Pete is my half-brother. I've changed his name. He's sixteen years older than me.
I love Pete very much: fiercely, in fact, and defensively. Pete is an obsessive. When he was 14, it was Dungeons and Dragons. When he was 17 it was drugs. When he turned 21 it switched to God: it's been God ever since.
Pete nearly died when he was on drugs. He did a lot of stuff: weed initially, then LSD, then heroin. One of my earliest memories, from when I was about four, is of sitting in the garden eating breakfast with my parents on a sunny august day. The bathroom window opened: out crawled Pete, naked. He gingerly made his way down the sloped roof and jumped to the ground. Then he ran into the woods.
This makes me cry when I think about it, when I think of my parents' reaction: total despair. Because - what do you do? You can't get all tough, because then he'll leave home and you won't even know where he is or what he's doing. So you have to let him keep doing the stuff, keep trying to persuade him to see someone about it, keep trying to let him know that you're there for him, no matter what. And it's hard to watch your child push himself closer to oblivion.
Things came to a head about a year after that. Pete had gone to university -this is very much a middle class cautionary tale - and fallen in with the same kind of crowd there as he had at home. One day he OD'd. I don't know the details of it - I was pretty thoroughly shielded from it, and I've never wanted to ask - but he survived. A week later he started seeing a therapist, and he started going to church. He became a born-again Christian, dropped out of university (to return a year or so later) and sorted himself out. And now? He's ok. He has been for years. He's married to a member of his church and he's got four kids. And he's one of the happiest people I know.
I disagree with Pete about pretty much everything. I disagree with him about God; I disagree with him about pot; I disagree with him about the fate of nonbelievers; I disagree with him about homosexuality. I think he's fundamentally wrong about pretty much everything. The thing is, I don't care. In everything that matters, he's perfect: and, above all, he's alive. He's well.
When I look at Pete I sometimes wonder what might have been. Part of him was lost when he became a Christian. He has an IQ of 149; he has a double first. He is witty and erudite and well-read, though he doesn't read much any more. He works in a not-very-interesting job for a not-very-interesting company, but he doesn't care: his life is his family and his God. And I couldn't respect that more. Part of him may have been lost, but the rest of him was saved. And I don't think it's an overstatement to say that if he hadn't become a Christian he'd be dead by now.
I won't hear a word said against Pete. The thing is, what makes him seem strange to a lot of people is actually the most wonderful thing about him: he does things properly. Unlike a lot of christians, he isn't just a believer for an hour on sunday: he lives his life as a christian should. He gives as much as he can afford to charity. He says what he believes. He tries to convert people, which freaks me out a little, but which is wonderful: he doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks of him. Once you accept his first tenet - which I don't - everything else follows.
Above all, he is a good man. He is kind, and sweet-natured, and gentle, and modest, and fiercely intelligent. He is my brother, the wonderful fanatic, and I love him.