Apple CEO Steve Jobs has provided our culture with some wonderful addictive gadgets. Tools like iPhone and, I hear, iPad, are intuitive to use and continue to learn new tricks through the addition of various applications, or “apps.” Apple allows individuals and companies to develop an app, but the tool must then be submitted to Apple for evaluation and approval before it will be offered for sale (or free) at iTunes. The screening process is an odd combination of pragmatism and moral advocacy.
For example, I recently read of a flap regarding the Exodus International app. Exodus is a ministry that helps lead those enmeshed in the culture associated with homosexual behavior into deliverance in Christ. The app from Exodus was approved by Apple but now is the focus of predictable fury from those who consider homosexuality a neutral state of being rather than a behavior, certainly not a destructive behavior. Apple pulled the app after being petitioned by homosexual advocates.
This has happened before. The Manhattan Declaration is supported by several hundred thousand signatories who believe that Christians must draw moral lines beyond which our society should not, and the signers will not, go. One of those issues exalts the family as being a life-long covenant between one man and one woman. Of course this leaves out quite a variety of things that should not be called a family. Apple rejected the Manhattan app last year because of their belief that it would be “likely to expose a group to harm” and further could be “objectionable and potentially harmful to others.” The Manhattan Declaration was rejected for what it affirmed rather than for what it criticized directly.
OK, maybe we know the ground rules now. Mr. Jobs even went a step further. In a press conference last year he was asked about users submitting apps without the screening process. He responded by saying that “we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” The screening process, then, is intended partly to restrict content based on moral convictions of some sort. So the Manhattan Declaration is out but so is Playboy magazine. Not so. Playboy has an authorized app that warns of intense sexual content and frequent nudity. The content is not recommended for those under 17 but does not meet the pornography, objectionable, or harmful criteria? When asked, an Apple marketing exec responded that Playboy is one the “more reputable companies.” One of the more reputable companies that provides pornographic material in several media, I might infer.
Maybe Apple’s apparent preference for homosexual behavior is limited to the committed and monogamous couples we see on television or movies. Nope. I found 12 apps that help homosexuals find dates, even one that uses the iPhone GPS function to find other users who are in close proximity to the seeker. Heterosexual or homosexual, that is not an app intended to match you with someone based on more than two aspects of compatibility. It’s sordid, but apparently not “offensive” or “harmful to a group.”
Likewise, several apps provide information about the relative kick of different varieties of marijuana. For most users, these apps seem intended for those who break the law. Other apps provide drinking games that encourage winners to drink themselves beyond legal or moral moderation. Destroyed brain cells and bad behavior do not apparently rise to the level of “exposing a group to harm,” we can surmise.
I found an app (free!) for Ashley Madison, a company that provides “a unique dating service catering to married people looking for an extramarital affair.” Really? How moral is adultery? No doubt the great hearts behind this company would argue that no one is harmed by adultery.
An advertising tag line for Apple says “there’s no limit to what you can do.” Not true. You can’t publish a statement that promotes the traditional family against all comers. You can’t offer homosexuals hope in Christ?one commenter called Apple morally deficient for allowing the Exodus International app in the first place. Considering the moral span of apps offered at iTunes, it would be hard to make a case that the company is morally condoning much except market domination.
Hear me, my iPhone is still in my pocket. No company is my moral guide. If you want to hate on Apple because of the breadth of what they apparently condone, don’t walk down the magazine aisle at Wal Mart. Your life will become more inconvenient if you do that in most bookstores or grocery stores. They exist to make money and are doing a credible job of it.
Really, what basis does Steve Jobs have for forming his own system of morality? If you begin with the assumption that God is an impersonal thing who cannot reveal himself except through intuition, we each form our own system that is sensible only to us and only for now. So Apple’s guru is a man. Like me, a sinner in need of grace. For now, we can use the tools Mr. Jobs has developed to good effect in our own ministries, just like we can use Wal Mart or Tom Thumb. These companies provide valuable services but they are not our allies. They are companies run by people who are looking for answers found in the God who revealed himself through his son, as revealed in his written Word. And yes, there is an app for that?in a wide variety of languages and versions.