Savannah and Maggie go with Caleb to church on Sunday. Caleb is asked to speak at his church during the evening worship service about the process of the show and what to look for in a relationship. There’s a Q&A at the end and Caleb is asked if he’s made a decision yet. He chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m not going to answer that,” he says. “Both Savannah and Maggie are wonderful sisters in Christ. It’s not an easy place to be. I’ve got a tough choice to make.”
Some of the congregants want to take pictures of Caleb with Savannah and Maggie afterwards. Caleb complies, but later, as he talks to Savannah, he’s not sure that was a great idea.
Caleb: “I just wonder what that means. Am I putting myself on a pedestal as a celebrity through this, when really I’m just trying to see if I can find the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?”
Savannah: “I understand, Caleb. Was there anything about it particularly that bothered you?”
Caleb: “I became a celebrity. And I don’t want to be a celebrity.”¹
I recently finished the eight-episode run of The Christian Bachelor, my first foray into Christian satire. That part of it was a lot of fun. But really, I wanted to poke fun at while explore the ramifications of reality dating shows as well as Christian dating culture.
Here are some things I wanted to hint at through the story.
The celebrity culture of reality TV meets Christian culture.
You know those trashy magazines in the grocery store aisle? I know this is a cliché, but I often see Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants gracing the covers and some of the stories teased on the cover. Sometimes, contestants do something so nuts and so crazy that it makes national news. For instance, Sean Lowe, the 17th Bachelor and self-professed Christian, stirred conversation when he announced he was saving sex for marriage and was labeled the “Virgin Bachelor.” There’s a sense of celebrity that’s attached to the central character of Bachelor/Bachelorette shows.
In the scene I shared at the top of this post, there’s a glimpse of that in the church Caleb attends. Anytime a Christian makes waves in some mainstream culture institution, the church goes nuts over it. “It’s one of ours! Look at the platform! Look at the opportunity for the Gospel!” There’s a lot of pressure on those people that is not necessarily fair.
But that’s the Christian celebrity culture. Those people in the spotlight have to be perfect. They have to do everything right. If they slip up once, there’s an instant judgement. And we see all their slip-ups because they’re in the spotlight. It’s unfair. It’s unrealistic to expect that people will be perfect. The best ones admit their weaknesses as part of their growth in faith.
Christian dating is chock full of rules and expectations.
Let’s go over the format. There are six dates planned over a period of five weeks, and Caleb will also spend time in the houses with the women as well as go to church every Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night during those three weeks to help determine who will be the blessed woman he will pursue.
Two women will be eliminated after dates 1-5, which leaves two women for the final date, a trip to Israel to walk around the Holy Land, walk where Jesus walked. All the dates will be in public. No bachelorette will be given alone time in a room with Caleb. Caleb must leave the Bachelorette residence by 10 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. on the weekends.²
The rules of Christian dating have a stronghold on evangelical culture. I can’t tell you how many lists I’ve seen that describe rules for dating, things to look for in a husband, five kinds of girls you don’t want to marry. That kind of attitude towards dating puts a lot of pressure on relationships.
If we look at Scripture, there are no clear rules for what dating is supposed to look like, the speed, the timeline, the “steps.” Just about the only rule that applies to dating is that you save sex for marriage. That’s it! Yet in Christian culture, we outline all the “requirements” for a good relationship. The fear then becomes for some that, if we do one thing “wrong,” we’ve screwed up the entire relationship and there’s no hope and it must be ended.
Dating is a huge risk! Laying your feelings and your desires out there is a risk. “Guarding your heart” is mostly done, I think, out of fear instead of some righteous desire. So what if you feel really strongly about someone, or you really like a lot about someone? Feel it! Express it! What’s wrong with taking the risk?
We date in ways similar to the world. And that’s perfectly OK!
I think the world dates a lot better than we do sometimes. Are there differences that are destructive? Sure, the sexual freedom being the biggest one. But the world has set up the proper, in my mind, blueprint for dating. Long phone conversations, double dates with other couples, dinner and a movie, all of those things aren’t in and of themselves Christian.
For instance, the first one-on-one dates during The Christian Bachelor. Caleb gets dinner and has an after-dinner activity with the prospective bachelorette. That’s such a normal dating thing to do. Sometimes we get so obsessed in Christianity with doing things so differently than the world (a good motive) that we completely rule out everything the world does (not good). The world came up with a lot of awesome things that we rip off! I mean, I ripped off The Bachelor concept for this blog. The world is often a lot more creative than Christians.
So don’t ditch things the world came up with just because it’s from the world. They’ve got some good ideas. Also some bad ones, but not everything they do is awful.
Chick-fil-a would be the best sponsor for a Christian television show.
I mean, seriously, come on. Not even close.
I hope you guys enjoyed this look at Christian dating and reality TV cultures. If you want to see the full “show,” just click here!