To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ... I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8 vv 31-32, 34-36
I was flicking through the channels the other night in the ad breaks of one of my favourite TV shows. No, not a hard-hitting documentary series on climate change, unfortunately. Not a panel of intellectuals discussing world politics, either. Project Runway. :)
Anyway, I was unfortunate enough to run into a show called Moment of Truth on another channel. Has anyone else seen this ghastly attempt to entertain? Basically, the contestant is asked a series of questions in front of their closest friends and family, and if a lie detector confirms they have told the truth, they get closer and closer to winning half a million dollars. It starts off "small"; 'do you still fantasise about people other than your wife?' 'would you break up with your boyfriend if your ex wanted to get back with you?' 'have you ever embezzled money?' Then it gets bigger. 'do you secretly hate your father?' 'have you continued a sexual relationship with someone other than your husband during your marriage?'
Sadly, the answers are often what the show's producers are obviously looking for - shocking.
Aside from the obvious question of why people with big secrets would put themselves into a show like this in the first place, I found myself confused and horrified at the way this show messed with the truth. Yes, what these people were doing was technically being honest - but they were also shaming or breaking the hearts of their loved ones and ruining their own lives in front of millions of people, and then the audience would cheer because they've just won ten grand and their loved ones would hug them with stiff smiles, if things turned out dignified.
To be honest (no pun intended, seriously), I can see why such a show could take off. It's definitely got the voyeurism of successful reality TV, with a nice chunk of moral condemnation thrown in. "My, my," we can say from our living rooms as we salivate in excited horror over someone who has just confessed to some sordid history, "what a disgusting woman. Her poor husband. But at least she's won 100 grand."
Isn't it weird how truth is so unfashionable these days, unless it's in some context like this? And isn't it unavoidable how these "truths" on this TV show have absolutely no power to set a person free? What this show broadcasts as the truth is really a manipulation. There are some secrets that should not be told before an audience of millions, and which should definitely not be told for a nice pay-out of a few thousand dollars. I wonder if the girl who told her husband she would rather be married to her ex is happy now with her twenty-five grand.
People like to quote Jesus' words, "the truth will set you free", in many different contexts. Heck, one of my English lecturers last year wouldn't agree with me that that phrase actually came from the Bible, saying "I don't think Karl Marx would agree with you!" (That's another story, but that was one amusing class.) But at risk of sounding too postmodern, Jesus wasn't talking about just any truth. Yes, there are "truths" outside following Jesus. It's true that I am a sinner and will probably make a whole series of big mistakes throughout my life, most of which I don't want anyone to know about, even for thousands of dollars. However, the truths that are really worth knowing are not sordid confessions of hopeless people, but the truth that Jesus can rise above them, bringing us hope and love and redemption by his blood. That is freedom.