Transcript of Interview With Senator Clinton
The following is a transcript of an interview last month Senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton. A few of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity,
and extraneous material omitted.
Q: I hear a lot about John Wesley and your Methodism, and the social activism side of Methodism and how that informs you. But John Wesley talked about how one's personal faith informs that social action, and it's that more personal stuff that it's hard to get a sense of talking to other people because faith is so personal. So, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that more personal side of your faith - what does it look like today in terms of spiritual habits? Do you read the Bible regularly, do you pray?
Senator Clinton: Well, I think it looks like it's looked for most of my life. I have always had a deep personal faith that was rooted in the Methodist church in large measure because I was christened into it, I grew up in it. But, it also very much reflected how I thought about faith as I matured. You know, if you look at the Methodist book of discipline it talks about the four contributing streams of faith -- scripture, tradition, experience and reason. I always resonated to the fact that it was both revelatory and scripture-based but that you were invited to use your power of reason to think through your faith and to work through what it meant to you and how you would live it in your daily life.
And so the method of Methodism was very reflective of my temperament and my predilection to look at things from a faith-based center but recognizing that I didn't have a corner on faith, that I had to be open to experience and that I had to believe with both my head and my heart if it was going to sustain me over time. I remember reading years ago that Thomas Aquinas said that revelation was eminently rational and that's the kind of confirmation of my faith experience that I found very supportive over the years.
Q: But, do you believe in this personal relationship with God that some people talk about?
Senator Clinton: Absolutely.
Q: What does that look like for you, and how do you feed that personal relationship with God? Some people talk about prayer, talking to God. Some talk about reading the Bible and experiencing God that way. What does that look like for you?
Senator Clinton: It has looked like the connection that I felt like I made as a child but just kept growing and was always present in my life. I believe in the father, son, and Holy Spirit, and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions in my years on this earth. I pray, I read the Bible, I read commentary on scriptures, I read other people's faith journeys. That is, for me, at the real core of how I keep feeding my faith. And, I was lucky because, as I said at the faith and politics event, I was taught to pray and I inculcate it as a habit in my daily life.
Q: I read an interview that you gave in '92 to the United Methodist News Service. You mentioned in there that you carried a little Bible with you -- new testament, psalms, proverbs -- on the trail in '92. I wondered, do you still have that? Are you carrying that with you, do you really carry that with you on the trail today?
Senator Clinton: I do. It's not the same version. But I still carry it.
Q: And, it's this little thing that's in your purse?
Senator Clinton: Yeah, it's in one of my bags.
Q: Is there a favorite book that you return to in the Bible?
Senator Clinton: It depends upon what's going on in my life. It depends upon the challenges and questions that I'm coping with. Psalms is always a favorite. It's both comforting and challenging. There are lots of aspects of Isaiah that I find very intriguing and provocative. I have a lot of verses sort of scattered through the Old Testament but I spend most of my time in the New Testament. For me it isn't like there's one place I go all the time because my experience changes all the time. I spent a lot of time when I was growing up trying to, for me, work out the balance between personal salvation and the social gospel. And, I gave a speech or said something at one time about how I thought that in the Methodist church a lot of the churches had drifted too far on the social gospel side which is very understandable because there were a lot of serious issues certainly that were facing me when I was growing up on race relations and on the Vietnam war and so much else. But, you have to keep in balance the feeding of your spirit and your soul and the need to be nurturing your personal faith while you try to have the energy and the support to go out into the world. There's that great line in James about how faith without works is dead, but works without faith is too hard. And, that's kind of how I see the necessary blending of what I want out of faith. For some people a personal relationship with God, a sense that you're saved, a real belief in your salvation is incredibly both moving and comforting.
Q: And, I'm just going to ask, is that in terms of the salvation side, as opposed to the works side, is that something that animates you? Is that something that you think about in a day-to-day way in terms of your own faith?
Senator Clinton: It's like the background music. It's there all the time. It's not something you have to think about, you believe it. You have a faith center out of which the rest flows. But, for me, evidencing that and feeling called or pushed to act in the world would not have been possible to sustain without that sense of faith and the personal relationship that I have.
Q: Can I ask you theologically, do you believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, that it actually historically did happen?
Senator Clinton: Yes, I do.
Q: And, do you believe on the salvation issue -- and this is controversial too -- that belief in Christ is needed for going to heaven?
Senator Clinton: That one I'm a little more open to. I think that it is, as we understand our relationship to God as Christians, it is how we see our way forward, and it is the way. But, ever since I was a little girl, I've asked every Sunday school teacher I've ever had, I asked every theologian I've ever talked with, whether that meant that there was no salvation, there was no heaven for people who did not accept Christ. And, you're well aware that there are a lot of answers to that. There are people who are totally rooted in the fact that, no, that's why there are missionaries, that's why you have to try to convert. And, then there are a lot of other people who are deeply faithful and deeply Christ-centered who say, that's how we understand it and who are we to read God's mind about such a weighty decision as that.
Q: And your attitude toward the Bible about how literally people should take it...
Senator Clinton: I think the whole Bible is real. The whole Bible gives you a glimpse of God and God's desire for a personal relationship, but we can't possibly understand every way God is communicating with us. I've always felt that people who try to shoehorn in their cultural and social understandings of the time into the Bible might be actually missing the larger point that we're supposed to take from the Bible.
Q: Being a moral person -- what does that mean to you personally day to day as you live your life?
Senator Clinton: It means to try to be that. It means to look for guidance, to seek wisdom, to ask for forgiveness, to pick myself up and start over again when I have fallen short. It means all of that.
Q: Since you joined the Senate and moved to New York finding a spiritual home in New York, a regular church has been something that has been difficult. Has that impacted your faith in any way?
Senator Clinton: No, no. Because of my job now, I go in and out of so many churches and I have so many opportunities to be part of other people's faith experiences and I really have cherished that. I've developed some very close relationships and friendships with people, particularly in New York, and now that I'm running for president I try to, where I can, go to church somewhere else. I was stunned when I went to church in Davenport some months ago, and it was such a really lively multimedia, music-driven service, which you don't often find in a Methodist church. I'm interested in the liturgy, I'm interested in the message, I've always been just fascinated by how people convey their faith and how they try to live their faith. I actually feel like it's a blessing that I get to be exposed to all of this.
Q: But, your whole life you've had a regular church home, so it must be unusual that you don't have a regular one now.
Senator Clinton: I don't feel that way. I kept my membership at First Methodist in Little Rock when we moved to Washington, and I still have kept it there. I was back there last summer and it felt like going home. That was a very important church to me when I was in Little Rock.
Q: At the Sojourners event, in response to a question about how your faith had helped you deal with some of the ordeals of '98 -- I wanted to follow up a little bit on that. Was it that your faith had influenced your decision to stay in your marriage?
Senator Clinton: I think I've said all I'm going to say about that. I think that I've said all I'm going to say. Obviously my faith was crucial to the challenges that I faced, and I'm very grateful for that.
Q: Were there people during that time that you turned to in terms of spiritual support.
Senator Clinton: There were many people, both people who I had known a long time and people who I had not known, but came seeking me out and offered their personal support. I got a lot of recommendations about scripture verses to read and about other spiritual readings. I've written about this and talked about it a lot, but the parable of the prodigal son as conveyed by Henri Nouwen, made a huge impact on me. The discipline of gratitude was -- you just read along sometimes looking for sustenance and support and something jumps out at you and it just really resonated with my beliefs and my sense of what we are called to do. Forgiveness and gratitude are features that I associate with Christ. That to me is part of how one lives as best one can following the example of Christ.
Q: This women's group that you've talked about in the past - they prayed for you, you met with them a few times. I don't know that much about the group, like how often you guys met, was it really like these small groups that they have in churches in terms of that level of interaction? I also understand that you were a little apprehensive about meeting with them initially and I wondered if you could talk to me about why that was and how that was overcome.
Senator Clinton: As I recall, I was invited to meet with them by a good friend of mine, Linda Lader. I had met a few of the women, but I didn't know most of the women, and I also was asked to visit with them by Doug Coe, who was and still is, the director of the National Prayer Breakfast and the National Prayer outreach and it was over at their headquarters in Virginia which is kind of a retreat center. And, they invited Tipper and I to come to lunch and I really did it mostly for Linda and Doug who asked me to.
Q: Because you were a little bit wary?
Senator Clinton: Well, you know, I didn't know. I had friends who prayed for me, I prayed for myself, I prayed for other people, I felt like I was sustained by prayer. Since Bill had decided to run for president I had countless people saying they were praying for us and then once he became president there was a real outpouring of people. But I went, and I'm really glad I did.
It was a wonderful group of women in a bipartisan gathering who really thought that the mean-spiritedness and the negativity that had come to mark so much of our political life was very much counter to their beliefs and so they wanted to lift up Tipper and me and did so at this lunch. And, then they wanted to continue to pray for me. So I met with them periodically, I wouldn't say regularly, but when our schedules could work out I had them to the White House. Holly Leachman became sort of the real contact person for me in the group and became a friend. It was fascinating because a lot of them were deeply involved in the national prayer group, and I was very touched by their desire to choose me to pray for. And it was a way for me to let go and let them do it and for them to reach out and do it. What was fascinating is that over time a lot of the people who had been part of the most critical and negative attacks on me began to seek me out. The first person who did that was David Kuo. Doug Coe had asked me to come to speak to a dinner that was held the night before the prayer breakfast and most of the people in there were people who were very unsure of how I was or what I stood for but Doug was always very supportive of me. He had me speak at one of the national prayer lunches, he arranged for me to meet Mother Theresa after one of the national prayer breakfasts. And, David came up and asked for my forgiveness, and several other people have done the same.
Q: Was that difficult?
Senator Clinton: It was surprising when it first happened, but it was very moving to me. I was sort of startled because it was in a public place. I was shaking hands and he gave me a long history about who he had worked for and what he had done to attack me and impugn my motives and my character and everything, and I said, of course I forgive you. When I got to the Senate, Sam Brownback sought me out. I wouldn't have talked about it except that he talked about it, and it was very touching to me. He actually came to see me and said now that we actually know each other, because we had never met before, he said, I really came to ask for your forgiveness. I think that a prayer network often can move us to do things that we might not otherwise do.
Q: In terms of forgiveness for you, is there, for lack of a better word, a simplicity to forgiveness...
Senator Clinton: Oh, no. Oh my gosh. Are you kidding? It's the hardest thing in the world.
... I've had a lot of time to think about it over the years. It is both hard to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. There's a reason that it is talked about in the Bible. It is really hard. It is hard for people to let go of legitimate hurts and slights and disappointments. It is human nature to look for people to put that onto, to blame. You look around the world today and you think, the whole idea of the new covenant was really a new relationship with God, a sense that we could be forgiven, that we could seek both personally and through our relationships with others that gift of forgiveness. It's instrumental. It's instrumental in life, it's instrumental in how you think about yourself. I used to teach a Sunday school lesson about how you had to forgive yourself. We all have things that often times we're upset about, or ashamed of, or feel guilty over, and so many people carry these enormous burdens around. And, I think that one of the great gifts of faith is to let it go. It doesn't mean that you forget, you don't have to make amends, but you begin to forgive yourself and you then can begin to forgive others.
Q: The thing that we started talking about in the beginning was how Republicans seem to have the corner store on faith for a long time. It seemed like when you gave that politics and meaning speech back in the day that you got a hard time for it. Is it something that you resented that Democrats don't have credibility when they talk about their faith?
Senator Clinton: I was bewildered by it, that it was somehow illegitimate to talk about faith as a Democrat. I found that just so bizarre that we were being, I think, written out of the whole faith experience. So much of the faith journey in this country are people who have put their faith into action on behalf of others - people who fought for abolition, people who fought for women's suffrage, people who stood up on behalf of the concepts of justice and so much more. So, I was surprised.
Q: Has that changed now?
Senator Clinton: I think it's changing. There was an assumption in the political press and beyond that skepticism about faith was probably the order of the day, which I totally get. As I said at CNN, I've always been skeptical of people who are wearing their faith on their sleeves. I think that it's a good kind of skepticism to have, but we went too far the other way where it was somehow illegitimate to express your faith in the public square. So, many of us, and you know, Burns has been part of this and others of us in our own ways, we've been trying to search for the common ground where we can have these discussions without falling into the trap that is too easily tempting, that we are somehow judging based on our personal experience instead of trying to offer a perspective to move forward together.
Q: On that question, you haven't talked about it much yourself. I wondered if maybe you felt a recoil from a decade ago when people gave you a hard time on that. Do you think that maybe you should have been talking more about that, and Democrats themselves -- Pat covered John Kerry and it was very difficult, very rare to see him talk about his faith.
Senator Clinton: I don't mean this to be critical of the press exactly, but the story is easier if you say that there's a certain religious agenda that is promoted by a political party and people who have allegiance to that political party and if you try to have a more complicated and nuanced discussion of faith, that's not so easy to communicate and it's not as easily accepted. My faith has always been primarily personal. It is how I live my life and who I am, and I have tried through my works to demonstrate a level of commitment and compassion that flow from my faith. But, I wasn't raised to or believed it was necessary to label it the way that so many people have over the last, say, 15 years.
Q: A lot of people have tried to explain you, and some people have used Methodism as the grand link to explain you and your commitments and your personality. Do you think that's valid?
Senator Clinton: I think it certainly is a part of who I am. I do not believe in any single gauged definition of any of us. I think we are much more complicated beings than that. But it has certainly been a huge part of who I am and how I have seen the world, and what I believe in, and what I have tried to do in my life. So, it is certainly a part of who I am and any explanation. (NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - July 6, 2007) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/06/us/politics/07clinton-text.html?ei=5124&en=8e9d492ef615c459&ex=1341547200&adxnnl=1&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink&adxnnlx=1210320245-khKWkrdtdWQrjaMBQDcmGg
If you believe her I feel sorry for you. She does not believe in the Bible and she does not believe in YAHSHUA Mashiyach. Her gods are fame, money and power!