Reviews of Reclaiming Hope

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. 

If these reviews spark your interest, you can buy Reclaiming Hope at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hearts & Minds, IndieBound or your favorite local bookstore. 

REVIEWS OF RECLAIMING HOPE

Hearts & Minds Bookstore/Byron Borger

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.

Sojourners

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.

The Gospel Coalition

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.

Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

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.

The Public Discourse

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.

The National Review

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.

Opportunity Lives

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.

What Tim Keller & a Los Angeles LGBT Center Have in Common

Since this post was published, the study about canvassers for gay marriage turns out to relied on falsified data. Read more here.

Imagine reading the following pointers on a pamphlet: 

·      stop trying to teach people

·      talk personally about your experiences

·      don’t try to direct the conversation

·      most importantly: listen to others. Find out what seems real, important and emotional to them.

Guess the topic of the pamphlet. And no, it is not about evangelism.

These four pointers are actually the lessons learned from a Los Angeles LGBT center, when it sent hundreds of volunteer canvassers into neighborhoods to convince people to vote for gay marriage (source: This American Life podcast). At the first canvassers tried to appealing to higher, idealistic principles, but they discovered that moral reasoning was not an effective method. What they needed to do, they realized, was to “stop telling people things,” and to start talking “personally about their own experiences.” The most important thing they could do? “Listen.”

 The results are significant: more than a year later, the percentage of canvassed voters who chose to support gay marriage had increased by 15% (this was true only if the canvasser was gay; if straight, the voter would change their mind within a few weeks).

Compare these lessons to some of Tim Keller’s best practices for evangelism:

·      Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!

·      Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them

·      Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you

·      Share your story

 Note Keller’s repetition of the words “listen” and “share.” It seems that the same behaviors underlie both effective evangelism and canvassing on gay marriage: listening and sharing. These are fairly simple behaviors—the kind of things you might learn in kindergarten—but it is worth underscoring that they are far more personal than simply demonstrating a “winsome witness” or having a “civil conversation,” which are the phrases that tend to be thrown around when in discussions about the “public square.” To be winsome is, by definition, to be attractive or appealing, and to be civil implies politeness as well as the absence of hurtful or fear-mongering language. Winsome civility is certainly important, but “listening” and “sharing,” frankly, go much deeper and imply a level of vulnerability and care. So whether you are trying to persuade someone about God or marriage, while rational arguments can certainly go a long way (Keller is, after all, known for his apologetics), both activities seem to require a certain level of vulnerability and human connection.

 All of this gives hope that we can achieve “confident pluralism,” a vision for what it means to live together in a pluralistic society, which John Inazu, associate professor of law and political science at Washington University in St. Louis, has sketched out.

In Inazu’s vision, confident pluralism “allows genuine difference to exist without suppressing or minimizing firmly held convictions.” It is about finding “common ground even in the absence of a shared common good.” Inazu cites a few examples, such as “the unlikely friendship between Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy and Campus Pride founder Shane Windmeyer.”

Finding common ground, he stresses, is not about compromising beliefs, but “lessening relational distance through the civility, trust, and friendship that emerges through shared experiences.” This is the only viable way to find common humanity (Alexis de Tocqueville would agree).

 Ironically, if the traditional church and the LGBT movement try to genuinely convince each other by employing the lessons and principles that they know are effective, they might actually find many opportunities to identify such common humanity. But listening and sharing is something that cannot really happen through advertisements or op-eds, but is truly best done – and perhaps can only be done – face-to-face.

It’s important here to note that many of the canvassed voters who opposed gay marriage knew someone who is gay, but had just never had a heart-to-heart with him or her. So confident pluralism not just about knowing someone who is ____ (gay, evangelical, Christian, liberal, etc.) and coexisting in a friendly manner, but having a open-hearted conversation with her or him about the issues that divide you. (Some say that there cannot be genuine conversation unless both parties are open to the possibility of changing their minds, and I would tend to agree.)

Ira Glass comments that this method of changing voters’ minds is expensive. The Los Angeles LGBT Center spent nearly $2.5 million over four years and reached just 12,000 voters. It would be, he soberly reminds us, far cheaper to run a scare ad and rally the base, which is exactly what politicians tend to do.

But the good news is that political volunteers do not have a monopoly on genuine and real face-to-face conversations. Anyone can have them. After all, and most importantly, listening and sharing are not just effective tactics, but fundamental to what it means to be human (and to be Christian).

Dispatches from Europe #3 (UK): My Remarks on Faith, Government and Society

Michael Wear third blog post related to his trip to UK/France. This post includes his remarks from events with government and religious leaders in the UK.

Dispatches from Europe #2 (UK)

The second post in a series of reflections on travel to the UK and Paris by Michael Wear

Pope Francis, President Obama and Christian Political Engagement

Pope Francis, President Obama and Christian Political Engagement

Today's meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama was fascinating and elucidating. I wrote for The Atlantic in advance of the meeting, that we should look beyond policy pronouncements to the "deeper things" for the meaning of this meeting. I think this proved true.

It's also been stunning to see media reaction to the meeting. Some are asking if just by merely meeting with Pope Francis, the President's poll numbers will go up. Others are expressing either dismay or surprise that the Pope didn't subject the President to a diatribe on abortion.

Here are my takeaways from the meeting: