Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reality Dating Shows and (No) Discussion of Religion

I've been married now for a week. So far, so good. I'll admit that this was an event I never thought would happen, mainly because I felt called to a single vocation. But, as we all know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Now that I am back, I am finally catching up on reading news stories that I was unable to read while on vacation (and frankly didn't want to). One of the stories that caught my eye was about one of the contestants on ABC's The Bachelorette.

I'm no fan of Reality TV shows, especially dating reality TV shows. I will admit that I watched a little Survivor at its inception, but that was it for me. My philosophy is that if you're bored with your own life and need to watch the "life" of someone else, then you really need to get out more. OK, digression done. Anyway, with regards to The Bachelorette, an article I saw indicates that the reason one of the guys, apparently a very strong contender, dropped off of the show was due to religious differences.

Constantine Tzortzis is Greek Orthodox and his family is as adamant about him marrying a Greek Orthodox woman that you would think this was a replay of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Constantine apparently feels the same--that he cannot marry outside of his faith. According to the article (linked above), Constantine did bring up this issue with Ashley, the bachelorette, but that conversation never made it to the airwaves. Since then, Constantine has been AWOL from the show.

Given the nature of reality TV, I'm not surprised that such a conversation was not aired. People could freak out, call the network and wonder why they were being preached to on a dating show or just change the channel, which could be worse. No viewers=no money from advertisers. This omission succinctly describes why reality TV is a misnomer.

In the course of my relationship with Carla (now my wife), we have had a number of conversations about our respective religious faiths. I'm Orthodox; she is Methodist. There was a time when I wouldn't even consider dating someone who was non-Orthodox. But, over time, I discovered that you love the woman, not the faith she professes or practices. These religious conversations came up all the time especially since we are not of the same faith and they continued even into our premarital counseling sessions, sometimes with the unfortunate result of one or both of us becoming quite upset. In these religious conversations, we found out what it was going to take to ensure that we love one another, remain devoted and dedicated to one another. The religious angle of our conversations fostered our mutual love, devotion and dedication.

However, for modern reality TV, and for a lot of dating and marriages in the real world, the religious angle is given mere lip service, down played or just omitted. Love, dedication and devotion are believed to be separate from the religion that one practices, not tied to it. Au contraire! A friend of mine, who is a divorce attorney, once told me that following adultery and mishaps of finances, the single biggest reason for divorce in this country is a divergence of religious practices and beliefs. And that pattern carries across all mixed marriages, whether Jew-Christian or Moslem-Christian or Buddhist-Hindu or even Presbyterian-Catholic which is why a proper understanding and knowledge and agreement on the importance of religion should always be on the discussion table, not pushed off to the last minute or even ignored in the hopes that it will only be a "minor" thing.

Though I don't know all the details about Constantine and his leaving the show, if the speculation is true, that it was indeed because his religious practices would have been a hindrance to a good relationship, then good for him. If people are looking to ABC to see what dating, especially dating that could lead to marriage is like, they are seriously looking in the wrong place. Religion does, even if the people involved are not particularly religious, come up and can be a stumbling block for future problems and/or a buttress for future success. Unfortunately, many young people's views about dating and marriage are being shaped by reality TV shows such as this one. If discussion of religion and dating is considered a taboo topic for a reality TV show and audience or one that no "modern" person discusses anymore, then how grounded in reality can reality shows possibly be?