Michael reflects on his recent trip to Luton, England, the possibilities of interfaith partnership, and Donald Trump's unhelpful contribution to the fight against violent extremism.
After my post last week in response to the Comment Magazine review of Reclaiming Hope, I thought I would share some of the other reviews that have come out since the book's release.
REVIEWS OF RECLAIMING HOPE
I absolutely loved Michael Wear's brand new book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of America (Nelson Books; $25.99; see our 20% off sale price at the order link below.) I think many readers will enjoy it, will learn much, and that regardless of one's affiliation (or non-affiliation) with a political party, it will be a valuable, even important read. The book is graced with bunches of rave reviews from significant political leaders from across the political spectrum (from several countries, no less) and many respected Christian leaders - from Tim Keller to Russell Moore, pundits, (from Kirsten Powers to E. J. Dionne) and writers as different as J.D. Vance and Ann Voskamp, all insisting this is an important, graceful book. You see, I'm not alone in highly recommending it although it really is a "Hearts & Minds" kind of book. We think our customers and friends will really appreciate it.
Let's get this said right away: Yes, Michael is a life-long Democrat and, yes, he worked for the Obama campaign and landed a job as one of the youngest White House staffers ever. And, yes, he finished his job well but didn't seek another season of service - not exactly in protest, but certainly with great sadness and inner conflict - before the 44th President finished his final term. Which is to say that if you loved, sort of liked, or significantly disliked President Obama, you will find something interesting and helpful in these reflections from this insider.
THIS IS A PRE-TRUMP book with serious questions for our politics in the age of Trump.
A political memoir from Michael Wear, a young evangelical strategist who worked in Obama’s faith office, it tells stories from the fights of those years and offers a vision of a future faith-in-politics.
I’m a sucker for this kind of memoir: a chastened idealist tells how people worked well together. His ideals have met reality, but Wear still believes politics can help people.
More than merely telling old war stories, Reclaiming Hope makes a sustained case for public service. It argues well that Christian love should motivate us to become active within existing political institutions. Wear highlights specifically race and religious freedom as fields needing further work (a great combination, designed to irritate people all across the ideological spectrum). We need to figure out how to live together and build cultures that respect people and enable them to live without fear.
If you asked me what the American republic needs most right now, at least at the human level, I would say: “more Democrats like Michael Wear.” And if you asked me what the American church needs most right now, on the human level, I would say: “more Democrats like Michael Wear.” Wear’s Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America is more than just another good political memoir; it’s a window into how Christianity can find its way back toward a faithful and responsible participation in American public life.
I’m an unlikely candidate to say that what we really need is more progressive Democrats. I was a Republican from my 18th birthday until the day they nominated America’s answer to Silvio Berlusconi. I was a diehard conservative right up until the moment, sometime last year, when the word “conservative” ceased to mean much.
But there are thousands who can say the same; the church and the nation don’t need more of them. Wear—who worked for Barack Obama as a White House staffer and re-election campaign official—is what we need more of.
Wear, founder of Public Square Strategies and former White House staffer for the Obama administration, argues for voters—especially young adults—to take a less cynical and apathetic approach to politics, especially the intersection of politics and religion. After a chance meeting with then-Senator Obama as a college freshman, Wear signed on to assist with his campaign in 2008, eventually landing a position in the White House doing outreach to evangelicals and helping to manage the Obama administration’s engagement on issues important to religious communities, such as adoption and efforts to stop human trafficking. While Wear witnessed the dark underbelly of politics at times, he is able to maintain a balanced and nuanced approach to writing about it, even offering critiques of Democratic strategies when appropriate. It takes a mature observer to understand the ambiguities involved in ethical and religious issues, and Wear is savvy enough to comprehend and cogently explain some complex and thorny policies, such as the ACA contraception mandate. This is not a political tell-all; instead, Wear’s book provides clear, actionable ways to rethink political engagement within the frame of fostering healthy religious communities.
In a hyper-politicized age like our own, intellectual honesty is one of the first casualties. Hewing to the ideological line prevents otherwise honest people from admitting error when things go wrong. Inevitably, every side falls prey to this. So when a book comes on the scene that reminds readers what an honest critique of one’s own tribe looks like, we’re surprised by such honesty and we find it refreshing—because something about self-assessment reminds us of our own predilection to myopia.
Intellectual honesty is the theme I came away with after reading Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America. Wear does not shy away from issuing honest, blunt critiques of the modern Democratic Party’s foreignness to faith and of the tension inherent in being an evangelical in a party whose platform flatly contradicts biblical teaching at many irreconcilable points. For conservatives who believe that the modern Democratic Party is uncompromisingly hostile to evangelical and conservative Catholic beliefs, Wear’s book in large part confirms this angst.
Conservatives will have a hard time finding a more like-minded guide to the decision-making inside the Obama White House than Michael Wear. Wear served in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during Obama’s first term, and then directed faith outreach for the president’s reelection campaign. His memoir of his time in the administration, Reclaiming Hope, is a spectacularly readable portrait of a unique niche in Obama-world to which many progressives grew hostile over time, representing as it did faith in general and Christianity in particular.
You won’t find Donald Trump in the index of Michael Wear’s new book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America. Yet Wear recently told me he thinks that part of why our country has seen so much social division during the bruising 2016 election was in part because the Left hadn’t spent enough time understanding America’s religious conservatives, many of whom supported Trump.
With polling showing deep divides in American culture, Wear offers a new book with ideas on how to repair these fissures. Reclaiming Hope acknowledges that Obama’s remarks degrading religious people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” were damaging for outreach to people of faith. Yet Wear said he believes that the next four years offer a time of reconciliation between people of faith on the Right and secular people on the Left.
Have you ever strayed so far from God that you’re not sure you can ever make your way back? Have you worried that you’re so deep into the ocean God has forgotten about you? Do you feel that way now?