14 Aug Hillary Wants to Preach
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.
Two books are slated to come out of Clinton world early this fall: What Happened, Clinton’s personal account of the election, and Strong for a Moment Like This, Shillady’s book of devotionals. Shillady, who runs the United Methodist City Society in New York, wrote the book at Clinton’s suggestion; he said his is the only book for which Clinton has agreed to write a foreword. Clinton and her staffers read and approved the copy ahead of time.
Strong for a Moment Like This emerges from a project Shillady started shortly after Clinton said she was running for president in 2015. Every morning, he would get up at 4 a.m. to pick out a bit of Scripture and write a quick devotional for Clinton to use in the day ahead. Sometimes, he asked fellow pastors to contribute a devotional to the project, including the more than 100 women clergy who formed a group called “We Pray with Her.” Shillady includes bits of his email correspondence with Clinton, such as her delight at a new prayer or parable, or thank-you notes following get-togethers with Methodist clergy. Sometimes, Shillady said, he would get a call from Clinton’s chief speechwriter, Dan Schwerin, who wanted to work something from the day’s devotional into his boss’s remarks. In her concession speech, Clinton quoted a verse from Galatians: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Shillady had sent her that verse in a devotional a few weeks earlier, he said.