Candidate Clinton goes public with her private faith
She doesn't cede religious turf to conservatives but dismays some liberals.
(Page 3 of 4)
Jones also took the students to meet with youth groups from black and Hispanic churches in the city. Once, he brought them into Chicago to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at Orchestra Hall, and arranged for the students to meet the civil rights leader afterward.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Until then, I had been dimly aware of the social revolution occurring in our country, but Dr. King's words illuminated the struggle taking place and challenged our indifference," writes Clinton.
Though Clinton remained a Republican into her college days at Wellesley, what she calls the "liberalizing" experiences that Jones provided during his two years in Park Ridge clearly made a deep impression and catalyzed her transformation into a Democrat and an activist.
To this day, Jones – now a retired professor of social ethics at Drew University in Madison, N.J. – and some of the students from the youth group remain cherished friends. One of those fellow students, Ernie Ricketts, whom she has known since kindergarten, calls Clinton "a very good friend, a very loyal friend."
"She called me on my 60th birthday – two days after she declared she was going to run for president," says Mr. Ricketts. "That's pretty thoughtful."
In Clinton's memoirs, it is Jones whom she singles out by name for his help in getting her through the crisis in her marriage when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, admitted to her in August 1998 that he had been unfaithful to her with intern Monica Lewinsky. "This was the most devastating, shocking, and hurtful experience of my life," she writes.
Clinton had not asked for Jones's counsel. Rather, he took it upon himself to send a letter to her with a sermon on sin and grace by theologian Paul Tillich called "You Are Accepted," which he had read all those years ago to the youth group in Park Ridge.
"[The sermon's] premise is how sin and grace exist through life in constant interplay; neither is possible without the other. The mystery of grace is that you cannot look for it," Clinton writes.
Then she quotes from the Tillich sermon: "Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It happens; or it does not happen."
Five days after he sent the letter, Jones says he received a handwritten reply from Bill Clinton saying, "Thank you, Don, for sending Hillary that wonderful sermon by Paul Tillich," and then, "Thank you for being her friend."
"That's exactly what I intended to have happen," Jones says, "because I sent it really for Bill, more than for Hillary."
But Jones's missive clearly had cut to Hillary Clinton's core as well.
"Grace happens," she wrote in her memoirs, following on the Tillich quote. "Until it did, my main job was to put one foot in front of the other and get through another day."
Skepticism over the sincerity of Hillary Clinton's faith began long before she stepped onto the national stage. As first lady of Arkansas, she sought to put the questions to rest by touring the state with a speech called "Why I Am a Methodist." But the skepticism has persisted, just as some on the left have suggested that she's gone to the dark side in her blending of faith and politics.
The read-in to a recent article on Clinton in Mother Jones magazine warns ominously: "For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of a secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill. Is she triangulating – or living her faith?"
The article details her membership in Washington prayer groups, first during her years as first lady, in a bipartisan women's group that included the wives of Washington power brokers and then, after her election to the Senate in 2000, her participation in the weekly Senate prayer group.