The similar struggles of Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton

Kathryn Lopez
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Posted: Sep 01, 2007 12:01 AM
The similar struggles of Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton

Faith is apparently the buzzword of the moment, as the wolf-pack media attacks a world-renowned figure's religious resolve while, at least for now, giving another major female a pass on the political motivations of her publicized beliefs.

Time magazine's Aug. 23 article "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith" posits that Mother Teresa's dedication to God wasn't exactly what it seemed. Atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of the anti-Mother Teresa book "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice" (Verso, 1997), embraced the hype, heralding her as a fellow unbeliever. And one seemingly clueless blogger for the Chicago Tribune asked: "Can saints have bad days?"

Um, yes.

Time began its expose with this quote from one of the many letters written by Mother Teresa, which are found in the new book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" (Doubleday): "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness are so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

Of course she felt empty once in a while. She dealt with people's suffering -- the poorest of the poor -- and the most debilitating and isolating of illnesses, which sometimes made her wonder how God could let such pain exist. Shocking? Not quite.

Try "human."

In one of her letters to a spiritual director found in the book, she wrote: "Now Father -- since '49 or '50 this terrible sense of loss -- this untold darkness -- this loneliness this continual longing for God -- which gives me that pain deep down in my heart -- Darkness is such that I really do not see -- neither with my mind nor with my reason -- the place of God in my soul is blank ..." The chattering class reacts with shock, as if they were encountering a senator in a public bathroom sliding his foot into the next stall. Apparently, the chatterers have never encountered the term "Doubting Thomas," Saint Augustine or actual believers. Apparently they have never seen the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, who at the hour of his death cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Christians believe faith to be a great gift -- one that, among other things, helps to explain the unexplainable. The fact that there can be challenges and dark nights is not press-stopping news.

DEMOCRATIC RELIGION

I wonder whether the media will be as aggressive as it looks at what seems to be newfound religion among Democratic presidential front-runners.

In a recent debate, Democratic candidates were asked about their spiritual lives. There were some cliches and some sincerity. But there was also the suggestion of a life of deep prayer.

Paul Kengor, author of the new book "God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life" (Harper), suggests that Hillary Clinton is a believer. And that possibility will present major challenges to media folk.

Kengor tells me: "Hillary is going to put the dominant media in a real bind. After telling us repeatedly that the faith of a politician should be kept private, or doesn't matter, or shouldn't be part of the public square, the secular press will now need to backtrack as it discovers that the Democratic front-runners are religious folks desperately in need of the 2000 and 2004 values voters."

So, after the initial freak out, Kengor predicts the media will adapt: "As Hillary gets the nomination, secular liberals will suddenly get religion." But don't expect an apology from the media about its double-standard approach toward a party's religious views. Just as it suddenly professed a newfound respect for Catholic bishops in the 1980s for denouncing Ronald Reagan's nuclear policies, the media "will once again be supportive of faith in the public square, but only selectively," Kengor says.