The Hidden Influence of Clinton and Trump’s Religion

Source : The New York Times

A quick quiz about presidential candidates and their religions.

John F. Kennedy? Easy: A Catholic.

George W. Bush? A born-again Christian, who found God in midlife and frequently talked about it.

Mitt Romney? A Mormon, the first to clinch his party’s nomination.

Now try Donald J. Trump. Or Hillary Clinton. Not so obvious.

In this election, the country has paid scant attention to the spiritual life of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, a fact reflected in polls that show how little voters know about their faiths. But as we found in the latest episode of The Run-Up, religion is central to both of their identities — though in profoundly different ways.

Mr. Trump’s bravado can be traced to what he learned inside Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, according to Gwenda Blair, the author of “The Trumps,” a multigenerational portrait of the family, and one of our guests on the show. At the church, a charismatic minister named Norman Vincent Peale preached a theology of positive thinking, the rejection of negative thoughts and relentless self-promotion. Sound familiar?

“He was known as God’s salesman, but it was really selling the idea of success,” Ms. Blair says of Dr. Peale.

That message seemed to resonate for a young Mr. Trump. “Everything he does is about winning. It’s only about winning and losing — those are the only two principles that are involved,” Ms. Blair says. “That’s a very Norman Vincent Peale notion — that notion of success above all.”

That’s not the only parallel between the two men. As I told Ms. Blair, I was struck by a word in Dr. Peale’s writings that kept popping up: “tremendous.”

BARBARO: That cannot be a coincidence, can it?

BLAIR: It’s very funny, isn’t it? That taste for superlative. You’re not just going to be successful, you’re going to be incredibly successful. And Donald Trump, of course, has made famous superlatives piled on superlatives — the best of the best of the best of the best. America is going to get tired it’s going to be so successful!

We also hear from a man who is intimately familiar with the role of religion in Mrs. Clinton’s life: Burns Strider, Mrs. Clinton’s religious adviser during her first presidential campaign and a friend with whom she has prayed for years. Her family’s devotion to Methodism put her on a path toward public service, Mr. Strider says — and instilled a view of religion that elevated action over words and left an already reserved figure disinclined to loudly proclaim her faith. But it has come at a cost: Today, 43 percent of voters don’t think she’s religious.

The reality: Mrs. Clinton is far more religious than many understand, and always has been, carrying a Bible in her purse, joining a prayer group in the Senate and making time every day to digest scripture.

I asked Mr. Strider about the inherent tension in the Democratic party between the faithful and the secular.

“If you’re honest and if you’re passionate, most folks aren’t going to freak over the fact that your center comes from a relationship with God,” he says. “They’re going to respect you for being honest and passionate about it. I think Hillary herself has more than enough leeway to talk about faith if she wants to.”

So why does it feel as if religion has receded into the background in 2016? Jonathan Martin, a national political correspondent at The Times, offers his theory, based on two years of talking to the candidates, religious leaders and voters around the country.

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1 reply

  1. Mrs Clinton is under the influence of the jews through the Bible, as is Trump. Followers of the Bible and Qur’an are under the strong influence of the jews due to the Bible and Qur’an being direct extensions of (copied from), the jews scriptures.

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