Ahead of The Bachelor premiere on Jan. 4, the show dropped a teaser clip for the episode showing the star Matt James leading the contestants in Christian prayer. The prayer takes place during James’ first time addressing the women as a group.
James then says that he uses prayer to calm himself in stressful situations, which is of course understandable when you’re about to date dozens of women on national television for the first time. However, Reddit users were quick to critique this moment, posing the question: How would viewers handle this moment if a Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu person led the contestants in a moment of prayer in their faith?
What Reddit users said
Various users in the Reddit thread commented that the issue lies not in that Matt wanted to show how Christianity is important to him, but how he either assumed everyone there was Christian or didn’t even think otherwise.
“He should have worded it in a more inclusive way,” one Reddit user said. “It came off as centric to his belief system, and in a diverse group like this, where he pretty much doesn’t know any of them, it may be viewed a little insensitive or even arrogant.”
Another person commented that they felt awkward about it just from watching the scene on their television: “I’m Jewish. If I’d been in that group I would not have been comfortable. I actually muted the TV.”
One Reddit commenter alleged that the show is “really trying to drive home that Matt James is just like the very white, very conservative, very religious audience that they peddle to every year.”
What other fans said about the moment
Superfan Brett Vergara, host of the Baby Got Bach podcast, took to Twitter to critique the situation as well. “Don’t force people to pray with you,” he tweeted. “There are people who aren’t Christian! There are people who aren’t religious!”
Former The Bachelor, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise contestant Jaclyn Schwartz weighed in on social media as well. “Ok but…are any of those women in the group Jewish?” she wrote. “Because that would make me slightly uncomfortable. Prayer with no choice of whether to partake?”
Schwartz continued: “I’m not very religious, I’m assuming Matt had some criteria for his wife to share in his religion. But I have questions!”
There may have been a contestant there who isn’t Christian. Take a look at the last season of The Bachelorette — Ivan Hall, one of Christian lead Tayshia Adam’s contestants, allegedly spoke about being Agnostic on their Fantasy Suite date (he discussed it after the show on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s Off the Vine podcast).
A fan on Twitter commented on the situation as well, suggesting an alternative for James to show he’s a devout Christian person: “Maybe had he introduced it more…’I am a man of faith and I believe in praying over every situation I am in. I recognize this may not be important to you but it is to me. If you’re uncomfortable, I understand but you may not be the right person for me’ and allow them to exit.”
Another fan argued that it was being blown out of proportion: “He’s the Bachelor, and faith is important to him. He didn’t ‘make’ anyone do anything.”
James’ Christianity may be central to his narrative as ‘The Bachelor’
Since this is James’ first time on a reality television show, the producers and editors are undoubtedly trying to communicate to the audience what makes up James’ character. While previous leads had prior seasons to anchor their storylines and narratives, audiences are really only getting to know James solely from this show. And it’s clear from episode one that his Christianity is a huge part of what makes this Bachelor who he is.
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