wWhen YouTube first recommended the video to me, I couldn’t click on it. I’d heard of these « wedding night » videos, but it wasn’t until I launched this article that I finally forced myself to watch one: « Our first time”, a YouTube video created by a Christian influencer couple, Chelsea and Nick Hurst, about their wedding night.
Chelsea and Nick, who are both young, white and extremely sincere, have 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and upload videos weekly with titles like « Realistic married morning routine » AND « What to look for in a future husband/wife.” « Our First Time » opens with a promotion for the resort where they got married, then cuts to the storyline itself, during which the couple informs the audience that their first time together was in a treehouse between the sounds of pouring rain. At the end of the video, Chelsea encourages viewers to purchase her latest book, a sixty-day devotional by HarperCollins. Both are engaging and earnest – even with the obvious caps, you can tell that they genuinely want to help people by creating content that focuses on the Christian life.
One reason Christian influencers make videos about their newly minted sex lives is almost certainly to get views, which generates both more followers — more impact for Jesus, of course — and more money, too.
Also, their video, which was uploaded less than a year ago, has garnered nearly half a million views. The lesson? Sex sells. Christian sex also sells.
TWhile to the casual observer these videos may seem overly personal, they are quite common. Since the overall goal of the influencer is to build a following by appearing likeable, relatable, understanding, or ambitious, many of them do so by cultivating a sense of intimacy with their audience. Thus, sharing personal details over the internet, such as your wedding night story, helps you build stronger bonds with your followers.
But underlying these connections is the awareness that the relationship is, to some extent, transactional. After all, when a follower is both someone you can encourage and someone you’re selling something to, where does the encouragement end and the selling begin? How do you differentiate between the two, particularly when it comes to your personal motivations? Plus, the more time I spend on “Christian” social media, the more I wonder how influencers, consciously or otherwise, balance the ideas of monetization and money, genuine faith and the semblance of it, particularly when creating and marketing their content.
It is a difficult field to explore. Intertwined with the explicitly spiritual content that Christian influencers promote in their videos and captions is the implied underlying image of the “ideal Christian lifestyle,” which looks quite similar across the board. Many Christian influencers post professional-looking photos of their spouses and families, then sell you packs of preset photos so your Instagram feed can look like theirs. They write books and host workshopsteach you how to travel the world as a virgin AND how to get a guy’s attention. In all cases, their personal brand encapsulates their faith, which they then use to advance their careers. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing when done with the right motivation, it is theirs Work sell things: These trends can emphasize aesthetics over substance and make it difficult to separate the cultural from the biblical. Had my 13-year-old self watched these videos, he would have at least partially bought certain reassurances inherently promised in clickbait headlines and doctored photos: that one day God would write his own love story about him; that the Christian life would always feel dewy and desirable. She would have aspired to live up to these ideals, then she was discouraged when she realized that real life lacks the glossy veneer that seems so alluring on the internet. What needs to be most distinguished is the separation between biblical life and keeping up with the Robertsons, a line that is difficult to navigate, particularly when the two concepts are confused together.
AAdditionally, we need to consider the systems in which Christian influencers operate. Social media is not a neutral system; YouTube’s algorithms generally favor the types of content that will generate the most reactions. All of the « wedding night » videos I saw contained some element of clickbait in their titles and descriptions, an indication that the influencers who created and promoted these videos understood how their followers would react and also how the algorithm would distribute their video content. Within this logic, one of the reasons Christian influencers decide to make videos about their newly minted sex lives is almost certainly to get views, which generates both more followers – more impact for Jesus, of course – and also more money. . I can never tell if they lean more towards the mercenary or against it. Whether this reasoning is necessarily wrong, I cannot even say. To some extent, it’s theirs Work to generate reaction. But the systems in which they operate inherently push content creators to segment their faith and experience into separate chunks and market them as individual concepts. At least some of this makes me sick.
This ultimately ties into what Nancy Pearcey, in her book total truth, calls an intersection between the ideas of American capitalism and evangelical culture. Speaking in the context of Christian ministry, Pearcey writes, « Many Christian organizations in their marketing strategies borrow heavily from commercial enterprises, creating idealized images of their ‘product’ to motivate people to ‘buy’ it. » He argues that many ministries view marketing and business practices as philosophically neutral, leading them to employ the latest innovations in their ministries without consciously thinking about how to approach them biblically. Using secular tools of persuasion to « sell » Christianity to the masses – all for the sake of the gospel, of course – these ministries then use those generated levels of engagement to measure how « successful » they are as ministries.
Pearcey talks specifically about Christian ministry, which isn’t necessarily something every Christian influencer claims. But the more “social media influence” integrates into other traditional vocations, including ministry work, the more we should understand that being a Christian on social media means not only thinking about your own image, impressions and engagement, but also about why you are re-posting and how social media itself could influence your creative output and consumption habits. While Internet rules might measure success by the size of one’s audience, Pearcey argues that this desire for greater influence is precisely something Christians should actively work against. Our « success » is not defined by the number of people we reach; rather, she writes, we should « let go of the worldly motivations that drive us, praying that we are motivated solely by a genuine desire to submit our minds to God’s Word, and then to use that knowledge in the service of others. »
This is not, however, an easily fixed or even easily navigated problem. While people’s darker motivations often become clear with time, no one truly knows the longings of man’s heart except God. What I would seek, I think, is a general self-awareness of the different factors at play. If the job of a content creator and influencer is to build a following and a brand, then it’s understandable why someone would actively create consistent, aesthetically pleasing content to gain views and followers. Within every vocation are layers of darkness that make it difficult to understand practically what it means to be a Christian seeking to work within given systems for the glory of God. that we act online, our ultimate foundation is not our representation of our lives or the engagement generated in response to it. Rather, living in the light of the gospel means living with a pervasive awareness that neither we nor our achievements are ours and that, in fact, we should place more weight on biblical success than any human definition of it, even if that means abandoning numbers. .