Evangelists in the Cult of Technology

Imagine someone walking up to a stranger and saying: “Hi, my name is Robert and I’d like to share with you the good news.” The stranger replies: “No, thanks. I don’t want to hear anything about Jesus today.” The evangelist replies: “Oh, no! I wasn’t talking about Jesus …I wanted to tell you about he new iPhone.” In our consumerist society, this scenario is not all that hard to imagine. In many cities it is more culturally acceptable to be an evangelist for Microsoft, Google, Apple, or Adobe than it is to evangelize the true Gospel.

The growth of technology evangelism has given rise to comparisons between that and certain aspects of religion. The very use of the term “evangelist” strikes up scenes of street preaching like the one above. More often, it takes the form of a “crusade” (a.k.a. developer’s conference) with bloggers and other media types frantically covering minute-by-minute revelations of new product features and specs.

Religious Fanaticism of Apple

H/T Ben Lang via Google+

I use the term “fanatic” advisedly. The brand loyalty among some Apple users has inspired more than its fair share of parodies and ridicule for their over-the-top defense of all products beginning with “i.” One anthropologist, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, compares Apple fandom with revival meetings.

Google has built enough of a similar following among Android users to spark conflict with the iFanboys. I have seen more than one heated exchange arguing the merits of Google’s mobile operating system versus iOS to recognize this extends beyond product preference. In those conflicts, it’s less about technology choice and more about one’s communal identity.

This connection between brand identity and personal identity solidifies the self-defensive “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude. Wars of words get fought over whose truth is the truth and people come away with hurt feelings – all over issues like screen resolution and battery life! These reactions aren’t surprising; it’s human nature to connect strongly with a like-minded community and react negatively to competing tribes. Some just choose the Android Community instead of something less geeky.

Onlookers of this spectacle understand that it’s only a matter of opinion. “Hey, you have your device and that works for you. Just don’t go around pushing your preferences like they’re absolute.” If that sounds familiar, this is also the attitude many people take toward religious discussion. “You have your religion, I have mine. You do what works for you and leave me alone.”

In contrast to the mobile device wars, the latter goes beyond individual taste. We cannot build a worldview on such fickle things. It must be built on unchanging truth – the kind found in God’s Word. When we evangelize this “user’s manual for life,” recognize it isn’t about selling something that will help a person reach their goals or better carry out a task. It is about their everlasting soul.

We must do our best to share the Gospel with a world steeped in covetousness for material things that do not satisfy. Let us do so with the realization it isn’t about showing another person whose right. It is about sharing the truth of God’s love and salvation.

  • Andre Dickson

    Very cool article and website in general. Can’t wait to read more.