Like most people my age, I have a relationship with my phone that in some ways mimics that of a parent and his newborn: always taking it with me, always expecting it to wake me up, having the reflex to play with it at every dull moment, and, shrieking when I drop it. My addiction has also severely worsened since joining Twitter and discovering the immense academic population that inhabits it (with good reason). At the same time, I’ve never been one who felt the need to constantly upgrade my mobile gadget; I had this bad boy for years before hopping on the smartphone bandwagon. If you are one of those people who upgrades every year, say to each consecutive iPhone the month of release – and you can afford it – great. I may hold the strong opinion that those hundreds of dollars could be spent better elsewhere, but who am I to judge? I’m no Son of Man.
I am however continually baffled at the consumerist mindset of our century, especially in regards to Apple products. Now the wealthiest company in America, Apple Inc. are geniuses at convincing millions of people that they need the latest iPhone/iPad/iMac, not just soon but as soon as possible. Even if that means becoming homeless on the sidewalk for nearly 48 hours – or paying underprivileged Chinese to do it for you. They’ve also convinced the great majority of college students that they need $1,000 Facebook machines. What’s the magical marketing recipe? Simplified interface, attractive design, brilliant advertising, and enduring hardware are perhaps the major elements that encapsulate the brand’s success. But unlike the success of other companies, Apple has created a cult that some researchers would classify as a religious following – complete with the kind of neurological stimulation found in other religions. Of course, as is the case with countless other candidates, it all depends on how one chooses to define “religion” – a task that is no less painless than defining “art.” Although we certainly should make the distinction between say, Catholics and Apple enthusiasts, it isn’t entirely helped by the fact that both parties often pour out money to their institutions annually and forthright regardless of what they receive back.
Apple worship aside, it’s interesting to examine how smartphone/tablet devices are becoming increasingly incorporated into mainstream religion. For instance, the Mormon Church plans on issuing iPad minis to 32,000 of its missionaries by 2015 to expand their proselytizing via social media (a $1,280,000 investment). This shouldn’t appear too unforeseen considering the age group of the strong-willed missionaries, whom already make themselves readily available for chat room dialogue.
And then there are the religious apps themselves, some of which I’ve discovered to be quite amusing. You of course have your exhaustive selection of bible apps such as the famous YouVersion, which claims to be on more than 130 million devices around the world. But then there are such enlightening games as Leviticus! where you “play the role of a busy priest working to keep God happy by sacrificing choice offerings of sheep, goats, and bulls with frantic speed and slicing precision.” Eat your heart out Fruit Ninja. My personal favorite however is a classic arcade styled game called Bible Run, for obvious reasons.
Not surprisingly, most Bible games come in the form of quizzes. After trying a bunch however, I found that nothing compared to the Bible topic within the trendy game QuizUp, which allows players to instantly match up and compete against others in real time. Needless to say, I quickly became addicted and didn’t get much of my life back until I topped my state leaderboard – which isn’t very impressive considering the state itself is the champion of its own leaderboard for being the most damned. One fun and creative thing about QuizUp is that every time you achieve ten points from accumulated matches you’re granted a new player title relevant to the quiz topic, such as “Disciple,” or, “The Messiah.” Another fun thing is the social component, allowing other players to inform you that the title you’ve earned is blasphemous:
Normally I pay little attention to the theological concerns of (1) six-month old babies and (2) people who think The Messiah is the protagonist of the Bible rather than a Jewish title (meaning “anointed [one]”); however, in the spirit of sportsmanship I decided to solve the dilemma and changed my name to “King Cyrus of Persia” so that the title would suit me.
Continuing on with notable apps, if you’re looking for something a little more awkward, Jesus Christ Whispers or Jesus Magic Fall may be up your ally. On the other end of the spectrum is an enjoyable app called Ordain Thyself, allowing you to preview your appearance as practitioner of a chosen religion before making any of those annoying ascetic vows. Finally, it’s also interesting to look at the religious apps that were rejected from the Apple market, including an app that would make you “straight” with God. Google Play is certainly less restrictive with its market options, which is nice because Send Me to Heaven just might be the greatest mobile game of all.
If I had to end with a moral, I guess it would be that with 21st century consumerism of tablets/surfaces/iPads/E-Readers/activity trackers/Google Glasses/smart phones/smart watches/smart rings/smart hoodies only becoming more idolized with consecutive advancements, let us not forget that Jesus had the adequate reaction almost two-thousand years ago:
A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth
Of course, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have used an iPhone had he been given the opportunity.
Some Twitter accounts you should follow:
- HuffPost Religion
- Religion News Service
- Biblical Archaeology
- Archaeology Magazine
- World of the Bible
- Biblical Contexts
- Greek New Testament
- Art and the Bible
- Museum of Biblical Art
- British Museum
- British Library Medieval Manuscripts
- Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies
About the author
Alexander is a graduate of the University of Vermont where he received his Bachelors in Religion with a focus in Biblical studies. He also enjoys long walks in the Sinai Desert and getting caught in a rain of manna.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org