Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Talk Faith and Marriage at ‘Gutsy’ Premiere

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Midway through the eight-episode “Gutsy” series she co-produced, Hillary Clinton sat down with a minister and explained, yet again, why she chose to stay with her husband.

“You can’t know what’s going on in someone else’s marriage, let alone in their heart or in their head,” she told Reverend Whittney Ijanaten, a wedding officiant. “Coming to the decision is so excruciating. It’s so painful. After going through all this extraordinary thinking, this disappointment, this discouragement, this anger, once I did it, I felt at peace.

In the episode, Ijanaten recalled that the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate described the decision to stay on – when Clinton was first lady and after then-President Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky – as “the bravest thing” she’d ever done.

On September 9, Apple TV+ released “Gutsy,” a documentary series produced by Clinton with her daughter Chelsea, depicting a diverse set of women who have passed difficult milestones in their lives — milestones that ultimately had a profound impact, not only for them as individuals but also for their families and communities. It’s based on their best-selling book, “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience,” which highlights the work of community leaders, artists, and activists.

(Simon & Schuster via AP) “The Brave Women’s Book,” by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

Although the series is by no means faith-centric, elements of religion and spirituality are sprinkled throughout, including with Ijanaten, who opened up about her own decision to choose divorce as she discussed the opposing determination. of Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Hillary Clinton said the unscripted conversation was far from the first time she had discussed her marriage to a minister.

“At the time I was making this decision, I spoke with members of the clergy. I prayed a lot. I read a lot. I had advice,” Clinton said, adding that Ijanaten may have asked her for an answer as the officiant continues to bring couples of all kinds together. “I gave him the answer which is the right answer for me.”

At a press conference the day before, the mother and daughter spoke of their respect for people of faith and how the women they interviewed sometimes have to struggle with groups’ interpretations of faith. with which they are or were formerly aligned.

Chelsea Clinton quoted Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last, who described, in the same episode featuring Ijanaten, how she was forced into an arranged marriage at 19 with a man she didn’t know in a community ultra-Orthodox Jew from New York. York. It took Reiss more than a decade to escape the abusive relationship and led her to create an organization that successfully ended the legality of child marriage in seven states.

“It was important for us to include Fraidy as well, not only for her truly audacious work on behalf of children around the world,” Chelsea Clinton said, but also because Reiss and many other women like her have a deep faith that is extremely important to them, but their religious communities “have not always respected their rights, their free will and… their health or their equal humanity”.

In a previous episode, titled “Gutsy Women Refuse Hate,” Hillary Clinton asked former extremist Shannon Foley Martinez about the distinctive tattoo on her right shin. Martinez explained that it was once a Celtic cross, a popular symbol in the white power movement of which she had once been a part. She had kept the tattoo for a while because “I can’t get past my past”. But the mother of eight later decided, after a black activist pointed out the evil associated with the symbol, to cover it with a different tattoo.

“The idea that you have eight kids and you’re doing this job,” Clinton said of hearing about Martinez’s efforts to deprogram extremists away from hate. “I mean, Holy Moly, the definition of courage.”

This episode also featured comedian Negin Farsad, who hit the road with others in her profession to foster a better understanding of Muslims by offering hugs, answering questions and delivering comedic routines.

Asked at the time, “How do you feel about 9/11?” Farsad told the Clintons that she decided to respond by speaking out against acts of terror in a gesture aimed at fostering understanding.

“I’m in deep Georgia or wherever and they may have never met a Muslim,” she said.

Hillary Clinton added, “Or they don’t know they did.”

Other insights into faith and spirituality included an interview with reality TV star Kim Kardashian, with a tweet where she quoted a Bible verse from Proverbs about rescuing “those who are unjustly sentenced to death” in as part of its work to exonerate death row inmates. . The Clintons, who tangoed, painted and attended clown school along the way with the interviewees, also joined labor leader Dolores Huerta and her family in a traditional Native American eagle feather ceremony. .

They listened to mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado describe how meditation helped her heal from sexual abuse and Ijanaten, a queer black woman, discussed the fight against anti-gay prejudice at her Pentecostal Apostolic Church while going to the school of theology “to counter this narrative”.

But it was only briefly that the Clintons spoke on camera about their own faith. While visiting Little Rock, Ark., they passed a brick building that was formative for their spiritual life while living there: First United Methodist Church.

In the interview, they both described themselves as women of the United Methodist faith.

“I still consider myself a United Methodist and am so grateful to the series of preachers, reverends and ministers who began to uplift me as a young child through confirmation, through the Methodist Youth Fellowship , through wonderful events,” Hillary Clinton said. “I am a praying person. I am a bible reader. And I’m trying–I’m trying–to be the kind of Christian that I think I’m meant to be.

Her daughter, after being raised by her Methodist mother, said she remained connected to that faith while raising an interfaith family.

“My husband is Jewish and it’s really important to both of us that our children grow up in each of our traditions in a way that hopefully feels consistent to them,” Chelsea Clinton said. “So our children go to both Hebrew school and Sunday school. They go to both synagogue and church.

She added that she recognizes that the chosen path may not be one that other families decide to follow.

“That’s the right answer for us,” the former first daughter said. “It’s the right answer to how we raise our children not only to appreciate our religions and faith traditions, but also hopefully to be believers themselves.”

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