I must confess that I find the American political system somewhat confusing and I often wonder at the Australian media’s preoccupation with it. Maybe it’s just entertainment value especially with some of the outrageous statements made by larger-than-life characters such as Donald Trump (a hybrid of Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson and Jackie Lambie all held together with a hair piece).
But just last week in the midst of all the pizzazz and passion, promises and pontificating of the Presidential Primaries, came a breath of fresh air when Hillary Clinton talked about her Christian faith on the campaign trail.
According to the New York Times, Mrs. Clinton was speaking at a town-hall-style event in a school gymnasium, where she opened up for questions. Jessica Manning, a high school guidance counselor from Pella, Iowa, told Mrs. Clinton that as a Catholic and a Democrat, she felt conflicted: “I would say I am a Democrat because of my Christian values, but many of my friends would say they are Republicans because of their Christian values. So in these next few months as I am supporting you and defending you to my Republican friends, I am just curious, how you would say your beliefs align with the Ten Commandments and is that something that’s important to you?”
The question gave Mrs. Clinton a rare opportunity to speak at length about her views on Christianity and the Bible. Here is part of her response that I found incredibly inspiring:
“Thank you for asking that. I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do, and there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up, to find faith themselves that I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith. But I do believe that in many areas judgment should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith, and I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on. Those are really hard things for human beings to do, and there is a lot, certainly in the New Testament, that calls us to do that.
The famous discussion on the Sermon on the Mount should be something that you really pay attention to. What does the Sermon on the Mount really mean? What is it calling us to do and to understand? Because it sure does seem to favour the poor and the merciful and those who in worldly terms don’t have a lot but who have the spirit that God recognises as being at the core of love and salvation.
So there is much to be learned and I have been very disappointed and sorry that Christianity, which has such great love at its core, is sometimes used to condemn so quickly and judge so harshly. When I think part of the message that I certainly have tried to understand and live with is to look at yourself first, to make sure you are being the kind of person you should be in how you are treating others, and I am by no means a perfect person, I will certainly confess that to one and all, but I feel the continuing urge to try to do better, to try to be kinder, to try to be more loving, even with people who are quite harsh.
So, I think you have to keep asking yourself, if you are a person of faith, what is expected of me and am I actually acting the way that I should? And that starts in small ways and goes out in very large ones, but it’s something that I take very seriously. So thank you for asking.”
What an honest and stirring response from Hillary Clinton. The answer was obviously not prepared beforehand and so it seems she spoke from her heart and, as Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”