Since its 2002 debut season, ABC’s The Bachelor has been a staple TV series for sorority girls, sappy housewives, and suckers for romance across America.
I’m not even the type to get into such psuedo-reality show series marked by misleading cutouts and ever-sensational claims about the most “shocking and dramatic SEASON EVER”–but I must confess, I can’t help but get sucked in season after season–scooting to the edge of my couch, biting my nails, and nervously sipping my red wine to the teary-eyed confessions of the “final rose” contestants. Dun dun DUN…cue Chris Harrison. Okay, enough where that came from.
But whatever it is, as a show running 15 years strong with multiple successful spin-off series from The Bachelorette to Bachelor in Paradise, we gotta admit… there’s just something about “The Bachelor.”
Of course, not everyone is keen on the show, particularly those in the Christian community who question its morality. And in all fairness, a dude dating/kissing 20 women at the same time would be labeled a cheating scoundrel in ANY other context, so can you entirely blame them?
20th season Bachelor star Ben Higgins (who was formerly a contestant on The Bachelorette) knows what it’s like to navigate that tension all too well. As an outspoken Christian on the show, Ben was harshly judged for his choice to participate.
He would regularly hear comments like, “He’s not a Christian. Look at what he did.”
“The community I thought would have my back the most was the community that was hurting me the most,” added Higgins.
He recently opened up about his experiences to Relevant Magazine, revealing how God used even a cheesy reality TV show for His glory.
“It’s probably surprising to a lot of people that a Christian guy would be the Bachelor,” Relevant told Ben. “How do you respond to that?”
“I get that a lot,” he replied. “You know, that dilemma never came into my head until The Bachelor was airing. The Christian community was either really supportive of the idea that I would claim to love Jesus and also do The Bachelor or really angry. It was weird for me, honestly. I became confused, like, ‘Do I really know Jesus? Why am I making these decisions my brothers and sisters are so against?’”
Ben says it’s odd to him that a section of the Christian community feels we can’t do anything that “shakes life up a bit or put ourselves in an environment that seems counter to what we know Christianity to be in the United States.”
He didn’t know how to handle all the criticism and shaming remarks at first, but eventually he was able to come to terms with it.
Ben also admittedly understood where the criticism was stemming from, as it did challenge his own value system. He said the main complaint he heard was, “As a Christian, you just can’t do the show. You’re dating multiple people at once. You’re kissing multiple people at once. You’re leading people on.”
“And then—and I totally agree with this—only one name should be famous, and that’s Jesus,” shared Ben. “When anybody puts themselves in a situation where fame is going to result, the Church reacts. I think that’s fair. But if I can get a platform from The Bachelor and make Jesus famous through the way I live life, what’s the problem?”
The most painful part for him was when people would claim he’s not a Christian because of his choices.
“That hurts,” he said. “You’re throwing stones at the most important piece of my life.”
Ben also revealed that he really tried to approach his role on The Bachelor in a way that was not compromising to his values or beliefs:
“I think as goofy as the show is, there are real people involved, and real relationships can come from it. I wanted to make sure that if I was agreeing to be The Bachelor, I was going into it interested in finding a relationship, and I wanted the women to know me as the same person during the show and after the show. I really tried to stick to what I would do and who would I be outside the show.”
“I don’t think any of the women didn’t know where my faith stood. I remember asking myself whenever I would have to send somebody home: ‘How can I do this while allowing the women to feel appreciated?’ Because they were appreciated. The fact that anyone would try an experience like [The Bachelor] to find out if something existed between us meant a lot to me. I wanted to make sure they felt rewarded and appreciated, but I also tried to make the wise decision.”
Ben knows he wasn’t always perfect in his decision-making, but he tried his best to remain respectful to the women and to God amidst his dating journey.
He even spoke to the way that his relationship with Jesus’ shaped his Bachelor experience.
“Quite honestly, this show would have never gone the way it did for me without the influence of Jesus in my life,” he said. “It’s clear to me how He’s been constantly involved through this whole process, but it was a dilemma I had to figure out. The truth is, I don’t think Jesus is threatened by The Bachelor. I think He can use these crazy situations to do a lot of good.”
God works in mysterious ways, and for Ben Higgins, it just so happened to be through a controversial dating show:
“I went on The Bachelor and tried to keep my faith in line with what it was before the show and after the show. Jesus has just rocked my world and made it very clear that He was going to use something crazy and weird for really good things. It’s been a beautiful story. I just don’t think that when a child of His says, ‘I’m gonna do something weird,’ Jesus is threatened by it.”
And as promised, Jesus showed up in that “crazy and weird” journey time and time again, allowing Ben to bear amazing fruit.
“When I was asked to be the Bachelor, I prayed,” he explained. “I said, ‘God, close any door to allow me not to do this: my job, a friendship, my parents, just close any door.’ And He threw every door wide open. Everybody was onboard, so I said, ‘I’m gonna do it.’”
And what’s even more amazing is that God used his experience to help fund a non-profit igniting positive change in Central America:
“About seven years ago, a buddy of mine started a nonprofit that operates out of Central America. It tries to build sustainable change within communities that have very little resources. He said, ‘Would you be interested in using the show to enhance this mission in Central America?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll commit to that.’”
So long story short, an organization that was raising $40,000 a year has grown to over $500,000 dollars since the time I went on The Bachelorette, and some of that’s due to the publicity The Bachelor’s been able to bring it. That’s incredible. There’s a lot of fruit based on what the show did.”
“I could hide away and do nothing with this, but I don’t think that would be glorifying God at all,” he said. “He’s given us all a platform to make Him famous and make Him known and share more love than hate. If I’m going to have that attention on me, pushing that to Him is the only way.”
Ben sometimes gets frustrated when he does frivolous meet-and-greets that seem a bit shallow or pointless, but he says “I don’t think God is rejecting that.”
“I’ve felt like God’s spoken to me three times in my life,” he continued. “Maybe not an audible voice, but a clear message from something bigger. And the message He sent me was, ‘Live your life like it could be written about in the Bible. Live your life to create a great story.’”
With God’s clear direction seared on his heart, that’s exactly what this former Bachelor has aimed to do.
“If we wrapped it back to being The Bachelor, if I’m going to live my life like it’s going to be written about in the Bible,” says Ben, “then that story is going to have some ups and downs and crazy experiences.”
For more on Ben’s faith journey, read his full interview on Relevant Magazine.