January 14 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) - Looking for love in America? Perhaps what you need is a little faith.
Christians in the United States who are trying to find their soul mates are turning with increasing frequency to the Internet, so much so that – despite studies that find religious affiliation declining in America – Christian dating sites have become a booming and very competitive business.
“The benefit of coming to a site like ours is knowing you are coming to an online Christian community where you know people share your faith and your values,” said Ashley Reccord, spokeswoman for ChristianMingle.com, in an interview with RIA Novosti.
“We are the largest and fastest growing online dating site for Christians,” she added.
With just over eight million registered members, ChristianMingle.com is the largest of the dozen or more Christian dating sites that have sprung up online in recent years.
It is also the most popular of the 28 different, niche-dating sites owned by Spark Networks including JDate.com which is targeted toward Jewish singles and has 750,000 active members; LDSSingles.com for Mormons, which reports over a thousand couples that have found their matches; and BlackSingles.com, which reports tens of thousands of members that log onto its site each day.
Tre Reaume told RIA Novosti that he logged onto ChristianMingle.com from his home in San Diego, California in February 2009, after a breakup with a girlfriend.
“Sure you can click on ‘Christian’ for a mainstream site,” he said. “But something like Christian Mingle allows you to sift through people who hold to that specific belief.”
He wasn’t looking for anything serious, he said. But he was looking for another Christian, someone ambitious, adventurous, and attractive.
“Christians have this idea we only need to worry about what the person is like in the heart, and I’m like, ‘What?’ No way,” he said.
Three weeks later, he met Miki, a former Radio City Rockette dancer and a musical theater performer who was living across the country in New York City.
The long distance relationship allowed their friendship to take off.
“I proposed at the end of 2009, we got married in June of 2010… It’s definitely a God story for us,” he said.
His story and scores of others like it are helping to drive the popularity of Christian dating sites across the US, a growing trend that seems to contradict reports about the decline of religion in America, particularly for those under 30.
The Pew Research Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank that studies national and global trends, released a report in 2012 that found the number of Americans who have no religious affiliation had grown from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012, the vast majority of them under the age of 50.
“While I can’t argue with the numbers in the report, I can argue that perhaps our country isn’t really losing its religion but rather finding new ways to keep the faith,” said Clayton Coates, a senior pastor at Grace Point Church in Texas and an advisory board member for ChristianMingle.com, in an op-ed in Valley Christian Magazine.
“Perhaps it’s because singles are no longer going to church in the traditional sense, they now are finding new ways to associate and share their beliefs in online communities as well as the faith community,” he added.
Christian Mingle took some heat for its recent ad campaign, with the slogan, “Find God’s Match for You.”
Some media critics suggested it implied a special “God connection,” or some kind of divine intervention guaranteed to answer your most fervent dating prayers.
At the end of the day, said Reccord, the tagline said exactly what they wanted it to say.
“We don’t believe Christian Mingle is the only place you can find God’s match, but we have a lot of members who say had it not been for the site, where they did find God’s match for them, they don’t believe they otherwise would have met their match at all,” she said.
Call it a 21st century take on an age old biblical teaching: Surf, and ye shall find.