Jesux: Sanctified Linux?

Dan Knight - 1999.10.20

I received the following from a reader:

I'm curious about the contents of a page that was recently publicised in MacUser, the main UK rag of the Mac community, promoting "Jesux" - a Christian Linux distribution.

As a man with fundamentally Christ-oriented beliefs who finds it hard to be a "Christian" in the socially accepted (and Scripturally accepted) sense, I thought I'd be so rude as to ask you, as someone who for me treads a very well-considered path through the quicksand of religious internet (or net-based religion) practise, what you thought. If, indeed, it is not a meticulous hoax, is it not a rather dangerous thing?

If there's one thing I'm not, it's well versed on Unix or Linux. I know enough about computers and operating systems to understand the inherent stability and the power available, especially for servers. Shoot, Apple's next OS will have the same kind of kernel as Unix, Linux, and BSD, so it's got to be a good thing.

If there's one area I'm well versed in, it's religion. I grew up in the church, my father held a key role in our denomination's youth ministry, I attended Christian schools and even some seminary.

In both realms, there's a real mix of sincere believers and nut cases. And then there are the hoaxmeisters, the parody makers for whom April 1st is the best day of the year.

And I don't have a clue where the Jesux crew fits in all this. Let's look for hints.

I've had several people review this article before posting it. They seem about evenly divided between "don't go there, you're asking for trouble" and "great stuffy, it may actually cause people to think." Please take this with a pinch or two of salt.

Welcome to the Jesux home page

The distribution that will not lead you into temptation

Right off the bat, I'm skeptical. I haven't yet heard of an operating system that could lead one into temptation. About the closest is the Mac OS, which might give one feelings of pride (the same probably goes for Linux, especially among the Slashdot crowd). Pride remains one of the seven deadly sins, but it also seems very much the basis of modern culture.

What is Jesux?

Jesux (pronounced Hay-sooks) is a new Linux distribution for Christian hackers, schools, families, and churches. There is already a core distribution being prepared, based on Red Hat's distribution.

Here the author parodies the greatest debate in Linux circles: what is the proper way to pronounce Linux? Because the name Linus is pronounced with a long "i" in the English-speaking world, there's a strong tendency among Anglos to pronounce it lie-nucks. Still others go for lee-nucks, but Mr. Torvalds, the father of Linux, pronounces it li-nucks (short i, just as his name is pronounced).

If the authors of Jesux were seeking authenticity, they wouldn't be pushing hay-sooks. They would either choose the English pronunciation of Jesus (gee-zus) as their basis and come up with jee-zucks, or go with Greek. In that case, the Savior would be called "yay-seus" (or possibly "yay-zeus" - which is not a cheer for a Greek deity!) and the Linux distribution would be properly pronounced "yay-sooks." (Trust me. I bombed first year Greek twice.)

That's already two counts against Jesux being authentic.

Jesux will aim to be an environment that is pleasant for Christians to work in, with all the amenities a Christian might expect, and when possible, free from worldly influences.

Having worked in several religious workplaces, whether culturally Christian or overtly religious in purpose, I know that what's pleasant for one Christian can be painfully saccharine for another - or too gritty. There's a great range of taste in the Christian community, ranging from the grannies who buy and actually read Helen Steiner Rice, the aunts and uncles who give Precious Moments books and pictures to their nieces and nephews, and people who will only watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio, all the way to people who despise the schlockification of the Christian faith and don't want to paint an artificially pristine picture of the Christian life. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer definitely fell in the latter category.)

If Jesux is legitimate, it is targeted at the kind of people who buy second rate art because it has a scripture verse on it, won't buy greeting cards that don't have Bible verses, believe the Christian Yellow Pages are God's gift to a decadent society, and worry about Veggie Tales, because it seems that just maybe Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber share housing.

For the most part, these are sheep who will not follow Steve Jobs to the Mac OS, let alone follow Jesux into Linux country. They are fearful conformists. They are a strong market (ask anyone who tries to get them to buy a Bible translated after the 17th century), but a tough one to break into.

Realistically, I don't think there's a large enough market for Jesux to be anything but a hoax - but you never know with religious zealots.

What is different about Jesux?

Below is a short list. As we get more information, we will put it here. Send more suggestions to jesux@pobox.com. Send your suggestions for content in the bookmark, fortune, and .newsrc files, too, and we will start posting some of this stuff.

  • default fortune file contains quotes from the scriptures, Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Swindoll, etc.

I'm not familiar with the "fortune file," but presume it puts up messages on a screen saver or otherwise posts them for daily edification. You certainly can't go wrong with scripture, Augustine, Lewis, or Swindoll, so they're safe. Start putting in names like Luther, Wesley, Calvin, Arminius, Scofield, or any pope, and you'll greatly diminish the market. Maybe Spurgeon would be safe, but it's a very short list that won't offend a good portion of the potential (and already small) Jesux market.

  • Christian Enlightenment themes featuring Jesus, the cross, and other Christian icons

Okay, I'm a Mac user. I understand themes and the Appearance Manager. Laughing Jesus will offend dour believers, too much traditional Christian art will offend many people with aesthetic sensibility, and there's really no way to comfortably portray a man being executed with thorns poking into his brow and nails through his limbs.

As an aside, would the Jesus they feature be Jewish or European?

Better stick with safe stylized symbols like the cross, doves, and triangles. (Definitely avoid pink and rainbows - homophobes would not be pleased.)

  • Login screen has full text to Lord's Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, with Christian and American symbols
  • Provide alternate screens for non-Americans, perhaps

Unless they do, that pretty effectively keeps Jesux out of the Canadian market - and I'm sure it's not the only one. The mixing of religion and national pride is, since I can't put it mildly, an abomination. God bless America - God knows we need it - but don't do that stars-and-stripes flag-waving my-country-right-or-wrong love-it-or-leave-it thing in something the purports to tie into a worldwide gospel.

  • Pregenerated Netscape bookmarks and .newsrc files pointing to prescreened Christian web sites and newsgroups

Here we're getting suspicious. Bookmark fascism. Actually, that's the wrong way to go about it; better a filter that prevents bookmarking (and visiting) anything deemed unholy.

On the other hand, maybe they should call them regerarate bookmarks. ;-)

  • cal(1) includes Christian holidays

Reasonable. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or...?

  • Special hack of emacs "M-x doctor" mode, "M-x pastor"


  • Optional technical support and basic counseling services provided by Christian hackers

"...and they'll only drink milk from a Christian cow."

I'm starting to think we might have fans of Steve Taylor and/or The Door involved with this project. It's looking more and more like parody all the time - excellent parody at that!

  • The current plan is to double up the tech support line as a crisis line, where people in need can be redirected to people who can really help them

We can save your files and your soul. This is hilarious!

  • Online Bible in King James Version: no other versions will be provided by default; we feel the KJV is the only English version that can be fully trusted
  • Addition of /usr/dict/kjv.words (exhaustive)

Again, there are a lot of Christians who think this way, as though the Bible should have been written in English in the first place (not Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) - and that the King James translation committee was as divinely guided as the original scribes of Holy Writ.

Some of us read this as parody, but for others the supremacy of the King James translation ranks right up there with the ABCs of salvation and having exactly the right understanding of the end times. (I better watch it here. Few things lead to more fights among Christians than the end time debates of pre-mils, post-mils, preterists, and dispys - just about anyone who falls outside the historical amillennial position that "God only knows the hour and the day.")

  • Removal of some of the Red Hat games. We don't play them much, but several of you have noted that some of them are clearly inappropriate
  • Squid proxy server (plus squidGuard) bundled and configured for blocking illicit web sites (including a regularly updated list of illicit sites and URL patterns to install on your own; we will be looking for mature and diligent volunteers to help maintain it)

Should have listed this above with preselected bookmarks. :-)

  • Optionally disable logins on Sunday, the day of rest

Thanks for a laugh. Why not an Orthodox Jewish/Seventh Day Adventist version that prevents any computer access on the Sabbath (not Sunday - strict Sabbatarians may as well at least get the day right!). Maybe even prevent the system from rebooting itself between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.

  • bash(1) is default
  • the "Bourne-Again" shell is already the default; but we like the shell, and we love the name :)

Amen, brothers and sisters. Amen.

  • chmod(1) accepts hexadecimal modes, such as 0x01B6
  • qmail replaces sendmail as the standard MTA (sendmail was written by a prominent homosexual)

Yes, there's a lot of homophobia in the church. If I say much more about it, I can expect more email than I'm prepared to handle, so I'll leave it at that.

  • we are considering postfix too, due to popular request

Suggestion: post-mil fix and pre-mil fix, allowing users to correct any flaws in their millennial understanding. (At this point, I'm pretty confident it's a hoax, a parody, a game. And I'm enjoying playing along.)

  • Hierarchical user structure, so parents and teachers can easily access children's files without needing to become root

Absolutely. We must reintroduce the great chain of being: God, angels, man, woman, children, animals, demons.

  • No encryption provided; Christians have nothing to hide
  • We have had concerns about the "no encryption" item ... but no worries, crypt(3) will still be there. Sorry for the confusion, we do not generally consider it as encryption, though, of course, technically it is. But since it is generally unsuitable for anything other than password authentication, we don't see any problem with it.

Now I know y'all aren't serious. The antichrist is coming, so we have to be able to encrypt everything to protect ourselves. Of course, the software should only allow passwords that come verbatim for the King James version....

  • No cracking utilities provided; SAINT can be acquired from us later, after the user has proven his worth

No need for grace. Work righteousness is always easier to monitor. Very good!

All new code will be provided under the Christian Software Public License, an Open Source-compatible license. Go ahead and check it out. The final CSPL is very similar to the BSD license, where the required advertising is the text of John 3:16 from the King James Version of the Bible. (Note: the requested requirement that only Christians could redistribute the code was considered and rejected, in accordance with the "No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups" section of the Open Source Definition. We actually agree with this section of the OSD ... the more people that use our software, the more that see the Gospel; the more that distribute it, the more that advertise His word in His name!)

Also, we are seriously considering changing some fundamental OS features. The idea would be that function calls and features suggesting evil and otherwise pagan ideas would be changed.

  • abort(3)
  • kill(1)
  • references to "daemon"

NOTE: we do not believe words are inherently bad. We simply do not like these words because of their connotations in different contexts. You do not have to agree, but you will not change our minds. However, because this is not a point of religious contention but of linguistics and meanings and associations, and because the solution seems like the easiest one to implement, the current plan is to provide symlinks, headers, macros, etc. so that the existing names will still exist, but those who want to use alternate symbols (words) can do so.

In the interest of getting out a functional system, these will all wait for some future release anyway.

ROTFL! Suggestion: rename daemon processes as angel processes!

When will it be out?

Jesux will be here in late December (hopefully before Jesus arrives :). Contact jesux@pobox.com for more information. Ask to be put on our announcement list.

Just in time for Christmas? And just before the Y2K bug strikes.

This truly is excellent timing - it'll beat Win2K out of the gate.

Latest News

We have been asked several times about "corporate information." We are not a company and will not be. We are volunteers doing this in our free time, and seek not a dime of profit, not a penny of contribution or charity. We have all been involved in open source projects for a few years, and this one is no different in that respect. It is different in that it is closer to our hearts and can possibly make a real difference in people's lives.

We have been getting lots of requests about whether or not this site is a hoax. We understand the reasons why, but it saddens us. What has become of our society that it is so hard to believe that people are earnestly seeking to do good in God's name, to follow Him, and to help others through the power of the Holy Spirit? Please do keep the mail coming, but don't bother asking us if this is a hoax. We are here to do what we think is good and right. We don't have time to answer such frivolous mail anymore. Please keep all your other messages coming, though! We still don't have time to answer all of them, but we answer what we can, and we will add you to our announcement list if you request it.

Thank you!

I've been in Christian circles long enough to realize that this could just as readily be a hoax as the real thing. There really are Christians who think this way - possibly even to the point of taking their Lord's name in vain (or applying it to an OS) in their desire to avoid contamination by the world.

It's frightening. It's the kind of thinking that leads to Jonestown, Waco, and other isolationist retreats from the world.

On the other hand, if this is parody, it is masterfully crafted. Christians so often take themselves and their religion too seriously. Remember, God made the platypus, so there is a place for humor even in a fallen, messed up world.

Hoax? Sincerely misguided reality? I wish I could say, but I strongly lean toward the side of parody. Maybe to a real Linux geek it's self-evident (and there's apparently been some discussion of this on Slashdot).

As for me, I see Jesux as a social commentary on the fear and introversion of people who don't understand the world or a robust Christian faith.

To them I repeat one small phrase, "Perfect love casts out fear."

Come live in God's big world full of sinners, just as the Son of Man did.

(And if you really want to know if Jesux is for real, click here.)

Thanks for reading this far. Please don't send flames.

Update: The title of this article says it all: Jesux Hoax Uncovered. The creator of the hoax says, "Jesux started out as a joke (and it still is, to some degree or another)."

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