Sci/Tech

Christian singles in cyberspace

The Internet offers dating for interest groups of all inclinations. As times have changed, some Christians are going from pairing up in the church to searching for their soul mates online.

Internet ads seem to have a life of their own. Everything from blood-pressure meds to niche dating sites inevitably crops up on the screen. As prevalent as online dating has become, a banner for “Christian & Single?” can still look out of place. But that’s not to say such websites don’t have a following.

Although larger sites like eHarmony or match.com offer communities for Christian singles, many conservative Christians are hesitant to use them. “Sure, you can search for other Christians on secular sites, but it is much harder, because these sites don't drill down that much into Christian faith,” says Sam Moorcroft, president of ChristianCafe.com, the largest privately owned Christian dating service online.

Since February 1999, it has hosted more than 2,000,000 Christian singles. “Our market is conservative Protestants, also known as evangelical/non-denominational/born-again/fundamentalist. That market is around 30-50% of all Americans,” Moorcroft says. “These Christians generally will not marry someone outside of their faith.” While ChristianCafe.com is open to anyone who calls themselves a Christian, exactly what that means can vary by denomination and personal beliefs.

Even so, some Christian dating sites seek to ensure that members hold particular values. In the “About” section of RealChristianSingles.com, the site warns that married people posing as single could be found guilty of fraud and subject to “fines of up to $250,000 and jail sentences of up to five years for each offense.” The site goes on to ask, “If you are married or a convicted criminal, please close your browser now.”

The founders of two sister sites, WeWaited.com for single virgins and WeAbstained.com for singles abstaining until marriage, have taken similar precautions. “We take both websites very seriously and consider them a ministry,” says Co-Founder Lety Colin, who started the sites with her husband in 2009. “WeAbstain has more members who are of the Christian faith, whereas WeWaited has everything under the sun.”

To ward off misuse of the sites, the founders conduct profile checks to see if the information members provide matches with the lifestyle of a virgin or abstainer. The screening methods for WeWaited.com, for example, have identified applicants who were previously married or even had biological children. “We check for honesty,” says Colin. “In WeAbstain, the approval rate is higher than in WeWaited.”

Scrutiny is an issue for Christians on both sides of the screen. Often described as one of the largest Christian-oriented dating websites on the web, BigChurch.com has been met with skepticism by members of the Christian community due to its parent company, FriendFinder Networks. The company was originally named Penthouse Media Group Inc., known for its flagship adult magazine, until it changed its name in December 2007. Apparently, sex doesn’t sell all the time.

By mail.com Editor Will Cade

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