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What is marriage? Back in 2004, Senator Hillary Clinton gave a pretty good definition. To be fair, the larger context was her speaking against the idea of a federal marriage amendment, but in the course of her speech she resolutely defended the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they become adults.

She later sounded quite conservative in warning about the consequences of what we might call non-traditional family situations.

We could stand on this floor for hours talking about the importance of marriage, the significance of the role of marriage in not only bringing children into the world but enabling them to be successful citizens in the world. How many of us have struggled for years to deal with the consequences of illegitimacy, of out-of-wedlock births, of divorce, of the kinds of anomie and disassociation that too many children experienced because of that.

Mrs. Clinton even defended the rights of the states to define marriage as they see fit.

The States, which have always defined and enforced the laws of marriage, are taking action. Thirty-eight States–maybe it is up to 40 now–already have laws banning same-sex marriage. Voters in at least eight States are considering amendments to their constitutions reserving marriage to unions between a man and a woman. But the sponsors argue that we have to act with a Federal constitutional amendment because the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution will eventually force States, if there are any left, that do not wish to recognize same-sex marriages to do so. That is not the way I read the case law. With all due respect, the way I read the case law is that the full faith and credit clause has never been interpreted to mean that every State must recognize every marriage performed in every other State.

Several years earlier, President Bill Clinton waxed eloquent about the significance of liberty of conscience as he he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom. Usually the signing of legislation by a President is a ministerial act, often a quiet ending to a turbulent legislative process. Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished.

As Clinton explained, he was eager to sign the legislation so that the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith might be reversed and a better standard established for protecting the free exercise of religion.

The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights. Our Founders cared a lot about religion. And one of the reasons they worked so hard to get the first amendment into the Bill of Rights at the head of the class is that they well understood what could happen to this country, how both religion and Government could be perverted if there were not some space created and some protection provided. They knew that religion helps to give our people the character without which a democracy cannot survive. They knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp…

What this law basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.

Clinton argued that there was an unhealthy “climate in this country” in which people were embarrassed to admit their actions were motivated “by their faith” and by “what they discern to be. . . . the will of God.”  After observing that “the most central institution of our society, the family, has been under assault for 30 years” the President implored his audience that it was “high time we had an open and honest reaffirmation of the role of American citizens of faith.” Religion, as he saw it, belonged in the public square and the free exercise of religion deserved the strongest protections under the law.

We are a people of faith. We have been so secure in that faith that we have enshrined in our Constitution protection for people who profess no faith. And good for us for doing so. That is what the first amendment is all about. But let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions. Let us instead respect one another’s faiths, fight to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice whatever convictions he or she has, but bring our values back to the table of American discourse to heal our troubled land.

So to summarize from the speeches made by Senator Clinton and President Clinton:

  • Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is a foundational institution because it exists for the raising of children.
  • The presence of illegitimacy, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce negatively affect our children.
  • The states have a right to define marriage as they see fit and recognize marriage according to their definition.
  • The Government should be held to a very high level of proof before interfering with someone’s free exercise of religion.
  • We can never be too diligent in protecting religious liberty.
  • Religious believers not be ashamed to admit that their actions may be motivated by faith and by their understanding of God’s will.
  • We need more religion in the public square, not less.
  • We should respect other people’s faith (or lack thereof), but without running from our own convictions.
  • We should fight to the death to preserve the right of every American to practice his or her convictions.

Three cheers for the Clintons–of 1993 and 2004! Are there any Democrats or Republicans or college presidents or members of the mainstream media who would dare to say the same things today? It is sobering to think that the wisdom of two millennia (which Hillary Clinton affirmed) and the Constitutional protections of two centuries (in which Bill Clinton exulted) can be cast aside as backward and bigoted just two decades later. The insanity of our time is to think that everyone else was crazy before Our Time. Maybe we have something to learn from history. Maybe there are things to learn from the past. Or maybe we are smarter and nobler than all those who have come before, including, as a prime example, the less enlightened version of our former selves.


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26 thoughts on “Three Cheers for Bill and Hillary Clinton”

  1. Paul Reed says:

    “It is sobering to think that the wisdom of two millennia can be cast aside as backward and bigoted just two decades later.”

    The moral zeitgeist changes all the time. If you doubt this, find out your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents about race. You are pretty much guaranteed to find that many of your close ancestors called outright-racist policies admirable. Or if you want to go back further, consider the institution of slavery. We might find it really strange that people found it acceptable to own another person. However for them, slavery was rather normal. Slavery was an institution that goes back several millennia. It’s even alluded to (and even regulated) in the Bible. Just think about how strange it must have been to be living a few centuries ago, and have “abolitionists” declare a 5000-year old institution evil.

  2. Andy says:

    “Three cheers for the Clintons–of 1993 and 2004!”

    I was wiping the coffee I had spewed all over my computer screen before I realized you put an ‘of’ in there. #carryon

  3. Ryan says:

    Paul, you said, “Slavery was an institution that goes back several millennia. It’s even alluded to (and even regulated) in the Bible. ” This is true, however, it’s not an illustration that holds up in the marriage debate. The Bible, especially the New Testament, has to deal with the issue of slavery. Christianity was birth and rose during the Roman empire after all. Slavery was common, and the early church was having to deal with an influx of believers, some of whom were slaves and others their masters. Plus slavery was never a way of life condoned in the Bible, just a reality of life that the apostles had to deal with as large numbers joined the church. The reason mainly that your illustration doesn’t hold up is because slavery is a human institution brought about in a sinful fallen world. It was not part of God’s design. Marriage between one man and one woman on the other hand was instituted by God at the foundation of the world and declared good by Him. Does moral opinion change? Absolutely. Some things need to be dealt with and need to change. Marriage between one man and one woman isn’t one of those things. God put it in place, and we don’t have a right to redefine it.

  4. Brody says:

    -“Some things need to be dealt with and need to change. Marriage between one man and one woman isn’t one of those things. God put it in place, and we don’t have a right to redefine it.”

    Agreed. As I read Kevin’s words and strolled through the comments, I see the heart issue as one of authority. God intentionally created marriage as one man and one woman (a foreshadowing of His love towards His Bride). He had the right to do such an act because, well… He is God and we are not. He continues to have the right to uphold His created order because He is the all authoritative King over His creation.

    To use Kevin’s words, the ultimate ‘insanity of our time’ is to believe fallen humanity has the authority or right tell God He is wrong by establishing marriage between man and woman. This insanity is not limited to the issue of redefining marriage, but the current discussion does highlight where one’s authority lies.

  5. Brad says:

    I do not know if you hear this often: thank you. I was just think about what to write someone as I read this. Your writing is a gift to the church.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Amen to what Brad above me said! I come from the State of Indiana where (sadly) those last 2 excerpts from former President Clinton were recently basically “tried and found wanting”.

  7. Paul says:

    “Or maybe we are smarter and nobler than all those who have come before”

    This is true. Not because of being inherently smarter or nobler, but because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Your average junior high student could write a far-more noble essay on race relations than your leading ethicists only a century earlier. And your 8 year old daughter has more knowledge of the solar system that the leading scientific minds of only a few centuries earlier.

  8. Alan says:


    Thank you for being a voice of truth and light. Thank you for standing strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Grateful for faithful men, like you, who are not moved and stand on what has been delivered to us in the Word of God, and Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and Titus to stand on guard against false teaching and those that take God’s grace and pervert it into sensuality.

    Brothers and Sisters why does God transform us in Christ? So that we may be a people, “zealous of good works”. If that causes a problem in our hearts, we are not believing the word of God and Paul’s faithful words delivered to Timothy:

    [Tit 2:14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    Why, even within the church, do we despise our brother or sister who is walking in holiness and stands on truth, especially for the faithfulness of marriage? Why is that? Do we not hear the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy?

    [2Ti 3:2-3 ] For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,

    Do we hear this church? Do we hear the words of the Apostle Paul? Why do we even despise those who are good, even among the church? Could it be we are blinded by our pride? Are we so hurt that we go out of our way to hurt others in the truth of God? Why do we speak against holiness? Do we fulfill, as C.S. Lewis said, woe to us when we call the exhortation to holiness legalism? If that makes any one angry then why would Paul and Peter exhort us to be zealous of good works and to be careful to maintain good works? Are they both exhorting us to do something we were never enabled to do?

    As it has been said by another faithful brother “some of the high- minded want to pit grace against striving, and while we are not saved by our striving and in fact are saved from our striving, we are also saved to our striving— a striving after Christ. “

    Why do some of us in the church despise what is good and despise after striving?

    “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Phil. 3:15).

    If we disregard those words folks.. we disregard God Himself, and there is no submission to the authority of the word of God.

    [1Th 4:7-8] For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

  9. sassysan says:

    I do not get why The Gospel Coalition posts this article with outdated information. Since Hillary is now pro gay marriage…
    “Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right”… so… disappointing now.

  10. bemery47 says:

    Thank you, sassysan, for posting that video. It’s a great reminder that the Clintons cannot be trusted. They say anything that will get them votes. Hillary is (and probably always has been) pro gay marriage. And let’s not forget Bill’s sexual escapades that went viral in its time. Those today who are HillBilly supporters may express views concerning the sanctity of marriage, but I question how many uphold marriage as a union just between a man and a woman (all we have to do is just listen to the news to see how many people are going against the views of traditional marriage). I personally believe that if the Clintons had the same platform today (instead of 20 years ago) they wouldn’t have said the things they said. I believe that their words would have sounded a lot like what’s being said today. They (like most politicians) just lie through their teeth so that we will vote for them. I see absolutely nothing genuine, spiritual, whole, or holy about them or anything they say or believe in. And as far as I’m concerned, this article should never have made it out of Kevin’s mind and onto the web. The article is almost as deceiving as the Clintons themselves.

  11. Tubasteve says:

    Way to contribute to the stereotype that evangelicals only care about gay marriage and abortion. Well done.

  12. Gary says:

    To those who think this article shouldn’t have been printed, I think you’re missing the point. Kevin clearly demonstrates how much of a shift has taken place on certain moral and social issues. And it has taken place in a relatively short period of time. And the courts have changed in a rapid fire manner. But, as others have already suggested, the Clintons are not to be trusted–ever. They are committed pragmatists will little more concern than staying in positions of power and feathering their own beds. Today’s scandals that swirl around them offer more than sufficient evidence of that. And, like our President, they find out which way the winds of public opinion are blowing and then embrace it. Twenty years ago, it didn’t look favorably upon same-sex marriage (SSM). Not it appears to do such. And as far as our current president is concerned, even Democratic strategist and political adviser David Axelrod recently acknowledged that Barack Obama acted duplicitously when in 2008 he communicated that he backed traditional marriage when in fact he didn’t. Instead, Obama withheld his true sentiments about SSM since he knew it would damage his chances of being elected. Sadly, Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, has also caved under the threats of commercial catastrophe. While Pence claims to be an evangelical, I have to question what principles truly guide him. At the moment it appears to be pure pragmatism rather than the unchanging foundational teachings of Scripture. Indiana’s RFRA law, modeled after the Federal RFRA law, will now no longer afford Christians (or any other religious group) the right and protection to make decisions in accord with their religious convictions and personal conscience. Instead, Indiana’s RFRA will provide even more legal leverage to those of LGBT persuasion. So on the one hand, Kevin’s contribution demonstrates how society is abandoning more than two millennia of universally accepted wisdom and teaching about heterosexual marriage in favor of a new “popular” take on human sexual relationships, but, on the other hand, perhaps unintentionally, Kevin sheds some light on the tendency for many politicians to modify their “convictions” on serious issues such as SSM when it offers them the likelihood on continuing power and financial gain.

  13. Tubasteve says:

    “…on the other hand, perhaps unintentionally, Kevin sheds some light on the tendency for many politicians to modify their “convictions” on serious issues such as SSM when it offers them the likelihood on continuing power and financial gain.”

    I don’t think the swipe at the Clintons was unintentional. There are ways to make the point that politicians change their positions to go along with popular opinion (I think a lot of politicians do this), that don’t involve using the front runner for the Democratic nomination as an example. I’m sure that was just a coincidence, though. How about spreading the gospel, as per the name “TGC” instead of political rhetoric.

  14. Dan says:

    Tubesteve, doesn’t proclaiming the Gospel involve proclaiming sin? After all, the Gospel involves a call to repent of sin, right?

  15. Simon says:

    Marriage has been under attack in the West for longer than 30 years. It has been under attack ever song the Reformation and the simultaneous attack on the sacraments. The sacramental world view of the Church gave way to a secular one spurred on by the Reformation. As such, protestants have no meaningful way of defending marriage in a intellectually and philosophically coherent way.

  16. T.A. Schneider says:

    Don’t be fooled by Clinton speeches, they are meant to deceive, their behind the public lives prove it and besides,, does she need votes and extensive conservative and even Christian backing?

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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