Sep 14, 2015

How Hillary Clinton's faith is a catch-22 on the campaign trail

Speaking from a Methodist pulpit on Sunday morning, Hillary Clinton explained her political vision with a reference to the classic Sunday school song “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Too many people,” she said, “want to let their light shine, but they can’t get out from under that bushel basket. It is way too heavy to lift alone. And that’s where the village comes in.”

It is the 200th anniversary of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, where the Clintons worshiped regularly when Bill Clinton was president. Hillary Clinton spoke during the bicentennial celebration Sunday about how her faith and faith community have shaped her.

She spoke of her mother, who she said taught her the wisdom of John Wesley, the 18th-century founder of the Methodist church, who believed in putting faith into action. She spoke of her youth pastor. She spoke of her college church, her church in Arkansas when her husband was governor of the state, and of walking to Foundry through the snow from the White House in 1993.

“In place after place after place,” Clinton said, “the Methodist church and my fellow Methodists have been a source of support, honest reflection and candid critique.”

Talking about her religious commitments has presented a bit of a quandary for Clinton as she runs for president. There is no obvious way for her to talk about her faith on the campaign trail. But avoiding the topic doesn’t seem like a good idea, either.

Voters consistently say they want politicians to have faith, yet they often don’t believe them when they talk about it. For Clinton, this seems especially true.

Read my latest essay at the Washington Post: Hillary Clinton showed up for church today. Will faith help or hurt her on the campaign?