The Christianity Code, Pt. 1: <HTML>

John Alan Turner has blogged well recently about his take on the DaVinci Code and the questions it has been raising in the minds of so many – and I wouldn’t try to surpass (or duplicate) his scholarship on the subject!

But his posts – along with some enticing promises from bloggers Travis Stanley and Greg Kendall-Ball about a “super-secret project” that speak of the personal impact of blogging, the fellowship-wide impact of blogging, journalism in the Restoration heritage, its editor-bishops – and maybe even my own reflections about one of them who was my ancestor – have intrigued me with the many facets of the word “code.”

Blogs and other Web pages are ultimately written in HTML code. That’s HyperText Markup Language for the novitiate, and this code tells your browser how to display the pages created: how wide the columns are, how big the letters appear, what the background and text colors will be, etc.

It’s nekkid code that you can look at through one of your browser features, “View Source.” Go ahead! Find it in your tool bar at the top. I’ll wait.

Isn’t that gobbledy-gook absolutely fascinating? And daunting, too, if you want to master it.

Each page of source code begins with the tag <HTML> … or something that includes it, or some version of it. This tag tells the browser what kind of language it will be using.

I’ve been trying to get acquainted with XHTML – the next generation, if you will, of markup language; a language that is a subset of XML, eXtensible Markup Language. The rules get stricter as the language matures. With XHTML you have to close (with a “/” or slash-tag) every tag that you open. And it has a pal, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), that handle the page-design aspects of the language.

The pages on my newly-redesigned portfolio site have a tag featuring those letters at the top.

So many folks with better credentials and sharper minds than mine have written about the language peculiar to Christians that I won’t attempt to out-do or re-do their scholarship, either.

But, as they almost universally point out, it can be a lingo bewildering to “outsiders” – full of terms like “salvation” and “baptism” and “communion” and “redemption” – just as HTML code appears to someone who hasn’t learned it yet. And as the language has matured, its rules have become more strict as well; and the tags more abstruse: “eschatology,” “ecumenicism,” “epistemology” – and that’s just a sampling of the “e” words.

And, as you might expect, every browser interprets HTML terms a little differently. One might draw a one-pixel CSS border on the inside of a box of text; another browser draws it on the outside. Microsoft and Netscape become the Stone and Campbell, the Armenians and Calvinists of this code’s doctrine. XHTML was created because HTML wasn’t “good” enough; wasn’t “pure” enough to do what Internet geeks want to do with it. And XHTML/XML will only stand until supplanted by the next standard – whatever it may turn out to be.

The problem is, it all gets so difficult to memorize and implement, that the average guy just says to blazes with it, and so all the new browsers continue to read even the earliest implementations of HTML and the simplest code.

(Simple code is the best, in my book. It’s the easiest to trouble-shoot. Engineer Scott of Star Trek once quoth: “The more they overcheck the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”)

But complex code is required to deal with complex matters, I realize.

Still – when I encounter a page of Christian code – instead of having to delve deep to look for tags like “epistemology” to clue me in, I sometimes wish there was a tag at the top and bottom that would let me know which language I’ll have to try to read.



4 thoughts on “The Christianity Code, Pt. 1: <HTML>

  1. For most of that post, you may as well have been speaking Xhosa from South Africa…… your point is well taken! Thanks for being wise enough to call us to this discussion.DU

  2. Developer Mark Wuest e-mailed and politely corrected me about the relationship between XHTML and XML, and I sit corrected, along with the text of my post.He adds, “There is no reason not to try and make regular HTML as well-formed as possible. I do, even though I’m not writing XHTML.”Well, that is just common courtesy to inquisitive folks like me who like to poke around in other peoples’ source code and mine little nuggets of brilliance there.(I wish I could say that I have been really careful with all of my coding.)

  3. Keith,A post involving faith and technology? Soon you’ll be hanging out at RadicalCongruency all day long…I also wrote a while back about the nature of web design its relation to real life. Any thoughts on < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this post<>?

  4. OK, I jumped to the top and looked at the “source”. I never knew it was there.I love things that I can figure out. I love to be able to see a code and duplicate it somewhere else without having to understand everything about HTML or XHTML.I think it is equally important to portray the true “Source” for my life in a way that no one has to be a greek scholar or up on all the emergent movements and vocabulary to understand.Christ and him crucified out of love for me. Should I have to say more?

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