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Reclaiming Hope Hardcover – 17 Jan 2017
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'This is an important and extremely timely book. It is partly a memoir, partly a reflection on the relationships between faith and governing power, and partly a road map for navigating the unprecedented social and cultural changes we are facing. It's readable and thought-provoking. Get it, read it, and talk to others about it.'--Timothy Keller, author of Reason for God
'This is an unusually important and moving book. Reclaiming Hope is a fascinating portrait of a critical moment in American public life, exploring the role of Christianity--and faith more broadly--during the Obama era. Part memoir, part exhortation, Michael Wear offers us an intimate look at the power and relevance 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. Marked in parts by disillusion, Wear ends the book with a powerful meditation on hope that, while directed to Christians, will appeal to anyone interested in the complex intersection of faith and politics.'--Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at Brookings Institution and author of Islamic Exceptionalism
'Michael Wear's Reclaiming Hope is an engaging, sympathetic but not uncritical account of life in the Obama White House. Wear cares about politics, but he cares about his Christian faith even more. The result is a balanced, thoughtful look at how politics and faith intersect, what the pitfalls and possibilities are, and why we cannot give up hope. At a time when too many Christians in public life are discrediting their public witness, Michael Wear is offering an admirable alternative.'--Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former senior advisor to President George W. Bush
'Reclaiming Hope should be read by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and all who are concerned about the state of our politics. Wear's refreshingly earnest book offers rare insight that just might help us reject the harsh polarization of today's politics, embrace a redemptive faith, and find hope once again.'--Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist and CNN political analyst
'Michael Wear is a man of deep faith who clearly brought his love for Jesus to his work in the White House. Reclaiming Hope offers important insight about his time working in the public square for the legitimate and necessary place of both faith and people of faith in today's political environment, and it deserves serious attention.'--His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Michael Wear makes a powerfully compelling case for engaging the intersection of politics and religion. Drawing from his personal and singular experience in the White House under the Obama administration, Wear writes a lifeline for these times--that despite any personal differences, hope can unite. The pages in your hand could give you hope and lead and guide us forward as a nation. We can all reclaim hope and carry it with us.--Ann Voskamp, New York Times bestselling author of One Thousand Gifts and The Broken Way
'According to my friend Michael Wear, too many of us left the party early! I've known Michael for years and greatly appreciate his commitment to the church and his personal faith in Jesus. 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
'As a pastor who has been close to President Obama's personal journey of faith, I was fascinated by Michael Wear's insider account of the events and influences that formed this administration. Surprisingly honest and compelling, this book helps us understand the forces at play in President Obama's leadership decisions. Reclaiming Hope will give you a sense of hope for a future we can help shape.'--Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed
'Reclaiming Hope is both a fascinating insider's look into the Obama administration's faith-based initiatives and a stirring call for Christians--indeed for Americans of all faiths--to rediscover a sense of hopefulness. Even as we find ourselves in a crisis of disillusionment, and even despair, about the state of American politics, Wear reminds us that we must hold fast to the belief that we can change our country and our world for the better. Each of us would do well to adopt at least a bit of Wear's realistic hopefulness.'--E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong and Souled Out
'More than a story about how faith and politics entangle in the rarified atmosphere of the White House, this fine memoir is also a road map for how we can pick up the broken pieces of our political life and reassemble a national commitment to a common good.'--Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary 1995-98 and professor of Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary
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.
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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, while maintaining a clear-headed, optimistic 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.
In introduction, Michael Wear reflects on the national prayer breakfast, as do other writers like Jeff Sharlet, author of the "The Family". But where Jeff Sharlet finds conspiracy, corruption and all that's wrong with America, Michael Wear describes unity within diversity. An author applying confirmation bias to a thesis on the pitfalls of religion in politics will always succeed. However, the excitement, discovery, wonder, satisfaction and letdowns of Michael's Wear's early career inside politics, coordinating faith-based policy, is a more genuine, and still critical, description of religion's role in government.
Michael Wear tries hard not to alienate a potential reader audience. He ensures we know first his personal faith as the vantage point to then understand his political goals working on President Obama's transition team and directly influencing two campaigns for the White House. The reader is absorbed by the passion and conviction of the young man, faithful to his president's cause. You sense Michael's own euphoria of seeing your drafted debate notes roll off the president's tongue.
In addition to knowing the president personally, Wear also assembles something of a history of Obama's policy initiatives influencing religious affairs by dissecting speeches and other publications. This approach is akin to an anatomy of a speech on faith - especially those that transform values into policy. Obama's own speech anatomy as related to policy evolved during his first term in office, to his credit but also to his discredit.
Some of Wear's more intriguing reflections involve what Stephen Prothero calls "Religious Literacy". In all political party camps, church attendance has lowered and Biblical wisdom is less and less a known commodity. The White House communications team feared religious language for its unpredictable public response. Wear's speech inputs, using direct quotes from Jesus on compassion and social justice, appeared as gibberish to many of Obama's speech team and editors.
At the same time, however, Obama was more comfortable talking about his faith, and doing so in a more educated and meaningful fashion than the republican candidates he ran against. In 2009, it appeared that Obama would not allow any constituent sole claim to him as their president. But that changed. On some of the deepest moral concerns to Christians, as Wear observed, Obama eventually either ignored them altogether or shifted his stance to fit the voter demographic.
It was a possible reflection of sham politics on the one hand but also "data-point" campaigning on the other. Statistics (in part encouraged by the electoral college system), charts and intentionally inciting advertisements were meant to supersaturate an agenda in polarizing fashion; a massive challenge to Wear's faith-based support. We all witnessed this once-winning political strategy fail in 2016 (and as an aside restored some dignity to academia's "team qualitative" so frequently roughed up by its rival "team quantitative").
As the book flows from impressions to insights it would appear that the author argues that politics should be central to influencing faith (pg. xxix, 12, 50). The author is most hopeful, offering the best examples of appropriate counterbalance to polarized politics as opposed to culturally poisoning zero-sum games. But as if to clarify his position, the author soundly endorses Augustine's view, as do others like Chuck Colson, in arguing that our hope and faith inform our politics; like a training curriculum for service.
International Relations theory grapples with the gray area of "lesser evil" in support of national interest in the assumed global anarchy. The challenge for national politics includes how to support religion without endorsing any brand of believer from atheists to humanists to polytheists, with converts between each. Misperceptions come easy. As Michael points out, too many religious leaders overtly endorsing political platforms receive oversized recognition. The media ascribes them undue influence. At the same time, many pastors and laymen with the largest social influence go unnoticed by politicians and media, as the vicious cycle of religious misperceptions whirls on.
It is this very finding that both confirms and befuddles the conspiracy theorists of religion in politics. Those who pass through the corridors of D.C. politics are claimed to represent religious culture. At the same time, the sample set excludes millions who hope in active service to Jesus Christ. Data points, donations and political interchanges, if that's all there were to religion, would be cause for social concern indeed.
Having cleared up the initial confusion on faith and politics Michael Wear then introduces another debate. Some might argue that political parties, while influenced by ethics and values, combine to form an ideology. What the author stresses, however, is that in America's two-party system the "independent" status in not only a waste but a cowardly cop-out. Everyone should join a party and everyone should vote. Additionally, there is no line in the sand as Chuck Colson firmly believed, where religious leaders should ensure their farthest gospel reach by refusing overt political participation.
The political veteran turned-repentant Christian, Chuck Colson, produced political insights of matured wisdom, nurtured in the 1970s. An additional comparison, advancing through the decades would include "City of Man" written by George W. Bush assistants Weher and Gerson. Michael Wear's book is the perfect example of young zeal in good purpose (Galatians 4:18). And of course, the book represents the latest on faith in politics for President Obama's administration. All examples above are worth the read.
President Obama unified and divided. He both muted and incited the culture wars. In Michael's observations, the transformation evolved more towards the latter, in many social areas, by the president's second term. Reflecting on the political change, Michael Wear provides a truly gripping and masterful discussion of courage, lies and political strategy. While leaving open the possibility for politics to run its intentionally manipulative course, in a brilliant correction to plankeye politics he sites MSNBC's Chris Hayes' truth-to-power revelation. There is something not only powerful, but credible when the "stereotype" of one party is an "ally" for the opposition.
What strikes every Christian insider to politics from Colson, to Weher to Gerson and Wear is how difficult it is to show grace to an opponent without conceding an election. Praising an opponent, admitting fault in oneself or simply praying in public for an opponent (at a national convention, as Wear describes) is tantamount to political suicide. "...a commitment to civility is viewed by many politicians and strategists as amounting to unilateral disarmament (pg. 74)." That. should. not. be.
Modern news outlets, platforms and strategies around social media are to blame for much of politics' brutish face. That brutish face mixed with promise is why the topic of faith in politics continues to sell books. This book in particular, however, puts into perspective what pundits and journalism could not for the last eight years. It reveals and corrects as the author takes great pains to honor his president, party and faith. In the end, Christians must be more invitational and less territorial about faith and gospel in politics.
I enjoyed seeing how his faith influenced his politics, but wasn’t intertwined with 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 on every level. 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) this 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. Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America