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Now in paperback with a new afterword from the author. "An important and extremely timely book...Get it, read it, and talk to others about it." --Timothy Keller
In this unvarnished account of faith inside the world’s most powerful office, Michael Wear provides unprecedented insight into the highs and lows of working as a Christian in government. Reclaiming Hope is an insider’s view of the most controversial episodes of the Obama administration, from the president’s change of position on gay marriage and the transformation of religious freedom into a partisan idea, to the administration’s failure to find common ground on abortion and the bitter controversy over who would give the benediction at the 2012 inauguration.
The book is also a passionate call for faith in the public square, particularly for Christians to see politics as a means of loving one’s neighbor and of pursuing justice for all. Engrossing, illuminating, and at time provocative, Reclaiming Hope changes the way we think about the relationship of politics and faith.
"A pre-Trump book with serious questions for our politics in the age of Trump...More necessary than ever before." -- Sojourners
"Should be read by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and all who are concerned by the state of our politics.” --Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist and CNN political analyst
"Reclaiming Hope will certainly give you a fresh perspective on politics--but, more importantly, it may also give you a fresh perspective on faith.”--Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries
"An important contribution in this age of religious and political polarization." --J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy
"A lifeline for these times." --Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts and The Broken Way
“We can hope, and this book can help us.” --Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Michael Wear is the founder of Public Square Strategies LLC, a consulting firm that helps businesses, non-profits, foundations, and Christian organizations at the intersection of faith, politics, and culture. Wear directed faith outreach for President Obama’s historic 2012 re-election campaign and was one of the youngest White House staffers in modern American history, leading evangelical outreach and helping manage the White House’s engagement on religious and values issues, including adoption and anti-human trafficking efforts. He holds an honorary position at the University of Birmingham’s Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, and serves on the national board of Bethany Christian Services. He lives with his wife, Melissa, in Washington, DC.
Read an Excerpt
Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About The Future of Faith in America
By Michael Wear
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Michael Wear
All rights reserved.
My path to working for the president was an improbable one.
I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, in a town and a family emblematic of what writer George Packer has so strikingly referred to as "the unwinding," the massive social and economic transformation of the last forty years that has led to a hollowing out of America's middle class. When I was seven years old my parents divorced due to economic strain, and so my older sister, Dana, and I were primarily raised by my mother, Genevieve. We did not have a lot of money — my mother worked two and sometimes three jobs for most of my childhood so that we could get by — but I was surrounded by a large, loving Italian family.
The patriarch of that family, my grandfather Jerry, was the man I looked up to, and he was like a father to me. He was a great man. He was an army artilleryman in World War II and fought in northern France. My grandfather was certain the Lord was with him in the war. One night he opened his eyes and everything was bright; his whole area was being bombed. He left his tent and ran across the street to check on the other soldiers. After confirming they were safe, he returned to his tent to find his bed torn to shreds by shrapnel. "No one can tell me there's no Lord," he would say.
I looked up to my grandfather my entire life, and he never disappointed me. I feel a great sense of warmth and security even today when I think of the sound of his electric razor accompanied by his joyful humming of old songs from the army. He taught me through his example about citizenship and community, and about the importance and value of family. It was my grandfather who sparked my interest in public service and politics at a very young age, and those commitments have guided much of my life. Whatever I have accomplished, whatever good I have done in my life so far, is largely due to his towering presence.
He died in the summer of 2005, and I was devastated. I delivered the eulogy at his funeral, marking the end of my adolescence and the beginning of a new age of responsibility. I was seventeen years old. There were so many important decisions to make ahead, and now I had to make them without the one person whose assurances gave me instant comfort.
I certainly didn't receive much comfort from religion as an adolescent. My family was not particularly religious. In Buffalo, it seemed as if everyone was born Catholic. It was a Catholicism of rituals and rhythms that gave structure to the weeks and years. Religion was "like brushing your teeth in the morning," my mother says: "you just did it." There were Catholics of deep faith in my family when I was growing up, and I have met many more since, but in my youth, religion seemed empty and contrived.
The millennial generation is the first to grow up in a time when religious skepticism is pervasive and accepted in mainstream American culture. Like many of my peers, I internalized messages about religion that I did not really understand myself. I was convinced the Bible was self-contradictory, though I had never read it. I viewed religion as a crutch without interrogating the actual experiences of religious people. I believed religion was anti-intellectual without considering the brilliance of the religious people I knew, or the fact that many of the great intellectuals of human history were religious.
In the same way many in previous generations considered themselves to be Christian because it was reinforced by their peers and culture, I assumed God was unknowable and irrelevant, if God existed at all.
Yet I could not escape God. This God-who-did-not-exist was everywhere.
I have loved rhythm and blues and soul music for as long as I can remember, and it constantly brought me into contact with the gospel. Whether it was a gospel track on an otherwise secular album or the unencumbered praising of God on award shows by my favorite black artists, it was through black music and culture that I felt a sort of tension, a constant knocking that indicated a question that had yet to be confronted stood right outside the doors of my mind and heart.
Then, quite literally, God infiltrated my home. My sister was influenced by a number of high school peers who were devout Christians, and they led her to begin exploring her own beliefs when she was a teenager. Soon enough, she told me she had given her life to Christ, and that I should too. I looked up to my sister in the way a little brother usually does — begrudgingly but undeniably — and so her conversion demanded my attention.
Over the next several years, Dana was persistently proselytizing me. She would give me books, many of which I pretended to ignore but secretly read. She would share with me what she was learning, most of which I initially mocked and later contemplated. One time, she tried to sit down with me and read me something from the Bible and I stood up, started yelling at her, and threw the large Bible back in her face. I found out later that she was praying fervently for me this whole time.
My protestations aside, in my solitude — where there was no one I needed to impress or defend myself against — there was an excavation of all that I thought about religion, about Christianity, and the questions kept turning over in my mind. I read Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ, which was a bestseller at the time, and Strobel helpfully deconstructed some of the more obvious, pervasive material critiques of Christianity. I came across a Christian blogger who was gracious enough to correspond with a fifteen-year-old boy who asked difficult, sometimes exacting or obscure questions of him. I exchanged multiple e-mails with the pastor of my sister's church.
In 2002, Lauryn Hill released an acoustic album, a follow-up to her multiple-Grammy-winning debut solo album. The 2002 album merged a theologically rooted political awareness with deeply probing, emotional songs about the artist's personal relationship with God. I listened to the album over and over again, and the intellectual heft of the effort, combined with Hill's emotional sincerity, moved me. In one song, "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind," Hill sings about how she tried to find contentment in other relationships, but they fell short. At the end of the song, Hill starts weeping, praising God, singing that God is now her peace of mind, and riffing through tears about a God who is merciful and wonderful. There comes a point when the performance seems to end, and it is just her singing to God. I thought, Something is going on here that is more than just ritual and tradition.
One evening, after months of saying no, I finally agreed to attend my sister's youth group with her. I think I figured if I attended, I would have more ammunition with which to dismiss her beliefs, but at this point I was also a bit curious.
It did not work out as I had planned: I did not fit in. I did not know the language. I did not understand the culture. One of the girls in the youth group, who was around my age and knew that I was not a Christian, introduced herself and asked, "What is your favorite book of the Bible?"
I, of course, did not have a favorite book. In that moment, I wasn't even sure I knew one. Before I could answer, she responded, "Well, mine is Hezekiah."
I responded hurriedly, "Mine too."
It was only after I became a Christian that I realized that there was no book called Hezekiah in the Bible. She was messing with me.
I did not enjoy the youth group at all.
I endured the event program of music, games, and a sermon. When we were finally dismissed, I told my sister I would be by the car, and I hurried out hoping to avoid another Bible quiz. As I walked through the large, open space of the church's youth center, one of the volunteer leaders with the group was handing out little books. To be civil, I took one. For some reason, I did not immediately discard it. I returned home that evening, sat on my bed, and just stared at the book for a few minutes.
Just Romans. That's odd. No culturally hip messaging? Nothing to try to scare me or woo me? No emotional manipulation?
I read the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans from the New Testament in its entirety that night. The letter contains not just the story of Jesus but an argument about how Jesus fits into the story of human history. Looking back, I suppose that the sensation I had reading that remarkable letter — a letter so extraordinary that while it was written to an entire civilization, it seems to so many readers to have been written just for them — was one of a culmination of learning, a consummation of all that had been working in me those past few years, perhaps even all of my life. But in that moment of rapturous realization, there was a feeling of discovery, of reaching the summit of some majestic mountaintop that I only just realized I had been climbing all along.
Romans is a breathtaking, lawyerly argument about the nature of God, creation, and the human condition. Paul's claims in it are concrete rather than ethereal and he stated them as fact.
As I read, I was compelled to ask the straightforward question I had circled around for years: "What if this is real?" And it was there, at the end of all of my striving to not believe, that I found myself believing. It was there that grace found me.
On an evening in the autumn of 2003, in the car with my sister as she dropped me off in front of our house after school, I told her, the first time I told anyone, that I believed in Christ, "my Lord and my God." To this day, my sister's steadfastness in her prayer and conversations with me is one of the great witnesses of faithfulness I have personally encountered.
Now that I believed, I was not really sure all it signified for my life. What did it mean to follow Jesus? Initially, I thought I had to forget about politics, go to seminary, and become a pastor. What did following Jesus mean if not entering the ministry? After some study and good counsel, I chose a different path: I wanted to discover what faith ought to look like in public.
For a while it seemed to me as though I would have to figure it out alone. I felt isolated as a teenager, but was already beginning to reconcile myself to the idea that my decisions would be mine alone and that I would have to take action alone. This sense seemed to be affirmed as I went deeper into my teenage years.
And then Melissa appeared, as in a vision that seemed like a dream, another reality. She was bold and brilliant — willing to make arguments and defend her intellect. She was utterly unique — we could laugh about the dumbest things, but she never seemed frivolous. She was not flailing about like other teenagers; she was grounded and purposeful. She seemed to be made of meaning.
We began dating before I headed to college in Washington, DC, while she finished her senior year of high school, and we have been together ever since. Melissa has been my reminder that I am not my politics. She knew me and loved me before the campaigns, before the White House, before the fund-raisers and fancy receptions. I would need that reminder in the days ahead.CHAPTER 2
MEETING BARACK OBAMA
I met Barack Obama not just by chance, but chance that arose out of my own personal error. I was eighteen, a freshman at George Washington University, and I held a position on the executive board of the College Democrats chapter on campus. In that position, I was supposed to lead students to attend the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting. The convention that year was particularly important, as it represented one of the few times presidential candidates would have all of the party's superdelegates together in one place. Superdelegates are party leaders who have a vote in the nominating process that can be cast however they decide. They play a critical role in legitimizing a candidacy, and if the race is close enough, they can even tip the balance in one candidate's direction.
This was my first party convention, so while I was excited, I had no idea what to expect. When I arrived at the Washington Hilton — where I would spend future mornings with President Obama for official events — I expected to see crowds of people and political paraphernalia. Instead, I found an empty hotel lobby.
After twenty minutes of wandering around the hotel, I finally asked the concierge where I might find the convention. The receptionist told me what should have been obvious: I had the wrong date. The convention had not even started yet.
Embarrassed and dejected, I walked through the lobby toward the outside doors. As I neared the exit, I noticed a man whose political career I had been following for several years already and who I was certain would run for president: Barack Obama. Accompanied by only a couple of staffers, Obama walked directly toward me. He had not yet announced his campaign — in fact, his appearance at the convention would be one of the final milestones on the road to announcing just days later. Because he was not yet a presidential candidate, he was not surrounded by hordes of press and aides, and I was able to walk up to him almost immediately.
I stretched out my hand to shake his and began to speak. He leaned toward me, with his ear just inches from my mouth.
"Senator, I'm a Christian who has followed your career for years, and I believe in your vision. I think you should run for president, and I would love to work for you when you do."
Obama smiled and pointed to his personal assistant, Reggie Love, who walked over with an open, small notebook.
"I want you to talk to Reggie. He'll get your information, and we'll be in touch. We'd love to have your help."
"Thank you, Senator," I replied.
I walked to a quieter spot in the lobby with Reggie, and we exchanged a few words of pleasantries while he collected my information. Reggie is a man of imposing kindness. A team captain with the Duke Blue Devils NCAA champion basketball team, Reggie would go on to serve as Obama's "body man," or personal assistant, in the White House. Essentially, Reggie was responsible for the president's needs — as much as any one person could be — 24/7.
I was persistent, perhaps even annoying, in my follow-up inquiries and reminders to Reggie and to Joshua DuBois, who covered faith issues in Obama's senate office. My e-mails would alternate between short reminders that I existed and multiple-paragraph e-mails that included campaign strategy recommendations. Looking back, it is hard to pinpoint what it was that motivated me to pursue what was an opaque opportunity.
I had never worked on a campaign before. Would I even like it? Barack Obama was polling in the single-digits for much of the nine months or so I spent trying to work for him. Even if he won, it was beyond my imagination that I could follow him to the White House.
Barack Obama's singularity as a politician was definitely a large part of it. It is undeniable that for me and others of my generation, working to elect Obama became a way to place ourselves in the historic narrative of the civil rights movement. My first explicitly political convictions were related to civil rights, and as a student at George Washington University, I protested in the wake of the police shooting of Sean Bell. I was also involved in the Black Student Union on campus. It was beyond compelling to support Obama's campaign.
My identification as a Democrat did not mean that I was completely at ease in the party. When I became a Christian, I soon understood that throwing myself without reservation behind any party platform was impossible. My allegiances were elsewhere. Politics provided a choice between imperfect options. I remained a Democrat because of the party's historical commitment to the working class, party members' dedication to combating poverty directly, and the Democrats' leadership in the modern civil rights movement. I was deeply troubled by abortion (discussed more fully later in this book), and that issue made navigating Democratic politics difficult at times. I also disagreed with Democrats' general approach to matters of sex and sexuality, along with other issues. Still, I had profound disagreements with the Republican Party too.
What is also important to understand is that I came of age during a time when the Religious Right had great influence and many Christians were coming to accept that some of the tactics of that movement actually caused damage to the witness of the American church. At the very time I became a Christian, it seemed many of my peers had an increasingly negative perception of Christians. This was in large part due to a presentation of evangelicals in the public square that led many to believe Christians were judgmental, hypocritical, and sheltered. In 2010, respected academics David Campbell and Robert Putnam concluded in their landmark book, American Grace, that partisan politics were directly to blame for the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans. "The growth of the nones," Campbell argued, "is a direct reaction to the intermingling of religion and politics in the United States." Evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt was more blunt in his assessment: "As American Evangelicals have become more partisan, American Christianity has suffered as more shy away from the faith." The evangelical political leaders that dominated political news seemed little like the evangelicals I knew and worshiped with in Buffalo or at my church in Washington. Yet those were the folks who had the Republican Party's ear. After losing two straight presidential elections, the Democrats were open to just about everyone.
Excerpted from Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear. Copyright © 2017 Michael Wear. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Family Values 1
Chapter 2 Meeting Barack Obama 9
Chapter 3 A Campaign to Believe In 23
Chapter 4 President Obama's Faith in the White House (2009-2010) 57
Chapter 5 President Obama's Faith in the White House (2011-2012) 79
Chapter 6 Searching for Common Ground on Abortion 103
Chapter 7 The Contraception Mandate 123
Chapter 8 The President's "Evolution" 141
Chapter 9 A Different Kind of Campaign 159
Chapter 10 The Tale of Two Inaugurals 177
Chapter 11 Real Hope 191
Chapter 12 Reclaiming Hope 205
About the Author 245
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“But hope is real. And reclaiming real hope is key to the well-being of our lives, our families, and our politics” (xxx). This line from Michael Wear’s introduction to Reclaiming Hope expresses why I love this book. Wear presents his experience in the Obama White House with honesty and vulnerability, and from there he draws lessons that are so important for American Christians to understand--lessons about principled faith, civic engagement, and most of all, hope. I admit that throughout President Obama’s two terms, I was not enthusiastic about his faith nor his plans to deal with my passion: reducing abortions. Michael’s narrative gave me a greater insight into the man in the Oval Office, his genuine--if unfulfilled--desire to have dialogue with people on both sides of the aisle, and the successes and shortcomings of his administration in dealing with matters close to my heart. To read Michael’s honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Obama administration gives me hope for continued civil dialogue about the things that unite us and divide us as a nation. At this time in our country, as Christians, we need this book. We need to remember the one we hope in, and following in Michael’s footsteps, we can learn to put our hope into action through civic engagement. I am recommending this book to all my Christian friends.
Joyful, prescient, story-driven, and honest, Reclaiming Hope lives up to its title in every way. Wear's ability to weave narrative with thoughtful commentary on faith, politics, and patriotism is a gift to the reader. I'm excited to gift this book to several people, and highly recommend it!
Can anything thrive at the intersection of faith and politics? From Jeremiah Wright to Paula White, hasn’t recent history--on both sides of the aisle--shown us that faith and politics are best left unmixed? Michael Wear offers a passionate, resounding “no” to this question in Reclaiming Hope, and makes a persuasive case for something that is all too rare: robust political engagement from people of Christian faith. Writing from his first-hand experience serving in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama White House, Wear speaks alternately to the right-leaning Christians who couldn’t understand why a fellow evangelical believer would work in the Obama White House, and then to the secular-minded administration colleagues who turned deaf or uncomprehending ears to his faith-based work. Along the way, Wear casts a vision for politicos who are neither ashamed of the faith that shapes and drives them, nor selling their faith out to every position and political machination of their party. At times transparent and vulnerable (Wear is not too proud to share some of his own missteps), and at other times forceful and passionate, Wear weaves his own story of coming to work for the first Obama campaign as a 20 year old college student, up through his years in the White House concluding with the second inaugural. Though this history is recent and familiar, Wear provides new angles of insight that will appeal to people of all kinds of political and religious persuasions. The current political season has subjected us to much talk about the intersection of faith and politics. Much of it has been unhelpful, or quite literally preaching to the choir. Too often, it comes from the pundit class whose only skin in the game is to increase their own media profile, score points with their own tribe, and increase polarization (and decrease civility) in our national discourse. Wear’s voice is strikingly different. Neither rose-tinted hagiography nor snarky, score-settling partisan vitriol; neither Pollyanna-style idealism nor cynical deconstruction, Wear is not seeking to inflame or spin. He is seeking to combine truth and love in an arena that often eschews both, all while striking a hopeful, charitable, and inclusive tone. It’s a tall order, but one he succeeds in more often than not. Some of the best sections of Reclaiming Hope recount the various tangled and sometimes tortured controversies that inevitably became issues of faith, including the contraception mandate in the ACA, gay marriage, and the dis-invitation of Louie Giglio from praying at the second inaugural. Wear is clearly an admirer of Obama the person and of many of his efforts, yet that doesn’t prevent him from having the critical distance necessary to analyze where that administration went wrong when it comes to faith. There were victories too, which Wear also describes. But despite the glimpses into the sometimes seamy underside of faith and politics during the Obama years, Reclaiming Hope is a gift: a faith-based political
This book is, simply put, required reading for anyone concerned about the deterioration of civic engagement or perplexed about the role of faith, hope, and love in the contemporary American political landscape. (Spoiler alert: that should be all of you!) Whether or not you agree with Wear on every ideological jot and tittle, this is one of the most thoughtful explorations of civic engagement I've read. Wear artfully leans on his fascinating experiences as one of the President's top faith advisors without the usual self-aggrandizement or ego found in White House tell-alls, offering instead a wealth of wisdom and an insider's perspective that offer a path forward in a contentious and often ugly political environment. Wear's keen analysis, and his vision for the future of faith and politics in America, is refreshing and practical, but it is not easy. A future defined by cooperation and goodwill may seem idealistic in an age defined by widening chasms, but that's precisely why "Reclaiming Hope" is so necessary. Wear has managed to leave cynicism behind for realism, while maintaining a clear-headed vision for navigating the wreckage of a culture gone mad. Wear accomplishes this feat so neatly primarily because he understands that a renewal of hope requires a reframing of our priorities, and that hope comes from a source outside even our most powerful institutions. In short, this is a book well-suited for its' time. Wear has managed to, despite all odds, convey refreshing optimism and impress the critical duty each of us has to commit ourselves to the good of our cities, states, nation, and world. You will be better for having read this book, and so will your neighbors.
Coming out of an atrocious election cycle, Reclaiming Hope came as a welcome respite from the mudslinging and name-calling. When it comes to politics, I often find myself jumping back and forth between the two camps of caring too much and not caring at all. Maybe it’s my age and stage of life, or maybe the system really is changing, but this election cycle felt different. This one felt pivotal, defining our culture and country in new ways. So as much as I wanted to walk away and shut out the noise and the drama, I couldn’t silence it all. I sought out voices that were both competent and compassionate. I wasn’t really concerned about “sides” like I normally am, but finding those who could communicate about politics without losing their temper. I came across Michael Wear on Twitter sometime during the summer, and he soon became a favorite. When I saw he was writing a book on his experience inside the Obama White House, I understood why his words spoke louder than most. There’s nothing like personal experience to give someone deeper insight and understanding in the midst of such a turbulent season. It’s easy for television personalities to speculate and radio hosts to criticize; they sit on the sidelines watching through binoculars for every mishap and mistake. It’s quite another to be down on the field trying to get the play down the field. Michael Wear had been on the field. And he shared a common belief of mine, his Christian faith. Getting the opportunity to read through Michael’s book was the encouragement I was looking for in this season. The personal narrative from which he wrote made his story an easy and compelling one to read. His insights were some few tell about. From a political view, I come from a different background so naturally I approached his book with a little skepticism. But, surprisingly, I found myself siding with just about all of his points of view. I enjoyed seeing how his faith influenced his politics, but wasn’t intertwined in it. His faith wasn’t dependent on pushing the right initiatives forward. Most importantly, he modeled how one can have strong, Christian values, yet still work alongside those who don’t share those same beliefs. That’s what stood out the most to me. While I’m still figuring out where I am on the spectrum (it’s just easier to say you’re in the middle) his book will serve as a guide in my continued search. If you’re looking for a positive, hope-filled approach to our current political system, I encourage you to give this book a read. We need more people who share Michael’s perspective in our political process- from the local levels all the way to Washington.
Like many in my demographic, I find myself wondering more and more often, How did we get here? What made this divide between ideologies so wide? In Reclaiming Hope, Michael Wear sets out to provide insights to those questions. A self-described conservative Democrat, Wear worked on President Obama's initial campaign in 2008 before working within the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. His inside view into our most recent President's faith, values, and attempts at partnering faith and politics is eye-opening. Not only are there plenty of stories about working in the White House and the challenges of defining the nearly-impossible topic of an individual's faith to a public policy, but Wear gives insights into the millennial view of faith and politics. We live in an era where politics is part of our everyday life. There is no separation of church and state; there is no way of separating our political values from our spiritual life. Wear accepts this new way of interacting with politics and offers guidance and optimism to a weary population. People are tired of the divide, no matter which side of the aisle they fall on, and Wear gives hope. Not to battle each other but to recognize the significant importance of our differences and how they can honor God and offer hope to our nation. Wear doesn't provide the magical answer to solve all of our political problems, but he does shed light on ways we can shift our own perspectives. He introduces a new way of doing politics - not one of either/or, church/government but of a both/and approach of partnerships with the church and government. This new way forward is a big shift in thinking but one that, if we're willing to take the journey, may be more world changing than we realize. **As part of the Reclaiming Hope launch team, I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own.**
RECLAIMING HOPE Lessons Learned In The Obama White House Faith In America By Michael Wear This book had extremely important massage for our faith and politics public policy with for all of American that have to be face to at the moment that all the people will have to going to right now but more importantly, it many also give us a fresh perspective on faith and offer us a hope for American's future and guide us to forward as a nation that was call reclaim hope and carry it with us. We can use all the pieces of the politic life to commitment to a common good. There is a lot of important part going in this book with the moment in American public life, exploring the role of Christianity -and faith more broadly during the Obama era. Part exhortation, The Arthur Michael Wear offers us an intimate look at the power of religion at a time when so many have discounted it. The reflections on President Obama's evolution on gay marriage are by themselves worth the price of admission. Makes in parts by disillusion, Wear ends the book with powerful on hope will appeal to anyone interested of faith of politics. I highly recommend this book to everyone must read. " I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers for this review "
In Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America, Michael R. Wear blends memoir and political commentary with an impassioned call for American Christians of all stripes to be politically engaged, arguing that the political process is a key way of fulfilling Christ's call to love one's neighbor. Wear’s prose is lucid and serviceable if not always elegant (the main reason I’m giving 4 stars instead of 5). But the real value of the book is in his insider view of the intersection of faith and politics during the Obama presidency, and in his argument about the role of politics in the life of the believer. We need more voices like Wear’s—thoughtful, theologically grounded, charitable, and averse to narrow partisanship—in public discussions of Christianity and politics. The memoir element of Reclaiming Hope reflects on Wear’s years interning for Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, working as a staffer in President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, then helping lead faith outreach for his 2012 reelection campaign. Wear’s job in those years involved everything from networking with religious leaders to scoping out potential churches for the Obamas to advocating for policy positions to shaping speeches Obama would give to faith leaders. His narration of this period reads like a coming of age tale (Wear was only 19 when he interned for the 2008 campaign), with all the gratifications that genre offers—seeing a young adult learn and mature, schooled by life experience until he feels wrung dry. In Wear’s case, those experiences just happen to have taken place in the West Wing and on the presidential campaign trail. Wear’s political commentary focuses first on several speeches President Obama gave to faith leaders during his first four years in office. He then turns his attention to hot-button issues that often divide religious communities or that proved to be political land mines in Obama’s relationship with faith leaders: abortion, the contraception mandate included in the Affordable Care Act, and gay marriage. Wear’s analysis of these issues is often insightful, particularly when he identifies unnecessary partisan squabbles that worked against the possibility of meaningful and productive compromise. He doles out criticism evenhandedly, as in this characteristic passage on how Obama’s 2012 campaign differed from the rhetoric of hope, change, and unity that propelled him in 2008: “The president’s ability to bring Americans together was uniformly dismissed, with those on the left accusing Republicans of a conspiracy to undermine the president, and those on the right accusing the president of purposefully and unnecessarily dividing Americans and deriding Republicans. I saw merit on both sides” (177). The book’s final two chapters contain what may be the most important material, especially for Wear’s Christian audience. In these closing chapters Wear builds an argument that any sincere Christian should wrestle with: “Christian political obligations derive from love of God and love of neighbor” (208). I’m still grappling with how to respond, which is usually a sign that it’s a good book. Recommended reading for anyone exploring the role of faith in the public square.
A fascinating look at faith and politics in the Obama administration, and a call for Christians to engage in politics in a way that seeks the common good. Given our current political moment, with a country more divided along partisan lines than it has been in decades (perhaps since the Civil War), this is a must-read. Here's hoping it receives a wide audience.
This is a book that many of us have needed for some time. Michael Wear, who served President Obama in faith based outreach both in the White House and in his Presidential campaign, has written a book that is one part political memoir and another part call to action. As our politics and political affiliations have become more divided (especially in the faith community), it is tempting to pull back entirely from political engagement and retreat into silence. Michael offers us a thoughtful and reflective look inside the work of government, campaigns, and staying the course even when it seems that no one else understands your perspective. One of the best features of the book is that Michael challenges both conservatives and liberals to take a more nuanced view of their politics, but also at one another. In a republic, no one ideology is going to prevail without having to find common ground and a starting point for working together. In the same way, no one position is 100% the "Christian" perspective nor is then 100% "anti-Christian." The same is true of Democratic and Republican positions: no one is 100% right and the other 100% wrong. By taking on the mantle of these dichotomies, we are actually creating a more challenging political climate rather than a healthy one. Finally, Michael writes this book from a place of real humanity. It is clear the personal respect and affection he has for President Barack Obama and the privilege it was to serve him over the course of his Administration. However, it is also clear that he had to work through the inevitable disappointment when issues were pushed aside for other priorities or positions were dramatically shifted. By writing about these moments, Michael also challenges us to view our politics and political leaders as also being fully human. Our political leaders (and heroes) will rise to the occasion, but more often than not will let us down, challenging our desire to stay the course. If they don't, that should be a sign to us, and not them, that we have placed our leaders as idols rather than the people they actually are. I have eagerly anticipated the release of this book, as I too, have loved politics and found myself feeling on the outside of the very same political engagement I revered. Reading Michael's reflections and insight, I was challenged once again to remain. As a woman of faith and a leader in my community, my voice is needed in the political sphere. When I feel like I don't belong, it is a call to action to step up to the plate and carve out that space once again. I am grateful for Michael's work and his vulnerable account of his time close to the Oval Office. We need more Michael Wear and more of us like him. Challenge accepted.
This past election season has exposed many cracks in our country. Whether it's been our vitriol against another, our refusal to deeply listen to people who think or vote different, or our uncritical support of entire political parties, it is clearly evident that we were not emotionally, intellectually or socially prepared for the tsunami that was American politics. The deeper problem before us is that people of faith (particularly Christians) often mirrored the hostility displayed in the world. As a pastor, I saw this kind of hostility make it's way onto Facebook discussions, conversations in the lobby after Sunday worship gatherings and in one on one encounters with my congregants. I am privileged to pastor a congregation in NYC with people from over 75 nations. But I've learned that the kind of diversity that is often most difficult to navigate is not ethnic, but political. Our church is comprised of people with political convictions that often lead to myopic and emotionally charged encounters. The issues are multilayered and endless. Each person has a bible verse to support their position. It's quite a challenge! This is why I'm thrilled about Michael Wear's new book, Reclaiming Hope. In this book, Michael shares some of his most important lessons from his time as a staff worker in Obama's White House. The poignant observations he makes provide an incredibly helpful framework to begin to wrestle thoughtfully with some of challenging and divisive topics facing us today. In this book, Michael shows himself to be someone who understands the tensions and opportunities before our country, in a way that is very helpful for the church. I found Michael to be very balanced in his affirmation and critique of the Obama administration. Surely every administration has its positive and negative legacies, but Michael was able to clearly point out some of the ways the administration could have done better, specifically in the area of religious freedom. Beyond balance, Michael offered thoughtful nuance to some of the tender topics that often lead to relational fractures. In an either-or, black or white world, hearing someone address issues with a number of people in mind is refreshing and needed. Time and time again in this book, Michael offered a level of nuance that is sorely needed. I also appreciated the winsomeness of Michael's writing. He writes as someone who joyfully wants to tackle the larger than life issues that plague our country and churches. I found myself smiling and laughing at some of his stories. We often don't associate joy with politics. Michael helps us see how the two can actually do-exist. As a pastor of a large, multi-everything church, I'm glad that we have this book as a resource to better navigate the religious and political landscape. My only critique is that it came a few months late. We could have used this early on in 2016! I highly recommend this book. - Rich Villodas, New Life Fellowship Church