Seeking a Spouse? Lighten Up
If a recent New York Times piece is to be believed, the latest trend in dating is a spin on the calling card, delivered to attractive strangers, with instructions on where to find the bearer online. Religious communities have often adopted secular dating services and technologies—sometimes even pioneered such—but I wonder whether this trend (if it really is one) will prove as malleable for Christians' use.
Certainly Christians are not averse to online services. I would be surprised to poll my peers at church and find many who hadn't at least once tried online dating—whether the freewheeling Match.com and Plenty of Fish, or faith-oriented sites like eHarmony and Christian Caff©. But as much as these sites advise you to include a profile picture, they also generally include enough text boxes for listing interests and "must haves" to square with Jesus freaks' ostensible search for substance.
It's inconceivable that a dating site could succeed without allowing user photos, but Christians still have an uneasy relationship with forms and faces. Would we take to services designed to connect folks initially attracted to appearances?
I grew up in a home where someone's looks were never mentioned without an attendant remark on the greater merits and importance of character. Even now I struggle with how concerned God is with satisfying sexual desires, though he's been remarkably kind at fulfilling a range of other longings. Physical attraction seems such an unreliable instinct that surely, surely God could not be at work in that—even if Proverbs speaks of a man finding satisfaction in his wife's breasts.
Yet I like to think that one's appearance is not unimportant, and could even be a predictor of personality and character. Some people radiate kindness through the simplest interactions, while others project cockiness without a word. Granted, such things are more apparent in person than in pictures, but nonetheless, others' demeanor shapes our impressions of them all the time. Even for Christian couples, whose romantic bonds owe a fair debt to unselfishness, patience, and love for Jesus, their mutually perceived "cuteness" probably plays some role in their success. Indeed, couples like my grandparents, who got married shortly out of high school and are in sight of their seventieth anniversary, didn't have much time for character vetting beyond a general sense that they got along well, liked each other, and seemed to have the makings for partnership.