Clinton has a God-given right to refer to others’ God-given potential. And I have a right, God-given or otherwise, to find her decision to do that really annoying.

This post of mine yesterday deals mostly with Clinton’s annoying “When women are [fill in the blank], families are [same word; slightly different meaning] slogans.  But toward the end, it also discusses Clinton’s annoying references to people’s “God-given potential.”  References to people’s potential, without injecting religion (at least without some elaboration on the religion injection), would be much better, I said.

In the Comments thread to that post, reader Mike B. exchanged these comments:

Mike B.

May 21, 2015 10:49 am

I’m not religious, but I think that, publicly at least, Hillary is. So I don’t mind her putting “God-given” in there (or “blessed”). The GOP likes to pretend they are the religious party, which isn’t true – they’re the party of the religious right. There are a lot of liberal Christians out there, and I don’t think it’s bad for people to be reminded of that. It’s true that Hillary didn’t have to put those words in there, but I doubt if it’ll put off many people.

Beverly Mann

May 21, 2015 1:17 pm

Mike, you’re absolutely right that Clinton has been a practicing Methodist all her life. I don’t begrudge her her right to make that point and mention Methodist teachings as Methodist teachings. And it did occur to me that by inserting “God-given” there, she thinks it could help persuade religious Christians who don’t think of trying to make sure that everybody has the same chances to live up to his or her own potential as something that government should do.

But I actually listened to the video she put out on Mother’s Day, in which she used the line about “God-given potential.” Most of the video was about her own mother’s life, and was really poignant. Her mother was truly a pretty awesome person who had had a really sad childhood. Clinton didn’t detail it in the video, but the tone of her voice in referencing it was touching enough that I checked out her mother’s biography on Wikipedia.

But near the end of that otherwise un-phony, touching video, when Clinton used the line about “God-given potential,” the word “God-given” was emphasized in a way that sounded like she had recut the video to insert that word, at the suggestion of some political adviser. She didn’t say “God-given”; she said “GOD-GIVEN.”

I myself would love to hear her talk about Christian teachings about caring about others—but as Christian teachings that nonetheless aren’t the exclusive property of Christians, or of religious people.

My problem with Clinton is that she’s incessantly invoking her gender, her Christianity, her … hit-the-political-buttons, early and often.  I keep automatically comparing her in my mind to Warren, who never, ever highlights her gender and doesn’t incessantly (or ever) appear to base her support for, say, meaningfully increasing the minimum wage on the fact that about two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women. And, yes, universal access to quality child-care, and reliable work schedules, and other tremendously important work issues that Clinton and Warren both discuss, would make a difference to far more women than men, but Warren recognizes that it is utterly unnecessary to point that out.

No one thinks of Warren as a woman politician; they think of her as a tremendously articulate politician who has deep policy knowledge about certain economic and financial issues, and who is leading a progressive political movement. So she’s the ultimate feminist politician. But neither does anyone think of Warren as a Christian, or non-Christian, or religious, or non-religious politician. Her statements are purely policy-related, and the fact that her policy positions fit nicely with certain Christian teachings is irrelevant. She doesn’t mention it, and she knows she doesn’t have to.

Last week, in a post of mine that I’d hoped would get some attention (it didn’t, best as I can tell), I discussed Martin O’Malley’s flag-pin-wearing.  And not in a favorable way.  I’m very, very, very tired of Democratic politicians’ craven playing on the Republican Party’s playing field by subtly acceding to their Democrats-aren’t-patriotic and Democrats aren’t-religious-enough characterizations.

Which is what they do when they adopt the Republican Party’s chosen symbols on such things. Wearing flag-lapel pins and inserting God-given here and there as obligatory are classic examples of it. This should stop.  It’s not, by any stretch, politically necessary.

It just should stop.

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