I’ve noticed recently an abundance of ads for ChristianMingle.com on my Facebook feed, especially when using the mobile app. The most frequently recurring one features a heavily bronzed twenty-something girl with a set of flawlessly straightened and bleached white teeth. She has bursting blue eyes. She boasts platinum streaks through an equally flawlessly straightened head of brunette hair. She has tight jawlines framed by a pair of dangly earrings. But her most prominent attribute is an amount of cleavage that is curiously ambiguous. Our coy subject reveals just enough to ensure she’s no prude, yet still possesses that sense of modesty that any Christian guy values (well, at least we claim to value it). I would love to meet the content director who determined how much titillation was acceptable to a Christian male audience before things got sinful.
Dangling a picture of an attractive (?) girl in front of a guy who is trying to follow Jesus isn’t exactly helpful for fighting lust. But wait! This portrait of my future wife is sanctified by the banner crudely splashed across the top of the ad in bold letters: “JESUS CHRIST is LORD.” Great! This must make it OK for me to examine her picture like a figure skating judge.
At first these ads were just irritating. But I quickly realized how patronizing they really were. ChristianMingle has created an ad that combines the lowest common denominators of both physical attraction (a busty white model who is almost comically saturated with makeup) and Christian theology (“JESUS CHRIST is LORD,” and we put it IN BOLD LETTERS so you know we really mean it).
My first level of discomfort here is obvious: the data-driven model of “we think we know you” micro-advertising has penetrated too deeply. Usually I can laugh it off if Facebook’s ad team thinks I want to buy a early-90s, Dr. Dre-style L.A. Raiders hat (actually, owning one of those would be awesome). But this isn’t a hat. This is my marital status, and if I didn’t have enough anxiety about that already, now the Internet has a suggestion about it, even though I’ve never asked it for one.
Secondly, as is the case with all advertising, continual visual exposure to the product will make you want the product. I suspect ChristianMingle’s advertising is conditioning—and reflecting—this generation of Christian men’s ideas of attractiveness. I don’t personally think that this young lady’s Snooki-clone style is all that attractive—it seems like a paint-by-numbers caricature of attractiveness. Maybe there is some guy that is allured by her, and that’s OK. But even if I did think that this girl was the prettiest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, sprinkling some Jesus dust on the ad doesn’t sanctify her questionable picture.
In fairness, ChristianMingle, and other sites like it, are very helpful for many people who, for whatever reason, are not finding Christian marriage through traditional institutions. But trying to rope users in with a HTML banner paying lip service to the notion that “JESUS CHRIST is LORD,” alongside a picture of a plastic-looking woman I will never meet, is a condescending commodification of the very theology in which I place my hope.
David Wilezol is an unmarried radio producer and writer in Washington, D.C.