What Would Jesus Surf

Before I begin, I should note that as I start this entry, there are exactly 666 comments in the comment threads on the site. That’s some irony.

So, I’m wading through my referrer logs, because I’m exactly the sort of geek who does that sort of thing, and I notice that one of the spiders hopping through the site is from “ChristCrawler.” This is a new one on me, as well as something that is not, by name, an entirely savory image (Jesus walked, but I don’t think Jesus did much crawling) so I follow it back to this page, and read the goal of ChristCrawler, owned and operated by ChristCENTRAL:

“ChristCENTRAL.com focuses on providing the highest-quality search results for our own users and for corporate [users]. It is our goal to provide a unique, powerful way for Christians and non-christians to search the Internet, finding useful information while knowing that we strive to provide and filter all non-christian web sites.”

“Provide and filter all non-christian web sites” seems to me to be a rather contradictory statement; typically in regards to the Internet, when one “filters” that means one is actually excluding a site. So you’re either providing non-Christian links or not. The site’s not very well copy edited, so I’m thinking there may be a word missing here, and the search engine itself isn’t up, so it’s hard to say what they’re doing. But I suspect by its very name, it’s meant to be a search site that presents Christian-related links first or exclusively while excluding or demoting non-Christian-related links.

This brings up a couple of interesting points. The first being that I would be interested in seeing the technology that ranks and evaluates a site’s Christ level. Current online content filters are of course notoriously bad at this sort of contextual evaluation, so unless there’s a human on the backend, checking each site for its presumed Christliness, I don’t know how useful such a search will be. I mean, my site has a number of references to Christ, hardly any of them non-complimentary (he’s a righteous dude, on any number of levels), but it’s pretty emphatically not a Christian site. That’d be a pretty interesting nut for an automated search engine to crack.

The second is, if indeed ChristCrawler excludes “non-Christian” sites, should it really be called a “search engine”? An engine that searches information to determine if it should be excluded should probably be called an “exclude engine” (or, to go back to more common phrasing, a “filter”). No doubt there are millions of Christ-oriented pages out there, but there are billions that aren’t, so the majority of search cycles will be spent throwing stuff out.

There are of course a number of Christian search engines out there (here’s one, here’s another), but they’re pretty poor analogues to the Web in general. One boasts a catalog of over 30,000 links, which is nice but a drop in the bucket compared to the general Web.

Which may be how the people who use these sites like it; they’ve got their own Christ-centered thing and they’re not interested in stuff outside of it. Which is fine, although I have to say that doesn’t seem very Christ-like to me. I would even go so far as to suggest that the recent wave of Christian cocooning in which some evangelicals have engaged in — in which they endeavor to live entire lives shielded and isolated from the rest of the world — is emphatically non-Christian.

Jesus, you’ll recall, was not someone who spent a whole lot of time sheltering himself against the unbelievers and the scumbags. He was not even unworldly, to the extent that he recognized there was a world concerned with the issues of men and he knew what they were; Matthew 22, verses 15-22 is a fine example of that. And of course, Jesus hung out with some real unsavory types — hookers, thieves and so forth. Jesus was engaged in the world of his time, including and especially the parts of it that some Christians today wall themselves off from.

Jesus was not exclusionary. He had confidence that his message could thrive in the marketplace of ideas. When he searched the Internet, I’d guess he’d probably use Google.