Why are Christians so...

I watched a videocast of a great sermon this week: Phil Vaughan's Extending Grace installment for the Gracenomics series at the Southeast Christian Church.

The most powerful part of the sermon comes when Phil asks us to type into Google the phrase "Why are Christians so..." Due to Google's autocomplete function the most popular querys starting with this tag immediately pop up.

And guess what? The results are depressing. Here is one screen capture:

Feel free to try it yourself.

Phil then goes on to compare these results with the Google autocomplete for "Why are Buddhists so..." The top autocomplete for this tag is: "Why are so Buddhists so happy." Quite a contrast between Buddhists and Christians.

The provocative question the sermon leaves us with is this: What would it take for Christians to get the Google autocomplete to become the following:

Why are Christians so loving?

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31 thoughts on “Why are Christians so...”

  1. I'm not sure the autocomplete relies only on statistically common searches - it might also be a function of the web-pages. "Why are Jews so" gives us - greedy, successful, rich, hated.

    Besides, talk to Sri Lanka's Tamil diaspora and I'm not sure "happy" is the word that comes to mind when they think of Buddhists.

  2. Rather bizarrely, you also get, "Why are Sikhs so...tall"! Answers on a postcard... (as we fat, rude Brits say).

  3. Try this one: "can blind people see the"...taste of cinnamon toast crunch??? I read somewhere that there are virus-type programs that constantly ping Google for a search query get it in the autocomplete section.

  4. Of course, now that I've typed "Why are Christians so loving" into my search box, that is now the first suggestion for me.
    So in my personal context, this now doesn't work. How's that for screwed up technological research.
    However, I didn't miss your point.
    I believe this happens primarily because Google gives us geographically relevant results. If you lived in Burma and typed "Why are Buddhists so..." I suspect your results would be much different. We have so few buddhists among our population size that they are easy to mold into a caricature instead of seeing their overall trends.

    Good point. I wonder also if the Google results would be different in the religion-saturated Bible belt as opposed to the agnostic Northeast?

  5. Richard, in case you haven't already seen this:

    I kind of hoped Rob wasn't an admitted-Universalist -- for no other reason than that the whole of the blogosphere would end up having to face up to how easily we jump to conclusions and run around condemning people and taking sides.

    This whole fiasco has been one great shameful example of the state of the Western church and its love affair with gossip (and assumptions). It really does make one feel that orthodox Christianity "doth protest too much" -- or, in this case, "too quickly". A problem has been revealed and it's not with Rob Bell.

  6. That's very interesting, You get almost identical response to Christian when you type "Why are Atheists so .... ignorant, angry, mean. I tried a few others.
    Why are Hindus so upset about Avatar..
    Why are Buddhists so happy, selfish...
    Why are Jews so rich, smart, cheap, successful...
    Based on this research, I have decided to become a Jewish Buddhist - just like Jesus.

  7. Wondering about myself I just tried "Why am I so..." and the autocompletes were:


    And that about sums it up folks. Good night and good luck!

  8. It's not news that the world has a low opinion of Christianity. We brought it upon ourselves, and have been doing so forever (Romans 2.24).

    The real question is ... what do we DO about it? How can we actually start obeying Hebrews 10.23-25, which isn't so much about GOing to church as it is DOING what church is supposed to be about: "spurring one another on to love and good works."

    The real failure of church isn't the form - it's the function. Our churches, whether brick and mortar or online churches (like this blog) are failing to provoke action. Lots of talk - lots of debate - lots of discussion ... very little action. Maybe we should start singing the old Elvis song in church. :)

  9. This is true. Christians ought to be doers of the Word. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. No one is perfect. But as Christians, we ought to walk in faith and follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. When the world sees us there should not be any question concerning if the individual is a Christian or unbeliever.

  10. I really appreciate this post. Some of you asked "so, now what do we do about it?". I founded a nonprofit last year for the very purpose of reversing the negative stereotype christianity carries. It's not about a PR stunt, it's about helping christians to be more christlike...true christ-like transformation. Check us out at http://www.changingthefaceofchristianity.com. We would love your support. JOIN US! This can only be changed 1 christian at a time. We have articles, stories, bible studies, and other resaources to help us look in the mirror and be more loving, less judgmental, more tolerant, and accepting (not necessarily agreeing) of other people with different beliefs or ways of living.

  11. Perhaps it's because Buddhism is often a self-centered religion. Without any prescriptions for anyone else, extreme individualism can seem very much friendly, when in fact it's simply disinterested.

    Further, we could maybe assume that these people who build the search results are from the West. As such, their experience with Buddhism is probably largely from "enlightened" westerners who've decided that an alternative faith from the exotic east is for them. It's a lot more likely that they aren't used to dealing with Buddhists from multiple generations down - therefore the only Buddhists they really know are people who've taken an active role in their spiritual life in a way that doesn't suggest a morality for anyone not interested in seeking it out for themselves. Kind of like how you can get a warped picture of what alcohol is like if you'd only had experience with college freshman, you might not have an accurate picture of what Buddhism is.

    Just some thoughts.

  12. Just thought you should know...one of the key principles of Buddhism is show compassion and love to all living things. Extreme individualism, my ass. Don't skew an entire methodology of thinking based on 2 lines you read off wikipedia.

  13. If they become loving they won't be christians anymore.

    The symbol of their religion is a little toy man being tortured to death.

    Also it's hard to be loving when you don't have any evidence for your views. Christ-insanity will cease to exist before its victims become loving. The demographic trends are inauspicious in the extreme.

  14. It is amusing to see what comes out of the Google autocomplete black box, but there's actual research on the (unflattering) public image of Christians that tells the story more convincingly. Words like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental” come up a lot.

    Check out unChristian by David Kinnaman at www.unchristian.com

  15. I think it reveals the Western church's love affair with belief: defining Christianity based on believing (a set of beliefs), rather than relating and doing. Churches spend way too much energy arguing/debating whether a particular belief is "in" or "out."

    Rob Bell's biggest contribution to me personally is the metaphor in Velvet Elvis relating Christianity to jumping on a trampoline--its fundamentally active and joyful. Also, we can still jump if a few springs (beliefs) are missing or different from Christians jumping on different trampolines. Obviously, to jump on a trampoline takes springs of some kind, so belief of some kind is essential to practicing Christianity--but in the end, it's about being active, about jumping--and if you're jumping on the trampoline, you are Christian.

    So much more freedom and flexibility in that metaphor than in the opposing one: "Brickianity," in which our beliefs are bricks in the wall, and need to be arranged just so for the wall to hold. Also, the wall collapses if you remove one of them.

  16. I just wanted to give you a quick update--

    "Why are Christians so loving" is now the number two choice on the Google auto-complete. Two of the factors in a Google search are the number of times a phrase is included in a webpage, and the number of links to that webpage from others. So, as far as publicity blitzes go, blogging about wanting Google to ask why Christians are so loving, and having a popular blog where people will repeat that string of words within their comments and link to the post in their own blogs all increase the likelihood of getting that key phrase returned.

    And, incidentally, when I googled 'Why are Christians so loving', your blog was the first return.

  17. In Buddhism, one is taught to disregard material possesions and even their idea of "the illusion of self." How can a religion based on oneness with the universe  and that teaches that the idea of "self" be self centered? 

  18. Be a good person. Don't be so arrogant to assume your faith (your choice, not based on fact, but on personal choice) is right for anyone else.  Live the teachings.  Stay out of the Old Testament.  Quit bashing gays.  Wash a prostitutes feet, take $$$ out of religion, tell your evangelical brothers to STFU. 

    People will want to follow your faith ONLY if they see you leading a life they admire.  Of course many use faith as a weapon against others (historically other faiths, science, slavery, women's rights, civil rights for minorities, civil rights for GLBT....) and become faithful as an excuse to harm others...

    You need to shout down your extremists and live lives that others want to emulate.

  19. Christians suck, Christianity sucks, yeah yeah.  I've met a very large amount of loving Christians.  A very large amount.  Strangely they don't get the press.

  20. Wow. It's like we care more about our reputation than we do about God.
    No wonder people hate Christians.

  21. Yeah. Because obviously, google searches and popularity are what Christianity is all about. *facepalm*

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