Technology has altered how worship should be, opening its doors and leading the public into the digital worship age, where churches and ministries enter their way into the digital world to adapt to the trends and to come after the believers of God who have found comfort practicing their religion and beliefs online.
For instance, religious apps for mobile phones and laptops like the Bible, religious ebooks, devotionals, podcast preachings and sermons, and prayers have become popular and convenient among people of faith, to the point that these apps have replaced the actual ones.
CBN News interviewed Jason Thacker, author and overseer of research in technology and ethics for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, about the price of worshiping in a digital age and he said that the tradeoffs are both positive and negative.
He proclaimed that technology enables a wider reach for Christ, sharing the Gospel to the world and staying connected has never been this easy and fast. Yet he also warned that the conveniences enjoyed by people of faith can come at an intangible cost of their privacy as personal details and digital habits of users have now created a demand turning consumers into the products being sold.
The author of "The Age of AI" and "Following Jesus in a Digital Age," books about the widening intersection of technology and faith, went on with his warning declaring that there is really no such thing as free services in the digital world.
"You're paying for it by turning it and divulging this type of data in order to have that data manipulated and turned into various predictive products and those predictive products being sold to advertisers to get your eyeballs. So that's why you have a free Facebook account or TikTok or Instagram or Twitter," Thacker explained to CBN.
Prayers For Sale: Nothing Sacred
Just recently, a controversial issue about prayers being sold made headlines after BuzzFeed News released an investigatory report about apps using prayers and other personal information as business assets and the, which are getting the attention and interests of prominent venture capitalists.
As users "laid out spiritual anguish, Pray.com was data mining it," the report wrote after narrating the story of one user named Katie, not her true name, who found consolation and support through the app's community of prayer warriors, to whom Katie shared, through posting prayers, about her former husband who committed suicide and died in 2008 and her youngest child's battle with addiction.
Pray.com's co-founder and chief money technology officer Ryan Beck debunked the report and told CBN in an interview that it was false. He said that their topmost priority is prayer and not making money out of their users. He was also quoted saying that they are not in the business of selling data.
However, it is significant to note that faith-based apps like Pray.com are attracting a wave of venture investments, with $175.3 million in venture funding for 2021, 3 times higher than 2020, according to Wall Street Journal. It went on to say that these apps use a subscription model that tells the user that the content is free but many features are actually "behind a paywall."
Beck said, in response, that the triple increase in venture funding is something more than making money. It is about leaving a legacy. Capitalists invest because they would want to leave a legacy of helping others.
Technology No Soul, Temptations Real
Cybersecurity experts warn the public to be cautious, explaining that whether or not it is faith-based, it is still technology.
Glyn Gowing, who is a cybersecurity expert and computer science professor at LeTourneau University and who spent a long time handling information for a Fortune 500 company, told CBN, "Computers are completely agnostic. Computers don't have souls. They can't be saved."
He also stated that there is too much temptation for app developers to resist that they abuse their power and gather much more data than they actually need. The information is very much present and available for them so why not use it for other things and earn money from it.
"As a Christian, I go back to right where it says in scripture, 'For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,'" he concluded.
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