Is it right for Christians to find a spouse through the Internet?
A recent story in the New Yorker leads to questions like this for committed evangelicals. “Looking for Someone” by Nick Paumgarten paces through the recent explosion of online dating, a phenomenon that has led to real-life marriage for many couples. One selection from the piece shows the complexity of the new romantic landscape:
[T]he fastest-growing online-dating demographic is people over fifty—a function perhaps of expanding computer literacy and diminished opportunity. I recently got to know a woman I’ll call Mary Taft, who is seventy-six, has a doctorate in education, and has been married and divorced twice. She lives outside Boston. As a single mother, in her forties, she gave up men for a while….In 2000, she put an ad in Harvard Magazine. “This seemed horrible to me, but I got all kinds of responses. A nice guy from Vermont drove all the way down to see me.” And then, when she was almost seventy, she discovered Internet dating, and the frequency and variety of her assignations intensified.
The essay traces new developments in romance, but the broader reality behind the piece is ages-old: how to find someone to spend the rest of one’s life with. Civilizations and societies have offered different answers to this quandary with varying results. Whatever one thinks about arranged marriage, for example, it certainly offered a straightforward solution to the question of whom to marry. Though many choice-driven westerners would balk at such an arrangement, we cannot conclude that it does not offer a solution.
This is a matter that requires the attention of pastors and churches. How are we to help singles find spouses in our day? Do we leave them to the wilds of the Internet? I might suggest that the church take an active role in caring for its single members by stressing the essential goodness of the community of Christ. Online dating may not be wrong–it may well led to marriage in some cases–but it seems deficient in comparison to the real-life interaction and experience that the congregation creates and allows.
We might also suggest that the elders and pastors of evangelical churches take note of developments like online dating and shepherd, in even a basic way, the romantic culture of their churches. Is clear from books like 1 Corinthians that church leaders like Paul involved themselves in questions of marriage and romance (chapter seven, for example). Paumgarten’s piece helps us to see that ours is simultaneously a sex-crazed but intimacy-lacking world. Can we form a culture of purity that is also a culture of meaningful connection?
Our churches have an opportunity to show the world a better way to marriage. Perhaps, in an isolary, lonely world, we can image, however imperfectly, a greater union, the covenant of love shared between Christ the pursuer and his radiant bride, the church (Ephesians 5).
This is a post from the blog Thesis.