Michael Wear: having faith in politics
A call to pursue justice, and to love your political neighbor.
In 2009, aged just 20, Michael Wear became one of the youngest members of White House staff in history, serving President Barack Obama’s administration in the office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Growing up in a catholic family with Italian roots, Michael developed a love for politics at an early age.
“When I became a Christian as a teenager, I wrestled with how to reconcile this passion for politics with my devotion to God. Should I really want to become a pastor?
“After some study, and a conversation with church leaders, I decided I wanted to bring my faith to the public square, and use it to help and serve people through politics.”
Michael went on to study Political Science at George Washington University, during which time he was positively influenced by the InterVarsity group there.
After a meeting in 2006 with Senator Barack Obama, they maintained contact and, ten months later, Michael joined Obama’s presidential campaign team. “After that it was pretty non-stop, right up to the first day at the White House.”
Politics and Christian identity
“During my time on the campaign, I was sensitive to the ways that faith had sometimes been used unhelpfully to promote one candidate over another. I had friends hold me to account that I would never suggest Obama was the only real candidate for people of faith. I want to see Christians on both sides of the political divide develop and support policies that promote human flourishing.
“A Christian’s first allegiance is to their God, not to their political party. My identity is in Christ. The church reminds me I am a member of a diverse community of believers.”
Bringing grace to the public square
“I want to encourage Christians to bring faith and grace to the public square, and to see politics as a great way to pursue justice, and to demonstrate love for one’s neighbour.
“During my time in the White House, my job was to resource the faith community to serve those in need, and to make sure that people of faith were represented in policy discussions and outreach.
“Whilst I always tried to act with integrity, I am certain that I did things imperfectly. But as a Christian I was acutely aware that manipulating political processes for short-term gain was not an option.”
Michael was later invited to lead faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and has since founded Public Square Strategies which helps religious organisations navigate public issues.
Hope in politics
Despite the challenges of the current political climate in the US and other parts of the world, Michael remains hopeful.
“After a decade of working at the intersection of faith, politics and culture, I’m more encouraged about Christian leadership, the state of the church in America and the future of faith than I was when I started.
“If students today feel discouraged by the current state of politics, I would suggest this is the very reason to get involved. We need faithful people who are not content with the way things are, and who will bring courage and the ability to contend for these things. This should drive Christians to want to be on the field, to be in the arena.”
Michael is the author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in The Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.