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TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you back about 20 years ago to a story involving Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old intern at the White House, and President Bill Clinton. We know that story, but it recently came up again in an interview by NBC reporter, Craig Melvin. He was interviewing James Patterson and Bill Clinton. They co-authored the new fictional novel, The President is Missing. During that interview, Melvin asked Clinton if he ever apologized to Lewinsky. Let me give you some of that dialogue.
“I apologized to everybody in the world,” Clinton said. “But did you apologize to her,” Melvin said. “I have not talked to her,” Clinton said. “Do you feel like you owe her an apology?” Melvin asked. “No, I do not,” Clinton responded. “I’ve never talked to her, but I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.” Clinton went on to somewhat victimize himself, saying that he left the White House $16 million in debt because of this event.
DR.REEDER: Craig Melvin, I thought that was a good example of journalism in terms of pressing an issue, asking the questions — that is the landscape that is littered by the acknowledged Clinton affairs all the way from his governorship in Arkansas and the relationship that Hillary Rodham Clinton had in the enablement and cover-up of those affairs.
OUR CULTURE HAS GONE OFF THE EDGE
However, I think it does surface a number of things. Right now, within our culture, that interview and the public dialogue is revealing the angst and the chaos that the secular world and life view is producing as it now has risen to transcendency in the culture. Consenting adults can engage in anything that they want to, which has created environments in workplaces in which language is out of control and innuendo has now direct conversation, yet people feel violated when physical actions and verbal statements are being made that are assumptive or that are aggressive.
On the one hand, there is this, “Oh, look how free we are in our language. Look how free we are in our culture. Look at what we can talk about that used to make us blush and used to be off-limits. Now we can talk and say and engage in that kind of raucous — almost what we would have called “locker room” — behavior in the public square.” But there is still this sense of the dignity of the individual and the sanctity of such things as sexuality that people feel violated when you step over the top.
A second thing is this notion that men and women are interchangeable. No, they’re not interchangeable. Women do get offended by certain things, and rightly so, that men would not be offended by — in fact, men would make that a playground conversation and women see that as a violation of their personhood, rightly so, and expect men to have constraint in those areas. And yet we create a culture in the workplace that actually promotes those kind of relationships that are over the top, that are aggressive, that are assumptive and, I think, ultimately destructive.
Is there any place that this is more evident than what happened in the White House? I’ll never forget the moment when I found out about it. I turned on Ted Koppel Nightline and this story is breaking about the President of the United States, a man old enough to be the father of this intern. I’m sitting there at the table thinking, “I cannot even send my daughter into the Oval Office as an intern at 20 years of age with confidence that a president would restrain himself and respect her. I can’t have confidence as a father that would be a safe place for my daughter.”
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE TRUE REPENTANCE?
Then, when we hear President Clinton’s response to these questions, Tom, now that takes on even a different dynamic. What he then begins to respond is, basically, “I’m the victim. I was impeached. I was ridiculed. I was publicly mocked. I came out of the Oval Office and the presidency $16 million in debt.”
He’s presenting himself as a victim and that begins to compare to what is true repentance. First, it requires confession, which means you own the sin — that “I did it.” It’s not like Adam where, “The woman gave me the fruit and I ate,” but it’s, “I ate the fruit.”
Secondly, there is an acknowledgment, not only in the ownership of the commission of the sin, but the sinfulness of the sin. “And it pains me to know the effects of my acts in terms of who God is and in terms of the people who are suffering because of my sinful acts.” And it’s not a penance to be saved; it is just a reality of the sinfulness of sin.
CLINTON NEEDS TO REALIZE HIS RESPONSIBILITY
That leads to the third thing: You are concerned about those who are victims of your sin and you want to do restitution, and restoration and reconciliation. “What has this done to Monica Lewinsky?” is what he ought to be thinking about, not, “What has it done to me? I’m the victim of my own sin.”
There are consequences in our life when we sin, but our focus is on that we have sinned against God and we have sinned against others and the glorious truth that, if I confess my sins and put my trust in Christ, I can be forgiven, and I can also be empowered to move into people’s lives to ask them to forgive me.
And, therefore, it is inexcusable that the president would not come to Monica Lewinsky to apologize. Yes, he would do the broad PR apology that eventually he did on a television program, but if there is a true conviction of sin, you move into the person’s life to ask them to forgive you for what you did against them and the consequences it has had in their life.
Therefore, that’s what we’re wrestling with. We’ve got a pop culture that is promoting sin as normal, that is promoting anarchy — every man does what’s right in his own eyes — but, over here, we’re experiencing the effect of it in the culture and the #metoo movement is a perfect example.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE SHOULD BE DIFFERENT
May I just conclude this way: I believe that this is a great opportunity, not only for us to exhibit true repentance whenever it is required in our life because of the freeing offer of the Gospel of forgiveness and the empowerment to walk away from sin and to kill sin in our life and be restored so that our vices can actually become virtues for the glory of God as he transforms us, but the second thing is this: Christian men and women can move into the public square and create businesses and environments that are different.
Not only the carefulness of who you are with at lunch and all of those things that we’ve talked about in fleeing temptation, but more than that. The positive — the workplace in our community, the workplace in our business, we are going to treat each other with respect. We’re going to recognize our gender, male and female, the particular strengths of each gender, the particular responsibilities of each gender to the other, and then we are going to enter into that with the equality of our inalienable rights before God and that God does His saving work in the lives of men, male and female.
However, we also recognize by creation we are different and that we have different responsibilities, and we’re going to show two things: We’re going to show respect and we’re going to show restraint.
We are not people who are just going to just say what we want to say and create this off-color blue environment in the culture and we’re not going to do what we want to do in order to create an environment of raucousness and vulgarity. What we’re going to do is bring respect and restraint and that will be expected within the culture of this public square where we have responsibilities as Christians.
And dare I say that begins in our families. We begin to set the pace. Young men and young women growing up in homes get the idea of how do you treat someone of the opposite sex? By watching how a father treats his wife and how a mother treats her husband. And what ought to come out of that is men ought to set the environment of respect, restraint and affection. Women set the environment of order and decorum. They bring those dynamics into an environment, whether it’s the family, the community, the church or the home. Those are just some thoughts around what that interview spawned, Tom.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Well, we do invite our listeners to join us tomorrow as we deal with pop culture.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.