Pennies for Your Thoughts
What Fox TV's public confessional reveals.
Todd Hertz | posted 6/10/2008 08:55AM
Before appearing on Fox's popular The Moment of Truth (Wednesdays, 8/7c), contestants are asked 21 increasingly personal questions while hooked to a polygraph machine. Then, on camera, they field the same questions while hooked to the lie detector, but this time with loved ones sitting just a few feet away—and a viewing audience of more than 10 million. The more questions they truthfully answer, the more money they win—up to $500,000.
One man, with his spouse sitting in the front row, was asked, "Are you sexually attracted to your wife's sisters?" (He said yes.) A woman, with her mother in the audience, was asked, "Do you want to look like your mom when you are her age?" (She said no.) It gets uncomfortable. Each family is allowed to skip one question if they can't bear to hear the answer.
In one episode, a woman in the hot seat was asked by an ex-boyfriend, "Would you leave your husband for me?" After a few tense seconds, the woman's sister slapped the pass button. The audience let out a chorus of scathing boos. They wanted to know.
I recalled the bloodthirsty crowds in Gladiator, who jeered fighters who would not kill. Like them, this TV audience wanted entertainment, no matter the cost. The difference? Now we want emotional carnage. Perhaps this is a byproduct of our instant, total-access culture. We want to know what Britney Spears is doing right now. We want to know a stranger's dirty laundry. This voyeurism, or "information porn," feels dirty and thrilling. As one Fox exec said of the show, "By the time a participant is done, you know all about them." But should we? . . .
Christians understand the need for honesty and confession; some ugly truths, like the adultery one contestant admitted, must be revealed—privately. But can such public transparency—inspired by monetary gain in front of jeering masses—truly benefit anyone?
Well, apparently Fox.
The ability to know and the need to know: hard to sort out sometimes, aren’t they?
For some time I have been struck by the irony of the fact that Fox broadcasting - which is supposed to be the darling of conservatives for being “fair and balanced” - also promotes some of the trashiest garbage on its “entertainment” venue of any of the networks. Don't conservatives supposedly lament the decay of culture?
An aside: as far as being “fair and balanced” goes, I notice that in its radio news Fox seems to cover the same stories with about the same perspective as any other network. It would be fun and informative to hear the news from a completely different perspective. This would include selecting stories other than those thought to be important by UPI, AP, and the New York Times. As far as I can tell, Fox doesn’t really do that.
Meanwhile, back to the original topic . . .
Christianity Today is quite right to point out the depravity of the whole format of something like “The Moment of Truth.” Our culture constantly craves a vicarious emotional fix. Propriety and decency can’t be allowed to stand in the way of that!
Christians are supposed to be tellers of truth. But that by no means implies that we are under any obligation to tell everyone, or even anyone, all the truths we know. Some truths are appropriately private, rightly shared only with God. Some things are simply no one else’s business. That fact seems to elude many in our culture - especially when there is money to be made.
There is a lamentable tendency today for the church to mimic the culture rather than critiquing it. Churches fashion themselves like a shopping mall or a coffee shop in order to attract crowds.
How long will it be before some congregation - under the faulty guise of “confession” and “truth” - sponsors an evening of a supposedly Christian “Moment of Truth”?