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Why so little faith in Hilary’s first tweet?

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There were two surprising things about Hillary Clinton’s first tweet.

Clinton broke her Twitter silence this week with this bio: "Wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD." A photo by Diana Walker showing a serious-looking Clinton in black and looking at her Blackberry through dark glasses is her avatar.

What’s surprising is that the photograph belies her tweet. You would think with that choice of photo she would start her bio with anything but "wife, mom." If she’s itemizing her accomplishments and interests, to have U.S. Senator and Secretary of State at Nos. 7 and 8 pretty much gives the shaft to the whole notion of "leaning in."

For sure, "leaners’ would have started with those two and worked down. For those Hillary watchers and tea leaf readers this might give some of them a clue to her priorities. Does "wife, mom" sound like somebody who is running for president?

Would a male opponent start his tweet with "husband, dad?"

This could be a not-so-subtle way of throwing people off the scent. The other stuff — "dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado" — is funny and cute, but it doesn’t send the truly serious, almost powerful message that "wife, mom" does.

What she really cares about, of course, is being a "women and kids advocate," which has always been her true passion. That was underscored Thursday when she announced she would join her family’s charitable arm, which was renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and champion children’s and women’s issues.

Even more surprising about her tweet, however, is an omission.

She never mentions her faith. "Christian"? "Person of faith"? "Methodist"? "Believer"? Nothing.

Hillary Clinton is well known for her faith. She went to Sunday school and attended church all of her life, taught Sunday school, was a member of the altar guild and youth groups. When she came to Washington in 1993, she joined a Bible study group. She says she was sent daily scriptures from her group. She was dubbed Saint Hillary at one point for her religious leanings and even made a speech referencing Rabbi Michael Lerner’s The Politics of Meaning.

When she became a senator, she joined the Senate Prayer Breakfast. She has always been supportive of federal funding for faith-based initiatives. When asked in an interview after the Monica Lewinsky scandal how she had gotten through it, Clinton referred to her "very serious" grounding in faith and talked about her "extended faith family" who helped her out, as well as "people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer circles, who were prayer warriors for me."

At the State Department, she encouraged her diplomats to reach out to religious leaders in other countries as a way to promote understanding. After the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya — resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens — she gave an impassioned speech condemning violence in the name of religion.

"I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults," she said. "They have withstood offense for centuries. Refraining from violence then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is exactly the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable."

In a 2007 article in Mother Jones, the United Methodist Church’s Bishop Richard Wilke said, "If I asked Hillary, ‘What does the Lord want you to do?’ she would say, I think I’m called by the Lord to be in public service at whatever level he wants me."

The question is, does the Lord want Hillary to be president? Does she want to be president? Pundits took her tweet to be the launch of a presidential campaign. Yet it’s perfectly obvious that America will not vote for someone who is not a self-affirmed believer in God. We have a black president, and we will have a female president, a Hispanic president, a gay president and probably even a Muslim president before we have an atheist president. Those who talk openly about their own faith are more likely to appeal to the American public than those who don’t; we have even seen many shamelessly exploit religion for their own political purposes.

So if this tweet is her announcement that she is running, why would she describe herself as "wife, mom" but and not include "person of faith," which, if you look at her background, she surely is?

Chelsea Clinton recently announced that she will head up a new multi-faith organization at New York University called the Of Many Institute to "develop multi-faith dialogue and train multi-faith leaders."

"With all candor," she said, "because my husband is Jewish and I’m Christian, and we’re both practicing, it’s something that’s quite close to home."

She did not mention that it is close to home due to her upbringing or her mother’s abiding faith. Could it be that Hillary is letting Chelsea handle the faith angle so that she doesn’t seem to be pandering to a religious audience? Your guess is as good as mine.

All I can say is this: If you want to figure out Hillary Clinton, to paraphrase Deep Throat, "follow the faith."

Sally Quinn anchors The Washington Post’s On Faith online discussion and writes a religion column.

—The Washington Post

 

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