He was telling me about chapel and how more players attend during losing seasons because they think chapel, or God, will help them win. We started talking about God and prosperity, agreeing that they don’t relate.
I call it “Ray Lewis Theology.” You know, quoting Isaiah 54:17 (“No weapon formed against you shall prosper”) after winning the AFC Championship, implying the victory was something God willed, causing Sports Illustrated to slap Lewis on their cover with the headline reading, “Does God care who wins the Super Bowl?”
No wonder players treat God like a penny slot machine. If God were a genie, heck, I’d rub the lamp. And I’d ask God for a hat-wearing monkey, hovercraft rug, and a gorgeous, middle-eastern princess.
Genies are comforting. But the problem is that they fit in a lamp. They’re small. And the scary thing is that this self-help, temporal deity exists outside of sports and is woven into the fabrics of our consumer-based society.
For example, this spring I was watching the first episode of The Bible series on the History Channel like every good, hip Christian. As director Mark Burnett chronicled the story of Abraham, it made me reflect on God’s incomprehensible ways. I wondered: Why did Sarah have to suffer so much before she bore a child? Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? His ways are not our ways, and that’s okay, I concluded. As endless as His galaxies, so are His ways. What Burnett made me do was look at God in wonder, in awe, and even in fear, just as the Bible should and does.
Then a commercial came on.
Silhouettes of a man and woman appeared on the screen; their hands touched; Jars of Clay sang “I want to fall in love with you” in the background; and the words “Christian Mingle” faded across the screen along with that Christian fish logo, the one you see on the trunks of cars, just in case you had any doubts about the vehicle’s eternal destination. (Was it baptized as an infant or immersed? And, if immersed, how did the minister do it? Is Hulk Hogan ordained?)
“Find God’s Match For You,” Christian Mingle’s tagline, concluded the commercial, and I think I coughed up my spaghetti.
The thing is, I like Christian Mingle. I recently interviewed Christian Mingle community manager Ashley Reccord, and she was as nice as Mrs. Claus. I like how Christian Mingle connects believers with believers (which would make a great tagline, by the way), but I don’t like how they come across or how they make Christians look, just like athletes who attribute God’s will with victories.
The Bible series portrayed the vastness of God’s creation and knowledge, while the commercial reduced His almighty name to a cause, just like Ray Lewis in his interviews. The song they chose cheapens it more, since it’s titled “Love Song For a Savior,” yet is being used as two people kiss, kind of like Lewis’ misrepresentation of Scripture.
“There has certainly been conversation surrounding the song,” Reccord admits. “The original meaning of the song was about falling in love with God. But in finding God’s match for you, we also want our members to deepen their relationship with God. We believe the song is a great way to communicate this message, because of the double meaning that can be interpreted.”
To me, playing that song only confuses people about Christian Mingle. It’s like playing “Nothing But The Blood” in an MMA advertisement. And I feel the same way about their tagline. Behind it is a serious theological fallacy.
“Our tagline actually encompasses quite the opposite,” Reccord says. “One of our board members, who is also a Christian Mingle success story, says online dating is a display of God’s creativity, and I think that’s the best way to describe our tagline. God is so powerful, He can use anything to help you find love, even something like an online dating community.”
I completely agree. And Christian Mingle is obviously doing something right, because they recently surpassed the 10 million member mark. But I can’t help but wonder why. That’s what scares me.
Consider this: Corona commercials. They’re brilliant, aren’t they? In a world of deadlines, 60-hour workweeks, and taking your children to soccer practice, their tagline “Find Your Beach” hits a spot. Who doesn’t want to relax? Answer: Corona.
Christian Mingle hits you in a spot, too: love. And it seems to imply that God will help you find your match if you join. Use God to win a football game. Use God to find your match. Find your beach. Find God’s match for you.
Ping! Ping! Ping! Jackpot! Super Bowl! Spouse!
“Just like any other company, we have 15 to 30 seconds to really help people understand that we are a site for people who are looking to find other like-minded Christian singles,” Reccord says. “But once you get to know us, you understand that we really are about helping people find their fulfillment in God and be whole before they jump into a relationship.”
Reccord helped me understand Christian Mingle, and I hung up the phone appreciating and really liking what they stood for, but still not liking their tagline. And I use Christian Mingle and Ray Lewis, not to make examples of them, but rather prove a broader point. I’m not saying God never uses something like a football game or an online dating site to accomplish His ways, but watering down the maker of the heavens or the mystery of the Trinity to a game-winning field goal or a marketing ploy does make Him seem remarkably small, doesn’t it?
I sometimes wonder how God feels about us using His name in slogans or claiming He willed a championship. I’d imagine He may disapprove. Maybe we shouldn’t strap Him to a cause because He can’t be contained in a lamp.
My point is this: The Christian walk isn’t about using God to make the playoffs or using God to get hitched. The Christian walk is about finding God—getting in His presence and becoming more like Jesus Christ. And I’m learning that getting into the presence of God is a comforting, sustaining, powerful thing, even if nothing changes in my circumstances.
Even if you lose. Even if you can’t find your match. Just find God.
This column appeared in the June 2013 DigiMag and Vol. 27, No. 3 print issue. Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. His column tackles sports and faith from another angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. Follow him on Twitter-@steve_copeland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.