The Signpost recently interviewed Itaqallah of WikiProject Islam. This week, we continue our coverage of the major religions by interviewing WikiProject Christianity. WikiProject Christianity is one of Wikipedia's larger WikiProjects with more than 275 members and over 26000 articles under its scope. Here to tell us more about the project is Secisek.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your history here on Wikipedia?
I work in Illinois state politics and while I am not notable, I work with many people who are. My interests include history, religion, music, and politics. I have edited here since 1 June2007. While I edit across subjects, I have worked largely on articles related to Christianity with a focus on Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism.
How did you become interested in Christianity articles?
I first became aware of WikiProject Anglicanism shortly after I began editing. After improving the Anglicanism project and creating the Anglicanism Portal, I began updating a number of the other Christianity-related projects, with the hope being that I could identify GA and FA material to feature on the related portals. Christianity and Anglicanism are now both Featured Portals and I believe the Saints Portal is close as well.
While the project does have an impressive 63 featured articles, none of the major denominations of Christianity nor Christianity itself are featured. Why is that? Is this something you would like to see the project members collaborating on in the future?
Christianity was GA for a time and it was demoted under rather unfortunate circumstances. An editor just resolved to delist the article - and did so even while major work was ongoing. That demoralized the effort and I don't think there has really been a big push there since then. I think the sheer scope of an article concerning an entire branch of Christianity is foreboding to some and the fragmented nature of Christianity itself makes collaboration difficult on such articles. There are many great editors involved with Christianity articles, however they tend to be from diverse backgrounds. I think that is why the FA focus is more on subjects with wide-reaching cross-over interest, such as John Calvin, William Wilberforce, or the Second Crusade - rather than on Protestantism or the Christian Church as such. That said, the Roman Catholic Church is very close to FA and work continues on that front. I would rather see all of the project's Top priority article reach GA, rather than focus all efforts into making one or two articles FA. In other words, I think we are on the right track.
In our recent report on WikiProject Islam, Itaqallah discussed the issues of POV and working with contentious, highly-viewed content. To what extent do these issues affect Christianity-related articles?
I would imagine we experience the same problems they do. That said, given that the entire English-speaking world has some notion of Christianity, we may have even larger issues. I find that very seldom a disagreement will break out between a "believer" and a "non-believer" over POV. We are all editors here and attempts at beginning such disputes are rightly ignored as trolling or vandalism. No serious editor is going to attempt to rewrite an article to read, "Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world" or "Jesus is unimportant because there is no real proof he ever lived." In the case of the first, it would be fair to say that some Christians "believe" that and, in the case of the latter, the existence of an historical Jesus has no bearing on his importance. I think most editors "get it".
On the other hand, highly contentious POV disagreements break out often between Christians of different stripe over the smallest bits of minutiae or about one schism or another that took place 500, or 1000, or 1800 years ago. Sure, some times you will run across an editor who genuinely does not understand how the Trinity fits in with Monotheism but, more often than not, a POV arguement centers around an editor who thinks an article about a denomination should be written from that denomination's POV - as in the manner of the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
"This article is about us, so it should reflect what we say about ourselves. By the way, we are the true Church that Jesus founded."
-Can you cite that?
"Sure, here it is in a tract published by our denomination in 1859. It says so right here."
-Britannica and the Oxford University Press both agree that the denomination in question was founded in Pittsburgh in 1908 by a man named Larry Frankel.
"That is just the opinions of schoolmasters. Who cares what they think."
That will make you want to turn off the PC and leave the house. That said, the real theological debates, when there are genuinely honest and supported POVs in conflict - those discussions are great and often both sides end up with a much improved article. You try to keep a cool head and walk away when ever you can. There are many sets of eyes on these articles and consensus on most things can be formed rapidly. I recently found an article about a bogus Ancient Egyptian God that had stood at WP for three years. That would never have happened in a Christianity article, high traffic has its advantages as well as its challenges.
For those not interested in such debates, WikiProject Christianity also offers a lengthy to do list. The requested articles section of the list is significantly larger than the rest of the list, which may indicate that the project has moved away from rapid expansion and towards the slower improving of individual articles. Is this the direction you would like the project to be moving in?
I had not noticed that, but it does not surprise me. Yes, almost any article now created would be of low importance to the project. We now cover 26,000+ articles and that does not include thousands of articles which are tagged with only a subproject's banner. Most of what we "need" is here already. I would much rather see improvement in high and top priority articles than see the generation of obscure stubs.
Finally, do you think WikiProject Christianity's biographical pages would benefit from having flagged revisions turned on?
I would go further. I think, even more controversially, a huge part of the problem could be solved by not allowing IP edits and cracking down on SPAs. If you are going to edit Wikipedia, you should have an account. Nobody should be able to edit anonymously. It would still be the encyclopedia anyone could can edit. Everyone should be expected to take two minutes and set up an account. They also should crack down on SPAs. One article about a saint was held hostage for 2+ years by a single purpose account - it was even delisted from GA over the issue. I won't mention which one, as the situation was only recently, quietly, corrected. There is no reason why an SPA should be allowed to stone wall the entire community as one did there. The article is close to GA, but nobody will go near for fear of touching the whole thing off again. All that said - on the whole - Wikipedia works I think.