Sorry Republicans, but you do not have a monopoly on Christian faith

ReutersDemocratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a strong personal faith

Hillary Clinton has many flaws. She frequently comes across as cold, obsessively ambitious and calculating. Her political judgement can be called into question: she is entrenched in the Washington establishment who, for example, backed the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. And – to conservative Christians – she is a fanatical liberal from the 1960s mould who is, crucially, pro-choice when it comes to abortion.

And now, to many on the right in America, she is becoming something more than a hate figure. There was something unprecedentedly sinister about the atmosphere last night at the Republican Convention, when delegates chanted: "Lock her up!"

To some, perhaps, she is the anti-Christ, the devil.

And yet Clinton's Christian faith is undeniably strong. In some ways like Britain's new prime minister Theresa May, Clinton, a Methodist, is a quiet Christian who wears it lightly but nonetheless has a very real, if earthy personal faith.

As long-time friend of Clinton Lissa Muscatine told the New York Times: "It's been a remarkably private part of this hugely public person's existence. It's almost like, because it's so private and has motivated her so deeply, that she doesn't talk about it."

It was on January 25, at a town-hall-style gathering inside a gymnasium in Knoxville, Iowa when, after years of not talking about it publicly, Clinton came out as a passionate Christian.

Asked by a Democrat-leaning voter about her beliefs, she opened up. It is worth quoting her at some length because all-too-unusually, it was clear that the guarded presidential candidate finally spoke from the heart:

"I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. I have been raised Methodist. I feel very grateful for the instructions and support I received starting in my family but through my church, and I think that any of us who are Christian have a constantly, constant, conversation in our own heads about what we are called to do and how we are asked to do it, and I think it is absolutely appropriate for people to have very strong convictions and also, though, to discuss those with other people of faith...My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbour 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, to find faith themselves that I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith. But I do believe that in many areas judgement should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith, and 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. Those are really hard things for human beings to do, and there is a lot, certainly in the New Testament, that calls us to do that."

Clinton went on to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, clearly a central Bible passage for her. "There's a lot of great Bible studies: What does the Sermon on the Mount really mean? What is it calling us to do and to understand? Because it sure does seem to favour the poor and the merciful and those who in worldly terms don't have a lot but who have the spirit that God recognizes as being at the core of love and salvation."

And she explained how she differs from some conservative Christians. "So there is much to be learned and I have been very disappointed and sorry that Christianity, which has such great love at its core, is sometimes used to condemn so quickly and judge so harshly."

That, then, is the point. Clinton's faith does not translate into conservative policies. She is indeed a social and political liberal. But that she believes should not be in question.

Personally, I'm one of those people who finds Clinton often ice-cold. I'm also, as it happens, relatively conservative about some of the major social issues. But I would never deny someone's faith on the basis of their political outlook, as long as their politics fit within a pluralist liberal democratic framework.

For being a believer in Jesus as the Son of God does not place you in an exclusive club.

And pro-life Republicans do not have a monopoly on Christianity.

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