Marianne Widmalm

The US ‘Bachelorette,’ Christian Biblical Illiteracy, and Modern Feminism

The popular US Bachelorette/Bachelor TV reality show wrapped up its latest season this summer. The bachelorette was Hannah Brown who proclaimed that she is a devout Christian. The purpose of the show, ostensibly, is for the bachelorette to find someone to marry at the end, despite the obvious problems presented by one person dating several people at once. She and the suitors have romantic dates, and after each show a certain number of contestants are sent home until two, who will likely propose, are left.

In the show prior to the finale, there are four remaining candidates who get an overnight “fantasy suite” date with the bachelorette. The sleaziness of spending a night with four different people right before two of them may propose is dressed up as an opportunity to get to know each other more. One would think that the bachelorette (or bachelor in the show’s twin counterpart) would not exploit this and, at the very least, only be physically intimate with the one she knows she wants to marry.

Luke Parker was a contender for Hannah Brown’s hand and an outspoken Christian who got the first “impression” rose. Several men did not like him, and drama, which this program thrives on, ensued. He was also the last one to be invited to join Hannah in the fantasy suite. Luke had already told her that when he became a Christian, three years earlier, he committed himself to celibacy until marriage. In a cordial manner, he asked Hannah if she had been sexually intimate with anyone on the show before rejecting or accepting the offer. He took it for granted that she had not because he thought they shared the same Christian values on physical intimacy. He wanted to make sure though because if he was wrong, he wanted to leave the show.

When Luke asked Hannah about this, she quickly became fuming mad. She berated him for asking, said he was “judging” her, and told him he had no right to ask because he was not her husband. She acknowledged that sex before marriage “might” be a sin, but pride was too which he was somehow guilty of for being part of the drama with other guys on the show.

Hannah proceeded to say she was “so over being slut-shamed” and alleged Luke was implying that she was not a woman of faith. She pointed out that everyone makes mistakes which is what grace is for, yet never confessed that she had done anything wrong. She scolded him, added that this was “a big F you,” and would not even let him respond to her charges.

As she walked Luke to the car, he vocalized his desire to still be with her. Hannah then said she knew how to change his mind and revealed that she had had sex, twice, and said “Jesus still loves me.” Luke was taken aback, and with a smirk she used the “F” word to describe what she and one contestant did in a windmill. As the car drove away with Luke, she gave him the finger. Hardly classy, much less Christian. What followed was even more stunning.
The next show was the live “men tell all” episode with all the show’s participants and a fair-sized audience. The host, Chris Harrison, interviewed Luke and asked why he, who was not a virgin, made it “a sticking point” that Hannah had sex with other men on the show and questioned if that was “hypocritical.”

While still on the stage in the “hot seat,” other contestants called Luke a misogynist, a psychopath and accused him of wanting to control women. Then Hannah came on the stage. She said her desire for “a man of God” was “almost weaponized” against her and at the end she was “threatened” by the faith that they shared. She continued stating it is common for Christians who believe the same things to “poke” and “call out specific things.” Hannah declared her beliefs were based on “love, and loving others, and understanding and not shaming.” Luke’s love, on the other hand, was “contingent” on his views of what a wife should do, so he did not have an “unconditional love.” Chris Harrison clarified that she was referring to how Luke had shamed her by asking if she had slept with other men in the fantasy suite. She exclaimed “Well yeah” and said Luke was “obsessed with sex” and it was nobody’s business, including Luke’s, what she did in the fantasy suites. The audience applauded in delight.

In a subsequent interview for “Entertainment Tonight” (ET), Chris Harrison boasted about his “wisdom” and “patience” in dealing with Luke and again accused Luke of shaming Hannah. He was proud of her because “he cut that guy off at his knees,” “she owned it” and what he “really loved” was that Hannah’s “empowerment” came from being “vulnerable.”

Everyone’s remarks lacked logic, honesty, and were downright cruel towards Luke. But there was more. The following week the two-part conclusion included Peter—the person Hannah slept with in the windmill, who had just been sent home. At one point the host said that no one will ever look at a windmill the same way again. Everyone laughed, applauded, and Hannah confessed that she had lied to Luke about doing it twice in the windmill: it was four times. The audience, including Peter’s parents, burst into even louder cheers and laughter. Chris Harrison, with oblivious misogyny, said that Peter’s dad’s chest is now “puffed up” thinking “that’s my boy” and declared that “somewhere Luke P’s head just exploded.” Peter concluded that segment saying, “I can still confidently say that Jesus still loves both of us” in a taunt to Luke. Hannah responded, “That’s right, amen,” Peter too said “Amen” while the audience continued with roaring applauses, screams of approval and laughter.

At the end, Hannah chose Jed who, it turned out, had been sleeping with another woman. Not after the proposal, not during the show, but right before the show started. He had continued some romantic communication expressing love which Hannah found out about after the engagement. This was enough for her to break it off. His past sins were deal-breakers no matter how much he apologized. She slept with Peter while dating him, yet she was flabbergasted at Jed. But why? She knew early on that he originally came on the show to further his music career. She gave no grace, no understanding, and called him “selfish.” After doing so, she said she knew what she wanted and had done “all the steps” to prepare for the show and a proposal. The irony was dripping.

No matter what Hannah said or did the audience, host, and other contestants cheered for her. She was not called out for anything by anyone. She is now a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars,” having gained pop culture’s approval because she is a modern secularized Christian.

So, how did this happen? Most people, Christian or not, would not accept their future spouse sleeping with someone else days before an engagement. Yet, this is what Hannah, Chris Harrison, the other contestants, the audience, and scores of people on social media commended. A big reason is surely that it transpired on TV which is somehow supposed to justify it. But I think we can safely say that had a bachelor done what Hannah did, he would have been “shamed” and seen as a stereotypical womanizing two-timer who exploited vulnerable women while pretending to be serious. And rightly so. Yet, because it was a woman acting as a player it was praised.

This is a trend in modern feminism. “Influencer” Nicole Arbour wrote on Hannah’s Instagram “You’re the first bachelorette to act like a bachelor and I am here for it.” But what Hannah did was not empowering, it was degrading. It demonstrated an immature mentality that says: if men can act like that so can we! This sends the message that women gain value and recognition once they can do what men do, and in this case, immoral men. We see this in several areas: worldly career ladders, having positions of power, or acting irresponsibly regarding sex.

This is, in part, because typically female tasks, like child-rearing or cooking, have historically been thought to have less worth. But if women think this is true, they dismiss their own extremely important part in history and agree with those who then, and now, devalue it. It is a form of self-hatred. Women’s work may not have filled the history books the way men’s have, but that is not the measuring stick. At least not for Christians. Also, women have been more sexually conservative in history due to the obvious consequence of carrying children. Now, women think they are free if they can artificially control that.

This brings me to Hannah’s Christian faith. She compared herself to the woman about to be stoned for adultery who Jesus did not condemn. She ignored that Jesus acknowledged the woman’s sin by telling her “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Hannah, by contrast, denied that she had done anything wrong. She wanted a stamp of approval from Luke and implied she already had it from Jesus. Having pre-marital sex is outlawed in the Bible and since Hannah at least knew that “might” be a sin, why the anger at Luke and the flaunting of what she had done? And why did she say she shared Luke’s Christian values? She went so far as saying she was “threatened” by them for the sole reason of him asking if she had slept with other men while dating him, mere days before a possible proposal. Also, Luke never pretended to be perfect and admitted his shortcomings. He was not a hypocrite because he would decline to be with her if she had slept with other men. It meant he had a fundamental moral compass. Most of all, her sexcapades on the show were strong indicators that she did not love Luke and was not ready for the commitment marriage entails with anyone.

Hannah and Peter both insinuated that there was nothing wrong in Christianity with their hook-ups by stating that Jesus still loves them. This is a common cliché in modern culture and a profound misunderstanding of what love is. It is because God loves us that he does not want us to sin because it separates us from Him. As our Creator He is the one who knows what is good and bad for us. Many Christians today think that God does not require you to keep His laws, at least not those regarding sex. It has been replaced by the New-Age mantra: “be true to yourself and follow your feelings.” However, the Bible teaches something radically different. The core principle is self-sacrifice. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “Deny” here means giving up something you want if it is not in line with God’s will.

Jesus taught grace but grace can only exist when you have something you need grace for. That something is sin. Jesus said he came into the world so the blind can see and those who can see will become blind. When the Pharisees—the target of Jesus’ criticism—asked in disbelief: “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus then replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:40-41). Hannah publicly claimed to be a Christian and knew pre-marital sex might be a sin, yet denied her sin, making her just as guilty as the conceited Pharisees. She denied grace to those she thought had wronged her. So, she was the hypocrite. In Christianity, grace is given because God is patient with us even when we do not deserve it, and forgiveness is received after repentance. Jesus was not a sin and hell-denying hippie. He even warned believers that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom (Matthew 7:21).

Finally, accusing someone of “judging” is often misused today in order to silence selected conversations. Of course, everyone’s final judgement belongs to God. However, Christians are called to discern between right and wrong and to take a stand for what is right. Those who often protest “judging” people are usually the ones most guilty of it. Luke did not say anything judgmental about, or to, Hannah, while she judged and condemned him repeatedly.

Chris Harrison, other participants and the audience applauded Hannah, who claimed to be Christian, specifically because she subverted core Biblical teachings on sex. Simultaneously they mocked Luke for wanting a wife who shared his Christian values. This sends false messages about what Christianity stands for to millions of people watching the show, which the show’s host and producers clearly endorsed.

Paul said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is the real “equal opportunity.” Everyone can use their free will to do what is right which may mean taking a countercultural stand. Jesus said in John 18:15 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” It is what God thinks that matters and He is the One who gives us value. Most of all, since God is love you cannot know real love apart from Him. Choosing His way leads to righteousness, integrity and self-respect—something horribly lacking in this years “Bachelorette.”

About the Author
I am a native of Sweden who lives in Ann Arbor, MI where I received my B.A. in Religion & International Politics and M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a concentration in the Hebrew Bible, from the University of Michigan. My two books: “Our Mother – the Holy Spirit” (Relevant Publishers LLC. US, 2019) and “God is not Alone: Our Mother – the Holy Spirit” (Avalon publishing, UK, 2015) developed out of a thesis that was published 2005 in the late Professor Noel Freedman’s journal “the Biblical Historian” and called “God’s Wife.” On a personal note I love animals and work on a private horse-farm, and have many other interests such as dancing, judo, ping-pong, running, swimming and skiing. I also have two grown children.
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