The instructions were simple. “Google Jesus,” it said. In the South we are used to lots of odd-ball religious messages on billboards and bumper stickers. They do not differ much from each other. All of them are Christian fundamentalist messages warning about the reality of Hell, the literal meaning of the Bible, and the substitution of Jesus “for you.” The majority of these could have been seen a generation or two ago. Being inundated with these messages, one is not surprised by them. That was why the message I got from Kathryn was intriguing. She saw a sign that discussed atonement and then directed the reader to “google Jesus.” I had to try it out.
Jesus On Google
Teachers do not like it when their students cite Wikipedia. I understand why. But, it is a convenient way to quickly get basic knowledge. I was not surprised when their entry for Jesus popped up on my screen. The article reminded me of an entry from The World Book Encyclopedia which is the source teachers scolded my generation for using.
I am not sure what the sign maker thought we would find by googling Jesus. I wonder if that person ever tried it. It could have been an attempt at “cool relevancy.” But Google is accused often of providing links to information based on the region of the searcher. So I called on a friend who lives in the Northeast. He found the same listing I did. Since he is also a member of the clergy, the algorithm may have been counting on that.
Too many people rely on search engines to provide unbiased information. A friend once told me that I could ask Google who founded the Roman Catholic Church. The answer given is “Jesus Christ” which obviously proves the claims made by Catholic apologists. No, it does not. Asking the search engine “who founded the Methodist Church,” gets one the answer “John Wesley.” That answer is also untrue. John Wesley is not the founder of any Church.
Jesus is My Savior and Nero is My Emperor
The internet is not a good source for answers in theology, biblical studies, or understanding any Christian belief. But the internet is good if you want creationism, flat earth ideology, or conspiracy theories. Google and social media provides a false sense of identity and community. The World Wide Web is not a good means for evangelism.
Consider the bizarre phenomenon of Trumpism. I could not imagine first century Christians claiming “we have no king but Caesar.” But, in recent, years the heresy of Trumpism makes the claim of being Christian. American pastors are used to claims that we are a particularly Christian nation. It is not new. Politicians quoting Christian scriptures isn’t either, especially in the South. What is new is the Anti-Christ aspect of Trumpism.
No. I am not “pinning the Anti-Christ tail” on Donald Trump. It is an unfair claim to make about him. However, the devotion and worship given to him (including by members of my family) is antichristian. There has not been a greater denial of Jesus within the Church. It appears the elect can be deceived after all.
Uncritical Use of Google (and the internet in general)
Trumpism could not have happened without the mass appeal of the Internet. The issue is how information is consumed. The algorithms used to connect consumers to information are the problem. One is still receiving information from a single source even if the articles or videos are published in different places. Google tells me John Wesley founded the Methodist Church and uses an article from Britannica, Wikipedia, and The United Methodist Church website. None of these sources make the specific claim that Google makes.
Uncritically using information sources is popularly called “research” by people claiming conspiracy theories. Worse yet, though, is how the way information is given allows a person to act towards others. A colleague of mine recently illustrated a point in her sermon about a group of bumper stickers she saw while picking her child up from school. The owner of the car claimed “Jesus is my Savior” via one bumper sticker. The same person claimed “(expletive) your feelings” with another one. What could be more anti-Christ than that? Denying the Gold Rule is beyond the ethical behavior agreed to by the majority of world faiths and ethical philosophies.
Churches Should Teach
Reaction is the goal of many false teachers. Love as action is the goal of the religion of Jesus. It is a simple distinction. “By their works you shall know them” because the right words are meaningless in their mouths. It is as incongruous as beating and berating cops while carrying a “blue lives matter” flag.
Churches should take the harder road of teaching goodness and upholding love over hate and evil. Let tomorrow and the anxieties about it take care of itself. None of us need to be hateful today. And we must prepare to speak truth in love for other people.