It is almost certain that the greatest power over the formative years for Pete was his exceptional physique. More than just a naturally-athletic body, he had the looks that drew the opposite sex to him like the sun to wayward, frozen comets in deep space. He first realized this when he was only ten. If it wasn’t enough to see how he always became the center of attention when he entered a room, he also had the unique opportunity to observe the same—in third person—when his, monozygotic brother, Paul, walked into a room. They shared their paternal grandmother’s cobalt blue eyes and their own mother’s dark, Turkish, complexion. As if that was not enough, the gods also bestowed on them both the ability to excel at sports without trying. In even more of act of unfairness, they each had an IQ of at least 140.
The way thatpeople responded to Pete, shaped his self-perception almost fatalistically. He was made a leader at every turn, captain of his high school basketball team, president of his senior class. He felt deeply within the dark labyrinths of the soul that he was exceptional and destine for something great.
Paul, his brother, took that same feeling in the direction of politics. Their mother use to refer to Paul as her “future presidential son.” Paul felt that maybe that was his fate. He was naturally drawn to the Republican Party, whose philosophical center is in sociological free-will Vs. the Democrats, who are equally invested in social fatalism. When you are highly gifted, it is most comforting to think you had orchestrated your own good will. Both of course are wrong because of their exclusive views. Pete may have taken that same path if destiny hadn’t twisted his path a bit.
To intentionally create a few degrees of light between their personas, Pete and Paul decided their junior years of high school to take separate athletic paths. Paul was going to focus on baseball and football, Pete basketball and track. They each wanted to stake out their own identities.
As captain (and star I may add) of the basketball team Pete was also voted to be president of their chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To him, as well as most of the kids, it was a formality. The parents liked it on their kids “resume.” However, Church stuff wasn’t completely foreign to Pete as he was raised in the First Methodist church of Bakersville. But Pete had a genuine awakening when he went to a summer FCA retreat. What drew him, besides being the president of the local FCA, was that the keynote speaker was Jerry Lucas, retired NBA star. But Pete was honestly moved and gave his life to Christ during a very emotion meeting the last night.
In my main story, Pete is a phony, but he is the garden-variety phony, like the rest of us. He is not the complete phony . . . in the likes of most of the TV evangelists on TBN or like many politicians. The complete phony has no structural relationship between the realities of whom they are on the ground floor and who they project to the public. To the politicians, that projection is simply a mirror reflecting back to the people what they want to see and has nothing to do with what the politician really believes or thinks. Most of us phonies do have a relationship between who we are and who we project, although we do not hesitate to bury the bad parts and distort our motives.
But deep within those primal caverns of the soul, where ghosts of motives engage in a strange tango in the blackness , stepping between the stalactites and bottomless pits, embracing and unraveling, Pete had both honest desires to serve God and honest desires to fulfill his addiction to the self. The opium of that addition was the praise in the eyes of women and the envy of and domination over men. But like any of us who claim to be Christians, to endure the reality of having motives antithesis to God living within the bowels of our souls, we must mentally merge them with the saintly dancers. We pretend the two become one, dissolving the daylight (but there is no “daylight” in total darkness) that separates them in the opposite direction of how Pete and Paul wanted a separation. Pete’s “necessity” to have dominance and control of Angie forcing her adoration, and his “need” to be the envy of other pastors was wed to his true desire to be a good pastor and serving God. But the true sin is not in how we’ve been passively shaped by our experiences, but our choice to avoid having the insight into ourselves and our motives and our active participation in advancing and maintaining the charade.
In Pete’s earliest ministry, he was a youth pastor at a large Bible church in Anaheim. He quickly caught not only the attention of his senior pastor but churches throughout California and the Pacific coast. He was an excellent speaker, reminding the older generation of the confidence and articulation of a Josh McDowell. And like with Josh, teen age chastity became one of his hottest topics.
This is the area that had the greatest chiasm of disconnect for Pete. He lost his own virginity when he was barely fifteen. Of course that was three years before he confessed to being a Christian. But he was sexually actively with both high school girlfriends, both college girlfriends and two one-night-stands.
After his conversion he never asked himself the question if having sex with his girlfriend was right or wrong. The question was not even in his lexicon or within the perimeter of his radar. Even in seminary he remained sexually active and the morality of the choice was never discussed between him and his fellow seminarian girlfriend Kathryn. Pete saw no resemblance between the teaching of chastity in his dating and marriage class, where he staunchly defended the Biblical teaching of remaining virgins until marriage, and spending the night with his own girlfriend in her off-campus apartment. There was a total disconnect that could only be explained in psychological and not intellectual terms.
In his talks to young men he would say, “Remember I was a teenager just a few years ago. I remember how hard it was to be caste. I even dated Miss California and the first runner up to Miss America.” It was true that his high school girlfriend, Karla, did go on to become Miss California and the First Runner-Up in Miss America, but they were never caste. In the back of his mind, as his reputation broadened, Pete did have a fear that Karla would step out of the past to set the record straight.
Oddly, Angie was the only girl he was ever caste with. He allowed her to believe that she was the first. She was terrified deep inside that she wasn’t nor his favorite . . . and she had legitimate grounds for he fears.
Deep within Pete’s psyche, in beliefs that were so convoluted that they could not be expressed in language, nor can I explain clearly here, Pete had the sense that being sexually active with his girlfriends was also his destiny. After all, it was God who made him irresistible. He felt clean after his sexual liaisons because he had the strange sense that he had “ministered” to the girls. He never asked for forgiveness. Therefore, he did not hesitate to give a fiery lecture on “Remaining Pure in an Impure Age” in chapel after spending the night with Kate. He even practiced his delivery in the shower with her there listening and giving feedback. He saw no contradiction. Secretly he felt that chastity was really meant for the average boy and girl . . . the boy with the pimples or big nose and the girl with no gifts.
But if Angie had an un-named apparition to fear, it was Paula, a one-night-stand. Pete became infatuated by Paula, a nurse in ICU, at Cedars Sinai where he was doing his chaplain internship at the end of seminary (Played here by Amy Adams). She was a beautiful redhead who had an extroverted and fun personality that Pete could not resist. But part of her enchantment (pun intended) over Pete was the fact she was forbidden to him. Besides being an outspoken non- Christian, something that would certainly derail Pete’s ambitions of being a successful pastor, he has already bought Angie’s ring. He was just waiting on the opportunity to fly out to DC to propose to her.
But Pete could not wait to get to the hospital in the morning and quickly make his rounds in ICU. He would always try to time his visit after the docs had made their rounds, things had settled down, and Paula was in her joking and talkative mood.
Pete surprised himself when he asked her out on a date. It was like him hearing his brother Paul speaking, but the words were coming from his mouth. But why not, he later reasoned. He had never mentioned Angie to her. It couldn't do any harm. He was still sure that he would marry Angie, but, if he didn't go on this one date with Paula, he felt that he would always regret it. She accepted.
He tried to make it very special with a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a stroll on the Santa Monica beach, capped off with a picnic and a kiss. But the kiss was only the start and Pete awakened the next morning in Paula’s bed . . . and in her heart. He felt no remorse but was shaken to the core with his immense infatuation. He had always been the giver of infatuation, now he, for the first time, was the receiver. He even started to entertain thoughts of how this unholy union could work out. However, a medical resident, James, saw that it ended and ended quickly.
James too was obsessed with Paula. He had been dreaming of her for months and was starting to make his move when Pete showed up. Unfortunate for Pete’s sake (pun intended again), he had confined in James about his relationship with Angie. He did it as part of a boast. He described being “engaged” to a girl who was the daughter of the commander of Andrews Air Force base, and friend to the presidents.
When word got through the hospital that Paula had spent the night with the handsome preacher, James was furious. He did not hesitate to get alone with Paula. “ Didn't Pete tell you he was engaged? He certainly is!”
Paula’s dream of a long romance became a one-night-stand by her choice. She didn't want to talk to Pete again, and her colleagues created a boundary that Pete couldn't cross. But Paula never left Pete’s mind.
It was years later, soon after Pete and Angie arrived in Kansas City that Pete “discovered” Paula on Facebook. He did search for her by name, out of curiosity. But once they met, he created his own secret cyber world where the two of them could “talk.”
Pete did have enough connect with his self that he kept the conversation “spiritual.” Paula had married a doctor at the Cedars, but not James. It had only lasted five years. Pete was an ear to her. Pete also found someone with whom he felt like he could communicate with, after all, he found Angie to be emotionally frigid. Paula didn't hesitate calling Tom Ledbetter an asshole. Pete told Paula things that he never told Angie. But he would also share prayers and Bible verses that had moved him that day. But like with the sexual relations in college, where he could do it without remorse, he was able to keep Paula in his secret pocket. He felt like God knew . . . and approved. He never attempted to meet her, although she tried. It would have been easy when Pete went back to California to visit his family alone.
But Pete was like a master bass fisherman. As part of his opium of wanted to be admired by women, he knew how to play them. In his sharp intellect, he could tell when a woman was awestruck by him, and many were. Then he would play them. Make firm eye contact. Give them compliments. Make them feel that they shared something unique with him. Select ones, which he could play more. Give them positions in the church such as pianist, Sunday school director or newsletter writer. They all adored him. But, like a master fisherman, he also knew how to keep them away from his boat. He knew where to draw the line to avoid total professional ruin. Paula was the one he played the closes. He covered his tracks well, and kept the distance so that if anyone did discover his private world, he would have clear room to defend himself.
Footnote: Please forgive the typos. I thought this out and typed it (as I thought) in one sitting at the coffee shop and there may be many typos.