Enjoy this post from former Obama faith staffer Michael Wear. Be sure to also read Ur's recent interview with Michael.
Today, partnership—a simple, benign idea in general—is perhaps one of the most counter-cultural concepts in practice. Division and polarization are now common themes in our lives. This is certainly true in our nation's Capitol, where our politics is too often characterized by seemingly institutionalized gridlock and partisanship that prevents action on the issues that matter most. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that this spirit is not just confined to Washington. In our culture, our media, even our relationships, we often find it easier to retreat to spaces that only reaffirm our existing beliefs, rather than sincerely seeking to understand the perspective of those with whom we may disagree.
I served the President during a time of great change and challenge in this country, but I left with a greater sense of optimism and hope for our future than when I began. Through my work at The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I learned about the incredible power and potential of partnership.
There was little we didn't tackle in partnership with faith-based and non-profit groups: the global plague of human trafficking; nuclear disarmament through the New START agreement; strengthening fatherhood and promoting mentoring; supporting adoption; feeding hungry school-lunch kids through the summer vacation; coordinating relief efforts in natural disaster upon disaster; building a movement of students committed to service through the President's Interfaith Campus Community Service Challenge, and so many other pressing issues.
One event each year was particularly meaningful to me as a picture of what is possible when Christians pursue genuine partnership: The White House Easter Prayer Breakfast.
The event is a new tradition created by President Obama to bring together religious leaders from across the country around Christianity's most important holiday. It was an unusual event in several ways. Perhaps most unique for Washington is that while most event guest lists are created through a process of cold political calculation, this event was instead about bringing together church leaders who were doing good in the world regardless of their political leanings or influence. Instead, in what may be unexpected for a President not known for talking regularly about his faith, the President typically opens the event with brief remarks reflecting on what Easter means to him (Last year he seemed particularly moved by Jesus' declaration that "I have overcome the world"), and then a handful of pastors lead those gathered in prayer.
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