There’s been a very British storm in a dainty china teacup brewing over the past few days. Somebody claims that somebody said in some meeting of some people at the BBC that the distinction of BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, or in the era after Christ) should be dropped in favour of the religiously neutral BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common era). It seems far from certain that it was said, and even if it was – how much does it matter? Those of us who are Christians and privileged to live alongside those of many faiths and none cannot expect everyone to adopt our peculiar historical perspective, surely?
The storm seems to have subsided now, and the millions of people using Google today and seeing the image below are probably reflecting far more on life BG (before Google) and life AG (after Google) than they are on that other debate. The verb “to Google” has crept into the English language, and for many the mouse click, rather than the page turn, has become the default setting when searching for anything from a recipe for kedgeree to a reference on sub-atomic physics. As of yesterday, New Testament scholars can even turn to Google for a close-up look at high resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Before and after are relative terms. God was there before BC, and time didn’t start belonging to him only when AD came in. In a similar way – Google didn’t invent the information it finds for us – it was there all along.
Happy Birthday Google – thanks for all the fun. Like most people turning 13, you’ll probably feel the world turns around you. It doesn’t actually. Its axis was set before a pixel was illuminated or a googol googled. Before CE was BCE, and before BCE was BC, and before BC was God Himself, whose motto, not unlike yours, was ‘don’t be evil’.