If you know me, you know I live and breathe politics. I love reading the news and discussing current events and am very interested in social justice issues. For some people, the issues are overwhelming. The divisiveness and hostility of our current political climate is a lot to take in, and can feel personal. I know I can definitely take it too far sometimes.
I really struggle with finding the balance of discussing important issues and getting so angry I want to scream. I assume people aren’t as angry as me or aren’t doing enough to make changes and it frustrates me so much. Like, what do you mean you are not registered to vote? That’s like the bare minimum of activism and civil engagement!
That is so harsh of me, right? But that’s how my mind works! I see social injustices and I think, why are we not all upset about this!!
Lately, I have been learning how that’s not quite the issue at hand. This past summer, I read the book Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear. His stories are very encouraging to me, as I grow in my faith and prepare to pursue a career in government. It articulated a lot of things I was feeling, but also expertly explained two points that I think sum up a lot: first, Christians are not exempt from politics; second, our hope is not in politics, but in Christ.
The first point is clearly something I already felt strongly about, but Wear’s story helped me understand that more deeply. As Christians, our faith automatically impacts our political thought process and Wear emphasizes that Christians should be involved in politics, but he also points out that we are imperfect and we cannot forget that when determining our political views. Wear says that “we ought to affirm what we find to be good and reject what we find to be bad, regardless of its source.” That really hit me. It is not about what party and it is not a black and white issue, but as Christians we need to be bold in addressing what is good and what is bad. I think this idea is so important because it makes politics seem like this less scary thing that so many people complain about. Nothing grinds my gears more than someone avoiding politics simply because it’s too intense and doesn’t seem to directly affect them (see also: white privilege). But when we think about it as our faith community committing to acknowledging what is good and what is bad, doesn’t it seem as if we are meant to do that?
Wear says that if we are intentionally trying to be loving and healing to the oppressed, our process of prayer and kindness needs community engagement through politics to be complete. Our faith compels us to use that faith in our pursuit for helping the voiceless.
Wear later says, “A holistic pursuit of justice and the well-being of our neighbors is inconceivable without political involvement.” Wear references Jeremiah 29. When God’s people found themselves in a land that was not their own, they were not supposed to avoid everything, but to be involved in the city of people who were not for them. We worship a God who loves deeply, and we are called to love others deeply too. Wear says that if we are intentionally trying to be loving and healing to the oppressed, our process of prayer and kindness needs community engagement through politics to be complete. Our faith compels us to use that faith in our pursuit for helping the voiceless.
While we are called to wholly be in the presence of our community, Wear emphasizes that politics are not the answer. His book tells the journey of working in the Faith-Based Office under the Obama administration and the importance of religion in politics, but he concludes his story with a big message: that our hope is Christ. Clearly, I am already on board with Christians being involved in politics, but I struggle with becoming so passionate about it, that I forget that the purpose of my life is in Christ. Wear distinctively says “Christians have an obligation to be involved in politics, but we do not belong to our politics.” Our identity is not found in politics, contrary to what my mouth spews occasionally. We can rest in our hope in Christ, a hope that allows us to pursue justice and have humility in our work. I have to remind myself this daily. I think some of the difficulty for me comes with that word ‘rest,’ because I don’t want to slow down, I want to constantly be active. Hope seems to be too simple, but that’s the beauty of it. We know politics are tricky and some are more hesitant than others to engage, but when we have hope in Christ, the feeling of fear is not as overbearing. Whether that is fear is participating in political discussion or fear from the other political party, that feeling is not so daunting when our hope lies in a loving and gracious God.
Needless to say, it’s been a growing process. I am thankful for relationships that challenge me and question my stubborn beliefs. As I grow spiritually, my political thoughts become more refined and more nuanced. I still argue and debate with others, and I still tend to call people out on racist or sexist views, but I am working on making sure there is love and healing behind that engagement. People have a lot of different perceptions of me and my political views, whether good or bad, but my faith is most important to me. I tend to hold my faith tightly close to me, instead of making it the obvious deciding factor in my views. It’s a constant struggle for me. But is that not what Wear ultimately is saying in his book? The hope we have is what we must pursue, and community and political engagement will follow.
Faith and politics expert Michael Wear will discuss hope in politics as part of the Berry College Life and Calling Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4 in the Spruill Ballroom.
Wear currently serves as the Chief Strategist for The And Campaign. Wear directed faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and made history serving as one of the youngest White House staffers in modern American history. He is also the founder of Public Square Strategies LLC and the author of “Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.” Wear also regularly writes for The Atlantic, Christianity Today, USA Today, Relevant Magazine and other publications on faith, politics and culture. Wear and his wife and daughter reside in Northern Virginia.
This event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact the Office of the Chaplain at (706) 236-2217.
As the Public Relations Manager at the Chaplain’s Office, Bailey normally serves as the Over Coffee Editor, but attempted to actually write her thoughts out for a change. Bailey is a senior studying communication and political science. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit or government communication field. Some of her favorite things include stand-up comedy, pugs, and reading the news.