NO man ever spoke like him.
He came from out of nowhere, or so it seemed. He had no national name recognition, no family connections, no rich uncle. Yet he built a coalition that remains today.
He was enormously popular at times, but scorned and criticized at others. He was plain spoken, spoke from the heart, hardly took time for his own needs, needed little and provided much.
He pulled unspeakable joy out of the bellies of the downcast yet stuffed self-righteousness down the throats of the sanctimonious.
He turned the tables on convention. He cast out false assumptions, sickened the establishment and established hope for the sick.
Were he with us today, in the flesh, liberals would love his compassion but hate his pragmatism. Conservatives would love his pragmatism but squirm at his tolerance. Moderates would hate his exclusivism but love his universality.
He could be all things to all people, if only the people would let him. He offered drunks, dopers and sex addicts two steps — not 12 — to recovery. He told people they were responsible for their own actions and to stop wearing their piety on their sleeves. He ran a lost-and-found service. His door was always open.
He was never politically correct. His monologues comforted and offended at the same time. His oblique stories left a lasting impression. No man had ever spoken the way this man did. No one has since.
He healed. He wept. His fire burned bright on a midnight clear. It is even brighter now, in a darker world than the one he left.
He was a conjunction of time and eternity, of God and man. To quote an authority, he united the vertical of divine revelation with the horizontal of history's meaning. In so doing, he made great claims about himself that some believed religiously.
Yet his best buddies disclaimed him when they feared being on an enemies list. While they slept, he stayed up all night talking to his dad. When they couldn't sleep because of a storm, he slept like a baby.
Some say this is his birthday. Scholars have debated that for years. Nobody really knows when he was born, just that he was — and in a most unusual way.
And he left the same way he came, following a short career that flourished, floundered, revived, died and then lived for a little while longer. He named as his successor an Advocate, who is still on the job.
Birthday greetings to you, kind Sir.
And, a happy return.
This editorial by Opinion Editor J.E. McReynolds first ran in The Oklahoman on Christmas Day 1994.