I am a Bible-believing Christian who has served Christ full-time in the inner city of Chicago since 1977. I met Christ as a sixteen-year-old in 1973, praying the prayer on the floor of a Jesus Person’s Montana farm house. I pray that first love empowers me daily.
I am not going to claim that unless you vote the way I am voting, you are disobeying God or undermining the Bible. I believe that as Christians we each must prayerfully, after diligently informing ourselves about the candidates and the issues facing us as a people, exercise our right to vote without demonizing or “power gaming” via God-language-laced manipulation those who disagree with us.
And so… eight reasons I am voting for Hillary Clinton this November. (I have other reasons, but this is long enough for now.)
Reason #1: Hillary Clinton is deeply influenced by her Methodist upbringing and biblical background.
Among white Evangelicals Hillary is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. She mentions Christianity at her peril, instantly being labeled untrustworthy, as someone who would use Christian language exactly to the degree it will further her ambitions. Yet, as Think Progress (among others) observes, we now face the unusual situation in which the Democratic Candidate for President is also the most religiously rooted, the one who overtly frames things within moral and even theological frameworks borrowed from Scripture.
Her former Park Ridge, Illinois pastor Don Jones had much to do with that, though others contributed as well. They including Evangelical influences such as Billy Graham and a Washington D. C. group known as “The Fellowship” (which included many conservative luminaries such as Rick Santorum) led by Doug Coe (Charles Colson’s Born Again references Coe and the group at length). Her involvement in these and other prayer circles / bible studies around the Washington D. C. area continue, and are referenced publicly by her almost never. I’ve never had that uncomfortable feeling with her that I get with some candidates, namely, that “God” is just one more tool with which to pander votes.
Reason #2: Hillary Clinton’s political framework echoes Christ’s summation of the Law and the Prophets.
In January 2016 Secretary Clinton, speaking off-the-cuff at an Iowa town meeting and answering a woman’s inquiry from that audience, said: “I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. My study of the Bible … 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 … I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith.”
Christ said, in Matthew 22:37b-40: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'”
Reason #3: Hillary Clinton is well-acquainted with forgiveness, a quality of character not immediately evident as important in statecraft but deeply central regarding proper judgments based on greater good rather than personal vendettas or peeves.
“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,” Hillary Clinton said to her Iowa questioner. “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.”
Secretary Clinton learned about forgiveness during the difficult times following President Bill Clinton’s adultery with Monica Lewinsky. Billy Graham writes in The Preacher and the Presidents about his discussion at that moment with Hillary. “She grabbed my head in her hands and held it there like that and looked right into my eyes and said, ‘I want to tell you about Bill.” Rev. Graham encouraged her to forgive her husband.
Of this time, Hillary notes that Billy Graham was “incredibly supportive to me personally. And he was very strong in saying, ‘I really understand what you’re doing and I support you.’ He was just very personally there for me.”
She adds: “The entire world was judging my decisions and my actions and there weren’t very many people who, frankly, were understanding, and he was. He said, ‘You know, forgiveness is the hardest thing that we’re called upon to do. And we all face it at some point in our lives and I’m just really proud of you for taking it on.”
Publicly, Hillary’s response to the Monica mess was terse: “This is a time when she relies on her strong religious faith,” Marsha Berry, Clinton’s press secretary, said. Many if not most people hearing that thought “boilerplate.” But in light of what we now know about that time, it was more likely exactly right. Hillary says herself that she had to actively choose grace and forgiveness, turning (among others) to the Catholic devotional writer Henri Nouwen.
“Prayer, Nouwen argues, takes you into the arms of God and deep into yourself to find the ability to forgive. ‘Do I want to be not just the one who is being forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but the one who offers it as well?'” (TIME)
One last note on Rev. Graham and Hillary. Billy Graham (unlike his voluble and angry son Franklin) likes Secretary Clinton, according to TIME magazine. “I think a lot of Hillary… She is different from the Hillary you see in the media. There is a warm side to her — and a spiritual one.”
Reason #4: Hillary is Pro-Choice, wanting abortions to be “Safe, Legal, and Rare.”
(This one is long… feel free to skip to the next point and save this for last.)
No position Hillary holds is as difficult for many white Evangelicals as is her pro-abortion stance. This is understandable. As someone who himself has been arrested for blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic and who has picketed a number of them back in the day, I empathize! But my own understanding after so many decades working as a pro-life activist and writer who also ponders feminism has been attenuated. To go much further is to devolve into “mansplaining” — it really takes a woman. Let’s just say I see abortion still as a pro-lifer, but also as someone seeing both sides of the question.
But let’s step away from the ideological fight for a moment and into the more pragmatic realities of American politics. At this moment, the GOP Candidate for President has no stated moral basis for being pro-life (and in fact didn’t say he was until very recently). His own harsh and at times bizarre treatment of women has alienated the vast majority of female voters from his cause.
The history of the GOP on abortion is unimpressive, either from the unborn’s or the woman’s perspective. Roe v Wade was written by Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, a life long Republican appointed by a Republican. Nor was he the only Republican on the bench to ratify Roe — four of his Republican fellows (along with two Democrats) did the same. Ronald Reagan apppointed four justices to the court, two of whom — Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy — upheld Roe v Wade when it came up in subsequent cases before them. George H. W. Bush’s appointee, David Souter, likewise upheld Roe v Wade.
These moderate, even conservative, justices are not upholding Roe because they’re closet liberals. They are upholding it for reasons similar to the reasons it passed through the court with that lopsided 7-2 margin in 1973. There really is a constitutional set of rights involving privacy (the basis for their decision). I agree with a liberal critic’s reasons for thinking Roe was not the best decision and who later because a Supreme Court Justice herself — Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
But back to abortion applied to voting for — or against — Hillary. Here’s the bottom line: Roe is not going away. Ever. The Supreme Court will not flip a law which has been rooted in our social and legal fabric for forty three years and counting, and which has been unsuccessfully challenged repeatedly over that time. Each one of those cases made Roe more bullet-proof as legal precedent, more foundational as settled law. Repeal? Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.
In light of this hard (for pro-lifers) reality, Hillary’s phrase “Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare” is one I believe could and should become the focus of pro-lifers and pro-choice folk working together. And… isn’t it getting old, the every-four-years cry that “we can’t let those Democrats put more liberal justices on the court!”? If Roe is not going away, ever, then what reason exactly — other than lame, destructive decisions such as Citizens United — is there for more conservative justices? Let’s vote calmly and sanely.
And a final reminder: Scripture’s evidence re abortion is far from a slam-dunk for either camp. Psalm 139:13-16 offers a powerful, beautiful vision of God’s foreknowing all lives from their beginnings even in the womb. Jeremiah 1:4,5 offers a snap-shot of God having purposed Jeremiah’s calling even as he was being formed in the womb. And of course we have John the Baptist, still in the womb, kicking when the pregnant Virgin Mary comes near his mother Martha. None of these passages, however, are overtly teaching that ending any pregnancy is wrong in and of itself.
The pro-choice camp’s arguments from Scripture are also weak. Four or five times in the Wisdom Literature (Job through Ecclesiastes) mention is made of humans in such agony of soul that “not being born” would be preferable to their current state. Then there’s Exodus 21:22-25, which describes a scenario where two men fighting end up injuring a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry (spontaneously abort). Fines are levied if this happens. If the woman dies, the death penalty is required of the man or men. But… while the latter supports the idea that the life of an unborn human is not equivalent morally to the life of adult woman, it falls short of actually arguing a pro-choice position.
It is important to note that at one point before Roe v Wade many conservative Christians actually supported abortion, including Christianity Today magazine (in 1968) and the Southern Baptist Convention (up through 1974). The total abandonment of the pro-choice position came when the “Christian Right” — led by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority — adopted a hard-line anti-abortion positions along with an anti-feminist, pro-military, pro-death penalty stance.
A pro-life position in light of the biblical and contemporary data is, I suggest, one which sees Christians finding all sorts of ways to help pregnant women become empowered economically, educationally, socially (via the fabric of fellowships and friendships). To the best of our ability, we should make abortion redundant, as unnecessary as it is discomforting. This agenda is one which in many ways might lead Evangelicals to move leftward, even to the point of demanding more government involvement regarding providing daycares, free college tuition, government housing for the poorer families, and more. (Some of this might be to the left even of Hillary.)
Reason #5: Hillary Clinton, along with many Evangelicals, is concerned with Creation Care.
In Genesis 1 (“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’”) and 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it”), Evangelical Christians find a mandate for environmental issues, often called by us “Creation Care.” Younger Evangelicals seem especially attuned to the reality of human-caused climate change and the dangers that change represents to the planet. And to the delight of historians, Evangelicals seem to have rediscovered the theological roots of American conservation pioneers such as John Muir.
But along with that forward movement has also come an anti-science wave embraced by the Republican Presidential nominee and championed by older white males such as Cal Beisner, James Dobson, and Chuck Colson. In the face of scientific data, they reject global warming initiatives as being part of a feminist and “secular liberal” plot.
Science is science. I won’t engage in doing science except to call on NASA. My point is that Hillary Clinton, as President Obama has done, will make the search for clean energy a priority in her administration. Christians who value scientific evidence and our calling to be caretakers of this planet will be drawn to Hillary’s policies on the environment.
Reason #6: Hillary makes mistakes…. and learns from them.
All candidates are flawed, no matter what their respective spin machines want us to believe. Hillary Clinton in 2002 voted as a Senator (NY) to give President Bush power to invade Iraq. Her reasons were nuanced, full of doubt, and on the record at the time. But that vote likely cost her the 2008 Democratic nomination for President. And she learned from it bigger lessons, as she reveals in her book Hard Choices:
“As much as I might have wanted to, I could never change my vote on Iraq. But I could try to help us learn the right lessons from that war and apply them to Afghanistan and other challenges where we had fundamental security interests. I was determined to do exactly that when facing future hard choices, with more experience, wisdom, skepticism, and humility.”
The ability to see, and rectify, one’s own mistakes means one is able to see reality as it is rather than how one prefers to see it or wants to convince others to see it. The Republican nominee seems completely without self-reflective capabilities, as shown when he responded to a question about asking for forgiveness of God: “I don’t think I have.”
Reason #7: Hillary Clinton supports “religious freedom” when it isn’t being used as a euphemism, and rejects governmental discrimination against religion.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law a Religious Freedom bill that made exceptions in cases for those whose religious beliefs collided with government regulations. In 2015, Indiana passed a Religious Freedoms Restoration Act that made it legal to discriminate against gays on religious grounds. Hillary came out forcefully against this bill. Secretary Clinton’s resistance to the Indiana bill was based in part on its including not just individuals (as the federal law does) but corporations. A huge company based in Indiana could have presumably discriminated against gay employees or customers on the basis of “religious freedom” — a highly dubious approach where a corporation is concerned.
No matter what one’s opinions are on gay marriage or homosexuality, the idea that “religious freedom” would be conflated with denying one’s gay neighbor service is a direct violation of (among other biblical admonitions) Jesus’ Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – Luke 6:31 [NRSV]. Where American government (local or federal) is concerned, all forms of discrimination are and should be suspect. Hillary’s recognition of this principle has a clear Scriptural frame: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hillary Clinton’s powerful push-back against the GOP nominee’s astonishingly anti-religious (and unconstitutional) pronouncements against Muslims in America underscore her commitment to not allow anti-religious bigotry to thrive. Many Evangelicals are aware how hypocritical it is to at one moment decry government intervention into “religious freedom” for white Christians and the next moment demand religious suppression for America’s small Muslim community. (The below Hillary speech addresses Mr. Drumpf’s comments on this topic.)
Reason #8: Hillary Clinton believes in America as a community where good can grow and evil be eroded through our common efforts.
There is a sacred vibration to such a thought, echoed by the words of John Wesley she often quotes: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Much of this understanding echoes Scripture, yes. But a major influence for her unifying (rather than divisive) vision for America comes from her own mother, who despite being abandoned as a child grew up seeing the good, the potentialities, in others.
Hillary not long ago had this to say, which sums up many of her best qualities in one place.
Now, we don’t all have the same gifts and blessings, but that’s okay. In fact, it’s good. That’s Paul’s message in Romans 12. Because together, our contributions add up to something greater than anything we could offer on our own. And isn’t that the goal of a community or a congregation? The meaning of what I used to call “a village.” It takes a village, it takes a community, it takes a congregation to lift us all up and to empower us to do our part.
The Apostle Paul is pretty clear that we can’t just celebrate our gifts, we’ve got to use them, especially in service of others and in service of a better, fairer and more peaceful world. We should be — in Paul’s words — generous and diligent and cheerful in our service. That’s how we honor God, who gave us these gifts in the first place.
I think again of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once preached, “God gave all of us something significant, and we must pray every day, asking God to help us accept ourselves. That means everything. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; like Handel and Beethoven composed music; like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Be the best of whatever you are.”
In that way, Dr. King said, we learn to love ourselves. “Love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean much unless you love yourself first. We aspire to use our gifts to the fullest, and that’s what gives us the grace and strength to truly love and serve God and one another.
I see a second challenge in Paul’s letter to the Romans, and I think it’s particularly relevant today — for our nation, and for this church as it enters its third century. It’s not enough to just use our gifts. We also have to make it possible for other people to discover and use their gifts too. The truth is there are so many people in this community, in our country, in our world, who have so much to offer — but never get the chance to live up to their God-given potential. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not yet.
And this final word from Hillary:
Now, it also says elsewhere in the New Testament, in James, that, “Faith without works is dead.” But we know that grace and salvation are unmerited gifts from God. The question is what we do with those gifts — to use that gift of grace wisely, to reflect the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the greater good of God’s beloved community.