New words crop up all the time in this digital age. I can only imagine Webster’s Dictionary has never been so in flux at any other point in history, and as an English major, I find it totally fascinating and a little hilarious.
Culture and society just creates words as we go, and with the power of the Internet, they become "real words" and even have appropriate linguistic parts of speech in the blink of an eye.
When Twitter became a big thing (a new word in itself, of course, but coined by its creator, not by society as a whole), linguistics became a global conversation:
- If we tweet something, is the past tense tweeted or twit?
- Is the 140-character phrase itself a tweet, an update, or something else?
- Are Twitter users tweeters?
The noun, the verb, and a string of adjectives from people very passionate about the subject flew through cyberspace (ahem, another example) constantly.
One new coined noun that quickly became a verb without any fanfare or controversy is "Google."
"Just Google it," people advise curious information-seekers. "I Googled it and found more than I ever wanted to know," would be the proper past tense use.
The all-powerful Google must be thrilled.
Their brand is synonymous with searching, just like Scotch tape and Kleenex commandeered their corners of the adhesive tape and tissue markets.
What Does This Have to Do with God?
Google isn’t all-powerful, but they seem mightily close to that status, and they are shrouded in secrecy and mystery, much like the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is to us in the 21st century.
From the user end (that’s you), people go to Google and ask it questions about the world. They expect an all-powerful, correct answer.
They even speak conversationally – blog owners can see what people are searching for, and it’s often a real question, like, "What does phytic acid mean?" or "How do I treat an ear infection naturally?" instead of Google terms like simply, "phytic acid" or "treat ear infection naturally," which is all Google would really need to get you where you want to go.
We treat Google, in a sense, the way we ought to treat God:
But Google is not a deity. It’s an organization of humans.
Peeling Back the Curtain on Google
Have you ever wondered how Google searches work?
Me too, and all the other bloggers and website owners in the world.
Much like some want to earn their salvation, we who administrate websites of course wish that our site would show up higher on a search than other sites – imagine how many more visitors the site in position number one for a popular search gets than position eleven.
But we can only do educated guesswork with a narrow stream of incomplete information from Google itself.
The algorithms (formulas) Google uses for determining search rank take thousands of variables into account.
Interestingly, Google is increasingly trying to be more and more "human" in a sense – valuing personal interaction, requesting real faces as Google Plus images instead of logos or cartoons, teaching its computer systems to understand that people searching for "healing ear infections naturally" "natural treatments for ear infections" and "How do I cure an ear infection without medicine?" are all essentially looking for the same thing.
Google’s goal is to help you find the best possible answer to your question, in a human sort of way.
Web administrators and writers can only do our best to guess at how to "speak" to the Google robots crawling our sites (and of course the good news is that the better Google gets at its goals, the more the real answer is "just write rock-solid content, naturally, to reach the humans you want to reach anyway," and it will all work out).
No one really knows the inner workings of how search status is qualified and how Google makes decisions…just like God.
Sure, the good Lord has given us the Bible and a rich history of tradition, we in the Catholic Church have the papacy to guide us and the promise of Matthew 16:18 ("And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." RSV, Catholic version) to reassure us, and we can connect with Him in real time through the gift of the Holy Spirit and prayer…but it’s still a far cry from actually knowing and understanding how He makes decisions.
How does God determine a sin, for example?
We know salvation is by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
We know we can’t earn a ticket to Heaven by anything we do or don’t do – that price has already been paid.
We know there is objective truth: moral rights and wrongs that can’t be compromised.
But we also know, through Scripture, tradition, and personal experience, that God is a just and merciful God.
Does God condemn native peoples who have never heard of His holy Name or His Son’s sacrifice when they don’t praise Him in the way He taught?
Does God count their sins when they are in ignorance?
Is it a sin if someone who knows better sins under duress, like stealing food to feed a starving family?
Does adultery "count" as mortal if the sinner has a certain low level of self-control, not because of lack of trying, but because of their God-given faculties?
Would God condemn someone who, even after being told, didn’t believe contraception was a moral evil – does He take into account the stresses and emotions people are buried under, the ability of their mind to make decisions, the influences in their life?
Some would say, "No way. It’s 100% black and white. God doesn’t play favorites."
I prefer to treat God like Google – with thousands of attributes He takes into account when judging someone’s moral uprightness. With the mysterious grace that flows from the Cross. With the supernatural knowledge of every intention, every understanding, every faculty we possess.
Are YOU Like God and Google?
The real lesson here is that it’s simply not our place.
I wouldn’t be able to make my website a perfect fit for Google’s thousands of requirements, so the best I can do is write from my heart for my audience, love my community and choose to serve and share information.
Like with God.
Who are we to judge others?
When we observe a given incident or assess someone’s actions, we don’t know their backgrounds, their knowledge, their heart’s openness to His will.
We don’t know exactly how God measures the gravity of a sin – perhaps we, who have been given much knowledge and many gifts, are more culpable than those we so easily criticize who are struggling with what appears, to our limited vision and point of view, to be so grave.
This Holy Week, these holy three days before Easter glory, let us enter into our own spiritual lives. May we deepen our faith, connect with God on a more personal level than ever before, and remember that it is never our place to judge, only to love our neighbor, and God above all else.
May God grant you many blessings…and may He be the One you go to when you are curious, when you are scared, when you need help and have a question. For His ways are above all our ways.
For more faith nuggets (which usually have more to do with the kitchen or food), please enjoy my Mary & Martha Moments.