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Mar 21, 2014

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

[Diolog Magazine] You may have missed this news brief, but ABC declared January of 2014 the month of “Juan”-uary in honor of the newest contender on The Bachelor. Juan Pablo stands in a long line of men who fill the role of “bachelor” in a televised effort for a group of woman to find the love of their lives. The show is now in its 18th season, meaning that 18 men and a small army of women have subjected themselves to this process all in the name of romantic love.


For those of you unfamiliar with The Bachelor premise, the amorous heat is laid on thick. Around 25 potential mates for Juan Pablo are asked to expose their souls to him while a national audience bears witness. And, at certain moments, it appears that Juan Pablo is there to kiss all 25 of them. The women are taken to exotic locales, fed extravagant meals and given a seemingly endless amount of champagne. However, it soon becomes obvious that this is not the romantic getaway these women had imagined. Simply put, they are there to earn the love of the Bachelor. They are tasked with being pretty, gregarious, elusive and interesting enough. In an endless cycle of failure, one by one, the Bachelor gets rid of all those who do not meet his level of “enoughness.” Very quickly, what is billed as an incredibly romantic endeavor of finding one’s soul mate ends up feeling like a public exercise in humiliation.


Now, before we all take to judging The Bachelor contenders and those seven (read SEVEN) million viewers who watch the show (I count myself among our proud ranks), it may be more interesting to ask why we are all participating. Like much of reality television, people say they watch The Bachelor for some level of escapism. Still, I am not sure this is the full answer.


The Bachelor validates our worst fears about the quest for human romance. Even when the “Bachelor” (in this season the adorable Juan Pablo) finds his one true love, such couples often do not survive the media frenzy that follows. Instead they wind up single again, despite having had the most romantic experience possible.


Televised or not, human romance is filled with difficulty and feelings of inadequacy. Like many who are eager to be on the show, romance in the real world also requires us to constantly “put our best foot forward” while simultaneously hoping our mate will like our shoe choice. Simply put, human romancing is exhaustive. And we watch The Bachelor to remind ourselves that we are at least not tired and alone. We are in fact tired and in the company of all these disappointed others.  


We do not actually need more validation that human romance is a failed project. Instead, we need to remember the great Romancer in our midst. As a priest, I often have people ask me why the first half of the Bible does not match the second. In other words, how can the God of the angry prophets be the same God who gave us Jesus? 


While Scripture scholars may bristle at the thought, I often tell people I think the Bible is actually one big love letter from God. Time and time again, God seeks to woo us back into knowing his great love. First, he gives us the law on tablets, then he inscribes it onto our hearts and finally God sends Himself, in the form of his only Son, to romance and reconcile us to him in the flesh. He does not require us to be nicely dressed or perfectly poised. God is not interested in where we went to college or if we came from nice families. We cannot earn his love. God wants us and nothing else and he pursues us with the kind of desperate love no human experience could ever equal.


Condon is a chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital.