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WORLD’s June 10 issue includes an interview with Michael Wear, who in 2009 became one of the youngest presidential aides in American history. In 2013 he stayed in Washington to found Public Square Strategies, a public relations company, and is the author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America. Here are some additional edited excerpts.
As a teenager, when you read in Romans 1 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” were you also thinking politically to some extent: What difference does that make in what individuals should do, and what government should do?
It took a while. I had an understanding of human life as created: That had to influence my view of politics. I had a view of compassion and justice that had to infuse my politics. I had a view that politics could no longer be ultimate, that the prime mover in history is not politics, but Jesus.
So what did you do first when Romans changed your thinking?
I wanted to tell everyone about Jesus, even though I knew very little about Him. I’d tell my friends, “I want to tell you about something that’s happened in my life,” and they’d say, “So you’re going to be judgmental now?” or “Does that mean we can’t be friends anymore?” or “Are you going to be mean?” I was excited about a positive thing in my life, but for my peers it was a negative, oppressing thing—and a big reason for that was the public view of the faith as perceived in politics.
When you worked for Barack Obama in 2008 and he sounded some Biblical themes, did you think, Here is where my political and religious goals come together?
Very early on when I became a Christian I came to terms with the thought that I would never be comfortable in politics again. I did an interview with The Atlantic at the end of last year, and the frame of the interview was I’m a man in the wilderness, a man without a political home. The thought occurred to me that the crisis for Christians is not that we are politically homeless, but that we ever thought we could be at home in politics at all.
The thought occurred to me that the crisis for Christians is not that we are politically homeless, but that we ever thought we could be at home in politics at all.
Could you elaborate on a few statements in your book? Pages 116-117: “President Obama repeated his openness to restrictions on abortion throughout the 2008 campaign. That he never took any action to propose or actively support any such actions while he was President suggests that those statements were little more than political posturing—or his intentions were overwhelmed by political calculation and compromise while he was President.”
Pro-life groups never really held the president’s feet to the fire on the commitments he made. When he told Christianity Today he was open to restrictions on abortion, and when he was in office already, strategically smart pro-life groups should have run ads asking, “What abortion restrictions will you support?” Instead the pro-life posture was to treat those words as meaningless and to ignore them.
What do you think President Obama was thinking?
The pro-life community wouldn’t support him if they found common ground. He would lose support on his left flank.
You write in your book: “In 2014 a government report found that the administration has failed to enforce or not even tried to enforce the rule regarding federal funding for abortion. The pro-life Democrats in Congress lost their seats defending what turned out to be a lie.” The pro-life groups believed candidate Obama had lied. Are you suggesting they should have thought, “What if it’s not a lie?”
They should have treated the words seriously and made the administration put forward a policy proposal.
Pro-life people were not going to hold the president’s feet to the fire, because they didn’t think his feet were ever close to the fire—but shouldn’t reporters have been pointing out the contradiction between his statement and action?
A number of times Democrats with great offense and incredulity about any conservative criticism would say, “How dare you say that President Obama supports gay marriage”—until he supports gay marriage. Or “How dare you say that healthcare will fund abortion”—until it funds abortion.