Today she made it official - Sen. Hillary Clinton has announced that she is forming a presidential exploratory committee and that "I'm in. And I'm in to win." It is among the least surprising political events in recent memory. It is still historic. She is the first woman with a realistic chance to become President of the United States.
I have two simple thoughts:
First, I have a deep hope that evangelical political power brokers and commentators will not demean the God they follow by mocking her, snickering at her, and launching deeply personal attacks about who she is as a person. Respect her, realize she is a woman who loves Jesus, and distinguish yourselves by your kindness. America is watching and so is God.
Follow Sen. Sam Brownback's example:
One spring Wednesday, a few months into the term, Senator Sam Brownback's turn came to lead the [Bible study] group, and he rose intending to talk about a recent cancer scare. But as he stood before his colleagues Brownback spotted Clinton, and was overcome with the impulse to change the subject of his testimony. "I came here today prepared to share about this experience in my life that has caused great suffering, the result of which has deepened my faith," Brownback said, according to someone who watched the scene unfold. "But I'm overcome now with only one thought." He confessed to having hated Clinton and having said derogatory things about her. Through God, he now recognized his sin. Then he turned to her and asked, "Mrs. Clinton, will you forgive me?" Clinton replied that she would, and that she appreciated the apology.
Second, I hope that she will be open about her own faith...that she will remember this incident from early 1997 and her words as recounted in a Washington Post story at the time [Note: couldn't find a copy of the story via Google - I pulled mine from a research file. The story is entitled, "Applying the Salve of Prayer: Clintons Use Gathering to Speak Out Against Anger, Cynicism", February 7, 1997, p. A1 by John Harris]
"A few hours later, it was the first lady's turn for confession at a luncheon speech to the same audience. The night before, during a courtesy call to the prayer group, she said she was "taken aback" when a man came up to her and asked for forgiveness.
"For most of the last four years, I have worked very hard to destroy you," she quoted him as saying.
"Of course, I forgive you," Hillary Clinton said she responded. Only later, she recounted, did she come up with the response she wished she had given: "What I should have said is, 'I don't know you and I don't know anything about you, but I want you to forgive me also, because I am sure that in my moments of frustration and anger I have said terrible things about people like you -- and I have thought even worse.' "
I was that person who apologized. As I wrote about in full detail in my book, Tempting Faith, I did so after years and years of hating the Clintons. But is her words that matter because they were humble and healing and full of faith. I hope she can bring that same spirit to her campaign because we are certainly a country in need of all those things whether she becomes president or not.
[Note - this blog entry also appears on my blog at Beliefnet.com]