Wednesday, January 30, 2013
ChristianMingle.com. What a concept!
Here, Christians can find other Christians for matrimony, mating, and more. But why? Why on earth is this at all a successful online business? Why isn't Match.com or e-Harmony enough? I have some thoughts on this, and you Christians out there are not likely to appreciate them.
First, there has always been a traditional method for meeting Christian singles. It’s called “church.” A person would go to church, join a singles group, and meet other single people. Or, if his/her church doesn't have a singles group, that person could give a discreet word to the Pastor about hoping that The Lord would provide a spouse, at which point said minister might occasionally drop hints about someone being single at the next Bible study or church picnic. Isn't this enough?
Well, no. Bottom line is, a lot of congregation members just plain don’t attend church anymore. In a world where Christian ministers constantly say how their religion is under attack, their armies are not even bothering to show up. Even serious Christians find services difficult to endure sometimes. What does it say about a religion’s following if even die-hard members find it difficult to endure one more sermon, just one more week, even on the promise of potentially finding a sexy single person? And, if you happen to be Catholic, Lutheran, or Episcopalian, then it’s even worse. The old-fashioned format serves only to offend the senses. All the non-elderly don’t bother being there, and so going to church means hobnobbing with the little old biddies running this year’s bake sale, and that’s not exactly a place that’s likely to kindle romance.
Enter the Evangelical Megachurch! Here, they bring in some decently modern music, complete with electric guitars, drum-sets and synthesizers, and project the lyrics to sing on a giant projection-screen (because they at least realize that people typically can’t read the music charts in the hymnal anyway). Plenty of single-and-looking people here!
But apparently, this isn't enough. I once attended a singles group at Elmbrook Church many years ago (before I realized I was an atheist, you see). Elmbrook is the largest church in Wisconsin, so you can’t get much more of a Megachurch than that. Sunday services require dozens of police cars just to direct traffic! But when I went there and attended the singles group, I found… Well, let’s just say there’s a reason those people are single. Good looking people take on lovers and file for divorce in order to marry them. The ugly and/or ones with significant baggage get dumped and join groups.
Still, that shouldn't prevent nice, attractive Christian singles from meeting each other, should it? I mean, there are plenty of other avenues, aren't there? Indeed, there are. There are Christian conferences, festivals, galas and shindigs of all sorts. There are Christian bookstores to hang out in, Christian rock concerts to go to, and Christian Bible Colleges to attend. (In fact, the joke at any Bible College is, “A ring by spring, or your money back!”) Isn't all this enough?
The answer is, no. The reason for this is because these things are just fine if you want to meet someone who is really serious about his/her religion. And let’s face it, if you’re male and serious about your religion, you’re a hot commodity. Single fundamentalist women outnumber single fundamentalist men by a significant margin. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the number might be as high as a 5 to 4 female to male ratio. For Christian women, that’s bad news. For atheist men, that’s a statement in itself – we unbelieving males are turning down an awful lot of potential hoochie by rejecting your silly, little creed! (You’d think people would realize that we’re damned serious about it.) But for Christian men, that might be good news. Can’t a man name his own ticket in such a target-rich environment?
Well, no, that’s a problem, too. You see, the main problem with church dating is that it leads to inter-congregational politics and gossiping. If a Christian man wants to date a particular Christian woman, he’d better pick right the first time, or else all her Christian friends at that church are going to write him off. And if he dares date more than one, he gets pegged as “that type of guy.” If he dates only one different Christian woman per year, and it doesn't involve sex, that might seem to be prudish, but the gossip-mill among the Christian women is, “He dated three different women in three years! Don’t go out with him.” That’s totally unfair to the poor guy, but that’s the reality of it. And if it’s a big church, the effect is even more devastating – all those extra women are now denied to him. Bigger isn't necessarily better.
For the single Christian women, a reverse effect takes hold. The other single women notice a newly single guy attending the service. He immediately tries to date the cutest of the single ones available. The date is a dud, and the guy is politically out of luck. But when the other women see the pretty one getting rejected, they say to themselves, “Well, geez, if even SHE can’t get a husband, what chance have I got?” Despair settles in for both sexes.
As such, Christian men often decide not to bother dating women who go to their own church, especially after they've been burned by the experience once or twice. They turn to other outlets, and there are many. The women, in turn, decide to turn to other outlets, too. This causes more men to do the same, which causes more women to do the same, and before you know it, none of the single people in church are dating each other. For them, that’s just as well. When they’re at church, they’d just as soon concentrate on The Lord. It seems inappropriate to go to church and be constantly thinking about the woman or man over in the next aisle. That’s not just sinful, it’s distracting!
So, it seems that if a seriously Christian woman wants to get married, she’s better off meeting a guy who belongs to another church. Either that, or one who is Christian, but isn't quite so rabid a fan club member. Certainly, there are a few women out there who try (literally!) to be “sluts for Jesus,” using her, um attributes to bring men to The Lord. (They call it “gal-vation.”) For other women, they might decide to trade their sexual favors for religious influence only after the fact, and only for a more moderately religious male. (More on that, later.) For many Christian women, aiming for a moderately Christian male makes more sense. He’s serious enough to appreciate her faith, but not serious enough to cause her any inter-congregational headaches. Also, there are a LOT more men available to her that way! But where can she find such a man? For that matter, where can the men who have been burned by church-dating go to find other women outside their particular clique?
Enter online dating! It’s been around for decades, and seems to work fairly well as a solution. Christians select “Christian” as their religious preference, and manage to weed out all the prospective mates who don’t meet that criteria.
Or do they? The Internet is a treacherous place, and with women outnumbering men in the fundamentalist department, many “players” find themselves in a plentiful harvest field. They put up their profile, pretend at religion, then lure some nice, Christian lady into a few dates, and then into bed. For a Christian woman, finding herself in a situation where the man wants sex before marriage when she does not is disturbing. But she’s caught between a rock and a hard erection. If she stands by her principles, she saves her honor but dies a spinster. If she compromises, she’s a secret slut, but finally gets herself a husband. For most such women, the secret slut option is the better of two evils, plus it finally has the benefit of letting her get her rocks off. His too. Every once in a long while, this tactic works. But typically, the man finds some excuse to leave, and then she’s been screwed twice. It’s understandable that she might be frustrated.
For men, the experience is somewhat different. They go online hoping to find a nice, Christian woman, and inevitably get at least one “hit” from a remarkably pretty girl who is (I so hate this term) “spiritual but non-religious,” whatever the hell that means. He’s smitten by her, and they might even end up getting into bed, but when he proves to be much more serious about religion than she is, or argue about politics, planned parenthood, or some other such difference of opinion, she dumps him, and he is devastated, knowing that he’ll likely never score that high on the girlfriend scale again.
The semi-solution? Christian Mingle! Because it loudly advertises a “Christians only” type of message, it wards off the casual people on the faith-scale. It also is more serious about dumping the “players” from the roster list. One complaint from a Christian woman, and the guy’s membership is canceled. For the guys, it means that every pretty woman they see is his type, and that means the world to him.
So! Happily Ever After? Not a chance! Oh, this solution will have a benefit, and it will help bring more Christian babies into the world (which is the most effective method of evangelizing – always has been), but even this will eventually fail. It doesn't ward off the serious fake Christians who are players - it attracts them!
All this is only half the point. You see, Christianity is dying. Part of the reason why Christian Mingle is such a successful business is because the number of available single Christians is getting smaller and smaller all the time. In our grandfathers’ era, one did not dare even marry a Lutheran if one were Catholic, or a Presbyterian if one were Baptist, etc., etc. But today, Christians are blissfully grateful just to find another Christian to marry, and to hell with denominational affiliation! The endorsed evangelicalism of the Christian Media Empire is pretty much becoming the de facto denomination of all America anyway. Today, evangelicals have fallen to less than 50% of the nation’s populace. Not coincidentally, conservatives lost with a vote of 47%. This downward trend will continue. That’s good news for Christian Mingle, as more people will be willing to pay more for their services in seeking a commodity which is becoming rarer and rarer. But it’s bad news for Christianity as a whole.
I have a unique perspective in all this. As an ex-Christian, I have observed much of this first hand. The rest I have been able to glean from Christian magazine articles and blog entries. As an atheist, I am able to observe all this without bias. For the same reason, I am also able to laugh my ass off at the whole thing. But I stop laughing when I remember that there is yet one more reason for Christian Mingle to exist. Namely, the intense desire of the Christian community do wall itself off from anything secular. Any online dating service will have a feature which lets Christians match only with other Christians, but even this isn't enough. Today’s Jesus Freaks don’t even want to encounter the same electrons as non-religious people. Thus, to avoid “secular cooties,” they set up their own singles website, and thus thicken the plastic bubble they dwell in.
As an example, I need only point to any Christian bookstore where mountains of products are sold to insulate the Faithful from Satan’s temptations. There are Christian games, Christian movies, Christian rock artists, Christian action figures, Christian children’s shows… the list goes on and on. My head hangs in utter disgust when I see something like “Bibleman” hanging on such a store’s display hook. I simply cannot fathom how someone can actually spend money on something like that.
Christian Mingle is not as silly as "Bibleman," but it's done for exactly the same purpose. And as any Christian bookstore owner will tell you, fundies will buy anything!