Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

Reclaiming Hope is a pretty straightforward look at the author's involvement with two Obama Presidential campaigns and one full term in office, mostly as liaison with the religious community (and primarily with evangelicals). I imagine Wear has no real "home" in the polarized world of American politics and religion. He explains and defends the positive involvement of the Obama White House in religious affairs as strongly as he critiques the missteps. I've heard some of the left are pretty upset with his condemnation of the administration's political leadership - particularly their distaste for evangelicalism and religion in general and their devotion to political strategy - this is justified anger, for sure, but that doesn't make Wear wrong.

It's rare to see someone in politics who is also loyal to some non-partisan moral standard. Wear seems to truly be committed to seeing his faith convictions played out in the public sphere regardless of what party they may help or hinder. It's an amazing and admirable portrayal that can be seen as equally biting and approving of President Obama and his personal as well as public faith. I can't believe anyone truly politically connected would find any enjoyment in Reclaiming Hope, but the book does as the title implies - it gives great hope, especially to someone like me who finds literally nothing redeemable in just about any human institution, let along the halls of power, that people can actually enter the demon fray and emerge alive.

Now, that being said, the book ends with a sort of philosophical and theological treatment on hope that Wear isn't really qualified or all that good at elucidating. I find many of his presumptions narrow and his opinions weak, but although this is the conclusion of the book, it's not really the important part.

For example, one sentence pretty much sums up the nagging at my conscious throughout the book, but particularly the final section: "A holistic approach to justice and the well-being of our neighbors is inconceivable without political involvement." I agree with Wear's next sentence, that politics is one way in which Christian can love their neighbors, but I vehemently disagree with the first. I believe strongly that the Church, the people of God, are called to be an alternative to the world. That quoted sentence makes sense if you're using "politics" in the generic 'way humans interact with each other,' definition; I'm just not sure that's how Wear defines it and it's why I can't quite go there with him.

He repeats the old tropes that not voting means muting ones voice and even, at one point, says "Christians are obligated to participate in politics." I have heard him speak in other venues and I respect Wear as a person, but I find that mentality so misguided and anti-gospel, it hurts my soul. At the same time, this book is proof, as I said, that people can survive DC with a conscience intact, so far be it from me to think I'm right about everything.

The book is good, truthful, honest, and well written. It's engaging and not overly long. It's not preachy or partisan and it wreaks of integrity. It's a good book written by a good man for no ulterior purpose. Quite a rarity, both in politics AND evangelical publishing. If you think it sounds interesting, it almost certainly will be. Check it out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

No comments: