Recently I’ve run into a series of articles framed around the auto-fill returns from various iterations of the Google search, “Why is _____ so ______?” The basic idea is that you fill in the first blank and when you get to “so” you find out what everybody else is asking about whatever your thing was. Sometimes the articles feature a map or chart of the results, like this one about why states are so ____. In which I found my little state-line town on the border of “backwards” and “racist.”
So I decided to play the game with a few forms of Christianity.
I started with my own:
Huh. I hadn’t realized that we were so successful on the frontier. Good for us.
Not too bad. “Frozen chosen” is a little unfair because, despite its distinctly Calvinist roots, the phrase has been co-opted by a general reference to a back-pew sitting, non-participatory worshiper in any Christian setting. “Black mouths” was new to me. It may or may not have to do with eating blackberries in secret meetings. Do your own research.
Baptist friends, brace yourselves:
Ouch. The only real consolation is that, of the three, “strict” is the most kind to have at #1. Apparently the 3rd most popular search action regarding Baptists is to lose interest in the question entirely.
Let’s check out Catholics.
Weird. The interwebs are completely silent. And very specifically silent–if you type, “Why are Catholic” you get a fair amount of results regarding priests and Catholic schools, etc. But the moment you plop down that “s” everything goes dark. Eerie.
On to the Lutherans.
Baha. Good one, Google. I see what you did there.
Finally, a relatively unsurprising return for evangelicals:
At this point I decided to try dropping the “so” and by doing that I got this for my tribe:
I guess there are worse things than being called liberal or having people wonder about where your name came from. (Fun fact: it was meant as an mildly insulting nickname and, as we Methodists hadn’t yet settled on naming everything with acronyms, it stuck.)
If you’ve read this far and have no idea how Google’s auto-fill works, you can learn more about that here. The point is this: Our very existence is bad for SEO. (Search engine optimization. Come on, people.) The main thing that most people want to know about any of our brands of Christianity is why we are the way we are. Not what we believe. Not what we’ve accomplished. Well, apart from how good we might have been at intrusive westward expansion. But what makes us who we are. Take that point specifically–since we were so successful on the frontier we apparently haven’t raised the curiosity of the average searcher on Google about why Methodists are so generous in their community or why Methodists are so active in disaster relief or why Methodists are so great at blending contemporary & traditional worship in a way that has some drums but isn’t too loud and we do some hymns but also some newer songs and the kids always sing at Easter.
The people that aren’t already listening to us don’t care about any of that. Particularly the last bit.
Our glimmer of hope is that fourth most popular search–why are Methodists different?
We can be different. We must be different. Our goal in youth ministry is the same as that of the United Methodist church–to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Transformation. It’s different, the kind of different that people resolve to look up on Google when they get home.
One last thing: I decided to check out our profession, too.
Google won’t even let you ask the question without redirecting you to two of the most critical things anyone needs to know about our efforts as youthworkers:
And it’s important.
To youthworkers of every stripe, thank you for the work you’re doing. Keep at it til why are Methodists different hits #1.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Flora