Does religion play a role in the type of person you date? If you’re an evangelical Christian, would you date a Muslim? If you’re a Jew, would you date a Mormon? On ABC’s popular reality television show, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” one person is presented with a couple dozen options of potential spouses. All of the contestants are attractive, physically fit, and in the same age range. But there’s one factor producers don’t seem to consider: faith.
The current Bachelorette, Emily Maynard, is an evangelical Christian, but one of her suitors, Jef Holm, attends a Mormon church. (He says he is not an “active Mormon,” but attends church services regularly.) Wouldn’t this be an issue for one – or both – of them? After all, marrying outside of one’s faith is a major reason for divorce. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, indicated that “people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.”
Yet, ABC producers don’t seem to be sensitive to this “faith factor.” For example, when Jason Mesnick was selected as the first Jewish Bachelor, producers set him up with 25 non-Jewish women. On Jewish websites, fans complained, “Intermarriage, brought to you by ABC.” Later, when the non-religious Bachelorette Ashley Hebert was cast, she showed interest in Bentley Williams, a 28-year-old divorced Mormon from Salt Lake City. However, Bentley wanted to marry someone within his religion and was indifferent to Ashley. (His cruel lack of interest got him branded a super-villain, and she later picked Jewish J.P. Rosenbaum. She later converted to Judaism.)
However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a solution to all of this religious-confusion: The Mormon Bachelorette, an online spin-off of the ABC Bachelor/Bachelorette series. The show was created after Erin Elton and Aubrey Laidlaw applied to be on ABC’s show, but weren’t chosen as potential suitors. Realizing their faith was a central of their dating choices, they created the Mormons-Only web series. Aubrey was the first Mormon Bachelorette, and — sure enough — ended up with a temple wedding. (That’s the ultimate goal. In fact, studies show that marriages which take place in the temple are some of the most successful. According to a 2000 study, only 6% of those who undergo the demanding temple marriage break up.)
After three seasons, hers is the only wedding that The Mormon Bachelor has produced. Yet, this is still a much higher percentage than ABC’s The Bachelor’s track record of zero successful marriages. In fact, only four couples have stayed together from this franchise: Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney, Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum, and Ben Flajnik and Courtney Robertso. Sadly, even host Chris Harrison is divorcing.
Will other religions follow suit and create their religion-specific dating shows?
And take note, ABC. If you are really interested in creating successful marriages, maybe you should pay attention to a contestant’s faith as much as their hair extensions, abs, and dental veneers.
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