Michael Wear on his years in the White House, conservative evangelicals, and the role of faith in public life

Michael Wear and Dr. Andrew Davies, Director of The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, in Muirhead Tower G15, March 2, 2017.

Michael Wear gave a guest lecture at the University of Birmingham on 2 March 2017. 

Michael Wear was appointed by US President Barack Obama in 2008 to the Office of Faith-based and Neighbourhood Partnerships. Later he directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 re-election campaign. As a Christian in government, he led evangelical outreach and helped manage the White House’s engagement on religious and values issues, including abortion and anti-human trafficking efforts.

Michael Wear’s talk at the University of Birmingham was based on his memoir ‘Reclaiming Hope: Faith in the Obama White House’. He spoke about the early days of his office under the Obama administration, when it was uncertain if it would be kept or abolished (Obama decided to keep it). But he also talked about current issues, such as President Trump’s appeal to evangelicals. He argued that Trump won the evangelical vote in 2016 because evangelicals felt that he would look out for them.  The Democratic Party had largely given up on reaching out to conservative evangelicals, but also white Catholics, Michael Wear said, because a new generation within the party didn’t understand the important role religion still plays in many Americans’ lives. He also mentioned a speech by President Obama in 2009 in which Obama talked about his vision of reducing the number of abortions. However, the political division between conservatives and liberals had become so deep that it was impossible to establish a common ground policy during the eight years Obama was in office. Michael Wear also cited a study in which Democrats and Republicans said they would be displeased if their child married someone of a differing political ideology. Overall, Michael Wear painted a picture of a politically deeply divided and isolated America, and was of the opinion that politics had taken up an emotional space in people’s lives that it is not meant to take up. But, he said, there is hope. He described religion as a source of hope that can help bring people together, regardless of their beliefs and race, and to work for the common good. 

Michael Wear's lecture was part of The Cadbury Centre Occasional Lectures Series. Lectures in this series seek to enhance the public understanding of religion by gathering leading global academics and practitioners to discuss the significance and impact of their innovative work around religion in the fields of global politics, public policy and civic life.

To find out more about The Cadbury Centre Occasional Lectures Series, please contact: cadburycentre@contacts.bham.ac.uk