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TMCNet:  Apps and Spirituality a Mixed Blessing [USA Today]

[February 11, 2012]

Apps and Spirituality a Mixed Blessing [USA Today]

(USA Today Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Smartphone apps that deliver everything from sacred Christmas and Easter music to reminders to attend worship to scriptures for meditation can be potent tools for spiritual growth, but such technology also has the potential to diminish worship and fellowship with other believers, according to Douglas Henry, associate professor of philosophy at Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
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Henry has the BibieReader app on his phone and uses it to read the King James and English Standard versions of the Bible, as well as the Latin Vulgate. He also has the Universalis app, with prayers and meditations for various times of the day and special religious seasons such as Advent, and he acknowledges that iRads, netbooks, and smartphones can be put to good spiritual use.

"Especially when traveling, I use my iPad to search, read, and study scripture. It gives me pictures of nature and works of art that inspire my contemplative gratitude to God," but living in a world of perpetual mobile connectivity can be spiritually distracting; - and even deforming-for those who succumb to its inducements. Whatever technologys wizardry does for us, it cannot fundamentally alter our hearts desire to love God and to love others in God." There is the temptation to love technology too much, Henry indicates. "We can be the quickest on the draw to find the latest gossip or news- but there is also an impatience we're cultivating, a desire to get instant answers and solutions. Christians are called to be pilgrims, a people who walk patiently in faith toward an end ttiat God prepares for us," From a Christian standpoint, too, "the Bible is a gift from God to be shared, but what if if s a Bible app on your phone? What if someone sitting next to you says, T forgot my Bible. Can I borrow yours?' We think of a cell phone as something we keep away from others. There's too much information there - bank accounts, purchasing accounts, e-mail accounts. We easily become possessive about something intended for sharing." A smartphone or other technological device used during worship also can be a distraction. "If you turn on your smartphone, your neighbor may wonder whether you're using it to read scripture of whether you're playing solitaire." When Henry goes to church, he takes his printed Bible, leaving the cell behind. "It's not because I'm oid-feshioned and want to turn the pages- although I do have an affection for books, but smartphones can be a corrK municaHon device for trading in frivolous gossip or delivering the most tragic news of destitution and desolation. Something doesn't seem quite right about bringing it in the space of Christian worship.

"On my printed Bible, however, I know that it is always and only the Bible" (c) 2012 Society for Advancement of Education

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