In addition to pastoring a church, I teach sociology at a community college in Nashville, TN. I mainly teach Intro to Sociology to first year students. Every semester, when I assign a paper to write, I have to tell my students that Wikipedia is not considered a legitimate resource for academic work. You can usually hear a few students groan at this.
Why can’t they use Wikipedia? Wikipedia defines what they do as “a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 17 million articles (over 3.5 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site.” (Click here to read for yourself.)
In other words, Wikipedia is not considered legitimate because anyone can gain access to the site and add and subtract whatever they want to any article. Thus, you can’t be sure of the source or the accuracy of the source. (What’s amazing is that in spite of its “collaborative nature,” studies have shown Wikipedia to be more than 80% accurate.) Students like Wikipedia because it is simple and fast; it’s a one-stop shopping center for research, but the product is of lesser quality.
Wikipedia is a result of our consumeristic, give it to me now, society. And this mindset has entered into the church! I call it wikireligion; and is seen in people’s desire to find a fast, simple, one-stop shopping center for a God-fix for the day or week or year. Like Wikipedia, wikireligion is a collaborative effort where anyone can gain access and add and subtract what they like or don’t like about being a follower of Jesus. Wikireligion is a short-cut that eventually short-circuits genuine discipleship. Wikireligion produces a lesser quality of disciple for the rest of the world to see.
In contrast to wikireligion, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23, NIV) And then His brother, James, wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
What do you think? Am I on the right track, or am I making a big deal about nothing?