Using Grindr to Hook Up with the Lord
The advertising page on mobile hook-up app Grindr’s website boasts that "Grindr is the ideal way to reach highly engaged people exactly where you want to reach them." According to a report from Instinct, an openly gay youth minister in Tennessee is doing just that -- reaching out to gay men on Grindr to invite them to his progressive lgbt-inclusive church.
"Since I’ve been coming to the church, I’ve brought a number of people here who are also gay, usually on Grindr, because I’m quite clear on Grindr that I’m a Christian, and my real main purpose to be there is to be a Christian influence on Grindr, honestly" says Michael James Alexander Szalapski who was recruited to work with the youth group at his church not in spite of, but because of the fact that he is gay and that his insight and experience would benefit the congregation.
An interview with Szalapski where he discusses his unusual use of the popular GPS driven "hook-up" app, is featured in filmmaker Christian Hendricks’ documentary "South of the Ohio," a work in progress that explores queer culture in the deep South. The Huffington Post reports, the film project began in the beginning of the month in Kentucky. So far, in addition to filming the interview with Szalapski, Hendricks has also filmed segments at the Creation Museum, a local PFLAG meeting and roller derby match.
Szalapski’s outreach on Grindr appears to be reaching it’s target audience, the youth minister states "people will message me and say, ’hey, you’re a Christian? Me too.’ And I’m like, ’hey, I’ve got a cool church that you can come to.’"
Although his farm boy looks might be considered a "bait and switch" tactic, Szalapski asserts the power of the simple message he sends out on Grindr.
"It’s just amazing to see what difference a little sentence on an online profile can make for someone. Just that little glimmer of hope that the God that they knew as a kid, that they thought was a loving God and they were told was a hating God...and that one little sentence can give them hope."