Christians - the predictive search test

What do people think of Christians? I’ve been thinking about this as I preach through 1 Peter. The Christians Peter writes to are clearly the victims of slander and malicious talk. They are subject to hostile questioning and are suffering for their faith.

2000 years on in post Christendom Sydney what do people think of Christians? To find out I typed “Christians are" into google. 

 

 

 

 

Google’s predictive search function offered the following ranked list of alternative search terms:

Christians are delusional
Christians are hypocrites
Christians are crazy
Christians are ignorant
Christians are annoying
Christians are like manure
Christians are brainwashed
Christians aren’t perfect
Christians are arrogant
Christians are wrong

What a list! Who knows how Google does their search algorithms but presumably these searches represent what you might want to type based on what the other millions of other searchers have typed.  If that is right then this is hardly a flattering picture of Christians is it?

I’ve been sharing this list over the last week or so & met some interesting responses:

Some blame the internet - it is a poisonous well of bitter and twisted people so don’t be surprised. You’d get different forms of this for any group whether it is ‘Atheists are’ or ‘Australians are’ or ‘People from the Sutherland Shire are’. I’m not sure this is right - when you type ‘lawyers are’ and get a more flattering list then it suggests we should sit up and notice.

Some say this matters deeply in a digital age with biblical illiteracy where google is the gateway to knowledge. What kind of links would people arrive at who genuinely want to investigate Christianity?
others say this should cause us to take heart - people are expressing digital rage because Christians are living in ways that are different and distinctive and grate against the dominant culture.  If this distinctiveness and offence comes from the gospel and not from other things then that is a good thing.

It’s made me think that even here in comfortable Sydney we may not be so far from the world that Peter wrote to. I don’t want to minimize the difference. We aren’t about to be burned in Nero’s gardens.

Experiencing personal hostility for your beliefs is unusual. But our culture is hostile to Christianity. Google is just a barometer of that.

We need to think about life and mission from the context of being reviled and unattractive and marginalized. How do you share the gospel with a suburb that thinks you are hypocritical, crazy, ignorant, annoying, manure like etc?  That will present different challenges from mission even a generation ago where the parish church could be the centre of community life.

 

The Rev Michael Kellahan has experienced the highs and lows of church planting. He also understands ministering in a less well-resourced context, and is currently rector of St Barnabas, Roseville East in Sydney's north.

Comments (7)

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  • Stephen Davis
    March 21, 12 - 12:02pm
    How many of these Google descriptions were put up there with malicious intent? Also experiencing personal hostility for Christian beliefs will beome more prevalent as society becomes more accepting of those things which God has called us to turn away from. I suspect that people sometimes level charges of being hypocritical, crazy, ignorant etc. at Christians simply to turn the attention away from themselves and their own shortcomings!
  • Karen Hinton
    March 23, 12 - 7:57am
    I agree our culture is hostile to Christianity. But Jesus told us to expect to be misunderstood - after all, the world hated him first. I suggest that the answer to your question doesn't need to change in today's suburban Sydney - with His compassion for the lost we keep speaking the truth of the gospel and live lives aligned to it. What does change is how we get alongside our neighbours to do this. With technology people can communicate without ever really connecting in relationship like they once did. Yes, some will go to Google to seek knowledge about Christianity, but we need to focus on they can know God beyond getting information. With less people coming into church "seeking" I agree we do need to go to them so gospel conversations can have a new context where real connections are possible. If we think too hard about how we are perceived will we ever be brave enough to speak up? There is a fundamental conflict between wanting to be seen as "normal and just like our neighbours" and wanting to be "salt and light and radically counter cultural" as the Bible calls us to be if we walk in Jesus way. Its not about how we look. Perhaps the questions are How do we put ourselves where we can connect meaningfully with the lost? And what can I do or say to connect meaningfully?
  • Stephen Davis
    March 23, 12 - 9:08am
    I think that is a very good comment Karen! Well done.
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 23, 12 - 9:17am
    Thanks Karen, you are describing the message at the very heart of 1 Peter - what it looks like to live distinctive ways in the real world holding out the message about Jesus.
  • Michael Kellahan
    March 23, 12 - 11:46am
    btw the curious specificity of 'Christians are like manure' peaked my curiosity so I clicked through to find the following Francis Chan quote:
    Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.
  • Karen Hinton
    March 23, 12 - 5:49pm
    Ha. Good quote Michael. And thanks for your article. You really got me thinking. I wonder - when assessed by a holy judge who knows the real us, would the Lord say we are never arrogant or hypocritical, or ignorant, delusional or annoying or even ever wrong?
    Thankfully we are undeservedly forgiven. Hallelujah! Karen
  • Kevin Russell
    March 23, 12 - 9:13pm
    Hi Michael, et al.
    I tried this in google, and what you say is true. But I also tried 'athiests are', 'secularists are', 'muslims are' and a few other things. All resulted in negative predictive items. So, this is not necessarily an anti-christian trait, but seems to be a general neagatism in society. So the question, as always, is 'what do we do with this information? How do with continue to engage with society for the gospel?'