'I'm Spiritual. I'm Religious. I'm a Good Christian.'

Wesley Clark on anti-military preachers, his conversion, bigotry against his Jewish dad & when he was most 'close to God'

This interview, conducted by Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman, is the first in a series with the candidates.

BELIEFNET: Your mom was Methodist.


BELIEFNET: So how did you end up as a Baptist as a child?

CLARK: My mother told me once that she and my father agreed that I would not be brought up Jewish in Chicago. She had me going to a Methodist church. When we went back to Arkansas, she told me when I was four and a half years old, "You'll have to choose the one you want to go."

I remember the Methodist church in Chicago had these beautiful stained glass windows. So I saw a church in Arkansas that had those beautiful stained glass windows and it was right across the street from this barber shop that had a miniature barber's chair complete with the razor strap and everything.

So I picked that church. It was the Immanuel Baptist church. And so that was my church. I picked that church when I was not quite 5.

BELIEFNET: Did you go to that on your own or did your Mom go with you?

CLARK: Mostly I went on my own. My mother went a couple of times to the Emmanuel Baptist church. When we moved over to the North Valentine street and after a couple of years she got tired of driving me to Emmanuel Baptist which is on the other side of town. So we went to a local Baptist church which was called Pulaski Heights Baptist church.

BELIEFNET: What was that like as a little boy to be going to Baptist church there on your own? Do you have any memories of that?

CLARK: Sure, I was always nagging my parents to come. I think my mother and stepfather came once or twice. That was it. Other kids had their parents there.

BELIEFNET: What was your argument to them?

CLARK: That I wanted them to come!BELIEFNET: You were 4 1/2 when your father died?

CLARK: Not quite 4.

BELIEFNET: Not to get psychobabbly here but any sense of how the death of your father was affecting your spiritual life?

CLARK: I'm sure it made me more spiritual. I feel confident that it did

BELIEFNET: Do you have any memory of church life and whether it was of any comfort?

CLARK: It was of tremendous comfort. I always said my prayers at night. My mother taught actually me to say prayers at night but most of it came from the church.

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