Like Nigel Molesworth, the World Wide Web may not be the fount of good speling, but it has grown until it is strong and brany enuff to bring in the coal
Like Nigel Molesworth, the World Wide Web may not be the fount of good speling, but it has grown until it is strong and brany enuff to bring in the coal. There are some really useful and well-stocked bunkers out there now. This article is an attempt to show where some of the best ones are to be found, but mapping the Internet is a full-time job and a big business now, so it is by no means exhaustive. Remember in your explorations that the Web is much more like a library than it is like a television, and you will go wrong, but enjoy it.
The only four addresses that anyone really needs to have are for the best four library sites, or search engines as they are known. Northern Lights (www.nlsearch.com) is my favourite at the moment; Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) is arranged like a catalogue, which is sometimes helpful. AltaVista (www.alstavista.com) is the oldest and in some ways still the best. Hotbot (www.hotbot.com) is probably the largest, in the sense that it indexes most pages — 60 or 70m. Any or all of these should lead you too the addresses mentioned later in the article.
The simplest place to start — since all links get there in the end — is at www.vatican.va, the official web site, put together by some Benedictines in the Arizona desert. For all I know, that is where the computers physically are. Certainly, if the Vatican has managed to run a proper Internet site over its own phone lines there has been a lot of intercession going on. The Vatican sites is a good example of how to run a complicated site with the minimum of decoration. I particularly like the monastic brown of the folders, which look a lot better in cyberspace than in the real world. But I have to say I use more often a big index of encyclicals and documents and even the official pages of the Catholic Church in this country. Other excellent web resources for looking up what is happening over there include the Tablet, and the National Catholic Reporter, both of which put quite a lot of their content online. There is also a gigantic underworld of tat awaiting the curious: screensavers of the Virgin Mary and similar devotional aids. Mother Angelica, the battling nun from Alabama, is also online.
The best and biggest Anglican library of texts is semi-official and hangs off the Ely diocesan web site. There are a number of tangly copyright problems involved with Liturgical material on the web. I know of none that shouldn’t be there. But there is a small-scale row rumbling on at the moment between Church House Publishing, whose Visual Liturgy project is one of the better pieces of liturgy on disk, and other Internet users, who feel that all the rites of the Church of England should be freely available over the Web. The obvious answer would seem to be "Copyleft", a rival to copyright developed by idealistic software publishers. Copyleft allows stuff to be freely distributed, but only unaltered, and with full acknowledgement.
Bibles, of course, are online in just about every form imaginable and at almost every price. Chadwyck-Healey, a Cambridge academic publisher, has a wonderful subscription site that makes some very rare versions available. But that is out of reach of private individuals for the moment. The Bible Gateway is free, and offers five simultaneous editions, from the AV to the NIV, and a variety of other languages, too. If you have ever wanted to evangelise in Tagalog, this is your site.
All forms of evangelism flourish on the Web, from the impressive (a huge collection of stuff at www.goshen.net) to the criminally insane — the charmingly named www.godhatesfags.com. This is all preaching to the converted, of course. If there are people who change their views as a result of a discussion on the Internet, they do not do so as a result of stumbling over a web site. I think. Someone will write in and prove me wrong. But all the worthwhile discussions I have ever seen have taken place in small groups, whose members have come to feel that they know each other over a period of months or years. These, I think, you will have to find yourself. An excellent place to start is Liszt, a site that lists (geddit) almost all the mailing lists available. Mailing lists, which allow all of their members to send email to all the others, using only one address, are about the most intimate form of Internet discussion, encouraging at once the rigour and delicacy of an academic seminar and the manners of the Kindergarten. Worthwhile ones will eat your life up.
In fact, the Web in all its forms is one of the greatest time sinks ever invented. I have tried to confine this listing to stuff that is or might be useful. But so are second-hand bookshops useful. It is just impossible to confine them to usefulness. So, as a reminder that time is shorter than you think, I would urge everyone to check out the Rapture Index. http://www.novia.net/~todd/
This stuff written and copyright Andrew Brown. If the page looks bad, that's my fault, unless you're using Netscape 4.x. Then it's yours. Upgrade, and do yourself a favour.