Clin­ton finds com­fort in church

Lesotho Times - - International -

PHILADEL­PHIA — Sun­day morn­ings at Bap­tist churches fall right into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s com­fort zone.

“This is the day the Lord has made,” Clin­ton said re­cently at Grace Bap­tist Church in Mount Ver­non, New York, as sun­shine streamed through the stained-glass win­dows and hit the packed pews.

“Be­ing here at this church with th­ese beau­ti­ful peo­ple, know­ing how grate­ful I am for this spring day. I feel blessed and grace is all around us.”

Black Bap­tist churches may not seem like an ob­vi­ous match for Clin­ton, a white Methodist from the Chicago sub­urbs.

But the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, who’s been crit­i­cised for her ten­ta­tive, even awk­ward po­lit­i­cal skills, of­ten seems most at ease in houses of wor­ship. It’s where she’s shared her faith for many years and earned a loyal fol­low­ing.

“One thing not a lot of peo­ple re­ally un­der­stand about her is the cen­tral role of faith in her life,” said Mo Ellei­thee, Clin­ton’s spokesper­son in her 2008 White House cam­paign.

Clin­ton points to her faith as hav­ing sus­tained her through hard times and in­form­ing her ap­proach to public ser­vice.

Her days in Arkansas, cou­pled with her strong re­li­gious be­liefs, have helped her con­nect to church­go­ers in black com­mu­ni­ties, where she en­joys over­whelm­ing sup­port.

Demo­cratic ri­val Bernie San­ders, who is Jewish, has vis­ited churches, too, dur­ing the cam­paign, but doesn’t have the same rap­port from the al­tar.

“The first time I ever walked into a black church with Hil­lary, she knew ex­actly where she was, you could see an ex­hale from her, a big smile came on her face, she didn’t just step into the build­ing, she stepped into wor­ship­ping with them,” said Burns Strider, di­rec­tor of faith and val­ues outreach dur­ing Clin­ton’s 2008 cam­paign. “I must have done that a hun­dred times with her.”

Clin­ton vis­ited two churches in Philadel­phia on Sun­day, two days be­fore Tues­day’s Penn­syl­va­nia pri­mary. At Tri­umph Bap­tist Church and African Epis­co­pal Church of St Thomas, she pledged to seek crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and fight for tougher gun reg­u­la­tions be­fore the largely African-amer­i­can con­gre­ga­tions.

“We as a peo­ple have to start show­ing each other more re­spect, more kind­ness, more love,” Clin­ton said, re­peat­ing a cam­paign mantra.

“I am grate­ful for this chance to be with you and I would be hon­oured and hum­bled to have your vote on Tues­day.”

Vis­its to churches have prompted some of Clin­ton’s most can­did, in­ti­mate mo­ments.

‘Au­then­tic and gen­uine’ On a re­cent trip to the Holy Ghost Cathe­dral in Detroit, Bishop Cor­letta Vaughn ref­er­enced Clin­ton’s strength in deal­ing with hus­band Bill Clin­ton’s in­fi­deli­ties.

In re­sponse, Clin­ton spoke about the story of the prodi­gal son, al­lud­ing to, as she of­ten does, a ver­sion writ­ten by Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer. She said what the para­ble “teaches us is to prac­tice the dis­ci­pline of grat­i­tude ev­ery day.”

Ac­cord­ing to Vaughn, Clin­ton’s re­marks showed a “deep reser­voir of faith.”

“I’ve been in the faith busi­ness for 42 years,” Vaughn said. “I know one who is au­then­tic and gen­uine.

“Her language speaks of her faith. ... When she started talk­ing about the prodi­gal son, you didn’t learn that this morn­ing.”

Strider, who emails with Clin­ton most days about Scripture and faith, said she has seemed more will­ing to talk about re­li­gion dur­ing this cam­paign than in the past. He said Clin­ton had “to recog­nise that she’s not us­ing her faith for other means.

That was re­ally valu­able for her to un­der­stand that she was ac­tu­ally show­ing her faith which could lead oth­ers to make more ra­tio­nal choices.”

Seek­ing to or­gan­ise re­li­gious vot­ers for Clin­ton, Strider founded a group called Faith Vot­ers for Hil­lary about two years ago. While he is no longer di­rectly in­volved, he said it has an ac­tive on­line pres­ence and over 300 000 peo­ple are in its data­base.

Still, some black pas­tors ques­tion Clin­ton’s hold on re­li­gious vot­ers.

‘Wrong choice’ Dar­rell Scott, the se­nior pas­tor of New Spirit Re­vival Cen­tre in Cleve­land Heights, Ohio, has en­dorsed Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and helped or­gan­ise a meet­ing with Trump and black clergy last year.

“She’s very, very lib­eral. This is what I don’t un­der­stand about the pas­tors. Chris­tians by na­ture, should be con­ser­va­tive,” said Scott, who serves as CEO of Trump’s new Na­tional Di­ver­sity Coali­tion. “She’s the ab­so­lute wrong choice for a voter of faith.”

Trump’s ef­forts to win over black church­go­ers have been mixed. At that Novem­ber meet­ing last year, some pas­tors crit­i­cised Trump for racially-charged language, though oth­ers emerged of­fer­ing sup­port.

Clin­ton re­flected on her faith jour­ney dur­ing a speech be­fore the United Methodist Women’s Assem­bly two years ago. She spoke warmly about her child­hood church in Park Ridge, Illi­nois, where her mother taught Sun­day school and a young Clin­ton helped to clean and pre­pare the al­tar for ser­vices.

She also re­mem­bered her fa­ther’s nightly prayers, her grand­mother’s hymns and the charis­matic youth min­is­ter who in­tro­duced her to the idea of “faith in ac­tion.”

“I loved that church,” Clin­ton said. “I loved how it made me feel about my­self, I loved the doors that it opened in my un­der­stand­ing of the world.” — AP

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary clin­ton meets mem­bers of the House of Prayer mis­sion­ary Bap­tist church.

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