July 23, 1998
"A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love to have it this way. But what will you do in the end?" Jeremiah 5:30-31.
Do we really view the scandals surrounding President Clinton with ambivalence? Has the White House spin machine adroitly diverted our attention away from the sins of Clinton to the mistakes of independent prosecutor, Ken Starr to the point of making Starr seem a criminal? Have the President's accusers been so vilified by the media and others that they appear to have lost credibility? Are we convinced that this is all merely a matter of sex, and therefore, private and even unimportant regarding matters of State? Or, worse, is it because
We really don't care!
All of these questions probably point to the truth of the matter in part. Yet they all lead to what the following comments seem to imply -- that we really don't care. From one man: "Maybe there is sexual harassment, but it is negligible considering what he has done for the country." From a woman: "I have no doubt that Clinton is a philanderer, but how many philanderers have been in the White House, but were still great? Do I think it is important to the country? No!" From another man: "He is doing his job and if he did it, it's not our problem. It is his life." From a Democratic pollster: "He's won two elections, which says we are judging him on something beyond personal character."
The polls seem to support these views. Coupled with allegations that Clinton had a sexual affair with a former White House intern and then urged her to lie about it under oath, his approval ratings have risen to their highest ever of his presidency!
Yet, amazingly, these same public opinion polls that say most Americans believe the president is doing a good job and should stay in office, also indicate that barely a quarter of Americans believe Clinton is a man of high personal and ethical standards. About two-thirds of those polled do not think he is trustworthy, that he is a liar.
One explanation for these contradictory views is that we're really in a slow burn about the whole matter but are simply giving "the benefit of the doubt," or assuming that he "is innocent until proven guilty." If so, as things further unfold, the approval numbers may drop. We'll see.
However, are we really this amoral? Have we become so morally indifferent that we have become willing pawns, easily manipulated by spin?
Sadly, we may well be. Because if there is one thing most everyone agrees on, it is that the good economic times have affected our views of the scandal! After all, let the good times roll! Let's not quibble over a few hijinks in the Oval Office and ruin everything. In this case, "It is the economy stupid."
If this is so, then in our showdown between morals and money, money has won hands down. We've sold out our morality to prosperity and allowed wealth to silence our concern. Instead of righteous indignation we are left with moral ruin and money in the bank.
Especially troubling is our lack of outrage. We've had virtually no outrage over just the possibility that the President is a womanizer, adulterer and has tried to get someone to break the law and lie about the sin! The charges levied against him which are being investigated are serious and not to be taken lightly. They are criminal charges such as suborning perjury. This indignity is virtually unprecedented for a sitting president.
Certainly we understand that the investigation is not over; but where is the outrage that says, "Yes, the things alleged may or may not have happened, we'll see; but they had better never have happened!"
John Kennedy's well known record as a promiscuous, serial adulterer is trotted out as an excuse for the current President. After all, so it goes, Kennedy did okay as a president. But Kennedy had to keep knowledge of his habitual violation of his marriage vows away from the public, or he would have never been elected or enjoyed approval while in office. No way. Character mattered. The outrage would have been overwhelming.
With the lack of outrage today, an alarming attitude has arisen: to overlook the evil, to not hold the President (or anyone else) accountable for sin. More than unfortunate, this is dangerous.
In history there have been two entities who have not been held accountable: pagan gods and kings. Sometimes kings pretended to be gods. But our system was designed to have a President, and a President, whether this president or any president, is not a god nor a king. He is simply a President, subject to the law like you and me. If this President is not held accountable--including for the sin of adultery and sexual misconduct, the same as military officers or company CEOs have been held accountable--then this will be a grave eventuality for our nation and will help unravel us. The House of Representatives and Senate had better get a clear understanding of this if they ever have to decide on impeachment of Mr. Clinton.
Let's remember that outrage comes from a sense of what is upright, and a sense of sin. It comes from an instructed conscience; and a perspective on what character is.
And understanding on these should come from the pulpit.
The pulpit should talk about character. Proverbs 6:32 (NIV) says "A man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." Character matters. It affects everything. Adultery reveals a lack of judgment. And a lack of judgment is dangerous in a president.
And in a nation. Could it be that one reason we are so contradictory in our views of the scandals is that we are a nation that is filled with adultery and other immoralities? And it is easy to turn a blind eye to such sin, and other sin? After all, we can't be that bad if the good times continue. Right?
In the New Living Translation, the same verse, Proverbs 6:32, is stated as: "The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul." Those are strong words. But when the story of these scandals has finally been fully told, could it be that it will reveal the absolute truth of this Scripture, and that from the White House to every house we have been a nation of fools?
Let us pray together : Our precious
Heavenly Father, thank you for being who you are, righteous, gracious,
loving, just, and holy. We are nation willfully ambivalent about
character, about high moral standards because we have purposefully
become permissive toward sin to excuse our own. We must repent. Forgive
us. Father, may the preachers of this nation, motivated by your heart,
courageously proclaim your Word. May the preachers confront us with our
sin and command us to repent. And as they do, may this be a powerful
catalyst you will use to bring revival one more time to this land.
John Anderson has been in ministry over 34 years, including 24 years serving three churches. Since 1988 he and his wife, Esther, have been in traveling ministry across the world. Recently they have based their Cry of the Innocents Ministry near Washington, D.C. John is editor of The Pastor's Alert, a publication of The Alliance for Revival and Reformation. He is author of two books, Cry of the Innocents and The Cry of Compassion. He may be contacted at PO Box 759, Waldorf, MD 20604 - (301) 645-0280.