Where should Christians mingle?

I’ve been thinking this week about how easy it is to miss the obvious. The sports section in the local Austin American Statesman does this all the time. Just yesterday, for instance, the editor gave an entire first page column to the first Rangers/Tigers game, how well Detroit does against the Rangers and forecasting pitching match ups.

Since I’m a die hard Tigers fan (I spent many evenings with my son Bryan at the old stadium when they won the Series in 1984) and a Rangers fan as well, I actually read the entire column. When I finished, I noticed a small box at the bottom of the page with a picture of a Phillies pitcher.

The caption described how the Phillies ace only gave up one run and then went on to mention, as an afterthought, that the Phillies lost 1-0. As an after afterthought the next sentence said the Cardinals, who won, would advance to the NL Championship. Then, as an after after afterthought, they added that the Brewers advanced to the championship series as well.

Sorry, Statesman, but in order of importance the real stories should have been “Cardinals and Brewers win their divisions, advance to Championship Series,” and then run a story about the first game between two teams that had already won their divisions a few days earlier. I’ve heard of burying the lead in a story, but never burying the story and the lead as well.

And, yes, if you hadn’t guessed, I will be rooting for the Tigers in the ALCS, but I’ll be happy with either team in the series.

The press made a big deal announcing that Sarah Palin wouldn’t run for the Republican nomination. But wasn’t it already obvious that she wouldn’t run? She doesn’t finish anything. She’s been not campaigning long enough to get bored with that by now.

On top of that, I heard three ads on TV this morning for the Christian Mingle dating service, a place for young Christian singles to go to meet the mate God intended for them. I finally looked them up out of curiosity.

Christian Mingle promises to find your true love if you’re a good enough Christian. Backsliders need not apply.
Click on image to see full size

The message on the splash page couldn’t be more clear. Faith pays for love across state boundaries.

First, the verse over the photo of an irresistibly cute couple: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The implication being that faith will get you laid. Which, of course, is not what that verse is about at all. The psalm is about the desire for justice to prevail over evil and being rewarded for righteousness.

The caption with the photo explains how two Christians had to fly from the east to west coast to find love. The subtext seems to imply that Christians don’t have to search the world to meet other single Christians and can only do it online.

What about church? Can’t you meet the love of your life in the next pew? After all, if God is really all powerful and plans for you to marry that special someone, he can move that someone to your town and guide them to your church.

And if you can’t be bothered to switch pews and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you, and by the way, my name’s Phillip and are you free for coffee after prayer meeting,” do you really think you’re going to suck less at romance on line?

I hate to sound like a curmudgeon, but that seems like the obvious place to meet someone to date, and if your church doesn’t have anyone datable, there are always other churches.

Furthermore, if God was really going to give you the desires of your heart, would he make you pay a monthly matchmaker fee? I thought you could go to gypsies for that.

Christian Mingle feeds the same idealized vision of romance that pundits blame for all the divorces ripping families apart. The romanticized version of romance is that we can find the perfect spouse by finding someone with a computerized checklist.

“I want someone who worships God as we walk hand in hand along the beach; is willing to cuddle up with scripture, non-alcoholic wine and Amy Grant music by the fire; will share the housework and daily devotionals, and isn’t afraid to be moved to tears by the spirit.”

Why would anyone think an online Christian dating service is any different than the miserable failures in the secular world? Even if you do get to pray before you fill out your computer checklist.

Do you ever wonder what really goes on in those chat rooms? It seems just as likely people will cheat on their spouses with righteous sexting as they would with regular sexting: “I feel the spirit moving. The Lord wants me to rise to this occasion. That’s a big verse you sent.”

Only now it’s okay, because you’re not really cheating, you’re counseling.

The irony of all this to me is that when I went to church I didn’t do it to meet girls. In fact, I avoided romance with Christian women like the plague. Being raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), I learned that the love of Christian women always masks a hidden agenda. Sure, they say the love you, but they really love the man they know Jesus wants you to be.

I had enough of that with the family I was born into. I didn’t need to add another one by marriage.

My experience with my first wife should have given me a clue that approaching marriage with such clearly drawn presumptions rarely works out. We were fine until Bryan was born, and then she turned into a righteous woman. Bryan had to get baptized. So we joined a Presbyterian church, took Presbyterian lessons and finally got confirmed so Bryan could get baptized.

We never missed a Sunday, never missed a lesson. Until the day came and Bryan was baptized Presbyterian. After that she never woke up on Sunday until football started. After we got divorced I had to take Catholic lessons, so she could get the marriage annulled and the church would allow Bryan to get baptized when she remarried a Catholic.

I also learned you didn’t have to be raised BPK to have religion make you nuts.

Ironically, I met Carol in church. I had no intention of dating her because she looked so holy and so righteous. She served on the altar guild and everybody she walked by could see the halo over her head. I knew she was bad news.

Then, for some reason, we ended up sitting next to each other one Sunday and had to share a hymnal because Episcopalians encourage that kind of thing. I heard this voice say quite clearly, “You need to marry her.”

God never spoke directly to me before. Ever. Or since. Even during my fervent days in the Jesus movement when everybody had visions and angels dropped in like bad acid trips, God answered with silence. So I figured I was having my first schizophrenic episode.

But later, at a pot luck, I thought I should at least say hello and cover my ass with God. Just in case.

The voice wasn’t wrong. Carol is such a catch that my own mother still asks her if she wouldn’t have been better off marrying someone better.

And while I don’t think everyone will have God shout out who they should meet, I’m not sure they need an algorithm either.

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