I admit it, I do it too.
When I watch a tv show, I look for signs of faith or Christianity and am always pleasantly surprised when someone “speaks the language” — maybe they’ll say they were “blessed” instead of “lucky.” Maybe they’ll refer to their faith in oblique ways.
This has happened on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette more than once.
In 2010, Methodist Jake Pavelka was nominated by his fellow church members who thought he could act better than previous contestants, with all of their drinking and sex. On the first night, contestants were asked, “Do you believe in premarital sex?” and, “What is the most important thing in your life?” Jake answered, “God,” and when asked for his definition of love, he quoted Scripture.
In 2012, Emily Maynard never referred to herself as a Christian on the show, she wore a cross bracelet, bought a crucifix off the street on a date, frequently claimed to be “blessed,” and said she was planning a missions trip to Africa. Though she was not married when she conceived her daughter, she said she won’t live with anyone before getting married,won’t have steamy hot tub scenes, and prayed before agreeing to be The Bachelorette.
No one can forget Christian Sean Lowe (I certainly can’t, because I collaborated with him on his New York Times best selling book For the Right Reasons: America’s Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First.) This guy’s faith was the real deal, and he was skewered for his decision to save sex for marriage. In fact, he and Catherine even took a lie detector test on live TV for Jimmy Kimmel, who thought the idea of waiting was preposterous.
This season, Ben Higgins might even be more up front about his faith. He was the director of a “faith based” volunteer group in Peru, he interned at the Warsaw Community Church, he even has a tattoo that says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Also, Sean Lowe has written that Ben is “has a heart for Jesus.”
This season, when the inevitable “fantasy suite” episode came up last week, many viewers at home were hoping for some grand stand, some moral proclamation that Ben will NOT be partaking in whatever happens behind those closed doors. But he didn’t make that proclamation. In fact, he said yes to all three of Chris Harrison’s invitations to “forego your own rooms.” (Yes, with all three different girls.)
I don’t want to go into why people shouldn’t have pre-marital sex, not now. (For a great resource on this, read “How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Even Begins.”) I want to talk about our misplaced desire to find a “good Christian person” on television to root for. It doesn’t take a scholar to read the Bible and conclude that people disappoint. In fact, Courtney Ressig, writing for the Gospel Coalition, talks about the people who are in the Bible and how they fell short:
Abraham put his wife in danger by lying about her being his sister (Gen. 12:10-20; Gen. 20:1-18). Aaron followed the people he was charged to lead and gave them a golden calf, rather than pointing them to God as the one deserving of their praise (Ex. 32). Moses responded in anger, thus failing to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:10-13). Saul cared more about himself than obeying God (1 Sam. 15). David’s sin with Bathsheba tainted his ability to lead for the remainder of his reign (2 Sam. 24:1-17). Zechariah failed to trust God completely in providing a child for him (Luke 1:18-20). Peter could be rash and proud (John 13:36-38).
Me too. As Ressig points out, the sad reality is that we are disappointed and disappointing.
That cuts to the real reason Ben’s decision was hard to watch: because we want someone, somewhere to rise the occasion and do the right thing. Just like the children of Israel in the Bible, we tend to bow down to people and hope they can somehow represent the strength that only comes from God himself.
Yes, even on silly reality tv shows (or athletic fields or Presidential debate stages), we’re dismayed when people fall short.
We shouldn’t be.
My pastor has said this: when people mess up — especially people who have expressed faith in God — it doesn’t discredit the gospel. It further proves that people need a savior.
So instead of looking at Ben Higgins’s decision to go to the fantasy suite, let’s all take a moment to look at ourselves. Even better, let’s take a moment to look up to God, who is rich in mercy and wants to give us good things.
Someone, somewhere has risen to the occasion and done the right thing. And that’s all it took.
Buy my New York Times Best Selling Book with Sean Lowe: For the Right Reasons: America’s Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First
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