Asked what he thought of critics, Mel Brooks replied, “They’re very noisy at night. You can’t sleep in the country because of them.
Still one of my all-time favorite quotes, I again find it a perfect reflection of how I feel when I receive ‘love notes’ such as the response to my recent review entitled ‘Church of the Spinning Animated Gif:’
This is one of the most ‘unchristian’ christian sites I’ve ever seen. Everything is laced with sarcasm, judgemental language, and slamming people for creating a website. This is basically a parallel to churches where their members routinely slam people for what clothes the wear to church when they don’t wear a suit. I’m sure God is very concerned about topics like spinning gifs and flash-enabled websites. I think you should rename this blog, Movable Type/Firefox Pharisees.
My initial reaction was amusement as I considered the irony that ‘Mike near Nashville‘ made his point with a comment laced full of the very same ‘judgemental language’ and personal ‘slamming’ of which he accused me — go figure.
Nonetheless, I think Nashville Mike’s message offers me an excellent opportunity to bring new visitors up-to-date on what this site is about, and why I feel it useful to build-up the Body online by tearing-down some of the not-so-good practices that plague so many church websites.
God concerned about spinning gifs?
You betcha He’s concerned. When a person moves to a new town, they no longer look in the phone book for a church, they look online. Clinical research from authoritative sources such as Pew/Internet confirm that when people turn to spiritual topics, they turn to church websites for the answers. Unfortunately, many of these seekers are turned away by crufty church websites that are more style than substance.
Why do poorly designed church websites inspired seekers to move on elsewhere? I think the answer is best penned by e-vangelist author and all-around-good-guy Andrew Careaga when he wrote in an article entitled “The Church-Internet (dis)connection:”
“We in the church must change our way of thinking about the Internet. If we don’t, we’ll end up with our own subculture online, just as we have in ‘real life.'”
‘[S]ubculture online’ is a nice way of saying Christian Ghetto, which is exactly what we have when so many of the Children of the King continue to proffer the online presence of a pauper.
Put in technical terms, this isn’t about casual wear versus suits, this is about clothing church websites with reasonable structure, accessible content and usable navigation as opposed to dressing them up with the rags of cheap tricks, Cross kitsch and other Jesus Junk.
Top-shelf web designer Mike Boyink best summarizes this sad situation when he opined in the article “Church Web Sites – What We Don’t Know:”
“People are going to the web, and your church site, with a specific task to do, or question to answer — lets forget about having to entertain easily-bored surfers.”
God concerned about spinning gifs? You betcha!
Routinely Slamming People
About once or twice a month now, I receive a “touch not God’s anointed” message from someone who somehow construes my constructive – albeit somewhat snarky – criticisms of church websites as hate-filled attacks on churches and/or their members.
I think any reasonable person who has read my postings since May of 2002 can easily conclude that I rarely, if ever go after an individual. I can only recall one instance in response to a church webmaster whom after reading a critique here took over the front page of his church’s website to send me a personal message. Oh wait, there was one other instance, when I received spam from a ministry after taking the extra effort to ask the minister to remove me from his list privately (and nicely) first.
No, in fact Mike, TN has publicly levied at me a false accusation, pure and simple. As proof, I’ve listed some quotes from past critiques – hyperlinked so you can check the context yourself:
There’s plenty more like this among the 1200 or so posts on this site … but the point isn’t so much a defense of what I do here, but to understand that I’ve put this blog out here so we can all learn from our mistakes — even if it means laughing at ourselves from time to time.
If you’re still not convinced, then why not search this site for those times I’ve bestowed kudos and compliments on those whom after reading a review here have brushed-off the temptation of taking a critique personally and instead have taken on a teachable spirit and improved their church’s web presence. Here’s just one example of many:
“UPDATE – 25jul03 – Not long after receiving a nice email from the webservant, this site underwent a rather nice and effective redesign. My highest kudos always go to those with teachable spirits – and here is one case where the lesson was well learned and well implemented. Well done! If you’d like to see what the site looked like before, you can do so via the Internet Wayback Machine:
Slamming People? No. I’m slamming unusable navigation, inaccessible content and incoherent site structures in the hopes we all learn how to avoid it and/or fix it so our church websites better convey our church’s personality and purpose. Failure to do so … well permit me to quote Tim Bednar a bit out of context as his point is as applicable to a church [website] as it is to the “Purpose Driven Church Model.”
“But whatever is in style now will inevitably be out of style soon, and the cycles of change are getting shorter and shorter, aided by technology and the media. New styles and preferences, like fashions, are always emerging. Let me give you a word of advice. Never attach your church [website] to a single style â€“ youâ€™ll soon be passÃ©, and outdated.”
Most ‘unchristian’ christian site … ever ?
Actually, that dubious distinction goes to the not-so-good folks at Landover Baptist (LB). While I love religious parody – Ship of Fools and the Wittenburg Door come to mind – the bitter boys over at the LB win the title of most unChristian website hands down (with a dishonorable mention going out to Westboro Baptist Church).
In fact I’ll go one step further, again for Tennessee Mike’s edification, and the education of new users. Behold some of the fruits of my labor that you may decide how ‘unchristian’ this site actually is:
There are other more secular demonstrations of my time and talents that have none-the-less spared many of us from pr0n or spam … but I think my point is clear enough …
Body slamming? No thanks, there are enough people who’d rather find fault without the benefit of offering solutions. On the other hand, I know my feet are made of clay – which is why I prefer to pull the speck out your church website’s eyes — in love –while having you guys and gals help me yank the plank out of mine.
Critics == Crickets?
Unfortunately, I fear Mike from Nashville will continue to mistake my constructive criticisms of church web designs as church member bashing. Perhaps because it is easier to get all stiff in the neck to fire-off an anonymous email to an insignificant player such as myself than engage a larger audience in a debate over something far more serious, such as the Church’s addiction mediocrity and its impact on their online presence. Who knows?
What I do know — well actually it is my (humble) opinion that — I’ve offered enough point-by-point detail to provide a good example of how this site works and how to go about discussing my critiques intelligently, without name calling and/or second guessing God’s Grace and Salvation in my life — or the lives of others. Remember folks, we are judged by the standard in which we judge others — and not always reaping what we sown — you’ve been warned.
Oh, speaking of divine wisdom, here is how the entire Mel Brooks quote went down:
- Interviewer: What do you think of critics?
- Brooks: They’re very noisy at night. You can’t sleep in the country because of them. But, otherwise, I like them.
- Interviewer: I think that’s crickets you’re talking about, sir. I meant critics.
- Brooks: Oh, critics! They’re no good. They can’t make music with their legs.