Stoning the Bachelorette

I never thought an ABC television producer would have to remind me what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus.

But that’s what Elan Gale, the producer of “The Bachelorette,” did for me during this last season. Let me explain.

You see, every season, Chris Harrison, host of “The Bachelorette,” entices viewers with the same cliche phrase every season, “Stay tuned to the most controversial season …ever.”

This time it actually was.

THE HYPE

I’m sure you know the premise of the show. One single bachelor/bachelorette is introduced to a group of about 25 suitors. The participants are asked to go on group dates, one-on-one dates, travel to exotic places, and dive into an overwhelming amount of drama and heartbreak all in hopes that the final participant accepts a proposal to marry.

While there is a formal process, there have been many instances through its 11 seasons were participants have gone contrary to the rules/expectations/culture of the show. This, as you might have suspected, is one of the reasons so much attention has been given to the most recent bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe.

Millions of fans are furious with Kaitlyn’s behavior portrayed on national television. Among many other controversial issues (not just involving her), Kaitlyn made the decision to sleep with one of the men while there were still eight other guys that she was “dating.”

Something like this raises all kinds of questions for us viewers: Does she really love him? What happens if the other guys find out? Is she really going to keep dating other guys after that? Should she tell the other guys? Has she destroyed any chance of a real relationship? What kind of example is she setting for our kids and our culture? How could she be so immoral/scandalous/unfair/promiscuous/cruel/insensitive/unhealthy/selfish/evil/insane/“yet-another-terrible-example-for-our-kids”/ fill-in-the-blank with your own judgemental word/phrase?

Needless to say, America was fired up. But why? Why are we so fired up about the drama and controversy of everyone else’s life and so lethargic about the dysfunction in our own?

It seems to me that reality TV makes it easy to focus on someone else’s shortcomings while we conveniently forget about our own.

THE DANGER OF REALITY TV

Christian author Kristen Bell writes about a sacred, mysterious space that exists between two people who grow in love. It’s a trusted space between two individuals, a space where they unconditionally reveal the joys and sorrows of their lives with each other. When you do this repeatedly over time it creates a sacred space that belongs only to the two of you. A space that no one else is allowed into. It’s exclusive.

Reality TV brings that space to the world’s living room, convincing us that it’s our space too.

Bell writes,

“This is why reality television shows can be so awkward and fascinating at the same time, the camera goes into places where we intuitively know we don’t belong. When the exclusive space between two people is entered by others, and exposed, and inspected, and dissected, and filmed those two people are left with less and less that is theirs alone.” She continues, “Reality shows can be extremely entertaining but at an excruciatingly high cost.”

If we watch, it’s important to recognize this reality, otherwise it can get ugly for all of us very fast.

AMERICA STEPS IN

At the end of the season all the eliminated men gathered together for a “Men Tell All” episode. Kaitlyn’s decisions fired up so many viewers that many were compelled to write hateful comments on her social media accounts and the producers wanted to tackle this issue head on, so they read some of them on the air. Some of the comments were so fueled with hate and intentionally designed to harm that it was frightening.

Some of the lighter comments included:

“I can’t wait to see Kaitlyn cry like a little ***. She’s a dirty *** who treats people like ***.”

“I hope the fans break her spirit so that our kids can see that whoring behavior isn’t rewarded…”

“Kaitlyn is a selfish *** with no morals and a pathetic excuse for a human being!! She should just crawl in a hole and die…”

The show addressed these comments intentionally to make it clear that these comments are not okay, regardless of any moral/political/religious stance — spreading hate is always unacceptable.

COMPASSION NOT HATE

Let me start by saying that sin is destructive — no matter how you slice it. Moreover, it’s not wrong to have an opinion about her behavior and the ways it goes contrary to our faith tradition is obvious. But as I was watching this episode, witnessing the deep hurt she was going through on live TV, it became clear to me what I was guilty of.

Yes, I disagreed with the way she pursued love but it was a sacred space that didn’t belong to me and it turned ugly very fast. It wasn’t my place to condemn her but I did. And while I didn’t send her a hateful tweet — I was still guilty of judgement, presumption, and hate (it hurts to admit to this word) that collectively caused her deep sorrow, anguish, and despair.

Elan Gale, the producer of the show, commented on the rampant hate mail and cyberbullying directed towards Kaitlyn, writing powerfully, “the best part of your day shouldn’t be being the worst part of someone else’s.” Those words really shook me.

When I read this, I was immediately reminded of Jesus’ demeanor when the scribes and Pharisees brought Him a woman who was caught in adultery. In these ancient times, the culture permitted those in charge to bring justice by stoning her to death. But when they asked Jesus what should be done, He stood up and said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” At Jesus’ response, they left one by one and Jesus said to the woman, “Has no one condemned you? She replied, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “Nor do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

RECOGNIZING THE GOOD

Jesus is a master at recognizing the goodness in all people — even in the midst of our deepest, darkest, most dramatic mistakes. He had a way of letting goodness cut through all the chaos that festered on the surface. Jesus came to remind us that we are not defined by our greatest mistake and we must be that same loving presence for today’s world.

No judgement. Only compassion. Who are we to judge anyways?

Moreover, we need to recognize when the culture (and reality TV) gives us opportunities to be ugly to people. They are after all — people.

LOOKING INTO THE MIRROR

I often wonder… if I were in the gospel story, would I resent this adulterous woman for being a terrible example to my kids? Would I become furious at the mere sight of her? Would I be holding a stone getting ready to throw it? Would I have already thrown the stone? What is my reaction to the sin that exist in the lives of others? How many times in my lifetime have I been the cause of someone else’s anguish and misery?

Those are powerful questions if we have courage to come face to face with them. My challenge to you is to join me in reflecting on these questions. If we’re going to be passionate and hyper-critical about anyone’s behavior it should be ourselves. It’s the only thing we can change. Jesus reminds us to “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” We’re certainly not perfect but Jesus invites to start working at it.

No one deserves the hate that Kaitlyn received (and is probably still receiving). When it comes down to it she is a person just like all of us, traveling the bumpy roads of life — tripping, falling, searching and trying hard to figure out life, one day at a time. Having watched the season and reflecting more deeply it’s clear to me that I’ve got my own share of controversy, dysfunction, and sin in my life and the only Christ-like response to the situation is compassion.

Who am I to judge anyways?

SUBSCRIPTIONS

CURRENT SUBSCRIBER LOGIN
SUBSCRIPTION OPTIONS

WHY LIFE TEEN?