Tags: Hillary | religion

New Book Examines Hillary's Spiritual Side

By    |   Thursday, 01 November 2007 01:03 PM

Surprise. Hillary Clinton is a very religious person – and has been since her childhood.

The former First Lady and Democratic presidential hopeful has adhered to the Methodist doctrine around which she was raised. Like many, she has turned to the church in times of personal crisis and she has explored and questioned her religious foundation.

But is being religious an advantage to a politician? The short answer is, it depends on the politician. Paul Kengor, in his tantalizing and important book “God and Hillary Clinton,” gives us some guidance and thoughts on that answer.

But the author candidly admits we will only truly find out if and when Clinton actually becomes the Democratic nominee for president.

Kengor, a veteran author and professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, a highly Christian and conservative institution, has better luck answering another key question: What does Hillary Clinton believe in the spiritual world? Here is where the book is illuminating and surprising.

There is much to feast on and much to wonderfully digest in Kengor’s work. Of particular sturdiness is his deep research of the vast and sometime eclectic already-published material on Clinton and his distilling of that data into a precise, chronological and clear context. On several occasions, he augments that previously published work with his own research to add important clarifying data and insight.

For example, Kengor makes its clear that Clinton is no politically born-again religious candidate – that she is sincere and consistent in her faith.

Kengor painstakingly shows how Clinton cites the teachings of Christ for the motivation and underpinning of a broad array of so-called social-justice issues, from class to race to economics to her healthcare initiatives. As Kengor notes, Clinton talks of Jesus reaching out his arms to little children and then commands that she and her fellow Christians do the same in providing healthcare to those children.

She also supports several of the faith-based domestic initiatives that are the hallmark of Bush’s so-called “compassionate conservatism,” for which President Bush was pilloried by secular liberals. She repeatedly cites the Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition as a central factor in her opposing gay marriage – supporting the Biblical view that marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman.

Sadly for Kengor (and the reader), he was hampered by what he cited in the book’s preface -- an almost total shutdown in his attempts to interview those with first-hand knowledge of Clinton’s religious history.

When people do not share anecdotes, it makes clarity more elusive and Kengor has valiantly tried to fill in the gaps. That is a dangerous gambit and often Kengor must resort to speculation – never good especially for such a highly charged subject.

For example, Kengor correctly notes the challenges that previous Democratic presidential candidates had in wooing religious voters, noting that “Neither Gore, Bill Clinton nor Kerry had any credibility with values voters they were trying to move – but did Hillary have the authority?”

Indeed, that is a key question -- but his answer is never approached, lost instead in many, many paragraphs and pages recounting the foibles and stunts of Bill Clinton-Kerry-Gore.

When he sticks to the topic, he is good and clear and illuminating. When he goes after the usual suspects – Kerry, Bill Clinton, Gore, liberal feminist groups, the media, to name a few – devoting pages and pages to their issues, when only one or two paragraph would suffice to set up how those issue affect Hillary Clinton, it diminishes the final product and makes it difficult to find the wheat from the chaff.

He also slips into the habit of projecting without substantiation or in other cases stating something as if it is “wrong” but not explaining clearly why it is wrong. For example, why is it curious that people of different faith would choose to be married outside of a church – in affect, to begin a life together incorporating elements of both of their Christian religions? He constructs the Clinton’s decision to do that (albeit with a Christian minister) as suggestive of a lack of faith. But it misses the mark.

Likewise, he offers no proof – other than a few quotes from a lone pornographer – to support the assertion that electing Clinton would be a boon for that tawdry industry.

There is much convenient speculation on the part of the author, to add bulk to assertions – almost always in the realm of adhering to more potentially controversial aspects of Clinton.

A prime example is describing a six-week program for 400 gifted high school seniors in Arkansas, known as the “Governor’s School.”

Kengor details some of the school’s “post-modern and left-wing curriculum” and notes what was read by students or, when convenient, selects a controversial work that meets his criteria by noting that “in a 1971 work likely read by Governor’s School students.”

Such convenient extrapolations appear throughout the book; sadly, they are not necessary to make the point and, in fact, raise objective questions as to intent.

All that said, Kengor indeed gave himself a challenge of answering the question of what does Hillary Clinton believe, and by the end of the book we have a much better idea of the answer.

“God and Hillary Clinton, A Spiritual Life” by Paul Kengor (HarperCollins, 281 text pages, $24.95)

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Surprise. Hillary Clinton is a very religious person – and has been since her childhood. The former First Lady and Democratic presidential hopeful has adhered to the Methodist doctrine around which she was raised. Like many, she has turned to the church in times of personal...
Thursday, 01 November 2007 01:03 PM
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