What Kierkegaard and the Bachelorette Can Teach Us About Faith
“We all fall short of the glory of God…we just happen to do it on national television” — Hannah Brown, the Bachelorette
If you, like me, are captivated by the current season of the Bachelorette and are wondering what’s going to happen between Luke P. — aka the Lukeness Monster — and Hannah then here’s some advice: have a little faith.
Søren Kierkegaard introduced us to the concept of the “teleological suspension of the ethical” in his existential and ethical treatise Fear and Trembling. In it, he used the biblical story of Abraham as a point of departure for his treatment of issues related to faith, sacrifice, and the power of a personal relationship to God. While something can be ethically “wrong”, argued Kierkegaard, that same thing can be “right” in the eyes of God.
The “ethical” to Kierkegaard is one of three means of escape that humans have from the crippling anxiety, despair, and fear that accompany life as we know it — the other two are the aesthetic and the religious. Kierkegaard’s idea of “ethical” isn’t the same as the one you’re, most likely, used to. To him, the “ethical” is the world of customs, social norms, and conventions that are socially-constructed.
Sometimes, argued Kierkegaard, the choices that we make go against what society would deem as acceptable. In the moments that we choose to do something of that nature, we suspend the logics of the ethical in order to answer to something higher. We’ve engaged in a teleological suspension of the ethical.
“Telos” refers to an end, aim, or goal. Teleology refers to something’s ultimate purpose or function. So, a teleological suspension of the ethical is really just when your means justify your ends but the means you’ve chosen could be considered “wrong” or inappropriate according to societal norms.
Even though Hannah Brown, this season’s Bachelorette, hasn’t been ordered by a higher power to sacrifice any children like Abraham or Agamemnon, she’s still proven time and time again that she’s acting with faith and following her heart instead of doing what the masses encourage her to do. In a recent Instagram post she clapped back at haters by admitting that she refuses to feel shame for her decisions. Even though she’s a self-proclaimed “hot mess on stick”, she knows that “God has a master plan for all the failures [she continues] to learn and grow from.”
She’s mostly responding to Bachelorette viewers who claim that she gives Christians a bad name and isn’t worthy of God’s goodness and grace. Not only has Hannah shown viewers that she’s a forgiving, non-judgmental, honest, and caring person, she’s also shown what it means to be patient and true to oneself.
Anyone who watched the most recent rose ceremony, and her confrontation with the guys after Luke P. namedropped on their recent date, was reminded of one important fact: Hannah is the reason for the season. Hannah may have showcased a shocking teleological suspension of the ethical during the last rose ceremony but that’s because she isn’t answering to anyone but God.
Her faith in the God is driving her choices and the fact that some viewers are shaming her, and trying to make her decisions about love on her behalf without fully trusting in her capacities to decide for herself, sheds light on some lessons given by Kierkegaard.
“The amount of hate I and the men on this journey with me receive…it’s chilling to know so many people want to spread hurt so recklessly. We all fall short of the glory of God…we just happen to do it on national television,” Hannah remarked. While we may not understand some of Hannah’s choices, we have to respect them and hope for the best.
Hopefully, in the meantime, God decides to talk to Luke P. in the shower again and convinces him to open up about his true feelings. Until then, the remaining guys are certainly giving Hannah a lot to think about and consider as she goes into the final weeks of the season, travels to hometowns, and makes her way towards an engagement. In Kierkegaardian fashion, I have nothing but faith in her ability to find true love on her own terms. ⠀⠀⠀