Perspective: Monica Lewinsky Challenges Us All to #ClickWithCompassion

(Spectrumbot) #1

In 1998, I was 14 years old. My memories include navigating 8th grade and Algebra, my crooked teeth feeling the injustice of braces, and the excitement of setting up my very first email account.

I also remember the scandal that rocked a nation that year: a scandal with Monica Lewinsky at its epicenter. I remember the names she was called. I remember the judgment rained down upon her from news outlets and pulpits alike. I remember those who said she deserved to be persecuted in the media: she deserved the names, the negative attention…after all, “what did she expect?” What I don’t remember from that time is mercy, empathy, or compassion.

So, when I came across Monica Lewinsky’s recent TED Talk entitled, “The Price of Shame,” I was curious. She, perhaps better than anyone, knows exactly what that price is. In her moving speech, which is sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, but at all times sincere, she addresses the chronic issue of cyber bullying head on.

We’ve come a long way since 1998 when the Internet was still in its infancy. Now we have Facebook and Twitter, blogs and vlogs, comment sections and slews of commenters who are quick to voice their opinions to the world. And what of those opinions? Sometimes thoughtful and thought-provoking, yes. But more often callous, biting and malicious. We still have a cavernous deficit of mercy, empathy, and compassion.

Monica Lewinsky is just one in a long line of individuals and corporations that have shed light on the ongoing crisis of cyber bullying and its long-lasting, often permanent, effects. Coca Cola’s Super Bowl ad, which Bonnie Dwyer discussed in her recent editorial, is one such example.

I see ads like Coca Cola’s and hear speeches like Monica Lewinsky’s and I’m reminded of negative and hurtful messages that have been directed at me. I also remember times when it was I who was less-than-kind online. As a millennial, I have never known a world without cyber bullying. It has been an accepted part of my understanding; just as unavoidable as Algebra and braces. But unlike Algebra and braces, cyber bullying isn’t a distant memory. It is an ever-growing, relentless problem in our technologically-driven lives.

Never before in the history of our world have the words of so many held so much power. Power that is too often used to attack, belittle, and bully. Words hurled viciously in the relative safety and anonymity afforded to anyone with a username and an Internet connection.

When we enter the gauntlet of the Internet and appoint ourselves judge, jury and executioner while cruelly attacking the character of others, our only accomplishment is the dehumanization of ourselves.

What if instead, we used our words and their power to bolster and encourage those with whom we share this planet? Perhaps in doing so, we’d regain some of the humanity we’ve lost along the way.

As Ms. Lewinsky so eloquently states: “We all want to be heard. But let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.” I am ready to accept this challenge: a challenge to make the world just a little bit better. A challenge to #ClickWithCompassion. Are you?

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor for

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Kevin Paulson) #2

Bullying of any kind, online or otherwise, is contemptible for decent persons in general and Christians in particular. Whatever one thinks of anyone’s character or conduct, grace and civility should govern dialogue in any and all settings, on the Internet or elsewhere.

For me, what was most noteworthy—and unfortunate—about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair was the fact that the President of the United States was being condemned, urged to leave office, and eventually impeached (though not in the end convicted) on the basis of a scandal that didn’t—and still does not—belong in the realm of secular politics. Had Bill Clinton and/or Monica Lewinsky been members of a church of which I was pastor, both would have been subjected to the Biblical process of redemptive discipline. But the United States of America is not a theocracy, and to punish (or urge the punishment) of a secular officeholder on account of a consensual relationship with another adult, is beyond the purview of civil government in a non-theocratic state.

Even in the secular media, I was troubled during that period by the blurring of the line between the identification of consensual and coercive behavior in the various journalistic commentaries. The notion was nurtured in many quarters that “womanizing” and “predatory behavior” were one and the same thing, when in fact the latter is about coercion, something rightfully forbidden in a secular context, while the former is usually identified simply as a penchant for a man to have sexual affairs outside of marriage. Both are obviously forbidden by Scripture and many other religious writings, but in a society where neither religious nor cultural conservatism is the law of the land, one must leave consensual misdeeds of the sort President Clinton engaged in, between him, his wife, his partners, his conscience, and his God.

Nothing in the Constitution of the American Republic requires public officials to uphold by word or deed any particular set of religious or cultural behavior standards of a consensual nature. What I found, as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and theologian, to be most significant about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, was the evident erosion of the line between church and state and the growing acceptance of the idea that adherence to popularly-held behavior standards of a purely consensual nature can become an unwritten measure of propriety by which public figures can suffer both public vilification and even legal prosecution.

In short, there isn’t much if any daylight—at least in my opinion—between impeaching a President for nonmarital, consensual sex with a fellow adult, and prosecuting people for going to church on the “wrong” day.

(Ian Cheeseman) #4

Kevin I don’t often agree with you on some of your pronouncements, but on this one I agree 100%.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. One has to go back as far as Harry Truman to find a president with high personal moral and then back to Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. Tom Z

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #6

I agree that a President’s adultery per se “is beyond the purview of civil government in a non-theocratic state.” However, the discussion at the time included the essential concern of whether sex between a young WH intern & the leader of the free world could truly be consensual—as you describe that relationship.

This same concern is the one that deems sex between a physician & patient, therapist & counselee, pastor & parishioner, teacher & student, etc., more grievous than adultery. These involve a person violating the power, authority, & trust inherent in a privileged position. These cannot be “consensual adult relationships.”

I fear you are insinuating that we reject this recognition of what is sexual abuse. Perhaps, just perhaps, you’re trying to hereby dismiss Samuel Koranteng-Pipim’s serial sexual abuse as mere “misdeeds.” I hope not, but there’s too many connections going on.

(David Read) #7

I seem to recall that Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, felony crimes for which he was disbarred from the State Bar of Arkansas. The impeachment was not about his string of extramarital affairs.

Nevertheless, the sort of sexual behavior Clinton engaged in is scandalous; the American people should demand better of a chief executive and head of state.

(Kevin Paulson) #8

Well David, I assume you will hold Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson to the same standard—all of whom, evidence suggests, had extramarital affairs. Thomas Jefferson was involved with a slave, who certainly didn’t have a choice in the matter.

(Kevin Paulson) #9

“Hopeful,” the problem with making the affair between Clinton and Lewinsky into a case of “abuse” is that she threw herself at the President, and wanted the relationship very much. No one has even alleged that the President forced himself upon her.

Regarding Sam Pipim, all we know for sure is that he committed adultery, to which he has admitted and for which he has been removed from the ministry. If any criminal acts were committed by Dr. Pipim, no one has pressed charges and thus there has been no adjudication of the matter. In light of this, claims beyond what he has acknowledged belong strictly in the realm of speculation, as no one has proved them.

(David Read) #10

You know, Kevin, I posted a comment about the exact nature of what Clinton was accused of while in the oval office, and it disappeared. I’m not sure if it was deleted by a moderator or if there was a technical glitch. Suffice it to say that the type of serial sexual misconduct that Clinton engaged in is not comparable to anything I’ve heard of in relation to Washington or Jefferson, and shouldn’t be tolerated by the American people. Just my opinion. The stories about Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein, and the latter’s private island, suggest that Clinton is unreformed.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #11

Yep, you confirm my suspicion. The “no legal charges” is a diversion. The Michigan Conference which was Pipim’s employer, announced publicly that they’d determined his sexual acts were predatory.

Better read up on the definition & consequences of sexual abuse by professionals. Any sexual activity is inappropriate regardless of who initiates it. The power discrepancy is what defines it as non-consensual. This makes Pipim’s “adulteries” sexual abuse.


I voted for Clinton twice and thought he was an amazingly effective President–especially granted the amount he got distracted by other things. But Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, not sexual activity. It’s just that many onlookers and probably even some participants in the impeachment process had trouble grasping that nuance–that punishing someone for lying about sex isn’t the same thing as punishing him for engaging in sex.

Here’s what happened: A woman–Paula Jones–sued Clinton for sexual harassment. Maybe he was guilty. Maybe he wasn’t. That was for the court to decide. Jones claimed Clinton had a pattern of such behavior. But on the witness stand, Clinton lied under oath rather than allow her contention to be confirmed.

In my book, Clinton should have been thrown out of office. Not because he was guilty of extramarital hanky-panky. Not even because he was guilty of coercive sex (by definition) where there was a dramatic differential of power. But because he was willing to rob a fellow citizen of her civil right to a fair hearing in a court of law by refusing to tell the truth under oath.


Come on Paulson, you should know better than accuse Jefferson of relations with a slave when it cannot be proven.
Let’s be honest about whom we accuse of immoral conduct.

(k_Lutz) #14

What a bunch of bullies!

You can’t deal compassionately with the topic so wrangle it around to your favorite whipping boy. Shame on you!

Trust God.

(George Tichy) #15

The Agreement of the Year: George agreeing with Kevin!!! :slight_smile:

Clinton’s only mistake in handling that situation was to make public comments on an issue that had nothing to do with the public or the government itself. Had he stayed quiet nothing would have happened. Nobody’s business!

Edit: I am not saying that I in any way support what he did. It was wrong, indeed.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #16

It isn’t an “accusation.”

“In 1997, Dr. Eugene Foster, a retired medical professor, began investigating the possibility of a genetic link between living descendents of Thomas Jefferson and those of Sally Hemings. He compared the blood from five descendents of Field Jefferson, Thomas’s paternal uncle, with the blood of the descendants of Sally Hemings, Thomas Woodson, and the Carrs. The DNA was extracted from the blood samples at the University of Virginia, then sent to Oxford, England where it was tested by three different laboratories. The results showed a match [see chart] between the Y chromosomes of the Field Jefferson descendents and the Eston Hemming descendent, providing strong support to the theory that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one of Sally Hemings’s children. The chances that this match happened by coincidence are less than .1 percent.”

(Andrew) #17

But, of course, many women are attracted to powerful men. So it’s a win, win in those circumstances.

Are relationships ever truly equal? I think not.

(Andrew) #18

They both should have kept there mouths shut!

(Kim Green) #19

The “relationship” between Hemmings and Jefferson may have started in England or in France when Jefferson served as an ambassador there. We will never know whether or not the relationship was entirely consensual…but we do know that Sally and her children (most likely fathered by Jefferson as you mentioned) were the only slave family that Jefferson freed. Jefferson was hemmed in by the social mores of the times and could not have legally married her.

(Andrew) #20

I think cyber bullying is one of the biggest social challenges of our age.

It was brought home to me when I watched a documentary about it. An adolescent boy of 14 suffered cyber bullying for years. He was in a remarkably normal home with loving parents who had a good relationship with the boy. The boy never told his parents about the problem and one day walked out, saying goodbye. He went out and committed suicide.

We need our education system and parents to guide young people in the same standards of personal interaction as we do with conventional social environments.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #21

I wasn’t discussing just any women & their attractions. The problem I’ve clearly described is sex between individuals in a professional relationship. It’s abuse & malpractice. How convenient for “powerful men” that anyone still regards it a “win-win.”