Man has been searching, in some way, shape or form, for God since he was created. It has been a perpetual question of our existence. Many different means have been tested and tried to find God. Only recently, has this task involved searching on the internet. However, in the current culture, most searching is done online and through search engines – the most ubiquitous and powerful being Google.
Recently, Google unveiled a new way of searching from their homepage: the instant search. As you begin typing, Google is simultaneously displaying search topic suggestions and page results. This is an incredible feature that can make a short task even faster and more efficient. However, some have questioned the suggestions that Google instant search makes, particularly when searching for “God.”
|Google logo by LEGO artist Sean Kenney|
TechCrunch did an article on the instant search results for God. Google predicts that you are searching for “Godaddy.com,” the domain hosting company with the infamous commercials. If you hit the space bar after “God,” it thinks you are searching for “God of War,” the popular video game. There are actually some technical reasoning behind Google’s suggestions, which you can read about it the comment section of the TechCrunch story.
However, what would be the interpretation of this within the Christian community of the immediate past? I can see more than a number of the leaders hinting at, or explicitly saying it is, a conspiracy to push down search results for people looking for God in Google. There may be calls for boycotts. (I’m sure a boycott of Google would be extremely effective. I mean, it worked with Disney didn’t it?) Public statements would be given about the importance of having a website dealing with God as the primary suggestion. Legal or political action may have been suggested. In the end, maybe a God page is moved up, maybe not.
But honestly, do you think God really cares about His placement on Google’s instant search? Even more to the point, do Christians honestly think it will make an impact for the Kingdom to have the Wikipedia page for “God” be the top result or even a Christian website?
The boycott, protest paradigm cannot succeed. At it’s best, it forces someone to bend to our demands. How many people at Google do you think would have a positive impression of Christianity if we force them to rework their searching technology to bring up a desired page? Christians would rejoice in the superficial “victory,” but little would truly be won besides a few inches on the computer screen. The “God” Googler can still simply hit “Enter” on his keyboard or “Search” on the screen to bring up all the normal results for “God.”
Here’s a novel idea, instead of demanding changes from non-Christian individuals or businesses – how about Christians make a great, functional website dealing with God and other theological topics? You’d be surprised at the number of visitors the site would get. I’m constantly surprised at the ways search engines like Google bring readers to this site. The idea of creating and making is much more in line with our being created in the Imago Dei (image of God), than complaining and protesting.
In his book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch explains the mistake that Christians repeatedly make in these type of situations:
So hope in a future revolution, or revival, to solve the problems of our contemporary culture is usually misplaced. And such a hope makes us especially vulnerable to fashion, mistaking shifts in the wind for changes in the climate. Fads sweep across the cultural landscape and believers invest outsized portions of energy and commitment in furthering the fad, mistaking it for real change. The mass media, which are largely driven by fashion, can amplify the effect of a fad – for a few weeks, everyone is humming the number one song, the band is on Saturday Night Live and talking with Leno, the video is in heavy rotation. If the song or the band has Christian affinities, websites spring up overnight celebrating a new victory for the gospel in the culture. The short-term effects may be startling. But the long-term effects are negligible.
When we celebrate the arrival of the new Christian band, we are treating them as a technological device – the cultural equivalent of a laser that will in a few short years reshape the culture in significant ways. Strangely, we rarely fail to be surprised when the device fails to deliver at the scale that we had hoped.
Moving God up (or down) in Google is going to have a minimal impact on society and culture. Christians living devoted, creative, Gospel-centric lives and speaking of the Christ who has saved them will not garner much attention in the short-term. But long-term, it will be earth-shattering. If you doubt that, examine how the entire course of civilization was changed by a few dozen uneducated commoners in an out-of-the-way outpost of the Roman Empire.
Rome was where the power rested, but Jerusalem was where the movement began. Movements trump power. Creation and investment will always produce more and better fruit than protests and boycotts.
Instead of complaining about Google’s placement of “God,” why not make the next Google for the glory of God?