Rediscovering the Bible via iPhone apps

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.

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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.

Andrew Wolfe
1 week 1 day ago

“Untangle the binds that Christian colonializers have spread”? Shall we rip out all the schools and hospitals as well? Maybe the Apostles should have disobeyed Jesus’ command to spread the Gospel throughout the world?

James MacGregor
1 week 1 day ago

May I suggest the App “PrayNow” and the various Bible versions provided by Mantis. Mantis bibles and commentaries are all linked so that one can switch from one to another and remain on the same chapter and verse. The Web sit “The Upper Room” has articles written daily by lay people. Also all articles at America by Fr. Martin are useful.

Matthew O'Leary
1 week 1 day ago

The Church’s historic evangelizing mission is described here as the work of “Christian colonizers” and this goes completely unchallenged by America’s editors?

Duane Lawrence
1 week ago

Matthew - Olga is simply stating the "Our Bible" app mission. She is not necessarily saying that is her view. In a review of alternative bible apps that is an entirely appropriate piece to be left in by the editors. It helps the reader to make a decision as to whether or not they wish to explore the app in more detail.

Scott Thrall
1 week 1 day ago

Such a disappointing article for a Catholic Christian magazine. It reads more as just a mask to throw in an agenda not even associated with reading and studying the word of God.

A Fielder
1 week 1 day ago

Gerald West, an African biblical scholar describes that many people from developing nations have had to wrestle with the double edged sword of scripture. One the one hand, Jesus and Christianity is received gratefully, but Eurocentric interpretations of the Bible have also negated people’s cultures, exported slavery and set up generations of economic injustice in order to benefit colonizers. We are getting better at respecting local cultures, but it has taken a long time to learn.

A Fielder
1 week 1 day ago

In 1529, Pope Clement VII gave civil leaders in Spain and the Holy Roman Empire the blessing to use “force and arms” to compel the “barbarians” to come to knowledge of God (Intra Arcana) despite the advocacy of people like Bartolome de Las Casas, OP who advocated against their enslavment and anihilation with passionate and heart wrenching accounts of the human rights abuses committed against the native people, all tolerated and supported by “Christians” in the name of evangelization. Thankfully, Pope Francis has much more concern for the poor and marginalized than some other former pontiffs.

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