The more so because the 2016 Campaign has had every Republican candidate waltzing the dance floor with Evangelicals, preachers, and doctrinal activists. One GOP candidate, Huckabee, is a preacher. Carson is a lay preacher, paid big fees for his inspirational speeches. Rubio just declared his resounding belief in one savior, Jesus Christ during a debate, saying he will always allow his faith to influence everything he does. Cruz has been collecting evangelical endorsements.
Most of these religious endorsements are given for pledges of action: against gay marriage and abortion, against extending amnesty to illegal immigrants, or benefits such as education and school lunches to their children.
Most of this is normal for American politicians, but it seems odd in a year when statistics show church-going is in rapid decline and the fastest growing group in the nation is non-religious.
And then along comes Hillary’s selfie: a personal declaration she made in a Knoxville, Iowa school gym on January 25, to a teacher who said she felt conflicted because she had been defending Hillary to her Republican Christian friends. She asked Hillary whether the Ten Commandments were important to her, and how she feels her beliefs align with them.
Hillary Clinton spoke up, saying that, as a Christian and a Methodist she has a constant conversation running in her head about what she is called to do and how she should do it. And she said, “I think it is appropriate for people to have strong convictions and also to discuss those with other people of faith because different experiences can lead to different conclusions about what is consonant with our faith and how best to exercise it.”(1)
She lifted up the Great Commandment, to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, and stressed that Christians are to do as Christ did, taking care of the poor, visiting prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up. She mentioned the Sermon on the Mount and said she was in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on. Those are really hard things to do, she said.
These are moving words. I’d like to hear them a lot more often. I do note Hillary didn’t actually answer the question, though, which was about the Ten Commandments. Why is it that politicians duck questions?
I’d like to hear her say, Look, the only one of the Ten Commandments that mentions sex is the one that forbids adultery. And as a Christian, I know that forgiveness is the greatest form of love. And as a wife I’ve practiced this forgiveness, and it was terribly hard, but I am so immensely glad I did, because I have a lasting marriage and an unshakeable love I share with my husband.
I’d like to hear her go on to say that the oldest commandment in Judaism is to welcome the stranger, and to remember that we were once strangers ourselves. And that the book of Hebrews bids us to remember that angels often appear as strangers, as they did to Abraham and Sarah. So it is pretty hard to be a Christian who opposes immigrants and refugees, and who cites fear as the basis for deciding to turn them away, rather than using love to welcomes people in.
Hillary said she is disappointed that Christianity, which has great love at its core, is used to condemn so quickly and judge so harshly. She said she feels the continuing urge to do better, to be kinder, and to try to be more loving, even to those who are quite harsh.
O, dear God, I would love to hear her say all this and point it toward Cruz and Rubio, and most of all, the guy who just declared an- eye-for-an-eye to be his guiding principle, Donald Trump.
Hillary wants to look strong, tough, Commander in Chief-ish. She tends to give out a lot of Mom-advice about the world, and sometimes some Mom-scoldings. But I’d be much more captivated by a candidate who declares her Christian faith, emphasizing how hard the works of love are, and especially forgiveness and kindness to strangers. What I need to hear in election season are some really good talks about our social covenant and the faith it takes to make it real.
1. Clinton quotes taken from an article by Any Chozick, Hillary Clinton Gets Personal on Christ and Her Faith, in First Draft Newsletter, Political News, Now, Jan 25.
Illustration: Hillary campaigning in 2015, image from the Hillary Clinton Wikipedia page.