Perhaps it was inevitable, but a new company that develops markets for smartphone applications used in major countries around the world has proposed market development for a new “Jesus app”. The company, AppTech Corp., has submitted a proposal to Apple, Inc., to sell the new app through the Apple Store. Like the online church, the consecration of laptops and mobile phones, and the podcasting of prayers and sermons, the Jesus application reflects a growing reliance on technology as a medium for religious practice.
The plan has been launched by an AppTech subsidiary, AppTech Global, which develops mobile application markets in emerging regions such as China, Japan, Latin America, and India. (One company develops the application software itself, AppTech develops the market and advertises the product, and a company like Apple actually sells it through their store.) The company’s marketing effort includes translation of English-based applications into multiple languages corresponding with these markets, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Hindi. Given the presence of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America and Iberia, the company has placed priority on translation of the Jesus app from English into Spanish and Portuguese. Followers of the Roman Catholic faith, as well as Christianity’s manifold Protestant denominations, will be able to access the application’s religious-themed features virtually anywhere in the world, and on any mobile platform, including the Apple iPhone, Microsoft Mobile, Google Android Nexus One, Palm, Research in Motion, Verizon Droid, and China’s oPhone.
Although few details have been released about the exact nature of the new app’s features, at least one aspect of the plan can be said in some way to genuinely reflect the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith: “AppTech will donate twenty percent (20%) of all company revenue from sales of the $.99 ‘Jesus App’ to benefit the American Cancer Society” said Softpedia, quoting AppTech staff. According to Softpedia, CEO Eric Ottens explained, “[w]e believe that it is entirely possible to do well while doing good at the very same time”. So while at first it may seem as though corporations are exploiting religion on a massive scale in order to line their own pockets, on second thought using the Jesus app, at least with a knowledge where a huge chunk of the revenue goes, seems like a rather charitable and Christ-like thing to do. If we are to ask “What would Jesus do?”, and if Jesus would naturally give to the needy, well, the son of God just might purchase his own app, wouldn’t he?
It is amusing to observe how innovations in communication technology initially face the wrath of evangelical faith groups only to gain acceptance later on by the very same groups as a legitimate means of practicing their faith. At first television was a pop-culture tool of the devil, then right-wing Pentecostal televangelists figured out how to exploit it for their own purposes; rock and roll was the music of Satan (actually it was inspired by the music of poor black Americans), then Christian rock bands emerged, co-opting the genre to spread the gospel; now the Internet, once feared by conservatives everywhere as one massive storehouse of pornography, has been shown to provide vital social networks for churches to galvanize their congregations and make religion more appealing and accessible to technologically savvy youth. How, then, is a smartphone application which benefits cancer patients (at a whopping twenty per cent of revenue) any less divine in its purpose?
It is tempting to imagine what users of the new app will be able to do, but time will tell soon enough if and when Apple approves sale of the product through its store. Meanwhile, what do you think about the new Jesus app? Is it a tacky marketing ploy to lure customers and make a profit, or is it a legitimate and surprisingly generous means of practicing religion in a technology-immersed twenty-first century?