That's a scan of my friend David's brain. The blobby shapes shouldn't be there. They're rapidly growing tumors, the latest manifestation of the cancer that came close to killing him once before and now is likely to succeed.
David and I have drifted apart over the years, but we used to be close and I still think of him as a friend even though we haven't talked much lately.
David's political and religious views are very different from mine. He was Special Assistant to the President (George W. Bush), and was the number-two guy at the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Before that he'd worked for Ralph Reed, John Ashcroft, and the CIA. He wrote a book. He was on 60 Minutes, and on Colbert (though I haven't been able to bring myself to watch that video). He blogged at various places, in an inconsistent and desultory way.
David was part of what I'd call the Religious Right. But over time he became disillusioned with its politicized agenda, and particularly with its lack of interest in helping the poor. Here's David, leading a 60 Minutes camera crew around a convention of evangelicals. They stop by one of the display tables to look at the books and pamphlets for sale:
"You've got homosexuality in your kid's school, and you've got human cloning, and partial birth abortion and divorce and stem cell [...] Not a mention of the poor.
"This message that has been sent out to Christians for a long time now: that Jesus came primarily for a political agenda, and recently primarily a right-wing political agenda - as if this culture war is a war for God. And it's not a war for God, it's a war for politics. And that's a huge difference.
Despite our very different opinions, I have a great deal of respect for David's intelligence and thoughtfulness. I wish he weren't dealing with this deadly cancer. I also know he's got a lot to take care of right now -- he'll leave behind a wife and young kids. But under the circumstances, I wonder what he's learning from this experience, what insights it's given him. With his religious beliefs, I expect his reaction to the process of dying and to all the medical interventions he's gone through is probably very different than how I would experience it if I were in his shoes.
Andrew Sullivan hosts a series of videos in which David responds to questions from viewers. Here's an example, in which he talks about his first thoughts after learning about his cancer diagnosis. Rod Dreher says "I know David is going to beat this cancer, even if it takes his life" and I understand what he means by that. I'd go even further, and say that David already beat this cancer. It can take his life, but it can't erase the past.