Sixteen years ago, I was living in Midland, Texas, where members of evangelical churches were praying for the 2000 Election Day matchup between Al Gore and George W. Bush. This was no ordinary election for our city because George W. and his wife, Laura, had grown up in Midland and they were greatly loved and admired for their Christian faith.
That election's contentious outcome resulted in vote recounts and court battles but ultimately declared George W. as the winner of a divided nation. Polarization between left and right continued during the next eight years and it was frustrating and painful to supporters and friends of President Bush to see his words and actions being misrepresented, taken out of context and even at times completely fabricated to malign his character. It was sad to see this hateful mindset from people who had never met him or researched the accuracy of the misinformation and slander that they were spreading.
Because of my role as the director for Religious Freedom and Human Rights Advocacy for Midland's evangelical churches, I spent much of the next eight years in WDC where I worked with elected officials and their constituents from both the Republican and Democratic parties along with church leaders from around our nation. I wish that I could say that the unfair harshness and hate that President Bush endured was only seen in the liberal left but I can't because I have observed a similar, if not worse, obsession of harshness and hatred towards Hillary Clinton from the conservative political right including from many American evangelicals.
I first noticed what I called the "Hating Hillary" movement when as the First Lady, she enthusiastically tried to help address our nation's need for healthcare reform. Remember "Hillarycare" and how disdainfully that term was used to ridicule her efforts to use her leadership role on the healthcare challenge? As "Obamacare" was similarly being criticized, I found myself wondering how healthcare reform may have benefited from a bi-partisan cooperative effort 25 years ago if the opponents of Hillarycare had been willing to work in good faith instead of ridiculing and obstructing Hillary's sincere efforts to improve healthcare for millions of Americans.
It goes without saying that in her latter days as the First Lady, my heart ached for her as she continued to be criticized with very little empathy as challenges with her marriage emerged in painful public ways. Most women would not have stuck it out but even Hillary's admirable decision to forgive and work on strengthening her marriage did not escape criticism from conservative Christians.
As her days as being vilified as the First Lady ended, I was now in WDC in congressional circles myself which gave me opportunities to more personally observe Hillary when she was elected as a Senator. This was when I knew that Hillary was what those who worked with her had said all along. It was evident that she was a dedicated public servant who was able to forgive and reach out to some of her most hateful "Hillarycare " opponents in congress. She even reached out to congressional leaders who had callously exploited her marital issues to their own advantage to lead bi-partisan efforts to help vulnerable children just as she had been doing since her college days.
If you think that I am exaggerating about the "Let's Hate Hillary Club," do an internet search and you will find some background on how one of the most authentic brothers in Christ I encountered in all my years in WDC, then Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, publicly acknowledged his hatred for Hillary and then ask her for her forgiveness in the weekly Senate Bible study that they both attended regularly.
An internet search will also reveal other accounts of evangelical wives of congressmen, who after becoming acquainted with her, confessed their harsh feelings and asked for her forgiveness which she readily gave. This is when I knew that Hillary was a sister-in-Christ who lived out her faith in quiet ways with integrity that refused to use faith for political gain. While she does not often talk about her faith publicly, the transcript of her recent speech given at the National Baptist Convention helps give a sense of the authenticity of this quiet faith.
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
My time in WDC and Hillary's time there continued to provide more opportunities for seeing her faith being lived out when she was Secretary of State. I saw firsthand how she humbly reached out to religious leaders like Sudanese Evangelical Bishop Elias Taban when she was negotiating with leaders from North and South Sudan on implementing a peace treaty.
Her outreach did not end there as I saw how she kept in touch with this Bishop, going to extra trouble to track down his village satellite phone number and call him on Christmas to see how he and his church were doing with the on-going challenges they faced in South Sudan. I would like to go on record also here to say that my experiences with the Clinton Global Initiatives and their work in Africa has been nothing but positive and anyone who has had experience working with the interactions between foundations and the State Department views the recent accusations that there was "pay for play" are in my opinion attempts to create yet another scandal that is simply not there.
Because of my involvement with the persecuted house churches in China, I also saw how Secretary Clinton put her political career on the line when she made the decision to help rescue one famous Chinese dissident who had escaped house arrest and was hiding outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Her decision to help bring him inside our embassy and convince the Chinese government to allow him and his family to come to America was a very brave and selfless act. Because of America's financial crisis and the fact that China held much of the U.S. debt, angering the Chinese government was not a wise thing to do if one's agenda is to be politically expedient and further one's career. Secretary Clinton put her own convenience and goals as secondary and her selflessness resulted in the Chen family now living in America.
I could list several other personal stories of how much of a servant's heart Sister Hillary displayed around the world and among her staff who worked for her but will end with this important insight on Hillary's much maligned character and leadership that I gleaned from my respected friend, former Ambassador Scott Gration in his new book memoir, http://scottgration.com.
Ambassador Gration was born in Congo to evangelical missionaries and had a distinguished career in the military and then became the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya. Gration writes from his own unique first-hand personal experiences about the unfair blame that Secretary Clinton has received for the Benghazi tragedy. He had security concerns at his Nairobi Embassy that were very similar to the Benghazi Embassy and made multiple requests through the State Department protocols without success. He left his post three months before the Benghazi tragedy but he concludes that his concerns and Libyan Ambassador Chris Stephens concerns were not communicated up the chain of command to Secretary Clinton. Yet after tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and excessive number of congressional hearings on Benghazi have been held that completely exonerate Hillary from any wrongdoing, the hateful misinformation continues and we hear chants for "lock her up" even in gatherings organized by evangelical Christians.