Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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HRC’s religion

Here’s a very interesting article on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent religious gestures. The argument in a nutshell?

Here’s a little-understood truism about Senator Clinton: She feels right at home with the churchgoing crowd. A lifelong and devout Methodist, she spent her teen years active in the church’s youth movement. In 1993, as the newly crowned first lady, she became the symbol of an emerging religious liberalism when she gave a speech in Austin, Texas, that called for "a new politics of meaning."

"She used those words," recalls Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun. Lerner used to meet with Hillary at the Clinton White House until, in his words, "the liberal media and the religious right demolished her for it."

Now the senator is reclaiming her moral roots. She hasn’t found religion in order to make a presidential run—it’s more like she’s finally coming clean. Says Lerner, "There’s a new openness among Democrats to speak religion, and Hillary has gone back to being who she really is."

Clinton’s aides put it another way. "The times may have changed, but Hillary Clinton’s views have not," says Philippe Reines, her spokesperson. Everything she’s voiced recently, he points out, she’s voiced before.

I find the portrait of her religiosity entirely plausible: she could well be a (very) liberal mainline Protestant. Whether being true to herself will get her any national political traction is another issue altogether. She would have to move decisively to the right on abortion and gay marriage, which I don’t think principal constituencies in the Democratic Party will permit her to do, unless she signalled to them that she didn’t really mean it. So let’s watch for the winks.

Hat tip:
Get Religion.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I don’t think Hillary would have to move to the right on abortion or gay marriage.

While I believe that she would have to do this to be biblically consistent, this does not mean that people will demand that all her positions be biblically consistent. Hillary might reach out to the type of crowd that asked the Archbishop: "Why does religion always have to force itself on people?" Obviously if this crowd figured it was worthwhile listening to an archbishop, they probably were not wholly antagonistic to religion. Hillary is simply saying I am not antagonistic to religion, but I am not antagonistic towards gay marriage either. Supposing for a second that a lot of people who go to church do so out of habit, or a desire to belong to something greater than themselves, to be involved or appear to be so in the community...this is not the same as church going motivated by a firm belief in the metaphysical propositions of an eternal soul, or heaven, or Hell or even God.

If people go to chuch because they believe that it provides an ethical foundation, and they believe this among other reasons because it is an accepted majority opinion, then it might not be wrong to assume that other accepted majority opinions concerning ethics hold equal sway even if they are at root philosophically contradictory to the positions of the church. Americans are not exactly theologians, and even among these there seems to be quite a lot of disagreement stemming from cultural contamination. When religion has an effect upon society, society also has an effect upon religion because both must show this effect through particular individuals that interact in both spheres. This is another angle or clarification of what I was describing when I was talking about how people act from different frameworks.

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