It is interesting how I got to this thought. I was at a medical research meeting in Beverly Hills last week. I saw the ad on TV for "Christian Mingle." I of course had seen the same ad many times back in Washington. Because they claim that you can sign up for free to "find God's match for you," it has the psychological effect that it is some type of ministry. You know, like a no-strings-attached soup kitchen for lovers.
But my cynical mind led me down to path to find the rest of the story.
I won't bore you with the details but to say that it was started by Adam Berger as a niche dating service. It was ironic because he apparently lives in the Jewish section of Beverly Hills and I had just walked through that section of town that afternoon. For more about the company and the man you can read here. The Sparks company (which is behind the site) also has dating sites for blacks, Jews and later day saints. I expect them to move into other areas.
I also read about them through several blogs. I heard the same story over and over of people who signed up "for free" only to be enticed into paying money, sometimes a lot of money, to really make a connection. So, while I'm sure some good matches have taken place there, several of the women on the blogs complained of the same problem. They claim that they were matched up with older, divorced men who were odd and shared no common interest and certainly not a love of God in a way that would effect how they lived their lives.
But enough about Mingle. This isn't about them but more about the whole concept of for-profit business giving the psychological presence of a "ministry."
A number of years ago our old college Navigator group had a social forum. This was intended to be a place where we could all reconnect. It didn't turn out so good in my opinion, except to show how diverse our paths have been over the past 25 years. But one day an old Navigator leader, who is now a pastor, made the comment that God had showed him something special about health and he wanted to share it with everyone. It didn't take long for cynical me to start and see through what he was doing. He was part of a multiple-level-marketing group selling worthless supplements. Yet, he wrapped his business in God . . . or at least God's will. I finally lost it when he suggested that someone stop their chemotherapy for breast cancer and buy his supplements instead because that was more congruent with God's plan for us. I was pissed about that and left that forum after having an argument with him.
After I confronted the pastor in public, he sent me a private e-mail telling me that I had sinned against him and his company and I need to seek repentance so I could be forgiven.
So, my real point here is what is a matter with evangelicals that make them so gullible? How do Christians have the lack of consciences or moral compass that they could use Jesus to sell their products?
My Nav pastor friend argued with me that he had the right to earn a living by selling supplements in the same way I have the right to earn a living practicing evidence-based medicine. But I strongly differed. I would never, in a million years, tell a patient that God wanted them to see me, or even it would be more Christian to see me.
I've heard the same about Amway (with a lot of Calvinist Christians behind the company). Some of the people get so involved, almost cult-like, because they feel their business is their ministry.
I really think that the Christianity we have come to know in America (and it has happened in many other times in history and in many other countries) that we really need to come to grips with the simple and pure Gospel. Keep business as business and Jesus as Jesus and may the two never meet.