Hillary Clinton has wanted to be a preacher for a number of years, an article published by the Atlantic reports. While most know the presidential candidate to be a committed member of the Methodist Church, few might have known of her aspirations to the clergy—the result of a calculated decision on her part to keep the depth of her faith quiet during the campaign.
“It will make me seem much too pious,” Clinton said as she asked Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward not to write about her inclination toward the pulpit. This was back in 1994, when she was filling the role of First Lady.
During her grueling campaign last year, Clinton’s longtime pastor, Bill Shillady, rose at 4:00 a.m. to prepare a verse of Scripture and short devotional she could read on the road. Clinton also had a group of prayer warriors—more than 100 women clergy—backing her up. The group was called “We Pray with Her.”
Shillady is turning those hand-crafted devotionals into a book, Strong for a Moment Like This, set to release this fall. Clinton’s personal take on the 2016 election, What Happened, is also slated to release this fall.
Clinton grew up in the United Methodist tradition, which has a strong emphasis on helping people through social works. As the Atlantic article points out, Clinton even traveled with her youth pastor to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak in Chicago.
During the tumultuous years of her husband’s presidency—namely his affair with Monika Lewinsky—Clinton clung to her church in Washington, D.C. and her Bible. “Her faith and her ability to think about forgiveness…was a very, very important part of how she dealt with that family crisis,” family friend and former press secretary for Bill Clinton, Mike McCurry, told the Atlantic.
Clinton has been criticized in the past when she’s tried bringing up religion. However, her hesitancy to share her faith, the Atlantic article postulates, may have cost her the election. In the key states Clinton lost to Donald Trump, high populations of mainline Protestants and Catholics might have rallied to her cause had they known about her lifelong faith. One commentator, Erick Erickson, had this to say on the irony of the public’s take on Clinton’s faith compared to Trump’s:
“As a Christian dedicated to advancing the Kingdom of God, it becomes mighty difficult to reconcile why one does not believe Clinton is a Christian when she has professed Jesus as both her Lord and her Savior, but one does believe Trump is a Christian without ever professing Jesus as his Lord and Savior.”
Those close to Clinton say her political career has been the way she has chosen to express her faith. It may not be a subject she speaks on frequently because, as Shillady explains, Clinton “doesn’t wear her religion on her sleeve, she just practices it. She follows the edict of what’s attributed to St. Francis: ‘Preach the gospel always, and if you need to, use words.’”
Perhaps now, though, with her political career concluded, Clinton might move into a teaching role for the Methodist Church.
The conclusion of that career came to a halting and bitter end with the election upset last year. Recently, an email Shillady sent to Clinton the morning after the results came in was made public.
“It is Friday, but Sunday is coming,” Shillady said. Comparing the devastation she was likely feeling to Good Friday, Shillady sought to comfort her by reminding her that Sunday is coming.
“You know one of my favorite sayings is ‘God doesn’t close one door without opening another, but it can be hell in the hallway.’ My sister Hillary. You, our nation, our world is experiencing a black Friday. Our hope is that Sunday is coming. But it might well be hell for a while.”
As with previous crises Clinton has faced, Shillady told CNN “her faith helped her move through that darkness.”
Shillady explains that the United Methodist church has a practice of inviting lay preachers every once in while, a role he feels Clinton would very naturally fill. “She is very comfortable in the pulpit…and she knows the Bible. That’s why I think she’d make a great preacher,” Shillady concludes.