I rarely read the Bible growing up. In my household, though, my mother kept open Bibles on various tables throughout our home, with Psalm 23 bookmarked, a common practice among Catholics from the Dominican Republic. Despite attending Catholic schools my entire life, the only time I can remember engaging with Scripture was during detention, when our seventh-grade teacher asked us to write the Psalms on loose-leaf paper, over and over again.
As I grew older, the Bible became something for theology majors—not me.
This all changed in my late 20s, however, thanks to my Protestant fiancé, whose experience with the word of God has been quite the opposite of mine: He can find any book in the Bible easily, knows quotes by heart and even has a biblical name (Enoch).
Initially, reading Scripture together was fun and even romantic. Once the excitement wore off, however, I ventured into the world of Bible apps to keep the scriptural moment going. In many of the apps I tried out, you can choose a reading plan or dive into a specific book, and there is the option of having passages read to you by the app. Many of the plans are centered around themes like marriage, dating, work or leadership. The “Getting Ready for Marriage” plan, for example, offers a daily devotional, a passage of the day and exegesis. But as useful as these features were, I didn’t like the classical music that accompanied the text and found the voiceovers to be monotonous—no one sounded like the people in my life or parish.
Several apps, however, eventually broke through the monotony. One is the Streetlights Bible app, which includes an audio Bible that features poets, pastors, parents and even children reading Scripture, “from Matthew to Revelation,” set over a hip-hop score.
The Streetlights app was created by Esteban Shedd, Loren La Luz and Aaron Lopez. The mission behind the project, according to its creators, is inclusion: Everyone should be allowed to engage with the word.
As a self-described hip-hop head, the app has helped me to engage with the Gospels in a completely new way. Whether I’m commuting, cleaning or cooking, the Streetlight Bible has made Scripture more accessible to me because it incorporates the music I have loved most of my life.
The mission behind the project, according to its creators, is inclusion: Everyone should be allowed to engage with the word.
Another app that promotes inclusion and faith through reading Scripture is the Our Bible app, which was created by Crystal Cheatham, an L.G.B.T. activist. Through various daily devotionals, podcasts, books and more, the Our Bible team’s mission is “to untangle the binds that Christian colonizers have spread across the globe over hundreds of years,” by highlighting the perspectives of women, L.G.B.T. people and people of color. Their goal is to “create healthy prayer and meditation habits.” Our Bible daily devotionals include themes like self-discovery, how to grow in faith, the church and the #MeToo movement and social justice as worship.
Over the summer, I followed “The Power of Praise” devotional, a 10-day series led by the Rev. Jes Kast, an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the United Church of Christ. On day three, the devotional states: “The courage to come out to family as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is always a brave decision.... The good news is that Jesus models for us a new way of being family with each other.” This devotional, along with others in the Our Bible app, promotes a Christianity that is inclusive of many marginalized groups. It challenged me to step into the lives of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
Though it might sound unlikely, apps have helped me to continue to incorporate the Bible into my faith life and to grow as a Catholic. And, perhaps even more important, these apps have challenged me and reminded me of the different people and experiences that make up the church.