Internet Christian Dating I
Bill Long 8/4/08
Looking At It From A Humorous Angle..
I suppose it was inevitable. With all the emphasis on finding your soulmate or the love of your life on the Internet, and with the inevitable "success stories" that followed, it was natural that self-proclaimed practicing...er...Christians would also get into the act. And, they (we?) have. Or, at least the big companies which can make a buck off of Christians have gotten into the Internet Christian Dating scene with eagerness. I know a little about this because I stopped by the home of a friend yesterday who is a member of one of these sites, and he let me "surf" it for a while just to see what I would find. These two essays are my "report from the front," the online Christian dating front, that is.
Before writing this essay, however, I did a quick web search on "Christian Dating sites." A few "reviews" of the sites popped up, which interested me, but they mostly turned out to be recommendations based on whether the owner of the site seemingly promoted, or was indifferent to, "same-sex" relationships (a huge NO-NO for most of these reviewers) or, almost as bad, "f-o-r-n-i-c-a-t-i-o-n." I hadn't much used that word since my return to Oregon in 1996, when friends attacked our good neighbor to the South, telling them not to "Calif-o-r-n-i-c-a-t-e Oregon." It would have been helpful had reviewers actually looked at services offered, fees charged, responsiveness of the contact people to questions, and other things that most consumers look for when they purchase a product. But, no, the big emphasis is on whether these sites promote or even tolerate "same sex" relationships.
No wonder Thomas Frank (What's the Matter with Kansas? (2005)) had a point when he showed how the conservative movement in America co-opted the religious right by emphasizing a "moral agenda" while, in fact, being interested primarily in tax cuts for themselves and their wealthy friends. When many conservative Christians only have "gayness" on their minds and focus on this "moral agenda," they not only tend to fit cultural stereotypes but they continue to be ready fodder for those who secretly want even bigger capital gains tax cuts or a privatized social security system.
So, in the time I had to peruse the site, I decided that I would do what I call a "literary analysis" of the site. I have no comments about customer service or whether the particular site I selected is a good way to get your "match." I was only interested in how people presented themselves. As it was, I think that my friend, as a male, only had access to female profiles. I could be wrong on that one, but it seems that just as the ancient Hebrews were told not to mix those animals which chew the cud and those that part the hoof, so I guess on this Christian dating site you don't want guys trolling for chicks and coming up with guys. After all, as one Fundamentalist once told me, "When God made the first couple, he made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." e.e. cummings couldn't have said it better, could he?
Each member fills out a "profile," adds a picture or two, answers some simple questions ("What would you like to do on a first date?" I think the answer, "Jump his bones," would not have been acceptable...), and then submits the material for "review" to the sponsors of the site. The members are informed that the sponsors/owners also have an "abuse team" in place, presumably not to dish it out to members but to "spot it" as they snoop around in members' "private" conversations. After all, if you have adults talking to one another, you might as well make sure that they are talking about "edifying" subjects.
So, I began to leaf through the profiles of several women. The site allowed you to search in a number of categories, including educational level, religious background, age, relationship status ("married" isn't a category), ethnicity, body type and other things. Under the last category (body type), one has categories that really aren't very helpful ("average" or "washboard" or "I should maybe lose a few"); I would have appreciated a "stunning" or "knockout" category; it would have made searching much easier... I didn't know if "full-figured" or "I should maybe lose a few" were synonymous or if they just were euphemisms for something else. The height limits go from 3'0" to 7'6", which gave me a moment's pause as I tried to think through some of the implications of a person's need or desire who was equally happy with a man at 3'0'' as she would be with a Yao Ming.
Some One Liners
As I began to read through some profiles, stopping here and there to look at pictures, I began to see that the kind of review that these sites were given by "management" wasn't necessarily a literary review. Budding Shakespeares generally don't seem to sign up for this site... Here are some examples of how a few women represented themselves.
1. One said that she was recently divorced and was grateful for "God helping threw the divorce." I was wondering if she was missing a comma, and what she meant to say was, "God helping, (I) threw the divorce." But that would have involved a level of sophistication and probably an inversion of meaning that wasn't intended. I wondered if "throwing a divorce" was a way that some people talked. Then, I concluded, that she just didn't know the difference between "through" and "threw."
2. Many of the women present themselves as conservatives. One of them had, as her first line of introduction, "I support the Troops!" which may be a pleasant sentiment under some occasions, but I wonder its effectiveness as a mate-attracting tool. One woman talked about her values and characterized them as "old fashion values." Sure enough, her pictures showed her as a somewhat frumpy or even frowsy dresser, but that probably isn't what she was trying to communicate.
3. Another woman stopped me in my tracks with her opening line, for she said she was a "spiritual widow." I wracked my brains to figure out what this might mean. I know what a widow is; indeed, there are many of them on this site and, in fact, I wish them well. When I consider that several of these women are in their 40s or even 30s and call themselves "widows," I see immediately that there is a lot of pain, even among people who say that they are in love with Jesus... So, I know what a "widow" is, but a "spiritual widow"? Does that mean that men in the past have been dead to her? That she doesn't have a "spiritual" soul-mate/husband? That all she is looking for is a "spiritual" marriage? I didn't email her to try to figure it out...
There are more of these--in the next essay.