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Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

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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 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 and extremely timely book...Get it, read it, and talk to others about it." --Timothy Keller, author of Reason for God "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


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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 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 and extremely timely book...Get it, read it, and talk to others about it." --Timothy Keller, author of Reason for God "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

30 review for Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Wheeler

    During President Obama’s first term in office, Michael Wear served in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He later directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 re election campaign. Wear has now written a book about his experiences in the halls of power. The book is part memoir about the behind the scenes struggles surrounding some of the administration’s signature achievements, including the adoption tax credit and making human trafficking a presidential priority. The During President Obama’s first term in office, Michael Wear served in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He later directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 re election campaign. Wear has now written a book about his experiences in the halls of power. The book is part memoir about the behind the scenes struggles surrounding some of the administration’s signature achievements, including the adoption tax credit and making human trafficking a presidential priority. The author also reflects on some of the more controversial stories of the previous eight years, including the issues of abortion, contraception, and the president’s change of position on gay marriage. On the subject of religious freedom, the author makes an insightful comment. I do not believe that anyone I worked with in the Obama administration, certainly not the president, was motivated by a desire to undermine religious freedom. That was not their aim. Religious freedom is not under attack. But it is under pressure. Religious freedom is increasingly butting up against other values in stark, personal ways, and religious freedom is often the loser in those collisions. We have a problem of pluralism, of different views and perspective. What must be declared out-of-bounds is not our diverse perspectives, but the zero-sum politics that disregards collateral damage in pursuit of a win. And the administration failed in this respect. The author concludes by giving practical ways for Christians to be involved in our political system. While you may not agree with the author’s assessment of the Obama administration in relation to faith, you will gain insight from his account. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andee

    I needed this book. I heard about Michael Wear's work before the election. Little did I know then the sinking feeling in my gut I'd have over 2 months later. I'm losing hope. Wear's book shares what it was like to work in a faith office under President Obama. I appreciated his reports of the good and the bad during Obamas 8 years. There are matters I had forgotten; such as the meetings with evangelical leaders Obama held at the beginning of his first term. Hearing some evangelicals talk about I needed this book. I heard about Michael Wear's work before the election. Little did I know then the sinking feeling in my gut I'd have over 2 months later. I'm losing hope. Wear's book shares what it was like to work in a faith office under President Obama. I appreciated his reports of the good and the bad during Obamas 8 years. There are matters I had forgotten; such as the meetings with evangelical leaders Obama held at the beginning of his first term. Hearing some evangelicals talk about Obama today, you can imagine why this memory is so distant. Wear talks about Obamas movements in faith, in abortion/adoption numbers, in healthcare, and more. But the hope...the hope for me came at the end of the book. Wear reminds me that "Christians have an obligation to be involved in politics, but we do not belong to our politics.". It's true. And while I am so overwhelmed by national politics at the moment, he gives advice in participating locally. The election did not turned out as I'd hoped. But it did give me energy to do something about it. "Reclaiming Hope" motivates me further.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Written by an Obama staffer in his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and faith outreach director in his 2012 campaign, this is not only a narrative of that work, but also an exploration of controversial decisions made by this administration, and how Christians might think of the possibilities and practice of political involvement. Michael Wear got involved in Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign after following his rise in politics following the 2004 Democratic Summary: Written by an Obama staffer in his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and faith outreach director in his 2012 campaign, this is not only a narrative of that work, but also an exploration of controversial decisions made by this administration, and how Christians might think of the possibilities and practice of political involvement. Michael Wear got involved in Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign after following his rise in politics following the 2004 Democratic convention speech that brought Obama to national attention. After the election, he was appointed as a staff member in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under Joshua DuBois. He worked in this office, contributing to efforts to provide tax breaks for adoptions and commitment of the administration to actively fighting human trafficking. He completed his service in the Obama administration heading up the 2012 faith outreach efforts during the presidential campaign. This book discusses that work, which ended with the second inauguration, after which he launched a consulting firm. It begins with the idealism that surrounded the election of Obama, and the early hopes of an inclusive politics. He highlights Obama's defense of the inclusion of Rick Warren against people who opposed him for his support of California's Proposition Eight. An administration that started with a concern to include differing views at the table changed as the Affordable Care Act legislation worked its way through Congress. Concerns about abortion, and the unbending resistance on the contraceptive mandate aroused a sense that the administration was engaged in a war on religion. Likewise, Wear wrestles with seemingly sincere statements about religious faith and support of traditional marriage by candidate Obama, only for him to "evolve" to a different position, eventually supporting gay marriage, with evidence that this had been the end goal all along. It causes him to wrestle with some of his own work, including speech-writing research that drew on his knowledge of religious audiences. In reading this, one has a sense of missed opportunities, by both the Obama administration and the political opposition, that led to a hardening of attitudes and deepening of divides. Yet for all this, Wear is neither bitter nor disillusioned. His last two chapters concern the theme of hope. The first of these concerns the error of placing hope in politics. Here he recounts a fascinating interchange between writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Washington pastor Thabiti Anyabwile over this subject. In the final chapter he talks about the important role Christians, who do not put their ultimate hope in politics, can play in reclaiming hope for engagement in the process--hope that is committed, seeks justice, and is humble. He contends there is important work to be done and for Christians to come together around in both racial justice issues and religious freedom. This last was particularly striking. It seems like these often are treated in a mutually exclusive fashion--you can only be for one or the other. Yet we are in fact in a country where there are both deep racial inequities, and where religious freedom faces real threats. Rather than accepting partisan binaries, why not stand together in a both-and fashion on this and other issues? Similarly, he contends that since marriage has been extended to same sex partners, why not strengthen the incentives for others to marry as well and revisit the ease with which we grant divorce? Against a temptation in the current toxic climate to withdraw, he writes: "In the face of hopelessness, Christians cannot withdraw from their neighbors, under the impression that they are unwanted and so grant what they think the world wants. We do not love our neighbor for affirmation, but because we have been loved first. Now is not the time to withdraw, but to refine our intentions and pursue public faithfulness that truly is good news." Wear has given us a thoughtful book about political engagement, one where we see his own growth, and yet one that does not end, like so many, in disillusion or bitterness. He models the deep resources Christian faith brings to sustain a resilience when one faces deep disappointment, opposition, or simply the realization that the road is a long one. While written out of the context of a Democratic administration, it is not a partisan version of faith in politics, but one that any thoughtful Christian, no matter their party affiliation, may read with profit. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim Cooper

    Religion had become polarized in our country, in part, because we were only hearing from polarizing religious leaders. - Page 183 This was one of the more interesting books I read this year. Reclaiming Hope is one of many books written by staffers at the Obama White House, but this one was written from the perspective of a Christian, working in the Faith-Based Initiatives office. It's interesting to see some of the big events from that era through his eyes, and it's even more interesting to see a Religion had become polarized in our country, in part, because we were only hearing from polarizing religious leaders. - Page 183 This was one of the more interesting books I read this year. Reclaiming Hope is one of many books written by staffers at the Obama White House, but this one was written from the perspective of a Christian, working in the Faith-Based Initiatives office. It's interesting to see some of the big events from that era through his eyes, and it's even more interesting to see a lot of the smaller things that his office tackled, many I had never heard about - court cases especially. He's honest about the successes and failures during the Obama years, and he's clear about who was to blame, regardless of party. He didn't agree with the president on every issue (and his take on the president's own Christianity was very enlightening), but in his role was given a lot of opportunity to do good for the Kingdom of God. Since our identity is not found in our politics, we are freed up to pursue unlikely alliances, consider other points of view, and love our political enemies. - Page 215 This book is a great reminder that Christians are not allowed to be aligned with a political party. Our mission, as he puts it, "is not victory, but faithfulness." Being obedient to God every day will take us on a path that will not line up with Republican or Democrat ideologies. This is one of three books I read this year that tackled this idea well (the others being American Gospel and Simply Jesus). This isn't a perfect book. It's not well-edited. It's obvious he originally intended to publish this while Obama was still in office, because there are parts that imply he's still president as of the writing and parts where he's writing from the perspective of the current administration. He gets the name of a court case wrong. But this kind of book is very needed and I can look past the errors. We need more books by actual Christians, actually doing God's work out in the world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Such an important book! Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Battles

    I started this book with a lot of...well, hope. There was the West Wing humor and the tongue in cheek comment regarding breaking the White House...but I ended with significantly less hope. For the book and politics. Michael and I differ on several issues but I didn't expect that to be an issue...however in the chapter focusing on marriage equality, it became very clear that Michael had taken some things personally. That when he discusses Obama's shift, he isn't just feeling upset that Obama I started this book with a lot of...well, hope. There was the West Wing humor and the tongue in cheek comment regarding breaking the White House...but I ended with significantly less hope. For the book and politics. Michael and I differ on several issues but I didn't expect that to be an issue...however in the chapter focusing on marriage equality, it became very clear that Michael had taken some things personally. That when he discusses Obama's shift, he isn't just feeling upset that Obama "fooled" the American public but he feels betrayed. I wasn't surprised to learn days later in an article that he opposed "same sex marriage" (i.e. marriage equality) nor was I surprised to hear him say that writing the book was "cathartic" because it often felt like a vent. I think if the ideas presented in Chapter 12 had been expounded on with personal anecdotes interspersed, it might have been a great book. But by the time we got to chapter 12, he had lost me. I was further away from believing that the political process or organization worked for me than I ever have been. And his claim that one must be either a Democrat or Republican certainly didn't help. That said, Conservatives will most likely enjoy the book immensely. Bush is mentioned in favorable light and the Republicans' obstructionist government is explained as "sure the Republicans did some things too but..." and Obama's administration is primarily blamed for the bipartisanship that has crippled Congress over the last eight years without really looking in depth at other issues. Obama's shout out during SOTU to the fact he had no more races to win was mentioned without the fact he was being heckled right before he said it. While I do believe Obama and his administration bare blame, it didn't feel like an objective opinion. Knowing Michael Wear is a Democrat, it still felt like he was let down and disappointed in some personal way by the Obama administration and this impacted his writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Spiegel

    I listened to this in the wave of resuscitating my political life, which I think is now dying again. Michael Wear was a staffer for Obama, pretty much the "Christian on Board" in the Obama Administration. Well, he was very HOPEFUL, as you might expect. He sounded pretty young to me, so fresh, so enthusiastic. Poor guy. I hope he's okay post-election. The book just came out, so it would be interesting to hear him now. The analysis was fairly lightweight, though the message was good. I think I listened to this in the wave of resuscitating my political life, which I think is now dying again. Michael Wear was a staffer for Obama, pretty much the "Christian on Board" in the Obama Administration. Well, he was very HOPEFUL, as you might expect. He sounded pretty young to me, so fresh, so enthusiastic. Poor guy. I hope he's okay post-election. The book just came out, so it would be interesting to hear him now. The analysis was fairly lightweight, though the message was good. I think listening to it has contributed, however, to my disenchantment with politics. I hope I don't go through this obsession/disintegration cycle every twenty years (I left my non-lucrative political "career" about twenty years ago). Right now, we're also binging on "The West Wing"--which we've never seen. All of it combined interests me immensely, but saddens me too. The overall effect might be a bad taste in my mouth. I'm blown away by the attention paid to polling, by the way people make a big deal out of stupid things, by the way politics seems to take over a person rather than the person taking over politics. It's hard to be good in this milieu. Wear is a good guy. I genuinely appreciated his liberal concerns, as--hey--they're probably mine too. (This election put the Scarlet L on my chest.) I think it's pretty tough to reconcile Christianity with the two parties, so he tries to make sense of his leftist heart. But it's a little unconvincing? That's okay. We could use more guys like him in politics. My favorite part was towards the end, where he surprisingly takes on heavy-hitter/Real Deal Ta Nahesi Coates for his theories. I read Coates last year, and I agreed with the analysis. Coates, who is NOT lightweight, abandons hope. He decries "The Dream," the hope of a Promised Land. Paraphrasing him, Coates has said that a philosophy married to hope is divorced from Truth. Yikes. Wear bravely rejects this, and makes the case for hope. Also of note: Wear identifies two major issues that challenge us. Race and religious liberty. I think he's right.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Greg Bailey

    This was an interesting book when read as an insider's take on the Obama White House and some of the hot-button social issues that played out during that administration. But for me, it was also an uncomfortable book when read (as I had to read it) as a fellow Christian presenting a picture of Barack Obama that is dramatically different than my own. So while it was not easy, it was good for me to read this book and consider the perspective of a believer who is outside my insular little faith This was an interesting book when read as an insider's take on the Obama White House and some of the hot-button social issues that played out during that administration. But for me, it was also an uncomfortable book when read (as I had to read it) as a fellow Christian presenting a picture of Barack Obama that is dramatically different than my own. So while it was not easy, it was good for me to read this book and consider the perspective of a believer who is outside my insular little faith world. In his early chapters, Michael Wear characterizes himself as a political neophyte, eager and earnest. In my view, he was far to quick to accept Obama's words about faith, as those words seem to me to be brought into question by many of Obama's actions during his presidency. Still, Wear makes a good case that Obama at least used more direct Christian language than many other politicians have dared to do and that an attempt was made (whatever the motives may have been) to find a place for faith in government, at least during Obama's first term. Wear does seem to hint at feelings of disillusionment with Obama over certain decisions, most notably the president's "evolution" on the question of "same-sex marriage." But it appears that Wear deals with these issues forthrightly, not attempting to sweep the administration's actions under the rug. At the end, Wear makes a case for maintaining hope as believers engage in the American political process, and for that I applaud him. We certainly need people of principle, faith, and hope in government.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I appreciated a new perspective on Obama's White House. I didn't follow politics closely in 2008 (or 2012, really), and so a lot of the details/controversies passed me by. While I didn't fully align with the vehement opposition, my conservative roots didn't allow me to side with him either. I appreciated learning more about his positions and actions during Wear's tenure. Although Wear obviously supported the President enough to campaign for him (twice), I thought this was a pretty even handed I appreciated a new perspective on Obama's White House. I didn't follow politics closely in 2008 (or 2012, really), and so a lot of the details/controversies passed me by. While I didn't fully align with the vehement opposition, my conservative roots didn't allow me to side with him either. I appreciated learning more about his positions and actions during Wear's tenure. Although Wear obviously supported the President enough to campaign for him (twice), I thought this was a pretty even handed approach to the topics. He both defends and questions. The concluding chapters were compelling enough for me to consider buying the book. Wear dives right into the questions of Christian engagement with politics, religious freedom, race, and what now. Can't imagine recommending this book to a die-hard Obama supporter, but for the moderates and conservatives, it is a thoughtful and balanced book that will hopefully cause the reader to question presumptions even while it may affirm other conclusions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Candido

    The majority of this book is about the authors time working for the Obama administration. I expected to be more interested in this part than I was. The last few chapters are gold though and would be helpful to any person of faith struggling to find their voice in the political landscape. A favorite quote from the book: “For Christians, one inescapable conclusion of this extraordinary command is that we are obliged to work for the benefit and the flourishing of all people, whether or not they see The majority of this book is about the authors time working for the Obama administration. I expected to be more interested in this part than I was. The last few chapters are gold though and would be helpful to any person of faith struggling to find their voice in the political landscape. A favorite quote from the book: “For Christians, one inescapable conclusion of this extraordinary command is that we are obliged to work for the benefit and the flourishing of all people, whether or not they see the world as we do or agree with us in any way. Christians’ obligation is not to their “tribe,” but to their God - a God who cares deeply for all people.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Figueiredo

    Great look at faith in the Obama administration. Wear recounts both the highs and lows of the Obama White House's dealings with faith, providing a nuanced perspective about where American Christians stand today in relation to government. He possesses a skilled writing style that's enjoyable to read and leaves you thinking long after you've finished reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Himes

    Read this book as part of a JBU book club (thanks Dan Bennett!) two weeks before a campus visit from author Michael Wear. Really informative look about the politics of faith (for Democrats in particular) from someone with the credentials to talk seriously about such things. Wear's honesty about the tough times in the Obama White House, as well as the victories gleaned, made it a worthwhile read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Edwards

    Interesting perspective for anyone interested in the intersection of faith and politics and how it actually bears out in the modern day. Wear answers a lot of questions I often got as a Christian working in Democratic politics. Obviously I don’t agree with all his takes but appreciated his candor on tough subjects.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark Vanderwerf

    A very important read - regardless of which side of the aisle one is on. An inside look into the role faith played in the Obama administration - both the contributions and the mistakes along the way. There are lots of lessons to be learned from this book for how Christians - and all people of faith - can and should engage politics as a concrete way to "love our neighbor."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    An interesting look at religion in the White House. I don't agree with everything he says, but it's worth the read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah

    This made me feel a lot of feels about faith and politics.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    He seems reluctant to come out and say it, but I think that he believes he was snookered into working for a guy who claimed to be a Christian and often said all the right things, but when it came down to it, his actions invariably aligned with the Marxist (and frankly, anti-Christian) ideologues that now dominate his party. It is nevertheless a thoughtful and interesting read, as he reflects on how we can work together for good even with people with whom we may disagree.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    To some extent, people may read this book and take from it only what is consistent with what they believe. That would be too bad. The essence of this book is that only hope rooted in Christ is trustworthy. This doesn't mean Christian's shouldn't participate in the political forum, actually, Mr. Wear states the opposite point, but that our hope should not be put into politics, the president or anything else. Although I don't share Michael Wear's political party, there isn't much in this book that I To some extent, people may read this book and take from it only what is consistent with what they believe. That would be too bad. The essence of this book is that only hope rooted in Christ is trustworthy. This doesn't mean Christian's shouldn't participate in the political forum, actually, Mr. Wear states the opposite point, but that our hope should not be put into politics, the president or anything else. Although I don't share Michael Wear's political party, there isn't much in this book that I disagree with. This is an important book that I hope will be read by many people, with an open mind. Our opinion on many topics should be driven by our core principles and moral beliefs, more than our political affiliation. Unfortunately, this often is not the case. Recommend

  19. 5 out of 5

    Luke Harrington

    While there's much to appreciate about Reclaiming Hope, I found the timing unfortunate. The book was released too early to comment on Trump's cataclysmic election, and too late to do anything about it. That said, Wear's vision of a world in which Christians would work for the good of all is an admirable one; unfortunately, I can't see the people who really need to hear the message ever reading the book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elliott

    For years I considered myself apolitical. Yet I have found, as I have gotten older, that to not be political is to be political. It's difficult to be part of either political party when neither holds firmly to the beliefs that I do. In many ways, I'm conservative and, in others, I am liberal (particularly in regards to social justice). I have never voted straight party ticket but have thoroughly investigated and checked the stances on specific issues for each candidate and then voted according For years I considered myself apolitical. Yet I have found, as I have gotten older, that to not be political is to be political. It's difficult to be part of either political party when neither holds firmly to the beliefs that I do. In many ways, I'm conservative and, in others, I am liberal (particularly in regards to social justice). I have never voted straight party ticket but have thoroughly investigated and checked the stances on specific issues for each candidate and then voted according to my conscience and after much prayer. Growing up in a very conservative Republican and Protestant home, the closest my family had to a saint was Ronald Reagan. My mother's ideal for me was to be like Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox's character on the TV show Family Ties). I was taught that I was: 1. A Christian 2. An American 3. Southern 4. Republican And all of those things were blessings of God. This is how I was raised yet, as I got older and the more I read my Bible, I began to question. Yet I struggled to find a candidate who I could fully support. In 2008, a candidate ran on the platform of hope and the dignity of all. Despite the odds, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. It was an historic election that made many wonder if our country had turned a corner, particularly in regards to race. Now, over eight years later, we have watched as all of that has changed into fear, distrust and discrimination. During this last election, I, like many, grew weary of the polarizing divisiveness of American politics and of the system itself. Many are losing hope. The author, Michael Wear, writes, " . . . I believe it is an error to identify Barack Obama - or any candidate or political movement - as the source of our hope. But at the same time, I do not want to dismiss his 2008 campaign as an illusion, to reduce it to a cautionary tale of the dangers of political commitments. There was real promise in that moment. Many hundreds of his campaign staff would say he changed their lives. For thousands of volunteers, first-time voters, and all who felt their voices were finally heard in our political process, the Obama campaign affirmed their dignity. If only politics did this all of the time." At the age of twenty-one, Michael Wear served in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama. Reclaiming Hope is part memoir, part political observation and a book of ultimate hope and faith. Wear writes candidly and honestly about the highs and lows surrounding that administrations achievements. He also writes openly of something many overlooked or dismissed: President' Obama's strong faith. Seldom did the media cover it, partly because many in the White House did not want them to just as there were many in the Democratic party who were unhappy that Obama continued the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership (which was started under Bush and many on the left felt should've been abandoned). Obama championed vocally for the inclusion of not only that Office but voices of faith to be heard. He was disappointed when many in the Evangelical Church either doubted his Christianity and falsely labeled him "Muslim." Wear writes, "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." Yet, despite many people's claims to the opposite, President Obama's Christian beliefs showed up again and again in his speeches, especially those given at each National Prayer Breakfast. He referenced his Christian faith more than the sainted Ronald Reagan. He spoke of how his beliefs shaped so much of how he viewed the world, others, and reaching out to help those in most desperate need. He spoke of being the Good Samaritan and he was "... the politician who injected the phrase 'I am my brother's keeper' into the political lexicon." Michael Wear's book is balanced in his assessment of his former boss. He writes of watching the President change his position of gay marriage, as well as his attempt to find common ground between those who are Pro-Life and Pro-Choice to create ways to lessen the number of abortions in the United States. He also writes of achievements such as including the adoption tax credit and making human trafficking a major priority for his administration. This is an honest appraisal that balances both the highs and lows of being a Christian in the center of the public square. Instead of the politicization of religion that so many in office use as a way to get elected, Michael Wear rights of the compelling need of real faith to intersect with politics. For those who have abandoned hope, this book is much needed and one will rediscover the reason for hope in the last two chapters. This is the hope that is more than a political slogan or bumper-sticker. As we see our political system so mired down in ugliness and we seem more and more divided on issues, we should heed the words President Obama spoke at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast: "At times, it seems like we're unable to listen to one another; to have a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on the truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care. So what's the answer? Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility." Yes, our political system desperately needs civility. Our social media needs to be open to polite discourse that, while it does not always have to agree, it should always be respectful without breaking down into coarse, vulgar and incendiary comments. All of us needs to truly and prayerfully be "empowered by faith." Faith in what? Not in a political candidate or party. As Wear writes in the introduction, "Politics is causing great spiritual harm and a big reason for that is people are going to politics o have their inner needs met. Politics does a poor job of meeting inner needs, but politicians will suggest they can do it if it will get them votes. The state of our politics is a reflection of the state of our souls." Indeed. Wear offers us more than politics, more than false hope and how we can truly reclaim real and lasting hope. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, there is something in this book for everyone. This was one of the books I was most excited about this year and it did not disappoint. It's no wonder that it's gathered endorsements from J.D. Vance, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, Ann Voskamp and Sara Groves among others.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cole Brown

    The author, who worked as a faith advisor in the Obama administration, is divided into several sections. It begins by covering portions of the author's biography and addresses Obama's faith before and during his time in the White House. Both sections are interesting, but the greatest strengths of the book are, first, the author's examination of five key and potentially divisive issues that faced Obama's administration and continue to face us (in each chapter he evaluates how well each was The author, who worked as a faith advisor in the Obama administration, is divided into several sections. It begins by covering portions of the author's biography and addresses Obama's faith before and during his time in the White House. Both sections are interesting, but the greatest strengths of the book are, first, the author's examination of five key and potentially divisive issues that faced Obama's administration and continue to face us (in each chapter he evaluates how well each was handled by the administration) and, second, the author's examination of hope and how it should shape our approach to politics. It is the least cynical, least divisive political book I've read in years.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Michael Wear's excellent book, exploring faith and politics, as a faithful Christian who served in the Obama White House. Wear provides helpful insight into the political quagmire in DC, giving both appropriate affirmation and critique of the priorities of the Obama Administration and how political calculations on both sides have contributed to the current climate. Grounding his work in a deep faith in Christ as our true hope, he reminds us of the good that political engagement can be. Personally Michael Wear's excellent book, exploring faith and politics, as a faithful Christian who served in the Obama White House. Wear provides helpful insight into the political quagmire in DC, giving both appropriate affirmation and critique of the priorities of the Obama Administration and how political calculations on both sides have contributed to the current climate. Grounding his work in a deep faith in Christ as our true hope, he reminds us of the good that political engagement can be. Personally this was helpful for me as I have given up on politics and just feel angry and frustrated most of the time when it comes to the political climate today.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike Holmes

    A timely book that will encourage and challenge Christians of various political persuasions. Wear doesn't shy away from either his Christian or Democratic convictions and retells his story with a hopeful and critical eye. This intellectual honesty and integrity is welcomed and strengthens the final chapters of the book where he discusses his ultimate source for hope. It's a well written, easy read, that is worth your time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jake Willems

    Loved it!

  25. 5 out of 5

    James

    Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear tells the story of faith in the Obama administration. Before he turned twenty-one in 2008, Wear was already a White House staffer, appointed by the president to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships as one of the youngest WH staffers in the modern American political era. He had previously worked with Barak Obama's election campaign and he would go on to direct faith outreach for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Given this bio, Wear is obviously Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear tells the story of faith in the Obama administration. Before he turned twenty-one in 2008, Wear was already a White House staffer, appointed by the president to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships as one of the youngest WH staffers in the modern American political era. He had previously worked with Barak Obama's election campaign and he would go on to direct faith outreach for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Given this bio, Wear is obviously sympathetic to Obama and his legacy; however what he offers here is both sympathetic and critical. He describes Obama (and his own efforts) to intersect with people of faith and address their concerns, and the places where he felt Obama had failed to build bridges to religious communities. His book is part memoir, part political analysis with some theological musings thrown in for good measure. The first five chapters of Reclaiming Hope, are autobiography. Wear describes his improbable journey to the White House, meeting Obama and working on the campaigns and in the White House. Despite Obama's Christianity and his respect for people of faith, faith was of secondary importance to the administration. Many of Wear's colleagues were ignorant of faith concerns, and occasionally antagonistic to religious concerns. This biography section gives an insider look at a few places where Obama wrestled with religion in the public sphere (i.e. his distancing himself from his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, his meeting with evangelical leaders, his appointment of Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration, etc). The next three chapters discuss in greater detail how the Obama administration addressed (or didn't address) the concerns of people of faith. In chapter six, he discusses abortion. While Obama and the Democratic Party are officially pro-choice, the policies that Obama promoted during his administration were aimed at reducing the overall number of abortions. The number of abortions decreased, during his tenure they were at their lowest in years with a higher number of adoptions. Nevertheless, Obama's abortion policies were not well received by those on the Religious Right, and weren't adequately Pro-Choice for some on the left. Chapter seven examines the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the tone-deaf way the administration responded to Christian's who felt their religious freedom was being infringed on.Chapter eight describes Obama's evolution on same-sex marriage, which put him more and more at loggerheads with traditional, religious folk. Chapter seven examines the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the tone-deaf way the administration responded to Christian's who felt their religious freedom was being infringed on.Chapter eight describes Obama's evolution on same-sex marriage, which put him more and more at loggerheads with traditional, religious folk. In chapter ten, Wear describes the second inauguration. In contrast to the first inauguration, the evangelical pastor Obama had asked to pray (in this case Louie Giglio) was vehemently opposed because of a twenty-year-old sermon against homosexuality. In his first inauguration both Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical megachurch pastor, and the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson prayed—a testimony to Obama's 'big-tent,' inclusive approach to religion. At his second inauguration, the lines between Right and Left had hardened. Wear's final two chapters wax theological on the meaning of hope, not in the political sloganeering sense, but in the Christian sense. Politicians offer a piecemeal and little hope, but Christian hope is Jesus—our hope for today and evermore. Wear closes with thoughts on how Christian's ought to engage the political landscape, bringing hope to realms of religious freedom and race relations. I appreciate the insider perspective Wear brings to faith and politics in the Obama era. He reflects on the places where he feels like Obama was true to his vision, and the places where he dropped the ball. Wear strikes a nice balance between narrative and analysis. I also appreciate the insight he brings as a person of faith from the left side aisle. If Christianity gets coopted by the Right, the Left is often ignorant of the Bible and Jesus. That brings a unique sense of challenges. This is an interesting read for anyone interested in faith and politics (something we won't get away from in the Trump era). The hope for America and the world is not this president or the last one. Or the next. It is Jesus, hope of the nations and change we can believe in. I give this book four stars. Note: I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    The intersection between faith and politics is one that has been considerably fraught over the years. While (white) Protestantism has perhaps been more typically associated with the Republican Party, Michael Wear is a Democrat—indeed, a Democrat who served during Obama's first terms. This book is part memoir, part policy. The memoir tracks the 2008-era inspiration of the Obama campaign and Wear's experience in the Obama administration's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. While The intersection between faith and politics is one that has been considerably fraught over the years. While (white) Protestantism has perhaps been more typically associated with the Republican Party, Michael Wear is a Democrat—indeed, a Democrat who served during Obama's first terms. This book is part memoir, part policy. The memoir tracks the 2008-era inspiration of the Obama campaign and Wear's experience in the Obama administration's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. While by and large Wear seems to view the experience as overwhelmingly good, he is not blind to the challenges of an organization so blatantly connected to religious faith within a Democratic administration. That tension drives the book, because many of the staffers who worked within the Obama White House were not merely areligious, but also pretty clueless when it came to religion. For example, Wear recounts a story where he was putting together a piece of literature that looked at the intersection between economic fairness and faith. He used the phrase "the least of these" to refer to the poor—a turn of phrase reflecting Jesus' words in Matthew 25:40. Seemingly unaware of the linguistic background to that phrase, an editor had crossed out that language with a note, "Is this a typo?" Wear uses anecdotes like this to illustrate that in some ways, the Democratic Party's reaction to religion (on everything from abortion to same sex marriage to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate) was carried out less out of malevolence than out of ignorance. That ignorance is despite that fact that much of the Democratic Party's base (especially those among the base who are people of color) is quite religion—including, Wear notes, Obama himself. Many well-meaning conservative Christians would perhaps take issue with Wear's presence in the Democratic Party. After all, it is the Democratic Party which has spearheaded efforts to undermine traditional marriage and open access to abortion, two issues that conservative Christians have often found to be problematic. Rather than writing off these concerns, Wear addresses them head on, noting his own discomfort with some of the positions of the Democratic Party. This leads to one of the biggest insights of the book—that a Christian (or, for that matter, any person of faith) is almost certainly not going to find a particular political party that perfectly dovetails with their own beliefs. The illusion of agreement has led to tragic results (e.g., the alliance between conservative Christians and the Republican Party dating back to the Moral Majority of the 1980s), and while Wear maintains (contra, say, Rod Dreher) that Christians should be involved in politics, there should also be a level of discomfort with the parties. Wear's view of the Obama administration is not entirely positive. While he felt that the early efforts by the Obama administration to challenge Democrats on their discomfort with organized religion and Republicans on their perceived monopoly on faith, the later years of the Obama administration had more strands of hostility towards religion, entrenching some of the stereotypes the Obama administration had sought to combat. We live in a difficult time, with the hope of the Obama first term largely left in ashes by the vicious 2016 campaign, open hostility between the political parties, and serious cultural challenges that seem to have no end in sight. There are, however, areas where Christians ought to focus their energies, Wear argues, and there are two key issues that Wear presents: racial injustice and religious freedom. These cut across partisan lines, but as Christians remain engaged in our culture and politics, these are two issues that Christians should work towards.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zach Barnhart

    Just over ten years before this writing, the iPhone was announced to the world. No one knew at the time what such technology meant. It all seemed a little silly to me. I remember some of the reviews of the original iPhone. “It doesn’t show much promise.” “I don’t understand why tapping on a screen is enticing.” “I already have an iPod, why do I need music on my phone?” And now. Our phones are changing everything about how the world works, how culture is created, how we function, and hauntingly, Just over ten years before this writing, the iPhone was announced to the world. No one knew at the time what such technology meant. It all seemed a little silly to me. I remember some of the reviews of the original iPhone. “It doesn’t show much promise.” “I don’t understand why tapping on a screen is enticing.” “I already have an iPod, why do I need music on my phone?” And now. Our phones are changing everything about how the world works, how culture is created, how we function, and hauntingly, how we worship. Some of us are keenly aware of these changes, while others of us have been completely swept by the undercurrent of the digital age, “and if we don’t know how to swim, we shall be carried by it” (19). In 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke masterfully helps us get out of the water, not because the water is bad (see pages 30-36), but because he doesn’t want us to drown or become lost at sea. Reinke’s work is organized in chiastic structure (simply remarkable!) to present to the reader these twelve ways in which the smartphone has negatively shaped and is shaping who we are. Its cautions are warranted and grim, but this book is not only critical. As each chapter shows how these principles can undermine our spiritual health, each also works to commend a life discipline that needs to be preserved for our spiritual health. As an example, Reinke argues that “Our phones undermine key literary skills (Chapter 4) and, because of our lack of discipline, make it increasingly difficult for us to identify meaning (Chapter 9)” (189). The solution to these problems are that “We treasure the gift of literacy (Chapter 4) and prioritize God’s Word (Chapter 9)” (190). Compellingly, the middle chapters 6-7 “frame our identity and define our purpose of earth: love God (Chapter 6) and love your neighbor (Chapter 7)” (190). So, how does texting and driving directly violate a fundamental command of God? How could technological advancement possibly make our world both more connected and more isolated at the same time? How does FOMO directly mirror the events of the Garden of Eden? All of these questions and more, Reinke answers with theological clarity, researched precision, and gracious caution. If you want to know whether or not a book is good, ask yourself at the end of it if you walked away from it truly changed. Not changed in the sense of just learning some new facts, but did this book actually reorient your actions, change your thinking, and so forth? For me, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You hit me like a ton of bricks. Reinke’s haymakers scattered throughout the book were clear indications of the Holy Spirit using his words to communicate important truths for my desperately smartphoned heart. I’ve walked away from this book dangerously aware of how powerful this rounded rectangle is. Reinke has labored hard to help me (and you) discover how this phone and other technology can become a tool for the glory of Christ. It won’t be easy. It may cause you to make some adjustments, some simple and some radical. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole of his smartphone and lose his soul? This book is easily one of the best of this year. Everyone can benefit from its wisdom, and it is packaged in a manner that is simple to understand and apply to our lives. I’m grateful for Tony’s work on this project, and you won’t be sorry for picking up a copy for you, and some others for your friends.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This book has been well-received by thoughtful Christians on both sides of the political divide. Michael Wear recounts his experiences and observations while working for Barak Obama, first on his faith outreach team during Obama's campaigns for the US Senate and presidency, and later in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wear's focus on hope, primarily for social justice, is what led him to volunteer for Obama as an idealistic 19-year-old. While the book starts This book has been well-received by thoughtful Christians on both sides of the political divide. Michael Wear recounts his experiences and observations while working for Barak Obama, first on his faith outreach team during Obama's campaigns for the US Senate and presidency, and later in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Wear's focus on hope, primarily for social justice, is what led him to volunteer for Obama as an idealistic 19-year-old. While the book starts out as a partisan narrative, it becomes something more. Whether it was Wear's intention or not, the reader begins to see faith being used as a manipulative device in politics by both major parties, which surely comes as no surprise, except possibly in the extent and details. The ethics of this would make a good topic for discussion. Wear clearly grows in wisdom during his years of service, and while he remains loyal to Obama, he wrestles with issues in which it is unclear whether Obama changed his mind or was not fully honest about his position from the start. Wear devotes considerable attention to racial issues and religious freedom. He recognizes Obama's failure in the one area that he hoped so fervently to achieve through faith initiatives: bipartisan support of efforts to reach common goals. Instead he finds that polarization has reached an all-time high. Wear chides the growing segment of independents, as well as those who have totally turned their backs on politics, for forfeiting one of the most valuable tools they have to shape policy. (Might this abdication partly explain how we ended up with two 2016 presidential candidates who were so extremely unacceptable to the opposite party?) In the end Wear acknowledges that the ultimate hope of Christians is not in any political party or candidate but in God. He urges all people of faith to take part in the political process, not to endorse a party's stand on every issue but to help shape party policy in ways compatible with their faith or to support individual candidates who share their hope.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dale Anderson

    As a man of faith and a teacher of political science, I found Michael Wear's "Reclaiming Hope" to be insightful, informative, encouraging, and corrective. Given his age, Michael has had an amazing set of political experiences as a public servant during the Obama administration. This, combined with his spiritual life and role in the administration's Faith-Based Initiatives office, has given him a myriad of practical and illustrative examples to reinforce his focus: reclaiming hope in our polluted As a man of faith and a teacher of political science, I found Michael Wear's "Reclaiming Hope" to be insightful, informative, encouraging, and corrective. Given his age, Michael has had an amazing set of political experiences as a public servant during the Obama administration. This, combined with his spiritual life and role in the administration's Faith-Based Initiatives office, has given him a myriad of practical and illustrative examples to reinforce his focus: reclaiming hope in our polluted and partisan political process. As someone who has struggled with the lack of candidates or parties who fully represent my beliefs and political positions, I so appreciated the way he structured this book. He begins with his story of coming to faith, moves on to how he got engaged politically, what his experiences were within the Obama administration, tackles the successes and failures of Obama's efforts at unifying the country, discusses fairly the changes that impacted Obama's conversation with country around faith, addresses where Hope can be found, and finally how we can bring change to the political process. I am deeply encouraged by his work here, after years of growing cynicism and contemplation of disengagement. We need more insightful and deep thinkers like Michael who challenge us as Christians to fully participate in the path of justice and expansion of God's Kingdom through humble, Bible-centered, people-loving engagement in our political process.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John Shelton

    This was an excellent book and it accomplished so many things. You get to know the author, President Obama, a Christian take on the significance of partisan politics and public virtue. Wear is comical throughout and his love for music binds the more autobiographical parts of the book together well. The book is written very well for a popular audience, though this sometimes left me wanting Wear to say more about what he meant (e.g., on how traditionalist Christians should think politically about This was an excellent book and it accomplished so many things. You get to know the author, President Obama, a Christian take on the significance of partisan politics and public virtue. Wear is comical throughout and his love for music binds the more autobiographical parts of the book together well. The book is written very well for a popular audience, though this sometimes left me wanting Wear to say more about what he meant (e.g., on how traditionalist Christians should think politically about same-sex marriage after Obergefell, or how he was optimistic about finding a compromise between LGBT rights in the workplace and protecting religious liberties). Despite spending a lot of time reading and thinking about these issues at an academic level, the book (especially the final chapter) challenged some of my Millenial assumptions. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. Christians will find in it some helpful reflection on how to engage in politics faithfully, while non-Christians will get one of the most charitable takes on how Christians think about politics.

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