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For much of Hillary's youth, [her father] Hugh was the only male influence on her life that had any real bearing. Her views, her political ideas, her religion—all this was filtered through Hugh, as he helped shape her sense of the world and her sense of self. But all that changed dramatically when she was thirteen, and the Reverend Don Jones, a Methodist minister, entered her life.

She began dropping by Jones's office after school or during summer afternoons, eager to talk about ideas or insights she culled from the youth minister and his sermons. According to Roger Morris, biographer of the Clintons, Jones had her read Tillich, Niebuhr, Soren Kierkegaard, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and they had lengthy, increasingly serious discussions. "She was curious," says Jones. "She was just insatiable."

Jones took from Hillary's study of his good works, adding this important insight: "She is very much the sort of Christian who understands that the use of power to achieve social good is legitimate."

Morris says that rather than weighty discussions among intellectual equals, these talks between Hillary and Jones were more akin to "tentative discoveries … the first fitful awakenings of critical intellect and sensibility in a spiritually minded young woman." He says that Jones estimated that Hillary was, at heart, a cautious, contained, "self-protective girl" whose judgments about herself and her world were still forming, and as such she required constant intellectual direction.

Morris adds that Jones was not only intellectually exciting to Hillary but nurturing, approving, accepting, and embracing. He was the "world beyond" the "growling Hugh Rodham." By this point, Hillary was conflicted, stuck in a political purgatory between ...

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Hillary's Spiritual Formation
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December 2007

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