Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and a month after it was established, the entry on Jesus Christ was created. Since its founding, the site has become a wealth of knowledge with over 300,000 active users. Across all languages, Wikipedia generates approximately 18 billion page views per month. It has become the first stop most people make on their quest for knowledge or trivia.
But is Wikipedia really that great?
As part of a conference on Wikipedia and the Catholic Church at the Centre Saint-Louis in Rome, Deacon Will Conquer of Monaco presented the “Ten Commandments” for the WikiChristian to learn how to get the most from what Wikipedia has to offer while also using it as a tool for growing in the faith. Father Alek Schrenk of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania adapted these into English.
Here are the 10 Commandments for WikiChristians:
1. “Go to the sources” (Is 12:3)
With Wikipedia, it’s possible to collect lists of articles, or even whole categories of articles, into a downloadable eBooks or PDFs for offline reading. This makes it easy to take a category like “Doctors of the Church” or “Visions of Jesus and Mary” and creating an instant book on an aspect of the faith you’d like to learn more about.
2. “Come, let us reason together” (Is 1:18)
If you’re looking to contribute to Wikipedia, the first step before adding anything to any page is to take a look at its Talk Page. It could be that what you’re about to change or add has already been the topic of intense discussion. Reading the Talk Page first is the best way to avoid unnecessary conflicts and quarrels.
3. “Whatever town or village you enter, get informed” (Mt 10:11)
The internet is full of sponsored content and “fake news”. Every news source has its own bias, but only one can be freely edited by anyone to reflect the fullest possible range of perspectives. Wikipedia has a Current Events portal that allows you to use the Wiki project as a neutral news source.
4. “Go out to all nations” (Mt 28:19)
While we usually interact with Wikipedia in our native language, whether that be English or otherwise, Wikipedia is an international project. As of April 2018 there are 298 different language versions of Wikipedia (of which 288 are active and 10 are not).
The article for Jesus exists on 238 of these 289 projects! Use László Kozma’s WikipediaVision website to visualize international edits on Wikipedia in real time.
5. Get ‘baptized’ on Wikipedia
Stop being an “anonymous Christian” on Wikipedia. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, even without an account, but if you want to contribute to the project in a meaningful way, your first step is to register a user account. This helps you keep track of your contributions, use a sandbox to work on future projects, and interact with other users.
6. “Feed the hungry and help those in trouble” (Is 58:10)
The English information site may have more than 5,600,000 articles, but there are still a lot of topics related to the Catholic Church that could use good editors to create or improve their coverage on Wikipedia. Take a look at the Catholicism Wikiproject, which is where editors interested in Catholic subjects coordinate efforts to improve the coverage of the Catholic Church. The to-do list is large and growing.
7. “Be shrewd” (Mt 10:16)
Be smart. Use the tools. Once you register an account, you can use Wikipedia’s Beta Features to test new ways to improve and facilitate both reading and contributing to Wikipedia.
8. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gn 2:18)
“A Christian alone is a Christian in danger.” One easy way to improve Catholic content on Wikipedia is to make sure that every article has good links with other articles. Not only does this help with navigating through articles, but it helps articles rise the ranks in search engine results.
9. “Rabbi, where do you live?” (Jn 1:38)
A little-appreciated feature of Wikipedia is their “Nearby” feature. With location services enabled, they uses geocoordinates to let you know if they have pages for landmarks that are near your current location.
You’d be surprised how often these articles are about churches!
10. “Be perfect, therefore” (Mt 5:48)
Christ has called us to be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Mt 5), and Saint Paul encourages us that “whatever you do, work at it with your whole being for the Lord” (Col 3:23). If contributing to the site is something that appeals to you, let it be a way that you can instruct others about the things you’re passionate about. Reach for the stars and let your editing be the best that Wikipedia has to offer.