Vail Daily column: Clinton’s faith led to a life of service
Some people deal with faith the way drivers change gears. They shift faith into reverse by consigning it to what was learned years ago in Sunday School. Others park faith in neutral by keeping it private. They seldom use their faith to respond to political challenges.
Faith functions like a car’s gearbox. It furnishes direction to deal with societal trends. Hillary Clinton shifts her faith into “forward.” It inspires how she acts and shapes her practice of liberty and justice for all Americans.
This past Sept. 8, speaking at the National Baptist Convention, the nation’s oldest and largest African-American religious group, Clinton flexed muscular faith. She described seeing her father nightly praying on his knees. Her mother taught in a Methodist Sunday School.
These parents urged their daughter to take faith from a contemplative shelf and thrust it into protests for civil rights. Such experiences molded a hearty faith with a sharp edge that’s still an “activist, social-justice faith, a roll-up-your sleeves-and-get dirty faith,” she testified to the Baptists.
“I want to talk about my own faith — how it led me to a life of service and how it will guide me as president,” testified Clinton, shedding her sometimes guarded demeanor. “For me, it’s always been about trying to live up to the responsibility described by the prophet Micah that we ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8). Humility is not something you hear much about in politics, but you should. None of us is perfect.”
Such practiced Christian faith got lost on Donald Trump. Last June, the Donald referred to Clinton’s faith as listless and, like rising smoke, hard to see through. “We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion,” he assured evangelical leaders. “Now she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet …there’s nothing out there. It’s (her roll-up-your-sleeves faith) going to be an extension of (President) Obama, but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary, you don’t, and it’s going to get worse.”
Talk about painting the kettle black. Trump stumbles around in things religious, yet he “knows” that President Obama is really a closet Muslim and infidel Hillary practices fake Christianity.
Trump slams Clinton’s formative Methodist identity. However, Watergate historian Carl Bernstein, in his 2007 biography of Clinton, wrote about the Christian family role models and a Methodist heritage that shaped her identity. “Methodism is perhaps the most important foundation of her character,” emphasized Bernstein.
She spoke of these pivotal people and Methodist roots in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Clinton noted lessons learned from her mother “Dorothy who was abandoned by her parents as a young girl. She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid … ”
Growing faith needs others to bolster it, she affirmed. “No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up,” declared Clinton.
“She (her mother Dorothy) made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith” which are encapsulated in a maxim attributed to founder John Wesley (1703-1791):
“Do all the good you can,
For all the people you can,
In all the ways you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Trump blunders when he infers that Clinton’s Christian faith didn’t grow from strong Methodist roots. His condemnation angers Methodists who form one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. that reaches a global community, also.
Hillary Clinton’s faith strengthens support for virtues that make the U.S. great and grants courage when reverses have rocked her life.
Collegian Hillary worked in Texas for the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign. Richard Nixon in a blow-out election won the White House for a second time. Clinton learned, when ideals are tarnished, to polish them by picking yourself up and going forward.
“Stay true to your values,” she advises young staff members, “but also don’t just hang on to the idealism at the expense of actually producing results that will improve people’s lives.”
Faith’s support balances life that feels as if it’s sinking. “I know what it’s like to be knocked down and how you dust yourself off and you get back up and you keep fighting for what you believe in,” she declared after reviewing lessons learned from the McGovern campaign.
“But you do it within the process so that you can actually try to get results for people, so that you can point to our political system working. And I think that that’s what we need more of right now — not less.”
Hillary Clinton’s Methodist faith is a work in progress. It bends but doesn’t break. She trusts in Jesus’ goodness to survive life’s strains.
Her faith shows a “roll-up-your-sleeves behavior,” helping voters who need a hand.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.