Then along came the Rev. Don Jones, a charismatic youth minister fresh out of seminary and the Navy.
"He was filled with the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr," Clinton writes. "Bonhoeffer stressed that the role of a Christian was a moral one of total engagement in the world with the promotion of human development. Niebuhr struck a persuasive balance between a clear-eyed realism about human nature and an unrelenting passion for justice and social reform." Clinton says she had never met anyone like him. He was struck by her as well.
"What I [saw] in her was clearly a very good searching and clear mind," Mr. Jones says in an interview. "She was already a little brain child, a budding intellectual, I would say. So her interest in my ministry and my version of the gospel and the Christian faith was to some extent intellectual. She would come up after one of our sessions and talk to me about a fine point about something I had said."
Jones used art and literature to show his students a world beyond their "Happy Days" life. He introduced them to the writings of e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot, to the paintings of Pablo Picasso – most memorably, his depiction of war in "Guernica" – and to important films of the day, such as Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows." Each served as a springboard for church-basement discussions on spirituality, grace, and redemption.
From faith to action
Clinton was also drawn to the Methodist tradition of putting faith into action, to what Jones calls her "practical search for the relevance of Christianity." At age 15, with help from her mother and from Jones, Clinton organized babysitting brigades for the children of migrant workers who labored in the fields not far from Park Ridge. Clinton and her friends brought Kool-Aid, games, and materials for arts and crafts projects.