Computer Coding kept me in Ministry

In 2002, I graduated college and worked a temp job for a year. Over that year, I was active discussing religion online. And at some point, I decided to start my own interfaith forum online where people of all faiths and no faith could talk together. It was my first real outreach to persons of other faiths and my knowledge as a religion major in college made me a bit different than other religion forums online

I wouldn’t have been able to do that ministry if I didn’t know computer code.

From 2003-2006, while going to seminary, that interfaith forum allowed me to pseudonymously ask faith questions, learn how to discuss religious topics online, deal with trolls, express myself in a text-based environment, and become comfortable with doubt. All of those skills have proved invaluable being a clergyperson and now working in an increasingly secular/interfaith society.

I wouldn’t have been able to do that ministry if I didn’t know computer code.

Since 2008, I ceased being pseudonymous and by-name ran this blog Hacking Christianity which uses computer terms and philosophies as a lens to look at faith expressions in general and the United Methodist Church in specific. It’s been an outlet for me to get things out of my head, and a spiritual discipline custom-made for an extrovert like me that is terrible at other spiritual disciplines. And it’s been a place where nominal Christians or post-Christians can discuss religious topics in ways that are not pushy that “this is the right way.” If you are reading this post, it’s because I know how to code.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this ministry if I didn’t know how to computer code. has a promotional video out that interviews a ton of tech people about how powerful and liberating knowing how to code is.

I want to add my voice to these below because knowing computer code allowed me to creep into a new world–online ministry and conversation–that I otherwise would have been lost in.

  • All too often, online conversation is too shrill and troll-laden to be helpful.
  • All too often, people don’t converse well online or misunderstand the online tools to have effective communication of their values.
  • Knowing how to code gives strength and liberation to online conversation because you understand how it works and how to structure communication so that it empowers those who are ignorant of code.

So watch this video, and know that my daughter will likely learn how to do some computer code. And if you want to be competitive with her and be in collaborative work with her, you should probably teach your children too, no matter what field you go into.

(h/t Church Mag)

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  1. says

    Can you please share HOW you got into coding? You have some bold statements but that is it. i would be interested in hearing more about how you got to learn code

    • says

      One of the computer clubs in my college taught free HTML classes. Not a dime spent and after 6 classes I learned enough to do it. After that it is all trial and error (and lots of Mountain Dew).

  2. says

    This was an awesome video! I picked up bits and pieces of code over High School and College, but it’s only been within the past 2-3 years that I’ve taken the ‘coding’ part of my job seriously. Knowing even bits and pieces of languages has enabled me to get previously unimaginable jobs and be headhunted because they want people with SOME knowledge, the industry is so hungry. Totally worth sharing this video.

    I learned 90% of my code from W3 schools, and most of what I do isn’t ‘true code’ it’s ‘markup language’. I’m trying to transition into ‘true code’ over the next couple of years because that’s where the really interesting things happen.

    The first time I successfully debugged a long program after hours in the school lab trying to get it to work, I was like, OMG this is amazing! It’s like a high.

  3. says

    Very interesting – when I was an undergraduate I found myself talking a variety of computer programming courses. I would take that interest into graduate school where SPSS was the software package of interest. In the end, it was the ability to program in FORTRAN and then utilize SPSS that helped me meet the foreign language requirement for my doctorate.
    I haven’t achieved the level that would allow me to put up a web page or anything like that; still, having the ability to program helps to think problems through and work out a solution.
    I think also that knowing what computers can and cannot do helps to find a role for the church, both clergy and laity. It helps people to communicate and offers ways to do that may be less threatening for some. But in the end, it still involves people being together.

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