Is Christianity a “Life Hack”?

This post discusses why people might be motivated to share Christianity with others, and was prompted by a comment on one of the Mozilla Yammer instances which is part of an ongoing discussion within Mozilla about this general subject.

[It is also me deciding to try out Mike Hoye’s proposed new Planet Mozilla content policy, which suggests that people posting content to Planet regarding “contentious or personal topics outside of Mozilla’s mission” may do so if they begin with a sentence advising people of that fact. Hence the above. I don’t intend to be contentious, but you could call this personal, and it’s outside Mozilla’s mission. I assume the intent is that the uninterested or potentially offended can just press “Next” in their feed reader. You can join the discussion on the proposed new policy in mozilla.governance.]

I won’t quote the comment directly because it was on a non-public Yammer instance, but the original commenter’s argument went something like: “If you knew something awesome and life-changing, wouldn’t you want to share it with others?”. A follow-up comment from another participant was in general agreement, and compared religion to a life hack – which I understand to mean something that someone has done which has improved their life and so they want to share so that other people’s lives can be improved too. (The original website posting such things was a Gawker site called Lifehacker, but there have been many imitations since.)

I want to engage with that idea, although I’ll talk about “Christianity” rather than “religion” because I don’t believe anyone’s life can be significantly improved by believing falsehoods, and the law of non-contradiction means that if Christianity is true (as I believe it is), all other religions are false.

There is a kernel of truth in the idea that Christianity is a life hack, but there’s a lot misleading about it too. Following Jesus does secure your eternal salvation, which is clearly a long-term improvement, and the confidence that comes from knowing what will happen to you, and having an ongoing relationship with your creator, is something that all Christians find encouraging every day. Who wouldn’t want others to have that? But in the short term, there are many people for whom becoming a Christian makes their life significantly more difficult. Publicly turning to Jesus in Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Eritrea, or Myanmar, will definitely lead to persecution and can even lead to death. Jesus said it would be so:

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. — Jesus (Matthew 24:9)

In addition, the Bible teaches that Christians may encounter troubles in order to help them grow in faith and rely on God more. So the idea that becoming a Christian will definitely make your life better is not borne out by what Jesus said about it.

The other part of the life hack idea that is misleading is the “take it or leave it” aspect. One of the things about a life hack is that if it works for you in your circumstances, great. If not, no big deal. In today’s relativistic world many ideas, including Christianity, are presented this way because it’s far less offensive to people. “Take it or leave it” makes no demands; it does not require change; it does not present itself as the exclusive truth. And, in fact, that was the point of the person making the comparison – paraphrasing, “what’s wrong with offering people life hacks? You don’t have to accept. How can making an offer be offensive?”

But that’s not how Jesus presented his message to people.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jesus — John 14:6)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18, just 2 verses after the Really Famous Verse.)

This is not a “take it or leave it” position. Jesus was pretty clear about the consequences of rejecting him. And so that’s the other misleading thing about the idea that Christianity is a life hack – the suggestion that if you think it doesn’t work for you, you can just move on. No biggie, and no need to be offended.

Christianity offends and upsets people. (Unsurprisingly, and you may be detecting a pattern here, Jesus said that would happen too.) It does so in different ways in different ages through history; in our current age, one which particularly gets people’s backs up is the idea that it’s an exclusive truth claim rather than an optional “life hack”. Which is why the idea that it is a life hack is actually rather dangerous.

It may seem odd that I am arguing against someone who was arguing for the social acceptability of talking about Jesus in public places. And I don’t doubt their good intentions. But the opportunity to talk about him should not be bought at the cost of denying the difficulty of his path or the exclusivity and urgency of his message.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! :-)

Global Posting Privileges on the Mozilla Discussion Forums

Have you ever tried to post a message to a Mozilla discussion forum, particularly one you haven’t posted to before, and received back a “your message is held in a queue for the moderator” message?

Turns out, if you are subscribed to at least one forum in its mailing list form, you get global posting privileges to all forums via all mechanisms (mail, news or Google Groups). If you aren’t so subscribed, you have to be whitelisted by the moderator on a per-forum basis.

If this sounds good, and you are looking for a nice low-traffic list to use to get this privilege, try mozilla.announce.

Google Concedes Google Code Not Good Enough?

Google recently released an update to End-to-End, their communications security tool. As part of the announcement, they said:

We’re migrating End-To-End to GitHub. We’ve always believed strongly that End-To-End must be an open source project, and we think that using GitHub will allow us to work together even better with the community.

They didn’t specifically say how it was hosted before, but a look at the original announcement tells us it was here – on Google Code. And indeed, when you visit that link now, it says “Project “end-to-end” has moved to another location on the Internet”, and offers a link to the Github repo.

Is Google admitting that Google Code just doesn’t cut it any more? It certainly doesn’t have anything like the feature set of Github. Will we see it in the next round of Google spring-cleaning in 2015?

FirefoxOS 3 Ideas: Hack The Phone Call

People are brainstorming ideas for FirefoxOS 3, and how it can be more user-centred. Here’s one:

There should be ways for apps to transparently be hooked into the voice call creation and reception process. I want to use the standard dialer and address book that I’m used to (and not have to use replacements written by particular companies or services), and still e.g.:

  • My phone company can write a Firefox OS extension (like TU Go on O2) such that when I’m on Wifi, all calls transparently use that
  • SIP or WebRTC contacts appear in the standard contacts app, but when I press “Call”, it uses the right technology to reach them
  • Incoming calls can come over VoIP, the phone network or any other way and they all look the same when ringing
  • When I dial, I can configure rules such that calls to certain prefixes/countries/numbers transparently use a dial-through operator, or VoIP, or a particular SIM
  • If a person has 3 possible contact methods, it tries them in a defined order, or all simultaneously, or best quality first, or whatever I want

These functions don’t have to be there by default; what I’m arguing for is the necessary hooks so that apps can add them – an app from your carrier, an app from your SIP provider, an app from a dial-through provider, or just a generic app someone writes to define call routing rules. But the key point is, you don’t have to use a new dialer or address book to use these features – they can be UI-less (at least when not explicitly configuring them.)

In other words, I want to give control over the phone call back to the user. At the moment, doing SIP on Android requires a new app. TU Go requires a new app. There’s no way to say “for all international calls, when I’m in the UK, use this dial-through operator”. I don’t have a dual-SIM Android phone, so I’m not sure if it’s possible on Android to say “all calls to this person use SIM X” or “all calls to this network (defined by certain number prefixes) use SIM Y”. But anyway, all these things should be possible on FirefoxOS 3. They may not be popular with carriers, because they will all save the user money. But if we are being user-centric, we should do them.

Black Lives Matter

Have you ever been hit round the head with the truth so hard that it leaves you staring in slack-jawed wonder? I just had that experience.

So anybody who voted for Obama — whose legal vision on abortion is simply a more sanitary version of Kermit Gosnell — has absolutely no right to the phrase “black lives matter.” If you voted for Obama, then shut up, leave the protest, and go home. Throw your “black lives matter” sign in the nearest dumpster, and try to retrieve your conscience from that dumpster. If you think that partial birth abortion, performed on a black child, ought to be fully legal constitutional act — like your man in the White House does — then you need to come to grips with the fact that the race problem in America is not ultimately cops in NYC, the race problem in America is you. Doug Wilson

Black lives matter. All black lives matter.

Unanimity Is Not a Requirement

People sometimes wonder how to best involve all of the affected/important/relevant parts of the Mozilla community in a decision. The prospect of doing this can lead to a certain amount of fear – of criticism, bike-shedding, etc.

At the last All Hands in October 2013, at a session in Brussels, we produced a Best Practices document called “Productive Discussion” to help with exactly this problem. Given Mitchell’s keynote at the recent All Hands, I thought it was worth reflagging its existence.

An Invitation

Ben Smedberg boldly writes:

I’d like to invite my blog readers and Mozilla coworkers to Jesus Christ.

Making a religious invitation to coworkers and friends at Mozilla is difficult. We spend our time and build our deepest relationships in a setting of on email, video, and online chat, where off-topic discussions are typically out of place. I want to share my experience of Christ with those who may be interested, but I don’t want to offend or upset those who aren’t.

This year, however, presents me with a unique opportunity. Most Mozilla employees will be together for a shared planning week. If you will be there, please feel free to find me during our down time and ask me about my experience of Christ.

Amen to all of that. Online collaboration is great, but as Ben says, it’s hard to find opportunities to discuss things which are important outside of a Mozilla context. There are several Christians at Mozilla attending the work week in Portland (roc is another, for example) and any of us would be happy to talk.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Search Bugzilla with Yahoo!

The Bugzilla team is aware that there are currently 5 different methods of searching Bugzilla (as explained in yesterday’s presentation) – Instant Search, Simple Search, Advanced Search, Google Search and QuickSearch. It has been argued that this is too many, and that we should simplify the options available – perhaps building a search which is all three of Instant, Simple and Quick, instead of just one of them. Some Bugzilla developers have sympathy with that view.

I, however, having caught the mood of the times, feel that Mozilla is all about choice, and there is still not enough choice in Bugzilla search. Therefore, I have decided to add a sixth option for those who want it. As of today, December 1st, by installing this GreaseMonkey script, you can now search Bugzilla with Yahoo! Search. (To do this, obviously, you will need a copy of GreaseMonkey.) It looks like this:

In the future, I may create a Bugzilla extension which allows users to fill the fourth tab on the search page with the search engine of their choice, perhaps leveraging the OpenSearch standard. Then, you will be able to search Bugzilla using the search engine which provides the best experience in your locale.

Viva choice!

Bugzilla for Humans, II

In 2010, johnath did a very popular video introducing people to Bugzilla, called “Bugzilla for Humans“. While age has been kind to johnath, it has been less kind to his video, which now contains several screenshots and bits of dialogue which are out of date. And, being a video featuring a single presenter, it is somewhat difficult to “patch” it.

Enter Popcorn Maker, the Mozilla Foundation’s multimedia presentation creation tool. I have written a script for a replacement presentation, voiced it up, and used Popcorn Maker to put it together. It’s branded as being in the “Understanding Mozilla” series, as a sequel to “Understanding Mozilla: Communications” which I made last year.

So, I present “Understanding Mozilla: Bugzilla“, an 8.5 minute introduction to Bugzilla as we use it here in the Mozilla project:

Because it’s a Popcorn presentation, it can be remixed. So if the instructions ever change, or Bugzilla looks different, new screenshots can be patched in or erroneous sections removed. It’s not trivial to seamlessly patch my voiceover unless you get me to do it, but it’s still much more possible than patching a video. (In fact, the current version contains a voice patch.) It can also be localized – the script is available, and someone could translate it into another language, voice it up, and then remix the presentation and adjust the transitions accordingly.

Props go to the Popcorn team for making such a great tool, and the Developer Tools team for Responsive Design View and the Screenshot button, which makes it trivial to reel off a series of screenshots of a website in a particular custom size/shape format without any need for editing.

Wisdom from Boris Johnson

Dr Matt Taylor’s shirt made me cry, too – with rage at his abusers.

The more this sort of thing happens, the less I feel like supporting Team Internet. There is now only one level of disapproval on the Internet – total screaming outrage. And all of a person’s other achievements seemingly count for nothing if he does something that meets with that disapproval.

Twitter: could it be the greatest hate generator the world has ever built? Or perhaps it just more easily reveals what was in human hearts all along.