WASHINGTON – While President Barack Obama's presidency is now history, one of his faith advisers is opening up about the experiences he had reaching out to people of faith as Obama worked to radically change the culture.
Michael Wear was only 19 years old when he served as an intern for senator and presidential candidate Obama in 2008.
"It was the greatest honor of my life. I mean, it was to be there to be in the thick of things," Wear told CBN News in an interview about his new book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the White House About the Future of Faith in America.
Later, he would work in Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
In 2012, Wear handled faith outreach for the president's re-election campaign. That led to a wild ride for a Christian like Wear, especially working for a president whose moral and religious views evolved dramatically throughout his time in the White House.
Wrong Decision on Contraception Mandate 'Right Out of the Gate'
In the book, Wear talks about the lessons he learned during that time. For instance, after Obamacare became law, the White House faced the decision on whether to allow people of faith an exemption when it came to providing insurance coverage for certain contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Wear says that time was extremely tense for him.
"It was years of my life, years of advocates' lives, that were trying to be earnest," Wear recalled. "And the administration made the wrong decision right out of the gate. And you can tell they made the wrong decision because they revised it over a dozen times since they made it."
"And to me it became clear that a more aggressive approach was taken than necessary," he went on. "And that part of the reason for that was to stoke political conflict."
In other words, it all came down to politics. Wear says Obama operatives knew stoking this controversy that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would certainly oppose could allow them to fabricate a Republican "war on women" – a war that took hold in the 2012 campaign.
After the botched religious exemption, things were never the same between the president and religious leaders.
Obama Flip-Flop on Marriage
Another example: Many evangelical Christians voted for Obama in 2008 thinking he supported traditional marriage and civil unions. During the 2008 campaign, in an interview with Christian pastor Rick Warren, Obama said, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix."
"He told Rick Warren that God was in the mix, and then when he announced his evolution, he brought up the Golden Rule," Wear recalled. "Which, you know, the Golden Rule has been around a long time, so I don't know what changed in the application of the Golden Rule from when he had one position in 2008 to when he evolved in 2012," he said.
Later, Obama adviser David Axelrod revealed it was all a campaign concoction. President Obama always supported gay marriage, but he knew his position would lessen his chances of winning in '08.
President Obama has had his personal faith challenged more than any other president in history. Wear says that was a constant thorn in his side, as the president's adviser on matters of faith.
"I hope people understand that when they're sending around these chain emails, that, you know, there were Muslim prayers on the South Lawn, you know someone actually has to deal with that, and you're looking at him," Wear said. "Believe me, I was there I would have been the first to question if there were Muslim prayers being held on the South Lawn," he said.
Wear regrets Christians didn't do more to encourage Obama in his faith.
"My problem was it seemed a standard was being applied to him that folks don't apply in their own congregation. If you don't agree with someone in your congregation on a political issue or you don't think they're doing things exactly right, you don't kick them out of the congregation, you try and edify them and build them up in their faith," he said.
How Does America Reclaim Hope?
Wear says reclaiming hope is all about putting one's hope in Jesus.
"You can have all kinds of things to hope for, but I want to encourage people to think where their hope is placed. When everything else falls short, what can they count on? And for me that's Jesus," Wear said.
"When your hope is on solid ground then all kinds of opportunities open up. You're able to look at where God is operating in the world – even in politics. Politics is not the one area of life that can't be affected by the Kingdom of God. Just imagine if we had a country full of people who were grounded in the hope of Christ and that that hope propelled them to love their neighbor well," Wear concluded.