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:
- Cleri's case illustrates the fact that a single lie can indeed undo a thousand previous truths told.
- 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.
- 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…"
- 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.