For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Michael Wear. Michael was the faith outreach director for President Obama's 2012 relection campaign and until recently served in the White House Office of Faith and Community Partnerships. He recently cofounded Values Partnership with another Obama faith veteran, Joshua Dubois. This is a social enterprise that helps nurture public, private and non-profit partnerships within the faith community. Michael and his wife, Melissa currently reside in Washington, D.C. where they attend National Community Church. You can follow Michael on Twitter here: @michaelrwear
What is the biggest misconception evangelicals have about the President's faith?
There are some surface level misconceptions, or insufficiently informed judgments, some hold that are obvious: that he's a Muslim (he's not) or otherwise not a Christian (he is), for instance. But I think a more fundamental misconception that some might hold runs deeper and applies to a range of politicians and public figures: that his faith is inanimate. What I mean by that is, I fear many of us talk about the President's faith as if it is like anything else related to The White House or government—something to be debated or dissected, something to be poked and tested. And this can be done without much regard for the soul of the man.
I've prayed with him, and I've been with him as he's discussed his faith in public and in private. He is no theologian, but he is a man on a walk with Jesus. He ponders scripture. He prays. He starts his day with a Christian devotional. We should be very careful about how we address the faith of such a person, President or not, particularly if we don't have a relationship with him.
The President alluded to some of this in a speech he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010:
My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years. All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we're being true to our conscience and true to our God. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."
If we care first and foremost about seeing men and women come to a saving knowledge of Christ, and to grow in that faith, than that should be our modus operandi when thinking about the faith of the President or any other person.
Working in the White House and on a Presidential campaign is a pretty intense job. How did you maintain your spiritual vitality?
Excellent question. To be honest, early on, I didn't take the challenge seriously enough. I was maybe putting as much in the tank as I was prior to working for the President, but the problem was that I was taking so much more out! It took a bit for me to understand what was happening in my life, and that I would need to create new rhythms so that I could stay grounded in the Gospel in a pretty tough environment. While I was in DC, I started reading my Bible on the metro ride into work, which helped me prepare for the day. My wife and I also joined a small group at our local church here in D.C., National Community Church.
When I started the campaign job last year leading faith outreach, I knew I would be facing a whole new set of challenges, and so I asked a few close brothers who I trust and respect to join me on a prayer call each week. Finally, it was really helpful that for the entire time I was serving the President, my job allowed me to connect with Christian leaders and organizations on a regular basis, which made it easier to keep my faith at the center of my day.