen him in months, maybe a year. They were struggling to keep the homeless fed and clothed as he had inspired them to do, and needed or desired guidance. Then I found the letters. While cleaning up his office there were other women expressing desire to be with him again. Being a friend, I disposed of the letters. Many years later I asked him about those letters and why he would leave them laying around the office. He declared, in his typical cavalier style, that he did not care if anyone saw them. Another staff member found a secret bank account with several thousand dollars in it. It was his slush fund for when the Southern Baptists did not supply enough money, he stated.
He landed another job and his marriage had somehow survived the ordeal. He was building a new empire fast. I was in a commune, fleeing Southern Baptist life, when a mutual friend suggested me for the job. I loved Savannah and the offered job. He and another seminary student friend hired me to work with a new AIDS ministry they had started. The duties were far enough removed from his orbit that our interactions would be minimal. He and the organization were forever growing and creating national interest.
Then she came and she was the cat’s meow. And he lusted. This was the first ‘lust’ I had seen at the new job. I only noticed because they played touch football in the lobby. Employees began to talk. He called a meeting and self-righteously declared that they did not have the right to talk about what they saw him openly do. He called me in for counsel and said he was madly in love. Did I know that his wife, whom I knew and liked, had never read any of his books? Which sounded horrible until I recalled that the first book came out about the same time his wife caught him chasing someone around a couch. She probably lost her literary interest at that time. He asked if he should act on his feelings of the groin. I strongly advised him that would not be wise for many reasons. Valuing my good counsel, he had the affair and then left his wife. The new marriage lasted. Maybe he was in love. He continued to grow a homeless empire toppling, other morally inefficient organizations along the way. But in the end his organization would run only a hair better than the other vilified agencies.
The main reason his agencies stagnated was constant growth and chasing after the money to grow ran its course. He was warned to slow down, programs needed nurturing, but he took the high road and declared there was too much to do and God was on his side. He was becoming a national sweetheart and building an ever expanding organization. But many in the local community viewed him as a bully. He was the big kid on the block who thought his way was the best and only way.
The drinking and affection for the women staff members continued because after all he was full of life. He did not need to worry about what others thought. He began speaking tours nationwide. He was gone often. Everyone loved him and those who did not were prudes and stood in the way of progress.
His second wife left him. Never really knew why. But I had noticed his affections seem to be more ardent than usual with some of the younger women. He was now middle aged. But lived as if he was twenty.
One day almost three million dollars came up missing from the account. He who knew how much the coke machine made suddenly pled innocent to any knowledge of what was going on. He blamed the chief finance officer for the downfall. She was one of the people who had warned him that he was growing his empire faster than the money was growing. He would, at these times, put on his ministerial hat and tell this very devout lady that Jesus would find the money. She would be made to feel less holy and figure something out. After preaching to her about Jesus, he would switch to his CEO hat and say it was her job to make it happen, and with a smile on his face, imply that she better damn well do it. Finally, she ran out of tricks and she failed to pay the organization’s taxes on the wages of the nearly one-hundred employees. It was a bad move. He told everyone he could that his heart was broken by the trust she had betrayed. He assured everyone he did not know a thing about her bad decision. I scratched my head that people believed him and that he would let her take all the blame. She, being the good Christian, went to her cross as Jesus did, without saying a word.
But he was now on the downward slope. It may have been someone else’s fault but he was the CEO. A board made up of primarily white men let the black woman take the hit but watched him very carefully. The voices of inferior agencies began to be heard by the board, as well as women who were not sure if his affections were entirely appropriate; his work was beginning to look more like smoke than substance. He was asked to leave and he did. He was burned out he proclaimed. The board would never know how hard it was to live with such passion for the poor for so long. His national duties kept him busy for a year but they too began to notice his hard living. He was an easy-going and even a sexy figure from afar, but up close he resembled a train wreck.
He wrested away a good severance from his agency and had always made sure he was paid appropriately for his services so his nest egg was substantial. He turned his efforts to living the life of the beach bum. After all that is where all the truly passionate people were found. He tried various business endeavors, one using the acronym called MEE. He married a former employee. His life continued; filled with toga parties, blogging, traveling to his favorite Caribbean islands, and other zestful things. Life is good and for those who worry about his drinking and overly social behaviors, well they just do not know the right way to live.
As he grows older he now pastors a church in a bar and chaplains a nursing home all the while trumpeting his beach bum status. The rock star and CEO days are only glory days today. He has become the minister of small things. His new wife is pregnant. He is going to be a father at sixty. Maybe slowly the heritage of his grandfather can become his or who knows maybe the rock star CEO will have a reunion tour. Or maybe he finds the beauty in small things.