It is time to reclaim 'hope'.
So says Michael Wear, the author of the upcoming book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About The Future Of Faith In America (Thomas Nelson).
Wear spent several years at the heart of the US Government, working in the White House with President Barack Obama. Wear, who has been dubbed Obama's "ambassador to America's believers", served in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, and directed faith outreach for Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.
In his book he reflects on his experiences in politics, drawing out themes, individuals and defining moments to make his case for 'reclaiming hope'. If you don't feel like you need to read a book about 'hope' in the public sphere, then you probably haven't been watching the news.
Wear brings his experiences, anecdotes and front-line analysis to key political events of the last decade, narrating them clearly, amusingly, and thoughtfully. Obama was elected on the platform of 'hope' in 2008, though many in 2016 – on both sides of the political spectrum – have serious questions about what followed, where we are now, and if 'hope' is real, or just a fairy tale.
The book is a triumph: both politically insightful and pastorally prophetic. It is recommended to all, those who love politics and those who do not, because it is about more than just politics. It is about the Church and the world, and how the former can meaningfully contribute to the latter. It is about a wholesome, holistic world vision which transcends divisive partisanship and seeks to make a restorative difference in the real world.
As Wear writes, his book is "not a Washington tell-all"; refreshingly he doesn't spend chapters trying to vindicate or demonise any particular positions or individuals. One of the key themes in the book is the problem of partisanship, and the fierce, often intentional disagreement which can pervade in the political sphere. Thankfully, Wear is even-handed and does his best to be kind and fair to diverse, conflicting positions. His unique position as an evangelical Christian Democrat serves him well for this kind of conciliatory discussion of ideas that tend to divide.
His tone is honest, but aspirational too. Wear talks openly about the disappointments of his time in the White House, and his critiques of decisions made either by himself, or the President he clearly admires. While he engages with the difficult realities of politics, Wear is still full of hope. He insists on affirming the good, wherever he finds it.
The chapters on the faith of President Obama are excellent, and important. Obama has repeatedly had not only his citizenship, but his Christian faith brought into question by those who oppose him. Key evangelical leaders have made outrageous claims about the faith of a man they don't know. Wear did know the President though, and gives a beautiful account of how Obama's faith influenced his time in office. Again, the President is never idolised, rather Wear sheds light on a man of real integrity and profound faith. It was encouraging just to read about it.
Political junkies can enjoy this book because it is about life at the heart of politics, though Wear takes care to explain the nuances of Washington machinery in helpful terms. He brings clarity from complexity, and his narration includes both incisive analysis and a personal, human storytelling.
This is a book you could give to just about anyone. There is obviously a key Christian emphasis, but by looking at faith alongside politics, it's actually quite a good introduction to Christianity, especially in exploring the depth of the Christian notion of hope.
Any book on hope has to contend with the trial of the 2016 US election and the shock rise and victory of Donald Trump to the presidency. Yes, there are challenges ahead, but there always has been, and that's what Wear's book is about. Reclaiming Hope is a highly accessible, well-written, and prescient book.
Reclaiming Hope is published in the US on January 17 2017, and in the UK on February 23 2017.