Last week I started to see rumblings tying the current season of The Bachelorette with evangelicalism. I’ve never watched The Bachelorette, but my curiosity was piqued. What was going on? The first thing I saw was a twitter exchange between Luke Parker, a contestant who had just been sent home from the show, and the show’s lead, Hannah Brown. It seems Luke, after being booted from the show, got a twitter account so that he could yell at Hannah on the internet over her sin. Yes, sin. Because she was having sex with the other guys on the show. That sin.
In trying to figure out what had happened, I came upon a blog post titled “The Bible and the Bachelorette” on the Bucky Kennedy Ministries website. (I hadn’t heard of Bucky Kennedy Ministries before now; it was founded and is run by Southern Baptist Convention pastor Bucky Kennedy of Georgia.) Kennedy wrote as follows:
In recent weeks, millions of people have been discussing this question: does Jesus still love Christians who have sex outside of marriage? You’re probably not aware of this conversation unless you’re following the current season of The Bachelorette. Now, you’re also probably wondering why an old preacher like me is taking part in a discussion about the Bible and The Bachelorette. Well, my daughter’s brother-in-law, Luke, is on the show this season. My wife and I have known Luke for nearly five years; and came to know him very well when he lived in our house for a period of time. We love Luke and are glad to have him in our family. So, we definitely took an interest when he decided to be on the show.
While The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are no strangers to discussions on love and sex, introducing Jesus into the conversation is new. You see, this season’s bachelorette, Hannah, is a professing Christian, as is Luke. As a matter of fact, hearing about her outspoken Christianity is the sole reason he went. Luke had never even seen the show. So, two Christians enter a sensual environment where one woman attempts to date over 20 men in hopes of finding a husband. Of course, the series thrives on physical attraction, emotional chemistry, and drama – lots of drama! What could possibly go wrong? Needless to say, it’s a recipe for total chaos.
Lord. This was a terrible idea. And it gets worse from there. As I dug around this story a bit more this week, I came upon this amazing twitter thread by Emily Joy:
Text of tweets:
It really feels like there should be some kind of Evangelical Translator available for this season to explain the significance of everything Luke is saying because it’s laden with context and double meanings #TheBachelorette
No but honestly. He just said he was “on a rescue mission for Hannah” from day 1. This like… peak Bible College Boyfriend. We all know this. I honestly never thought my education would come in handy like this #TheBachelorette
In other words, Luke went into this show because he had heard that Hannah was an outspoken Christian. He saw himself as being on a “rescue mission” to save her. In another tweet, Emily Joy says Luke saw himself as Hosea to Hannah’s Gomer. That comparison is perfect, because yeah, he kind of did. Reading only slightly between the lines, it sounds like Luke believed that Hannah, an outspoken Christian, was putting herself in a compromising situation, and he went in to rescue her, ostensibly from other men but really from herself. From her bad choices. Whether she liked it or not.
This came to a head when Luke confronted Hannah about her sex life. Hannah stood up for herself and pushed back, and ultimately gave Luke the boot. I’d encourage you to watch the two short clips where the two have this conversation (here and here), because Luke is as horrible as you might imagine and Hannah is amazing.
The conversation started with this speech by Luke:
So let’s talk about sex. Because sex is an incredible thing, and it’s a beautiful thing — well, only when it’s within the guidelines of marriage.
This whole process I’ve been studying Hebrews, and it talks about how marriage should be honored by everobydon, and how the marriage bed should be kept pure. I know you’re not a virgin, we’ve had the talk, you know I’m not. I’ve been abstaining myself from sex for three-and-a-half to four years now, and I know that regardless of what I’ve done in the past I’m saving myself for marriage.
I’m very confident that we’re on the same page in our morals, I just want to hear it from your mouth. There are a lot of people that say they believe in something and yet do things completely differently. And thinking about fantasy suites, I’ve heard people proclaim their faith but yet they’ve said things like “I’m excited for fantasy suites, I want to explore this relationship on a sexually intimate level and I’m looking forward to it.” And to me that’s like, woah woah woah what, excuse me? There’s something I’m missing here. Like I don’t believe that’s something you should be doing.
I just want to make sure you’re not going to be sexually intimate with the other relationships here. Like I totally have all the trust in the world for you, but at the same time I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. Like if you told me you’re having sex, or you’ve had sex with one or multiple of these guys, then I’d be wanting to go home, one hundred percent. But if that’s something you’re not going through, then I’m just going to continue to grow the relationship and move on.
Quick note before we get to Hannah’s response. Luke says he has all the trust in the world for Hannah, and that he’s confident that they’re on the same page. Then why is he asking this? Yes, communication is important—but he’s not really asking Hannah what she thinks in this area. If he was, he would just ask. Instead, he tells.
I’d love to have a therapist analyze Luke’s speech. There’s more going on in it, I just can’t pinpoint what all it is. It’s not good, I know that.
Hannah responds as follows:
Like, sex is a very big deal to me, and I’ve said I’ve had sex with two people in my life, and it was long relationships I thought were going to be my husband. But some of the things that you’ve said, I don’t agree with at all. And honestly, I’m kind of mad. Because the way that you just said that, is like, why do you have the right to do that, because you’re not my husband, and you’re not—you’re questioning me and you’re judging me and you feel like you have the right to when you don’t at this point.
I get that when you care for somebody that you don’t want to think about somebody being intimate with another person. But guess what, sex might be a sin outside of marriage, pride is a sin too, and I feel like this is a pride thing.
At this point, Luke breaks in:
Luke: I do want to take a step back to things I’ve said already, and I want you to know that, just reassessing what I’ve told you, like, Hannah, I don’t take it lightly when I say that I love you. Let’s say that I am the last guy. And let’s say you’ve had sex, throw in a crazy scenario, let’s say you’ve had sex with all of these other relationships, all of them. I am willing to do what works through anything. You’re right, I don’t have the right to ask you that, but to me, I just want to know what’s going on, because—
Hannah: But you did.
Luke: You’re right, because that’s the trust—
Wait a minute. Luke felt he could ask Hannah about whether she’s having sex with the other guys—even though he says didn’t have the right to—because of the trust he has for her? Dude really needs to pick up a dictionary.
Hannah: You did ask, and the words you just used were willing, you’re willing to work through this. I’m a grown woman and can make my own decisions, and I’m not strapped to a man right now.
Luke: I don’t want to get into the being misconstrued and being misunderstood thing again, because it’s happened a lot to me through this process—
Hannah: But it’s what you said.
Notice the gaslighting Luke is starting up.
Luke: You’re right, but, to me, okay like, just being real—
Hannah: Yeah, be real.
Luke: I can understand a slip up. But like, with all of them? That’s kind of where I was going with that, if you were like, I want to just have sex with everyone to see what it’s like. And I’d be like, okay, I’m going to talk to you, but you know like, I’m out of here.
Hannah: Woah woah woah. Honestly what you’re saying, the words that you’re saying, are really not okay. Just not okay.
And then Hannah gives this glorious speech:
The closest thing I’ve ever felt to love at first sight was probably with you. And our relationship from the beginning gave me so much hope, and then it was like all this shit kept happening. And honestly, like, you have already broken my heart with this, and truly, and I’ve broken my own heart because I’ve allowed everything.
To ignore all the red flags for how I feel, to have this, and to have you say this about me, and make me feel like you would look at me any differently and judge me and make me feel like you would not think of me as a woman of faith, like I am, and that we aren’t on the same page—
You’re holding other people to a standard that you don’t even live by, maybe because you’ve abstained from sex, but there are a lot of things that you struggle with. And it’s like, became I might want to have or have had sex, you’re Xed off. I could have Xed you off so many times from being my husband from things that I want in a relationship. And that it’s just sex for you, and you’re like, if you’ve had sex then I’m going home.
Well, I want someone who can get along with people, who doesn’t have pride issues, there are so many things that I don’t want out of a husband that you’ve shown, so it’s like—oh my gosh, it’s a big fuck you. That’s what that is.
This is something I’ve written about many times—this idea that all that matters is that you marry a strong Christian and don’t have sex before you marry. And Hannah is saying no, other things matter, like how someone gets along with others, whether they have pride issues, and so forth. This is so important. And it’s also the reason she’s noticing all these warning signs regarding Luke—the reason she was able to avoid what would almost certainly have been an abusive relationship.
Someone else might say that Luke is only acting like this because he cares about Hannah, and that his concern for her purity shows his strength as a Christian and makes him a good choice for a life partner. After all, you need a strong Christian husband who knows how to lead in truth and in strength. (The number of times I’ve heard evangelicals express concern about husbands who don’t know how to lead, and who instead de facto surrender their authority is kind of horrifying.)
But Hannah is woke. She is done giving Luke chances. She now has clarity that he’s not the one, and she tells him so.
And then he refuses to leave. Luke is supposed to stand up from the table and get in a vehicle that is waiting to take him away. Instead, he remains in his seat. Seriously, watch the clip. It’s bananas.
Luke: I feel like you owe me at least a minute to share my heart.
Hannah: I don’t owe you anything! I don’t owe you anything, I have given you so many, so many—oh my god I can’t believe you just said that, I’m so mad. I’m so mad. I don’t owe you anything at this point. Do you not understand that? I have bent over backwards for this relationship! So I don’t owe you anything! Please, get up!
Luke: Can you please just give me one minute here.
Hannah: No. I cannot believe you just said that to me!
But even after Hannah finally gets him to the vehicle, Luke still isn’t done.
Luke: I don’t even care, what you just said, you feeling like that you have clarity on this, I still feel like you don’t. There is something in me that is refusing me to get into that vehicle right now.
If anyone still had any doubts about Luke, this alone should extinguish them. Luke refuses to believe Hannah, and in fact thinks he knows her better than she knows herself. This is dangerous as all get out.
And then, too, Luke adds that last bit—“there is something in me that is refusing me to get into that vehicle right now”—which is another weaponization of his faith. Luke doesn’t say right out that it’s the Holy Spirit that is prompting him not to get into the vehicle, but he and Hannah both speak the same evangelical lingo, and it’s clearly implied. God is telling him that he has more to tell Hannah.
Hannah is so upset with Luke at this point that she starts saying things intentionally to get a rise out of him.
Hannah: I could probably get you to go in that vehicle, from what you said. I am like, so mad. So like, I have had sex.
Luke: Say what?
Hannah: Yeah. And Jesus still loves me. From obviously how you feel, me fucking in a windmill, you probably want to leave.
In other words, Hannah tells Luke that she has been having sex with some of the other contestants—exactly what Luke just said was a dealbreaker.
The last thing we get is this:
Luke: Can I pray over you before I leave?
In confessions to the camera later, Hannah says that Luke is “really obsessed with sex” and that he weaponized her faith against her. She is spot on.
The most interesting thing about Hannah’s faith is that it’s hers—Hannah decides what her faith means for her life. She doesn’t let anyone else tell her what her faith does or does not mean, what she does or does not believe, or what she can and cannot do. I do wonder about the constraints of such a faith, however. In the evangelical world I come from, transgressing communal faith norms could get you in hot water with your family, or put under church discipline, or shamed by your community.
Still, Hannah’s responses to Luke give me hope. She saw through Luke. She recognized the red flags. She took action. Gomer sent Hosea packing. We need more stories like that.
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