Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Moment of Truth after All

Few episodes of recent popular culture have been as ripe for analysis and pontification as Lauren Cleri's appearance on the Fox reality show "Moment of Truth." Contestants on the show win money by truthfully answering a series of increasingly personal and compromising questions. No matter how much a contestant has earned through previous questions, a single dishonest answer wipes out the entire balance (Prior to taping, each contestant has already answered the questions while under examination by a polygraph).

Cleri's appearance was noteworthy because she voluntarily chose to admit on national television that she wishes she were married to her ex-boyfriend and that she has committed adultery. After winning $100,000 and proceeding toward $200,000 by these admissions, Cleri then lost everything by dishonestly stating that she thinks that she is a good person. Cleri went home with no prize money and with the likely prospect of losing her marriage.

I can think of more ways to interpret this event than I have energy to write about. Lauren Cleri will be mentioned in a lot of sermons over the next few months to illustrate one thing or another. Here are a few of the ones that come to mind for me:

  1. Cleri's case illustrates the fact that a single lie can indeed undo a thousand previous truths told.
  2. Cleri barely concealed a smirk while she contemplated announcing to the world that she had committed adultery. Many preachers will likely use this story to demonstrate how shallow and uncertain is today's commitment to marriage.
  3. It is awfully important for people to develop early in their lives a list of convictions that start with the words, "Even for a million dollars, I would never, ever…"
  4. The ending comments of Cleri's contest ruminate over whether she has been able to forgive herself for the things that she has done. Her need for the forgiveness of her husband and family receives very little attention, and not at all does anyone address the idea that she might need to seek forgiveness from God.

In addition to these themes, I want to assert that Cleri's moment of dishonesty represents a remarkable moment of truth, not about her, but about the culture that we have built (and I believe that it is pretty doggone important to acknowledge that culture is not just the house that we live in—it is the house that we build for ourselves to live in). Cleri has abandoned all shame and has developed a brash openness about her own misguided (unguided?) sexuality. She's come to a place in her life where she's prepared to invite the world into her bedroom to peruse her lusts and deviancies. Yet ultimately, in spite of her twenty-first-century openness regarding her hormones, Cleri has lost the ability to be honest with her own self about the questions that really matter—Am I a good person? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?

In so many ways, hers is a story that is being played out all around us.


Blackhaw said...

"Cleri has abandoned all shame and has developed a brash openness about her own misguided (unguided?) sexuality. She's come to a place in her life where she's prepared to invite the world into her bedroom to peruse her lusts and deviancies. Yet ultimately, in spite of her twenty-first-century openness regarding her hormones, Cleri has lost the ability to be honest with her own self about the questions that really matter—Am I a good person? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?"

I think that maybe instead of her losing the ability to be honest with herself, it actually shows that inside she really knows she has done wrong and is not a good person. If she really thought she was a good person (thus lying to herself) then I do not think that the machines (or whatever they use) would have caught her. Most likely they use machines that demonstrate that she is lying by physical reponses. However if she thinks she is not lying then she would not have those responses. It is only if she knew deep down that she was lying that she could be caught.

It is funny though that she was willing to announce her adultery and her love for her ex-boyfriend but chose to lie about whether she was a good person or not. I do not think anyone really wants to admit to everyone else that they are not a good person.

Bart Barber said...


It's tough to do this without getting all psychoanalytical, isn't it? I know it is for me.

Looking at the video, she looks genuinely surprised at the polygraph results. Yet what you are saying is necessarily true at some level. Subconsciously she knows that she is not a good person. Consciously she is in denial about that truth. Is that the answer? Any polygraph experts out there?

Jonathon said...

I am no theologian and not a polygraph expert. But deep down don't you think she knows that she is not a good person? Doesn't Romans 1 say that we have "supressed" the truth, implying that we know the truth about God and about ourselves?

We suppress the truth about God and "exchange it for a lie" (Rom 1:25) But not only that "they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die..." (Rom 1:32)

Does that imply then that she did in fact know, on a deep level, that she was not a good person and has suppressed that truth and replaced it with the lie that she is actually "good"?

Maybe I am way off on using Romans 1 here.

Amanda said...

That question is just like what they use on The Way of the Master to begin the presentation of the Gospel message...too bad Kirk Cameron wasn't there.

It breaks my heart to see this.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Oh Bart.

volfan007 said...


what is it? do you have something to confess?


Bart Barber said...


I think that Romans 1 applies perfectly here. Of course, you are a theologian. We all are who read the Bible and seek to understand it. And from what I read in this comment, you're a pretty good one. You've said what I meant to say, only with much greater clarity.

Bart Barber said...


Kirk Cameron? I just wish that YOU had been there.

Bart Barber said...

Volfan, I think that Debbie is, together with us, expressing utter shock that such a thing took place on national television.

Debbie, if I read you incorrectly, you'll have to let us know what you mean.

selahV said...

Bart, when I saw the trailers advertising that show, it made me sick. My husband and I both say this show will not last long. It wreaks. It is a sad indictment to the lengths people will go for money and also the media will go to exploit another's failures, sins and weaknesses.

May we all pray for that lady and her present husband. selahV

Debbie Kaufman said...

You read me correctly Bart. I should have gone further into detail. I would agree with selahV in that at least I hope this type of programming doesn't last long.

Tim Guthrie said...

Great insight on this true life example of why as Christians must get busy reaching and teaching!

What blows me away is that we have arrived at a time and place in culture where people make money off of the lies of others and people view the events and call it entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Defendant Paige Patterson refused to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” at the beginning of his deposition Monday.

Bart Barber said...

And then, on Wednesday, anonymous lurked in the shadows spewing out lies.

Bart Barber said...

I knew that readership over at SBC Outpost had plummeted, but I didn't know that it was so bad that you people have to troll other blogs to try to generate interest in your venom.

Anonymous said...

The question "Are you a good person" is the most loaded question ever asked.

Tim B

volfan007 said...


my comment was just a joke...a play on the confession tv reality show. i should have put a :) after it.


volfan007 said...


also, someone from the outpost crowd came to my blog with some trash. you know, the outpost is kind of like this game show you have on this post. national enquiror type of stuff that has no relevance.

i have written on my blog about the hate and venom that seems to dominate certain people's hearts. you can see it coming from thier words, and their obsessive, personal attacks. it's sad.

God bless you, bart, my friend. i truly pray that the Lord will bless you real good today.


Debbie Kaufman said...

come on fellas. You can accuse the Outpost of anything you want, but not telling the truth is not one of them. I did not realize this was the direction you were heading or I never would have even read this blog. Should we go back to the archives and see some of the vitriol that has been published by some of you? I have yet to see apologies from some of those posts. Some not to long ago. As I said on David's blog, I really don't want to hear it.

Debbie Kaufman said...

that should be too long ago. Anonymous should reveal themselves however. It's the courageous thing to do. I agree with him, but not his/her posting anonymously.

Bart Barber said...


I DIDN'T head this direction. That WASN'T the point of this post. Your beef is with Anonymous, not with me.

But if you want to talk about "telling the whole truth," Debbie, let's do it.

1. Ben told that the GOP had leased the LDC over at SWBTS, but he didn't tell that the building was specifically offered to the DNC, did he? That little fact made a difference to a lot of people, and it certainly is a portion of "the whole truth," but we didn't read that on Outpost, now did we?

2. We didn't get the whole truth about the comparison of graduation figures at DTS and SWBTS last year, now did we (see my articles here and here)?

3. And finally, to bring us into the present, Debbie, there is a vast difference between refusing to tell the truth and refusing to take an oath. Ben's story over at Outpost begins by alleging that Dr. Patterson "refused 'to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' at the beginning of his deposition." The story then makes not even a single allegation of any testimony in which Dr. Patterson supposedly did not tell the truth. Rather, it merely asserts that he did not take the oath. Debbie, there are people who take the oath and then refuse to tell the truth, and there are people who refuse to take the oath but then live up to its expectations anyway. Has Ben confused the two, or is he just misleading people?

4. And finally, how many people are there out in the world under the impression that SWBTS never replied to Ben's letter asking for salary information? Debbie, do you believe that SWBTS refused to respond? Is that the whole truth?

Bart Barber said...

I "finally"d twice. My bad.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Since no money is riding on whether I tell the truth or not let me say truthfully.I did not have in mind anything about saleries. SWBTS skirted the issue at best. That is the same as not responding, so yes, they did not respond.

The fact that Paige did not take the oath due to Anabaptist teachings tells me that he just showed the people that he may not tell the truth, even though he could be. That is damaging to him. I do believe it is a thumbing of the nose to the court system. Again in the name of religion. So the answer again is yes.

As for your first point, it made no difference to me and many other people. The point is the numbers at SWBTS are not rising. They are falling or staying the same at best. So again Bart, yes I believe what Ben wrote to be the "truth, the whole truth so help me God" How's that for honesty. Now could I point out the fallacy in many of the posts written of late by those who would agree with you? I guarantee you I would not due it for the space it would take up. This isn't a war Bart, yet many want to make it that. That does not mean the truth should not be told. Documents, recordings, it's hard to deny the truth in them. In my opinion, the SBC needs more than reform, it needs tearing down and building up again. Yep, it's that bad. Politics has replaced Christ. Period. That my friend is dangerous. I pray that you see it as dangerous too. I do not hate but love you, Tim(both Tims), david etc. even Paige. But I cannot tolerate where I believe the Bible and history are being rewritten and not to bring people into the fold, we give them the gospel, then when they believe it, we throw other things they must believe in order to stay in the fold. That is wrong Bart. Biblically, God given, wrong.

Bart Barber said...

1. So, Debbie, you're saying that you've seen SWBTS's response?

2. So, Debbie, you're saying that a Mennonite who refuses to take the oath is incapable of telling the truth? Or only Dr. Patterson?

3. My "first point" was about the whole GOP / DNC business. You seem not to have addressed that one.

4. As to the numbers, I have no doubt that the omissions and inaccuracies at Outpost do not matter to you and do not matter to a great many people.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I have answered Bart. You may not like the answer, but I have answered. I also see this line from your post that you would agree with me on, you wrote this: documented proof. :)

I am not saying that my good friend Ben Cole is a liar. In my opinion, he is among the more honest people involved in the debates of the past year.

Now will you under oath state that you did indeed write this Bart? :)

It makes no difference to me. The error was fixed was it not? That would add not take away credibility. It has built your credibility with me substantially when you have done it. The numbers are down. Do I believe it is because of Paige? Frankly, yes I do. Not all, but a lot.

As for the oath. I am speaking perception.It will be perceived by the public as a out to be able to lie. This will hurt his credibility I believe

My husband's family is Mennonite Bart, so be careful.I belonged to a Mennonite church for 2 years. I know Mennonite doctrine pretty well and I don't think Baptists accept it, it goes outside of Baptist Identity. I'm sure they would fit the exclusion criteria. At the risk of offending the Mennonite community and my own in laws, there have been a lot of Mennonite scandals, adultery, homosexuality and yes lies in the past 24 years of my marriage into the family. This in the church from parishioners and ministers. It was quite a problem. This I know for a fact. So yes, I would be skeptical.

Bart Barber said...

1. Not answered.

2. I'm not embracing any point of Mennonite doctrine. I'm merely showing your inconsistency. For a person to balk at taking an oath does not ipso facto mean that person has "refused 'to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.'" Unless all Mennonites who go to court are liars, my point is well taken.

3. Not answered (twice now)

That's enough.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Not answered the way you want me to twice now. You are right that is enough. It's your blog Bart, you can squash discussion anytime you want.Just remember, you asked. :)

volfan007 said...


do you wear those gray dresses with the white bonnets?

also, bart, i know of two, young men that are planning on attending swbts in the fall. one of them is fixing to move down there in about three or four weeks. he's a fine fella. you should look him up. the other one has not made his mind completely up. but, he's leaning very heavily towards swbts.

not all young people are shying away from the "big, bad" dr. patterson....are they?


Debbie Kaufman said...

Ha ha david. No those are Holdeman Mennonite. Mennonites(at least my husband's side)also claim to be Anabaptists. They too will not swear oaths for the same reasons Paige has given. They are separatists, but peace lovers and a lot nicer. :)Whenever you see a Mennonites obituary in the paper, you will notice that the date of their baptism is included. It's very important to them. There is a reason but I'd have to write a post to tell all their beliefs. Needless to say there is another reason why my husband and I are Southern Baptists by choice. :)

Anonymous said...

The "truth" according to Debbie and the Outpost "reporters."

(eye roll)

Jonathon said...

Interesting that Paige Patterson doesn't swear due to the same reasons an Anabaptist wouldn't. He believes Baptist get their origin there....the Anabaptist Kinship theory is I believe what he holds to.

That is opposed to an English Separatist decent theory of say a Leon Mcbeth or Chad Brand.

Anyway, just clicked in my head when I read the above comment.