I didn’t even know what Google Autocomplete was until I started reading a bunch of recent articles about it – starting with a little paragraph by Arianna Huffington in the Huffington Post. It seems that if you type in the words “why am” on Google, the Autocomplete genie will immediately offer you suggestions to complete your question. So I tried it. The first suggestion was: “why am I so tired?” The second: “why am I always tired?” Hmm, what does that say about us?
But the article that really piqued my curiosity was Yasmine Hafiz’ Google Suggest Reveals the Internets’s Offensive Religious Stereotypes. So I started Googling. Naturally I began with my own denomination. I typed “Why are Lutherans” and immediately got: #1 “Why are Lutherans in the upper Midwest?” and #2 “Why are Lutherans wrong?”
Hmmph! #1, as a Lutheran from Southeastern Pennsylvania, I’m offended. And #2, as wrong as we can be sometimes, is that really the second most asked question?
So I continued and found:
- Why are Episcopalians . . .
#2 leaving the church?
- Why are Presbyterians . . .
#1 called the frozen chosen?
- Why are Methodists . . .
#1 called Methodists?
#2 wrong? (wrong like the Lutherans or their own brand of error?)
- Why are Mormons . . .
#1 so nice?
#2 so weird? (is it weird to be nice?)
- Why are Jews . .
#2 so rich? (as rich as the Episcopalians?)
- Why are Muslims . . .
#1 so angry?
#2 countries so poor?
- Why are Catholic . . .
#1 countries so poor?
#2 churches closing?
- Why are Atheists . . .
#1 so angry?
#2 so rude? (maybe they can learn something from the Mormons)
But the one that really got to me was one that didn’t even get two suggestions, just one (as if it’s the one and only definitive answer:
Why are Christians . . . so mean?
Oh, I get it; I really do. We have a lot of repenting to do for a lot of bad stuff. And if you listen only to the rantings of the Christian right, you’d have every reason to think that Christianity is one mean-spirited religion. Take, for instance, this quote from Ann Coulter: “I’m a Christian first, and a mean-spirited, bigoted conservative second, and don’t you ever forget it.” It’s hard for me to believe she and I profess the same religion.
But seriously, is “mean” the only suggestion Google can come up with? Yeah, I know; it’s nothing personal. “Autocomplete predictions,” according to Google, “are automatically generated by an algorithm without any human involvement based on a number of objective factors, including how often past users have searched for a term.”
So does the blame falls on all the people who went on line to find out why the religion based on the teachings of a humble, non-violent, compassionate, inclusive, boundary-breaking, spirit-filled Jewish peasant has become . . . mean?
Does the blame fall on those so-called followers of Jesus who somehow have forgotten those teachings?
Does the blame fall on progressive Christians who have allowed our religion to be defined by the meanies?
Or should the question be: does the responsibility lie with progressive Christians being proactive in getting out the message of the humble, non-violent, compassionate, inclusive, boundary-breaking, spirit-filled Jesus we follow? And if that’s the question, then how do we become more proactive?
I suppose the first step is getting on Google and typing in the words: Why are Christians so . . .
- and every other positive thing we know we can be.
No, it doesn’t mean that each and every Christian will exhibit all of those characteristics all of the time (we probably should add the word “human” to the list). But even with all our faults and errors, all of us aren’t mean all the time either.
So I say we go after that algorithm and teach it a thing or two. Why are Christians so . . .
Tag, you’re it.