How Hannah Brown's Season Is Changing Sex and Religion on 'The Bachelorette' (Exclusive)

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"I think the teaser, 'I have had sex and Jesus still loves me,' is probably one of the most dramatic [moments of the season]," Hannah Brown told ET last month. "That's when the beast comes out the most." 

The 24-year-old beauty queen's faith has been a big part of her journey as The Bachelorette. Fans saw her pray before heading inside to meet her guys on night one this season, a moment that Brown told ET she was glad was shown. She has referenced how God has guided her throughout the drama at cocktail parties, and Monday night's episode spoke to the men about her a certain Scripture that was motivating her. As the supertease during Monday night's episode revealed, however, Brown's religion will take even more of a center stage when controversial contestant Luke Parker questions whether she's been "sleeping around" with any of the men. Parker tells Brown he wants to speak to her about "keeping the marriage bed pure." Though still weeks ahead, the moment has a lasting effect on Brown -- and the Bachelor franchise. 

"Ironically enough, faith is what brought them together. And his faith and his conservative values might be their biggest sticking point and become the biggest divide between them," longtime host Chris Harrison said of Brown and Parker during a recent phone interview with ET. 

"I don't know if we've ever embraced it this much," he said of religion on this season of the show. "Sometimes we shy away from it because religion, it's a little bit like sex, where it's taboo to discuss in the open... I think it needs to be brought in the open more sometimes. And in this case, it's interesting how they have very similar values, but very differing opinions on how to apply them to life."

Parker's commitment to his faith was evident from the moment viewers first laid eyes on him this season; in his premiere intro package he spoke about how God visited him in the shower and prompted him to change his ways after a free-spirited college career. The 24-year-old's new path guided him to some "conservative values" that don't exactly align with Brown's. The pair had many conversations about Christianity during the course of the show, Harrison revealed, but the footage in Monday's episode -- during which Parker also visited a church in Scotland -- sent a clear message: Parker is not willing to compromise when it comes to his belief that sex belongs in a marriage... and nowhere else. 

Sex has been a common theme throughout The Bachelor, Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, but religion, not so much. Virgin contestants throughout the years have had their faith mentioned briefly as reasons for their abstinence, and while Sean Lowe was a born-again virgin on his 2013 season of The Bachelor, it wasn't revealed publicly until after the season aired. When Colton Underwood was announced as the first virgin Bachelor last year, there were questions about his faith, but he said his virginity had more to do with lack of opportunity and experiences with a girlfriend who had been sexually assaulted

Brown's struggle with her faith came up during Underwood's season; she explained to him on their first one-on-one date that she dealt with guilt over not saving herself for marriage. "Honestly, my faith has grown so much and I've realized what a relationship with the Lord is really about. I don't have to carry that [guilt]," Brown told ET last month. So, on her season of The Bachelorette, she decided to give in to what she wanted -- and shouted it from the rooftops. 

"I am having physical relationships," Brown is heard telling Parker in the supertease. "The Lord made sex to be amazing!" 

As Harrison noted, the fiery conversation could leave viewers divided, but he hopes fans rally around Brown and support her for standing up for herself. "'No matter what you believe, my body, my choice, my life, and if you don't like it, there's the door. Don't let it hit you in the a** on the way out.' That's how she approaches all the men," he observed. "She's very vulnerable and emotional, but don't you dare cross her and question her decisions, because this is her life and you've got to respect that." 

Brown's experience with fantasy suites thus became a "bigger picture" issue. "I think it has more weight," she told ET in May of why her milestone week might be more dramatic than Underwood's, despite the emphasis during his season on whether he had lost his virginity. 

"To ever have anybody make me feel [ashamed], it's a little messed up, and I'm not going to stand for that," Brown continued. "Because if I feel that way, I know there's other people out in the world that feel that way, and maybe if I can stand up for myself, other people can feel like they can too." 

It's that message of helping others that Brown is holding onto, regardless of her fight with Parker. She told ET she feels "blessed" that producers decided to showcase Christianity on her season. "A lot of times, people get Christianity and religion messed up. Your faith should be something personal in a relationship and it's not to judge others," the Alabama native expressed. "Christianity is something you welcome others into. It should be a place where people feel safe and welcomed... and not to feel judged or shamed."

"Regardless of anything that I've done that people might think, 'Oh, well, that deserved a scarlet letter,' that's not how it works," Brown continued. "I can do whatever. I sin daily, and Jesus still loves me. It's all washed, and if the Lord doesn't judge me and it's all forgiven, then no other man, woman, animal -- anything, I don't know! -- can judge me!"

The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Join ET's Bachelor Nation Facebook group here


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