Love her or loathe her -- there are millions of people willing to line up behind each option -- former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Party candidate for President Hillary Rodham Clinton is a person of strong beliefs.
One of those, if media reports are to be accepted at face value, is that she's a dedicated person of faith who might want to step onto a platform and declare her spiritual viewpoint. A church platform. Behind a pulpit. As a United Methodist lay preacher, perhaps.
In other words, as The Atlantic notes in an analysis piece, "Hillary Wants to Preach."
Noting that Clinton is planning a campaign memoir for a fall release, the magazine/website adds that she approved -- and wrote the foreword for -- a book of devotionals sent to her on the campaign trail:
Hillary Clinton wants to preach. That’s what she told Bill Shillady, her longtime pastor, at a recent photo shoot for his new book about the daily devotionals he sent her during the 2016 campaign. Scattered bits of reporting suggest that ministry has always been a secret dream of the two-time presidential candidate: Last fall, the former Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward revealed that Clinton told him in 1994 that she thought “all the time” about becoming an ordained Methodist minister. She asked him not to write about it, though: “It will make me seem much too pious.” The incident perfectly captures Clinton’s long campaign to modulate -- and sometimes obscure -- expressions of her faith.
The rest of this article is long on historical analysis but short on issues-focused context. We learn, for example, about her upbringing as a progressive Methodist teen-ager:
Hillary Rodham grew up attending First United Methodist Church in the conservative suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois, often taking field trips into Chicago with her youth pastor to see figures like Martin Luther King Jr. While other girls were flipping through beauty mags, she was reading about Vietnam and poverty in a now-defunct magazine for Methodist students called motive. (The title was always styled with a lower-case m.)
So we go on, and on, and on about Clinton's faith and its sometimes halting expression in the political realm. According to this piece, Clinton was gun-shy about expressing her faith after "progressives roundly mocked her moralism, and conservatives doubted her sincerity," particularly in light of a 1993 speech about the nation's crisis of meaning.
Now, buttressed by more than a year's worth of daily devotionals from the Rev. Shillady and guest authors including female clergy who were part of a group called “We Pray with Her," Clinton is ready to emerge as a spiritual speaker:
Maybe after all these years of hard-scrabble politics, Clinton is finally becoming a more straightforward version of herself: a woman whose fondest ambition is teaching scripture in church.
Or perhaps not, given that BuzzFeed reports Clinton's "resistance" political action committee has hired two former campaign staffers, suggesting a different course for the 2016 nominee, perhaps another run for the presidency in 2020.
My journalistic issue here is not that The Atlantic failed to include political speculation in its report on Clinton-the-committed-Methodist, but rather that they omitted huge chunks of context linked to her various pronouncements on religious issues. The article does take a stab at mentioning how the large parts of the faith-driven electorate didn't cotton to her liberal Protestant worldview:
As primary season approached last year, nearly half of Americans described Clinton as not very or at all religious or said they didn’t know what her religion was. ...
The big swing states that Clinton lost in November -- Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan -- are strongholds of white, working-class voters, many of whom are mainline Protestants and Catholics. Clinton did not focus on faith outreach to these groups: Her campaign declined a speaking invitation at Notre Dame, for example, reasoning that white Catholics weren’t her target audience.
But the idea that many faith-based voters didn't cotton to the Democratic candidate was not the only "religion problem" for Clinton. Yes, another issue was also omitted from The Atlantic's coverage, specifically her apparent 180-degree turn on the First Amendment and the free exercise of religion.
In a 2004 video (see above), then-Senator Hillary Clinton told members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that she stood behind the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill that would protect religious expression in the workplace. By 2016, however, Clinton was fully opposed to the First Amendment Defense Act, which supporters said would bolster free exercise protections. Speaking with The Advocate, a gay-issues publication, she said of the measure:
"It’s absolutely unacceptable. Allowing people to use their personal religious beliefs as grounds for discrimination against LGBT people in the public sphere goes against everything we stand for. And I know a lot of deeply religious people who agree with me."
Perhaps they do. But the fact remains that many people of faith were willing to take a flyer on Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, whose relationship with Christianity is sui generis to say the least, because Trump's positions on the free exercise of religion resonated more with them. Millions voted, not for Trump, but against Hillary Clinton (as Christianity Today, and others, reported).
It would've been nice to have some of this considered in this lengthy, detailed analysis piece.
FIRST IMAGE: From a Hillary Clinton prayer candle.