The other day, amidst the otherwise forgettable and (mostly) obnoxious commercials that flood the in-between of any show or sporting event these days, something caught my eye. The crisp, artistic visuals, the dramatic music, building steadily toward a majestic reveal, and of course the message—one of hope for the weary, fortune for the impoverished, love for the loveless.
It was a commercial for ChristianMingle.com, everyone’s favorite Christian dating site.
Now, if you’ve watched it, hopefully you’ve come back to read the rest of this post. If not, then I can only assume you’ve been swept off your feet by the invitation to meet your “soulmate” and start your wonderful life together.
I wish you the best of luck.
Before I delve into my point, which is aimed at the commercial itself and not ChristianMingle.com, or any other dating site, let me first say that I’m in no way badmouthing dating sites. It’s become quite normal for people to meet and start dating via the world wide web. I know people who have met online and are wonderful, happy and completely normal couples. It’s the way of the future, and when finding a job (LinkedIn), shopping (Amazon), schooling (online classes) and pretty much anything else can—and at times, must—be done online, it’s understandable that dating would be no different. It’s simply one more way to meet someone—another pond to fish.
So, now that we’ve established that I’m in no way attacking the concept of online dating, or specifically online dating sites tailored for a specific audience (i.e. Christians), let’s get back to the commercial, with which, needless to say, I do have some problems.
The minute-long commercial starts off with “angelic” light piercing through a ray of autumnal leaves. The music, again redolent of angels, starts softly in the background. Suddenly we’re rushed with a collage of scenes: two love birds sharing a front step on a balmy afternoon, the delicate silhouette of a couple’s legs tucked away in some quaint barn, a woman’s head resting affectionately on her complement’s shoulder in a classic, nostalgic pickup as they cruise gently toward their bright blue future. How wonderful it all looks.
The narration oscillates between various male and female voices (implying the bevy of success stories from couples the world over) as the initially faint soundtrack now gives way to a fanfare of notes that ring optimistic, crescendoing with each passing second as the commercial, in all its romantic glory, continues to roll!
And of course, the messages, with unwavering assurance—even bordering on the prophetic—stream in:
[Christian Mingle] is a place to find our soulmate, someone to love. That one special person who makes us strong, better…to do great things in our community, united in faith and purpose…
God has a plan for each of us. It’s a plan that starts with you and becomes stronger with the power of two.
And let’s not forget this one, too:
Find the person you were meant to find.
Yes! I’m a believer in ChristianMingle.com!
But, in all seriousness, I agree in a certain context with these messages. We as Catholics see marriage as a vocation, a sacrament that displays, in a real and visible way, the love and presence of God. So, if someone is called to that vocation, then it’s through that vocation that they will not only be sanctified (i.e. made into a saint), but sanctify others (most notably their spouse) as well. In this way, yes, Christian Mingle, that “one special person” can make us stronger and better.
The danger comes with the idea of soulmate. This commercial implies there is only one, special, unique person that has been created by God to be your spouse. Phrases like “soulmate” and “meant to find” do a great disservice to people because they imply a type of magic, fantasy.
If I was meant to find this one, single person, then what happens if they turn unfaithful later on in my marriage? What happens if they don’t live up to my expectations of “perfection?” What if I don’t have feelings for them anymore? Does that mean this person isn’t the right one? Maybe I made a mistake, and since God has only created me to be with one, special person, then perhaps I’m justified in leaving that person because, well, I don’t feel drawn to them anymore. Fate can’t fault me for doing so, right?
This is the problem with language like this. It sets an unrealistic expectation on marriage—on a spouse. Not only that, but it loses sight of the fact that, despite the great gift of romance and all the feelings that it can entail, it isn’t just about those warm feelings.
Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.
Well, we can all thank Christian Mingle commercials, rom-coms and Taylor Swift for this view. And I speak from experience in that I have (and still do) struggle not to view women, and potential relationships, in an unrealistic and overly romanticized light.
What makes someone your “soulmate” is that you chose to make them one. Obviously, you are going to be attracted to and get along with some people more than others, but there are several people who could potentially be your “soulmate.” The magic comes in the choice, not in the romantic idea that God created you a perfect complement that you are tasked to find in order to be truly happy. It’s a sweet idea. Really, it is. But I don’t think it’s reality.
Secondly, what about those who never marry? How about those, whether of their own choice or not, never find that “soulmate” with whom to join their life? (And I’m not going to address those who take vows of celibacy to sacrifice their whole lives—and posterity—to God as a service of love, since Christian Mingle isn’t specifically Catholic.) Are they not “stronger” and “better” than someone who is married? Is God punishing them because they haven’t prayed hard enough or invested enough time in the “5 Things You Couldn’t Live Without” section of their online dating profile?
The problem with this type of mentality is that it idolizes romantic relationships and marriages and undermines other life callings, ones grounded in service. If God has called you to marriage then yes, it can make you better and stronger. And by all means, pursue that calling online or off, looking forward to the incredible gift that such a special relationship like marriage can be with hope and joy. But that shouldn’t be blanketed on all people implicitly through commercials like this. We all know not everyone finds their “soulmate,” yet that doesn’t mean their lives are any less meaningful, valuable or love-filled.
Finding and forming a relationship with God is what makes us better and stronger. The whole finding-another-person-to-spend-your-life-with bit only comes after that.
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