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Can ‘The Bachelor’ Not Talk about God for Like, One Episode?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

“My mom raised us in a Christian household,” our new bachelor, Matt James, intones over the contemplative acoustic music of his intro package. “And that foundation was everything for me.” 

Cue eyerolls from my couch. The character more omnipresent in the Bachelor franchise than Chris Harrison himself had already arrived: God.

Look, I get it: The Bachelor exists in an alternative reality, one in which full-grown women wear prom dresses, every man has a six-pack, and it’s totally cool to actively date two different people up until the day of your engagement. But does it also have to exist in a universe in which every adult looking for love down here also has to have a relationship with the big man upstairs?

Let’s talk about that prayer circle

“I had so long to think about what I was going to say to you,” Matt tells the glittering mass of assembled women (and one purple vibrator). “If everyone could just bow their head really quick, I’m going to pray for everybody.” 

A tad presumptuous, don’t we think, to impose prayer on a group of strangers?

I’ll concede that Matt may well have requested that producers send him only contestants whose religious beliefs mirror his own. But at this point in the “journey,” the most he’s said to anyone in the room is “nice to meet you, I’ll see you inside,” which means he has no way of knowing whether the entire array of sentient sequins before him feel comfortable being asked to participate in a prayer. (Or, if he did get that consent, we viewers didn’t get to see it.)

I for one, would have self-eliminated on the spot. But herein lies another problem: the Bachelor franchise has for years made religious people the default. 

Non-religious people want love, too

According to Pew Research, self-identified Christians make up just 65% of the country. And the number is dropping fast, particularly among millennials, who make up a large chunk of the show’s cast. But you’d never know it.

Being Christian isn’t just assumed, it’s central. Nearly every lead explicitly cites the importance of their Christian faith and in finding a mate who shares that belief system. Tayshia even split with Ivan over their religious differences (though to be fair, anyone paying even the minimal amount of attention could have seen that he’d been friend-zoned from the start).

So what about the rest of us? Contrary to what ABC executives seem to believe, there are plenty of conventionally attractive, non-religious single people out there ready for love and/or drama just waiting to be cast. And I promise only, like, 50% of us are feral witches who hate happiness and joy. Fifty-five tops.

We’ve come a long way on the representation front, but there’s a long road ahead. 

There are other ways to get deep

“You opened up with a prayer; I really loved that,” says Rachael, who nearly burst into tears after being asked to bow her head. Indeed, talk of Matt’s Polygamous Prayer Circle™ was flying around the Pennsylvania conference rooms. His choice to pray was used as evidence of his depth and thoughtfulness; his faith was proof that he was serious

The Bachelor loves to use shortcuts to communicate emotional significance to its audience (string music? They’re falling in love!), and religion is one of their favorites. The contestants who extoll their beliefs, we’re told, are serious about “the process,” and when a contestant and lead get into vague discussions of the importance of “faith” in a marriage, well, whew! we’re in ring territory, baby. 

It’s absolutely true that aligning on religious beliefs (or lack thereof) is a hugely important part of relationships for many of us. But there are plenty of other conversations people have to establish deep connections and think seriously about their long-term compatibility — many of which we never get the pleasure of seeing. What do you want out of life? Would you be willing to relocate? What’s your philosophy on money and debt? Do you prefer camping or hotels? Would you rather have the ability to fly or be invisible? Let’s get creative people.

Honestly, Bachelor overlords, at this point I’m bored. Bored and, actually, kind of weirded out. I’ve held out hope for a non-religious season (just one, I don’t ask for much!) for ages now, and honestly? I’m starting to lose faith.

Zoë Randolph

UC Berkeley '15

Since graduating, Zoë's served as a content marketer for non-profits and tech startups. She worked remotely and traveled the world full-time with her fiancé before becoming a freelance writer and settling (at least for now) in Montréal, Quebec. She likes reading good books, learning new things, and watching Real Housewives argue on TV. You can keep up with her writing over at zoerandolph.com.
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