Reversing the "Spin-Doctors"

Don't Blame the Messenger

Daniel R. Vess


Kenneth Starr has been under an extreme denigration from the press, the White House, and various members of Congress for his independent counsel investigations of President Clinton. In his defense, Starr recently told reporters, "Don't blame the messenger if you don't like the message." Attacking the messenger when you don't like the message has been a common ploy practiced throughout the ages. Many of the prophets of the Old Testament as well as the apostles and preachers of the New have known the stinging feedback that is received when the truth hits its target. When King Ahab saw Elijah he cried, "Is that you, O troubler of Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17,18). Yet, Starr has not troubled America. Clinton and his sins have caused the trouble.

They Attack His Authority

Throughout this ordeal doubt has been cast upon Starr's authority for his investigation. Starr has conducted his investigation within the parameters and with the authority delegated to him from others. If he has abused his authority, his accusers have yet to produce any evidence.

In August of 1994, a special federal panel appointed him to investigate the Clintons' involvement in a failed Arkansas real estate development called Whitewater. Later, Attorney General Janet Reno asked a three federal judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of D.C. to expand the investigation to include allegations that President Clinton tried to cover up alleged affairs with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

When Moses questioned two Hebrew men who were fighting, one asked, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us?" (Exodus 2:14). In his message to the Pharisees, Stephen informs us that Moses "is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush." (Acts 7:35). Thus, the answer to the question asked of Moses was that God had prepared him to be a ruler and deliverer of Israel.

Again, a fig picker and shepherd from the small town Tekoa was assailed by Amaziah priest of Bethel because of his prophecy (Amos 7:10-17). Amaziah commanded him to get out of town, because he had no authority to prophecy in the King's sanctuary or royal residence. Amos declared his right to prophecy, "I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me..." Amos had the authority to prophecy, because God sent him.

Just as Starr had to have authority to do his work, all of God's servants must have authority for all they say and do. "Book, chapter and verse" may sound like an old cliche, but it is our answer to all who call into question what we are doing and saying and why we are doing and saying it (1 Peter 3:15).

They Ridicule His Religion

H. John Rogers wrote in the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette attacking "Starr's Church of Christ". In his article he claimed the Starr was a member of "A little-known fundamentalist Christian sect that makes Jerry Falwell look like a theological radical." Thus, making Starr a "spiritual descendant of Oliver Cromwell". Much of what he said about the New Testament church is inaccurate and a gross misrepresentation.

Paul was quite familiar with those who would belittle his beliefs. At Athens his enemies claimed that Paul and others had "turned the world upside down" with their teachings (Acts 17:6). Tertullus attacked Paul with this accusation before the governor Felix: "For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." (Acts 24:5).

As we point out the errors of denominations they will often retort that we don't believe in the Old Testament, that we believe we are the only ones going to heaven, that we teach salvation by works or a water salvation, etc. Instead of deterring us these distortions can be doors of opportunity to investigate what the Bible really does say.

They Malign His Motives

Starr has been called "Mr. Holier than thou" indicting him with being motivated by self- righteousness. Arthur Schlesinger cast further misgiving upon his motives for so diligently pursuing his investigation, when he wrote: "His pursuit of Mr. Clinton has rightly been compared to Captain Ahab's monomaniacal 'quenchless feud' with the White Whale."

Moses and Aaron were attacked at various times during the wilderness wanderings. Korah accused them of bringing the Israelites out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness and while acting like princes (Numbers 16:3,13). When Jeremiah told the Jews they were not to flee to Egypt they maligned his motives. "But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon." (Jeremiah 43:3). These are but a few examples of the strategy of attacking the messenger's motives.

Motives are important. The Christian's intent for standing up for the truth and illuminating error with the light of righteousness is love. We are motivated out of a love for God, love for the truth, love for lost souls and love for one another. Yet, one man's immoral motives will not vindicate another man of his immorality.

They Impugn His Integrity

In the October 12, issue of Time Julia F. Grant claims that Starr is far more dangerous than Clinton: "If honesty is the test, Starr fails: this was and is a dishonest investigation." In The August 2, 1998 issue of the Washington Post Edwin M. Yoder Jr. further censures Starr's character with an article entitled: "For Starr, Constitution Is Lost In The Chase". Once more, this is not based upon facts just the writer's opinion of Starr's investigation.

Some of the most pious and upright servants of God have been besmirched in this way. Jeremiah was falsely accused by the Captain of the guard of trying to defect to the Chaldeans. He was struck and cast into prison at the anger of the princes because he prophesied that the Chaldeans would destroy Judah due to her sins (Jeremiah 37). The Pharisees often attacked Christ's integrity. "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons" (Matthew 9:34). "Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" (Luke 7:34). Yet, none of his enemies were ever able to find fault in Him (John 18:38; 19:4,6). Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi being falsely accused to teaching the citizens of the Roman city to violate Roman law (Acts 16:20,21). Later, Paul was accused in Jerusalem of bringing a Greek into the temple and thus defiling it (Acts 21:28).

This strategy can effectively turn the focus of the message against the messenger and discourage further preaching of the truth. Christians cannot allow themselves to be dissuaded from exposing sin and error. This effectual maneuver reminds me of the defense attorney who spares his client by showing that the arresting officers may have violated the law in their pursuit of a criminal. One man's sin or crime does not vindicate another man of his.

They Mitigate Clinton's "Mistakes"

Arthur Schlesinger, an eminent historian, defended Clinton's lies as "merely fibbing in a deposition" Again, Grant claimed that "Clinton's lies are low crimes and misdemeanors." Mankind has a knack for turning a felony into a misdemeanor. Perjury is a serious crime in this nation. All lying is a grievous matter before God.

A common defense of the president focuses on how much good he has done and will do for this country. "He has done so much for our country. Let him get back to the agenda of being President." How much good Clinton may or may not have done for this country is an entirely different argument. Regardless of how much good a man has done in the past or might do in the future does not excuse his sinful conduct in the present.

Others say that this is nothing more than "a petty private matter". As Richard Cohen said in the Washington Post: "...we live in an era in which the boundary between public and private has been obliterated..." Starr was not merely meddling in private matters. Adultery is not a private matter. Marriage vows are public. The breaking of those vows in "private" has serious public ramifications. Consider the affect David's little private adultery with Bethsheba had on others. Surely David would not have commanded Nathan to stop meddling in his private affairs.

Most preachers of the Gospel have been confronted time and again with this base maneuver of belittling the sins of others. If he preaches the truth against dancing, drinking, smoking, forsaking the assembling of the saints, immodesty etc. he is quickly told to stop meddling private affairs. After all, it's just "my recreation time", "my body", "my time", "my fashion" etc.

Most of us deplore Clinton's tactics and all the Starr smashing. Let us beware, lest we turn right around and do to the messengers of truth what others are doing to Starr.

On the other hand, standing up for and searching out the truth does not give any brother in Christ a license to be hateful, dishonest or act out of impure, selfish motives. Just as we are commanded to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11) we are also commanded to be "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).


e-mail this author at drvess@juno.com

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