Millennial of the Year 2017: Michael Wear

At a time when many prominent white evangelicals provide blanket support to a president that demonizes minorities, pursues policies that harm the poor and vulnerable, and erodes foundational democratic norms on a regular basis, our 2017 Millennial of the Year, Michael Wear, offers an alternative approach to faith in public life and Christian witness that is both authentic and ethical. In contrast to those who have helped to foster the resurgence of the darkest populist impulses in our country, those who have replaced their Christian worldview with one that simply reflects their party affiliation or ideology, and those who embrace, in both politics and religion, an extreme individualism that deeply undermines the quest for communion and the common good, Wear—the author of Reclaiming Hope—has articulated and executed an approach to politics that reflects his firm commitment to human dignity and the flourishing of all. At a time when American democracy is facing grave challenges, he offers an excellent model for how Christian citizens can serve God through engaging in politics and how all citizens can strengthen our democracy and work for a more just, authentically free country and world.

Michael Wear has delivered valuable messages and insights for those who care about their faith and the common good, including:

  • Politics cannot offer ultimate salvation but it is critically important
  • Politics is causing great spiritual harm in Americans lives, and a big reason for that is Americans are turning to politics to have their spiritual needs met
  • Voting is not about a person’s individual purity but just one way we express our love for God and our neighbors through the inherently pragmatic vehicle of democratic participation. Imperfect candidates are therefore not an excuse for withdrawal from participation entirely.
  • Intermediary institutions are critical and need government support, along with space to live out their values
  • The decency and dignity of the president matters
  • People on both sides of the political aisle have contributed to polarization and the culture war (though perhaps not equally)
  • There is common ground on abortion if both sides are willing to engage
  • The pro-life movement’s partisanship is self-defeating
  • Christians must address racial injustice
  • The way Christians operate in the public sphere affects the appeal of Christian witness.

Yet it’s not just his message, but his willingness to fight for his ideals within the system, that matters. He served in the White House faith-based initiative during President Obama’s first term and directed faith outreach for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. While sharing many of the party’s highest ideals and best approaches to public policy, he has also worked for a more inclusive, just Democratic Party. Wear pressed the Democratic Party to improve upon its outreach to people of faith. He has called on the party to embrace a pro-family agenda that would strengthen the American family. And he has fought for a big tent Democratic Party against those who would impose an abortion litmus test that would exclude the over 20 million pro-life Democrats in this country from having real representation. Extremely skilled and politically adept, if he placed his ascent in the party above his faith, he would have had an easy path to positions of greater and greater power and prestige. Instead, he has chosen faithfulness. And with this approach, he has shown how to engage in dialogue and pragmatic action to promote the common good with thoughtfulness and integrity. Our country needs good examples of moral, responsible citizenship, and people of faith need to see excellent examples of faithful citizenship. Michael Wear offers both.