Last time we met up, we were talking about Christian Mingle: The Movie. It’s a rom-com about a young Christian woman who pretends to be very fervent on the dating site Christian Mingle in order to catfish herself a very fervent Christian man who is not what he seems either. Hilarity ensues. Today, having gotten some rest and plenty of water, I’ll show you how this movie backfired on its makers by showing us a side of Christianity that Christians really should not want non-believers to know exists.
(I just realized that this movie fits into our Unequally Yoked Club series–even though both of its lead characters are Christian! How ridiculous is that?)
Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave, When First We Create Our Dating Profiles.
Right out of the gate, Gwyneth, the movie’s heroine, shows us exactly why Christian Mingle is not the utopia for single Jesus-lovers that it markets itself as: she lies on her profile.
Now, the funny thing is that Christians lie all the time about just how observant and fervent they are–and Gwyneth is, despite this movie’s repeated insistence, a lifelong Christian by her own reckoning. Researchers are only starting to understand how often and how dramatically Christians exaggerate their church attendance, prayer life, depth of belief, and frequency of evangelism. Even when there is absolutely no way to tie them personally back to the opinion they’re giving, they still lie. They’re not better than anybody else, and this movie shows us that truth in spades repeatedly.
Whatever seems valuable to a desirable person, another person is willing to lie about it to impress them. Men lie about their income and height, women lie about their age and weight, and Christians lie about their religious fervor. In the carefully curated world of digital profiles, it is painfully easy to present oneself in a way that is aspirational and overly-optimistic at best, cruelly deceptive at worst. Discussions of these deceptions are now a mainstay of both reality TV and blogs (that first link was a joke, obviously–but check the comments; the people there sure got stung).
In this new environment, translating people’s profiles to weed out the choosy beggars has become quite an art in and of itself. When I first started reading about how people are learning to read between the lines and detect deception in dating profiles, I was simply astonished at the sheer arsenal of techniques that are evolving to meet the need.
But Christian Mingle isn’t just any old site. It’s supposed to be better than all those other sites that are filled with worldly people who don’t have Christian values. It’s a site that claims to be geared specifically to Christians to help them find “God’s match for [them],” as the advertisements tell us constantly. Its “About” page informs us that it wants each of its users to “find someone who shares your place on what we call ‘the faith spectrum,'” which includes the totally-disengaged Christians like Gwyneth.
The site’s administrators also claim that they “manually review every profile and photo to ensure that you’re meeting quality Christian singles for the best relationships,” which sorta flies in the face of what AAAtheist told us last time, but really, that paternalistic-sounding deception is not the most outrageous and preposterous part of this site.
The Two Central Conceits of Christian Mingle: The Site.
1. The Christian god might be the creator of the whole universe and he might have orchestrated the movement of every single atom in it, but literally the only way this omnipotent author of quarks and quasars can find to get you together with your ONE TRUE LOVE is for you to join a dating website.
The movie takes a tee-hee tone about how “kooky” it is that the Christian god takes rather circuitous routes to communicate with his ant farm and accomplish his unguessable goals. The heroine–and the people responsible for this movie–clearly want us to think that it’s just adorbz that “he” sets up all these Rube Goldberg chains of events that turn out perfectly in the end, but I wish, oh I wish that I could make Christians understand that what they think is cutesy-poo and quirky is actually grotesque and creepy–not to mention a direct refutation of their claims about this god’s nature and power. The movie makes one thing crystal-clear that I really don’t think they intended to make so obvious: there is literally no way whatsoever for anyone to know for 100% sure when this god is talking to them at all, much less to discern what he might be saying. The fact that Christians could ever think in a billion years that their god set up an ineffable plan that requires first-world Christians to join a dating site to find their divinely-ordained soulmate is just so far past lame it borders on childish.
It doesn’t look “kooky” or powerful or loving or magnificent that this movie’s plot unfolded the way it did, either. Not even a little, any more than it does that the hero’s father supposedly saw Jesus in driftwood. It’s just pareidolia–and it’s just something that humans have evolved to be very, very good at. Why, some humans can even see the hand of a deity in the sometimes-odd and fascinating ways that human beings make connections with each other!
And then we get into how narcissistic someone would need to be in order to think that they’re soooooo important that their god is ignoring all the serious needs in the world just to make sure that they find true love. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I personally got solid proof that the Christian god existed and was doing anything for anybody at all, I would be horrified to think that he was devoting even an iota of resources to finding me a boyfriend instead of, say, doing something about the vast number of pedophilic ministers preying upon children in his name. It shocks and horrifies me that Christians so often have this warped sense of priorities and total lack of empathy for others–like screw everyone getting sold into slavery in third-world countries, kids dying of abuse and starvation, and people dying of cancer! Jesus just learned that Gwyneth needs a date!
Maybe I just have higher standards for omnimax deities than they do. Or maybe I’m more “UM-bull” than they are.
2. Jesus might have died on the cross for no monetary cost,* but if you want to find a partner for reals then you better be willing to open your wallet.
The come-on used by the site is the same one used by religious leaders the world over: “You have this need and my invisible friend says that you should give me money so he can solve it for you!” Little wonder it’s a successful business.
I used the word “business” there very deliberately. If you think that the people responsible for Christian Mingle: the Site are just providing this service out of the kindness of their hearts as a ministry for Christians who have been targeted by Jesus as needing to meet on a dating site, then you, my friend, are one sweet summer child. No, it is free to join and even to do some limited, one-sided things on the site–but you must pay for a subscription to actually send and receive messages and participate in instant chat, which are the mechanisms by which users actually communicate with each other and set up meetings. A subscription costs about USD$25-30/month (but they offer discounts for multi-month purchases). There is no trial period that I could see. My goodness, a fake salvation from a manufactured threat almost starts looking like a bargain here, doesn’t it?
Gwyneth is never shown typing in her credit card number, of course; that’d totally harsh the buzz of the plaintive-but-hopeful Christian Contemporary Music song earnestly rising in the background like a sickness in one’s throat. Instead, it looks like she made a profile and then got one perfect match and went on her very first date and that’s all it took, HOORAY TEAM JESUS! But we don’t really know. It happened quickly, but not immediately.
And let’s not forget that she used a fake/outdated photo of herself to look better–which brings us to the other big problem with this movie’s credibility: the idea of a person so eager to land herself a fervent Christian man that she is willing to be deceptive in order to attract one.
Christian Catfish: The Movie.
Gwyneth is a Christian’s idea of what a single non-Christian woman is like. She totally believes in Jesus but has selectively forgotten every bit of the indoctrination she received growing up and going through church, Sunday School, and being generally part of a culture in which Christianity is discussed and pushed at people constantly. She aches for a “good man,” and is starting to realize that worldly men are not going to be what she needs. And she’s dishonest enough to lie about being fervent (OH THE HUMANITY) to snag an innocent, unwary Christian man.
It’s hard even to know where to start with that stereotype.
I know that Christians–particularly fundagelicals–think of themselves as the barometer for desirability by which all others are judged. A Christian man is supposed to embody all the best qualities of a husband: dependability, strength, honesty, warmth, fidelity, kindness, eagerness to start and maintain a family, and all that good stuff. There’s no shortage of Christians eager to police that definition by shoe-horning men into that mold: Men are like THIS; men do THIS; men react THIS way; men never ever do THAT.
But I’m starting to notice a backlash against that image as more and more people are noticing that reality does not bear out Christians’ high opinion of the market value of their men.
I’ve got some single female friends about Gwyneth’s age who are looking for relationships through various dating sites. We don’t talk about religion much (IF they’re Christian, they’re not particularly gung-ho about it), but I’ve noticed lately that their horror stories are starting to center around Christian men. One of these women mentioned recently that she’s sworn off Christian men for good. She just got tired of their controlling nature and constant moralizing, their weird hangups about affection and sex, and their dishonesty and sexism. Another has had offers from another friend to fix her up with guys from her church because those men have expressed interest in meeting her, and she’s declined for much the same reasons.
I was kinda surprised to hear that those church guys had expressed that interest, but I shouldn’t have been. A growing number of such men are looking for love outside the church walls–and I’ve noticed that when their leaders learn this truth, they tend to react with total outrage.
Some of those leaders know, for sure, that it’s happening. You can find thousands of blog posts and sermons online about why Christians should not date or marry non-Christians, all of which have a finger-wagging sense of rebuke about them. But their authors tend to take it for granted that of course people want to date them and are eager to slither in past their Jesus Defenses to destroy their faith through hot heathen kisses and their total lack of fear of Hell.
I’m not sure that it’s true anymore that Christians are seen as this incredible draw for non-believers. I’m starting to see some pushback to the idea, and in some very isolated venues one can see discussion about it even from Christians themselves.
True, a lot of folks don’t really care either way what religion a potential partner is. But I am seeing the beginnings of a changing trend in how non-believers look at Christians as potential partners–and how Christians themselves look back at those non-believers. The sheer weight of demographic change makes this shift all but inexorable. Christians are starting to see their religion skewing more female, meaning that a growing number of Christian women are competing for an ever-shrinking pool of eligible Christian bachelors. But as I’ve hopefully demonstrated here today, those same Christian bachelors are starting to get more and more leery of their female counterparts in church, so are removing themselves from that entire hot mess to seek companionship outside the religion.
It’s all happening under the noses of their leaders and apologists, and indeed must: the situation as it stands flies in the face of every single party line the religion has about dating and marriage.
Those leaders and apologists have set up a system that has declared for generations that mixed-faith relationships simply can’t exist and that fervent Christians shouldn’t even look at less-fervent ones when considering marriage, much less thinking about marrying non-Christians. Their fantasy is very firm on those points–and on assuring Christians that eventually, if they are obedient enough to
Jesus their religious leaders and it’s his will some unguessable magic formula is fulfilled, then they will totally for sure find their perfect, divinely-ordained soulmate eventually.
That’s the alternate reality that Christian Mingle: The Movie inhabits.
That Bizarro world is far simpler than our real one, and way more flattering to Christians than reality ever could be. That’s why Christian movies reflect it rather than the real world. We’re going to talk more next time about that world, and I hope to see you then. Happy Weekend!
* I know that Christians often phrase the Crucifixion as having been done “for free” and describe the event as “a gift,” but it is neither free nor a gift. It’s more like when your super-creepy neighbor comes up to you and tells you he trimmed all your rosebushes for you while you were at work, though you did not ask him to do it at all and didn’t consent for him to be on your property, and then demands that you go out to dinner with him as payment for his kindness. Oh, and you don’t actually own any rosebushes so who even knows what the weirdo actually did in your yard all day. I don’t actually think it’s okay to let an innocent person get killed for whatever putative sins I might have committed so I wouldn’t have asked for that help in the first place, but I definitely don’t feel obligated to comply with whatever someone is demanding I do on the basis of a mythological character’s unverified actions.