Double Click for God’s Match
The Christian online dating world entered into the world of popular culture during the introduction of the internet. More specifically, the creation of popular websites and apps such as Christian Mingle, eHarmony, Match and a multitude of others has led to a major rise in the number of active users. While 36% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 use online dating and more interestingly 60% of Americans online daters using only mobile devices as the platform of communication. The online dating world is one that is growing exponentially, causing religion to introduce itself amongst the economically driven industry.
The commodification of religion has been buoyed by the general increase of online users in social media and online dating. The lessening polarisation between religious values and modern dating is closing rift which will see key components of Judeo-Christian ethics enter the consumer marketplace for single individuals looking for both love and dogma.
Present in Christian online dating, there still is a very powerful desire and attraction when singles view each other’s profiles, however the Judeo-Christian tradition negates and attempts to stem sexual desire and redirect it toward a human desire for God. (Santana and Erickson, 51) This means that, while users may feel uncomfortable with the actions of searching profiles or actions, they can be assured it is in the moral boundaries of their faith.
With the competition of social platforms tough in a heavily saturated market, religious corporations would have to push the boundaries of their beliefs, (Santana and Erickson, 52) in order to draw new converts and maintain their control on the elements of people’s dating lives. Christian Mingle for example helps bring together couples through the sharing of status, pictures, basic information, and most critically the denomination which they belong to. Protestant writer Paul Hutchinson conditions “the uneasy relationship with religion being promoted in the marketplace and the disturbing idolatry of free-enterprise economics.” (Santana and Erickson, 52) Referring to what Hutchinson states as religion mixing too heavily in the economy. Sites such as Christian Mingle have instigated a new concept of religious institutions becoming reliant on the capitalistic demands of new people joining online dating platforms in order to join or convert to the congregations of their matches. The online dating world is an example of the culture industry thesis, as contributed by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. They mention the ideas of entertainment being nothing but a distraction to the ills of society. (Klassen, 35) That is to say, when people log-on to the online world in hopes of finding their next potential soulmate, they in turn ignore the increasing power of the industry they are aiding.
While the main focus and attention of Christian online dating is to sell the idea of single people who share the same core beliefs to find one another. There is indeed a great benefit that this program offers to people. This is explained in relation to the opinions of those who wrote a critique of the Neo-Marxist school. The ‘feel good’ factor that one has from meeting a like-minded person on these websites or applications, definitely has an impact on the overall contentment of that person. (Klassen, 41) As Carrette and King concern themselves with the corporate use of spirituality to encourage higher productivity to develop corporate capitalism. (Klassen, 41) It is critical to see how corporations of Christian online dating platforms use spiritual factors collectively, in improving the feelings of the individual while also promoting the increase of wealth and productiveness of their own organisation.
Christian online dating sites promote themselves by means of utilising economic approaches of marketing with the blend of religious messaging. This is one of the most obvious and useful tactics means with which websites such as Christian Mingle and eHarmony use advertising in print and online. The strategies these corporations employ are undoubtedly contradictory to their own religious attitudes. This hypocrisy underlines the true capitalist motive behind their attitudes and as Santana and Erickson believe, the link of capitalism and religion explains the way they employ the notion of ‘desire.’ That is to say, the desire for a product, (i.e a profile on one of these platforms) are not unlike the desire for God’s love. (Santana and Erickson, 54) Our desire for romantic love, through the use of these online products can be just as powerful as our desire for a connection with God. The advertising we are bombarded with to ‘sign-up and meet our soulmate now’ is exceedingly seductive and as cultural critic Mark C. Taylor articulates “advertising is so seductive because of the repeated promise yet inevitable denial of fulfilment.” (Santana and Erickson, 54) The use of religious messaging in the products of online dating cannot substitute the fact that it is still a marketed good. The increasingly globalised world will narrow the definition between religion and popular culture with online tools becoming the new focus for attracting ‘adherents.’
The world of Christian online dating is not only a platform for which individuals can meet others with the same beliefs and values, it is also an illustration of how popular culture can be fused with religion. Websites and apps can ultimately be idealised as mediums for which the push for consumerism can be marketed through. The commodification of religion occurs in countless forms with the Judeo-Christian form taking a highly personalised notion. While many theorists argue that the influence of religious organisations had been severely diminished since the inception of neo-liberal capitalism. (Klassen, 39) The product of Christian online dating uses marketing resources, which perhaps can keep the core values of a religious organisation going.
Fig.1. 2016. Projectinspired.Com. Accessed October 15 2016. http://www.projectinspired.com/wp-content/uploads/christian-dating-590x295.jpg.
Fig.2. 2016. Media.Beliefnet.Com. Accessed October 15 2016. http://media.beliefnet.com/~/media/photos/love-and-family/relationships/dating/galleries/are-you-ready-for-a-meaningful-relationship/slide_7.jpg?h=318.
Fig.3. 2016. Lh3.Googleusercontent.Com. Accessed October 15 2016. https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Tx9nYCrOtuxqfoUu0LJtYx1AW2ElWuhIELENaw37fT4qSWxi1Edakj9sBL7NV2iLIt0=w300.
Fig.4. Stories, ChristianMingle and ChristianMingle Stories. 2016. | Believe By Christian mingle”. Believe By Christianmingle. Accessed October 15 2016. https://www.christianmingle.com/believe/celeste-and-brian-god-managed-to-turn-all-of-my-nevers-into-forevers/.
Video.1. What does the Bible say about Dating? | Christians Dating | 2016. Youtube. Accessed October 15 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKQz-rvyMlI.
“By The Numbers: The Rise Of Canada’S Online Dating Scene”. 2015.Global News. Accessed October 15 2016. http://globalnews.ca/news/2111560/by-the-numbers-the-rise-of-canadas-online-dating-scene/.
Santana, Richard and Gregory Erickson. “Consuming Faith: Advertising, the Pornographic Gaze and Religion Desire.” In Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred, 50–66. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.
Klassen, Chris. “Religion and Popular Culture.” In Religion and Popular Culture: A Cultural Studies Approach, 7–28. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Taylor, Mark C. Nots. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.