Having become the purest modern example of a brilliantly overrated, unmitigated failure in electoral politics — the Ryan Leaf or Ishtar of the ballot box — it isn’t surprising that Hillary Clinton is casting about for some form of validation.
After all, at her advanced age and with the definitive stink of having lost a presidential election to a reality TV star who beat her despite bearing the scars of every media-generated October Surprise scandal possible, Clinton can be forgiven for waking up each morning to the knowledge she will always be remembered as the pre-eminent loser in the history of democracy, and attempting to find some path to redemption.
Therefore, last weekend’s report at the Atlantic which put forth the possibility Clinton might attempt to enter the clergy as her next career move shouldn’t surprise anybody.
Hillary Clinton wants to preach. That’s what she told Bill Shillady, her longtime pastor, at a recent photo shoot for his new book about the daily devotionals he sent her during the 2016 campaign. Scattered bits of reporting suggest that ministry has always been a secret dream of the two-time presidential candidate: Last fall, the former Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward revealed that Clinton told him in 1994 that she thought “all the time” about becoming an ordained Methodist minister. She asked him not to write about it, though: “It will make me seem much too pious.” The incident perfectly captures Clinton’s long campaign to modulate—and sometimes obscure—expressions of her faith.
Now, as Clinton works to rehabilitate her public image and figure out the next steps after her brutal November loss, religion is taking a central role. After long months of struggling to persuade Americans that she is trustworthy, authentic, and fundamentally moral, Clinton is lifting up an intimate, closely guarded part of herself. There are no more voters left to lose. In sharing her faith, perhaps Clinton sees something left to win, whether political or personal.
It goes without saying there are problems with this, and that even the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats among the country’s clergy ought to reject it fully. Certainly as Christians redemption is a fundamental piece of our belief system, and we accept that tenet as applicable even to those of us who have behaved worst of all.
That redemption is not free, however. It first requires a pure heart, and the confession of one’s sins. After all, the founder of Methodism John Wesley noted…
How naturally do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein!… But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed. Temptations return, and sin revives; showing it was but stunned before, not dead.
Confession isn’t a religious sacrament within Methodism as it is in Catholicism, for example, but the confession of one’s sins among one’s peers is regarded as a key ingredient of faith. And for someone like Clinton, whose sins have been exceedingly public, it would seem her confession would have to be just as public before any thinking person would readily accept her as a conduit for their own embrace by God.
We all know that isn’t going to happen.
This is someone, after all, who lost a presidential election to Donald Trump in large part because she spent four years using an illegal private e-mail server wide open to hacking by foreign powers, and lying profusely about her actions, in order to mask corrupt activities in which she was engaging while Secretary of State. She did so in violation of an agreement she made with President Obama not to engage in those activities, and some of them — like the Uranium One debacle — constituted a very foreseeable threat to the security of her people.
Everyone knew she was lying, and she lied to cover those lies. Her supporters sycophantically congratulated her for the forcefulness of her lies, but the public wasn’t persuaded.
And when the bill came due on Election Night, Clinton refused to address the American people and concede the judgment of the voters. Instead, it appears, she gathered with her advisors and cooked up a narrative in which the election was stolen from her through a plot involving Trump’s campaign and the Russian government — that narrative built on a political attack she had attempted to use against Trump during the campaign, and her people had apparently employed elaborate, though ultimately unsuccessful, efforts to make it stick.
Following the implosion of the entire Clinton political project was a book entitled What Happened, a largely self-exculpatory bit of revisionist history which will be out in September and will surely flop at the bookstores much as her campaign did in voting booths.
The simple fact of Hillary Clinton is that people don’t like her, and they’re right not to. Her adult life has been an exercise in insincerity and hypocrisy — she says her deep religious faith brought her to politics, and yet she’s a devoted acolyte of a man who dedicated his masterpiece on political activism to Lucifer. She purports to be an expert on children and family life, and yet her own family experience is a sham by the standards of common people. She speaks the language of morality, and yet her actions belie a corruption and vanity no one could respect.
This isn’t a curriculum vitae lending itself to a persuasive ministry. Perhaps Clinton ought to devote herself to repentance for a while before she expects to walk in Wesley’s path. As the first Methodist said, after all, “Because of the presence of sin in our lives as believers, we are to live lives of repentance — unless we do so, we will not grow… and unless we understand our disease, we will live despairing lives.”
If anyone has led a despairing life it’s Hillary Clinton. Attempting to become a minister at this point wouldn’t appear to change those results.