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Q&A: Why faith groups should stay engaged in politics and public debate

Michael Wear wants to build a better relationship between faith groups and politicians because he's experienced the frustrations of the status quo.

In his four years at the White House, he saw high-level staffers mischaracterize religious convictions and clergy members reject compromise in favor of personal political gain. He was frustrated by how the White House handled religious accommodations to the Affordable Care Act and the way President Barack Obama sometimes used his faith to justify contentious policies.

The experience left him lost and disheartened, but he says it also gave him the tools to fight for better outcomes.

In his new book, "Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America," released on Jan. 17, Wear outlines his key takeaways from working on religious outreach for Obama's two presidential campaigns and in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He describes faith-based political engagement as a potential antidote to growing polarization.

Wear, a 28-year-old evangelical Christian, understands that's he's not the only believer who sometimes feels cynical about politics. "As I have talked to pastors around the country, I've come to understand that many of those who refrain from political engagement do so not because they believe it is unimportant, but because they know, for too many of their congregants, politics is important in all of the wrong ways," he wrote.

Wear thinks he can help. Using anecdotes from his work in the White House, as well as Bible verses, he shares a vision of how to maintain hope in the midst of imperfect political bargaining.

The Deseret News spoke with Wear this week about the relationship between religion and politics, increasingly tense religious freedom debates and his impression of President Donald Trump's first few weeks in office. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1px;">Deseret News: You worked on Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Did religion grow more politicized between the two?